The other day, I was watching a biography of Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon was a well-known pastor during the late 1800's. He pastored a church that grew very large under his leadership while writing approximately 150 books, publishing a magazine, founding an orphanage, establishing a pastors' college, and starting many other ministries (a large percentage of which are still operating).
It's fascinating to consider how much good he was able to accomplish during the course of his life. It can certainly be said that Spurgeon was spiritually gifted and blessed, but there are some additional traits that he exhibited that I think are also worth noting, particularly if we also want to become more productive and get more accomplished during the limited time we have.
Paul spent his life on this earth attempting big things. He experienced great successes and painful failures, but I admire what he did, and I'm motivated by the example he gives us of the blessings of submitting our lives over to the Lord, and learning to listen to the Lord's voice when He speaks.
And I'm grateful that when Paul did the big things the Lord called him to do, that he was intentional about bringing other people along with him. He wasn't trying to bring the gospel to the world by himself. He partnered with men and women who became His family in Christ. They served together, and we are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices. We know Jesus, in part, because people like this partnered together to make Him known to us, and their example has been emulated by millions of people throughout the centuries.
We recently met up with my extended family at my father's house. My household brought desserts. My sisters and their families brought the rest of the food, and for an evening, we swarmed together into the same space. It was a lot of fun and when I spoke to my Dad the next day, he was still happy about it all. I even received a text from my sister thanking me for a compliment that she overheard me give her son about work he was doing around my father's house.
The concept of family is a beautiful thing. It's a relational structure that has been designed by God to serve in protective and encouraging ways. It's also something that gives us a glimpse of the deeper spiritual relationship we have with one another as the family of God through Christ. In Romans 15:22-33, Paul demonstrates just how important his Christian family was to him.
When I was a brand new lead pastor, fresh out of college, I was invited by another pastor to come and speak to a group of teens. I had been serving as a youth pastor for several years, and was involved in camping ministries, so speaking to teens wasn't something new for me, but I didn't do a very good job when I spoke to this particular group that day.
My approach was all wrong. I was under the mistaken impression that in my new pastoral role, I needed to be more serious and somber. And what I ended up doing was communicating the life-changing word of God in the most dull and lifeless way possible. Those teens probably felt like they were at a lecture. I could see in their faces that they were bored to tears.
And whether you're a teacher, a speaker, a preacher, or something else, there's a time for all of us when it's appropriate to speak with boldness, particularly in regard to the gospel of Christ. But when will that be, and how should we go about it?
As much as you may like other people, one of the most difficult aspects of life is getting along with the people the Lord brings into your life. If you serve in a people-centered vocation, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. One of my friend's daughters was recently telling us about her new job as a server in a local restaurant. It's been an eye opening experience for her to attempt to meet the different wants and preferences of her customers while keeping a pleasant smile on her face.
Likewise, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that there might be a few people in your life that you've decided not to interact with frequently because you're trying to "keep the peace." Living in harmony with others, even our brothers and sisters in Christ, can be a challenging task that, in the end, requires us to depend on the strength of the Lord to empower.
Every day of our lives, we're given multiple opportunities to demonstrate Christ-like love toward others. Every day we are given opportunities to build others up in their faith. So, what are we doing with these opportunities? Are people being built up through interacting with us, or are they being destroyed? Are their spirits being uplifted or are they being crushed?
A mature Christian is an others-centered Christian. This world can be divisive, but we have been given the privilege to promote a spirit of peace within our Christian family as we prioritize each others' lives, needs, and growth. Take a look at what we're shown in Romans 14:13-23 where we're taught to prioritize peace in the midst of a divisive world.
How do you suppose others experience you? Do they feel better or worse after talking with you or working with you? How do your conversations and demeanor come across to your church family? What kind of impression do you suppose you're making on those you know who aren't followers of Christ?
One of the biggest hangups many people in this world have toward Christians relates to the fear of being judged or condemned by them. And even among believers, there are plenty who no longer attend or participate in the life of their local church because of a fear of being unkindly judged. Is this an issue you've ever wrestled with? Loved or judged? How do we make others feel? What counsel does Romans 14:1-12 give us about this subject?
Have you ever come to a breaking point in your life when you realized that it was time to make some changes, but you weren't completely certain what changes you needed to make? I remember a particular season like that in my life that took place when my children were all very little. I was involved in so many things at once, and had taken on more ministry responsibilities than I should have. On top of that, I was working three jobs, and had started neglecting things like my health, my personal finances, and good stewardship of my available time.
In life, I think many of us like to "call the shots." Many of us like to be the one making the decisions, and that preference shows up at a very early age. I'll never forget a debate I had some time ago with one of my teenage children who was bristling against a decision I made. My response was, "When the day comes and you're a middle-aged adult, I'll feel really bad for you if you let a 15-year-old run your house." I also said, "I realize you'd like to be the one calling the shots, but before that day comes, you need to learn an important lesson. You can't be an effective leader until you've first learned to follow."
The resurrection of Christ matters in more ways than we may realize.
If Jesus didn't rise from death, there would be no reason for us to gather together for worship. If Jesus didn't rise from death, there would be no point in worshipping Him or referring to ourselves as His followers. But thankfully, Christ did rise from death, proving His divinity, and giving us a foretaste of what He has in store for all who trust in Him.
The resurrection of Jesus is paramount in its significance for us, and I'd like to take the next few moments to share five of the many reasons why that's so.