‘Diotrephes … loves to have the preeminence.’ 3 John 1:9 NKJV
Some people are so insecure and easily threatened that they feel a need to tear down anyone they perceive as a competitor. Consider Diotrephes, one of the New Testament church leaders. He found himself in a real dilemma when John recommended some gifted teachers of the Gospel to come and speak at his church. Plagued with insecurity, Diotrephes feared their visit would threaten his own pre-eminence, so he refused to allow them to come. John, upset with Diotrephes’ behaviour, outlined to his friend Gaius how he planned to deal with it. ‘I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.’ (3 John 1:9-11 NKJV) The sad truth is that you’ll find the spirit of Diotrephes alive and well in both secular and sacred organisations. They cast aspersions on newcomers perceived as threatening. They accuse bright, talented women of getting ahead by means other than their skills, talents and qualifications. They look for chinks in their victims’ armour. But contrary to what they think, diminishing another person’s image isn’t going to enhance theirs. The origin of our word for ‘devil’ comes from diabolos, which is literally translated as ‘to slander’. To slander, then, is to do the devil’s work!
‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence.’ Hebrews 4:16 NIV
The Bible says: ‘For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV) Dr Tony Evans says that God’s grace is like an ambulance coming to treat you when you’ve a medical emergency. First, it dispenses immediate grace to your most serious symptoms. Then they slide you into the ambulance, which is equipped with more grace—more medical facilities to deal with your problem. Then the ambulance races to the hospital where even more grace awaits. And once you’re admitted, the hospital keeps dispensing grace until your need has been addressed and you can go home again. In the words of John Newton’s beloved hymn: ‘’Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.’ One day Jesus heard our emergency call: ‘Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ He came to earth, found us dying in sin, and reached down to save us. And as our High Priest, He transported us from where we were to a place that has all the grace we’ll ever need until we go home with Him. One day God will sit on a throne of judgement where there’ll be no more grace but, until that day, He’s seated on a throne of grace. So anytime you fail or falter, you can ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence’ and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.
‘Why do you cry out over your wound?’ Jeremiah 30:15 NIV
God asks His people, ‘Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure?’ Then He answers, ‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds.’ (Jeremiah 30:17 NIV) If there’s anything more insidious than the rage, frustration, and other negative things that come out of us and wreck our relationships, it’s the inner source from which they originate. Festering wounds from past relationships are dangerous wounds. You say, ‘But you don’t know how badly this person hurt me.’ The point is they’re still hurting you, so how can you cleanse and heal the wound? God’s way is to tell it like it is! He doesn’t put a bandage on an infected wound—He demands that the problem be dealt with. We need to understand that He’s willing to repair the broken places in our lives; all He requires of us is to expose where those places are. Only Jesus can walk us through the barrier of time and into our wounded past. Certainly one of the most important steps to healing is to forgive from the heart—to acknowledge the wound and the anger, and then let it go. And it can be tough to do, but there can be no freedom or healing without forgiveness. Bitterness will eat you alive if you don’t forgive. It’ll wreak havoc on your present-day relationships. God will give you the grace to forgive and let it go, but you must make the choice to be cleansed of resentment by forgiving the offender. There is no other way to peace and freedom.
‘Walk in wisdom… redeeming the time.’ Colossians 4:5 NKJV
One of your greatest possessions—is your next twenty-four hours. How will you spend them? Will you allow television, pointless emails, unimportant tasks, your own impulses, the wrong people or other meaningless distractions to consume your day? Or will you take control of your time and make today count? Leadership experts say that focusing on the top 20 per cent of your priorities brings an 80 per cent return on your effort. So when you get up each morning, look in the mirror and say, ‘Today I’ll live my life according to God’s will, and give my energies to the things that help me fulfil it.’ The truth is, there’ll always be things vying for your attention. Advertisers want you to spend money on their products. And have you noticed how people with nothing to do, usually want to spend their time with you? Even your own desires can be so diverse and your focus so scattered that you aren’t sure what needs your attention first. That’s why you need to focus like a laser on your God-given purpose. Whatever you concentrate on, you give strength and momentum to. Your priorities determine how you spend your time, so set them prayerfully and maintain them carefully. Eliminate non-essentials. Those who tell you, ‘You can have it all’ are misguided. You can’t do everything you want to do, but you can do everything God wants you to do. You’ve got to choose! Success comes from doing the right things right, and letting the rest go. If you’re not sure what the right things are for you, imagine yourself looking back on your life years from now— which things would you regret not doing?
‘We were buried with Him through baptism.’ Romans 6:4 NKJV
When a couple gets married they put on wedding rings. Could they be married without them? Sure, but the rings identify them as belonging exclusively to one another. We would think it odd if a husband never wanted to go out in public with his wife. He might say, ‘I’ll eat dinner with you, as long as it’s at home.’ That would be an insult! Likewise, just as the ring publicises the fact that you have a covenant relationship with your spouse, baptism declares that you believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and you have put your trust in Him as your Saviour. ‘Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.’ (Romans 6:4–8 NKJV) Not only does baptism declare to others that you have publicly identified yourself with Christ, it’s a constant reminder to you. When you’re tempted to go back to your old ways, it says, ‘You’re no longer that person, you’re a new creation in Christ with a new set of values, attitudes, actions, and destiny.’
