4 Questions to Ask of Your Work

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Sometimes we are not sure that our work, as legitimate and as spiritual as it may be, matters. We question the worth of our work, the significance of our job. For many of us we don’t pause long enough to consider some challenging questions about our work.

Why do I work?

Some people work for money. Others work for opportunity. Respect is another reason people work. But what happens when the money dries up? What happens when the opportunities halt? What if people don’t like you? What if there is a downturn or downsizing? What then?

The key to finding purpose and meaning in your job is connecting what you do all day with what you think God wants you doing. In fact, you will never find ultimate meaning in your work—or in your relationship with God until you do. Are you in the place where God wants you to be?

For whom am I working?

Are you working for a boss, your spouse, your family, or yourself? Or, are you working for God? If God is a worker and he calls us to be coworkers with him, then our work must be for him. All our work should be done for God. If not, we are wasting our lives. When we know that we are working for God, that our efforts bring us pleasure and honor God, then we are fruitful and fulfilled. We are performing the right job.

 Can you give all of your heart to your work?

Colin Powell learned a valuable lesson about work early in his life. While working at the Teamsters Hall on soft drink delivery trucks, Powell accepted a job as a porter at a Pepsi bottling plant, not knowing what a porter actually did. The first day on this new job, the future Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State was given a mop. He was determined to be the best mopper at the plant. At the end of the summer, the foreman who had watched Powell work during the summer complimented him on his hard work. The foreman offered him a better job for the next summer. Powell could have had a different attitude toward his menial job as a porter, but he was determined to do the best job even if he was not working at the best job. The lesson he learned was this: “All work is honorable. Always do your best, because someone is watching.”

We may not have the most glamorous or the best paying job in the world, but we can still give that job the best we have to offer. If we are coworkers with God, and God does his best, then we too must do our best.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

 Is it worth it?

As a Christian who works I receive not only a paycheck but also the promise of a heavenly reward far greater than any salary. Often, I hear from people who complain about their poor salaries and benefits. They often seek another job. It often hits me when talking to such people that no matter how little or how much I was paid today, it was nothing compared with the coming reward from God.

When we work for ourselves or for others, we have nothing beyond a paycheck and the material goods it can buy. These cannot ultimately satisfy. But for believers the thoughts of standing one day before Jesus and hearing him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Mat. 25:23 NIV) drives us on. That will be far greater than any Oscar, Pulitzer, Nobel, or Grammy prize that the world could offer.

Your Life's Work

 

Your LIFE’s Work: Finding Significance in Your Job is a free eBook that provides greater clarity and inspiration for why we should work and how we can glorify God through our work. You can claim you copy by clicking here and signing up for my weekly One Minute Uplifts.

 

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3 Reasons To Change the Way You Look at Work

 

 

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Dobie Gillies once said, “I don’t have anything against work. I just figure, why deprive somebody who really loves it.” In that comment rests a universal challenge: To put excitement and enjoyment into work, we first must be willing to work. The satisfaction, fun, and fulfillment we experience in work are benefits we can give ourselves.

Work is not something out of God’s concern. It is a major part of human life that God takes very seriously. Work has intrinsic value—it is inherently worth doing. Here are three reasons why we work.

 God is a Worker.

God first reveals himself in Scripture as a worker. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1 NIV). God calls this activity work. “By the end of the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing” (Gen. 2:2 NIV). God did not stop working after creation. He continues to work, upholding the creation, meeting the many needs of his creatures, and working out his purposes. And, of course, he accomplished the great work of atonement at the cross.

God is a worker. The fact that God calls what he does work and calls it good means that work must be significant, that it must have intrinsic value.

 God created people to be his coworkers.

Man was created in the image of God and since God is a worker, man—created in God’s image—must be a worker, too. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden” (Gen. 2:15 NIV). Man was created not to work for himself, but to work as a coworker with God. Starting in the Garden of Eden, we are partners with God. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes calls work “the gift of God” (Eccl. 3:13 NIV). David describes this partnership, assigning dignity and value to man as God’s coworkers. “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet” (Psa. 8:5-6 NIV).

