Archive for August, 2019

A Better Treasure

Carl (not his real name) looked at me in disgust. “What do you mean I shouldn’t expect to be thanked for my gift? Or that I shouldn’t want to be appreciated for what I did?”

I paused a moment, silently praying for wisdom and tact, unsure how to help this brother in the Lord. “I know how important it can be to us to be appreciated,” I finally began. “But what I am trying to say is that we don’t serve God, help others, give our offerings, or even just go to church because others reward us. We don’t do the right thing because we get a pat on the back.”

“I’m not doing that!” he retorted. “I just think that when I help someone, I should be appreciated. If they’re not going to thank me, then I don’t see the point in doing it.”

“So you’re saying that if you don’t feel appreciated, you’d stop helping someone?” I asked.

He faltered. It was difficult to admit the truth. Painful and ugly as it was, however, his refusal to accept it stood in the way of his walk with God.

“You said you’re not doing that, but isn’t the thanks you feel entitled to a reward? Something in return for something? And if you get mad because there isn’t recognition and you stop doing what’s right as a result, isn’t that proof that recognition was the reward you were in fact seeking?”

Carl turned a deep shade of red and blustered something that sounded like an accusation that I didn’t understand and that I was persecuting him unfairly. He left without changing his mind or position on the matter and made good his promise of quitting things.

He felt that I didn’t understand. The thing is, I understood all too well what he was feeling and knew intimately the temptation of doing my “righteous deeds”, if not for a material reward, for at least an ego-soothing pat-on-the back.

Don’t misunderstand. It is natural to want to be thanked, to be appreciated, and to be rewarded for working hard, making sacrifices, and helping others. And we should all endeavor to encourage and appreciate what others do for us whenever we have the opportunity.

But as far as being on the receiving end of it, we must never let the approval of others become the determining factor for doing what is right. More specifically, we should never let recognition by others be the criteria we use for serving God.

The bottom line is that the instant we do, we have erected an idol in our lives. What is that idol? The idol of self. And the praise of others that we demand for our deeds is the worship we covet.

treasureJesus explained this principle in Matthew 6 when He admonished His hearers to not conduct their spiritual lives in such a way that our deeds “may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:16). In fact, Jesus transitions from that thought to the dangers of storing treasures for ourselves on earth – material and immaterial (Matthew 6:9-21).

So whether I am serving Him now in order to materially benefit or in order to be noticed by others, I am in both cases missing the point of serving God. Serving Him should be the expression of our daily trust in Him as we delight in His glorious majesty. Serving Him should be the fruit of our savoring the intimacy that Jesus’ blood on the cross bought for us when He died for our sin. Additionally, in all things we owe Him everything, our thanks and faithful service simply the effect of gratitude within us.

The “why” of doing what’s right, particularly if you’re wanting to serve God, is at least as important as the “what” of your service. Consider the widow described in Mark 12:41-44 who “put in more than all those who are contributing.” When she gave, she gave out of her poverty, but did so unreservedly to God trusting Him for her needs. When the others gave, they gave out of their excess and only did it to impress those who were watching.

So whether we’re talking about the giving of financial resources or the giving of our time, energy and service, can we not lavish upon God what we have and what we are simply because He is worthy? Can we not give Him of ourselves because He is a greater treasure to us than all other things and His opinion matters to us more than anyone else’s?

Take in hand your attitude towards giving to and serving God.   Take hold of how you express that in helping others. Serving God, helping others, making sacrifices are noble things, but are noble only when done for noble reasons. Remember that your reward is not here on earth, but is one with your heavenly Father. In the end, to hear the Lord say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Luke 19:17) as He welcomes you, His precious child, into your heavenly home, is a reward with which nothing else on earth can compare. So live well today as you look to Him Who holds tomorrow.

