Sometimes when I meet with church leaders, I’ll ask about problems they’re experiencing with staff. Because “ministry” can be very broad, often times staff members appear to be doing their own thing or nothing. I then get the staff together, have them stand up, close their eyes and point north. When I ask them to open their eyes, they see that nearly everyone is pointing in a different direction. I explain to the pastor or leader that when their is no clear direction, people tend to go in their own direction rather than in the same direction. This is true of any organization. The people need to know what direction to go in.
1 Samuel 3:1 says, “The word of the Lord was rare and precious in those days; visions [that is, new revelations of divine truth] were not widespread” (AMP). Because of that, people did their own thing. Even Eli, the priest, had sons who were supposed to be ministers doing despicable things. They would harass the women, take offerings to God from the people by force and disrupt people’s worship. When people don’t hear from the Lord or can’t see what God is doing, they tend to do their own thing like kids in a classroom when the teacher walks out.
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His word], the people are unrestrained; But happy and blessed is he who keeps the law [of God].” You and I have had a revelation of God’s Word, the world hasn’t. Our lives should reveal God to other people. We like to quote the first part of this verse, but the second part reminds us that it’s not enough to just hear God’s Word on Sunday, or to even know it. In order to give others revelation of who He is, we must keep it. Living like Eli’s sons, while carrying His name, doesn’t reveal who He is. We’re living in a time where people need to see genuine, authentic Christianity that points north to the Father.
I went through a sales psychology class once that helped people recognize how their fear displayed itself in their lives. It also showed how it showed up in their sales. One of the ways it would show up is by having a person feel like they didn’t have enough information. Instead of calling the customer, they would spend half an hour looking at the account, comparing plans and looking for ways to save them money rather than to call. We had all been to several classes on how to engage customers, how to connect with them and even had a sales process to follow. Yet somehow, this type of person felt like they wanted to learn more before actually putting it into practice..
In Colossians 2:7, Paul recognized that there are Christians with a similar problem. To encourage them he wrote,“You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving” (MSG). With 66 books in the Bible, there are countless lessons for us to learn. We can spend a lifetime trying to learn them all, but in doing that we miss the point. Christianity isn’t about getting a head knowledge of everything we’re to know. It’s about living it out day to day as we grow closer to God and displaying His love to others around us.
Don’t let the fear of, “What if I mess up and give God a bad name,” keep you from living out your faith. You will never know enough. That’s why He sent His Holy Spirit to fill us, to guide us and to remind us of what He said. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to fall, but He is faithful to forgive us when we confess our shortcomings (1 John 1:9). We can’t let the fear of failure to prevent us from living out our faith. We’re human, which means we’re not perfect. Let God worry about His reputation. You just need to live out your faith and let it spill out on people. You do your part and let God do His.
In one of my jobs, I had a manager who talked big. In meetings he would tell us what he was going to do and what he expected from us.after a few months, I realized that he rarely did anything he said he was going to do. After a particularly exciting meeting, I went to a coworker I had become friends with. I asked, “Foes he ever make good on his promises or does he just talk? He laughed and said, “He just talks.” I don’t think he was a bad guy. He truly wanted to do the things he promised and hoped it would motivate us, but in reality, it simply eroded our trust in him.
In Matthew 21:28-31, Jesus told the story of a father who had two sons. He asked the first one to go work in the vineyard. The boy told his father no, but then later changed his mind and went. After the first refused, he went to the second son and asked him to go work in the vineyard. He agreed to do it, but then never went. Jesus then looks at the crowd and asks, “Which of these two obeyed his father?” (NLT) We may not have liked how the first son responded to his father, but in reality, he’s the one who obeyed. Christianity isn’t about saying the right things. It’s living out your faith.
James 1:22 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” The danger we all face is becoming like the second son. We know what God wants to hear, and we know what other Christians want to hear. We can get good at speaking Christianese, but without the actions behind the words, we erode trust in ourselves and in God. We are the only Jesus some people see. Actions will always speak louder than words. Beliefs are not based on what we say, but what we do. We will always act in accordance with what we truly believe. If our lives aren’t living out what we profess to believe, we are only fooling ourselves as James said.
It’s starting to be that time of year with all the commercials for gyms and exercise equipment. Whether it’s the Bowflex, Mirror, Tonal or something else, they’re great at speaking to something deep within us that wants to improve. They show images of people who are very fit and strong using the equipment. They promise that we can look like that too if only we will commit to a few minutes a day. We identify with the end result of how the person on the screen looks, so we purchase them. We start out with great intentions of using it, but by a month or two in, it becomes a very expensive clothes hanger. We loved the end result, but struggle with the daily application.
One of the scariest Bible verses to me is Matthew 7:22-23. Jesus said, “On the day of judgment many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, don’t you remember us? Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons and do many miracles for the sake of your name?’ But I will have to say to them, ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you!’” (TPT) My immediate thought when I read that is, “Lord, I don’t want that to be me.” He describes someone who acts like a Christian and does things for Jesus, but in the end, they missed something. He then goes on to tell the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders to illustrate this point, and it all comes down to application.
Jesus said in verse 24, “Everyone who hears my teaching and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakable foundation.” just like the exercise equipment there’s a big difference between the person who identifying with the end result and the person who applies the exercise daily to their life. Those who identify with Christianity (the morals, good living, etc.) but never apply the Word of God to how they live are like the foolish builder and are the ones whom Jesus will tell that He never knew. The ones who don’t just have a form of Christianity, but have the relationship with Christ through prayer and spiritual disciplines will be like the wise builder with an unshakable foundation whom Jesus knows and recognizes. Each of us have the daily chose of identification or application. Choose wisely.
