During my life as a Christian I have read through the bible several times. God has always drawn me to His word and I’ve read it cover to cover on average of every 18 months ever since I became a believer during the summer of 1976.
As I recently read through the book of Job I made four general observations that are important life lessons for the believer:
1) When we are tested, we shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)
2) Have compassion on fools and those that wrongfully accuse you and pray for them. (Job 42:8)
3) If we are not absolutely sure how to respond to another’s adversity, it is best to wait for the Lord’s direction and to pray prayers of intercession. It is best to keep silent until we have been given an answer by God and only speaking on God’s behalf if and only if God directs us to be his messenger. Elihu waited to speak until Job’s three other friends had finished speaking. He spoke to the best of his knowledge about God’s righteousness, justice, and goodness. Elihu’s mistake was that although he was not nearly the fool Job’s other three friends were, he still did not fully get it right either. Although he was patient enough to let his elders speak first, he did not get God’s permission to speak for Him. However Elihu did not judge Job and therefore was not rebuked by God as his other three friends were. We need to learn to be patient and wait for the Lord’s timing. (Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.) Job’s situation was dire, to say the least, however, we must remember that God always has things in His control.
4) Some of our suffering is a direct result of persecution and has nothing to do with whether we have sinned or not sinned. However, God allows us to be tested by persecution in order to further His kingdom and fulfill His purposes. (Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. James 1:2-5 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.)
I’m just going to speak from the heart here and I hope to convey an important message to all who serve in ministry to our Lord Jesus Christ. I used to serve on staff at New Life Evangelical Free Church in Aurora, Colorado as the building maintenance supervisor for 6-1/2 years. However I left the ministry that Jesus had called me to. My excuse was to love my wife as Christ loved the church. You see, my wife of twenty years, after seeing some of the devastation of the aftermath of married women whose husbands had passed on due to an unexpected illness or tragedy, decided to go to college and get a degree in nursing. After our kids were old enough to not need a full-time mother, she decided it was time to start her own career and have an income that would support herself and all those still under her care if something were to happen to me. When she graduated in 2010, the economy was in such a place that she could not secure permanent full-time employment in Colorado, as the competition was too fierce and most hospitals were reluctant to hire new grads.
As the months passed by with her just getting menial work and broken promises, we discussed moving out of state if she could get a good offer. As part of the consideration, we included our youngest son in our decision that we would only move somewhere near the ocean since he has Cystic Fibrosis and somewhere at sea level with salty sea air and humidity would be beneficial to his condition.
I thought what I was about to do would impress my hero, my Jesus, because I was going to sacrifice all, my best job ever, my ministry, in order that my wife could now work outside the home and follow her dream of becoming a nurse. I left not only my job for which I was employed, but the praise and worship ministry of which I played saxophone and flute, and helped to grow a ministry of prayer that had previously had seen only very limited success.
It wasn’t long after the move to Lafayette, Louisiana, that I figured out that the Lord was not impressed with my sacrifice. In fact I’ve been, for the most part, miserable ever since. I kept questioning God, “What is wrong with our relationship?”, “Why does it seem you are not happy with me?”, and “Why does our fellowship seem broken?”. I wasn’t getting an answer for over 2 years. After those first two I decided to change churches, because I felt I wasn’t getting fed by the church we were attending. The first service at the new church I received my answer. That Sunday the worship pastor preached because the lead pastor was away on a mission trip. He preached about the way God expects us to love Him. Our love for our family, our parents, our spouses, our kids, and all others, should be like hate compared to the love we should have for Christ.
A light bulb clicked on in my brain and the years of wondering were gone. I then remembered my pastor in Aurora once preached the same thing! I had thrown away the ministry Jesus had given me and instead of loving Him for it, I sacrificed it for others. You see, Jesus wants us to sacrifice all for him. He would never ask, expect, or even desire for us to sacrifice His calling for our spouses or anyone else.
So, a word of advice to all of you who are called to serve our Lord in ministry. Make sure your priorities are set with Jesus’ best interests in mind. Sacrificing for others is commendable, but not at the expense of the ministry God has called you to. Do not move unless God calls you to, and even then, make sure the decision to move is immersed in fervent prayer and is done in His timing. Avoid a life of misery and regret, because you won’t be the only one who will regret it, but possibly the very ones you sacrificed for will regret it too. But most of all, let it be known, your Lord will most definitely regret it.
In Christ’s Love,
Dear Lord, please forgive me for trying to impress You with the decision to sacrifice the ministry You called me to in order to show my love to my wife. My love belongs to You first! The marriage to her is but a short while we are here on earth, but the marriage to You is eternal. Please give me another chance to serve You in the way I should. In Your name I pray, amen.
What do the Old Testament histories teach us? They teach us that amidst our sin, we can find hope and comfort in the fact that God is generous to give. God is faithful to keep His promises. God is just to judge. God is merciful and glorious to restore. And God has a purpose for the nations.
