Posts Tagged ‘Romans 12:10’

Putting Others First

February 20th, 2015

“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.1 Corinthians 10:24 NIV.

The simple secret to joy is Jesus first, others second, and then yourself.

My thoughts and comments today are about “putting others first.”

Life in God’s Kingdom means accepting a vastly different value system. The Bible says, “Let no one seek His own [good], but each one the other’s well-being.” 1 Corinthians 10:24. If you are honest with yourself, you know that is not natural to any of us; it’s hard to do and easy to forget. The natural tendency is toward selfishness, smartly camouflaged a bit but still selfish.

When I was a child, joy was explained to me this way, “The secret to joy is Jesus first, others second, and then yourself — J-O-Y!” That’s how life is supposed to work, and the only way that it works best all the time.

EDL pix JOYTrying any other order makes life confusing, more work, and less satisfying than it ought to be. I confess that I should be better at this than I am. My Mom was a consistent example of someone who put Jesus and others first, and my sweet wife, Gayle, is the same.

But that’s not the natural order for any of us. Adapting to the surrounding culture is easier because it comes more naturally than the Kingdom’s culture. That philosophy of life reads this way, “Me first, everyone else second, and some not at all.” Me first, first in line, first for advantage, first with privilege, first in consideration and leftovers for everyone else. You live in a “me first” world, and it will be hard to resist the temptation to think that is the only way you will survive.

We are often like the disciples, squabbling over who will have prominence and will be the greatest. Too much of life is wasted maneuvering for position, manipulating for influence, finagling for advantage, and subtly moving toward the front of the line. But Jesus told them the simplest and truest secret to joy, “To be the greatest, be a servant . . those who think themselves great shall be disappointed, but those that humble themselves shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12 TLB.

Have you noticed that the most gracious and selfless people are the most genuinely happy? Look around you; the most benevolent of people are the most content and fulfilled. Those who are always keeping score and making sure they get first place or the bigger share are too busy with themselves of for thoughts of others. That’s a very poor, lonely way to live.

And that’s where you face one of the great decisions of everyday life. Will I do what God says is right and best long term, or will I do what feels right to me now? In your heart you know that is best, but it doesn’t set right to your self-centered nature. Living in the Kingdom of God means embracing this heart changing truth, “It is not about you; it’s all about Him.” And He makes it about others too. “Be kindly affectionate to one another, in honor giving preference to one another.” Romans 12:10.

Jesus taught, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like the first, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39.You may wish it were otherwise. You may see that with most others, it is otherwise. But you must choose if obedience to God is the path you select.

Today, my prayer for you is to choose the way that is right, not the way that feels right.

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Successfully Serving

October 10th, 2012

“I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Colossians 1:29 NLT.

Serving is simply letting God touch a person’s life through your hands and heart.

My thoughts and comments today are about serving successfully.”

Serving is no easy task. That may help explain why so few people ever experience the joy of serving. A serving lifestyle takes so much sacrifice and hard work, and sometimes receives so little appreciation. Jesus was clear about His mission and modeled the only way to serve successfully. “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 NIV.

Serving is a practical sacrifice for others’ benefit and God’s glory. My friend, Des, has often reminded me and others that, “It isn’t ministry unless it costs you something.” Doing the right thing doesn’t come at a cheap price. Serving is costly – costing time, effort, expense, caring, and the willingness to be second, rather than first. That may not be how you wish it were but is so basic, even obvious, when you understand serving; there is a cost to be paid but incredible blessings result to those being served, and amply repay the one who joyfully serves. A servant has Jesus’ own promise of reward. “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water . . because he is My disciple . . he will certainly not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42 NIV.

Serving restores your heart to God’s original design. Listen to Paul’s words, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT. Serving restores your spiritual DNA when you embrace faith in the Savior. What would serving look like? “Through love, serve one another . . in honor, giving preference to one another . . let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out for the interests of others.” Galatians 5:13/Romans 12:10/Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV. Selfless serving was unnatural to your old nature, but altogether normal for your redeemed life. “There must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness – righteous, holy, and true.” Ephesians 4:23-24 NLT.

