One Bible Text That Will Radically Change the Way You Handle Conflict

There is one passage of scripture (just one), that if godly people would hide it in their heart it would change the world. It is a passage that I had to memorize in my spiritual formations class in seminary. I am so glad that I did. It has made a tremendous difference in my life and ministry over the past 11 years.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
The first line says, “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone…” The word for “servant” is more accurately translated as “slave.” If one is a slave to Jesus, then he or she cannot help but be kind. To fight and quarrel is a part of their old nature that has passed away. Kindness is the characteristic of their Lord and the whole reason why they are able to serve Him in the first place. Being right, being vindicated, and coming out on top of a conflict takes a backseat to showing kindness to the one who is in err. Servants of Christ know how being shown kindness will draw the erring one to repentance and new life.
The passage goes on to say that the slave of Christ must be “able to teach…” The word implies that the servant must go beyond just sound teaching. One is to be apt in his or her ability to teach. When there is conflict, rather than return evil for evil, escalating the conflict into a war of words, the servant of Christ is able to provide a timely word of instruction. The ability to teach is derived from the servant’s wealth of experience in walking in step with the truth of the gospel and profound confidence in who he is in Christ. People who fly off the handle in times of conflict reveal the insecurity in their hearts and their lack of godly wisdom.
The Lord’s slave must be “patiently enduring evil…” As slaves of Christ, we are going to be treated badly at times. Jesus said in John 15:20, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” The problem with a lot of people who call themselves servants of Christ is that they think being a servant of Christ entitles them to better treatment. The truth is that we deserve worse. The Lord, in all of His great love and grace, has patiently endured our sin and evil. Should we not show patience and grace to those who are doing us evil?
We must correct our opponents “with gentleness.” Too often, when we correct opponents we do so to prove that we are right and they are wrong. There is, however, something more important than being right—your brother’s soul. The goal is to get him or her to turn away from the evil that they are doing or the untruth that they are teaching or believing. You are not going to accomplish this by issuing a harsh correction. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Our goal should always be to point our opponents to Christ, and this requires us to do so in the character of Christ.
The last few lines of the passage say, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” There are a few gems here. First, God is the one who grants the erring one repentance. The outcome of God granting a person repentance is two-fold. One, it leads them to the knowledge of the truth, and two, it delivers them from the snare in which they have been trapped by the devil. If we believe that we are right and they are wrong, then only God granted repentance will change their minds. It is to this end we should work and pray in every conflict.


A Lesson from the Cricket Basket

In first-century Corinth, there was a great debate over food offered to idols. It was an old pagan practice around which everyone in the region grew up. The pagan temples would offer sacrifices to the gods. The meat from these sacrifices would be sold in the marketplaces and at banquets sanctioned and or hosted by the temples.
A shift to a monotheistic (one God) worldview was wrought by the introduction of Christ to the city. Converts began to have a conflict of conscience about the tradition. Soon, everyone had an opinion. That is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 8:1 when he said, “now concerning food offered to idols: we know that all of us possess knowledge.”
The majority of people held one of two opinions. One group held that the meat was the derivative of pagan worship and inherently evil. No Christ follower should be able to eat any meat from the marketplace with a clear conscience. The other group, quite strong in their faith, stood on the truth that there was only one God, so if the pagan gods to whom the animal was sacrificed did not exist then there was no harm in consuming the meat.
One group condemned the other for presuming upon God’s grace. One group held the other in contempt for being legalistic. The two were vehemently opposed and divided between one another. This is why Paul said, “this knowledge, puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b).
He is explaining to them that nothing good can come out of this debate. It reminds me of when, as a child, we used to buy a basket of crickets for fishing bait. If they were not all used and got left in the boat for a few days, they would eat each other one by one. Soon all you would have was one big fat cricket in the basket. That is where this debate was headed in the first century.
There is a huge debate going on in our nation right now. The debate centers around flags and monuments. The two sides, those who want to see the emblems removed, and those who want to see them kept, are diametrically and sometimes militantly opposed to one another.
I imagine Paul speaking into our current situation, “now concerning flags and monuments: we know that all of us possess knowledge. This knowledge puffs up…” All of us have an opinion, and that is the problem. The harder we grip our knowledge the more convinced we are that we have to win and our opponent has to lose. Our opponents are just as convinced of their position and that they must come out of the contest on top. Anybody see a problem here?
Friends, there is a better way. Love. Take a look at the rest of 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
What we see daily played out on the evening news is a demonstration of our collective ignorance. It is obvious that we know nothing when we imagine that we know everything. If we imagine that we know, then we demonstrate that our “knowledge” is immature. But when we love God, we show ourselves to be known by Him. When we are known by him, our actions and reactions show themselves to be in submission to Him.
I wish I had space to explain the rest of the chapter. Paul goes on to conclude that neither side is right because neither of them is loving God (looking to God). If they were, then they would know as they ought.