Has life been unfair? Thank God! Thank the Father for allowing His one and only Son to be unfairly tried and punished for sins He never committed! Thank Him for unfairly showing you His mercy and grace and giving you the opportunity to be forgiven the penalty that you deserve! The most unfairly treated man to ever walk the earth was Jesus. Life doesn’t seem so “unfair” after all, or does it?
The Sunday school lesson material on Submission to Authority missed the most important reason why we should submit: LOVE (duh). See Genesis 29 (Jacob’s love for Rebekah caused him to submit to her father for 14 years in order to have her hand in marriage.) The Sunday school lesson on Understanding God’s Word missed the most important point: unless Jesus (through the Holy Spirit) gives us the understanding, then we are doomed to miss the point and worse yet, to misinterpret His word and mislead others. Joseph Smith (founder of the mormon Church) couldn’t understand the traditional doctrines even though he had extensive teaching because He never believed in Jesus as His Lord and Savior. Therefore Jesus couldn’t remove his spiritual blindness and deafness to the spiritual understanding of the scriptures. That’s why he came up with his own bizarre explanations and even wrote his own bible (the Book of Mormon). See Luke 24:44-45. “Then he (Jesus) opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” -Luke 24:45
The Quest for Authentic Manhood
MY PERSONAL MANHOOD PLAN
A Servant/Leader. This is what a real man is. This is what I want to become. This plan is the blueprint for becoming just that, a servant/leader, a man after God’s own heart. This plan is a bible based plan that utilizes the theme of the vision I was given in January 2004, after reading the bible in one year with the church as encouraged by our pastor. The vision was for a male youth mentoring fellowship to be called Men Under Construction.
A MAN UNDER CONSTRUCTION
STEP 1 Bulldoze the crooked old house.
2 Corinthians 5 :17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” And Philippians 3:13-14 states, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Specifically, I need to allow God to forgive me for my past failures, forgive myself, and forgive everyone who has ever failed me. I need to glean all that I am able from my failures and use that knowledge to my benefit. It is only then that I am able to live a new life in Christ. However, I first need to realize that forgiveness does not mean that I must forget the offense against me, but forgiveness promises to never again hold the offense against the offender. A forgiving person will not seek retribution. And, although restitution is desirable, it is not demanded of, nor used as a requirement in order to forgive.
STEP 2 Build an everlasting foundation.
Isaiah 28:16 states, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.” When I became a Christian, I was given a foundation of unconditional love. The foundation is Christ and built by Christ, and I didn’t have to work to get it. I only had to receive it. ( “He who has begun a new work in you will bring it to completion…”)1 Peter 2:5 states, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
STEP 3 Erect walls of faith and hope.
Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Our faith and hope is built on truth. Faith and hope are intertwined and cannot be separated. Jesus was able to endure the cross because of his faith and hope. (Hebrews 12:2) We know there is truth because of the evidence we are given, although we cannot actually see the truth for which we have evidence of. This is where scripture memorization is crucial. “If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) Walls built of faith and hope are based on knowing our standing in, and our future with Christ. Having His word to prove it is crucial to both build our faith, and our defense against the evil one. (Read Matthew 4:1-11). We need not only believe, but know why we believe. 1 Peter 3:15 states, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, and always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”
STEP 4 Choose a roof that will stand up to the elements.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10-13) A good roof not only provides protection from the elements, but adds structural stability to the home. The Lord is our covering and our refuge. “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust.” “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.” “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.” (Psalm 91:2,4,9,10)
STEP 5 Structural Integrity Tests
A good father will eventually stop doing everything for his son. He will test his son to find out if he has listened and learned. A good father will allow his son the opportunity to make him proud yet also take the risk that his son might disappoint him. There comes a point in life that God makes us accountable. When we surrender our lives to Him, He in turn teaches us how to take stewardship of that life. As we mature in Christ, we are given more and more responsibility. If we accept it, the reverence for our Father grows, and our goal becomes to please Him more and ourselves less. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11)
STEP 6 The Finishing Touches
Here is the place for character development. Here is where we need to pay attention to detail. And here is where we need to take our faith to it’s conclusion. We are put to the ultimate test and find out what we are made of. Here is where we see our true colors and find out what we truly believe. James 1:2-4 states, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 1 John 2:3-6 states, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” How do we walk as He walked? By not only listening to our Father, but by doing His will and not our own. Jesus said, “not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42b) And James, Jesus’ brother reminds us “He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
STEP 7 The Final Inspection
Finally, we are able to enjoy the fruit of our labors, if we remain faithful to the end. When we have risked all that we had for His name’s sake and completed our God given tasks, then we can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:23) And we, like Paul can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8) In what condition will Jesus find me when He returns on His steed of glory?