Thanksgiving. It is the start to the most wonderful time of the year! At least it is for our family. It marks the beginning of Christmas decor, setting up the tree, and weight gained because the eating season has also begun! Turkey and dressing, cookies and gingerbread, candy canes and fudge. Can you taste it already?! If we didn’t eat during this time we wouldn’t have one of our greatest New Years resolutions to make: lose weight! It seems like a vicious cycle, doesn’t it? Binge, then diet. Binge, then diet. Feast, then famine.
As with food and our choices to have feast or famine, there are other places in our lives that we experience this as well. Our finances and perhaps living paycheck to paycheck. Relationships can go up and down. Our spiritual life does the same thing. Feast or famine.
Unfortunately, complacency is our default. We are constantly looking for something to spark new life and vision within us.
Whether we are in a feasting season or famine season, God still expects us to be intentional. We are called to be good stewards even if we don’t have a lot. We are responsible for keeping relationships strong in our life. Our spiritual growth is dependent on us. We have our work cut out for us. Thankfully, we don’t have to let our feelings dictate our actions. Don’t let complacency be your default.
Remember the story of the boy with the small lunch. Jesus told his disciples to feed the people. With what? They had nothing, and even with the boys lunch they had a very limited supply. Yet, He still expected them to feed the people. Another story we find at the end of 2 Kings 4.
“Elisha now returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. One day as the group of prophets was seated before him, he said to his servant, “Put a large pot on the fire, and make some stew for the rest of the group.””
Do you see what the condition of the land was? Famine. Destitute. What did Elisha ask of his servant? Feed them.
We have a job and opportunity to love, serve, work, grow, and learn. We are not exempt from these things even in famine times. Peter and John didn’t have silver or gold, but they gave of what they did have and revolutionized a mans life!
Share what you have. Give life. Feed them. Even when you have nothing. Because nothing can become something when God is involved!
A commercial comes on with a man standing in various places of prestige. He is talking to large crowds, in a business meeting with important executives, and making deals that require large financial backing.
He says, “Do you ever wish you had more influence? Do you want more respect from your coworkers, or from those in the same field as you? For $19.95 you can receive my book...”
You get the picture?! To be honest, I would have bought any book he was selling a few years ago! I was not quite in my 30’s, wishing I was. For some reason I thought that the magic number 30, would bring with it influence, position, and authority. I now realize I was wrong on all accounts. And yes, there are great books out there about how to gain influence where you are. *I will share a few of my favorites at the end of this article.
None of the advice I received could measure what one simple passage taught me out of scripture though.
1 Samuel 18:5 “So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely.”
We can gain so much by simply behaving wisely in our everyday lives.
I’m sure we could add to the list, but you get the idea. Look at the next portion of this passage.
“And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.”
I am not talking about behavior modification here. I am saying that we cannot discredit the practical life advice that passages like these give us. You don’t have to look far to see how much influence you could gain by simply following the advice throughout Proverbs and what we would call the wisdom Psalms. For David, it set him over men and gave him the respect of all the people. God wants His people to have great influence to make change for His kingdom. How does this happen? How do we behave wisely? Let’s continue in this passage.
“So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand.”
What is in your hand? What talent and gifting do you have? God has given each of us a unique skill set. Behaving wisely is simply using these things correctly.
This isn’t about the music and spear. I have seen my share of talented and gifted musicians use their music to tear down and destroy. On the same note, I have seen many “spears” used to protect.
The question to ask every single day is this, “What am I doing with what is in my hand?”
God help us to behave wisely in all our decisions and with all the people we encounter!
A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
There are plenty more, but these are some of my favorites. Feel free to list your favorites in the comment section. Also, if you are not subscribed to Craig Groeschel’s Leadership Podcast, do yourself a favor and subscribe now. He gives one of the best 20 min podcasts on leadership, once a month.
Have you ever felt left out? Forgotten? Perhaps your birthday had come and gone and no one seemed to notice?
This feeling can break a lot of us in this life. It may even define us one day if we let it. And it's not just us. I'm sure there are people we do life with everyday that feel the same way. I wonder if we could do something about it?
On the flip side, it is great when you walk into a restaurant, see people you know that offer to pull up another chair for you. Even better if they have to move two tables together to make it work. The idea that they would inconvenience themselves for you is a wonderful feeling!