This is the knowledge to which we should all cling: one single soul is worth more than all the flags and monuments in the world. Arguments could be made for leaving them standing, and arguments could be made for taking them down. You are free to have your own opinion. Only, do not allow your freedom to become a stumbling block for your brother. It is better to sacrifice your freedom for the sake of your brother’s soul. “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).


What is a Pastor?

I am currently reading the book entitled The Pastor, by Eugene Peterson and have been reminded just how much our increasingly secularized culture has shaped the perception of what it is to be a pastor. When we think of a pastor, we get one of two pictures in our minds. One is of a clean shaven, sharply dressed fellow who stands behind the pulpit and wows the congregation with his oratory and poetic skill. The other, a tattooed hipster with gelled hair in a tee-shirt and skinny jeans with the masterful ability to communicate the mysteries of spirituality all the while keeping you relaxed enough to not spill your overpriced coffee. Neither of these caricatures even come close to what is a real pastor.
I guess the simplest definition for “pastor” is the person who leads a church, but that definition does not help unless we define what is a church. A church is a body of believers. What is a body? It is a metaphor illustrating how many members are joined together to function as one person. Just as your hand has a specific function in your body but is not independent of the feet, so also each member of the church has a specific function but does not operate independently of the rest of the members. The body that is the church was fashioned by God and has Jesus as the head.
The pastor leads this body, but I must be careful with that word “lead” too. He leads by being a servant. He cares for the members and makes sure each is functioning properly. This is a daunting task in this dark and evil age. His members are navigating difficulty, loss, temptation, and the consequences of sin. He keeps them fed with the word of God. To do this, he has to know them. He has to be available to them in their hardest darkest days and able to encourage them with the truth of God’s word.
Perhaps there is an even better definition. A pastor is one who cares for a congregation. What is a congregation? It is a collection of people. His congregation is made up believers and unbelievers. There are people in the congregation who are loving servants of the Lord, and there are some still wrestling with whether or not to follow Jesus. There are others who have been deceived, either by themselves or others, into believing that they are Christ followers, but they are really not. The pastor must care for all in this congregation of people. He must be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged and able to correct gentleness (cf. 2 Timothy 2:21-25).
Additionally, I would say that the office of pastor is a vocation. By “vocation” I do not mean that he is a professional. The word vocation literally means a calling. Pastor is not just a title. It is definitely not just a job. A pastor may attend seminary and receive training in his vocation, but a pastor does not become a pastor by earning a degree(s). Neither does he become a pastor by being ordained. The title of pastor is earned as he works in his vocation and is formed into the role by his God.
I am in no way offering myself as the picture of what a good pastor looks like. When it comes to leading the body, caring for the congregation, and learning the vocation, I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. I want to be better though. I want to earn the honor of being called “pastor” by the people I love and serve. I know that I have been called by God, and I pray daily that He will form me into my vocation.
If your pastor leads the body, cares for the congregation, and takes his vocation seriously, then you can count it another blessing from God. If your pastor is not the leader he should be, then pray for him. He is probably just like me, still learning. Be patient with him. Be understanding. Encourage him regularly.
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” 1 Timothy 5:17-18


