“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Gods’ varied grace….” 1 Peter 4:10
My devotional reading today was on the book of Jonah, and I’m actually going to be teaching about that book in adult Sunday School in a few weeks … funny how God sends us these little messages, isn’t it? He knows just what we need at any given time. Anyway, the gist of the article was grace. God extended His grace to Jonah, even though he was a sulky and reluctant prophet. He saved him from the belly of the whale, he sent a plant to shade him … Jonah didn’t deserve those things. He tried to run from his calling. He wasn’t very appreciative of Gods’ care. The very worst thing about Jonah — although he accepted Gods’ grace, he was angry when God extended that same grace to the people Jonah hated, the Assyrians.
I think there’s a lesson in this. In the verse above, Peter calls us stewards of Gods’ grace. We’ve all received gifts. I know that I have certain talents, and I also have my health, a good bit of free time as a retiree, an adequate income. Since all these are gifts of Gods’ grace in my life, I need to share them willingly when I see a need. In fact, I should be excited when I can spread some of Gods’ grace around. Most of all, I should be excited to share the good news of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. That’s truly amazing grace.
Unfortunately, I’m often like Jonah. I may be willing to share with those I love, or those I find deserving. I’m less willing to share with people I don’t know, don’t like or find unworthy in some way. Why should I serve them? They don’t deserve it and may not appreciate it. However, here’s the thing — it’s only grace because we don’t deserve it. If we could earn grace, we wouldn’t need God (or anyone else) to give it to us.
So today, let’s spread some grace around: lend a hand; forgive; bake some cupcakes for your neighbor; give up your place in line. You need it; I need it; everyone needs it, whether they know it or not.
The topic of this month reminds me of something that I change more than anything else in my life: my diet. As many thirty-something woman know, the quest to remain thin, pretty, and ‘young’ often pervades our minds to the point of obsession. We no longer have that long-missed metabolism that allows us to eat double hamburgers and coke without the thought of weight gain. As a result, I have tried almost every diet possible to obtain my previously thin frame. I have been a Cross Fit athlete, ate nothing but protein bars and chicken, been vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and almost everything else in between. It is practically a running joke with my family. At every visit, they have to inquire as to what my current ‘taboo’ foods are. Well, on my last visit, my family and I discussed a passage from 1 Peter, Chapter Three:
3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
Although perhaps not directly related to dieting, this scripture does make me think of the sins of vanity and pride. I am a happily married woman, healthy, and able-bodied. Focusing on outward appearances is not what God wants from us. God wants for us to believe in his word, follow his commandments, and above all, to be in service to others through him. This verse reminds to pay attention to the important things in my life. Time on a scale could be better spent calling up a neighbor to check on them. An hour fixing my hair and make-up would be better spent communing with friends and family. As stated by a Facebook Meme that I once read: Mother Theresa was not worried about the size of her thighs- she had things to do! With this in mind, I work daily to improve myself in the way that God would want, not in the way that my sinful self seeks. After all, when I stand at the gates of heaven, I don’t expect to be asked to weigh in! :))
Years ago, when our younger daughter Kate(now one of the Lutheran ladies) had just started high school, I received a phone call from the school office. I was told that Kate would be suspended for three days because she was caught smoking. The school secretary was somewhat apologetic, probably because Kate was a good student, and explained the punishment was mandatory. She added “We want you to know that Kate was very respectful and polite when we questioned her.”
Of course, I was unhappy and disappointed. However, I know that teenagers push the boundaries and I trusted Kate would learn from her mistake and its’ consequences. Surprisingly, the school called me back later the same day to say they had been wrong, and Kate would not be suspended. Kate insisted that she was not smoking. Because of her past history and her courteous behavior, the principal spoke with the coach who reported the smoking incident. She had seen Kate with a group of students who were smoking, and assumed Kate was also. She admitted she did not actually see Kate with a cigarette.
By this time you’re probably wondering, “and what is the point of this story?” Well, here it is: Kate’s prior behavior and courtesy earned her a hearing. The school took a second look at the evidence and realized Kate was telling the truth. As Christians we can learn a lesson from this. The Bible tells us:
“… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”(1 Peter 3:15).
People will not listen to the good news of the gospel from a person they perceive as self righteous. They will not listen to a person who buries them in Bible verses without giving them a chance to respond. They will not listen when they are treated as if the views they hold are ignorant or stupid.
Many people today know practically nothing about Christianity beyond generalities that they accept as truth. They’ve heard a lot of New Age nonsense about what it means to be spiritual. They may have been told that all religions are the same, just different paths to God. To them the Bible is simply another book they haven’t read and they have no incentive to accept what it says. To give them “ears that can hear” we must first earn their trust. We must listen to them respectfully, and then, when the opportunity presents, gently explain our own beliefs. We can tell them about our personal experiences and the things we know to be true as witnesses, not theologians or even students of the Bible. We can answer their questions without being condescending. If our attitude and behavior is caring, kind, and humble it may lead some to take a closer look at what we have to say. Then we can trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
If you are shy (like I am), you may try to avoid the whole issue of witnessing by telling yourself, it’s just not my gift. Evangelism is listed as a distinct ministry in Ephesians 4:11-12
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ..”
However, years ago I attended a witnessing workshop at my church. The big take away I got was this: we are not all evangelists, but we are all witnesses. Why? Well, a witness is simply someone who has seen an event and is therefore able to testify about it. As Christians every one of us has seen what Christ has done in our own life. We all have a testimony to give. It doesn’t mean speaking before crowds, knocking on doors or randomly stopping strangers to explain the plan of salvation. It does mean:.
“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15
You can keep it simple. You don’t have to know everything. You just have to know what Jesus Christ means to you. Even the apostle Paul, who was a gifted evangelist said:
“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2
So, be ready. Know the basics. Look for opportunities. Banish fear and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide you. You are a witness.
Who exemplifies this verse to you? It always makes me think of my mother. She is in a nursing home now with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, but that gentle and quiet spirit still shines through.
How does the Bible describe gentleness?
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Many people in mom’s situation are angry and frustrated. They act out and make difficulties for those around them. I know mom is frustrated, too, when she cannot find the words to tell us what she wants, or can’t remember the answer to a question we ask. Yet, I have never seen her behave in an angry, rude or confrontational way.
“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
Mom has always been a humble person, never one to be demanding, or put herself first. She bears with her situation patiently.
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to be gentle and show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Titus 3:1
Once again, gentleness seems to be associated with courtesy. My mom’s behavior always taught me to be kind and courteous to others. Courtesy doesn’t seem to be valued these days, but it can go a long way toward winning someone over. Listen to this:
“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you: yet do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15
Being gentle will further our witness to Christ. Who has taught you the art of being gentle? We want to hear your story.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor rulers, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
When our daughter, Beth was a youngster, she took clowning lessons. One of the classic clown skits she learned was entitled, “Dead or Alive?” The humor of the skit arose out of a dichotomy – a clown who is seemingly dead – stiff and unmoving through a variety of physical manipulations – is ultimately revealed to be alive.
The surprising thing about Christians is that we, too, may be dead in the eyes of the world – friendless, destitute, depressed, afflicted by debilitating illness—and yet remain alive. That is because God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3 At Easter we express this hope in the ringing statement: He is risen! He is risen indeed! Jesus who seemed to be dead is alive and He is with us in every circumstance or trial. Even our physical death will not be able to separate us from Him and His love. Our hope in Christ is the one hope that will never disappoint us.
Dear Jesus, Thank you for your love and your continuing presence in my life.
For further reading check out: Job 19:25-27 Psalm 16:8-11 John 15:9-10 Hebrews 6:19-20