Created in God’s image, we do something very Godlike when we work. Not only is God’s work significant; human work is significant, too. God ordains work. All legitimate work is an extension of God’s work. Legitimate work is that work that somehow contributes to what God wants done in the world.

 The Bible does not differentiate between secular and sacred work.

We must shelf the idea that secular vocation is a step-child to sacred calling. We must purge our minds of such notions as “full-time Christian service” and “secular careers.”

William Tyndale, burned at the stake for making English translations of the Bible, said, “There is no work better than another to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler, or an apostle, all is one.” Martin Luther, the reformer, said, “Household tasks have no appearance of sanctity: and yet these very works in connection with the household are more desirable than all the works of monks and nuns.”

Your Life's Work

Your LIFE’s Work: Finding Significance in Your Job is a free eBook that provides greater clarity and inspiration for why we should work and how we can glorify God through our work. You can claim you copy by clicking here and signing up for my weekly One Minute Uplifts.

 

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5 Ways You Can Slay Envy

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The Greek proverb is correct, “Envy slays itself by its own arrows.” Envy is deadly because it will not let us live happily. It robs us of joy. It will not let us be satisfied with what we have or be grateful for our talents and personal qualities. It becomes a barrier to the celebration of who we are. It cheats us from blessings.

What can we do to slay the green monster? The next time envy creeps into your heart and mind do the following.

 Acknowledge envy as sin.

Many people struggle with envy for years, yet never acknowledge its true character. Envy is sin. The envious person is not just a victim; he or she bears responsibility. The Scripture says, “For where you have envy . . . there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16 NIV). The failure to confess envy will only lead to more sin.  Envy causes conflict with others, it travels with its cousin anger, it leads to depression, it manifests itself in gossiping, and it can even pull the trigger on murder.

Resist comparing yourself to others.

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves . . . [it] is not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12 NIV). Envious people are always comparing themselves to others. One way to bolster their own poor self-esteem is by finding fault with others. But when we compare ourselves with others two things happen and both are destructive. One, when we compare our strength to another person’s weakness we become prideful. Two, when we compare our weakness to another person’s strength we become envious. Either way we lose.

Recognize God’s goodness.

In other words, we need to be grateful for what we already have. A myth has circulated since the beginning of time: I must have more than you to be happy. And, you must have more than me to be happy. This is simply not true. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we need to remind ourselves what we do have, giving thanks for God’s graciousness in our lives. Do you have life? Health?  A job?  A house?  Clothes?  Friends?  When we understand God’s goodness in our lives, comparisons are meaningless.

Respond to others in love.

“Love does not envy” (1 Cor. 13:4 NIV). When we love other people, we appreciate their strengths and their gifts. We acknowledge that God loves them like God loves us—no more, no less. And when we choose to love, envy is eradicated from our lives.

Refocus on God.

“Don’t be envious of sinful people; let reverence for the Lord be the concern of your life. If it is, you have a bright future” (Prov. 23:17 GN).  There are only three things that will last for eternity—God, his Word, and his people. Not houses, or cars, or jobs, or vacations, or clothes.  When we look at people and their achievement and possessions, we need to look at the long haul not the short term. When I focus on God, my neighbor’s achievements and advancements don’t matter.

 

One of my most popular books, The 7 Sins of Highly Defective People, takes a twenty-first century look at the seven deadly sins, including envy, and offers advice on how, through Christ, we can overcome them. The book is a repair guide that will take you from highly defective to highly effective in your Christian walk. Click here to claim your copy.

 

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5 Things You Need to Know About Envy

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Envy has been called “the green sickness,” “a torment,” and “the most corroding of the vices.” Philip Bailey vividly described it as “a coal come hissing hot from hell.” And speaking of hell, no one has done a better job of portraying envy than Dante. In his Purgatory the envious sit like blind beggars by a wall. Their eyelids are sewn shut. The symbolism is apt, showing the reader that it is a blinding sin—partly because it is unreasonable, partly because the envious person is sewn up in himself. Swollen with poisonous thoughts in a dark, constricting world of almost unendurable self-imposed anguish.

