You have the power to impact someone’s day for the better. It’s true – your encouragement can speak God’s love into the lives of others. A person’s mood, attitude, and even mindset might improve by hearing your words. Does that sound too dramatic? Maybe, but I can remember many times when a positive interaction turned my day around, and I’ll bet you can, too.
Paul wrote this to Philemon, a fellow worker for Christ: “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”
I wonder if Philemon was aware of what a special thing he was doing, or if it just came naturally to him. Either way, it sounds like he took on a ministry that Paul found very impactful.
“Good words are worth much, and cost little.”
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
When we face troubles or trials, it’s easy to stay zeroed in on what we’re going through in the moment. It’s a natural and vital way of coping. But the Apostle Paul invites us to look at these times with a longer view as well. What if, he asks, we could see our difficulties as a way to grow closer to God – and then to encourage others when the right time comes?
It’s a challenge – at least, it is for me. I tend to set my focus inward when troubles come. And there is definitely a time for that – sometimes we need to be needy, and to receive the grace God has for us. But as I “go through,” can I catch a glimpse of the possibilities for ministry later, when I’ve made it to the other side? That calls for a firmer trust in God’s provision and a deeper passion for sharing Him with others. And I’m praying for both.
“I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.”
”Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
I love it when works of fiction reflect Scriptural truths.
The Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol has a powerful message about the human heart. Ebeneezer Scrooge, with a bit of nudging, undergoes a transformation from cantankerous miser into a wiser, more generous old man, loved by his family and community. Dr. Seuss took this idea and shaped it into his own story, How the Grinch stole Christmas, where the Grinch turned from his greed and found a place in Whoville.
I know we’re well past the holiday season now, but some themes are applicable all the time. Both Scrooge and Grinch learned that being in relationship was so much better than being alone. They started to experience the joys of caring and being cared about. And they got to that point by realizing what really brings the most meaning to life – not grabbing and clutching onto what they had, but being willing to release it.
“The fellow that has no money is poor. The fellow that has nothing but money is poorer still.”
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
In Luke 12, Jesus told a parable about a farmer that had a very plentiful harvest. The man decided he would build bigger barns to house the extra grain, and then to relax and take it easy – after all, he was all set. But God soon took his life, and asked, “who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Jesus ends it with a caution not to see our personal wealth and comfort as more important than the things of God.
I think this story is a great reminder about the balance we are meant to strike with money. God provides money as a tool for us to take care of ourselves, but also to take care of each other. When used well, it can help, heal, and build bridges between people – even the smallest amount can do a lot good. And the more we loosen our grip on what we have, the more we honor the God who gave it to us.
“But for money and the need of it, there would not be half the friendship in the world. It is powerful for good if divinely used. Give it plenty of air and it is sweet as the hawthorn; shut it up and it cankers and breeds worms.”
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Loving our neighbor always sounds like such a good thing to do. But it isn’t always the simple thing. Challenges arise in all sorts of ways, from misunderstandings, disagreements or just plain bad behavior. That’s why we have to decide to love each other, because it takes more than wanting – it takes dedication.
For me, it’s also about giving up the expectation that loving others will always be easy. And thankfully, I’ve learned enough to know being a “loving neighbor” is truly worth the work. If we ask, God will give us an unending supply of grace for others, and for ourselves as well. With His help, those challenging moments will become chances to show how strong love is meant to be.
“In the Christian sense, love is not primarily and emotion, but an act of the will. When Jesus us tells us to love our neighbors, he is not telling us to love them in the sense of responding to them with a cozy emotional feeling. You can as well produce a cozy emotional feeling as you can a yawn or a sneeze. On the contrary, he is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our own well-being to that end…”
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
When I think of Mother Teresa, I see a woman who gave her life fully over to service to the poor. I also see someone who was filled with joy. To her, love wasn’t a thing to strive for or to hold onto, but to freely share in words and works for others. She knew that even one act of agape love has the power to change a person for the better, to lead them closer to God.
This humble nun showed the world what it looks like to spend each day following Jesus’ call. And I think she would be the first to encourage all of us that no ministry is too small. We can step out and do what we can, when we can, to impact those around us for the Lord right now.
“It’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.”
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Have you noticed that we can find all sorts of excuses not to speak out for the Lord? I have, and I’ve used a few over the years: I’m too young in the faith, I don’t know enough, I don’t know exactly what to say…
But I’ve come to realize that when a person’s heart is willing, God will equip them with all they need. The Bible tells of so many men and women who were convinced they couldn’t do what God was calling them to do. And they were right – on their own, they had every excuse not to step out. In His grace, though, God made them able – and He’ll do that for any one of us. So let’s go! Blessings, Heather
“His voice leads us not into timid discipleship but into bold witness.”
“But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.”
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power,love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…”
Success has a different look for Christians. As we learn more about how God calls us to live, we start to see things through His eyes. And according to the Lord, a successful life has very little to do with what job we have or how much we earn. In God’s view, the greatest accomplishments have to do with pleasing Him. How? Not by showing Him how great we are, but by showing others how great He is. Blessings, Heather
“When we find a man meditating on the words of God, my friends, that man is full of boldness and is successful.”
Dwight L. Moody
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathedand is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”