Learning to Live With Her in and Understanding Way

I met my wife 17 years ago. We have been madly in love almost since that very day. We have learned so much about each other and about doing life together. Every day seems to carry a new lesson.
I received a fresh lesson this past weekend. I asked her on a date. Yes, you read that right. She excitedly said yes. I was thrilled! I wanted this date to be different. I was going to really out do myself, so I decided that we would, in lieu of dinner and a movie, do dinner and a jet ski. Yes, you read that right as well.
Dinner was fantastic. We treated ourselves spending an inordinate amount of money, but it was just fine considering that it had been a while since we had indulged in such a treat. Then, we went down to the beach and rented a jet ski. Once again we spent a lot of money, but this was going to be the date to top all dates. We decided to rent only one machine, so we could ride together. It was going to be romantic.
All was going wonderfully until we climbed aboard the machine. Every male under the age of 70 understands what a jet ski is designed to do—mainly to go really fast and do donuts on the water. God gave his prized creatures jet skis and big waves to satisfy their heart’s longing to soar above the surf.
After about one minute on the machine, it became clear that God had not revealed this little nugget to the girl that he created bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. I totally misread the look of sheer terror on her face. I thought it was like, you know when you ride a rollercoaster; you are having a blast, but you look terrified. Little did I know, she definitely was not “having a blast.”
It was not until the thing tipped over and delivered us into the warm salty waters of the gulf, that I started to realize that she was not having a good time. No worries, I thought, now she sees that falling off is not as bad as she feared. But then we tipped over a second time, and she gave full vent to what she thought about me, the jet ski, the sea water, the jet ski rental place, the sun, the moon, the stars… you get the picture.
She was ready to go to the shore and leave me to ride the evil contrivance by myself, but I was eager to salvage the date and more than that to make the woman I love happy. So, for the last thirty minutes, I drove the ski like a man three times my age.
It was on about the third turtle-paced lap around the boundary area that it happened. As we were on a south heading, I peek around to look at her. The sunset was reflecting off one side of her smiling face, and the light of the almost full moon shined on the other. She did not have to say it. The look in her eyes expressed just how deeply in love she is with me.
Here is the lesson, men: Peter, who was a happily married man, nailed it when he wrote, “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life…” (1 Peter 3:7). If you truly love your wife, then you will be understanding of her. Even when she is unreasonably terrified of things you find amusing, you will show honor to her. She is your mate and heir with you of the grace of life. You were meant to enjoy sharing your lives together as you both prepare for the bliss of heaven.
No matter how right you are, when you insist on your own way, you cause her to feel scared and insecure. Her fear and insecurity will affect both of you. She will be terrified, and you will be miserable. However, if you will be understanding… if you will just slow down, then you will be the thrill of her life. She will be happy. You will be happy, and the two of you will be able to show the world the happiness found in sacrificial love.


I Want to Change the World

I want to change the world. I know; it is crazy, right? I want to be a part of something big, something revolutionary and earth shaking. I want to leave my mark on society, a legacy for generations to come. I want to honor the Lord and make my parents proud.
It is frustrating though. I am nearing halfway through my earthly journey, and I cannot seem to get any traction on attaining my dream. Honestly, changing the world is hard work. With all my heart, I strive to set the world afire with passion. With enthusiasm, excitement, and a sense of purpose, I fan the flame within me expecting it to consume the world, but the cold winds of discouragement, doubt, and anxiety constantly blow in the opposite direction. Sometimes I wonder if I am making any impact at all.
I have been studying the lives of the great reformers of church history. Martin Luther was born in 1483. I was born in 1980. Call me crazy, but it just strikes me, the similarities between the last two digits of our birth years (83 vs 80). Guess what Luther did in 1517. He nailed his ninety-five thesis to the door of the church at Wittenberg, a move that stoked the flames of the Protestant Reformation into an out-of-control inferno. He was three years younger than me which makes me wonder, why is it taking me so long?
Did Luther have a greater cause than me? Did he want to make a difference more than me? No, I believe we share a common cause and passion. I concede that He was much smarter than me and much more talented. This, however, does nothing to quell my heart’s question. Why can I not seem to make a difference?
In a much more exhaustive study of the life of Luther and that of other reformers, I receive my answer. I am like them in passion, however, I am different from them in mindset. To change the world was not their first objective. Rather, to serve God faithfully was their primary objective. Compared to me, their priorities were much more in line. Indeed, they changed the world, but only through their faithful service to God. Like Joshua at Jericho, it was not their passion or talent but their faithfulness that brought down the walls.
They got discouraged just like me. Men like Huss, Luther, Knox, Calvin, and Spurgeon were known to suffer from depression and anxiety. They were hard pressed on every side, but they pressed on and overcame by the strength and joy of the Lord.
Their lives gave witness to the truth of Romans 5:2-4, “…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Suffering persecution and endless doubt did not quell their hope. Rather, it was under the tutelage their trials that they learned to hope all the more in the glory of God. Tribulation did not cause them to hope less. It caused them to cling to Him even more.
This is how they were strengthened and made able to endure. Their sufferings and discouragement did not reduce the temperature of the fire within them. Every frustration, difficulty, trial, and tribulation served as fuel for their heart fires. With every lash of the enemy’s whip, they grew more obedient, more faithful. It was not in their determination but in their emotional and physical vulnerabilities that Christ was shown to be powerfully at work in them.
I still want to change the world, but now I understand that I must be faithful first. What about you? Do you want to change the world? Then be faithful. Christ is in you. Do not place your confidence in your passion or talents, nor your enthusiasm. Instead be confident and “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

