Some people are so busy talking down to others, they never share an uplifting word. One stokes the smoldering ashes of human misery, while the other shares the comforting warmth of God’s mercy. Will you do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)?
Did you awaken this morning feeling more down-and-out and less up-and-at-it? If so, you might identify with the “woe-is-me” mentality of Jeremiah who said:
“I’m the man who has seen trouble, trouble coming from the lash of God’s anger. He took me by the hand and walked me into pitch-black darkness. Yes, he’s given me the back of his hand over and over and over again. He turned me into a scarecrow of skin and bones, then broke the bones. He hemmed me in, ganged up on me, and poured on the trouble and hard times. He locked me up in deep darkness, like a corpse nailed inside a coffin.” ~ The Message
The sure cure for a case of the Monday Morning Blues is a long sip from this energizing Cup of Hope: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
When Jeremiah began to focus less on his problems and more on God, his perspective changed. He began to realize that the high tide of God’s hope has a rhythmic presence that’s just as certain as the appearance of the moon in the night sky. He also concluded that the faithfulness of God is as cool and refreshing as an artesian well that never runs dry—it’s new every morning.
In the Psalms, David learned that the riddles of life are never solved through the emptiness of the world, but through the fullness of God’s blessing. He said: I did not understand until I went into the sanctuary of God; and, He offered this conclusion: God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever . . . it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.
As you work your way through today, remember that God is full of compassion, generous in grace, slow to anger, and boundless in loyal love and truth. ~Psalm 86:15
The book of Proverbs is a pithy collection of wisdom that I read so I can benefit from its wise and insightful commentary on life. As I was reading the 11th chapter this morning, a few verses caught my attention, and one in particular caused me to pause and reflect on its meaning: One person is generous and yet grows more wealthy, but another withholds more than he should and comes to poverty.
Over the years of my life, I’ve worked with people from all walks and stations of life; some have been known for their wealth, and others have had very little of this life’s goods. It’s been my observation that some of the wealthiest have been the poorest and some of the poorest have been the wealthiest.
The difference between these people, is found in your answer to this question: Do you own your possessions or do they possess you?
Some people are like Abraham, Joseph, and Job; they are people of great wealth, but they are not hoarders. On the other hand, some people are like King Ahab; they are never satisfied, they always want more, and they are willing to do anything to get what they want.
There’s a third group which seems to be a balance between the first two; these are the people who are content. They are found among the wealthy as well as the poor, and they are content because of the content of their life.
The best way I can explain this is to quote the Apostle Paul: I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
When the content of Paul’s life changed, he learned to be content. He quit chasing after religious and worldly acclaim and learned the real treasure in life is found in Jesus Christ. This radical shift in his thinking changed his perspective and his deepest longings were satisfied.
You may never be wealthy by the world’s standards, but you can enjoy riches that pay eternal dividends. You can discover true wealth by doing what Paul did: You can invest in the lives of others by:
- Being generous
- Showing mercy, with cheerfulness
- Loving without hypocrisy
- Rejoicing in hope; being patient in affliction; and being persistent in prayer
- Sharing with the saints in their needs
- Pursuing hospitality.
Based on the list above, how wealthy are you?
Grief and anxiety can be so powerful that you can melt in the heat of their presence like a dip of ice cream on a 110-degree day. When the trials and tragedies of life assault you, God can seem so distant that his voice is inaudible and His care and compassion inconspicuous.
When you feel like you’ve been bullied by misfortune or beaten down by fickle friends, you can be blinded by a pervasive sense of loneliness and a warped perspective on life. This was the case with Asaph when he wrote Psalm 73:
My feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me. For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked. For they suffer no pain. . . They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence. They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.
Whenever you find that you are walking down a path of misery, you need to re-calibrate your compass. Instead of focusing primarily on your internals, you need to take an eternal perspective on life. This is how Asaph began to reorient his direction in life:
When I tried to make sense of all this nonsense, it was troubling to me. When I finally looked beyond myself, and I quit beating myself down. I looked up to God and I entered His temple, and then I understood the destiny of the wicked (my paraphrase of Psalm 73:16-17).
