God holds up my life?
Driving home after a bowling trip with my two youngest, my son made a random statement while looking out the window, “God holds up my life”. I quickly replied, “yes, son He does.”
I’m not sure why he felt prompted to make that simple statement, but it got me to thinking. How often do we hear statements from people, but don’t really listen to them? My son just made a profound statement and I thought it was cute.
I remember a time when my oldest daughter, who was then all of 4-years old, tell me that she wanted to accept Jesus as her Lord. I smiled down at her and said, “that’s wonderful Alex, we can talk about it more when we get home.” We were at a youth rally, I was serving at that time as the youth pastor and trying to corral 12 teenagers. My pastor walked up to me and simply stated, “are you going to take her down to pray or am I going too?” Yup, I assumed she was just repeating something she’d heard someone else say, but when my daughter got down to alter she sat in a circle with a few other younger children and led them (didn’t follow them, lead them) in the sinners prayer.
Our children are an incredible source of inspiration, they have amazing discernment and they speak the truth…always, even when we really don’t want to hear it.
Jesus knew how special children were when He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
I am amazed on an almost daily basis by what comes out of my children’s mouths; both solicited and unsolicited.
This week during Friday Night’s at Tucson Central; our youth were reading John 3:16-18. Of course we all know this as the most popular verse in the bible. We learn it almost as early as we learn how to say Amen and or interrupt the pastors sermon at the most inopportune time.
I asked the youth to try and explain to me why this verse is so popular. I got all kinds of answers ranging from; it’s short, it’s easy and it’s written everywhere to it’s cool and Pastor say’s it a lot; then my 14 year old son says, “it explains the whole gospel”. WHAT!!!
It was yet another wake up call or at the very least get the wax out of your ears. We are surrounded by people who ‘get it’, we constantly read scripture and yet miss so much. Are we really listening or in our straining to hear God are we failing to hear the tree falling in the forest.
I want to be open to all that God has for me. That means that I need to be open to all He says to me. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to me through my children, through strangers sleeping on the sidewalk, through scripture and even through individuals who make us uncomfortable or we don’t particularly want to listen too. The thing is, if we want to hear God we need to be prepared for his voice to come from anyone, anywhere at anytime.
Jesus didn’t just listen to the people around them, He heard them with ears full of love and compassion and mercy. Several times, even Jesus was surprised by what He heard.
“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.” Matthew 8:5-13
I want to listen with expectation of how the Holy Spirit is going to speak to me today, I hope you do too.
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“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:24-25
I have often struggled with the thought that Jesus made something of a blanket statement about the wealthy, almost as if being blessed with wealth precludes you from going to heaven. One simple statement sums it up, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Growing up I did not ‘have’ a lot. We had a home and food and clothes and love and support, which to me made us rich. I never thought of us being a ‘have not’ until high school when I was exposed to those who had a whole lot more. They had more toys, ‘better’ clothes, nicer homes, fancier cars and money to pretty much do what they wanted, and they did…exactly what they wanted.
I was part of a graduating class of 162 students. From that class came the largest amount of college scholarships the school had ever seen. Want to know how many graduated from college? No you really don’t, it would make you sad. My graduating class was fraught with drugs, alcohol, divorce, divorce and more divorce, abuse, jail and suicide. The ‘haves’ did what they wanted to do. They had so much; potential, resources, optimism and support, but they weren’t happy. So they turned to what they thought would make them happy, which only made matters worse.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10
I love telling my children about how I grew up. About our wood burning stove and how my dad got up at 4am to get it going so the house was warm when we got up. About the garden where we grew our own veggies (No a spaghetti squash does NOT taste like spaghetti and yes I could tell the difference!) and swimming in the creek behind our house. I love telling the stories of the Christmas where we each, me and my two brothers got a hand made afghan that my mom had made her self, working on them at night after we went to sleep.
One day my oldest son, Nik commented, “it seems like even though you didn’t have a lot growing up that you had a great childhood.” He was right, I did. We didn’t focus on what we didn’t have, we enjoyed and cherished what we did, which made me so much more appreciative of what I have now.
