Meditation: “Our attitude and behaviour”
There have been occasions during my Christian ministry where I have been saddened by people’s attitudes and behaviour during times of loss, illness or some other suffering. Thankfully, there have been many occasions when I have been comforted and encouraged in my Christian walk as people have dealt with suffering in their lives in a God glorifying way. They may not have realized they were comforting and encouraging me at the time, but they were, simply by their attitude towards God and their behaviour and prayers.
Unfortunately, some Christians think that the struggles and suffering they experience in their Christian lives is only for their personal sanctification. Of course it is true that God does send us trials and sufferings to test, encourage and purify us, but there is also an added dimension that we sometimes fail to remember. The way we deal with those sufferings and afflictions and our attitude in the midst of them as well as our prayers can be of great comfort to fellow Christians.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul reminds his readers that he had experienced God’s comfort on many occasions when his ministry for the gospel was challenged. As we know, Paul suffered a great deal for the gospel. Yet, Paul can speak about experiencing God’s comfort through all of them, which in turn allowed him to comfort others. Paul conveyed that comfort through the way the Corinthians observed his behaviour and attitude while undergoing his sufferings for the gospel and through his prayers.
Whatever we experience in life from God’s hand, whether it be affliction, a time of suffering, persecution for our faith, we can be assured that not only is the God of all comfort with us, these things are not intended to be just about ‘poor me.’ On the contrary, they are given to us so that we can comfort fellow believers by our behaviour and attitudes during those times and by our prayers. In fact God’s comfort circulates among His children and sometimes even comes full circle.
I would suggest that our attitude and prayers during times of affliction and suffering for the gospel says a lot about our understanding of the gospel. If our focus is only on ‘poor me’ and what a ‘bad hand’ the Lord has dealt us, then we arepossibly missing a great opportunity to be a witness for Christ to our loved ones, fellow Christians and the wider community.
Thankfully, the Saviour not only remained concerned about His Father’s glory throughout His ministry, He remained ‘other-people’ centered, even caring for His mother and praying for His captors while hanging on the cross. I don’t know what the Lord is going to lay on our path this year. However, may we as Christians give careful thought to how we respond to any situation, good or not so good, for you can be assured that someone is watching and listening. JZ.
PS: Someone was kind enough to send me this video clip. What a great, positive testimony in the amidst of great tragedy. Monty Williams, an assistant coach for an NBA basketball team, is speaking at the funeral of his wife who was killed after a head on car accident, leaving him with five children. Here is the URL.
“Keeping number One, number One”.
How does a Christian prevent complacency concerning their Christian walk from sneaking into their lives? It's a continual danger for in some ways it isn't all that difficult being a Christian in our society. We are so blessed, for as Christians we enjoy freedom to worship, attend Bible studies, run our church activities, and we do not need to fear persecution. Added to that, we have all the necessities of life, shelter, clothing, food, the ability to travel, and most of us even have Facebook accounts. So at that level it's relatively easy to be a Christian.
Yet, at another level, all these 'freedoms,' as well as having our perceived needs met, make it much easier for complacency to set in. By and large, we live in a society where many people do not have a 'felt-need' for God in their lives, much less a Saviour. And if we’re not disciplined in our daily walk with the Lord, doing daily devotions, Scripture reading, spending time in prayer, fellowshipping with the saints and the like, then we may soon feel that we don’t need God either.
In Psalm 16v2, the Psalmist reminds himself that apart from having God, he has no good thing. It's good for us to be reminded too, for without Christ, we have no good thing. Hence, Church leaderships often need to remind their parishioners to keep Christ as number One. Parents often have to remind themselves and their children to keep Christ as number One. For us as Christians living in this fun-filled society, we need to be reminded that having everything or even some of what this world has to offer, without Christ, is having no good thing at all.
In a society where it seems everyone is busy seeking "self-fulfillment" by acquiring more and more material things by chasing after the gods of this world, it is easy to become complacent about our Christian faith and perhaps even become guilty of coveting or idolatry. The Psalmist knew that the sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods and we need to be aware of them as well (v4).
Is it any wonder then that Scripture continually warns us that we need to be on our guard, for the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8)? One way the devil uses is to make us feel that we have no need of God in our lives, much less a Saviour.
So to keep Jesus as number One, we will need to make choices that are in line with God’s word and will for our lives. In Psalm 16, the Psalmist praised the Lord, for the Lord counselled him. The Psalmist always set the Lord before Him, knowing that God was at his right hand and hence he would not be shaken. He knew that God would not allow his holy one to see decay. God made known the path of life and filled him with joy.
I would suggest that Psalm 16 becomes even more meaningful when we read it in the light of the New Testament. Psalm 16 gives us a vision of Jesus as the source of our happiness and we’re only going to be encouraged to keep Him as number One by spending time reading about him and especially about what He has done for us. Not only was He not abandoned to the grave, we know He rose victoriously from the grave and hence we will not be abandoned either. Being in Jesus therefore, is not only the way that leads to life but also the path along which life is enjoyed. Having Him as number One is the key to the fullness of joy, and a glorious future.
In light of that, we have no reason to become complacent but every reason to remain vigilant in our Christian walk. In the early church, the Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42) Hebrews 10:25 gives us a similar encouragement, especially as we see the Day of the Lord approaching. JZ.
This past week I was sent me an email which had the term “post-Christian” included. The writer was conveying some thoughts from a third party about a funeral service where they thought the gospel challenge was missing for ‘post-Christians.’