A little caveat to our congregations regarding the pastors they call to lead them: take care of your pastor. Be as mindful of him and his family’s needs as you expect him to be with you.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Keys to Rest, Pt. 2

In the last article, there was discussion regarding rest from a biblically spiritual point-of-view. As Hebrews 4:9-11 reminds us, “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

The works to which this passage refers have to do with what we cannot possibly do for ourselves, namely, the works of saving and sanctifying that Jesus accomplished once and for all for you and me upon the cross (see Hebrews 9:11-12 and 10:11-12). Our rest, therefore, is intimately and eternally tied to our trust in Him and His life-saving and life-giving grace for us.

So what then are the “keys to rest”? What are the practical tools by which we live in the peace-granting, spirit-calming, and soul-healing grace of God that He grants to anyone who will cease their tedious and tiresome pursuit of sin and self?Keys2Rest2

There are four things that together position us in that place of rest, the oasis of life that we each crave and require. These four things, if put into place, have a deeply significant way of allowing us to experience God’s Spirit’s presence, releasing us from the wearisome toil of merely surviving.

The first is that one reprioritize his life. When Jesus reminded His hearers that the “Great Commandment” is to love God with all one’s “heart, soul and mind” (in Matthew 22:37-38), He was indicating both the unimaginable worth of God and how that our well-spring of renewal comes only from God Himself. So Jesus invites us to again and again put down the roots of our affections and desires into the soil of intimacy of our Maker.

Not only that, but as He declared in Matthew 22:39-40, loving others at least as much as we love ourselves allows us to be drawn up into experiences of purpose that are infinitely greater than how we might selfishly lavish upon ourselves resources of time, attention, and material blessings. This is not to say that we don’t perform what is often called “self-care”. Indeed, for us to run the long marathon of life in ways that bear eternal fruit, we must attend to our relationship with God first, our family second, and then our “calling as servants” of Jesus.

But to squander our life on earth in indulging lesser dreams than knowing God and making Him known, is a poor and tragic end to a life that could have, with God’s help, been lived so differently.

The second key in a person’s finding true rest is to reorganize her life. This is taking the practical steps she takes to reprioritize her life. It is the applying to the head the knowledge God has revealed to the heart. It is where we get our agenda or calendar and where we intentionally identify and plan the steps we will take to take God at His Word.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33 ESV).

In other words, put first things first! Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness means trusting Him with your tithe (even when you “can’t afford it”). It means trusting Him in relationships (not that people won’t like you or not hurt you, but believing that taking time to express love for others as Jesus did is not in vain and has worth in God’s eyes and that His approval means more to you than people’s approval). It means trusting Him with your sacrifices in temporary comfort and pleasure (even when others do not notice or thank you). It is putting the “horse” of relationship with God back before the cart of your life so that He can lead you in eternal paths that have eternal benefits.

The third key is to release one’s life to God. Release is the active pursuit of God’s will, as one relinquishes “conditions” for obedience. It is “letting go” our agenda and trusting God’s. It is the follow-through to reorganizing one’s life around the priorities of the heart of our heavenly Father.

“Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV).

The final key is for one to relax in God. That may not sound very spiritual, but it is very biblical. In Psalm 46:10 God says, “Be still (relax), and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Relaxing in God’s goodness, trusting that the One Who will be exalted in the whole earth begins by being exalted in one’s own life, is the ultimate expression of trust in God. To cease striving, to surrender anxiety (as if our worrying about things can in any way actually be productive), to “snuggle up” to God, confident in His embrace of grace that you are not only forgiven and secured a future in heaven, but are also upheld by His own hand and held dear to His heart as a treasured beloved child.

Begin your day with His Word. Get to know His voice as you read His promises and let His Spirit speak to you about Who He is and what He does for those who trust Him. Begin your day with prayer and, as you speak to Him, trust that if you have repented of sin and of living your life your own way, that Jesus’ sacrifice is more than enough to cleanse you and set you on the path of knowing Him. Become a part of His church where His Word is preached and His people pray and love and serve with the joy of God’s children!

Rest in Him.   Trust in His promises. Walk in obedience to His Word. Love as He has loved you. And come to know Him as you walk with Him and learn how great He truly is.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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