‘Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying.’ John 11:25 NLT
The story is told of a nine-year-old boy named Philip who suffered with Down’s Syndrome. In Sunday school the other kids made fun of him because he was different. The Sunday before Easter, the teacher gave each of the kids a plastic egg and asked them to look for symbols of new life, like seeds and leaves, and then place them inside the egg. The idea was to open their eggs on Easter Sunday and discuss what they had found. When the children gathered, they had collected all sorts of things like flowers, butterflies and rocks. But when the teacher opened Philip’s egg it was empty. One child said, ‘That’s not fair, he didn’t do it right!’ But Philip tugged at the teacher’s sleeve and said, ‘I did do it right. It’s empty because the tomb is empty. That’s why we have new life.’ The class gasped—and from then on Philip rose to a new level of respect and became part of the group. But Philip’s family knew his time was short—too many problems for one small body. So that summer he died. As the class of eight-year-olds faced the reality of death, they marched up to the altar—but not with flowers. Together with their teacher, they each placed an empty plastic egg on their friend’s tiny casket. Why is the resurrection of Jesus so important? For two reasons: (1) His resurrection guarantees yours. (2) If you live long enough you will experience the heartache of losing someone you love. Easter guarantees you will meet them again—alive, immortal, and just like Jesus!
‘For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin.’ 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
The Roman soldiers may have nailed Jesus to the cross, but what held Him there? The Bible gives us the answer: ‘For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.’ The reason Jesus didn’t call an army of angels to save Him, as He could have, was because He’d rather give up His life than give up on you. We struggle to comprehend such a love because we’ve nothing to measure it by or compare it to. Nobody has ever loved us like Jesus, and nobody ever will! And His crucifixion makes it possible for us to ‘come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.’ (Hebrews 4:16 NLT) WA Criswell writes: ‘In a dream I saw the Saviour. His back was bare and there was a soldier lifting up his hand and bringing down that awful cat-o’-nine-tails… I rose and grasped his arm to hold it back. When I did, the soldier turned in astonishment and looked at me. And when I looked back at him I recognised—myself.’ In the film The Passion, people worldwide were moved by the hideous nature of crucifixion. Underlying the story were two clear messages: (1) This was the price required to redeem each of us, a price only Jesus could pay. (2) This is what we need to stop and think about each time we’re tempted to sin and disobey God.
‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’ Lamentations 1:12 NKJV
It’s said that there was once a railway controller called John Griffin. His responsibility was for a drawbridge over the Mississippi River. One day he took his young son to work with him. After putting the massive drawbridge up, Griffin was eating lunch when suddenly he heard the whistle of the Memphis Express roaring towards the crossing. Leaping from the observation deck, he ran to throw the control switch. Glancing down, his heart stopped! His son had fallen into the gears, trapping his leg in the cogs. Desperately he tried to devise a rescue plan, but there was no time. His son was down there—but there were four hundred passengers on the train! Griffin knew what he had to do. Burying his face in his arm, he pushed the master switch just in time to lower the bridge into place as the train thundered across. Then raising his head he looked into the passing windows with tear-filled eyes. There were businessmen casually reading the newspaper, ladies sipping coffee, and children eating ice cream. Nobody even looked at the control house or glanced down at the great gearbox. In agony Griffin cried out, ‘I sacrificed my son for you people. Don’t you care?’ But as the train rushed by, nobody heard the anguished father’s words. On this Good Friday, as we consider the cross where God sacrificed His Son for each of us, He’s asking: ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’ The question then becomes: ‘What…shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22 NKJV) There is only one right answer to that question: ‘Today, I accept You as my Saviour and my Lord.’
‘God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.’ Romans 12:6 NLT
To excel at anything, you must discover your major gifts and put them to work. One of Paul’s minor gifts was making tents to help support his ministry, but clearly his major gift was teaching and building churches. You say, ‘How can I discover my major gifts?’ (1) Get God’s input. Who knows the product better than the manufacturer? You didn’t create yourself, so there’s no way you can tell yourself what you were created for. But God can, and He will. ‘If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you… But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver…’ (James 1:5–6 NLT) (2) Commit for the long haul. When you were first learning to walk you spent more time on your bottom than on your feet. But you succeeded. That’s because you were born to walk! You may discover your major gifts quickly and easily, but developing them to their maximum potential will be the work of a lifetime. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. (3) Get feedback from the right people. Asking others for feedback isn’t always easy, but it’s essential to success. Never be too proud to seek help. And if you’re a ‘loner’ here’s a Scripture you need to ponder: ‘There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon, and they had no ties with anyone.’ (Judges 18:28 NKJV) A word of caution, however: Choose people who have no agenda other than to help you.
‘My son [my daughter], be wise, and make my heart glad.’ Proverbs 27:11 NKJV
Here’s a magic bullet that teenagers like to use in order to manipulate their parents: ‘You don’t trust me!’ So we start backpedalling. ‘No, dear, it’s not that I don’t trust you being out with your friends or taking the car, it’s just that I…’ and then we run out of words. We’re on the defensive, and the discussion is over. The truth is that we can trust our children at some things, but not others. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. For example, many of us are authorised to spend our company’s money from certain accounts. But they don’t give us the whole corporate chequebook! So let’s stop being suckered by our kids, and boldly state that trust comes in stages—some of it now, and more later on. Humorist and author Mark Twain joked, ‘When a child turns twelve you should put him in a barrel, nail a lid down and feed him through a knothole. When he turns sixteen, you should seal up the knothole.’ Seriously, there are times when every parent feels this way. But at some point you’ve got to let out the line and begin to trust them. And here are two important things about trust: First, it must be age-appropriate. You should risk only what you can reasonably expect to be handled safely. Second, trust must be earned. Erma Bombeck once quipped that she wasn’t going to pay $2000 to straighten the teeth of a kid who never smiled. What’s going on inside your youngster explains much of what you see on the outside. Relax, better days are coming!