In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. (Ephesians 4: 1-3, The Message)
Whoa, there’s so much in this Message paraphrase of Ephesians 4: 1-3! I’ve read this passage several times now, seeking to taste every morsel. Why don’t you do the same? I’ll seed your thinking by sharing a few thoughts, line by line.
I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. Get out there and move, and keep on moving! Walk, and keep on walking. Run some, too, as long as you are on your God-given path. If you’re comparing yourself to others and trying to walk anywhere else besides in the talents and callings God has given you, you’ll be off track, and you will soon burn out. God has a unique plan for you. Move in that!
I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. Diligence and faithfulness to the assignments God has given you – it’s called spiritual maturity. Procrastination, excuses – not! You’ll never regret focused hard work on the right things. And, it will hardly seem like work – when you are working “on purpose,” God’s purpose for your life.
I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. Oh, Lord, You know I’ve wandered onto some paths leading to nowhere. But I was deceived; they looked so appealing at the time! I overestimated the positive possibilities, underestimated the costs, and was grandiose about my ability to “handle it.” I heard a quote that sums it up: “Sin takes you further than you ever wanted to go, keeps you longer than you ever wanted to stay, and costs a price you never wanted to pay.” Ouch! Truth!
And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. Humility and discipline – now there’s a pair to try to live habitually!
The scripture says about humility, don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought. What’s “more highly than you ought?” That’s secretly seeing yourself above others, superior in your understanding, and holding rights and opinions more important than those of other people. By the way, humility also does not mean devaluing yourself and becoming a doormat for selfish people. God valued you, and why shouldn’t you? He valued you enough to give His own life for you! So listen, you respect yourself as God’s precious creation, while being committed to honor and serve others. That’s humility.
Oh, dear, then there’s discipline. Manage yourself well so that you work steadily and consistently, not subject to the whims of discouragement and stress. Organize your tasks so that the chaotic challenges life is bound to throw at you does not derail you.
Finally, give yourself in love to the people God places within your circle of influence. Don’t let irritations become resentments or resentments become bitterness. No, catch problems in infancy, and settle them quickly.
Wow! What would happen if each individual turned each of these principles into daily action? Will the change start with you?
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me, Lord. Help me to be the change I want to see. All of those catch phrases are coming to my mind, but You know that my desire is deep in my heart. Grow me up, God. Use me to make a difference!
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9: 35)
I have the privilege of working with some excellent leaders in my Executive Coaching and training programs. As an Executive Coach, I often engage with really good leaders who want to become even better. What a privilege that is! More about excellence in leadership in a moment.
However, being in a “leadership position” does not guarantee that an individual is a true leader. One of the most common difficulties encountered is correctly defining what a leader really is. A common misconception is that the leader has to be totally in charge, with the thumb attached to a micro-manager on every detail of the workplace. Or worse, the manager (I avoid the term leader here) barks orders, puts people down, and makes everything about him or her. Insecure, arrogant individuals only demolish morale and productivity and influence people to leave as soon as possible.
Jesus provided the counter-intuitive principle that wise influencers completely understand. You lead by serving. Real leaders don’t try to dominate others. Rather, they serve as support resources so that others are set up for success. In the process, the organization reaches its worthy goals. True leaders lift people up and bring out their best with clear vision, genuine appreciation, and positive coaching for improvement. They don’t care about the light of credit shining back on them. But guess what! They do succeed because they help others succeed. (A winning team means a winning coach!)
We need more real leaders! They model attitudes that will make our whole culture a better place.
Will you be such an influencer? You don’ t have to be in some manager role to exercise the principle of servant leadership. Right where you are, you can help others become the best version of themselves. You can exhibit an attitude of service, and in so doing, make a significant difference in your world!
God, please help me to become a more effective servant leader to all that You’ve entrusted me to influence. Point out to me pockets of ego that can sabotage my ability to become the leader You desire. Grant me insight about what individuals need to succeed. Use me, Lord, to help others become all that You want them to be.
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5: 1-9)
So why did Jesus ask the disabled man, “Do you want to get well?” Now get this. Here’s a man who had been by the Pool of Bethesda for a very long time (maybe 38 years?), and we know he’d been an invalid for 38 years. A few questions come to mind. How did he get to the pool each day? Surely someone helped him. Couldn’t they have also helped him get into the pool believed to have healing properties? My goodness, in all of those years, I do believe I that I could have figured something out, that somehow I could have 1/2-inched my way into that water. But the guy wasn’t talking about that; he was bemoaning the unwillingness of others to help him. He was acting like a “victim.”
So maybe we’re beginning to see why Jesus felt the need to question the man: “Do you want to get well?” Is it possible that He might need to ask you and me a similar question?
“Well, of course, I do!”
And I can hear the Master say with Love, “Then stop making excuses, and get moving – even if it’s 1/2 inch at a time.” And He might just add, “Now get up, and pick up what you’ve been resting on. Time to walk!”
