Are you struggling with jealousy? The root of jealousy is fear…the fear of being replaced, discarded, no longer needed or valued. Perhaps the most tragic part of being jealous is that we cease seeing our lives from God’s perspective. Others may replace us, but no one can take our place in the eyes of God. And in the end, that’s all that really matters. He has made each of us a one-of-a-kind original. When we get our eyes back on God we clearly see who we are created to be. As the psalmist wrote, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14a, ESV) Embracing God’s passionate love for you and focusing on who you are to Him, is the best cure for the dead end called: jealousy.
Broken Over Sin
Is your heart broken over things you have done? Are you troubled that you made such a tragic mistake? Though our heart should always be saddened by the sins we have committed, we should not be upset if our heart breaks over our sin. It is only in seeing the depth of our need for Jesus and His extravagant love and forgiveness that we can live a life running toward God and away from destructive behaviors that only lead to regret. A sure sign of deep repentance is always gratitude—a deeper understanding and appreciation of how serious our sin condition is, and how it cost the death of Jesus to rescue us. As He said, only He who is forgiven much, can truly love much. (Luke 7:47)
Recovering From Loss
Every one of us will experience setbacks and disappointments—even devastating losses. How we respond to these heartbreaking situations will determine whether we will lead victorious or defeated lives. Our ability to recover from loss will directly affect our peace of mind. Our speed in recovering from loss will even determine our level of joy. I have found in my own life it’s not only possible to respond faster to life’s devastations, it’s God’s will for my life. I can spend hours, days, months and even years wallowing in disappointments, or I can wade through them in a much shorter period of time. So, what should you do now? Don’t dwell on the time you’ve wasted. Commit to focusing on Jesus and the good He is doing right now.
Breaking the Cycle of Misuse
I want to break the cycle of misuse in my life…the misuse of my God-given time, talents, and treasures. I want to break old patterns and start new ones, to uproot bad seeds and sow good ones. I may try to ignore the law of sowing and reaping, but it won’t ignore me. It will keep growing until I address it! Like our national debt, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Though we all sense our propensity to lose and do what’s wrong, we are created to end up winners. That’s it: I’m a winner who’s learning to respond well to loss. The Bible encourages us, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57. ESV)
All of us have inherited some good seed and some bad seed. Each seed planted in our lives has had a harvest, once again, either good or bad. In turn, we each sow our own seeds. Every conviction we have, or don’t have, is a seed. Every attitude we harbor in our heart is a seed. Every response to life’s circumstances is a seed. Every word we speak and action we take is a seed. Your response to what you are hearing right now is likewise a seed. This seedtime and harvest principle will last our entire lives, so be aware of the seeds you are planting, even today. The Bible says, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22, ESV)
Reaping a Good Harvest
Can you see the value of what God’s doing in your life? If you don’t like your harvest, change your seed. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8, ESV) The Bible wouldn’t say, “don’t be deceived” if it was unlikely. No one says, “watch out for lightning bolts!” Because there’s an extremely low probability you’d be hit by one. But the deception of forgetting or ignoring the fact that we will reap what we sow is always common. All of us have naively thought we wouldn’t reap a certain harvest until reality finally got our complete attention.
Want to know one thing the church and the culture are really in need of? Leaders! Faithful, godly, servant leaders! What’s the #1 reason there are so few? One word: fear! The fear of leading isn’t new. Everyone fights it. From feeble Lot, who lost his family’s respect and became incapable of leading them, to outspoken Peter, warming himself by the fires of the world, denying Jesus, and weeping bitterly. At times we have to hate what we have become in order to embrace what we are meant to be. It will take courage to be a rescuer in this age of rampant numbness! It will take even more courage to first reject numbness in myself. The Bible says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV)
The Decline and Fall of Rome
We can learn a lot from tragic patterns in history, especially so that we don’t repeat them. In the book, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” Edward Gibbon describes five contributing factors to Rome’s demise. The rapid increase of divorce; higher taxes, and spending public monies for free bread and circuses for the populace; the mad craze for pleasure—with sports becoming increasingly more brutal; building a massive military when the real enemy was within—the decadence of the people. And lastly, the decay of religion—faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life and becoming incapable of warning and guiding the citizens of Rome. Certainly, we see these factors in our culture as well, and give us reason for fervent prayer and humble reflection.
Sowing In Obedience
Many years ago, my wife Suzie and I were confronted with a perplexing decision. A businessman had taken funds from his company’s pension fund in order to give us a $25,000 contribution. Though it was a debt we didn’t owe, we believed God wanted us to pay it back. Being financially strapped ourselves, we were only able to give the company $150 a month. We did this for 11 years, prayerfully sowing the much-needed funds as an act of obedience. With 2 1/2 years left, I shared the story for the first time during a weekend message. The next morning, we received a letter saying the company had been dissolved, and that we didn’t need to make any further payments. The letter had been in the mail as I spoke and was such a sweet example of how God always honors obedience.
Do you know the name of the courageous man who first selected the 27 books in the New Testament? The one who spent 17 years in exile fighting heresy within the Church. His name was Athanasius, a short, dark-skinned Egyptian bishop, exiled five times by four Roman emperors. In the end, however, his theological enemies were the ones banished, and his writings shaped the future of the church. Why did he select these 27 books? Because they each affirmed that Jesus Christ was both God and man. Salvation was the real issue: only someone fully human could atone for human sin; only someone fully divine could have the power to save us. The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh.” (John 1:1,14, NKJV)
Is it possible to pursue holiness and scholarship at the same time…to expand both your heart and head? Jonathan Edwards did! He graduated with a master’s degree from Yale when he was just 19. At 17, he said holiness was revealed to him as a ravishing, divine beauty. His heart panted “to lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing, and that God might be all, that I might become as a little child.” Intellect and the pursuit of holiness characterized Edward’s entire life. Yet, Edwards insisted that true religion is rooted in receiving affection from God, and then offering our affection in return, not in reason. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NKJV)
Why doesn’t God punish evil people, swiftly and justly? Why are they allowed to hurt and destroy. The question can best be answered when we consider an evil person we each personally know. Someone we’ve grown up with. We’ve seen, not just their actions, but know intimately their motives. Someone like…us! I am most familiar with an evil person called “me.” The Bible says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, NKJV) How many of you would like God to punish you quickly? Frankly, when it comes to me, I’m more a fan of mercy than judgment. As the Bible teaches, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NKV)