One day, Jesus was teaching a group of people. Some were tax collectors and sinners, others in the crowd were pharisees and scribes. The tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to Him while the Pharisees and scribes were complaining. (Let's be those that draw near rather than complain!) They said, "this Man receives sinners and eats with them!" Instead of responding directly to this comment, Jesus, in His fashion shares a parable:
"What man among you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."
This man is supposed to have 100 sheep, but recognizes that one is missing.
100 is Complete.
99 is Incomplete.
We must have a change of mindset in our daily life, that we are not complete. Jesus lives this way. He always sees 99, never 100. How do I know this? He is constantly searching that none should perish. He sent his disciples out with this Great Commission (not great suggestion), that they go and preach the gospel, making disciples. As long as we think we are enough and complete, we will never change the world.
So often we are like a sentence fragment. Incomplete.
A sentence fragment is a group of words that look like sentences, but aren't. To be a sentence, groups of words need to have at least one independent clause. An independent clause is any group of words that contain both a subject and a verb. We have the subject: Christ! We know the subject well. We pray to the subject, worship the subject, and teach others about the subject. I don't say that with any sarcasm either. I am thrilled as I watch people engage in worship and study the Word. As a church, I think we have this part down really well. It makes my soul happy. The only problem is that we are still incomplete. We are missing one part to make this a complete sentence, the verb. The verb is where the action takes place.
2 Timothy 3:5 says, "They have a form of godliness, but will deny its power." When we deny its power, we deny people access to Christ. Listen to Acts 1:8, "You will receive power...to be witnesses." We aren't lacking power. That could be an easy fix. When you deny the power altogether, is a scary place to be. You may inadvertently be saying, the power of the cross is not enough to save that person. The work of the resurrection is not enough to restore that relationship. Do you get the point?! We need desperately to be people who always have one more chair, ready to be pulled up at any moment.
In Luke 14, the chapter before this parable, we see another story Jesus tells. "So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and them blind.' And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.'"
Did you catch the two phrases at the end of this story? The servant said, there is still room and the master responded that he wants his house to be filled! Jesus always has one more chair at His table. I'm glad he pulled up a chair for me, now let's do the same for someone else!
Change your perspective. Live incomplete. Let's find the one.
Leah and Rachel
I purposely titled this Leah and Rachel. When we talk through this story in the Genesis 29, we typically say, “Rachel and Leah.” That is incorrect in every way. Leah was the first born. Leah was also the first wife and the first to bear children. For some reason, we insist on putting Rachel first.
She is what we always wanted.
She is what we are working so hard for.
She is the dream about to come true.
She is the promotion right around the corner.
She is the child we have been praying for.
She is what life should be.
Scripture shows us all of this, but I would like us to pause in this passage in Genesis 29:25. I love how the New King James puts it, “So it came to pass, that behold, it was Leah.”
What do you do when you are praying for Rachel but you end up with Leah?
This has been heavy on my heart for some time now. I have talked to so many people who are walking around with Leah wishing they had Rachel. The Joy of serving is gone, the Love and Passion for what they do is no longer evident, and they struggle to make Peace with all of it. Unfortunately, success isn’t easy to define. For one it may be a platform, for another wealth, for Jesus though, it was a cross! Here are a few suggestions to help refocus where you are and understand your Leah situation.
Purpose in Your Pain
I am convinced, that God cares more about developing us than developing our situation. People are His end-game. Maybe you are needing to grow in some area of your life. Perhaps it’s not about you at all. Maybe it is for someone else’s sake? Find purpose through it all.
Fulfillment in the Fruit
If you continue reading this passage, you will find that it was through Leah, that offspring first came, not Rachel. I am reminded of the book Secrets of the Vine, by Bruce Wilkinson. He has a beautiful grape vine growing on his fence. When he sees his neighbor pruning it, he is posed with this question, “Do you want a beautiful vine or fruit? You can’t have both.”
Here is Not Home
When did we start living for ‘here?’ I didn’t realize that ‘here’ was our forever home. I am thankful that this life is not all that there is! Remembering that helps me make it through the storms. We have a glorious day approaching that should enable and empower us to make it through any and all situations this world might throw at us.
Remember, what the world defines as success doesn’t always line up with God’s definition of success. Don’t use that as a cop-out to not work hard, pray hard, and serve well. Trust God through it all and learn to embrace your Leah while waiting for your Rachel.