‘…Jesus…went around doing good…’ Acts 10:38 NIV
Your value in God’s eyes was established at the Cross. The Bible says, ‘He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?’ (Romans 8:32 NIV) Notice the words ‘all things’. We are all equal in Christ. But when it comes to your career, your value is determined by the problem you solve. That’s why we pay a cardiologist more money than a chef in a fast–food restaurant. Jesus was a problem solver. People were spiritually hungry so He said, ‘…I am the bread of life…’ (John 6:35 NIV) They were sick so He ‘went about doing good…healing all.’ He discerned what He had, that others needed, and provided it for them. What do you have to offer? What would you attempt to do if you knew it was impossible to fail? You are not here by accident. God told Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ (Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV) Everything God makes is to meet a need and solve a problem. So what are you called and gifted to do? That’s where you’ll find your highest level of joy! Think of your contribution to others as an assignment from God. Paul made tents to support his ministry. So your ministry may be supported by your job. But whether you are in a full–time ministry or a part–time ministry, don’t leave this earth until you have found and fulfilled what God called you to do.
‘…If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…’ Romans 12:8 NLT
Leadership in business, politics and public service doesn’t automatically qualify you for leadership in church. J Oswald Sanders says, ‘The overriding need of the church… is for a leadership that’s authoritative, spiritual and sacrificial.’ Let’s look at each of those qualities: (1) Authoritative leadership. People respect leaders who are certain about where they’re going, and inspire confidence in those who choose to follow them. Tentative leaders don’t motivate others to get on board and stay on board. Uncertainty confuses and disheartens followers. People follow, almost without question, someone who’s wise, strong and faithful to what he or she believes. (2) Spiritual leadership. We’re attracted to leaders who are gifted and charismatic. But these natural characteristics alone aren’t enough. Followers can be captivated by human traits—often to their own cost. Don’t settle for being a popular ‘Pied Piper’. Godly leaders are committed to connecting their followers with Jesus, not with themselves! Do your people know, love and serve God more because of your leadership? If so, you’re a godly leader. (3) Sacrificial leadership. Would you still lead if, like Paul, you were betrayed, falsely accused, beaten, half–drowned, starved, stoned and left for dead? Godly leaders lead when it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, unrewarding and costly. They’re dedicated to the sheep they’re responsible for, and the ‘Chief Shepherd’ they’re responsible to! They recognise that Jesus drafted and modelled the prototype of godly leadership at the cost of His own life: ‘To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.’ (1 Peter 2:21 NIV)
‘…Having believed, you were marked…with a seal…’ Ephesians 1:13 NIV
If you are having doubts about your salvation, understand this clearly: the moment you trusted in Christ as your Saviour, His blood cleansed you from all sin. At that point ‘you were marked…with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…guaranteeing [your]…redemption.’ (Ephesians 1:13–14 NIV) The Bible says, ‘You should not be like cowering fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into His family—calling Him, “Father, dear Father!” For the Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we will share His treasures—for everything God gives to His Son, Christ, is ours too.’ (Romans 8:15–16 NLT) In the book of Ruth we read that ‘the custom…in Israel concerning redeeming…[was] one man took off his sandal…gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation…’ (Ruth 4:7 NKJV) Notice, the ‘redeemer’ put on another man’s sandal, signifying his willingness to stand in his place. That’s what Jesus did for us at the cross. He stood in our shoes so we could stand before God in His—redeemed and righteous! Don’t let doubt steal your joy. Refuse to go by your feelings. Make up your mind to believe what God says, for until you do you’ll be plagued by uncertainty. Study God’s Word until you can say with assurance, ‘…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.’ (2 Timothy 1:12 NKJV) Are you trusting in Christ as your Saviour? Then your salvation is not in doubt. The deal is sealed!
