‘Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?’ 2 Corinthians 10:7 NKJV
Paul makes it clear that there are qualities we haven’t yet discovered or discerned in some of the people around us. Most of our conclusions are based on limited and often flawed information. God saw qualities in David his own family didn’t recognise. To them he was just a shepherd boy. In fact, when he showed up at the battlefront and offered to fight Goliath, his oldest brother, Eliab, told him to go home and mind his own business. Yet within hours David had killed Goliath and his name had become a household word in Israel. Joseph’s brothers resented the dream God had given him, and his father’s favour towards him. Nevertheless he went on to become prime minister of Egypt and ended up taking care of his entire family during a famine. The lesson in all of this is: Be careful how you treat people who get under your skin! Learn to look past outward appearances. Remember Ruth, a peasant girl gathering barley who went on to become the boss’s wife? Somebody like her may one day end up signing your pay cheque, so bless her and treat her well. And learn to look beyond the distraction of beauty. Remember Esther, and consider the fool Haman who underestimated the beautiful girl sitting beside the king. She knew something he didn’t; she had divine access to knowledge that would save her people and bring about Haman’s demise. It was just a matter of time. Bottom line: You never really know what’s taking place in someone else’s mind. So don’t be so quick to write them off—take another look!
‘Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.’ 2 Corinthians 5:16NKJV
What did Paul mean when he wrote, ‘we regard no one according to the flesh’? Simply this: instead of focusing on another believer’s faults and failings, try to see them as a regenerated spirit living in an unregenerated body. The fact is they’re ‘made right with God through Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT), and as such they have the potential to accomplish great things. No question, when it comes to forming relationships you must be discerning. The wrong people can hurt you and the right people can help you. But it’s not your job to go around ‘vetting’ people based on your limited knowledge of them. If you could see them through God’s eyes and know what He has planned for them, perhaps you’d be less critical and more complimentary. Instead of looking down on them, you’d start looking up to them. And you’d invest time, love, and energy in them. Why? Because God is big on the law of reciprocity: ‘Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do [for others].’ (Ephesians 6:8 NLT) We give up on people because we can’t see what God sees, or understand what He’s doing. God’s looking at something He placed within them, something you can’t see. And He’s not finished with them, so withhold your judgement and criticism. What if God had written you off because of the mistakes you’ve made? Instead of looking for the worst in people, look for the best. And when you find it, nurture it and draw it out. In other words: Be willing to take another look!
‘Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.’ Jude 1:23 NKJV
When someone you love gets into a situation that can hurt them—get involved! The Bible says, ‘On some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.’ (Jude 1:22–23 NKJV) The Greek word for ‘save’ means ‘to take immediate, decisive, and continuous action’. Here the word ‘fear’ means ‘a strong dose of respect for something that’s life-threatening, dangerous, or alarming’. And the phrase ‘pulling them out of the fire’ means you don’t have a moment to waste. The house is burning down and they’re asleep. Break down the door and drag them out if you have to! ‘…show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment…do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.’ (Jude 1:22–23 NLT)
Don’t sit back and say, ‘It’s not my responsibility.’ It is! The Good Shepherd left 99 sheep to go after the one that was lost—and He didn’t stop until He found it and brought it back to safety. Is there a chance you’ll be misunderstood, criticised and rejected? Sure, but as Paul says, ‘The love of Christ controls [compels; drives] us.’ (2 Corinthians 5:14 NCV) When you love the people Jesus loves, you don’t have a choice! You say, ‘But I won’t know what to say!’ Then pray: ‘Lord, help me to know exactly what to say and do. Give me wisdom and boldness to say what needs to be said. Help me to love enough to speak the truth while there’s still time. Use me as an instrument of Your grace to reach them before it’s too late. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’
‘You have been saved through faith.’ Ephesians 2:8 NKJV
The Bible says, ‘By grace you have been saved through faith.’ Faith in Christ alone gives us the assurance of Heaven. Poet Henry van Dyke put it like this: ‘I am standing upon the seashore. A ship… spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch until… she hangs like a speck of white cloud where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “She’s gone!” “Gone where?” Gone from my sight. That’s all. She’s just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left… Her diminished size is in me, not her. And just at the moment when someone says, “There, she’s gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the joyful shout, “Here she comes!” And that is dying.’ You say, ‘But I wasn’t raised in church. Where do I go to find faith?’ DL Moody said: ‘I prayed for faith and thought it would come down and strike me like lightning, but faith didn’t seem to come. Then one day I read the tenth chapter of Romans, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” I closed my Bible and prayed for faith. Then I opened my Bible and began to study— and faith has been growing ever since.’ You say, ‘But I don’t know how to pray.’ Simply say, ‘Lord Jesus, I repent of my sin. I place my trust in You today and accept You as my personal Lord and Saviour.’ Did you pray that prayer? Did you mean it? Yes? Then you are ‘saved through faith’.
