I find a great deal of joy in my volunteer work. I get to work with a number of long term and short term volunteers. Often times we get people who show up for just a couple hours and that is great. I appreciate their time. Sometimes we get people who don’t know what they are getting into or just don’t want to be there and thus have a bad attitude. I appreciate their time as well. I try not to differentiate which ones will serve me but just treat their time as valuable. Not true of everyone I work with as they will dismiss people just by their look. Recently this happened in the case of a young volunteer who was in elementary school and only signed up for a couple hours. Small and unassuming. My partners dismissed him as worthless. I had other ideas.
Matthew 10:30-31 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” We are valued by God. He even sent Jesus as a sacrifice. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” We are worth the life of the Son. Consider that for a moment. This is priceless. Jesus understood the value of individuals and was willing to die for each of us. His life reflected love for us. Jesus embraced everyone including children. I try to reflect this in the way I treat others.
How foolish it is to dismiss anyone as not worth it. I was determined to show this young person that he was valued. On this day we were planting so we set to our task. To my surprise, this young man proved himself energetic. We moved quickly and efficiently. I showed him how to plant. He taught me how to count to 59 in Spanish. We talked about our common interest in animals. It was a joy to work with this young man. I hope he had a great time and would want to volunteer more in the future. He left after a couple hours as I continued to plant. I grinned as I realized how blessed I was to have had the privilege of working with this nice young man. I was glad I did not dismiss his value. I hope to see him again.
True story. I do a lot of weeding. Looking around for plants that don’t belong. There is one weed in particular that is very elusive. It is much easier to see in the sunlight. The other day I was pulling weeds but the day was mostly overcast. It was very difficult to locate the elusive plants. Then it happened. The sun peeked out for just a few seconds revealing a small area covered by the weed. I dove in and started pulling. I got only one as clouds covered the sun. Annoyed, I angrily scoured the area for the rest. It took forever to find everything without the light of the sun and I could not be sure I got them all. I harrumphed as I moved on to another area.
Sure enough the same scenario! I dove in to get one weed when the light disappeared. Doubly annoyed I searched as best I could for the rest. No telling how many I missed without the light I needed. I moved on hoping I got them all but not confident. In another area, it happened again. This time I laughed out loud. “God! You are so funny!” I grinned as I dove in after the weeds and the light disappeared. Scouring the area I wondered … Did God really have a sense of humor?
There are definitely things I find funny in the Bible. The only answer I could come up with was this, Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image…” People have a sense of humor (for the most part) so you might be able to infer that we get this from God’s ability to make things humorous. Definitely, something to think about. It made some sense. But there is more.
I finished as best I could and began to walk away. As I did, the sun came out again. Brighter and longer than any other time that day. I turned around expecting to be able to finish the job, only to find the job complete. I did find at least a majority of the weeds without sunshine. As I viewed the area a number of things dawned on me. John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness…” God makes light and reveals Himself in really cool ways. I had a certain amount of apprehension about what I was doing. John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” I was in an environment I love, doing something I like, yet I was having attitude. Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I then wondered. Coincidence or was He helping me get my job done by leading me to the areas that needed attention? No humor intended? Also, I realized that I had been doing my job angrily. James 1:20 “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
Perhaps God was bringing light to my foolish behavior? Maybe some combination of those things. I’m not sure. As I surveyed the area, thinking about the nature of God and how He can take a simple task and reveal concepts that help me, I thanked Him for light, help, peace, correction, as well as the ability to laugh.
When I was presented with the truth about Jesus, it amazed me. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” How cool was it that God provided a simple answer to my biggest problem. I could not save myself. I simply was not enough, I already knew it as fact and Christianity had provided me with the very easy way to solve the issue that I had been struggling with. It was great! Thank you God! It was smooth sailing from here! Or was it?
It wasn’t too long after my conversion that I hit a snag. I started encountering roadblocks, temptations and doubts. What had I done! I wanted to get away! This was too hard! I thought this was supposed to be easy! Not at all what I signed on for. There was a part of me that wanted to abandon my new found faith and join my friends at their parties and fun loving, do what you want, easy life. In fact, I did walk away for a time but it turns out to be a lonely place. Separation from God was not what I wanted either. God was simply showing me that conversion wasn’t enough. James 2:26 “…faith without works is dead.” It was work to be a Christian, but I would learn that it was worth it in every way.
Little by little I gave up things because I thought I should. Out of guilt perhaps. It made me realize, though, that it was for my own good. 1 Timothy 1:8 “We know that the law is good…” There are reasons for the rules and regulations. God made them for my benefit. Sure, I could choose and did choose to ignore them but I realize now that allowing God to change you is hard sometimes but the benefits are real and long lasting. Experience has proven to me that I am so much better off doing what God asks of me rather than follow my own desires. It’s both easy and difficult at the same time. I will always have something to work on. I will never get there on my own. If I love and trust God, He will continue to help me get better at life. Striving for God’s kingdom is worth the struggle.
