Parents have the responsibility to give their children strength – strength to get through difficult times, strength to accomplish more than they thought was possible and the strength to carry on everyday. Not only as parents but also as adults, we should inspire those around us. We should be a source of encouragement, a resource for guidance and a cheerleader for our kids and other young people as they reach beyond their limits and try new things toward personal growth.
Our son turned 18 this weekend, he’s an adult – just ask him! My hope at this point in his life is that he will say that his parents “Were always encouraging me, helping me figure things out and giving me opportunities to grow”. So many people influenced me when I was his age. I turned 18 in February and by October of that same year, I was in recruit firefighter school. The ‘men” I was working with saw things in me that I never did. They encouraged me, they taught me, they gave me advice and they put me in my place when I needed it. I’m sure they didn’t have any idea how they would impact me for the rest of my life and now I’ve taken those lessons and given them to my own son. He has the strength to be confident as he readies himself for what life has in store.
Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
So, where do you get your strength? This passage reminds us to find our strength in God – “Him who gives me strength”. In our fast paced lives we can sometimes forget that. We can do everything through Him because God is our strength; he is with us all day – everyday. Our privilege to be a parent is a gift from God; He has put us in this place at this time. We also have had a great mentor – Jesus Christ. He taught us to have compassion, patience and to be encouraging to those around us.
You can be the source of strength for your kids and those you work with by being a positive role model. When people ask you “Where do you get the strength from?” You can answer quite easily: God gives me the strength. In order to maintain your strength, like in any good workout routine, you need to work at it daily. We’ve all experienced a few days off from the gym; it gets harder to go back the longer you are away. Staying in God’s word or keeping up with bible study and devotions can be hard in our hectic lives; remain strong and stay committed. Much like the men who were there for me and had no idea that they would effect how I raised my son, you may be doing the same for someone else. Don’t worry; your strength is from God.
I’m sure that I’ve referenced the book by the late Charles Colson titled “How Now Shall We live” before but in case I haven’t, here is a short recap. The author was convicted of political crimes in the late 1970’s and sentenced to prison for his role in the infamous Watergate break-in under U.S. President Nixon. While in prison, he founded Prison Ministries. His book details the values that shape our Christian worldviews and begins to explain how our worldview points us in the directions that our lives can take. It is a great study of life and helps explain many of the teachings that most Christians hold true today using real life examples. It is a big book but worth reading if you need a little perspective or a detailed reminder of how we should be looking at the world around us.
So, how shall we live? Living a life of faith engages our ears, our hands and our hearts. It doesn’t mean we don’t use our other abilities but it also doesn’t mean that we simply watch our faith (eyes) or talk about faith (mouth), we really need to live it out. We use our ears to listen to the word of God and listen to the world around us. We can listen for the right time to witness or show compassion by listening to others as they share their troubles. We can learn about the messages of God through a number of mediums and bring it to use in our lives. Our hands can produce good work as a model for Christian living or to help others in need. Our hearts tell the rest of the story. As Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When you finish the book by Colson, you will have been exposed to examples of how to live a life today that demonstrates your Christian values without ever having to quote the bible “to sinners” or preach on the street corners. Christian living is about doing, not sitting around talking about what the world needs.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22
Have you ever sat in a church service and felt like you were just going through the motions? Sure, you try and listen to the order of worship and maybe even lip synch the songs but your heart is just not in it. In today’s fast-paced world of short attention spans, it is becoming easier to just be physically present without being mentally engaged. I once had a conversation with a co-worker about what church meant to him and he described the services as being routine and an obligation. He wasn’t getting anything out them. I’d suggest that he was just listening the word. It is like walking in the rain with a raincoat on, you get a little damp but most of the water is repelled away.
The bible verse from James is telling us to not only walk in the rain but to do so without the raincoat; let the word soak you. Just listening to the word (going to services) is a means of deceiving ourselves. The only way we can do what it says is to become soaked by it. Understand the bible and its role in your life. Live your life in such a way that while you may not know the exact verse you are following, you do know that your behavior is a result of God’s word. Knowing the verses is important and will come later but the first step is recognizing that your understanding of the bible has formed your behavior. The word of God is like a warm shower, let it soak you and then enjoy the warmth it provides.
