Discover what’s under the surface. Discernment enables a person to see a partial picture, fill in the missing pieces intuitively, and find the real heart of a matter. You can dig beneath what’s happening on the surface.
Sharpen your problem solving ability. The closer a person is to their area of gifting, the stronger their intuition and ability to see root causes. Discernment helps you know what the real problems are. Good discernment also helps to resolve conflict in a more healthy way.
Evaluate your options, and make better decisions. Discernment enables you to use both your gut and your head to find the best option for your family or your organization. It helps you to slow down and think clearly before making a decision.
Multiply your opportunities. People create their own “luck” as the result of discernment, that willingness to use their experience and follow their instincts. Doing that often leads to new discoveries and new opportunities.
Most people have experienced some confusion or frustration with the church. The word itself can pull up bad memories or hurtful circumstances for some. Maybe you feel it was ineffective or irrelevant to your life. The church has been, and continues to be attacked from the outside and compromised on the inside at times.
It’s easy to criticize the church. It’s full of human beings that make mistakes and bad decisions, and sometimes hurt one another. Church leaders can be controlling and overbearing sometimes. Church leaders can also be weak and afraid. sometimes.
Yet God wants us to love the church. It was His design for reaching the world. The purpose of the church is to be an extension of the purpose of Jesus Christ. That purpose is to spread the good news about Jesus. To make disciples, baptize them, and teach them the ways of God.
To understand what the church is, we should look at what it is not:
The church is not a physical building. The building is simply place for the church to gather.
The church is not an institution or organization. It’s not a denomination or an affiliation.
The church is not a set of services or activities.
The church is not just a congregation.
The Bible describes the church in four ways:
The words church refers to the universal church, which is all believers on earth at any given time.
The word church refers to a particular location. The New Testament places the most emphasis on the church in its local setting. The churches in Galatia, the church in Cenchrea, the church in Sugarcreek.
The word church refers to the actual gathering of believers in any place of worship.
The word church refers to the body of Christ. Christ is the head. It is through the church that Christ does His work. As His followers, we are Christ’s hands and feet and voice.
How should the church function?
Believers in a church should use their gifts to serve.
Believers in the church should submit to one another.
Believers in the church are priests, each one loving, serving, and caring for each other.
Believers in the church should be striving for unity and growing in their relationship with Christ.
Believers in the church should be supporting the church through giving, serving and praying.
Believers in the church should be inviting others to come and meet Jesus.
The church is also compared to a flock of sheep, with Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The church should have elders/shepherds that care, oversee, serve, and lead the people. These shepherds set the vision and direction for the church. They provide protection, provision and care for the flock.
The church is also referred to as a family. God’s Word says we are sons and daughters of God, united together by our faith in Jesus Christ. As family members, we are free to enjoy a mutual, intimate relationship with God our Father and other children in His family. In a family, people are always more important than policies. Relationships are always more important than roles.
A healthy church will thrive and have an impact on the lives of the people that gather together. Those lives will have Kingdom impact in lives outside the church in our world. The church can also be unhealthy and cause a lot of damage to peoples lives which causes damage to the world we all live in.
In Part Two I will talk about Why the church exists.
When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, he forgives our sins and redeems us. We are born again spiritually. That the biggest most important decision you will ever make.
So as a Follower of Christ how do we live intentionally and walk in our new identity?
For a Christian, living intentionally begins with living a life submitted to Christ. In Christ we find our identity and purpose. Knowing your purpose is key, because your purpose determines your priorities. As you seek God, He will reveal your specific calling and purpose to you.
However, as a follower of Jesus Christ your main purpose is to bring glory to God by loving and worshiping Him with your life – all that you are and everything that you do.
That’s where we start. Before your career, financial, and relationship goals can fall into place, you must be intentional in your relationship with God. He will guide you and give you wisdom for your decisions.
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
What’s the secret to living the Christian life? We all start off so well. We receive Christ as our Savior, and we are filled with excitement at the prospect of new life in Christ. Our sins have been forgiven, we have been restored to relationship with God, we have assurance that we will go to heaven when we die, and we know that our whole life just changed. The old is gone, the new has come!
We start off enthusiastic for Christ and ready to take on the whole world. And then many of us seem to struggle and flounder at times. Why is that? We want to live the Christian life. Why is it so hard sometimes? What’s the secret to living the Christian life?
In the Scripture you just read, Paul tells us three things about living the Christian life. The Christian life is marked by faith in Christ, it is marked by freedom in Christ and it is marked by fullness in Christ.
We received Christ Jesus by faith – now we should continue to live in him by faith.
First of all, the Christian life is marked by faith in Christ. Look at verses 6-7:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” What is Paul saying here? Your Christian life began with faith in Christ, and it must also continue with faith in Christ.
By faith you received Christ Jesus as Lord. Declaring: “Jesus is Lord.”
