Competition Can Be Costly


tug-o-war1-1The other day, one of my daughters came to me with a dilemma. For about six months now, she has been learning to play an instrument. Her dad and I have been so proud of her diligence because she has been regularly practicing and increasingly getting better at it.

Her dilemma was this . . . she was feeling a bit upset because one of her other siblings, was now taking an interest and was wanting to play the same instrument as her. She explained to me that she finally had a skill of her own, and wanted to be the only one playing this particular instrument.

My heart went out to her and I thought this a good opportunity to share a bit with her on the nature of competition. It seems we are all hard-wired to have a competitive spirit (some more so than others).

There seems to be this inborn competitive nature we are born with and for some reason or another this competitive nature really seems to manifest itself among siblings, especially same-sex siblings. 

When I think of the nature of competition, I always think of the story in the gospels where the disciples were arguing among themselves, “Who would be the greatest in the kingdom.” Here Jesus was predicting his death, and his closest earthly allies were arguing who was the greatest among them (so like our sin nature).

In Luke 9:47-48, Jesus responds this way: Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them,”Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

God’s kingdom is so upside down from the world’s system. God basically says, humble yourselves like this little child.  He also says that the least among you will be the greatest.

When it comes to sports, competition is great. It teaches you to be a team player and there is value in that, but when we compete against one another for selfish reasons, superiority and rivalry, competition can be costly and is sinful.

Sin focuses on the big “I” (which means me, myself and I) whereas to be kingdom minded and to think like Jesus does, we need to be “others focused.” It’s trying to see things from God’s perspective and doing whatever is best to build God’s kingdom.  As believers, this is the battle we all fight daily.

I assured my daughter that God would reward all of her practice and diligence and that she was already inspiring her sister, which is why her sister was now wanting to play in the first place. I then asked my daughter how she thought Jesus would act in this situation.  My daughter hugged me and then went straight to her sister and proceeded to help her sister with the instrument.

I’m so thankful for the power God’s Word has on hearts and minds. Lord help us to me more like you. Help us to humble ourselves and to be other minded and to seek to live as you did. Thank you for who you are and for all that you do for us. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for us, help us to daily die to self, so that we can live for you. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Luke 14:11

 

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Finding Purpose through Perseverence


girlrunDon’t you sometimes wish that life had an easy button? I know I do. For example, the other morning it had been a few days since I had any decent exercise, so I had decided I would run. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

I hadn’t been eating right and I’d been slacking on my running, so unfortunately I kept putting it off. Finally I forced myself out the door for my run. Although difficult, afterwards it felt great and had wondered why I kept putting it off in the first place.

I’ve decided that nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy, but some days . . . I just wish life had an easy button. So often when we are faced with difficult circumstances it is easy for us to run away, verses running to God. We question God’s goodness instead of trusting it.

There are various reasons we suffer in this world, but through it all, God is trying to teach us a lesson in perseverance. Just as running increases my physical endurance, trials and difficulties in life increase spiritual endurance.

I was recently re-reading the story of Joseph in preparation for teaching a Kid’s Church lesson. I love how God uses me teaching kids, to teach or reinforce something in my own life (He’s just so awesome that way).

I’ve heard Joseph’s story hundreds of times, but God always seems to show me something different each time.  My lesson was supposed to be a lesson on forgiveness, but instead once again, God was using it to show me a lesson on perseverance.

Now Joseph was no saint. He was youngest of his brothers and favorite son of his father (now if that wouldn’t zap a little pride into you right there). To top it off, daddy had made him a “special” coat. I’m sure to his brothers, it was a constant reminder that Joseph was dad’s favorite child.

Joseph had also been given a special gift from God (the ability to interpret dreams). When Joseph decided to use his gift inappropriately (to brag), this again caused some major conflict with his already resentful brothers.

It’s no wonder they threw him into a pit. I’m sure I would have wanted to do the same. Instead of leaving him to there to die, they decided to sell him into slavery. To cover it all up, they then decided to lie to their father claiming he was killed by an animal. Wow, talk about a heavy load of anger and hatred from his brothers. They wanted him gone from their lives, and carried out an evil plan to do just that.

During the time of separation from his family, God was working tremendously in Josephs life. I’m assuming that none of this was easy for Joseph, but instead of resisting God’s plan, Joseph kept trusting God (knowing that God was with Him) and faithfully turning to Him.

God was teaching Joseph a lesson in perseverance. He was using heat, pressure and time to refine Josephs character. Joseph had to be broken in order to be used of God.

