Archive for the 'Relationships' Category

24
Feb
11

Don’t Grow Weary – Don’t Be Deceived

  

I was drawn to an article on an online job search and career advice website this week (The Ladders: http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/depression-making-unemployment-longer). The article was written by a Ms. Debra Donston-Miller, a writer and teacher, and the article’s title was what caught my attention: “Depression Is Making Unemployment Longer”. As one who has been prone to depression in the past, and given my current under-employed situation, I thought I’d give the article a once over. The subtitle really summed up her direction: Depression and anxiety create a destructive cycle for job seekers, making it harder to find a job. My first response to that was, “Duh!!!” With all apologies to Ms. Donston-Miller, God is way ahead of her on this issue.

I was preparing to give a brief devotion to a care group in our church that’s aimed at helping people who’ve recently lost their employment. The verse I was going to focus on was from Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (All Biblical quotes in this piece are from the English Standard Version – ESV)

At first glance, I wondered what was promised to us in this verse. I came up with the basic thought that if we hang in there and fight off getting weary, we will experience a reward. But since it’s taken out of context, we really need to look at it in relation to the surrounding verses. For brevity’s sake, I started at verse 6 and took it through verse 10. I could have gone further, but this was to be a brief devotion.

Galatians 6:6-10

“One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

  

First, to establish some background, I looked at who wrote this entire letter, to whom and for what purpose: The letter was written by the apostle Paul, to Christ-followers in Galatia (northern Turkey) who were being influenced and coerced into adding legalistic requirements to their trust in Christ. Paul was combating the “Jesus plus X” heresy of outsiders who were trying to discredit him and his teaching. We need to add nothing to Christ; are salvation is by faith in Him alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Starting in verse 6, Paul tells us what we’re to do as we are taught, informed, or instructed, presumably in the Word of God (the article “the” makes what’s being taught something about Jesus or at the very least doctrine). We are to share good things with those teaching us. Good things are deeds of benefit. However the Greek root for the English word “share” used here is fellowship. It means to distribute, be partakers with, or communicate to others. So the sharing, like the teaching, can take an oral form. As I was addressing a care group that comes together to encourage and help each other find gainful employment, this seemed to fit the situation well.

In verse 7, Paul warns us not to be deceived, which our dictionary today defines as “to be false or cause someone to accept as true what is invalid or false.” Here again, a look at the Greek can be helpful. The word in the Greek means to go astray, err, or wander, as well as deceive. We are often responsible for, rather than being victims of, our own deception. As we seek employment, self-doubt is one of our biggest adversaries. We can be guilty of fooling ourselves. Paul links this with another cautionary statement that God is not mocked. Mocking is when someone makes fun of or belittles another’s words or actions. The Greek term means to turn the nose up at, disdain or ridicule. God is not ridiculed. The world is standing by as we struggle to find work, ridiculing our faith. We can be deceived into thinking that God is not working with us, even that our faith is in vain, leading to the despair and depression that was discussed in the article I referenced earlier. But God is not mocked: not by extremists seeking to captivate new Christ-followers in Galatia and not by those of us seeking employment in today’s difficult job market. We dare not ridicule God in our actions or demeanor as we seek work and deal with the frustrations that come with that endeavor. He is our God and He cares!

In verses 7 and 8, Paul goes on to illustrate a point using farming as the example. He specifically talks about sowing and reaping. Sowing is the act of scattering seed for the purpose of gaining a crop. If we were to watch a first century farmer sowing in his field we might be tempted to think he was engaged in a very haphazard endeavor. Yet that farmer knew the amount of seed to cast for the ground he’d be covering in order to eventually gain a harvest. He would then be able to eat the harvest and perhaps even sell some of it on the market in order to buy other supplies and necessities. The act of reaping is to harvest a crop after it has been planted and grown to maturity. Personal effort and time are required to achieve the desired end.

In his illustration, Paul compares ministry to farming, with a foreseen harvest as the goal. Paul is talking about ministry, not seeking work. However, the job seekers today in a very real way are casting the seeds of their resumes and applications, with the hope of reaping a harvest of employment. Both endeavors take patience and time to see a full result. Important to note though is Paul’s admonish not to sow to the flesh, but to the Spirit. Here, by flesh, Paul is referring to the physical body, without any interaction of the soul or spirit. The flesh is our human and earthly natures, with their weaknesses and desires, apart from God’s holy influence and therefore prone to sin. We are warned here to do nothing based solely on our own intellect, apart from God’s wisdom. The following two passages support this:

Colossians 3:16-17

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

The Colossian passage is a simple admonition to apply Scripture to our daily lives. The Philippian passage reminds us that God’s Word teaches us to live in contentment in all circumstances. It’s worth repeating: We should do nothing based solely on our own intellect, uninformed by the Word of God. This applies to all aspects of our lives, but for the care group I addressed in process with their searches for employment it applies to how we go about seeking and responding to the offers or lack of offers for work. We may not be able to see the ultimate results if we were to get a particular job. We are merely seeking employment. God however sees the “big picture” and how that deferred job might influence us to waiver in our testimony or wander away from the faith. A hard blow for us now (not receiving the job) may be a blessing down the road as God is protecting us from those who might take advantage of us in these difficult times. Our best possible course of action is to rely on God and His will and wisdom in our lives.