We confess our faith in Jesus as Lord at our baptism, when we mark ourselves as Christ followers and when we go under the water it is symbolic of death to our old self and coming out of the water resurrection and a new life a new heart..
By faith you received Christ Jesus as Lord. Now Paul says, you need to live in Christ the same way you received him.
The Christian life is not simply faith in a set of teachings but faith in a person. It is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Christian life is lived in Christ. Christ lives in you, and therefore you live your life in him. Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, you continue to live in him.
First of all, you are rooted and built up in him. “Rooted” refers to the foundation of your Christian life. The Christian life is founded on Christ and Christ alone. It is not founded on your goodness or your works or your merit. The Christian life is founded on faith in Christ and Christ alone.
As Jesus says in John 15: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus is the root and source of the Christian life. You cannot live the Christian life apart from Christ.
Next, Paul tells us you are “strengthened in the faithas you were taught.” The word translated “strengthened” in this verse means “established” or “made firm.” Not only must you have faith in Christ. You must also be well-grounded in your faith.
Paul is telling us to stick with the gospel. Stay grounded in Christ and the Bible. Don’t go looking for new teachings outside of Christ. Grow in what you already know!
He also says a life that is lived by faith in Christ is one that is overflowing with thankfulness. Begin each day thanking God for your life and salvation and for the many blessings he has given you in Christ. Living in Christ means being thankful and grateful every day.
Someone said – How do you know if your bucket is full? If your feet are getting wet.
Don’t be just a little thankful. Be overflowing with thankfulness. You can never thank God enough.
The Christian life is marked by faith in Christ, and secondly the Christian life is marked by freedom in Christ.
Look at verse 8 where Paul writes: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
In other words this is a strong warning to guard your freedom, to stay alert, to be on the lookout for those things that can rob you of your freedom and take you captive.
Things like deceptive and false teaching, the lies of the world, busyness of life
It’s fighting the daily spiritual battle from our enemy, we do that by walking in our true identity as children of God, loved by our heavenly father and bringing glory to HIm
C. True freedom is found in Christ alone
Too many people think the Christian life is all about rules and regulations when Christ really offers us a life of beautiful freedom.
In Christ you are free from condemnation, free from guilt and shame, free from fear, free from sin. We are constantly attacked in those areas, but we must remember who we re and whose we are. Children of God, deeply loved sand accepted.
in Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
The last thing is this:
1) The Christian life is marked by faith in Christ. 2) The Christian life is marked by freedom in Christ. And 3) The Christian life is marked by fullness in Christ.
Look at verses 9-10: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
A. All the fullness of God lives in Christ
This is a remarkable statement. First Paul says that all the fullness of God lives in Christ. Not just God’s attributes but his very essence; not just part but all – all that marks God as God dwells in Jesus Christ.
Not only that, Jesus Christ is also the head over every power and authority. Paul is probably thinking about spiritual beings once again, earlier in Colossians he spoke about spiritual beings as thrones, powers, rulers and authorities. All these powers and authorities were created by Christ, and all these powers and authorities are subject to Christ.
And then there is one more part to this remarkable statement. You have been given fullness in Christ! Christ lives in you; all the fullness of God lives in Christ; and therefore you have been given fullness in Christ.
Paul’s point in Colossians is this. Why give in to the hollow and empty philosophy of the false teachers when you have been given fullness in Christ?
You’ve already been filled! You have Christ! What more are you looking for? As Max Anders writes: “Don’t go looking for treasure you already have!” Everything you need from God you have in Christ.
2 Peter 1:3-8: 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV
CONCLUSION: So what is the secret to living the Christian life? Christianity is not simply living out a creed, but it is living in a person Your True Identity is In Christ!
You are united with Christ by faith, and you receive the strength to live the Christian life every day through your relationship with him. Your Christian life began with Christ, and it must continue with Christ.
The Christian life is marked by faith in Christ, freedom in Christ and fullness in Christ. Anything less is not authentic Christianity. What’s the secret to living the Christian life? It’s simple. The secret to living the Christian life is living in Christ. That’s the heart of Christianity.
2 “My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, 3 for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. 4 Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all.”
What do you do when hardships hit you? Who do you talk to when life takes a turn for the worse? What do you do when people attack you? Who do you turn to when things get out of control?
Some people go to social media for information. Some people turn to the news, or to government leaders. Some people turn to their friends or parents or a trusted mentor. And some people turn to God.
Turning to God is the first and best thing we can all do in difficult times. I think we can also talk to people we trust to process and gain insight into what is best. But talking to God should always come first. Asking for help, for wisdom and discernment to know what is right and what is not. I often ask God for spiritual strength to keep going, or for God to bring the right people into my life to give me direction or encouragement.
James tells us that we should be grateful for hardships and trials, as it will make us better, it will give us wisdom and valuable experience, building our endurance. However we only gain wisdom, and our character is only strengthened, if we handle those adversities in the right way. When we learn from our failures, and gain deeper understanding about who God is, who we are, and what our purpose in life is, then we gain true wisdom.
