1 Thessalonians 5:11
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Do you have a friend that is there for you? A friend that continues to text you even though you don’t text back till like three days later? Do you have that friend in your life that loves you even though you’re not always the best friend back?
I do, her name is Grace. She is the very best friend I could ask for. Grace is the kind of friend that is intentional, loving and always there for you. She is the type of friend that continues to reach out to you and loves you no matter what. She has taught me so much about what it means to be a friend.
When I think about Grace’s friendship I’m reminded of God’s Grace in our life. God is very intentional about his relationship with us. He loves us unconditionally even though we don’t deserve it. God gives us this wonderful gift of salvation and forgiveness despite our flaws and downfalls. This gift of grace allows us to realize our human weaknesses and failures but know that God still loves us and desires us to have a relationship with him.
I’m so grateful for my friend Grace’s continued, intentional friendship despite my flaws. In the same way I’m so thankful for God’s Grace in my life.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
Today we are talking about the New Year’s resolution of making better investments. This is a common resolution in the world whether people are people of faith or not. However I am going to talk about faith investments, more than monetary investments. Yes finances and being responsible are important in our lives and in our faith, however we need to be able to ask God for guidance in all areas of our lives including that one and we need to be flexible enough to listen to him.
At the start of the New Year one of my friends asked God, “Where and in whom should I invest my time, in 2018?” My thought was this, invest your time in the people who will give your time more meaning than just the time that they spend with you. Yes sometimes it is nice to have friends and family who will spend time with you, without there being a specific reason or purpose. However, you need to truly invest your time and energy in the people who will do something big with that time, not necessarily for you but maybe for them and their future. Today we are reading from Matthew 25:14-30. This passage is the parable of the talents. It is about the Master who gave 3 servants different number of talents, which were a type of coin. One was given 5, one was given 2, and one was given 1. The one with 5 invested them and doubled the money. The second servant did the same. The last servant buried the 1 talent in the ground, he did not even put it in the bank to at least collect interest. The first servant proved himself and so the master gave him even more, but to the last servant he gave him nothing, and he actually threw him out into the darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (That seems a little harsh to me, but the reality is life can be pretty difficult sometimes.)
I take a few things from this parable. 1.) Make smart choices and smart investments in your life, and take care of things that people entrust you with. The servants who made their master happy increased the master’s wealth, but they also did not lose the money that he gave them because they were proactive and took care of what they were entrusted with. The servant who did not make his master happy, did nothing with what he was given. This is what we should pay attention to. God gives us a lot of things. He gave us a life to live, and he has a plan for each of us. If you are not listening to him, how are you taking care of the gift that he has given you? If you are not taking care of the earth, and being conscious of how your actions affect other people and other creatures, how can you be taking care of a gift that was given to you? You are not. Think about this as you go about your daily life. How can you take care of the life you have been given? How can you listen to and follow God’s plan for your life?
2.) Invest in the people who are going to give you more than just time. Invest in the people who are going to give you wholesome friendships. Invest in the people that push you to be a better person, and those who hold you accountable to the things that you see. Invest in people who will push you in your relationship with God, and invest in those who will support you when you fall. We are imperfect beings and we will fall short sometimes. We will not always meet others’ expectations of us, God’s expectations or even our own expectations. Those will be difficult moments, but they will be easier to face if we have surrounded ourselves with people who will support us. It will also be easier if we have nurtured those relationships and given them the time that they deserve.
3.) Invest in God. This seems simple, and you’re probably going to guess what I am going to say. A relationship with God is not a one way street. You can not accept that Jesus is your savior and the son of God, and that God is one and only God, and not do anything else. You have to live a life with works. James 2:17 “Even so, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” This means investing in time in prayer, and in time in the word, and even in time with other believers in fellowship. Find little ways to do more of these in your daily life. Later in the week we will talk more about how to do more in the investment of your relationship with God, as we enter into this new year.
As a soldier, you would never storm the enemy by yourself. You need a team standing beside you to support you, uplift you, and challenge you. Spiritual battles are the same; you cannot stand alone. There is always safety in numbers, as the enemy hunts for those who are outcast. Connection, both to each other and to God, is the best defense against the enemy.
Yesterday’s devotion was about how the people of the early church were persecuted, yet stood in boldness. They were able to stand so boldly because they stood together. In Acts chapter 2, we are given an inside look into just how connected the Church was:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).
