‘Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.’ 1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT
There’s a legend about a covey of quail that lived in a forest. The birds were happy there except for their enemy, the quail catcher. He would imitate their call, and then when they gathered together he’d throw a net over them, stuff them into his hunting basket, and carry them off to market. Finally, a wise old quail said, ‘Brothers and sisters, I have a plan. When the quail catcher throws his net over us, we should all put our heads into a section of the net together and start flapping our wings. That way we can lift it as one and fly off with it.’ The birds all agreed, and the next day they did exactly that, making a successful escape. When the quail-catcher’s wife asked him, ‘Where are the quail to take to market?’ he replied, ‘When they all got together there was no stopping them!’
Writing to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul said, ‘Some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels.’ (1 Corinthians 1:11 NLT) Then he went on to say, ‘Live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions… Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.’Success in any venture calls for the death of individual ego and self-interest. So when a mistake is made, refuse to place blame. Be forgiving, and don’t allow an offense to develop into bitterness. Offer praise for other team members’ strengths, and offer help in their areas of weakness. Be conscientious and dependable and stay focused on the bigger goal. When we learn to work together there’s no stopping us!
‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.’ 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV
Nothing in history compares to what has been accomplished by Christian missionaries. Over one hundred years ago, a writer returning from a trip around the world discovered that missions and missionaries were being bombarded with criticism in the London newspapers. So he wrote a letter to the papers defending missions. In it he said that the transformation of wild savages in the isles of the South Seas was something to behold and that to make light of this was a heinous crime: ‘In a voyager, to forget these things is base ineptitude; for should he chance to be at the point of shipwreck on some unknown coast, he will most devoutly pray that the lesson of the missionary may have preceded him.’ The author of that letter was none other than Charles Darwin.
Consider the Papuans, one of the aboriginal tribes of New Guinea. Missionaries from Holland began to work with them, and in 1860, the first fruits of the New Holland Mission were seen when a man named Nathaniel Pepper, one of the aborigines, accepted Christ. Some years later, when thousands had been converted, the Papuan school won first prize in academic competitions among the twelve hundred colonial schools in New Holland. Quite a feat! Skeptics may have built a few leprosariums, hospitals and orphanages, but by far it’s been the followers of Jesus Christ who have made the greatest impact on this world.
‘Receive him forever, not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother.’ Philemon 1:15–16 KJV
What finally brought about an end to slavery? The gospel of Jesus Christ. Note the small letter Paul wrote to Philemon. A runaway slave was thrown into a Roman prison along with Paul, and Paul converted him to Christ. And when the slave was released, Paul sent him back to his owner, Philemon. The custom at that time was to kill escaped slaves after they’d been recaptured. But now Philemon had also become a Christian, another convert of the apostle Paul, who instructed him to receive him back ‘not as a servant, but above a servant, a brother.’ And in that new brotherhood, slavery found its death knell.
Now, fast forward to the days of William Wilberforce, who was convicted of his sin and converted under the preaching of John Wesley. Wilberforce, a slight, hunch-backed man, became one of the most powerful members of Parliament. Consumed by the Gospel and the freedom that Christ offered, Wilberforce devoted all his energies and eloquence to overthrowing the obnoxious African slave trade. And his success in abolishing it throughout the British Empire led to agitation for similar action in the United States. In fact, it was through the proclamations that thundered from pulpits throughout the northern states that abolitionist parties came into being and succeeded in destroying slavery once and for all. So it was through the church that slavery was eradicated. Jesus came ‘to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.’ (Luke 4:18 NKJV) Are you a member of Christ’s redeemed church? If not, you can sign up today!