Wisdom cannot be purchased, but wisdom can be developed. Reading God’s word and praying to God, gives us the right perspectives when dealing with difficult times. That is why it is so critical to be reading God’s word and praying during the hard times of our lives. Going to church and listening to messages from Biblically based leaders can give you new insights, wisdom and encouragement.
Good leaders will point people to Jesus, and the incredible transformation that comes from a relationship with Him. When spiritual growth and personal growth come together there is real transformation.
In these days of political unrest, division, hatred, and deception, we need to understand that this is not new, there have been and always will be difficult, trying times in this world. However, if you have a personal relationship with Jesus, it changes your perspective. Why? because now you know where you will spend eternity. Fear is taken over by love,and we experience a freedom like nothing else.
So use common sense and be wise in difficult times, but also look to God for your wisdom, courage and strength. Talk to Him regularly, read what He has to say, then listen and obey.
As I reflect on being a leader over the last 30 years, it’s been a process of building, learning and growing. I still believe that everything rises and falls on leadership. The times that I have not lead well, things began to slip whether at work or at home. When I’ve led well progress was made and change happened, in me and others. I’ve learned so much and still have a lot to learn and improve on, but I would like to share some of what I believe about leadership.
I’d like to share seven thoughts about leadership, and what great leaders do.
Great leaders develop people – People development should be a daily event, integrated into every interaction and conversation. As a leader you are constantly evaluating things and people around you. Are the right people in the right position, who needs more attention, what resources are needed to help them grow, are our systems encouraging growth, learning and improvement. Encouragement is a big part of developing people, building up their self-confidence, encouraging risk taking and constant improvement. Leaders need to mentor, coach and counsel the people they lead. The only way to do that is by getting to know them, their personalities, what motivates them, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they are passionate about.
Great leaders cast vision – Vision leaks and it’s the leaders responsibility to keep filling people up with the vision. If there is no vision the organization, the family, the relationship will decline. To cast vision you must be clear about what the vision really is. The vision can’t be constantly changing. Dripping the vision consistently, rewarding people that get it and living it out as an example.
Great leaders build trust – Trust is built over time by being consistent, doing what you say, listening, and being humble. Leaders take responsibility for when things go wrong and they generously pass around praise when things go right. Trust building also comes from good decisions, asking for peoples input, and doing what is best for your company, your family or the relationship. It also makes a huge difference to admit when you were wrong and to ask for forgiveness when you make a mistake. Trust takes a long time to build, but can be lost very quickly with one bad decision or mistake. What helps me is to have some other leaders around me that know me and hold me accountable, pray for me and encourage me.
Great leaders make the tough calls – Tough calls can bring on criticism, resistance and complaints. Leaders that are willing to make difficult decisions do that because of the vision, the values, and the culture they are passionate about. Anything that derails that or distracts from that, needs to be changed or eliminated. The ability to make the tough calls comes from years of experience, failure and victories. It’s also vital to have some trusted advisors or mentors that can help you when you are facing a tough decision.
Great leaders serve – Serving the people around you is one of the primary functions of a leader. What I mean by that is good leaders look for ways to make things better for their people. What resources are needed? What information is needed? What questions need to be asked? Who needs to rest or slow down? Who needs to be challenged more? The best way to do this is by meeting with your people, asking questions, getting to know them better, and really caring about them. Great leaders serve!
Great leaders inspire – Inspiration comes from a compelling vision, but it also comes from being a good example. Leaders that live out what they say and lead by example inspire others to do the same. Leaders that take risks, learn through failure, and lead with integrity inspire people and give people the courage to do the same. Inspiration comes from the words leaders use and the actions they take.
Great leaders are humble – Humility is the key to great leadership. Thinking about what is best for others and not yourself. Being open to new ideas or other people’s opinions. Admitting when you make a mistake, and owning bad decisions. Being humble does not mean you are weak, it really means you are strong and confident. It means you are not afraid to surround yourself with people more talented than you are. Leaders that have the combination of humility and persistence are the leaders people want to follow.
There is so much more to leadership, but if you work on just a few of these things you can grow as a leader. If you are struggling as a leader, keep going, it’s in the struggling that you become the leader God created you to be.
The last thing I will say about great leadership is that faith in Jesus Christ has been a game changer for me. Jesus is the best leader this world has ever seen. Simply studying and following the life of Jesus will make you a better leader. Putting your faith and trust in him changes your eternal destiny. He is all seven of those things in perfection, and so much more.
As we start a new year many people are thinking about what they want to work on or improve in 2023. For those of us that are married that relationship is often something we would like to improve. Every marriage has difficulties and challenges, that’s normal. The reality is that many couples don’t work through issues and let them pile up over many years.