Envy is the sin of the evil eye. The word envy is from the Latin invidia, meaning, “to look maliciously upon.” It always sees and desires what it does not have. Unlike jealousy, which focuses on possessing what you desire, envy focuses on taking something you desire away from the person who owns it. Envy is not just wanting what the other person has; envy wants the other person not to have it. Envy is sort of greed with a vengeance. Envy loves wealthy people to go broke; it loves for healthy people to become sick; it loves for skinny people to grow fat.

Envy is the one vice everybody has experienced. There are people who aren’t gluttons, who aren’t greedy, and even some who aren’t particularly proud. But everybody has been envious at one time or another. Our human nature has a built-in instinct to be envious. While we think envy is often justified and treated as a mild sin, it, too, can be just as deadly as any other.

Here are five realities of envy.

Envy is directed toward people close to us, not those who are distant.

It grows naturally in relationships between people who are equals. Two people of the same age and similar interests feel envy most keenly. Doctors envy doctors.  Lawyers envy lawyers.  Neighbors envy neighbors.  Salespersons envy salespersons. The closer a situation comes to matching your own identity, the higher the stakes become and the more likely envy is to erupt.

Envy reaches for what is out of reach.

My family picks apples at an orchard every fall. On one of those excursions, I noticed that I was always looking for the one seemingly perfect apple just out of reach. While there were plenty of apples, beautiful apples, well within my reach, it was always the one just out of my reach that caught my eye.  Such is envy.

Envious people cannot be content that they are victorious and prosperous. All they can see are others who have received more victories and achieved more prosperity.

You’ve heard the phrase, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” Why do we believe that statement?  Simple.  The grass on the other side of the fence is always out of reach.  What is out there, or over there, or beyond what we have, is what we want.  We envy it.

Envy creates the sense that life is passing one by.

The envious often feel they are in their twilight years when the rookie comes to camp. Be that a neighbor who drives up with a new SUV or takes off on an exotic vacation to Italy or has a more productive vegetable garden. Or, a work associate that gets promoted over you or gets a perk that you wanted. Others may be glad and rejoice, the envious seethe and become angry.

Envy is rotten to the core.

The Proverb says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones!” (Prov. 14:30 NIV). Chaucer’s Parson reminds us that envy is a foul sin because it sneers against all virtues and against all goodness. Envy is like a little worm inside an apple—it eats us up internally. Much of the depression people experience today is nothing more than internalized envy.  Like rust eating iron, envy corrupts men and women.

Envy has within itself its own destructive seed.

The Greek proverb is correct, “Envy slays itself by its own arrows.” Envy is deadly because it will not let us live happily. It robs us of joy.  It will not let us be satisfied with what we have or be grateful for our talents and personal qualities.  It becomes a barrier to the celebration of who we are.  It cheats us from blessings.

Which of these do you struggle with the most? What is your source of envy?

But there is help and hope. Part 2 of this article will provide steps to overcome envy.

 

One of my most popular books, The 7 Sins of Highly Defective People, takes a twenty-first century look at the seven deadly sins, including envy, and offers advice on how, through Christ, we can overcome them. The book is a repair guide that will take you from highly defective to highly effective in your Christian walk. Click here to claim your copy.

 

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What to do when angry

 

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Regina Barreca wrote in the Chicago Tribune Magazine, “. . .anger is . . . an itch, an allergic reaction to some little piece of life’s pollen blown your way.” Of all emotions, anger is probably the most common and most powerful. Hardly a day goes by without me experiencing some measure of anger—either my own or that of someone with whom I interact. My appointment is delayed. The traffic is jammed. A drunken driver kills three students at the local high school. My anger causes my face to turn red, my heart to race, and my eyes to water. I want to hit something or someone. The fire rages within. Anger is intensely personal. It is the quintessential individual signature emotion: I am what makes me mad.