‘On this rock, I will build my church.’ Matthew 16:18 CEV
The Christian church is about one-and-a-half times the size of its nearest rival. The odds against that are staggering. Suppose today a group of missionaries showed up in your town and told you that a peasant who’d been put to death was reputed to have risen again. Furthermore, He was no less than the Creator of the universe. Would you buy it? The apostles did in the pagan Roman Empire, and what’s more—they eventually succeeded in overthrowing the Roman Empire. In the face of terrible persecution, Christianity continued to flourish. Even the attempts of Julian the Apostate to overthrow Christianity and re-establish the pagan Roman religions met with no success. When Julian’s onslaught against Christianity was at its worst, one of the emperor’s followers asked a Christian, ‘What is your carpenter’s son doing now?’ The Christian replied, ‘Making a coffin for your emperor!’ It wasn’t long after this that Julian was mortally wounded in battle. Falling to the ground, he picked up a handful of sand mingled with his blood, tossed it into the air, and allegedly declared, ‘Thou hast conquered O Galilean.’
No, the church is not perfect; that’s why people like us are welcome there! Nevertheless, there are many valid reasons why the church of Jesus Christ continues to triumph. It’s a hospital for the wounded, it’s a family for the lonely, and it’s a school for those being trained in the principles of discipleship. And ultimately, when everything temporal goes up in smoke, it’s the only thing that will be left standing (see 2 Peter 3:10–12). So commit your life to Jesus Christ and join His victorious church!
‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.’ Genesis 50:20 NLT
At seventeen, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. At thirty, Pharaoh made him ruler of Egypt. During those thirteen years, Joseph suffered terribly at the hands of his brothers. Now he held the power of life and death over them. Yet he chose not only to forgive them but to feed them in the time of famine. It’s one of the greatest examples of forgiveness in history. As they stand trembling before him, Joseph says: ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children. So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.’ (Genesis 50:20–21 NLT)
Notice four things:
(1) Only God understands people’s hearts, therefore only He is qualified to judge them.
(2) As you become more mature, you’ll be able to see the hand of God at work in some of the situations you’ve been through; you’ll see the ‘good’ in them rather than the evil.
(3) Because you have grown spiritually, you’ll acknowledge that others are capable of growing and changing too.
(4) Because of the favor and blessing that God has given you, you’ll not only speak kindly to your offender but be generous towards them. Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’ (Matthew 5:44 NKJV) Are you willing to do that? Are you at least willing to pray, ‘Lord, make me willing?’
‘They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.’ Genesis 33:8 NLT
Here’s something you need to know in order to move forward. The person who hurt you may never offer an apology in the manner you desire. After Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright, things got so bad between them that Jacob went to live with his Uncle Laban in Haran. Later in life, when both brothers had become wealthy and successful in their own right, Jacob decided to seek reconciliation with his brother. At first, Esau refused to accept his brother’s gifts, but when Jacob persisted, ‘Esau finally accepted the gift.’ (Genesis 33:11 NLT) Notice, Jacob never said, ‘I’m sorry I stole your birthright; please forgive me.’ Basically, he said, ‘I’d like to try and make amends.’ At this point, Esau showed real maturity by valuing his relationship with his brother over his right to exact revenge. So the family was united. There’s a lesson here. God wants you to grow up and exercise spiritual maturity. You can’t control what others do; you can only control your response. Furthermore, if you insist that someone apologize to you—in a certain way—the relationship may never be healed. As a result, you’ll be left holding a grudge. And holding a grudge is like holding a hot coal; it will keep burning you until you let it go. For example, you may want your husband to apologize for his behavior. But if instead he buys you a gift or does something extra nice for you, responds with grace instead of judging either his methods or his motives. In other words, ‘close the account’ and move forward.
‘I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.’ John 17:4 NKJV
The ant literally dies to work. Now let’s be clear, the Bible doesn’t promote a workaholic lifestyle that endangers your health and causes you to neglect your family. Too many marriages fall apart when a couple subscribes to that philosophy, and too many children grow up resenting the fact that their parents never had time for them.
