Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 So I came to regret that I had worked so hard. 21 You work for something with all your wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then you have to leave it all to someone who hasn’t had to work for it. It is useless, and it isn’t right! 22 You work and worry your way through life, and what do you have to show for it? 23† As long as you live, everything you do brings nothing but worry and heartache. Even at night your mind can’t rest. It is all useless. Eccl. 2:20-23 GNT
5 I would like for all of you to speak in strange tongues; but I would rather that you had the gift of proclaiming God’s message. For the person who proclaims God’s message is of greater value than the one who speaks in strange tongues—unless there is someone present who can explain what is said, so that the whole church may be helped. 1 Cor. 14:5-6 GNT
I once thought that when I left management behind to become a pastor, I would leave behind the feeling of futility that often plagued me.
You know, the feeling of having to juggle three balls at once, and then someone throws in a torch, and another person toss in two pieces of your wife’s china, and then another person tosses in three sticks of TNT?
I mean you know you can do a little, but you keep on thinking the torch is going to hit one of the pieces of TNT and then…
I don’t care if you pastor a church of 150 or 1000, or administer a computer system, or a washing dishes on graveyard shift at a Denny’s. There are times where you feel like you are spinning your wheels, and you being to regret that you work so hard, and it all seems useless. And if you are about to go on vacation, and are struggling to get it all ready, and your daily Bible reading gets to Ecclesiastes, you are probably feeling this way!
God does have a sense of humor!
And the feelings Solomon writes about are very real. Most of us have to deal with them on a regular basis. Anxiety, heartache, feelings of unfulfillment, uselessness and even the idea that while you don’t gain from your dedicated work, someone else will – all these feelings can crush us. And they often do.
Yet, in the midst of that stands our “proclamation”. And in all of those places, in 1981 at Denny’s in New Hampshire, (and again in 85-86), at Pepperdine, and as a pastor, I’ve seen God at work in the lives of people. It’s not about certain vocations proclaiming Christ, or even people of a certain age. It is about being in the moment, and recognizing the grace of God, and sharing it, “proclaiming” it, to those who need to see it as well.
I heard a long time ago, that while we work, we are ultimately there because God sent us there. The pastor said that while we are employed by Company X (I think it was Ford) who we are representing is God. Therefore we work in a way that would bring glory to God) So while we are devoted to our job, (washing dishes, analyzing financial and security reports or preparing a sermon or study) and work hard, the ultimate reason we are there is to bring God glory, and as appropriate, proclaim how great His love and mercy are.
It is those moments we cherish, the moments that make a difference. For example, as you help the guy at the counter sober up, and go home to talk and pray with his wife, because there is now hope that God can bring healing to his broken marriage. Another example could be the young college student, who thought their world was over because their boyfriend dumped them, or they didn’t get a good grade in that class. Because God had someone there, they knew that God wouldn’t forsake them. The stories live on, and even to this day, I don’t remember what I said or did, I remember the look in their eyes, and the release of all the tension built up in their bodies. It is how they left, knowing that they were there as well, in the presence of God
So look for those moments, look for the people God has sent your way this day. Find ways to share with them, as St Peter advised, the Reason your have hope in the midst of a broken world. Pray for them, and as you have the opportunity, pray with them.
This is what matters, this is what makes a difference, and this is what is not vain. You are sent were you are, by God, in order to be a blessing to others. To help them, slowly at time, to discover the love of God. As they do, the joy you will know, is beyond words.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for others! 1 John 3:16 (TEV)
“there comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump a puddle for you…”
“But then I realize there is never going to be a day when I stand before God and He looks at me and says, ‘I wish you would have kept more for yourself.’ I’m confident that God will take care of me.” -David Platt
The above two quotes in black were on my facebook news feed this morning, one above the other. They contrast they set was incredible, as they look at relationships from different perspectives.
The first, while it is willing to make sacrifices, demands a “give and take” to a relationship. That if I am to pour my love, my sacrifice, my all into a relationship, then I should be able to expect something in return. If there isn’t some return, then the relationship should be tossed aside and no more put into it. It may not be demanding much, but it still demands, it still expects and it still will be disappointed, for such investments rarely pay off quickly, and sometime, never directly to the person who invested their all.
The second take a different tack, reminding us that the meaning of life isn’t found in our personal gain, our being valued. It puts faith in the result of our investing our lives in the hands of God, not the hearts of others. It assumes that we might wonder whether this is all “worth it”. It makes clear that suffering or denying ourselves so that others will benefit is the norm of life, for the norm of life is Christ.
This means using God given wisdom of course, knowing how to sacrifice that people will benefit, but it doesn’t mean that part of that calculation is our own pleasure, our own “fulfilment”. It assumes that fulfillment is found with Christ, on the cross, giving Himself for us, as John’s passage tells us, even as it encourages us to give our lives for others. This sacrifice is for the same reason as Jesus’s – that they may know the love of God.
Don’t hesitate to live your life in ways investing God’s love into others. Be there for them, encourage them, love them. As Paul also wrote:
1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: Philippians 2:1-5 (TEV)
Lord have mercy on us, and help us to love those you have brought into our lives. AMEN!