‘Where do I put my hope? … in You.’ Psalm 39:7 NLT
Society’s fascination with Hollywood and celebrities has gone a little crazy. Millions idolise those who have achieved fame and fortune, yet stardom does not provide the satisfaction it advertises. Marilyn Monroe could have told us that. So could Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. Consider the adoration accorded to Muhammed Ali in his prime. He was known as ‘the prize fighter who couldn’t be beaten’. His picture appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated more than any other athlete in history. Wherever he went the cameras followed. But wealth and fame cannot buy good health, and he fell victim to the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. Sportswriter Gary Smith spent some time with the ailing fighter at his home and asked to see his trophy room. Ali escorted him to a dark, damp barn beside his house. There, leaning against a wall was a board displaying mementoes—photos of the ‘Thrilla in Manila’, pictures of Ali dancing and punching, and hoisting championship belts he had won over his head. But the pictures were smeared with white streaks caused by pigeons that had made their home in the rafters. Ali picked up the board and turned it around, face to the wall. Then as he started to leave, Smith heard him mumble, ‘I had the whole world, and it wasn’t nuthin’. Look at me now.’ The psalmist wrote, ‘All our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.’ (Psalm 39:6–7 NLT)
‘A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out.’ Matthew 12:20 NIV
When a loved one dies from sickness, accident, violence or advanced age, our grief, according to counsellors, is labelled ‘uncomplicated’ or ‘simple’. However, when they die by suicide our recovery process becomes ‘complicated’, fraught with often unanswerable questions. We experience guilt, even anger. ‘Was I not there for them? Should I have done more? Could I have helped prevent it? How could they do this to us? They were being purely selfish. They thought about nobody but themselves!’ These feelings will take time and God’s grace to resolve. Friends and families of suicides often ask the following questions, the biblical answers to which can help in dealing with our grief. Is suicide murder? Scripture nowhere equates suicide with murder. Biblically, murder is an act committed against another. How does God feel about people who commit suicide? While God can’t be said to support suicide, nobody understands better than He the despair that drives someone to escape from their unbearable suffering. At our lowest moment, our Father cannot deny His compassion for us. ‘A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out.’ Are suicides saved or lost? (1) There is only one ‘unpardonable sin’ (see Matthew 12:31–32), and it’s not suicide! (2) ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons… nor anything else… will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38–39 NIV) Not even suicide can quench God’s love or cancel the salvation that love bought for us!
‘First… be reconciled… then… offer your gift.’ Matthew 5:24 NIV
Are you at odds with someone? Is it constantly on your heart, robbing you of peace and even affecting your job performance? Here’s what Jesus said you’re supposed to do: ‘If you are offering your gift at the altar and… remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there… First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.’ (Matthew 5:23–24 NIV) You say, ‘I’m waiting for him to come to me.’ What if he doesn’t? Today Jesus is telling you, ‘Go and be reconciled.’ That’s humbling. And it’s risky, because you may not get the response you hope for. Why didn’t Jesus say, ‘Wait a while and the situation might change’? Because when you allow things to bottle up, you blow up! You end up bringing out all the ammunition—everything that’s bothered you about the person for the last decade! On the other hand, maybe you’ve decided to ‘sleep on it’ for now. The Bible says, ‘Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.’ (Ephesians 4:26–27 NLT) The Enemy wants to hurt both of you by driving a wedge between you—are you going to let him do that? What if you win the argument but the other person walks away wounded and upset? What’s more important, the point you’re trying to make or the relationship? For God’s sake, and for your own sake, forgive, overlook the offence and get on with your life. What’s at stake here is your gift! If you want God to use and bless you—don’t wait, seek reconciliation.