‘Diotrephes…does not acknowledge our authority…’ 3 John 1:9 ESV
Not everybody is willing to think creatively, and where it becomes problematic is when people disregard the authority of those who have been put in charge. The apostle John said: ‘I have written briefly to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to take the lead among them and put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority and refuses to accept my suggestions or listen to me.’ Every organisation has at least one of these people; just make sure it’s not you. Author Phil Cooke says: ‘One of the most damaging sacred cows in organisations is basing employee status on seniority rather than talent. Yes, loyalty is important, but some of the most loyal employees I’ve ever met are loyal because of selfishness. They project loyalty to keep their jobs, retain their benefits, or hold on to their authority. Real loyalty is about innovation, original thinking and helping the company get to the next level… Every person has worth and is important. But a great leader always knows the people who bring the most value to the organisation. Those are the people to be developed, trained and cultivated. When you create an atmosphere of original thinking, you’ll have more loyalty than you’ll know what to do with. Most companies are so ignorant of how to develop an environment of innovation that if you’ll do it, you will have people coming from every direction to work with you.’ The apostle Paul practised and taught this principle: ‘We urge you… to recognise those who labour among you… and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake…’ (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13 NKJV) To become a creative thinker, you must value creative thinking.
‘Do you see a man skilful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.’ Proverbs 22:29 ESV
God has given you the skills and creativity you need to succeed, but you need to steward them and continue stretching your capacity. In other words, thinking creatively. Film director Frank Capra said, ‘A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.’ So if you’re part of a church or a business that continually throws up obstacles to productivity, forms barriers to originality and puts the brakes on momentum, it’s time to speak up. And if nobody will listen, it’s time to pray and ask God if you’re in the right place. An environment doesn’t just ‘happen’, it’s created by the people who live and work in it. People, systems and policies either stoke the fire of creativity or put it out. Alexander the Great once visited the famed teacher Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for him. Diogenes replied, ‘Only stand out of my light.’ One of the best things you can do for a creative person is not to get in their way! Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci all used the best equipment and went to extraordinary lengths to find the finest materials for their paints, brushes and canvas. And they’d be no different today. But don’t expect change to come easily. Insecure leaders tend to penalise honesty and feel threatened by creativity, especially when it suggests there’s a better way of doing things. But you owe it to God, to yourself and the people you work with to give it your best shot.
‘…God created mankind in His own image…’ Genesis 1:27 NIV
The Bible calls you a ‘child of God’. Stop and consider what that means. God’s creativity is already built into your DNA; your job is to identify it, release it and put it to work. Writers and even ad–men have recognised the great power of creativity is in its defeat of habit by originality. But for your creativity to be released, you must first identify the barriers and start taking them down. Here’s a common one: ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ People who say that have stopped thinking for themselves. They’re just putting in their time, waiting for a pay packet and going home at the end of the day without thinking, reflecting or even considering the possibilities of change. If you’re one of these people, it’s time to wake up and start looking around you. Mind–deadening routine is the cancer of creativity. If you mindlessly go about your business the same way every day, your routine is opening you up to mistakes. Why? Because, the chances are, your habits have caused you to lose the ability to think critically and question your methods. Start questioning policies, techniques, forms, rules, paperwork—anything that’s become routine. Ask, ‘Why do we do that? Is it even necessary? Can we do it better?’ On the farm of success there are no sacred cows. If you insist on doing things the way they’ve always been done, you’ll end up being out–thought, out–sold, out–produced and finally out of business. So start thinking creatively.
‘Love…keeps no record of being wronged…’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NLT
Holding a grudge is costly, and you and the people in your life end up footing the bill! In all probability the offender has moved on, forgotten the offence and left you holding the bag. But in reality, blame, not the offender, is the crux of the problem. And until you understand and accept that, you will continue to be upset. Don’t let your grudges fester and turn into: (1) Self–victimisation. Negative energy expended on others just drains your resources and robs you of the chance to fulfil your God–given potential. Stop cheating yourself. Don’t surrender your power to your grudges! (2) Bitterness. It’s like a deadly poison; a little of it can contaminate your entire system. The hurt you harbour pollutes the stream of your daily experience, including your experience with God! (3) Isolation. There’s no joy in being around someone who constantly indulges in blame, defensiveness and anger. Others pick up the vibes and feel at risk, so they keep a safe distance in case they become a target in the event that they displease you. It’s a formula for isolation and self–induced loneliness. (4) Negative role–modelling. Maybe you think, ‘My feelings are nobody’s business!’ Maybe—if you live on a desert island. Grudges are highly communicable. ‘…Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up…corrupting many.’ (Hebrews 12:15 NLT) (5) Sabotaged repentance. Genuine repentance and forgiveness aren’t possible until you’re willing to face up to your grudges. If you’re still blaming others, you’re avoiding responsibility. A bad attitude is like a flat tyre—until you change it, you’re not going to get anywhere.