That being understood, the contemporary concept of retirement can’t be found in the Bible. Yes, you may retire from a job, but you never retire from work. As long as you’re alive, there’s always work God wants you to do. Harvard University commissioned a study of some of its graduates. One group of one hundred participants retired at age sixty-five, while those in the other group worked to age seventy-five. In the first group, seven out of eight were dead by age seventy-five. In the second group, of those who continued to work—only one in eight had died by age seventy-five. Researchers consequently concluded that retiring too early can reduce longevity. Stop and consider the three-and-a-half-year ministry of Jesus. At the end of it, He said, ‘I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.’ Has it ever occurred to you that salvation is available because Jesus proved Himself a faithful laborer who stayed on the task until the job was done? Again, rest, relaxation, and retirement are worthy and well-deserved rewards for a life of hard work. But the truth is, as long as you’re alive God has something for you to do! And in doing it you’ll not only find joy and fulfillment, you’ll bless those around you too.
‘Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich.’ Proverbs 10:4 NLT
A leaf-cutting ant may carry up to fifty times its own weight more than a hundred meters. That’s the equivalent of an 80 kg man carrying four tonnes on his back for ten kilometers! In a single summer, a large colony of ants may excavate 14 to 18 tonnes of earth to make a nest, and carry two tonnes of material back into the nest for food. It can make as many as four round trips a day to food sources that may be more than 120 meters from the nest. That’s roughly equivalent to a person walking 110 km. If the ant had the stride of a man, it would be capable of bursts of speed in excess of 100 km per hour and would walk normally at a speed of 32 km per hour. (And you think you have it rough!) One thing about an ant you can count on: he always gives his best and pulls his share of the load.
Teach your kids that their reputation will never rise above their work ethic, and how people view them as workers. The success of the Walt Disney empire is based on the philosophy of its founder: ‘Whatever you do, do it so well that when people see you do it, they’ll want to come back and see you do it, and they’ll want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.’ Teach your children to work hard, always finish the job, and always give their best. If they learn that lesson well, you won’t have to teach them much about success—it will be their constant companion.
‘In all labor there is profit.’ Proverbs 14:23 NKJV
The ant never sees work as menial or beneath his dignity. Whether it’s moving dirt or carrying breadcrumbs, he merrily goes along doing his job. How unlike that are many people today! Someone has quipped, ‘If you want to keep your teenagers out of hot water, put some dirty dishes in it!’ All work can and should be done for the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). The sum of the matter is found in this simple Bible statement: ‘In all labor there is profit.’ Teach your children the old-fashioned way of getting money—working for it!
The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word vocare, which means ‘to call’. So every job or vocation, regardless of what it is, is a calling from God. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr rightly declared, ‘Not all men are called to specialized or professional jobs; even fewer to the heights of genius in the arts and sciences; many are called to be laborers in factories, fields, and streets. But no work is insignificant.’ As a parent, you are preparing your child for their work life, so prepare them well. If you don’t, they’ll have a life of grief, and create a life of grief for others. Plus, they may end up back on your doorstep! Bosses don’t pay workers who don’t work. So before you give your child an allowance, give them some chores like making their bed, cleaning their room, helping around the house, taking out the rubbish, getting good grades in school, and doing their homework on time. Reward without responsibility is an indulgence. And if you love your child you won’t do that!
‘Take a lesson from the ants… Learn from their ways and become wise!’ Proverbs 6:6 NLT
The Bible says: ‘Take a lesson from the ants… Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labour hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.’(Proverbs 6:6–8 NLT) While the queen ant is the centre of attention and the mother of most of the ants in the colony, she’s not the chief ruler. The work and survival of the colony are insured by ‘soldier’ ants. These servant-leaders are older ants that begin each new activity in the colony by doing the work themselves. The younger ants then imitate the servant-leaders and join in the work. There are no supervisors, chiefs, or officers amongst the ants. So when Solomon says the ants ‘have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work’, it means the ant is a self-starter; this is a picture of the diligent person he describes in Proverbs 10:4 NLT: ‘Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich.’ When you see an ant carrying a piece of bread several times larger than himself up a steep slope, it’s a study in diligence! No matter how many times he drops the bread, he goes back and picks it up, and starts climbing again until he gets it to where it’s supposed to go. What drives him? Hunger—God’s motivating force in labor. ‘It is good for workers to have an appetite; an empty stomach drives them on.’ (Proverbs 16:26 NLT) The stomach-growl of a hungry man or woman is often God’s way of teaching us the value and importance of being willing to work.