Please understand, however, anger is normal and healthy. I am not responsible for the event or person that brought on my anger, only for how I respond to and use anger once it happens. Anger is not always sin. And not all anger is wrong. In the Old Testament, God became angry at the sin and wickedness of his people. In the New Testament, Jesus became indignant over the misuse of the Temple. And humans are instructed to express their anger, but not to become full of wrath and hatred. But anger can cause sin. A difference exists between “an angry person” and “a person who is angry.” An angry person is one who is controlled by anger—the fire is raging leading to sin. A person who is angry, on the other hand, is someone who has allowed a bit of life’s sparks from a certain event or person to ignite their anger—it’s a fire but not a wildfire.

What should I do the next time my smokestack starts to blow? Good question. I need to learn to control my anger. It has been said, “Your temper is one of your most valuable possessions. Don’t lose it.” Aristotle was right, “Anybody can become angry—that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” If I can’t control my anger, it will control me. So how do we keep anger under control?

Don’t bury your anger.
When my wife and I were in London one spring, we discovered that some of the bombs dropped on England are still killing people. They turn up and sometimes blow up at construction sites, in fishing nets, or on beaches fifty years after the war. Undetected bombs become more dangerous with time because corrosion can expose the detonator. What is true of bombs that are not dealt with is also true of people who have unresolved anger. Buried anger explodes when we least expect it.

And, when anger explodes it does all sorts of damage. It severs relationships. It causes ulcers. It leads to murder. When anger is turned inward it leads to depression. When it is turned outward it leads to aggression. So I have to deal with my anger, not bury it.

Anger is like a splinter in your finger. If you leave it there it gets infected and hurts every time you use your finger. If you remove it, the sore heals and you feel better.

Be wary of chronically angry people.
Anger is highly contagious. It’s dangerous to associate closely with people for whom anger has become a chronic way of life.

If we are not careful the anger of those we associate with will rub off on us. Their rage will become ours.

Take time to cool off.
We should never speak in the heat of anger. We tend to say words that hurt or wound. Sometimes we say things we never intended. We should give ourselves time to cool off because we want our anger to accomplish something positive.

Often, when I am angry my mouth runs faster than my mind. I engage my mouth before my mind is in gear. A sharp tongue only cuts one’s throat. Whoever said, “If you are angry count to ten, if you are very angry count to 100,” knew what he was talking about.

When I feel the fires of anger heating up I ask myself: Is this anger really worth what it’s going to do to others and me emotionally? Will I make a fool of myself? Will I hurt someone I love? Will I lose a friend? Am I seeing this event from the other person’s point of view? Many insignificant matters are not worth getting worked up about. We can win some battles and still lose the war. Perhaps one of the greatest cures for anger is delay.

Choose to forgive.
Anger is a choice. I am reminded of that every time I am in an argument with my wife and the phone rings. If you are like me, you don’t answer the phone with the same tone of voice that you are using in your fight. In a split second I can go from screaming to my calm, pastoral voice as I say, “Hello.” If anger is a choice, so is forgiveness. I can control my anger by choosing forgiveness over anger. Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you back if you hurt me. It means that when I am the object of anger I don’t deserve; I can choose to forgive by not trying to strike back.

Forgiveness and anger cannot live together. I cannot be resentful and forgiving at the same time. If anger is fire, then forgiveness is water. Forgiveness is the water that puts out the fire of anger.

 

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The Power of Persistence

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Victory belongs not to the faint-hearted. Nor does it belong to the weak-willed. Nor to the uncommitted. Not if the enemy is great and his resolution strong. Only by facing the opponent head-on with undaunted valor can the battle be won. Victory necessitates that we fight on with undying, inflexible persistence.

People living significant lives accomplish the seemingly impossible task because they never give up. They never buckle under. Despite mounting criticism and intensity of opposition and overwhelming obstacles they persevere with determined resolve. They refuse to throw in the towel.

Often, the easiest thing would be to quit. Just give up. Return to the comfort and convenience of mediocrity. Forget about one’s dream, one’s passion, one’s goal. Give in to the words of the critics, give up to the opposition, and give way to the obstacles. Simply, tuck tail and run away.