The book of Matthew is full of so many wonderful truths, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
In Matthew Jesus isn’t making a statement about those who have money but those who cherish it above all else.
“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19:16-22
“…he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” His possessions (money) meant more to him than the poor, the widow and orphans. His money was more important to him than Jesus.
Being blessed with a good job, and resources is not a sin. Holding those above Christ and those Christ brings to you, is. He blesses us to bless others. As long as we keep money in it’s proper place (it ALL belongs to Him) and are obedient to His calling on our lives, whatever that may be, there is an eternity waiting for us by His side.
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Your identity is in Christ.
That statement in and of its self is HUGE; however, we still fight the concept. Our work has become our identity. Our happiness is based on our work status and whether or not our job fulfills us. We want to find a partner who is as ‘dedicated to their work’ as we are. We talk about finding ‘work life balance’ not ‘life work balance’.
In a world where we are inundated day in and out on TV, social media, news, virtually every media outlet you can think of with finding and elevating our career satisfaction, it’s no wonder that so few do. After all, if hundreds of people can make millions of dollars teaching others how to be happy in their jobs, there must be a lot of unhappy employees out there. Work, job, career, vocation have taken the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill our lives…Christ.
No I am not saying that you shouldn’t work or that you shouldn’t want to be happy with the work you do. I’m saying that we should not be spending disproportionate amounts of time worrying, being anxious and crying over our jobs.
Recently I’ve had several individuals come to me with challenges that are rooted in their job satisfaction. They don’t feel appreciated, valued or perhaps challenged. They don’t feel they get paid enough or that the stress their job creates is wearing on them. I too have had some doubts recently about where my ‘career’ fits into my life. Then I read something that began to alter my perception of my job.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23
It doesn’t say work heartily for the things you like to do, or are fun to do, it says ‘whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.’ It doesn’t matter if I’m at home folding socks (which I HATE doing) or weeding my garden (which I LOVE doing) I am called to work heartily as if I’m doing it for God Himself. If we begin, just begin to start seeing our jobs as something we do for the Lord, not something we do that takes the place of the Lord, our feelings might change.
God does not want you to hate your job. Yes, that is another truth. God has given you the work you have to do, regardless of what it is, He can bring amazing things forth from it.
“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
The Lord blesses us with employment so that we have meaningful work, to provide for our families (2 Thess 3:10-13), to provide for those in need (Eph 4:28), and to live as part of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16) He does not provide us this work so that we become the work, or so that work becomes our life.
All the labor of man is for this mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7
I have spent the better part of my adult life striving to be the best at whatever I do. Early on I discovered that I could receive all kinds of positive reinforcement, awards, accolades and advancement if I worked harder, smarter and longer than anyone else. I achieved great success in the world…at what cost? I had a fancy office on the Potomac, traveling 3-weeks a month away from my family. I would introduce myself to people I met using my title as if it were my last name. I could never just be Betsy Stuetze; no, my true identity was found in what I did, my job title, not who I was. For the record; I was lonely, sad, scared, and desperately empty, and none of this could be cured by my job, my office, or my expense account.
Over the past year, some of which I’ve been serving as a bi-vocational pastor, I have learned that when you keep your (secular) work in its proper place, it can be incredibly satisfying. Our work can be a blessing to our families, others and ourselves. Our work can glorify God. Our work can have far reaching impact on those around us, however, it is not supposed to define you.
“Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:17
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
If God is for us, who can be against us…Powerful words, words full of promise and commitment. Words to encourage and assure us, words that fully express God’s passion for His children. Just a few verses later it states, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37
So, if God is for us and nothing can separate His children from Him, then why are we so fearful? Why do we doubt His love and His care? Why do we think and act if things are either out of His reach, to big for Him to handle or too small for Him to care?