This week, I found myself saying, “why does this have to be so hard?” I read a great article two weeks ago titled “Why Simple Rules Produce Better Decisions” by Valeria Maltoni. In the article she explains the beliefs found in a book by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt – “Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World”. The authors believe that we should use small sets of simple rules — “shortcut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way we process information.” Simple rules work because they allow for flexibility, they produce better decisions because they make decision-making fast and easy and, they allow for activities to be synchronized on the fly; doing what is inherently right for the greater purpose.
But I wasn’t trapped in rules of overly complex situations; I was being challenged on matters that should have been quite simple. The other side of things being hard is when we get bad news. Another week has gone by with someone I know (I used to work with him) being diagnosed with cancer. This young man with a young family will have to go through a great deal to just have a chance to survive. I’m not the only one who has this happening all around him; my guess is that everyone knows someone dealing with a hardship. We can’t over simplify these challenges and we can’t write new rules for how they are applied; we are not in control. Today’s verse reminds us that the road to the kingdom of God is not easy. We need to remember that the destination however, is paradise.
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
I wish I knew why we had to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered for them so that we may be blameless in God’s eyes. We are assured of that in the bible. So why do we have to suffer in this life? I’d like to think, because no one really knows, that we need to appreciate all that God has done for us. If you look back over time, the human race has not been very good at following the Commands of God. He gave us 10 simple rules to follow and the human race found ways around them or through them.
I often use the phrase made famous by Ronald Reagan, “Trust but Verify”. Is this what God is doing with us? Is God trusting us to do what He commands and have Jesus as our one and only savior but at the same time, is He verifying our faith in Jesus? Where do we turn when things get bad, who do we rely on and how do we react in these times of hardships? There is only one simple answer; we must turn to God when we are faced with hardships. He will be with us all the way. He has never promised a smooth ride or a simple life; hardship builds character and demonstrates our faith in God. Maybe this is why we need to be grounded in the troubles of this life. The road will be rough but it leads us to paradise – eternal life with God.
The work you do, no matter what it is, can bring glory to God. The actions that you take (or don’t take) can bring glory to God. Some people have had opportunities open that put them in the right place at the right time – in our house we call that a “God thing”. God can guide your path by offering you choices that can lead to your calling. Some people will search their whole lives for a calling, while others know they are in it. The choices that we make can influence how quickly we find our calling. Moving into any role takes just the right combination of education and experience, planned by God of course. It can be a calling that allows you to glorify God; if you want to see it that way.
Today is Labor Day in the United States; a day that we celebrate the American Worker. People often times find themselves simply working a job but God wants us to be in a calling. There are times when our work can be frustrating and we’d like to “just do our job and be done”. That isn’t what God called you to do. Your life at work and at home will influence what type of person you are. Take notice of what you do, read, view and spend time doing and you’ll see that it’s reflected in your work and your personal behaviors. Your work influences your life, be sure that it means something more that collecting a paycheck. If it doesn’t, change your point of view or your position. You will labor less at work and your life will improve.
Ephesians 4:1 “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
“Live a Godly Life” is great advice and probably one of the hardest things that we, as sinners, can follow completely. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. By being nurturing, forgiving, understanding, slow to anger, patient, honest, trustworthy and caring is how we start. These characteristics will help us at work and honor God by living our lives that please Him.
You have received two callings in your life, both from God, one to love others and the other is to do it as a disciple of God. Live your life in a way worthy of God’s grace through His son Jesus, who taught us how to live a life of calling. You can be assured that every action you take will be pleasing to God if you are following the examples set by Jesus. No amount of good deeds or works will get closer to God or secure you a more righteous place in Heaven. We often ask ourselves as we toil in our jobs, what are we working for? If we are working in a calling, the answer is Eternal Life and Salvation found through Jesus Christ alone. He did the hard work for us by taking our sin upon Himself. The least we can do is live a life worthy of our calling.