Archive for the ‘discipleship’ Category

Patience: A Key Trait of Successful People

May 29th, 2017

A fool lets fly with all his temper, but a wise person keeps it back…Do you see someone who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:11,20 NET)

The Book of Proverbs teaches us godly principles of life. To read from it daily instructs us in the manners and key traits of successful people. God does want His children to succeed in life and we do this on at least three levels: inwardly with ourselves, outwardly with our careers and relationships with others, and upwardly in our thoughts and attitudes toward God.

The trait of patience is a key trait of successful people. They must learn to wait. They must learn the value of delayed gratification. They will express this value in any number of ways: the willingness to undergo years of schooling and training for their career; the willingness to do tedious and careful work under control when everyone is insisting that they hurry it up, the willingness to lay foundations in their heart and in their work even though it takes extra time; the willingness to bear with the failings of those around them, even their own failings, in order to teach and train and prepare someone (or themselves) for future success.

Patience is an expression of faith, especially faith in God. It is the faith that somethings are more important than immediately having something inferior or showing progress to others. So it values such matters as love, inner peace, Integrity, honesty, compassion, maturity, and righteousness. The key characteristic of Christians who are growing in this trait is regular time with the Lord in prayer and devotion. They make (1) the upward growth with God their first priority, (2) their inner growth in themselves the second, and (3) then and only then they place the outer growth of relationships and career as their priority. Mature people are honest people and they seek to be somebody inwardly before they are propelled into positions of leadership.

There are times and situations, of course, that demand immediate actions, that call us to respond quickly, and people of action get things done. Calm reflection in the face of a burning house is ludicrous. But successful people are able to distinguish between emergencies and normality. The fool always sees the house on fire, always lives in a panic, always gives into the demands, constantly lives in the fear of failure. Think of the fireman, or the emergency medical personnel, who are the most help in an emergency and have gone through years of training and constant preparation just for such events.

The one who lives in constant fear, in a constant state of impatience, has failed first within his own soul in the neglect of inner soul growth, and he has failed more significantly in the neglect of growth in his relationship with God. If on the other hand we can make these two the matters of first importance - specially our relationship with God - if we can succeed first upwardly, then inwardly, then we will be prepared to succeed outwardly with others and in our careers.

A close friend asked me to pray for him not long ago because he had received an invitation to serve as worship leader of a great church with a famous pastor. (I will omit their names.) At first he was honored and excited for this opportunity - who wouldn’t be? Then I asked him about his inner motivations and about what was God saying to his heart. The famous pastor, like all men, may die, or, even worse, may have a moral failing. Is the calling to the large church more than a mere desire to be in a position of fame and notoriety? He may go and see that his life, his family, and ministry have been thrown into a situation similar to Job. If God is calling him, he should go, but if it is impatience, a desire for personal glory, or any selfish or fearful motivation, he should decline.

All good things that are worth doing in life seem to be hard things to do, and they demand mature and patient people to accomplish them. The difficult circumstances and the hard jobs need people who do not panic in the midst of storms, who calmly keep their eyes on Jesus and trust in His acceptance of them, that lust not after fame or fortune or power, who stand secure in the love of God and are willing to obey Him even if all others oppose them.  No one ever truly succeeds in life until he has first succeeded with God through faith in Christ, and secondly has put his own heart before the Lord to grow and mature. Then and only then are we ready to tackle the difficult and challenging. Successful people do things not so that they will look good, but because they are important things and must get done.

Impatience is a sign of immaturity. Patience is a sign of maturity. As Rudyard Kipling wrote:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Authenticity in the Faith, discipleship, spiritual maturity , ,

That Men Pray

February 28th, 2017

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Tim 2:8 NKJV)

These words come from Paul’s heart, expressing not a theologically laid out strategy but rather a personal longing. It is good to have a balanced and biblical theology, but this verse reads more like Paul setting aside the mantle of prophet, apostle, theologian, and scholar and speaking simply from his heart. Here it is man to man, Christian to Christian, and Paul the teacher disappears into the background and Paul the Christian Brother steps to the foreground.

It is as though he simply said, “You know what I really want is this - for men to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without anger or fighting.” Paul had seen his share of church squabbles, and debates in the public forum. He had seen the futility of human anger and wrath, the planting of doubts and innuendoes to weaken the opposition, the attacks against character, the damaging of reputations. He had seen how men when they forget God turn on one another and often ruin the entire testimony of the church.

If grace is the foundation of the church, then grace should color everything in the church. We should not destroy our brother or sister since Christ died to save them and redeem them. Writing to the Christians in Rome and dealing specifically with the issue of eating food offered to pagan idols, Paul said, “By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died” (Rom. 14:15 ESV). This calls us to see each believer as God sees him, as a precious treasure, purchased with the blood of Christ. This truth applies to everything we do, that we should be careful not to harm our fellow Christian, rather do all we can to lift one another up.

The priority of prayer: The first concern on his heart was the prayer habit of the church. He wanted men to know God personally, to know that they could call on Him at all times and in all places. They did not need to only pray in the temple, or at the synagogue, or at the church building, or only in some ideal peaceful setting. They could speak to their God everywhere and at any time of the day.

One of the perspectives that every Christian needs to have in his life is the awareness that he lives under the watchful eyes of God in all places all day long. The psalmist asked, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psa. 139:7 NKJV). We can go nowhere where God is not, or where God cannot find us. Some settings help us think of God more than others, and we are wise if we use these places and atmospheres for our spiritual times of devotion. But we should not imagine that God is only found in peaceful repose, for He also has made His presence known in places of warfare (Psalm 18:29), in the midst of storms (Mark 4:39), and in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5).

Let us seek to fulfill this desire of Paul, for it is also the desire of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that we would know Him and speak to Him constantly. Let our lives be lived in conversation with Him at all times and in every situation.

Holy hands: Here is a desire that our walk would match our talk, that our actions would match our faith, that what we say and do rises not from our old sinful nature but from the presence of Christ in our lives and from the new nature God has given us that is created for good works (Eph. 2:10). Many of the things that our hands of become engaged in are unholy. Many places our feet take us are places where we ought not to be. Man of the things that our eyes see are sinful and will lead to our spiritual failure.

There is an element in today’s world that suggests that it does not matter what we say or do so long as our hearts are right. But this is utter nonsense, a deception of the devil, for if our hearts are right then we will seek to do the right thing. How we handle our choices, what we do with our leisure, what we say to the stranger, these things reveal how strong we are.

Without wrath or disputing: We ought to live in the power and presence of the Spirit at all times, letting Him determine our hearts and our words. We ought to seek to build one another up, not tear one another down. The words may be translated also “anger and doubt” but they seem to have the idea of upsetting the peace of the body of Christ rather than strengthening it. We should work with God in all settings, with all people, at all times.

Jeremy Taylor, in his classic book, The Return of Prayers, wrote:

For prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest; prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled thoughts; it is the daughter of charity and the sister of meekness… Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer, and therefore is contrary to that attention which presents our prayers in a right line to God.

The potential of prayer: Paul’s concerns were not merely that people would not fight with one another, but that prayer with all its potential would be realized in the body of Christ. Prayer is the reasonable application of the truth that God is our heavenly Father. A son should speak to his father, and we should converse with God constantly. Prayer acknowledges our dependence on God, God’s power and willingness to help us - both His omnipotence and His love, and is an expression of the love He has placed in our hearts. Where there is much faith in God, much celebration of our relationship with Him, and much compassion for the people on this earth, there will be much prayer. When these are lacking, however, there will be little prayer.

1 Timothy, discipleship , , ,