As you start your new year I hope you will set a few goals, or ideas on how you can work on the most important relationship you have, your marriage. I would like to share five ways that you can work on improving your marriage. Some of these might click and be helpful and some may not. The point is to work at, and be intentional about being a better husband or wife.
Work at being a better listener.
Most of the conflict we experience comes from misunderstandings or simply not listening. This skill can improve any relationship and make the other person feel more valued. How do I do that? A few things that help me, include turning off any distractions like the TV or phone. Turn to the person and give them your full attention. Once your spouse has shared what’s on their mind, repeat back what you heard or ask clarifying questions. The goal is to understand what they said. You might even ask if they want your opinion or to just listen.
Listening also includes reading their body language and tone of voice. That will help you to understand if this is very important, or are they upset, hurt, or confused. The reason to do this is that good listener also connect emotionally. You can actually acknowledge the emotion by saying something like this: Honey I can see you’re very upset, how can I help? Make it a goal in 2023 to be a better listener, before you talk with your spouse remind yourself to listen more and speak less.
2. Work at being a better communicator
This is another area a lot of people struggle with. Misunderstandings and conflict often happen when things are not clear, or are said in a way that is confusing or even hurtful. For some it might be not talking enough, not sharing and keeping things to yourself. For others it might be talking too much and people get lost or lose focus.
For those that don’t talk much, I urge you to work on talking more with your spouse. Talking is a way to connect with each other and to feel like you are letting the other person into your world. When you think about something try to follow through and actually say it to the other person, as long as it’s not hurtful or mean. If you have something important to tell your spouse you might even practice out loud, or write it down before you have the conversation. It’s also very important in communication to be clear and try not to have serious conversations when you are highly emotional.
For those that talk too much, work on reading the other person. Are they starting to zone out or get distracted? If so, stop talking and ask if they have any questions or input into what you have been talking about. You should also practice condensing your stories and not sharing all the fine details. What is your main point you want to make?
In 2023 work to be more clear and open in your communication with your spouse. By open, I mean sharing at a deeper level, being more vulnerable and honest. That means taking a risk and opening up. If you’re not able to do that, then I suggest talking with a trusted mentor or counselor about how you can work on your communication.
3. Work at expressing love.
You made a commitment to love and to cherish till death do you part when you got married. To improve your marriage, it’s important to express love on a regular basis. That’s more than simply saying I love you. I’m talking about the Five Love Languages: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Gifts, Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. All of these are important but everyone has one or two that means a lot more than others. Words of Affirmation is by far the top one for me. A word of encouragement is like fuel for my soul.
If you don’t know your spouses love language make that a goal in 2023 to learn what it is, and then work at speaking that to your spouse more often. One way to do that is to read the book Five Love Languages or do a google search and find information about each of the five love languages. Then have a conversation with your spouse about what theirs is and what yours is. I wrote an article about this back in 2015 called How to communicate with your spouse.
4. Work at praying for your spouse.
If you are a Christian then prayer should be an important part of your life. If it’s not then start there. Simply be more intentional about talking with God, share your heart with Him as well as your frustrations. Give him praise and thanks on a regular basis.
Start the practice of praying for your spouse, listen for things you can pray about, share things with your spouse, if they are a Christian that they can pray about for you. Write things down so you remember and try to pray several times a week for them. Keep it simple but work at doing it consistently.
This will be a big step to improving your marriage. Prayer is powerful and affective. Taking a moment to simply say a short prayer for your spouse and kids, with him or her will go a long way to building love, connection and intimacy in your marriage.
5. Work at spending time together.
Most married couples find it hard to have time for each other. Raising kids, working and taking care of the house are challenging and keep us busy. Then add sports, hobbies, getting groceries, and even church activities and there isn’t much time for each other.
In 2023 be more intentional about scheduling time together, whether that’s a date night or simply a quiet evening together each week. Talk about what works for you, and then schedule it. Get a baby sitter if you have to, but try to make this happen more often this year. Also work on being more fully present when you are together. We often are consumed with work, finances, special projects or hobbies and don’t give our full attention to our spouse. It takes work and planning to spend time together but it’s worth it in the long run.
I could keep going but those 5 are a good start. Look for more ideas coming soon.
If ever there was a word that makes us cringe, it would be obedience. For a lot of folks, obedience has a negative connotation. Maybe it reminds you of your failures, your inability to measure up to some standard. Maybe it reminds you of someone in your past (a parent, or a pastor) who used religion to manipulate you.
As Parents you want your children to “obey” you. Not because they are afraid of you, but because they trust you. Lots of kids rebel against authority, especially their parents. They experiment on how far they can push it. They want to go their own way, even if you as the parent know better. Honestly many adults are also rebelling, doing their own thing and not obeying authority figures, especially God.