I used to begrudgingly follow God’s leading. Now I gladly seek out those areas God would have me work on. Proof is in the pudding. Chances are you are struggling with something right now. You know that God is calling you to make some change or take some action. To claim a slogan … “Just do it!” God will bless you. You won’t regret it. James 1:22 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, but not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
During the last major economic recession, I noticed something disturbing. Many more people were committing suicide. The University of Oxford estimated that 10,000 people committed suicide due to the bad economy. It seems like some people base their value on how much their personal bank account holds. When a persons bank account falls to zero then their self worth equals zero. I would suggest that we do not know what hitting rock bottom looks like and we are more than the value of our bank account.
Familiarize yourself with the story of Job. He was a righteous man who lost everything. Money, family, health and friends. In the world’s view he had gone from fame to misfortune in a most extreme way. To his credit, Job never lost faith. Hebrews 13:5 “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have…” We are called to be satisfied with whatever God gives us. Phillipians 4:11-13 “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity: in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” This is powerful! In whatever situation you are in, God will strengthen you. No matter how low you think you are, God still has you. The Bible even says that being poor is a blessing. Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But, also consider this. Being rich can be a curse. Mark 10:23 “…How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” So be careful what you wish for. The wealthy have a heavy burden and their money can actually blind them to truth. I recently read a Psychology Today article which found that making more money does bring with it a certain amount of satisfaction but does not bring you happiness. What people don’t realize is that the more you have, the more responsibility you have to spend it wisely. The stuff rich people buy are huge distractions from the important things.
1. List some ways that money and/or things it buys distract you. If necessary ask forgiveness and for God to help you in this area.
2. Write down some things you have that you are thankful for. (Health, family, food, etc.)
3. Dwell on and be thankful to God for providing your every need.
I have never really looked poorly on rich people because they have money. I do, however, often wish I had the things they can buy like cars and vacations. I don’t believe it’s wrong to have stuff. God has graciously provided finances to people in varying levels but I do realize that the pursuit of that stuff is not a worthy goal in itself. Romans 9:15 “I show mercy on whom I have mercy and I have compassion on whom I have compassion” I don’t know why God chooses some to have more than others. I just try to be faithful with what I have been given plus realize that more stuff is not necessarily good as it distracts me from God.
My prayer is that I would see God clearly in my affluence and appreciate whatever blessings He gives me.
Conclusion to Financial Freedom:
Money is a blessing no matter how much you have and there is so much in the Bible about it. I would encourage you to seek more wisdom about money. It is an area we should all seek God’s leading to grow in. What I shared is only scratching the surface. Be a good steward of the things God has provided and be wise with it. Make your resources an act of worship and you will find contentment in it.
When I was young, little was asked of me. I could come and go as I pleased, watch TV or do nothing at all if I so desired. I grew into a bit of a sluggard. It would infuriate me when people would even ask for help. Even into my adult years my initial reaction to the word help is one of negativity. I felt that my time was my own and I should be able to do what I want with it. Any extra burden placed on me is greeted with a certain amount of angst. I have to be reminded of some things.
1 Corinthians 10:26 “The earth is the Lords and all it contains.” This place I live in is not my own to do with as I like. 1 Corinthians 15:58 “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” God calls us to use our resources to his work. Time is one of our most precious, so why not tithe it. Giving up money seemed easy comparatively but time is a resource we cannot make more of. This was a difficult concept to swallow for me. I needed a change of attitude.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” One of the things I needed to dwell on was eternity. The time I am here is miniscule compared to eternity. In the grand scheme of things we are not really talking about that much time. Matthew 6:20 “…store up your treasures in heaven…” God was calling me to tithe my time. The things we do in this life matter in heaven. I wanted to work harder at those things that impact eternity. It sounded worth my time.
1. Pray that God would move you to tithe your time.
2. When you come across an opportunity to help, prayerfully consider how to proceed remembering that what you do impacts eternity.
3. Seek out some way to serve over the next couple of weeks. It does not need to be complicated or time consuming. Serve at a homeless shelter, pull weeds at church or help a friend move.
I started off simple but wanted something regular. I volunteered with a ministry that I was already participating . Sports at church. All I did was organize equipment and clean areas that often got forgotten. It was only a couple hours a week commitment. I could do the work with whatever my schedule would permit. I discovered something in my serving … JOY! I was having fun and it was reward in itself. It was only a little time and no pressure. I later moved on to varying levels of service with youth, maintining flower beds and setting stages. According to huffpost.com there are many benefits to serving … happiness, reduced stress, pain relief, longer life, lower blood pressure and others. Corporations are figuring this out and pay their employees to serve. Imagine that … corporations are figuring out that following God’s word make them money. Maybe Presidents and CEOs should read the Bible for insights about business.
Now I do nothing but volunteer. I have been called a philanthropist but I look at it as doing what God wants me to do. I thrive when I am serving others. It brings me great satisfaction to be able to help. Not everyone has this luxury to only serve but we need to be reminded that God calls us to service and that our time is not our own. Give it a try. Tithe your time. The reward is real.