I must say I had never come across this term before so I was wondering what was meant by it. When I enquired a little further, it soon became apparent that this term wasn’t referring to someone with a post-millennium position, but to someone who had previously professed their faith in Jesus Christ, yet now no longer seems to do so. My heart goes out to those who are concerned about loved ones who have either never professed or seemed to have walked away from the Christian faith.
Some Christians suggest that those who have walked away from the faith never possessed true faith. Although we need to ensure as best we can that a profession of faith is truly genuine, it is too simplistic to suggest that they didn’t profess their faith genuinely at the time. I have known people who have experienced a personal tragedy or serious illness that has caused them to question God’s love for a season in their lives and then after many years, through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, to be brought back to repentance and again profess a genuine love for the Lord.
Yet, to be a ‘post-Christian’ does leave us with a conundrum. Can someone at one time be a true Christian yet over time, leave the faith all together and therefore become a ‘post-Christian?’ For those of us who hold the doctrines of grace dear as taught in Scripture realise that once a person has been brought to faith through the working of God’s Word and Holy Spirit, they cannot fall from grace (John 10:28-30; Rom 8:28-39; Phil 1:6). Once saved, they are forever safe. If this were not the case, then who can really be sure of their salvation? Furthermore, our confessions, which align with Scripture, also teach that God preserves us in the faith so that we will persevere until He calls us into His eternal presence (cf: The Canons of Dort – The perseverance of the Saints.”)
So how can we encourage those we know who seemed to have publicly professed a genuine love for the Lord and His saving work, yet are now living in denial of that wonderful biblical truth? Without doubt, the first thing we should do is to keep praying for them. The second thing we should do is to present the gospel in a winsome way to them.
Sadly, some Christians would like to have the minister get up and tell people off for their lack of faith and commitment and warn them about the perils of hell, hoping to somehow ‘scare’ people back into loving the Lord. This approach may work for some, but I am not convinced that it is very winsome telling people that if they don’t believe, they are going to hell. It seems to me that bringing the message in this fashion is mostly bad news, for you have not even mentioned the love of our Creator God in giving us life and especially what He has accomplished for us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Surely a more winsome way is to highlight the blessing of God as your loving Father and having Jesus as your Saviour and reminding each other of all the benefits we have in Him as Christians. One of the greatest benefits which is listed first in Psalm 103 is forgiveness of sins. Indeed, who could stand if our Creator kept a record of sins? No one, for all have sinned.
So perhaps when we speak to ‘post-Christians’ or even non-Christians, we could begin by mentioning the positives of having a loving relationship with Jesus as Saviour and be seen to praise Him for all those benefits we possess with our inmost being being. Who knows, it may be more catching and more winsome than focusing on the negatives of unbelief in today’s world. JZ
“Come over and help us”
It has always interested me how Abraham “went, as the Lord had told him” (Gen 12:4). I guess if the Creator of the universe taps you on the shoulder and says you should go with him to a new place, it wouldn’t be wise to disobey. Jonah disobeyed God’s instruction and got swallowed by a huge fish! The nation of Israel disobeyed on numerous occasions and ended up in exile! On the positive side, there were also a number of fishermen who dropped everything to follow Jesus when He called them to “follow Him.”
This brings me to a skype call I received from a rather frustrated elder in a distant vacant congregation. This elder’s frustration was centered around the calling process of ministers. In more recent years it has been the practice of vacant churches (because they wish to be courteous), to ring a minister to see whether he would consider a call if one were to be extended to him. This particular elder’s frustration was that some ministers say they are “not interested – don’t bother trying” before a call is extended.
Of course, there can be good reasons why a minister might reply in this fashion. When we were at College we were told to be mindful of the family when shifting to a new congregation. The minister usually settles the quickest, followed by the children and the wife takes the longest.
And then there are some practical issues. Just the thought of ‘shifting’ is daunting enough on its own. The inconvenience of packing and unpacking is painful enough, even when some of it is done for you. But the pain doesn’t end there.
Why go through the pain of leaving a loving Christian community to start a new work where you don’t know many people? Not only does the minister need to start working with a new Church Council and Committee of Management, his children and wife also need to build new friendships. Thankfully, new congregations are most welcoming, yet it does take time. And then there are other family considerations such as schooling of your children and unfinished church programs or projects you are involved in.
Having said all the above, I can still understand the frustration of the elder. Is there a godly way forward out of this dilemma? Is there a way to make the ‘calling,’ a process whereby God’s Name is honoured and the receiver of the call will again see it as a call from the Lord of the church that is being made through His saved people? It’s difficult, for there are occasions when ministers decline calls for good reasons and we shouldn’t suggest for a moment they are refusing God’s call. That would be very unfair.
However, the elder’s frustration is that ministers are saying “not interested – don’t bother’ even before a call is extended. How discouraging! Perhaps the way forward is to go back to the ‘old’ system of calling.
If a local leadership feels a certain minister and his family would be well suited for their congregation, then they should just present his name to the congregation and vote to extend a call. They don’t need to have him come across – they can listen to sermons online; they could speak to members of his current congregation to determine his strengths (or weaknesses). And should the vote to extend a call be successful, it should be extended. It’s only when a call is actually extended that a minister can consider the call prayerfully and they may indeed be led to ‘come over and help’ should the Holy Spirit convict them of that call.
Thankfully, our Saviour wasn’t reluctant to obey the call of His Father in heaven. Despite great adversity, even to the point of death on a cross, He obeyed fully and we His redeemed people are forever grateful that He came and helped us. JZ