There is great power in persistence. The race is not always won by the fastest. Or the game is not won by the strongest. But rather by the one that keeps on keeping on, who refuses to give up. Consider the postage stamp. Its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there. Consider what former President Calvin Coolidge wrote, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Consider the words of race car driver Rick Mears, “To finish first you must first finish.” Consider the findings of Napoleon Hill after studying the lives of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Writing in his book, Think and Grow Rich, he said, “I had the happy privilege of analyzing both Mr. Edison and Mr. Ford, year by year, over a long period of years, and therefore the opportunity to study them at close range, so I speak from actual knowledge when I say that I found no quality save persistence in either one of them that even remotely suggested the major source of their stupendous achievements.”

It is always too soon to quit. One of the most powerful and destructive tools that Satan has in his arsenal is discouragement. The subtle but dangerous compulsion to give up, to quit, to say What’s the use?

When you are tempted to quit, resist. We must endure in the battle until the evil day is over. We must press on in the face of the temptation to quit. Until the war is over, we must fight to the end. Until the race is finished, we must keep running. Until the wall is built, we must keep stacking bricks. Never give up. Never.

In a race it does not matter who starts but who finishes. In a ball game the most meaningless statistic is the halftime score. Persistence is the power that keeps us from giving up. We need to be like an oak tree. An oak tree is a little nut that refused to give up his ground. Have you ever wondered how the snail made it to the ark? By persistence.

We will be buffeted and plummeted. We will be criticized and opposed. We will be attacked and assaulted. We will struggle and fall. But we must fight one more round. We must rise each time we fall.

 

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How Hot Is Your Passion?

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Passion is a word that gets a lot of bad press. It’s often misunderstood. To some, the word passion brings back memories of illicit desires at drive-in movies with a high school flame. To others it evokes images of a murder committed in a fit of rage. It is true that passion is behind almost every sin.

But, passion is morally neutral. It is simply a strong feeling or deep longing for something. In its essence, passion is the fuel that ignites the fires of our meaningfulness, the force that drives the soul, and the burden that compels the individual to action. Passion is a clearly defined reason for living. It moves ordinary people beyond ordinary human activities. It causes people to make a difference in business, sports, academia, science, politics, and ministry. Some of these people explode like a Molotov cocktail to inflame a whole generation. Others burn quietly in the furnaces of everyday life, unknown to all but their immediate acquaintances—yet making a difference in their world.

“What distinguishes the empire builders in the end is their passion. They devote their lives to an idea that in time becomes an ideal. More important, they inspire others to buy into their dream. All are out, in one way or another, to change the world,” wrote Michael Meyer, The Alexander Complex. G.W.F. Hegel in Philosophy of History was right when he stated, “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”

Passionate people never work for money. This is not to say that they do not earn a great deal of money. But the likes of William Shakespeare, Thomas Edison, Estee Lauder, Walt Disney, Sam Walton, and Bill Gates, who all became wealthy, were inspired not by money but by a drive to fulfill an inner longing that would make a difference in this world. Passionate people don’t just get a job. A job is something one does for money. Passion is something one does because they are inspired to do it. And passionate people would do it even if they were paid nothing beyond food and the basics. They would do it because it is their life.

Passion is not something we work up, but something planted within our being. Passion is the God-given ability to feel so strongly about something that it causes us to move toward the object of desire. Call it what you want—urge, burden, compulsion, force—passion originates from God. Passion is the birthplace of a dream, the trailhead of a new path God calls us to follow.

Significant passion originates with God and takes root in receptive and obedient hearts. Passionate people have their heart engaged in their work. Their work moves them like a lover ignites their soul. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, had as his life’s motto: “May my heart break for the things that break the heart of God.” Here was a man passionate about the things that moved God. He was excited and incited about caring for the hurt and wounded people of this world. He was engaged. Despite the magnitude of helping a starving world with physical and personal struggles, Bob Pierce gave his heart and soul to stamping out world hunger.

Passion comes from the heart of God to embrace our hearts, and it compels us to act. Passionate people translate their devotion into action. They discover, as we must, that a passion unchanneled soon dissipates. They know that passion without action is just a dream. Action without passion is drudgery. But passion with action is sheer delight.