The early believers were an impenetrable front. They ate together, prayed together, performed miracles together, gave generously together, met in the temple together, and praised God together. The Church, being the people and not the building, is the Bride of Christ. If Jesus was so passionate about believers meeting together, I think we should be, too. The depth of this connection that we have with each other is ultimately dependent on the depth of our connection to God.
“The Kingdom of God is not going to be advanced by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God.” –Duncan Campbell
Connection to our Creator is the first priority. Connection to God, like connection to the Church, doesn’t come without effort. Building a strong relationship takes time and an open line of communication, prayer. Your prayer life is the biggest factor of your connectedness with God, which then strengthens your connection to your fellow believers.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
Many years ago, a precious lady in our church was coming to the end of her battle with cancer. One of her closest friends, also from our church, was sharing that she had been to her bedside to visit. While she was there our friend said that she could no longer pray for herself. The visiting friend reassured her that she had fought the good fight, she had finished the race and she had kept the faith, but it was time for her to rest and others would be praying on her behalf.
I’m not sure why this has stuck with me for probably longer than 20 years. Maybe it’s because I know that the bond of friendship between these two Godly women had endured a great many of life’s other trials as well as celebrations.
In Mark chapter 2 we see another wonderful example of friendship. Four friends going to extreme measures to bring another man to the Great Physician. Because of their faith, the man with the physical disability was healed and the five of them walked out of the room together. Can you imagine the celebration that took place among them and their families?
I realize that many lessons from Mark 2:1-5 have been taught about faith and the healing powers that Jesus demonstrated on that day. But to me, my attention always gets drawn to the message of how important friendships are.
We are not meant to walk our faith out in isolation. Faith is meant to be experienced in community. I know I said this in yesterday’s post, but we need others of like-minded faith, by our sides. This is so, so important. Our friends in the faith are who keep us on track, who support us when life gets tough, and who help us cheer when life is spectacular. And just as importantly, we do the same for them.
My prayer for you is that you have a network of people with whom you can do life together.
In between the battle, the fall of a city, and betrayal I think I managed to find something slightly more positive within these stories to make into a life applicable lesson! A little rose among the thorns if you will…
If you read carefully, these chapters in Jeremiah actually speak a lot on friendship.
In chapter 38, we see a man named Ebed-Melek who managed to convince a king to let him save Jeremiah. This didn’t seem like a big deal to me until I did a little more research on who Ebed-Melek was. From the text we know that he was a Cushite and an official (or eunuch, according to the notes in my Bible) in the royal palace. I really didn’t understand what the significance of this meant at first. I won’t take up most of the devotional explaining* but from the information I read, Ebed-Melek was not high up on the chain of command AT ALL. Why does this matter? Because he went to see the king…someone with as little “importance” as himself went up to the highest ruler in his city to ask to save Jeremiah. And he did! “Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” And Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern…” (Jeremiah 38:12-13)
Because of this, God promised that Ebed-Melek would be saved from the destruction of the city. “But I will rescue you on that day, declares the LORD; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 39:17-18)
In chapters 40 and 41 we see how Johanan tried desperately to be a good friend to Gedaliah. He warned Gedaliah about Ishmael’s plan to kill him, and even offered to “take care” of the problem. “But Gedaliah son of Ahikam said to Johanan son of Kareah, ‘Don’t do such a thing! What you are saying about Ishmael is not true.'” (Jeremiah 40:16) Have you ever disregarded a friend’s advice because it wasn’t what you wanted to hear? Unfortunately for Gedaliah, this ended up costing him his life. He trusted Ishmael, he invited him to eat with him on the same day that Ishmael struck him down. Even after Gedaliah was assassinated, Johanan was still loyal to him and went out to do what he could to save the rest of the people.
Just in these four chapters we see two amazing stories of friends. The people we spend our daily lives with, our friends, make a huge impact in our lives. When you look around at your friends, do you see people like Ebed-Melek and Johanan who are willing to take risks and will stay by your side no matter what? Or do you see people like Ishmael who you want to trust but may not be the best to have around? If you see some Ishmael’s… do you need to make a change before it’s too late for you?
“Friends are the roses of life, pick them carefully to avoid the thorns!” -Unknown
*You should do your own research, it makes the whole story a lot more impressive if you ask me!
(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/jeremiah-39-and-52/)