‘This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.’ Lamentations 3:21 NAS
Lamentations chapter three describes Jeremiah’s despair, and how he conquered it. He opens with: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction…’ (Lamentations 3:1 NAS), and it intensifies as he lists all his troubles. The fact is, when our circumstances deteriorate, we can sound a lot like Jeremiah. At first he sounds like he’s blaming God for his afflictions. In prayer he recites his troubles and fears of being singled out as an object of public ridicule. No wonder he felt powerless and hopeless! (Lamentations 3:18) That kind of situation, handled badly, can initiate and intensify despair, depression and feed a negative outlook on life. But here’s the lesson to be learned: ‘This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.’ Jeremiah acknowledged God’s goodness and mercy: ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed… His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3:22–23 NIV) He also acknowledged the Lord’s sovereignty in his trouble: ‘For the Lord… though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies… Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well–being proceed?’ (Lamentations 3:31–38 NKJV) When you acknowledge the sovereignty of God in all things it gives your faith in Him a boost, no matter what! It doesn’t happen automatically; you have to deliberately refocus your thinking at the very time when you feel least like doing it. Notice: Jeremiah’s circumstances didn’t improve—his outlook did. He was reminded of the sovereign goodness and faithfulness of God—and his depression lifted: ‘“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.”’ (Lamentations 3:24 NAS)
‘…Sharper than any double-edged sword…’ Hebrews 4:12 NIV
Does reading the Bible sometimes make you uneasy? Does the sermon feel like it’s directed at you? ‘…the Word of God is…sharper than any double–edged sword…it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit…Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered…before…Him to whom we must give account.’ (Hebrews 4:12–13 NIV) When it comes to judging our motives, Jesus, the Great Physician, can determine with laser precision the difference between what’s healthy in our lives and what needs to be removed. Jon Walker writes: ‘A cyst developed under the skin of my right hand…and since I was a journalist I had to do something about it. The procedure was delicate, requiring the surgeon to cut at just the right point… He was confident he could do it …but I was nervous… He did an excellent job and the only reminder I have is a slight scar …The Word of God is as delicate and precise as a surgeon skilfully removing a cyst from cartilage…He operates with perfection… slices away bad attitudes, thoughts, motives, and actions… When God speaks to you it’s for a purpose—to bring your life into conformity to Christ. And your response should always be, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart…’ (Psalm 139:23 NIV) Let the Word of God highlight the areas in your life that need work. Don’t run from the process.’ Remember ‘…do not despise the discipline of the Almighty… He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal…’ (Job 5:17–18 NIV)
‘He who…forgives an offence seeks love, but he who…harps on a matter separates…friends.’ Proverbs 17:9 AMP
Countless friendships are destroyed because one person gets offended by something the other one said or did. A mark of spiritual growth is how quickly you get over slights and insults; the more mature you are, the less time it takes to ‘forgive an offence’ and move on. One Christian writer says: ‘Okay, your friend ditches you and your feelings are hurt… or she’s too busy to return your phone call or email… or you’re out to dinner with another couple and the other man insults your husband in an attempt to be funny …Offences come…Jesus said they would (John 16:33). People are people. If you’ve been offended by a friend, or felt slighted, get over it! Hit the Control>Alt>Delete buttons. Don’t let bitterness even think about putting down roots… “Love…is not irritable…it keeps no record of being wronged…never gives up…and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NLT) …It seems impossible…and without God’s love it is. So yield to His love, overlook offences and walk in love, because next week you’ll be the one needing unconditional love. When it comes to being perfect, we’ve all failed. If you want your friends to overlook your offences, be quick to overlook theirs.’ Make this your prayer today: ‘Father, thank You for the relationships You’ve blessed me with. I make a decision today to release anyone who has ever offended me in the slightest… to overlook it… forget about it, and move on. I will not keep a record of their wrongs. I will offer mercy and unconditional love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’