Every challenge is an opportunity to show that He is faithful. Every weakness is an endowment from Christ, who through your weakness shows Himself to be strong. Tribulation is your tutor from whom you will learn perseverance. Every moment of suffering is a gift from God, given to refine your faith and prove your character. With every great trial, you will accumulate more hope. Just be faithful. Then, watch the walls come tumbling down.


Attributes of a Healthy Church Part 2

An in depth study of Acts 2:42-47 allows us to peer into history and learn what the church looked like in her infancy. You could call the early part of the First-century her age of innocence. Just as Jesus implored believers to become like little children, He is today calling His bride to return to that simpler time when she was united around the teaching of the apostles, love for outsiders, affection for one another, and absolute adoration of God the Father.
As the First-century progressed, the church would experience deep valleys. In a time when great love and generosity was being demonstrated by the vast majority of believers, Ananias and Sapphira would seek to deceive and rob their brothers and sisters who were in need. Jealousy would seize the hearts of some and set off a controversy between Hebrew and Hellenized (Greek-speaking) believers. Stephen would be martyred and persecution would ensue. History would record many more difficult episodes for the young bride of Christ.
The church would also see many lofty heights. Early growth could be described as explosive. Thousands of disciples would be made over a very short period of time. A persecutor of the church would be saved and become a great instrument that God would use to reach the Gentiles with the gospel. In the midst of fierce persecution, the gospel would continue to spread. Even Caesar would be given the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
As far as lofty heights go, the pinnacle was reached early on. Acts 2:46-47 reveals the summit of church health, a summit for which church leaders have been striving for two thousand years…
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The full number of believers was over 3,000 strong at this point. They were together every day. Understanding that Jesus was the Son of David and King of the Jews, they continued to worship in the Temple. They worshiped their God with glad and generous hearts because they understood that Messiah had come and rescued them from death. Their heartfelt worship continued as they would gather together in their homes and share meals together. Their new life gave way to a transformed lifestyle characterized by praise and adoration for the great God and Father of their Lord Jesus Christ.
There was no space large enough to accommodate their full number gathering together at one time. Yet they were said to be “together.” The word “together” is often translated “in one accord.” That does not mean that they were in a small car manufactured in Japan. It means that there was a harmony in their hearts, minds, and souls. There was a rhythm to the way that they devoted themselves to the word, to their love for others, to their affection for one another, and to their adoration of the Father. There was an unbroken and flawless chord that all labored to maintain by the help and direction of the Holy Spirit.
Those who have been a part of a church for any length of time know how precious is this harmony. Few things are more heart breaking than a contentious business or committee meeting where the membership is obviously out of rhythm and harmony. Someone always gets hurt. That is not to mention that the witness of the church is hindered. Worst of all, the name of Jesus is dishonored before the world.
Acts 2:42-47 is the ideal for which we should strive. Believers should be active in their local church. Like a piano tuner strikes a tuning fork in order to tune the instrument, believers should be seeking to strike the chord of gospel centeredness in their service to the bride of Christ. This will invite other believers to join in the song of praise. The sweet sound of Christ’s church harmonizing in one accord will be a call for those outside the faith to trust in Jesus as Savior and join in the song as well. Together the church will be built up into who she was always meant to be, the body of Christ.