Serving successfully is only through Christ’s power and enabling. My friend, Campbell, taught me this practical truth, “If you want to know how you well are doing as a servant, just notice your reaction when someone treats you like one.” A servant does not look for notice nor require applause; they just want to be helpful and effective. Serving is simply letting God touch a person’s life through your hands and heart. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything coming from ourselves . . but from God who also made us adequate as servants . .” See 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 NASV.

Paul discovered his own inadequacy to love and serve at all times, and in his dependence also found the solution; “I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Colossians 1:29 NLT. If you depend on anything less than God, you will fail as a servant. If you look for others’ approval and appreciation you will grow discouraged at times. A servant’s heart is content just to please the Master who called us. You too will need, and can depend upon, Christ’s mighty power to work within you, creating a heart to serve and a release of joy.

My prayer for you today is that you find serving to be joyous, not grievous.

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Spending and Investing

August 3rd, 2012

“I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15 NKJV

Prize life only as invested meaningfully in service to God and others.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spending and investing.”

There are a few people who would not give a moment of their time that was not convenient, nor a nickel that wasn’t required of them. They may have more time and things than they otherwise would, but they will have a lot fewer real friends. I was recently with a friend who is exceptional in his generosity. He is generous with what he has, but even more importantly, he is generous with who he is. When I grow up, I want to be just like him!

But therein lies the problem. Most of us never grow up in this grace, because generosity appears costly. Too late in life we learn it is the lack of generosity that is really expensive. Solomon wisely observed, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV. Saving yourself for your own benefit doesn’t work out so well.

Listen to Paul’s words, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15 NKJV. Prize life only as invested meaningfully in service to God and others. What you spend is gone; what you invest returns. I have not regretted any investment of myself in the Kingdom of God or into the lives of others. I notice a small but significant distinction in Paul’s words. There are occasions when you simply choose to live liberally – “very gladly spend” – but there are also times when necessity dictates sacrifice for the benefit of others – “be spent.” Paul spoke of experiences when “necessity is laid upon me” to preach the Gospel. Read 1 Corinthians 9:16 NKJV. Making a difference is the greatest joy in life.

The Apostle Paul understood the spiritual virtue of self-denial. “I do not count my life dear to myself.” Acts 20:24. Paul did not discount the importance of his life; he lived life and loved life to its fullest potential. His life was dear only within the purposes of God. There is a principal of self-denial here that is applicable to everyday life. Self-denial is not top of the list of desired lifestyles.

Self-denial embraces sacrifice without regard to price or personal cost. Self-denial prefers others before self. Romans 12:10. Self-denial seeks the interests of others before your own. Philippians 2:4. Self-denial does what is right instead of wrong. James 4:17. Self-denial may well be the defining mark of a true disciple. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up His cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:24.

In the Old Testament, Jacob could be a case study of the need for this humbling work of the Holy Spirit in one’s heart. See Genesis 25-33. Jacob lived by his wits – manipulating, deceiving, and negotiating for his gain. You didn’t strike a fair bargain with Jacob; you settled for his leftovers. It was a lifestyle, until he wrestled with an angel. What he had once gotten by guile from his brother and father, he now sought by insistence from God. Genesis 32:24-31. “[An angel] touched the socket of Jacob’s hip . . [Jacob said] ‘I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’ . . and he limped on his hip.” Genesis 32:25/30-31. You will walk differently after an encounter with God like that.

My prayer for you today is that you learn when first place is not the best place.

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March 28th, 2012

“It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife.” Proverbs 20:3 NIV

A person who always has to be right will live a lonely and unhappy life.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “quarrels.”

Did you ever watch a couple of preschoolers quarrel? Not a very pretty sight. They are stubborn and resolute. Both want their way with no thought of there being a better way. They both think they are right and the other is wrong, or they don’t even care who is right or wrong. They just want what they want. Shouldn’t we grow out of that kind of self-centeredness? Children will be children, but adults should be adults. “It’s like this: when I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT. Quarrels are childish things.

Many disagreements are little more than a difference of opinion or objective. If the same person requires being deferred to in every discussion or decision, then their relationship is mere pretense. It is unrealistic to think that everyone will have the same opinion as you all the time, or that you will agree with everyone else every time. What do you do? Solomon gave wise advice: “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife.” Proverbs 20:3 NIV. Avoid strife! Before reacting, filter your feelings and process your thoughts. Look inside yourself for a possible solution.

