Why Cause Grief?

Obey those who rule over you, . . . for they watch out for your souls. —Hebrews 13:17

Pastors make an easy target for criticism. Every week they are on display, carefully explaining God’s Word, challenging us toward Christlike living. But sometimes we look to find things to criticize. It’s easy to overlook all the good things a pastor does and focus on our personal opinions.

Like all of us, our pastors are not perfect. So I’m not saying that we should follow them blindly and never confront error through the proper channels. But some words from the writer of Hebrews may help us find the right way of thinking about our leaders who are presenting God’s truth and modeling servant leadership. The writer says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account” (13:17 niv).

Think about that. Before God, our pastor is responsible for guiding us spiritually. We should want that burden to be joyous, not grievous. The passage indicates that causing grief for the pastor “would be of no benefit” (v.17 niv).

We honor God and make things better for our church when we give honor to those He has appointed as our leaders. by Dave Branon

Our gracious Father, thank You for the person
You led to our church as pastor. May we provide
encouragement and support, and may You protect
our pastor from error in both word and actions.

Pastors who preach God’s Word need a good word from God’s people.

Blessed Are Those Who Comfort

Bleesed Are Those Who Comfort
Jesus Christ never ceases showing mercy. And He wants you to do the same.

We may think that the bigger a church is, the more it pleases God. But the truth is, He’s far more interested in people than buildings. Creation testifies to this fact. The Lord didn’t create the earth simply to be admired for its beauty, but to be the ideal habitat for the crowning glory of His creation—humankind.

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He also focused on people. Wherever He went, He ministered to those with physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. So doesn’t it make sense that people should be our priority as well? As believers, we are called to build each other up (1 Thess. 5:11) and bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Yet many Christians have developed a “sponge” attitude. They go to church and attend Bible studies, soaking up spiritual truths, yet they never squeeze anything out onto others. God’s Word should change us, and in turn, affect others as we minister to them.

If we’re not careful, we can go through life with blinders on, forgetting that people around us are suffering. Some Christians are quick to claim, “Well, I don’t have the spiritual gift of mercy, so this doesn’t apply to me.” But believers aren’t exempt from the responsibility of spiritual practices, and all of God’s children should be growing in these areas.

If we’re going to learn to be empathetic, we must see others’ situations from their perspective and feel their emotions. Hurting people recognize whether our attempts to comfort are genuine care that flows from an understanding heart, or merely shallow words. We recognize how Jesus could minister with true compassion. After all, He is God. But how in the world are ordinary people supposed to reach out the way He did?

Acknowledge the value of suffering.

One of the Lord’s most surprising and effective ways of developing empathy in us is through suffering. The Bible says God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

Although no one enjoys going through difficulty or pain, who better to empathize with a hurting person than someone who has walked through a dark valley and come out on the other side? Because we’ve shared a similar painful experience, we can assure others that the Lord is sufficient in every situation. All of us who desire to be used by God must submit to brokenness and recognize that ease, comfort, and pleasure aren’t His only plans for our life. He saved us to minister to others, and becoming more empathetic is an integral part of that calling.

Recognize when others are in need.

If we’re going to be effective in expressing empathy, we must first recognize the emotional and spiritual condition of those we’re trying to help. As we walk in the Spirit, living in submission to His authority and being in tune with His still, small voice, He’ll give us the spiritual discernment to view people and their situations from God’s perspective. The Holy Spirit will also touch our emotions, giving us compassion for the hurting and love for the unlovable.

Part of seeing people as God views them is recognizing their potential. When Christ looked at a person, He saw not only the one standing before Him but also the one he or she could potentially become. For example, when Jesus met Peter, the fisherman, He saw a leader of His church. He recognized that Saul, the persecutor, would one day become the evangelistic missionary. That’s why we should never label anyone as a hopeless case. At times, just knowing that someone sees their potential can lift people out of despair and motivate them to become mighty forces in the kingdom of God.

Reach out to help.

In order to build up and encourage others, we need to reach out to them personally. Too often, we try to connect distantly or conveniently through text messages, emails, or even phone calls. But nothing can replace the effectiveness of face-to-face personal interaction. Only then can we see body language and facial expressions that reveal what’s truly going on in the heart. When Jesus reached out to meet people’s needs, He connected on three levels: mentally, by assessing their condition; emotionally, by showing compassion; and physically, by alleviating their suffering.

Be ready to give.

Next, we must be prepared to meet the needs of those who are going through difficulties. However, this requires great spiritual discernment because the most obvious need may not be the most important one. It seems as if the compassionate response would be to alleviate their pain or help them get out of a bad situation. But sometimes God has a purpose to work out in their lives through the trial.