The Attributes of a Healthy Church

What makes a healthy church? That is what every believer who cares about their local fellowship wants to know. As I mentioned last week, we can get an idea of how healthy our church is by looking all the way back to the first century when the church, as a whole, was at its healthiest. In Acts 2:42-47, we have a succinct summary that gives us a vivid picture of what that first church looked like. This picture lends itself well to comparison whereby we can determine how well our 21st-century churches stack up against the church in the 1st century.
Last week, we discovered from verse 42 that a healthy church is first one where the word of God is the lynchpin. In that 1st century church, the word of God, otherwise known as “the apostles teaching,” was their lifeblood. It informed everything that they did and how they did it. They were not looking for new revelation, a more innovative message, or a more palatable spin on the gospel. When they came together for fellowship, breaking bread, and prayers it was apparent that they were devoted to what they had been taught by the apostles.
Today we turn our attention to verse 43 and part of verse 47, and we see that a healthy church is also one that is well thought of by outsiders. Verse 43 reads, “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” Also part of verse 47 says that they had “favor with all the people.” It is clear from this summary that the first church in history was making a sizable impact on the community around them.
The apostles, those who had been with and were sent out by Jesus, were so full of faith and confident in the power that He bestowed upon them that they were able to do many signs and wonders in His name. They were simply trusting in the promise that He made in John 14:12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do…” Because of their belief in Christ, the Apostles were able to perform the same types of miracles that Jesus performed on the earth.
A quick survey of the book of Acts will show that through the first century church and the Apostles who led them- the lame were made to walk (3:7-11), the sick were healed (5:12-16), prisoners were set free (5:19), the blind received sight (9:17-18), demons were cast out (16:18), and even the dead were raised back to life (9:39-42). Is there any wonder why “awe came upon every soul?” Is there any wonder why they had “favor with all people?”
When assessing the health of your own local church consider this question, is your church making an impact? When was the last time you saw someone be raised from the dead? I am kidding. Even the healthiest church of our time lacks the faith necessary to perform such a miracle. Even if your church is not giving sight to the blind or raising the dead, there should be some measurable impact on the world.
If tomorrow your church ceased to exist, how many people would miss it? How many people would go without a gospel witness? How many orphans would go uncared for? How many widows would go unvisited? How many hungry strangers would go unfed? A church that is not reaching out and making an impact on the world around them is a church that has become a social club. It is a church that is sick; one that has lost its vision.
When Jesus established the church, He declared that “the gates of hell would not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). That is precisely what we see in the book of Acts, Jesus’ church storming the gates of hell. We see her prevailing over all the forces of evil causing awe to fall on outsiders and leading them to show favor to believers. Many outsiders would become believers themselves.
Are similar things happening in your church? Is your fellowship of believers making an awe-inspiring impact on the world? Is your church winning the favor of outsiders? If not, then look to God for a vision. Ask Him to show you how to be an agent of change.


The First Attribute of a Healthy Church

My denomination, The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is not really a denomination but a convention of like-minded autonomous churches that voluntarily cooperate together for the purpose of doing the Great Commission. It originated as Triennial Baptist Convention, founded 203 years ago when Baptists came to understand that we could do more together than separately. I love the SBC, and I believe the churches of the SBC are some of the most Christ-centered mission-minded churches in the world.
You may be from one of the 9,000 different denominations that exist in the world or one of the hundreds of thousands of churches that claim no denominational affiliation. Each denomination and each nondenominational church claims to have a healthy grasp of the Christian faith. Whatever denomination you claim, you likely feel the same way about your fellowship as I do about the SBC.
Before there was a Protestant Reformation split off the Roman Catholic Church, there was one united body of Christians in the first century. On the day in which she was born, the day of Pentecost, there were three thousand souls added to her number (Acts 2:41). Over the first three centuries, the first church grew exponentially and evangelized much of the known world.
These days there are all sorts of measurements of church health. Every pastor and layperson who cares wants to get a pulse on whether or not their church is alive or dead, growing or declining, and whether or not they are reaching the world with the message of the gospel. The best measurement of your church’s health is to see how well it stacks up to the healthiest and growing church ever known.
Over the next few weeks, I want to use this space to expound upon Acts 2:42-47. No matter your denominational affiliation, this should help you get a feel for how healthy is your church. Let’s look at the first attribute of a healthy church and we will look at more next week.
1. A healthy church is one where Bible teaching is the lynchpin.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