In times like these, God may seem to hide, but He is still present to present you with what you need. “Sometimes God gives us a gentle push of courage; sometimes He mercifully numbs us so we don’t experience the full intensity of our pain; at other times He carries us when we cannot take another step on own (Bruce Carroll, Sometimes Miracles Hide).”
One of the more comforting sections of Scripture that may help when you are feeling the pain of lingering bruises is Psalm 121:
I look up at the vast size of the mountains—from where will my help come in times of trouble? The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains will send the help I need. He holds you firmly in place; He will not let you fall. He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep. What a relief! The One who watches over Israel never leaves for rest or sleep. The Eternal keeps you safe, so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you. Neither bright light of sun nor dim light of moon will harm you. The Eternal will keep you safe from all of life’s evils, from your first breath to the last breath you breathe, from this day and forever. ~The Voice
Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s Supreme leader towered over his father who was just a little over 5 feet tall; however, he appears to be a wee little man when he stands beside his idol Dennis Rodman. Even though he’s small in stature, Kim caught the world’s attention earlier this week when there was an earthquake near a nuclear test site.
While the focus of the world was on the terrorism of Iran and the mindless madness of the Middle East, North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb under the cloak of darkness. These claims have been met with suspicion from the rest of world because the seismic wave left by the explosion was smaller than what occurs when a real thermonuclear weapon is detonated.
The narcissistic Supreme Leader of North Korea has a heart that’s as shriveled as his ego is big. He could learn an essential lesson by considering the example of Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the wee little man who encountered the King of kings and Lord of lords.
As a tax collector, Zacchaeus had some authority, and He was rather rich. Like Kim Jong-un, Zacchaeus had run rough shod over people, and he had enriched himself at their expense.
The life of this miserable tax collector began to change when he realized something: The wealth of the world can fill your pockets, but it will leave your heart empty. When he began to examine the life of Jesus, the embezzling heart of Zacchaeus was embellished by the love of God.
The proof of his new found faith was seen in his statement to Jesus: “I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!”
Jesus joyfully responded: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
Even though Zacchaeus was a wee little man in the eyes of his peers, he became a prized possession in the eyes and heart of God. Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will learn this lesson someday.
Whether you call them “parting comments” or “footnotes,” Paul makes some interesting statements as he concludes his letter to the Thessalonians. The first of these statements is, “Be at peace among yourselves (5:13).” Paul is urging the members of this church to be at peace with fellow members of the church.
If you’re not at peace with yourself, it’s difficult to be at peace with another person; and if you’re not at peace with God, it is difficult to be at peace with yourself.
Paul also urges these people to “rejoice always (5:16).” Joyfulness is an important component of life, and Paul linked it with love, peace, longsuffering, and kindness when he spoke of the fruit of the Spirit.
The greater your inner joy, the more likely you are to love people, to be kind, and to be longsuffering—Even Nehemiah knew that “the joy of the Lord is your strength (8:10).”
The third statement that Paul makes emphasizes the importance of prayer: “Pray without ceasing (5:17).” Obviously you can’t pray continually, but you can go through the day in an attitude of prayer. There can be miniscule moments of time when you praise God or give Him thanks for a blessing. There will be times when you find yourself thinking of some person or a specific need, and you can offer a voiceless prayer that only God hears.
There’s another item that Paul urges these people to do: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (5:18).” To understand this verse, you need to comprehend the difference between “in all” and “for all.” Paul didn’t say that you’re to give thanks for “all things,” but “in all things.”
When you give thanks “in all things,” you’re embracing the hope you have in Jesus Christ; and, your focus is not so much on the here and now of your pain, but on the there and then of future blessings.
The path of trials and tragedies was a route that Paul often traveled. If you’re following in his footsteps, you might find some comfort in his practical theology for life:
Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God. ~2 Corinthians 1:3-5