When Jesus was in the country of the Gerasenes, He met a demon-possessed man whose appearance and behavior might have seemed like the major problem (Luke 8:26-35): he was naked, covered in wounds, and screaming wildly. If Jesus had told His disciples to attend to the man’s immediate needs by quickly clothing him, asking him to sit down quietly to eat a meal and talk about what’s bothering him, there would have been chaos. What’s worse, the man would have stayed in his desperate condition. But Jesus met him at the point of his deepest need—spiritual deliverance. After He cast out the demons, everything else fell into place. Like Christ, we have to remember that our good intentions to make people feel better may actually get in the way. But we can’t go wrong when we help them with their spiritual needs.

Make use of difficulties.

We’ve all experienced situations when our needs have been so overwhelming that the only thing we could do was ask for help. But that’s not where God wants us to stay. Once we’ve moved through suffering and received His comfort, He wants us to become comforters to others, thereby completing the cycle of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. After helping a person walk through a dark valley, the next step is to challenge him to use that suffering to help someone else. That’s what Jesus did after delivering the demon-possessed man. He told him, “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you” (Luke 8:39).

Investing in others’ lives is not always easy, and on occasion it can be quite costly. It requires time and emotional energy, but Christ has given us a promise in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you.” This verse isn’t speaking just about money. The Lord will multiply whatever you give in service to Him. If you sacrifice your time to help someone, He’ll give you adequate time for whatever else He knows you need to do. If ministering to someone leaves you emotionally exhausted, He promises renewal. Giving ourselves away to others is not a life of deprivation but one of spiritual growth, joy, and fulfillment.

by Charles F. Stanley

The Saints

“Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 4:21-22)

The apostle Paul typically began and ended most of his church epistles with greetings to and from “the saints.” The context in each case shows that this term was applied to all those who were “in Christ Jesus”—that is, all true Christians. The Greek word hagios meant essentially those people or things that are set aside or consecrated to the Lord. It is frequently translated “holy” and can be applied to objects dedicated to the Lord, as in Hebrews 9:24 (“holy places made with hands”).

The term is applied also to Old Testament believers. At the time of Christ’s resurrection, we are told that “many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matthew 27:52).

Although “saints” should be altogether godly and righteous as well as set aside to the Lord, that is not necessarily always how they act. Thus, special men have been called by God (i.e., pastors, teachers, etc.) “for the perfecting of the saints” (Ephesians 4:12).

Some of these latter have been given the supposedly exclusive right to be called saints by the Catholic church. Other than “St. Mary” and “St. Peter,” the best known of these may be “St. Patrick,” the so-called “patron saint” of Ireland. Patrick was certainly a very zealous missionary, largely responsible for the conversion of the Irish from paganism back in the early fifth century, and all we know about him would confirm that he was indeed a “saint” in the true biblical sense.

Since the sole biblical criterion to be classed as “His saints” is “them that believe,” that includes us! That being the case, should we not be zealous to see that our lives are such as “becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3)? HMM

I beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.—Ephesians 4:1.

KNOWING Thou needest this form, as I Thy divine inspiration,
Knowing Thou shapest the clay with a vision and purpose divine,
So would I answer each touch of Thy hand in its loving creation,
That in my conscious life Thy beauty and power may shine.

LET us examine our capacities and gifts, and then put them to the best use we may. As our own view of life is of necessity partial, I do not find that we can do better than to put them absolutely in God’s hand, and look to Him for the direction of our life-energy. God can do great things with our lives, if we but give them to Him in sincerity. He can make them useful, uplifting, and heroic.

God never wastes anything. God never forgets anything. God never loses anything. As long as we live we have a work to do. We shall never be too old for it, nor too feeble. Illness, weakness, fatigue, sorrow,—none of these things can excuse us from this work of ours, That we are alive today is proof positive that God has something for us to do today.

We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened

We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened. 2 Corinthians 5:4

Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee … Mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. — O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves … which have the first-fruits of the Spirit … groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. — Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.

Shortly I must put off this my tabernacle. — For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

Psalm 38:9,4. Romans 7:24. Romans 8:22,23. 1 Peter 1:6. 2 Peter 1:14. 1 Corinthians 15:53,54.

Thy name is as ointment poured forth

Thy name is as ointment poured forth. Song of Songs 1:3

Christ … hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. — Unto you therefore which believe he is precious. — God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. — In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

If ye love me, keep my commandments. — The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. — The house was filled with the odour of the ointment. — They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. — Emmanuel … God with us. — His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. — The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

Ephesians 5:2. 1 Peter 2:7. Philippians 2:9. Colossians 2:9. John 14:15. Romans 5:5. John 12:3. Acts 4:13. Psalm 8:1. Matthew 1:23. Isaiah 9:6. Proverbs 18:10.