You can decide now that you are going to let passion into your life. You are every bit as capable of living with passion as is a president, an Olympian, or a Nobel Prize winner. Passion is not a privilege of the fortunate few; it is a right and a power of every human being. You can show the world all you are capable of, all that, deep down, you know you can be.

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3 Reasons to Serve Others

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At a men’s meeting, a friend told about selling insurance earlier in his life. A story had circulated at insurance conventions about a lady who recently lost her husband and now was faced to care for family alone. A few weeks following the funeral of her husband a dozen people trudged through fourteen inches of snow, rang her doorbell, and asked if there was any way they could help. Her insurance salesman along with his son stopped by the widow’s home and shoveled her driveway and walks.

Talking about serving, even asking to serve, is a lot easier than actually serving.

Why should we serve?

Serving imitates Jesus.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry he had served his followers. But perhaps his most graphic picture of his servant’s heart came the night before his crucifixion. Jesus and the disciples had gathered for the Passover meal. Upon entering a home, it was customary to wash your own feet or to have them washed by a servant before eating. The bowl and the towel were present, but no disciple assumed the servant’s duty. To their surprise, Jesus assumed the servant’s role and washed their feet. “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one anther’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’” (John 13:12-15).

When we serve others, especially those who have no way of repaying us, we imitate Jesus. As he gave of himself, we do the same. Jesus set the example, and we imitate him.

When we take up the towel and serve one another we represent Christ to those we serve. We become his hands and his feet. Kenneth Leech wrote, “Christian spirituality is the spirituality of the Poor Man of Nazareth who took upon himself the form of a servant. To follow the way of the kingdom is therefore to follow him who fed the hungry, healed the sick, befriended the outcast, and blessed the peacemakers.”

Serving presents Jesus to the world.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the atheistic philosopher, allegedly stated, “Jesus’ disciples will need to look more saved if I am to believe in their Savior.” Nietzsche used the poor witness of some Christians as his excuse for not believing. He makes a good point: the world is looking for followers of Christ who look like Jesus. The world looks at us not only for right belief, but also for a distinctive Christ-like lifestyle, a faith expressed through action.

The people to whom the apostle James wrote struggled with the issue of faith versus action. In his letter, James illustrated the contrast of “faith alone” versus “faith demonstrated by works” with a hypothetical conversation between two believers: “Someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18).

The world looks at followers of Christ and says, “Show me your faith by the way you live and serve in this hurting world.”

Service exemplifies the way Christianity is supposed to be lived. Believers who visibly and actively serve present Jesus to a watching world.

Serving fulfills us.
Jesus taught that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). This is the paradox of serving; in giving ourselves away, we find ourselves; in emptying ourselves, we find fulfillment.

In a time when many search for self-fulfillment and happiness, most people look for it in repeated highs of promotions, exotic vacations, or an infinite amount of worldly possessions. But real fulfillment comes in serving God by serving others. When we give ourselves away in service to others, we find meaning and purpose in life that selfishness can never equal.

Granted fulfillment is not the goal of service, but it is a by-product of servanthood. When we serve others God has a tendency to flow satisfaction into our lives. In the end meaning and purpose is what we receive.

John Wooden, in his autobiography They Call Me Coach, wrote: “You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” You can arrange for a few hundred dollars to arrive at the home of someone who is hurting financially. You can provide childcare for a single parent to give them a free afternoon. You can open up your home to a single adult that is separated from their immediate family. You can volunteer at a food pantry or an inner city mission. Before your head hits the pillow tonight, determine what you can do for someone who never be able to repay you.

 

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The Antidote to Fear

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Fear is very much a part of life. It is a God-given emotion.  To be afraid is normal.  Yet, if fear is out of control, it is the most paralyzing emotion of all.  Fear makes a person doubt their abilities and paralyzes the free use of their talents.  It brings on “cold feet,” makes one a “chicken,” and eats away at one’s “guts.”  Fear causes one to miss a sure two-foot putt, a free throw in the closing seconds of a game, a budding opportunity for      financial gain, a friendship that could last a lifetime.  Fear motivates one to make more money—“just in case;” to always have the resume out—“you never know;” and to look      over one’s shoulder—“you can’t trust anyone.”