My prayer for you is that you will serve joyfully and experience an abundance in your time that only God can provide.
This is a guest post from Bethany. She is a senior in college studying History and World Religion. Right now it is her ambition to work in the missionary field. I am very proud of Bethany for making her parents’ God, her own.
The other day my dad came to ask me if I would do a post for his blog. Now at first when he asked I was like absolutely not, what do I, a senior in college, have to say. God had other plans though. I felt I needed to write this piece, not because I am an expert or because I have figured it all out, but because I have messed this up multiple times and I know what it is like to ignore what He is saying. I have also seen the amazing things that He can do when we do listen.
God wants us to prosper. Now this doesn’t mean He wants to make us all millionaires, but it means He wants us to improve and grow in all areas of our lives. It says in Matthew 7:7-11 how God will give us good gifts, even better ones than our earthly fathers can. He knows what we need and what we desire.
Now one would think we would trust a father who wants us to prosper and who wants to bless us, but we don’t. We ignore what He is telling us and ignore the good gifts He has already given us. We desire to follow Him, but we don’t do anything to do so. I have seen many believers with passionate hearts to love and follow the Lord, but then I look at their lives and something doesn’t match up. They say they love God and will do anything for Him, but then they are unhappy and broken. God isn’t a god of bondage and brokenness. He is a god of healing and freedom. This begs the question of what is happening.
How many times have you read the same passage in your Bible? How many times will it take before you really see it? I have listened to people go on about how God has convicted them on something, but then I watch them continue to act in the same way. They talk about Matthew 6:5-8 which warns us about being a hypocrite in prayer. The Pharisees would stand out on the corners and pray so that they could be seen by others. The same person who explains they have been convicted of this is seeking my praise on their prayer life. I may be wrong, but didn’t God just convict them of this. I have seen this in my own life, reading Matthew 6:12,14-15, about how we must forgive our debtors or God will not forgive us. I have read this numerous times, but I convince myself it can’t be talking about me. I make excuses, “Well that person really hurt me so I don’t have to forgive them” or “They deserve my unforgiveness because of what they did.” These are lies that I convince myself of because I don’t want to forgive. I value myself as better than them not realizing that I have also sinned. I don’t deserve the forgiveness God grants me, but He still gives it to me.
When reading the Bible, it is easy to put distance between ourselves and what it is saying. It is easy to do our morning bible study and walk away never thinking about what we just read. God didn’t intend for this. The Bible is not just another book on our to-read list. The Bible is meant to change our lives. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This is something powerful we have been given. Are we going to waste it?
The next time you sit down with your sword in your hand, don’t just read it, but allow it to change you. A key to growing with God is your heart position. Go into it open to what God has to show you. Be willing to be changed. It may be uncomfortable, but it is worth it.
Now with anything remember to pray. We are human. This means we will mess up and we will continue to miss things, but it doesn’t mean we have no hope. Luckily, we have God and James 1:5 says He will give wisdom generously to those who ask. So start asking. Let God change your life and take action with what He shows you. God won’t force you to choose Him. He won’t force you to answer His call, but remember this is a father who wants to give you an abundance of good gifts. Start living the Bible and you will be shocked at what you find.
I pray for all of us as we open our hearts to your will. I pray the next time we open our bibles that we see it in a new light. I pray we start acting on the things we see and start living a life that is yours, in Jesus name.
I sometimes get this nagging in my thoughts. It’s as if I cannot reconcile what I perceive as true with my religion. They just don’t want to mix into the world I call reality. There are subjects and situations that rattle my faith a bit. Some even seem like contradictions to the things I believe. It makes me wonder if I have it right. Do atheist have it more worked out than Christians? I don’t think so. Here is where faith goes to work. Matthew 17:20 “…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there and it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you.”
There are a few things in life that I don’t understand. Things that would by themselves cause me to leave my religion as a whimsical experiment in futility. However, compared to the myriad of proof for the existence of God and the deity of Jesus, these few things pale in comparison. As an example, Charles Darwin’s life was rocked to the core when he wrote “The Origin of Species”. He lost his faith based on his failure to understand truth. He simply could not reconcile his theory with that of the current churches belief. Darwin’s mistake was that he never considered that there might be other explanations to his new understanding and ignoring the myriad of proof to support faith in a God that transcends the church of man. He lost his faith based on his inability to reconcile the things he had been told and what he knew as true even though God’s truth was staring him in the face.
2 Corinthians 4:8 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing.” When I am presented with something I cannot explain that challenges my faith I don’t panic. I remember the myriad of things that far outweigh my limited understanding. My faith is more than what my church tells me it is. It stands on the repeated promises God has fulfilled, not only in history but proven in my own life and others. This type of challenge to my belief is good. It forces me to reconcile what I think I know with truth that is God’s alone. I need to be reminded that God exists and I am not Him. Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” For now I will try to be content with what God thinks I’m ready for and trust He has these things I don’t understand in His good hands.