When I was younger, I thought I was Holy and pure. Looking back, I can see it was a lot of self righteousness. I was full of myself which meant there was not much room for Jesus in my life. You see the more there is of me in my life, the less there is of Him. The less there is of me, the more there is of Him, and that corresponds to how much grace I give as well. We live in a world that desperately needs grace, but many of us can’t give it because there’s not much grace in us to give. It’s time for us to rise up, be vocal about the Jesus who lives inside of us, but because of where society is, we back down.
I believe we stay quiet because we are afraid of how we will be attacked by others for our beliefs. 1 Peter 5:8 says that devil roams around like a roaring lion. He isolates us, pretending to be a lion, making us think we will be devoured, but what we forget is that we have the Lion of Judah on our side. He is our protector, our defender and the one whom we should get courage from in today’s world. If He is for us, who can be against us? Yet, even though He is standing with us, we fear what the world will do, so we stay silent.
Psalm 59:16 says, “But I will sing about your strength; every morning I will sing aloud of your constant love. You have been a refuge for me, a shelter in my time of trouble” (GNT). It’s time for us to not be afraid to show the love and grace of Jesus to others. It’s time for us to be free to speak about our faith. The more we love Jesus, the more we should love others. That love should be overflowing from our lives and spilling on to those we come in contact with. If we want the world to change, we need to be showing and sharing His love because it covers a multitude of sins. We can’t be stingy anymore with His love and we can’t stay silent because of our fear of today’s society. We must break out of the silence that society has forced us into, speak out for what’s right, give grace freely and live out loud.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
How many times have you told someone, “Actions speak louder than words”? Probably too many times to count. A pet peeve that we all share is someone who says one thing and does another. It speaks to their credibility and your ability to trust what they say. I’m sure we can all think of examples right now of times we’ve encountered this in others. The sad thing is that it happens in the Church as much as anywhere. That’s why the book of James in the Bible is pretty much about just that.
We’re all familiar with “Don’t just be a hearer of the Word, but a doer also,” and “Faith without works is dead.” James continues this theme throughout his book to remind us that we can’t just talk like Christians, we must live and act like Christians. James 3:13 says, “Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts” (MSG). As he wrote, it speaks to our reputation.
Living well can be translated into living honorably. People around us should be able to trust what we say. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich.” What is your reputation among other believers? Are you someone they can count on? Are you a person that has an honorable reputation among your local group of believers? What about your reputation among non-believers? To me, this one is of utmost importance. How can anyone accept our faith if the way we live our life is in opposition to what we profess to believe?
I was always told that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. What I’ve learned is that there is always someone looking. People are always watching us as believers. Our lives should reflect what we say we believe. I’m not saying you have to live perfectly because that’s impossible, but you do have to live honorably. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. So let’s not have dead faith. Let’s be doers of the Word and live a life that acts out the faith we profess.
As a kid, this was one of my favorite weeks of the year because it was the beginning of summer. For the next three months, school was out and summer was in session. Eventually i graduated high school and then started taking college courses. They had the option to take summer courses. You could either take a summer break or you could take classes through the summer and finish college early. In either case, the time came when there was no more summer vacation, and it was time to put my education to use.
The same is true of our life with Jesus. If you grew up in church, you probably went to Sunday School or children’s church where they taught you the stories of the Bible. They helped you to memorize Bible verses, learn the books of the Bible and to have fun at church. But just like school, eventually your time ran out and it was time to go to big church. The learning didn’t stop, but the environment changed. It was less about the stories and more about how to apply them to your life.
Colossians 2:7 says, “You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving” (MSG). There comes a time when we need to not just study the Bible, but to apply it in our lives too. What good is knowledge if it’s never applied? Our faith grows and gets stronger when it’s tested and proven. Make today the start of being a Bible doer instead of just a Bible studier. Take one thing you’ve learned, apply it and live it out. Then keep adding to it day by day until you’re living a life of faith.
When I get to speak to new employees, one of the things I like to tell them is that their location or workgroup should be different because they are there. I want them to understand that wherever they go, things should change because they are there. I then explain that they have the ability to affect things positively around them or negatively. Ultimately it’s their choice on what kind of impact they’re going to make.
You and I should live our Christian lives with the same philosophy. Our church should be different because we are their. They should be more vibrant and welcoming because we set the time for others to follow. Our work place should be different because of the spiritual influence we carry with us. Our coworkers shouldn’t know we are Christians because we are always preaching at them, but because of our actions. They should see Jesus in us.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, he spoke to them about the effect their conduct had on others and their perception of Christianity. In chapter 1 verse 27 he said, “Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ (MSG).” He knew that how we live in our day to day lives can either add to people’s perception of Christ or detract from it. He wanted our attitude, our actions to be a credit to the Message. He wanted our lives to lead others to Christ.
Think about the world you live in. Who are the people you come into contact with daily? Do they hear one thing coming out of your mouth and see something totally different in how you live? We’ve all heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” It’s time we applied that to spiritual things. It’s time our behaviors reflected the mind and attitude of Christ. Paul put it this way in Philippians 2:12-13, “Live in responsive obedience… Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation… That energy is God’s energy (MSG).”
If we think we’re living in responsive obedience, try harder. Be energetic in your life. Let God’s energy flow through you today. Don’t be a person who is always negative and sees the worst in every situation. Be the person who sees the best in situations and creates a positive atmosphere. People want to be around that person. People notice when someone is that way. When they ask what makes you different, you have an open door to share a faith that your actions have backed up. Go out today and make a difference wherever life leads you.