It says here that the first church was devoted to “the apostles’ teaching.” The apostles, in obedience to the Great Commission, had made disciples, baptized them, and taught them all that Jesus had commanded them. This first church, composed of born again disciples, was careful to observe, learn, practice, and teach what they had been taught. The teaching of Peter, James, John and the other apostles was their lifeblood and the thing they hung onto the tightest.

There was no turning to the right or left. There was no new or strange teaching. Their fellowship was the fellowship that was taught to them. When they observed the Lord supper (the breaking of bread) they did it the way they were taught. They prayed, and when they prayed they did so in the way they were taught.
They were dogmatically conservative of the teaching they received. When they would receive letters from the apostles, they would make copies and circulate them to all the churches in the region. They believed these writings to be inspired of the Holy Spirit, so they took care in the way that they preserved them. Many would give their lives in obedience to what they had been taught, thus strengthening the resolve of the church and authenticating the teaching of the apostles.
The “apostles teaching” is still preserved for us today in twenty-six New Testament writings. Healthy churches still devote themselves to the apostles teaching. In healthy churches, the preaching from the pulpit and the teachings in the small groups (Sunday School) centers around the same teaching of the apostles. On the hearts and minds of the members are the New Testament writings. The way they fellowship, the way they practice the ordinances, and the way they pray are in accordance with the apostles’ teachings.
Ask these questions of your own church. Is the teaching that comes from the pulpit in agreement with the teaching in the New Testament? What about the teaching you receive in your smaller groups? Are the people in your fellowship discussing football more than they discuss scripture? The honest answers to these questions will give you a good idea about the health of your church.


The Fear of Meaningless Success

“I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
-William Carey
Last month I saw this quote was posted in large bold print on a prominent wall in a mission home in Moyo, Uganda. It has permanently gripped my heart and helped me discover what might be my greatest fear. There are two aspects to this fear. In one sense it is a healthy helpful fear; in another sense, it is unhealthy destructive.
It is helpful and healthy to fear succeeding at things that do not matter. Jesus said things like “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul” (Matthew 16:26). He also talked about not storing up treasures for ourselves on earth, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:20). He told us that if our first priority was the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all things would be added to us (Matthew 6:33).
We should rightly be afraid of profiting in worldly things at the expense of our souls. This is probably what William Carey had in mind. He was afraid of laying up finite and perishable treasures. The fruit that he bore as a missionary was the product of his unyielding drive for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. William Carey was able to lay up a vast wealth of treasures in heaven. Indeed, he succeeded at the things that mattered. I pray we could all do the same.
If we are not careful, though, this fear can take us to a dark place. If we overcook the fear of succeeding at things that do not matter, then we will be left with the fear of not mattering. The fear of not mattering is how Satan twists the healthy fear that Carey articulated. He knows the word of God, and the drive of the believer to invest their lives in something greater. What does he do? He twists the word of God to make us doubt.
I cannot tell you how many times I have doubted that what I do matters. When people sleep through my sermons, I wonder, does preaching the gospel even makes a difference. I have had couples leave our counseling session and go straight to a divorce lawyer. It broke my heart and led me to wonder if investing my heart in the lives of others was even worth it. Over my 10 year ministerial career, I have had church members and even fellow staff members undermine decisions and directions that I believed were from God. This has often led me to question my calling and value as a leader in the church.
I am not the only one with these struggles. You too wonder if it is worth it to live your life for Jesus. Satan leads you to doubt that there is any value at all to be gained in investing your life in the Kingdom of God. The culture, over which he lords, leads you to believe that nothing matters except your own health, wealth, and wellbeing. Sadly, he has claimed more than a few preachers of this anti-gospel.
To combat the fear of not mattering and to encourage the drive to succeed at things that do matter, let us end by looking at two pursuits that the Lord says matter most.
1. Knowing Jesus matters. Paul was inspired of the Holy Spirit to write that knowing Him and the power of his resurrection is more valuable than anything this world has to offer. He counted all that he had profited by his birth and by his works to be a loss, to be garbage, compared to what he had gained in knowing Jesus and being found in Him (Phil 3:4-11). Thus, anything that you are doing to know Him and be found in Him has infinite and eternal value.
2. Making Jesus known matters. Romans 10 tells us that no one can be saved who does not believe in Him. No one can believe in Him unless they know Him. No one can know Him unless they hear of Him, and no one can hear of Him unless we preach. That is why it is written, “how beautiful are the feet of those preach the good news” (Romans 10:14-15). If you are obedient to spread the gospel, even if most will not believe, you are successful at something that matters, something that makes you beautiful.