When it comes to obeying someone, it’s a lot easier to obey someone you trust and feel loved by. However, not everyone who insists on obedience does so out of love for us. Some people throw this word around like a hand grenade, and do a lot of damage in the name of God. Obedience is a power word. Usually when someone insists on our obedience it’s a “red flag.” Some people use this word to conceal their ambitions, hidden agenda, and selfishness. Emotionally abusive people love to use this word as they tread all over us like a doormat.
From a Biblical perspective, we’re always living in obedience to someone, or something. And so our obedience can be directed toward God, or it can be dislocated away from God.
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:16
We can be mastered by sin just as readily as anything. So we obey our addictions. We obey our lusts. We obey our appetite for caffeine, alcohol, sugars, carbs. We obey our materialistic impulses–the idol of bigger, better, faster, newer, shinier. We obey our tech impulses, new and better devices. Few masters are more ruthless than our desires.
At first our lusts isolate us from others. We withdrawal to do our thing. Then they demand greater commitment. Time, energy, resources, relationships, life. At first we try to manage them, until they finally consume us, destroying us in the end.
In Mark 7:8 Jesus observes how we “lay aside the commands of God to obey the traditions of men.”
We can identify as a certain denomination instead of a follower of Jesus. We obey the traditions we learned instead of the person we love, Jesus. Instead of serving God, sometimes we can become servants of our religious/political ideologies.
The masses didn’t crucify Jesus because he was the Son of God, or was obeying God. They killed him because he didn’t obey their traditions. In John 12:43 he describes how people “love human praise more than praise from God.” How many times have you felt conviction about some great thing God put on your heart, only to realize that your spouse, a boyfriend/ girlfriend, your kids, a friend was not on board, or disagreed with you? So instead of pressing forward, you relented, and gave in to the pressure. Our need for affirmation, and approval is so strong, we will cave rather than risk the disapproval of others. It’s like a law has been passed: “I have to be liked.” I need a Facebook thumbs up, a Twitter retweet, to have the validation I need in life. Do we obey men, or do we obey God?
Galatians 2:16 says, “…we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law” (NLT).
The Bible describes how people believe they are accepted by God by obeying all the laws God has given. So like the Rich Young Ruler, people try to establish their own righteousness before God. Our checklists become a source of pride for us, and they become a sort of litmus test by which we gauge other’s sincerity, spirituality, or faith. “I don’t ever miss church. I read my Bible. I’ve been baptized. I tithe. I volunteer. I go to Bible study. I go on missions trips. I care about orphans, widows, prisoners, the hungry, the sick. . . I, I, I…” Our selective, cherry-picked lists can give us a false sense of confidence before God.
God’s standard is Galatians 3:10, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
Who or what do you most obey? Jesus’ obedience wasn’t oriented around things… it was oriented to Father. Look at how Jesus obeyed. In John 8:28-30 Jesus says, “… I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
Philippians 2:8, “… being found in the appearance as a man, Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!”
To Obey Like Jesus: First, obedience is all about relationship. “Obedience or trusting obedience is God’s love language.” The “heart” of obedience is pleasing the Father in everything–i.e. in all we say and do. He is pleased when we obey because he knows that means we trust him. When we trust God we want to obey God, When we have a relationship with Jesus and are intimate with our Father God we don’t obey out of fear, it’s out of love. 2 John 1:6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
Second, grace is the basis for our relationship with God. We are saved through faith in Christ alone, by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, His perfect righteousness, His blood. The best we can do is respond to God’s offer of mercy. We can confess Jesus as Lord. We can repent and turn to God. We can pledge our lives to him in baptism. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” Faith in Jesus Christ leads to being born again spiritually. You are a new person and that new person begins to grow in love for Jesus. As that love grows, trust increases and obedience increases.
Third, obedience is God’s prescription for blessing. God’s commands carry a blessing, a promise, a reward. God’s promise to the children of Abraham is that if they obeyed God, it would go well for them, they would live a long life, and receive inheritance. If we sow obedience, we reap God’s very best in our lives. In Luke 11:28 Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” I even noticed in 1 John 3:22 that obedience makes our prayers more powerful. John says, “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.”
Last, obedience is evidence our faith is alive, not dead. James says faith without works is DOA (James 2:17). 1 John 2:5-6 says, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus lived.” If our faith is alive, real, vibrant, sincere, it will show itself in how we live. Obedience is the inevitable fruit of saving faith. In the end, God judges our faith by every word spoken, and every deed done, whether in public or private.
Starting a race is easy, finishing a race is hard – Getting married is easy, staying married is hard.
So how do you stay married? More importantly how do you stay happily married, because lots of couples can just co-exist and hang on.
Look at two passages of Scripture 1 Corinthians 13 :4-7 and Galatians 5:22
In Galatians, patience is listed as part of the “fruit of the Spirit”: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.
Paul talks about the fruit that should be evident in our lives if we are living for God in Galatians.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 he goes into detail about the meaning of love, which is the key to staying married. in verse 4 it says that love is patient and kind. I believe that is one of the keys to finishing strong in a marriage.