God does the same thing with us today. When we submit ourselves to him, He takes all of our weaknesses, flaws and mistakes and can bring good from them, just as he did with Joseph.

Joseph realized that the dream he had shared with his brothers (some thirteen years earlier) was finally coming to fruition. He realized that God had used his trials and suffering to strengthen him. This helped him to forgive his brothers and understand how much he needed to do so because of the same forgiveness he had received from God.

After testing his brothers motives, Joseph also understood how God had used this situation to change their hearts as well. He was therefore able to show God’s love and mercy to them because he now understood God’s sovereignty over all things.

There will always be times in our lives when we all want to push the easy button, but if we do so, I believe we miss out on a lesson that God is trying to teach us through perseverance. Perseverance requires that we stick with something even when it is difficult. It’s a determined attitude to trust God in all circumstances (especially extremely difficult ones).

God had a purpose all along, and Joseph was able to see it come to fulfillment.  Through suffering, God had worked in Joseph’s life and in his brothers hearts as well. God plan was fulfilled when he used Joseph life to carry out His ultimate plan of saving them from famine through the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream. When Joseph used his gift for God’s glory, many lives were saved because of it. What an awesome God we serve!

Father God thank you for who you are and for all you do for us. Help us to trust you in all circumstances no matter how difficult, hard or painful they may seem. Thank you that you are indeed Sovereign and that you are working all things together for our good.  Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you so that we may persevere in difficulties! Thank you Jesus. To you be the glory both now and forever! AMEN

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

 

What are you living for?


girlsYesterday when reading my morning devotions I came across a familiar stanza of a poem by C. T. Studd that reads, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” I let my heart meditate on that statement for awhile and it really got me thinking. We often kill ourselves in vain pursuits, but the truth of the matter is, when it’s all said and done, (like the poem states) only things done for God’s kingdom will last.

How often in my daily life I get distracted from that truth because life can be so full of trivial pursuits. We work to make a living, we try to keep up with the kids, our house, our stuff, and even our neighbors. Life can keep us in the business of being busy. But the question I ask myself and you is this, “Are the things that we are pursing going to have a lasting impact for eternity?”

Now some may look at my life and think I’m a bit over the top kind of person. My philosophy is this, if you’re going to do something at all, then you might as well go all out, right? Isn’t that how we are when we’re passionate about something? If we say we love God first, shouldn’t we be constant in pursuing an ongoing relationship with Him? Shouldn’t our pursuit of knowing Him drive us to seek His face daily? God’s Word is the bread of life which fuels our body to the abundant life.

The opposite of following Christ, is not following Him. We can get stuck in the self motivated life where nothing is ever enough, therefore all of our vain pursuits leave us empty, unfulfilled and searching for the next best thing. That’s the difference between living for Christ and living for ourselves. I’ve been there and done that and I know how unfulfilling selfish living can be.

I am reminded of the scripture in Revelation, where Jesus is speaking to the church of Laodicea and it reads as follows:  ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.… (Rev.  3:15). Spitting is an act of being disgusted with something. What a poignant visual Jesus is giving us here in that illustration. I do NOT want to be lukewarm in my pursuit of Christ.

Following Christ takes work. In the book of Acts when Jesus is calling His disciples, He asks them to leave what they are doing and follow Him (meaning leaving their own pursuits to take up His mission). Their agenda has to be left behind to follow God’s agenda. This is where relationship with Christ differs from religion. Religion will allow you to follow Jesus on your terms. Relationship requires that we follow God on His terms by living in surrendered obedience to Him. This is where we experience the real Jesus of the bible. Our life then becomes a pursuit of knowing Him and all that he Has for us.

Following God is not obeying a set of laws or banging your bible in peoples face to prove that you’re right and their wrong, that’s religion. Following God is loving Him by loving others. It’s only through loving other’s that we are truly loving Him. Jesus doesn’t require us to go out and do big things for God, but following Him is rather daily walking with Him and obeying His Word. In doing so your life becomes a form of worship to Him by allowing Him to be the Lord of your life in your everyday circumstances. This is the kind of relationship God wants with us. A real, life-giving relationship where we are allowing God to work in us and for His purpose and kingdom work.

So my question to you is this, “What are you living for?” I hope it’s something worth dying for, because that’s exactly how Jesus feels about you!

I wanted to leave you with the entire poem written by T. D. Studds. I hope it speaks as powerfully to you as it did to me:

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

And why do you worry about your clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that  you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:28-33

Whoever want to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4