Is it a lack of faith? I believe that, at least in my life, it’s a lack of understanding. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
I don’t understand why I had to struggle so much in life; death, loss, more death, trials and tribulations…why? I asked that a lot. What I have experienced recently however, is a growing sense of who God is, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, and through that, a better knowledge of how little I know, or as Socrates put it, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”
Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
I can’t comprehend the passion and fullness of God’s love, or of Jesus’s sacrifice for me. I can only understand through the lenses of my life’s experiences, without the Holy Spirit. And there it is…with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life I can begin to experience and understand God’s ways, who Jesus is, and through that the unthinkable grace that’s been given to me.
Cory Asbury expresses this so well in his song Reckless Love. “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”
God is sovereign. Nothing gets by Him, nothing is beyond Him, nothing surprises Him, and He can and will work ALL things for His Glory and our good. More than that, there is nothing that will surprise Him, shock Him or rock Him.
Jeremiah 32:27 – “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?
So, back to my point, if God is with us who can be against us? Knowing that there is nothing God can’t do, nothing is too big or too small for His attention and that He will always provide for our needs, then why do we still doubt and fear? I believe it is because we have a very hard time, without the help of the Holy Spirit, fully comprehending who He is.
The remedy is easy, get to know Him better. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern His ways, pray for understanding, read His words. None of us would attempt to write a biography on a famous individual without spending considerable time with that person, reading about them, studying their actions and decisions. Why then do we throw our hands up in the air and yell, “why Lord”, when we haven’t been intentional in our efforts to know him better?
The key is being intentional, you can’t read a scripture, pray Sunday morning then throw your hands up that it’s not working. It takes time, effort and commitment…the fruits of which however, will be immeasurable; thirty, fifty and a hundred-fold more than you could ever imagine.
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Matthew 25:29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
I have been on an all-out quest to know Jesus better. I want to be a sincere and authentic disciple, I want to know Jesus so well that sharing Him with others is just as natural to me as telling people about my children’s crazy antics. The best way for me to know Him, is to bury myself in His words (Bible) and though prayer, talking with Him daily.
I love a good story and believe it or not the Bible is full of them. Reading through the gospels is like experiencing the times and culture of Jesus day. We can glean so much from His words that resound so clearly today…yes, His words from some 2000 years ago resound today.
One of my favorite parables is that of the talents. A fav but one I still struggled to fully comprehend. In this story Jesus tells of a man who is traveling far away, so he places his possessions (talents) in the hands of three servants. To the first he gives five, the second two and the last one. The first went out and “traded with them” and made 5 more, the second took his two and gained two more, but the servant who received one talent went and buried it.
When the man returns to settle his accounts; in the instance of the first two servants he was pleased that they each had taken what they were given and increased their masters money, expanded his portfolio, enlarged his estate (you get the point). Their lord says to them, “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 25:21 & 23) Pretty amazing praise of you ask me!
Yet in the instance of the final servant, his response was very different. “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags’. ‘ For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 25:26-29).
Seems pretty straight forward, right? Use your talents, money, gifts, faith, etc. for God and more will be given? Why then does this scripture intrigue me? Because its relevance is so real today. It’s a practical and applicable interaction with Christ!
Whatever it is that God has given you (which by the way is everything) blessings and challenges, need to be used to glorify Him! We are to take WHATEVER He has given us and increase it.
I have experienced the death of a spouse at the ripe age of 24, lived through the death of my first born from cancer. The loss I have experienced has equipped me to be comfort to those who are traversing similar roads. I have been gifted with a wonderful career that enables me to access a network of contacts and resources to help with finding jobs, medical care and so much more. The blessings and the pain can be used to grow the Kingdom…my ‘talents’ are plentiful and have nothing to do with my income.
This parable isn’t a diatribe on giving your money or a treatise on making sure that you are serving in your church; as it is often used. This is Jesus telling us that EVERYONE has been given something they can use to glorify God. Everyone has been given a means to reach out to those around them. EVERYONE is equipped right where they are to expand His Kingdom.
Not everyone is a great preacher or evangelist, not everyone has been blessed financially or with wonderful musical skills… everyone has been gifted… what you choose to do with that gift is up to you. You can use it to increase the kingdom or take your light and hide it under a basket.
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