The definition of Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
Have self-control in difficult situations.
Increasing patience is viewed as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian who has accepted the gift of salvation
In the Bible, patience is referred to in several sections.
The book of Proverbs notes that “through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Proverbs 25:14-16, NIV);
Ecclesiastes points out that the “end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:7-9, NIV);
In the book of James, the Bible urges Christians to be patient, and ” see how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,…until it receives the early and the late rains.” (James 5:7-11, NAB).
1 Thessalonians states that we should “be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good for each other and for all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, NAB).
So how do we practice patience in a relationship, especially the marriage relationship?
1. Remind yourself that things take time. People who are impatient, are people who insist on getting things done now and don’t like to waste time. However, some things just can’t be rushed.
Think about your happiest memories. Chances are, they were instances when your patience paid off, like when you worked steadily toward a goal that wasn’t immediately gratifying, or took a little extra time to spend leisurely with a loved one. Would you have those memories if you had been impatient? Probably not.
Almost anything really good in life takes time and dedication, and if you’re impatient, you’re more likely to give up on relationships, goals, and other things that are important to you. Good things may not always come to those who wait, but most good things that do come don’t happen right away.
2. Remember what matters. Not focusing on what matters most in this life fuels impatience. You can move the world toward peace, by being kind, generous in forgiveness of others, being grateful for what is, and taking full advantage of what matters most. When other less important things fuel our impatience, taking time to remember any one of these items reduces our tendency to want something different right now.
3. Always have a positive outlook in life and about your spouse Being positive is imperative to possessing a sense of patience. Believe the best about your spouse. Remember that marriage is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.
4. Expect the unexpected. Yes, you have plans, but things don’t always work out as planned. Accept the twist and turns in life gracefully. Keep your expectations realistic. This applies not only to circumstances, but also the behavior of those around you.
If you find yourself blowing up over your child or your spouse accidentally spilling a drink, you’re not in touch with the fact that people aren’t perfect. Even if the occasion is not an isolated incident but is instead caused by their repeated neglect and carelessness, losing your patience isn’t going to make it any better. That’s something to be addressed with discussion and self-control.
Give yourself a break.
Stop holding yourself and the world around you to unattainable standards. Sure, we’d all be more patient if he would always listen, she would stop complaining, traffic flowed smoothly, and people didn’t make mistakes – but that’s never going to happen. Expecting the world to run smoothly is like beating your head against the wall. Give yourself a break!
The Benefits of Developing Patience
Reduces stress levels and makes you a happier, healthier person.
When you learn and practice patience you don’t get as angry, stressed or overwhelmed. You are more in control of your emotions and in a better position to deal with difficult situations with ease and poise. This promotes longevity and makes you a happier, healthier person.
Results in better decision-making.
When you’re patient you take the time to assess the situation, see the big picture, and weigh any pros and cons. The chances of making a big mistake lessen because you avoid making it in haste. Taking the time to problem solve requires patience and deliberation.
Helps develop understanding, empathy and compassion.
You are automatically more understanding and compassionate with others when you yourself are patient. Patient people take the time to process what they go through and are able to determine what it takes to overcome obstacles, so they are more understanding of others. This results in better, more fulfilling relationships with spouses, friends, children and bosses.
Helps you understand and appreciate the process of growth.
As mentioned earlier anything worthwhile takes time and effort to achieve. As the old saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Planning, growth, evaluation and measurement all take time, and taking time takes patience.
Tips on How to Develop Patience
Take a day where you make patience your goal for the entire day.
Make a concerted effort to take your time and think about everything you do, be mindful and live in the moment. At the end of the day, observe all the ways in which you’ve made smarter decisions, got along better with others and actually understood what took place. Learn to do it on a daily basis. Developing patience is much like physical exercise because it requires persistence and effort.
If you have the tendency to rush around and try to hurry things up, want things done immediately and can’t wait for things to take their natural course, STOP. Take several deep breaths before you act or make a move. For example, if you’re in a long lineup at the grocery store or in heavy traffic, make the decision to pause and not get worked up. Do some isometrics, listen to the radio, or just enjoy the view. Getting impatient won’t make things move along any faster, so why get worked up for nothing?
Practice delaying gratification.
When you want to reach for that dessert, second drink, or buying your tenth pair of red shoes, stop and think about it first. Maybe you don’t need or want any of them that badly after all. You can save yourself some money or added calories.
Practice thinking before you speak.
At times we blurt out the first thought that comes into our heads without considering the consequences. If we’re patient, and can pause and go over what we want to say, we can avoid hurting or offending others.
A few other tips on Patience:
Don’t be patient with bad behavior. Be patient with how you respond to bad behavior.
Praise your spouse publicly, be sincere and specific. Brag about how great he is or how organized she is.