At those moments, your initial response is extremely important to what follows. Remember; always, the goal is to resolve differences not escalate them into a quarrel. Here’s God’s way; “Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together.” Ephesians 4:1-3 TEV.

On a practical side, the issue is not usually about who is right or wrong; ordinarily, both are a bit of each. Instead, your mutual objective should be to find common ground for some measure of agreement that allows everyone involved to move forward together. When disagreement is obvious, choose not to be disagreeable or become personal. At those rare times that no solution can be found that satisfies all concerned, agree to disagree and be gracious in your respect. Sometimes life requires willingness to compromise to achieve a common good. Not every difference has to be resolved your way in order for the universe to be at rest.

There are times in marriages, friendships, churches, and business, when a relationship may be more important than the disagreement. The person who always has to be right will soon live a very lonely and unhappy life. The need to be right every time is not a sign of brilliant superiority; it is more an indicator of immaturity and/or self-importance. Is the quarrel more important to you or the friend? You might win the quarrel but lose the friend. Read James 3:13-18 NIV.

Keep your words pleasant and respectful just in case you have to eat them later. Perfection from yourself or another is not a realistic expectation. If you keep that in mind, you will be more tolerant when a friend holds an opinion other than yours. The Bible’s counsel of “In honor, preferring one another” comes to mind as a relational guideline on such occasions. Romans 12:10 NKJV.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.” James 4:1-2 NKJV.  Let’s face it; getting your own way every time is not particularly healthy and doesn’t exactly prepare you for cooperative relationships. Your parents may have allowed you the illusion, or your spouse may defer for the sake of peace, but you will need people in your life with the responsibility to speak truthfully into your life when you most need that, and even when you may least want it. That’s what a good and Godly friend does.

My prayer for you today is that you would prefer to be righteous above just being right.

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Living Sacrificially

November 1st, 2011

“The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11 NIV

The limits of your sacrifice evidence the reality and extent of your love.”

My thoughts today are about “living sacrificially.”

Sacrifice is often avoided whenever possible, until there remains no other option. Most of us are sacrifice-adverse. Such a person sees a risk and estimates the cost, unless and until persuaded that the less certain, future rewards are worth the present sacrifice. Yet fullness of life seems to require a willingness to make sacrifices for your own good and the good others. The person who will not live sacrificially is destined to live superficially.

Friendships, marriages, families – even life itself – necessitate some times and measure of unselfishness and sacrifice. Strong marriages are built on individual sacrifices from both husband and wife. Their sacrifices may not always be equal, but they must be mutual. Parents also make significant sacrifices small and great for their children – personally, financially, materially – deferring something of their own lives for the sake of their children’s well-being.

Spiritual life and growth are only possible through sacrifice, deferring one’s preferences in order to live in obedience and love. Sacrifice is the language and proof of love. The limits of your sacrifice evidence the reality and extent of your love. “Jesus said, ‘No one that has left house, or (relationships), or fields (describing the sacrifice of comfort, or companionship, or commerce) for Me and the Gospel, will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age . . and with them, persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.’” Mark 10:29-30 NIV. That “receives a hundred times as much” sounds pretty good, not so much the other part “and with them, persecutions!” Sacrifice is costly in the interim, but abundantly rewarding ultimately.

Your salvation cost Jesus dearly; your discipleship will cost you as well. This is the Apostle Paul’s simple principle as taught to the Roman church, but applicable to every Godly relationship, “Honor one another above yourselves . . in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Romans 12:10/Philippians 2:3-4 NIV. Sacrifice is not a complex idea; it is a severe obedience of putting another before yourself.

The Bible verse, most familiar and descriptive of supreme sacrifice, may well be this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life . . He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” John 3:16 NIV/Romans 8:32 NKJV. “Thank God for His Son – a gift too wonderful for words!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT.

Nor was the sacrifice imposed upon Jesus, but rather joyfully embraced, “Jesus Christ . . loved us, and by His own sacrificial death He has freed us from our sins . . Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross . .” Revelation 1:5 TEV/Hebrews 12:2 NIV.

God models the nobility as well as the power of sacrifice. “The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11 NIV. Who is first consideration in your calculations and plans? What are you willing to “lay down” – rights, demands, convenience, opinions, or expectations – to be His disciple and serve others?

My prayer for you today is that you understand that giving is the key to a joyful life.

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