As we come to my initial verse, Paul urges us not to grow weary. That can mean that we feel like we’re failing. We can begin to lose heart, feel weak, faint, fatigued, utterly spiritless, worn out, burnt out, exhausted, and/or discouraged (Hello, Ms Donston-Miller! This is what you’re article is addressing). God, in His all-knowing wisdom, sees us seeking work, and knows that we are likely to grow weary. That state of mind will also begin to pull us away from the very things that will build us back up: fellowship with those of like faith, ministry that enriches others and our selves, times in personal devotion or worship of God. Paul’s inspired advice: don’t go there!

Finally in verse 10, Paul mentions three distinct groups that should employ and receive his advice:

  • We/us.” The first group is the author, the Galatians, you, and me; all of us who know Christ and serve Him. As opportunities come our way, even as we seek employment, we’re to continue to do good. This begs the question: To whom?

  • Everyone/all men.” This second group consists of people, whether or not they are Christ-followers. We are to take every opportunity to share the good things God is doing in our lives with everyone (1 Peter 3:15). After all, He has given you salvation, hasn’t He?

  •  “The house hold of faith.” Putting it simply, this third group is comprised of Christ-following believers, who belong or are related to us by family or relationship. We are encouraged to care for all our fellow men, but particularly those who trust Christ with us. What a beautiful illustration of the care group I was to address.

 

This brings us back to the question: Can we claim the promise of Galatians 6:9 today? Looking back over the contest, I think we can say, guardedly, yes, if we labor as well for the Gospel and our Lord. However, we do not have the right to dictate the time God, in His sovereignty, will fulfill that promise. Our job is to avoid growing weary or ceasing the good we can do (ministry, worship, witnessing, sharing the good things of God, etc.) as we have opportunity and as we continue the search for employment. And the good we do includes keeping our spirits up; joyous if you will. We serve a great and glorious God, who loves us and has given us the greatest gift in life. Our testimonies, particularly in times of trial and testing, can speak volumes of our faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

GB&G2U

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08
Jan
10

The House

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:24-25

AGREE? or DISAGREE? 

 

You never know how well a house is built until it is tested by the weather. Rain reveals the character of a roof.

Friends of mine in Houston experienced this first hand as the remnants of a hurricane dumped sizable amounts of water on their homes and businesses. Wind and cold temperatures reveal how well a house is insulated. Anyone who has sat next to a drafty window in a windstorm knows this. Heat and sun reveal the quality of the paint and outer siding.

 All of these are external elements. What isn’t necessarily seen is the foundation. Whether it’s solid or insubstantial, it will ultimately reveal if you have a secure and lasting dwelling on your hands.

Similar arguments can be said to apply to our relationship with each other as members of the body of Christ. You never know how strong a relationship is until it is tested by the pressures of living. The seasonal rains of sorrow and pain can reveal how well a relationship will withstand conflict. The wind and cold of those times when you’re not speaking to each other reveal how well a relationship is insulated against the selfishness we are all capable of at times. The heat and sun of the day-to-day pressures of life reveal the quality of a relationship to the viewing public, who seem to always be looking for our Christian paint to start cracking and peeling off.

Then there are those little things that creep into a house or a relationship that reveal its security.

         

You may have the best Schlage or Kwikset locks on all the doors, but until the typical pests like ants, cockroaches, rodents, etc. challenge a house, you don’t know its true internal integrity. We’ve fought with ants before; they are a given where I live (the running joke is that the old Indian name for our community roughly translates to “built upon ant hills”). I look at them like the occasional irritations that come into our lives and friendships. You certainly don’t like them around, but aside from the inconvenience, they really are dealt with fairly easily and quickly. However cockroaches and rodents are something else. They multiply quickly. They do much of their damage in secret, but inevitably begin to drop evidence of their existence in the little messes they leave behind.

         

At one point we were attacked by cockroaches and rodents at the same time. We called the exterminator out and he set the traps and sprayed, but we share a common wall with our neighbor, so all we may have done was chase the little critters next door. The same situation can also occur in relationships, especially if as Christians we remember we share a common wall with brothers and sisters in the Lord.

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Corinthians 12:26

 

If we let things into our lives that do not glorify the Lord, we obviously harm ourselves, but there is still great potential to damage our relationships within the Church. Each believer is a part of His body! Even upon confession and removal of a private sin from our lives, our previous actions may have succeeded in introducing our little pest into our friends’ lives. The Bible is specific in how we are to deal with sins in our lives (1 John 1:9). And there is no privacy with sin as far as God is concerned (Luke 12:2-3). Sin has significant consequences. And all sin is against God and the Church, Christ’s body. David understood this when he cried out after being confronted by Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba.

Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

Psalm 51:4

 

All our relationships, as believers, are to be examples of Christ-likeness. Do you really want to invite rats and cockroaches into your homes? Then why would we invite those things into our relationships that are just as secretive and just as destructive?

Take some time to examine the foundations of your relationships, especially with those you hold near and dear to your heart. Are they strong enough to the storms of weather life and all the natural assaults that will come along? How do we react when the trials come? Do we worry? Do we get angry? Do we take our lives into our own hands instead of committing them to Him, who should always be in control anyway? How do we handle sinful things that want to creep into our relationships? Are we hospitable to them or do we aggressively drive them out before they get a foothold? Christ uses these times in our relationships to help us recognize whether our foundations are upon sifting and changing sand or solid, immovable rock. 

GB&G2U




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