Have crucial conversations in private. Don’t argue and fight in front of the kids or in public. Be patient enough to work on the conflict when you both can focus and not be distracted.
Try to praise more than admonish – you should praise 3 times more than you admonish. If all you do is complain about what they are not doing and never praising them there will be little motivation to make any changes.
Being Kindgoes with Patience:
Kindness always starts with you! When you are kind it will influence your spouse, children and anyone else around you
When you are kind to another person it is difficult to not be kind in turn.
Being kind means making their day better. Are they better off for being around you?
It is how you talk to each other the words that you use.
Helping when you can, serving them to make their day easier.
It can be very simple, a smile, a hug, a kiss, paying attention and listening, giving a small gift, saying I love you, writing a note!
Kindness is intentionally creating and maintaining the right environment in your home so your spouse and children can also be kind to others.
The goal is to make deposits in their emotional bank account, which means you have to know their love language and what is important to them.
Prayer is important:
Prayer is the last thing I want to leave with you.
Trying to be patient and kind on our own will not work. You can do it for a while, but it will not last long term.
Only by involving God can you be patient and kind and all those other things we read about in 1 Corinthians 13
When we pray we plug into the incredible power of God. It activates things spiritually that we cannot see.
Prayer also changes our perspective and reminds us of what is important.
So I want you to commit to praying for your spouse everyday for the next 21 days.
How many of you have scars on your body? How many of you have ever felt judged? Maybe for the way you look or something you did in your past, or a decision you made. How many of you like being judged? Nobody raised their hand on that one.
How many of you have been hurt by someone? Maybe you were abused, rejected, made fun of or lied about you. Bullied? Maybe you were betrayed by a friend, or taken advantage of.
Being judged and being hurt can leave emotional scars in our lives. Those wounds stay with us and many times don’t heal right, they get infected and can spread and cause many other issues. Even when they heal properly they can still leave scars that remind us of what happened to us.
When Jesus was cornered and put in a bad situation, He didn’t lash out. Instead, Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. He didn’t blurt out an answer. He didn’t get sarcastic. He didn’t get angry, He didn’t run or hide. He basically ignored them. One translation adds, “he acted as though he heard them not.”
But they keep pressuring Jesus for an answer about the woman caught in adultery. Again look at how Jesus responds. He doesn’t make a long speech, or teach a deep lesson. He made a very simple statement. Jesus said, “Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.” When every left, she forgave the woman and encouraged her to sin no more.
In Romans 2:1 Paul tells us “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”
To be like Jesus, we must learn to be quick to forgive, not quick to judge, or condemn. Paul tells us that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
When you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, he is quick to forgive and brings no condemnation or judgment. He wipes the slate clean.
Jesus also teaches us to pray for those who abuse us, in Luke 6:28 — “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Praying for people we care about is easy. Praying for people we don’t know well is also fairly easy. Praying for someone who hurt us or someone we loved is hard.
The reason Jesus tells us to do this is because He knows that our enemies, those who have hurt us in any way, can only be forgiven with the help of God. Praying for them helps us to break through the pain and see a person. When we pray for those that hurt us it begins that process of spiritual strengthening that is needed to truly forgive a person.
You might start by simply saying be with them, or maybe help them, or do something in their lives. Then you can get to the point where you actually ask God to bless them, make something good happen in their lives. Then maybe even deeper where you start to pray for their salvation, or their healing from whatever hurts they have.
Your prayers for others may or may not change them, but it will always change you. Forgiveness is more about you than the other person. Unforgiveness does a lot of damage in our hearts. It stays inside us right on top to the hurt and that often leads to negative emotions like anger, bitterness, frustration, and even things like depression and anxiety.
Forgive as you have been forgiven. Jesus quickly forgave you! The moment you put your faith in him, the moment you asked. He is saying we should forgive that way. Forgiveness does not mean you will forget. You can’t just erase those memories and the hurt. But once you are free and healing you don’t think about it as much and eventually it’s not something you think about at all.
Forgiveness is not a feeling it is a choice, on our own we will never feel like forgiving, but with God’s help we can choose to forgive. Choose to give grace, and forgive, and speak the truth in love while not judging people as part of living like Jesus.
I believe life is about growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we do that the rest of our lives find direction, meaning and purpose.
And one of the ways of God that leads us deeper into this kind of relationship is the pathway of self-giving.
I’m not talking about giving your money, though the happiest and healthiest saints are always the most generous. I’m talking about giving yourself.
We know from experience and from the Bible that the path of self-giving is the path of greatest joy and growth. It’s not free from risk and pain. But it is the path of greatest joy.
Paul said in Acts 20:35, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” More happy. More deeply satisfying. More rich and solid. Especially giving yourself.
This is who you are as a Christian. The moment you become a Christian, you are a giver by nature. self-giving is part of your nature, your essence, your identity.