In the ancient Greek language, the word for fear meant flight. It’s the picture of pheasants being flushed from their nesting areas and taking flight because they have been frightened by the approaching danger of a hunter. It is the soldier in battle fleeing the enemy when being shot. “Did you hear those bullets?” asked one soldier to another. “Twice,” he said, “once when they went past me and once when I passed them.”

While fear is present when facing much of life’s transitions it does not have to paralyze. Moving to a new community, changing jobs, making new friends, attending a new church can all be fear-producing events. But they don’t have to erode the fulfillment in life.

“Fear not” appears many times in the Bible. God has provided just what is needed to move on and to conquer one’s fear. One faces their fears with fact. God says that we do not have to fear because of the fact that his presence accompanies us through the unpredictable events of life. God states, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom” (Isa. 43:2-3 NIV).

God says that one can face any new situation because he walks with his children. It’s only two words—“fear not”—easier to preach than to practice, but easier to practice with the awareness of God’s presence.

 

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4 Steps to Overcoming Worry

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Immediately after World War II the Allied armies gathered up many hungry, homeless children and placed them in large camps. There the children were abundantly fed and cared for. However, at night they did not sleep well.  They seemed restless and afraid.

Finally, a psychologist hit on a solution. After the children were put to bed, they each received a slice of bread to hold.  If they wanted more to eat, more was provided, but this particular slice was not to be eaten—it was just to hold.

The slice of bread produced marvelous results. The child would go to sleep, subconsciously feeling it would have something to eat tomorrow.  That assurance gave the child a calm and peaceful rest.

Like the orphans most of our worries are concerns with tomorrow. Worry is the great “What if.” It focuses on things that might happen, then spins out of control:  What if I lose my job? What if I fail the test?  What if I lose the sale?  We rob our present moments of joy by worrying about tomorrow and things that may not happen.

We weren’t born worrying. We have to learn to worry.  The good news is that if worry is learned it can also be unlearned. Here are four ways to overcome worry.

 Understand that God is your shepherd.

Now in our society we don’t see many shepherds roaming the hillside. But in Biblical times shepherds were quite common. A shepherd provided food, shelter, the basic necessities for the sheep. A shepherd defended against enemies, keeping the sheep from danger. A shepherd led the sheep when they were confused and did not know which way to go. A shepherd corrected problems that came along.

God has promised the same care. “God tends his flock like a shepherd” (Isa. 40:11 NIV). “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep” (Ezek. 34:12 NIV).

Cast all your cares on God.

Peter wrote, “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). Cast means to unload, let it go. When situations beyond our control come upon us, we can cast our cares on God or we can be consumed by them.  When we are stressed we can panic or we can pray.  If we prayed about all the things we worry about we would have a lot less to worry about.

Live one day at a time.

A lumberman, issued only a hand axe, was told to cut down fourteen hundred trees. One lumberman, one axe, fourteen hundred trees.  Standing in the center of the forest of towering lodge pole pines, he had several options.  He could conclude the job was too tough, turn in his axe and head into town.  Or he could dash from one tree to another, whacking at each but felling none, trying to deal with the panic of overtaking him in the face of his impossible task.  Or he could pause to figure out how many trees he would have to cut down each day in order to finish the task.  Once he knew what each day’s work required, he could tackle one tree at a time.

In effect, it is pointless to worry about what we can’t control. If today is a five-tree day, we focus on those five trees.  We know that tomorrow we will have more trees to cut, but we don’t let that keep us from concentrating on today’s five trees.

Decide not to worry.

There is no pill that will make us stop worrying. There is no seminar, tape, or book that will make us stop worrying.  There is no one spiritual experience we can have for us never to worry again.  The antidote to worrying is a daily choice, sometimes minute by minute, sometimes hour by hour, when we acknowledge that God is our shepherd, we put him in charge of our lives, we cast our burdens on him, and we live one moment at a time.

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