‘If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offence.’ Matthew 18:15 NLT
After explaining the commandment that says, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’ (Exodus 20:12 KJV), a Sunday school teacher asked her class of six-year-olds, ‘Can you think of a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?’ Without missing a beat, a little boy answered, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ (Exodus 20:13) Seriously, why did Jesus make such a big deal out of being reconciled to our brothers and sisters in the faith instead of letting disputes between us fester? After all, He considered it important enough to give us a three-step plan for handling it. First, go to the person privately. Second, take two or three others with you so that what is said can be confirmed. Third, if those two actions don’t bring reconciliation in the relationship, take it to the leaders of your church. However, if you read these Scriptures without reading the ones that follow, you’ll miss the whole point Jesus is making. He said: ‘I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, My Father in Heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them.’ (Matthew 18:19–20 NLT) When we seek reconciliation and come into unity, two wonderful things happen: (a) We can pray with confidence and get the results we need. (b) We enjoy a sense of God’s abiding peace and presence that’s not possible as long as the issue remains unresolved. So if you want to walk in God’s blessing today, seek reconciliation.
‘Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.’Proverbs 3:6 GNT
After being anointed king of Israel, instead of immediately going to Jerusalem and claiming his throne, David was forced to spend years living like a fugitive and hiding in caves because Saul was out to take his life. More than once he must have asked himself, ‘What about the promise God gave me?’ Then an interesting thing happened. One of David’s soldiers found Saul asleep; he came to David, saying, ‘God has delivered your enemy into your hand… let me strike him.’ (1 Samuel 26:8 NKJV) What an opportunity! Get rid of the man who wants to kill you, come out of hiding, and claim your throne. After all, you’re already anointed to be king! It all made sense, except for one thing—it wasn’t God’s plan. As much as David wanted to rule Israel, he knew that in order to succeed he must do it God’s way. This story should make you think twice, and pray before acting. When Abishai offered to kill Saul, he had David’s welfare at heart. So be careful; your friends can give you advice contrary to God’s will. That’s when it’s hard not to go along with it, or defend your decision by rationalising that the end justifies the means. Never let anyone, however well intentioned, persuade you to do what you know is wrong. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.’ (Proverbs 3:5–6 GNT)
‘From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’ Luke 12:48 NIV
Added blessing always brings added responsibility, so: (1) Stop complaining. Happiness doesn’t come from getting what you want; it comes from recognising and enjoying what you have. So keep a positive attitude and be grateful every day. Rudyard Kipling said, ‘Don’t pay too much attention to fame, power or money. Some day you’ll meet a person who cares for none of these, and then you’ll know how poor you are’. (2) Stop assuming. When you see your neighbours buying new furniture, taking expensive holidays and driving the latest car, does something stir inside you to do the same? Be careful; just because someone appears to be in similar circumstances to yours doesn’t mean anything. They might earn twice as much. On the other hand, they may be in debt up to their ears or three-quarters of the way to bankruptcy or a divorce court. Stop making assumptions and trying to be like somebody else. (3) Stop withholding. Bruce Larson said, ‘Money is another pair of hands to heal, feed and bless the desperate families of the earth. In other words, money is my other self.’ But that’s only true if you’re willing to part with it. Money is like manure: If you let it pile up it stinks; if you spread it around it helps things grow. Money gives you options the less fortunate can only pray for. And one more very important thought: How you use your money will be one of the biggest issues you’ll face on Judgment Day. Indeed, it’ll be a determining factor when it comes to your eternal reward. Think about it!