Death is No Match for the Resurrection


Death is an ugly process. It wrecks the body. If you have ever lost someone you love, then you know this. You have seen the sights, possibly even heard the sounds or smelled the smells of death. You may have experienced what it is like to clutch the lifeless hand of your loved one or kiss their cold forehead.
The emotions that seeing death stirs up in the survivors is heart-wrenching. When experiencing the death of a loved one it is difficult to feel anything except defeated and helpless. You may have difficulty imagining them being buried and wonder if they feel cold or lonely. You just wish you could swap places or at least do something for them.
Death is difficult to deal with, but we can find hope in the Scriptures, especially if the one we loved and lost was a believer. It is helpful to remember that our earthly bodies are perishable by design. 1 Corinthians 15:36-37 tells us that earthly bodies are like seeds which are sown into the soil. Eventually, they dry up, die, and disappear, but upon death, they sprout and come back to life as something totally different.
Think about an acorn and its relationship to the thing that it becomes. An acorn is very small. It falls to the ground. As soon as it falls, the little acorn begins to die. It is susceptible to the elemental forces of the world, temperature changes, wind, and rain. It is trampled on and even eaten by the animals of the forest. Eventually, these elements claim the life of the little acorn, and it vanishes. After that, it comes back to life. It sprouts grows roots, then a trunk, then limbs and leaves. Eventually, it grows up into a mighty oak tree, but before it could become a mighty oak tree, the acorn had to fall to the earth and die. It was perishable by God’s design.
So it is with our earthly bodies. They eventually fall, and when they fall they begin to die. Death is imminent as the forces of the fallen world wreak havoc upon the body. In God’s time the body dies and disappears, but for the believer, in God’s time, it comes back to life as something altogether different and more glorious.
This resurrection body for which we hope and long for is all the things that our earthly body is not. Most comforting of all, it is imperishable. If the body is the little acorn that dies, then the resurrection body is the mighty oak tree to which it gives way. The earthly body had to die because like a seed it was a means to something greater. The resurrection body is the thing that is greater. Once resurrected, there is no longer a need for death as there is no longer a need for it to become anything any greater.
It is so comforting for one who is mourning the passing of a believer to understand that their passing, horrific as it may have been, was the means by which they will discover the hope of all mankind. Death claimed their flesh, but not for long. The day is fast approaching when they, like their blessed Savior, will be raised again. Their bodies will be reanimated and come back to life. Their new bodies, like Jesus’, will be different and more powerful. Most importantly their new bodies will be clothed in incorruptible flesh that will never again die.
If you are a believer, then you have this promise. Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” If in this life, we die to ourselves, to any idea that we could save ourselves from death, then we are in effect crucified with Him. Our fate is sealed. Since we have died a death like His, the only thing still standing between us and receiving a resurrection like His is death. For the believer, death is not just a good thing, it is the thing we hope for the most. Knowing Him and the power of His resurrection is more valuable than anything this world offers. Death is a small price to pay to attain the resurrection.