Listen to Jesus: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him [that’s what it means to be a Christian] will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
That is who you are. You are a spring. You don’t do a spring. You are a spring. Whoever believes in me, Jesus said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). That’s who you are. You are a spring. You are a fountain.
And what makes springs and fountains happy and healthy is when they make streams. If you stop them up, they stagnate. If you let them give — if you let them become what they are — they stay clear and healthy and life-giving and happy.
Now listen to Paul as he tells us seven ways that he gave them himself. Please, don’t think of this as for someone else. Be encouraged to become what you are in Christ, a fountain, a spring, a giver of yourself.
1. First, Paul took a risk.
Verse 2: “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”
Going to church or going back to church is risky. Many of you have had bad church experiences, you’ve been hurt or disappointed or neglected or even rejected. Taking the step of going is big. Walking into a new church with all the unknowns, is taking a risk
It’s the same thing getting into a small group or volunteering to serve. It’s risky, you could get hurt again, you could be disappointed again, you might not click or it might not be the right fit.
But that’s what the Gospel is all about – taking a risk, living and giving our lives to others. Loving and serving and growing. You can’t do that if you live an isolated, careful life.
Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones and take a risk
2. Paul lived with integrity.
Verse 3: “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive.”
He gave them the truth and kept himself pure (that word for “impurity” is regularly used by Paul for sexual sin). He wasn’t doing this to find an inappropriate relationship.
He’s saying look guys our motives for helping you, for sharing the Gospel with you was from a heart of integrity. Integrity is not living perfect, but it’s being quick to admit your failures, your mistakes, asking for forgiveness – It’s being open, honest and of good character.
Our desire should be to live lives of integrity so that we can be a positive helpful influence on others.
We are not perfect, but we do have Christ, we do have the Holy Spirit.
3. Paul was not a People Pleaser.
Verse 4: “We speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” Verse 6: “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.”
People-pleasing makes people into phonies or pretenders. It usually means they are deeply insecure.
What they want most is your approval. And so they are not real. They will do or say anything to make you happy, to avoid conflict or get you to like them
We all have some of these tendencies of wanting people to like us or to get their approval. That’s not wrong, it’s just should not be our primary motivator for doing things..
That is not giving yourselves. You never really know the real person. Paul will have nothing to do with that. He was all about pleasing God – His focus was on listening to God, obeying God, Sharing the good news about Jesus.
Relax in Jesus, and be who you are — warts, wrinkles, scars, and all.
4. Paul was Honest & Humble.
Verse 5: “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is witness.”
Flattery is using language not for the sake of truth, but for the sake of manipulation. You want something.
In this case, Paul was being accused of buttering them up as a way to get money. They say he wanted their money, not their souls. And he says, “you and God know that is not true.”
We should live our lives the same way, not trying to manipulate people to get what we want, to get our way, to make more money.
We should not go to church or get into a small group to better our financial position or our status or to take advantage of someone else’s generosity, but to give ourselves.
Listen to verse 9: “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.” He was not after their money. He was after their hearts for their good, he wanted them to have a relationship with Jesus.
He was there to give them himself. When you give yourself, you don’t flatter, and you don’t position yourself for money, and you don’t expect to be served. You are there to give. That’s who you are in Christ — a giver.
That should be our attitude when you go to church, when we join a small group, when we volunteer to serve. Not what can I get, but what can I give.
5. Paul Cared Deeply for others.
Verse 6–8: We could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
He exchanged a relationship of power for a relationship of affection. This is a very vulnerable thing for a leader to do, or anyone really.
Caring about people and caring for people is part of our calling to give ourselves to each other.
Don’t ever think you are above this. Don’t ever think you are too sophisticated or too self-sufficient, or too cool to give yourself like this — showing tender affection like a mother with her children.
Who can you show kindness to? Where can you build meaningful relationships that lead to care and friendship.
For some of you it starts in your homes, with your spouse or with your family. But don’t stop there. You can be a part of a group, serve on a team, be a mentor or pray for people and encourage people that are hurting or struggling.
Ask God to change your heart, to help you care deeply about other people and how you can love and serve others.
6. Paul treated people right.
Verse 10: “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.”
He is not saying he was sinless. What this means is: We honored God, we treated people right, and we gave no one a legitimate reason to blame us for our behavior.
He was above reproach. What a beautiful thing — what a compelling thing — when we can be real and be good. He walked in integrity.
Paul was open, vulnerable and real. There was nothing fake about him. He was genuine, he treated people with respect, love and care. He was full of truth and grace, which made it hard for people to find fault in him or accuse him of anything shady.
7. Paul was an Encourager
Verses 11–12: “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”
And the legacy was not the memory of himself, but the kingdom and the glory of God.
Paul was a great encourager, just like a father encourages his children, so we can be known as an encourager, instead of a complainer.
Who can you encourage? Write a note, send a text, say a prayer, visit, call.
Bottom Line: You Have Something to Give, Choose a life of giving Yourself.