Now this man had legit problems, as you and I often do. Maybe I’m stretching the interpretation here, but I suspect not. Within those problems, had he done what he could do? Or had he become more and more frustrated and emotionally immobile because of what others did not do? Have I? Have you?
“Trust me! Arise! Take up your bed and walk!” The healing power of Christ will flow when you do!
Lord, are my excuses getting in the way of Your healing?
He Who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1: 6)
Have you seen this quote?
“Some people come in your life as blessings; some come in your life as lessons.”
The more I think about it, every person in your life comes as a lesson if the student is open to learning.
The overall theme of every lesson is, “What can I learn about me from how I relate with this person, and how can I improve?”
It’s very easy to get focused on the wrong thing – the other person’s faults, how he/she rubs you the wrong way. Yes, the other person’s behavior and personality traits have to be taken into account as you deal with the individual. But the real issue is, what is all of this revealing about me? And what does God want me to learn here that will help me become a stronger person?
So I believe that some of the people who come into our lives have the divinely-appointed role of “heavenly sandpaper.” Such sandpaper is rough, but on contact and with some vigorous rubbing, it makes the surface smoother and more beautiful. It also reveals the true nature of the wood below the surface.
Could it be that the person with whom you are struggling is an instrument of God to show you what’s under the surface? Have you considered that as you seek God in the difficulties of that relationship, He can and will empower you to learn patience, more skillful ways of relating, or the ability to make wiser decisions?
Oh, and one final thought on this. Have you noticed that the same kind of people keep showing up in your life? Is it possible that you didn’t learn what you needed to learn the first or second time, and you keep having to repeat the course and retake the exam?
Lord, teach me about me through my relationships. Show me what You want me to learn, especially when similar types show up in my life over and over. I want to get out of the way so that You can show Your Love through me, God. You said that You would keep working with me, helping me to become whole! I yield myself to the teaching You are giving me through my relationships.
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day. Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets. The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side. (II Chronicles 20: 22-30)
God had spoken through the prophet to assure Jehoshaphat that He would fight the battle; that battle was not theirs but His. They fell down in worship, and they praised Him for His provision. God had instructed them that they were to go out the next day, and He told them just where the enemies would be found. They were to go on and face their problems while completely trusting God to take care of it all. (Neither can you or I hide from our problems, even when depending on God. We have to face them.)
So today, we get to peek in on the unique way God intervened. The Lord moves in mysterious and sometimes seemingly bizarre ways, and He may intervene in a completely different way specifically suited to you and your situation. That being said, let’s return to the story and see how God kept His promise to Jehoshaphat and his people. There are principles embedded there for us.
1. As they went out in obedience while praising God, the Lord set ambushes, and the enemies turned on each other. When they stepped out, moved in obedience, and praised God as they went, God went to work! He astounded them with the methods He used to produce amazing results. He will do the same for you and me, if we only trust Him completely and keep walking (unless He says to stand still).
By the way, think about Judah’s enemies turning on each other. Hostile, bitter people are always being who they are. When they are attacking you with gossip, sabotage, or other attempts to destroy you, the boomerang effect can easily express itself. What they are putting out against you can return to them. The principle of sowing and reaping applies; they sow it, they are highly likely to reap it. It’s a divine principle.
2. When the tribe of Judah got to the place where they would have had to fought, the battle was already won. When they peered over at their “fierce” enemies, they were lying dead on the ground. They had sequentially turned on each other and destroyed everyone – except Judah.
God often defies all of our well-laid plans, and He acts brilliantly to win the battle for us. Believe me, He knows the ins and outs of it. His ways are higher than our ways.
3. They not only were the victors, they left with a lot more than they brought. God delivered his children out of a monumental mess. He stands ready to do the same for you and me. That would be miraculous enough, and it would be a reflections of His great mercy. Then He piles on the grace – so much more than we deserve! The scripture says that He wants to do superabundantly more than we could ask or think. Sometimes the riches He bestows may be found in tangible wealth. However, even more valuable “spoils” are the wealth of spirit and of wisdom acquired in the valley of adversity.
4. God saved them, and then they had peace. May I tell you emphatically, the goal is not happiness. Happiness is fleeting. “Happiness” comes from the same root word as “happenings.” In other words, happiness depends on external situations. You win a drawing. Your student achieves. You get a promotion. You’re happy! However, you cannot have your well-being dependent on happenings outside your control. A much greater and more fulfilling goal is peace. God’s peace is deep and lasting, no matter what the conditions within which you are living. Like Jesus commended the winds and waves, “Peace, be still!”
One story – three days of reflection. I pray that these thoughts have ministered to you if you find yourself in a humanly impossible situation. If you aren’t right now, life will hand you one before too long! That’s just life – and that’s just the enemy of your soul. Just know without doubt that the blood covenant you entered with God when you received Christ guarantees that God is working on your behalf.
This battle is not yours, but God’s. Take a moment and listen to Yolanda Adams bring home this powerful message!
Lord, teach me to fight my battles on my knees. You are my Source, my Power, my Victory. This battle is Yours!