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Where are our Priorities

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?   If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,   and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  Jam 2:14-17

The apostle Paul wrote the following to the church at Philippi.  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Phi 2:5-8.  The second person of the trinity, emptied Himself and took on the form of man, so that He might pay the penalty we owed, but could not pay.  The chasm between His former state and man is infinite.  This was a true and powerful humbling, much more than we could ever experience.  We can never understand what this means.  However, when we look at the beginning of this passage, this is the mind we are to have, and that is the willingness to humble ourselves to serve others.  We must be willing to put others above ourselves, just as Jesus did, not just in our words, but in our actions.

 

Paul said again to the church at Philippi, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Phi 2:3.  When we see someone in need, do we give what we have to meet that need?  Do we inconvenience ourselves in order that someone else my not suffer or hurt?  Are our thoughts predominantly on others, or on ourselves?  Before you answer these questions, examine your heart.  Please, take this post as an opportunity to examine our hearts and lives, as an encouragement to move beyond where we are, to the place where God desires us to be.  And we should desire what He desires.

The example set by Christ is a life of service.  There is much work to be done, and each of us has our task to do within the body.  However, is our life one of service to others, or to our self?   With this, I wish to ask a series of questions that may help us understand just what our priorities are.  For, aside from our required time at work and sleep, and note the word required, how we spend our time is a clear picture of where our heart is.  What I mean by required time is that which is essential, not what we choose to do.  Exclude these essential times from your answer.

  • What is the activity we spend the majority of our time doing?  Is it one focused on others, or on us?
  • What percentage of our time do we spend in service to others as opposed to ourselves?
  • When we do spend time serving others, is our focus on how we will benefit others or our self?
  • Do we step out and serve only when it is convenient, or sacrificially as well?
  • If we have the choice of doing what we desire, or helping another, what is our decision?
  • Are we willing to give up our societal status to serve others?
  • Are we willing to endure the jeers and mocking of our peers if necessary to serve others?
  • Are we willing to give up something we need or desire to assist others?

Too many Christians are satisfied with just being saved, going to church once or twice a week, partaking in other obligatory actions, without putting themselves out there for others.   They see their Christian walk as a solitary one, just them and Jesus.  Yes, they fellowship with other Christians, but not much if anything is done to help those who are helpless, hopeless, and suffering beyond imagination.  In fact, when horrible evil is brought to their attention, they cover their ears, because they do not want it to take away their joy.  They choose to ignore the suffering of others than to have the knowledge of these bum them out. Their own joy and happiness is more important than helping others, even if all they do is pray. 

  • How can we say that we have the heart of Jesus when we ignore the plight of children in Darfur, Sudan, who sleep in trees in the jungle, because they have no place to live and the trees help protect them from the wild Hyenas that snatch and eat children who either fall from or do not make it into the trees in time.
  • How can we say we have the heart of Christ when women and children are sold into sexual slavery, regularly beaten and gang raped, living in constant fear and terror, while we close our eyes to their plight and focus on how we can be entertained?  
  • How can we say we love our brothers and sisters when we give no thought to those who are persecuted, imprisoned or killed simply because they are Christians?
  • How can we say we have the mind of Christ when we know there are so many hungry, hurting and needy people all around us, and do nothing to feed, comfort and meet their needs?
  • How can we say we are doing the will of God when we withhold the gospel message from people because we do not want to offend them, or be looked down upon?

If we are honest, the answer to all the above questions would be, we cannot.  We are not called to spend our time making ourselves happy and comfortable.  We are not meant to ignore the plight of other Christians who are faithful to God in the midst of horrendous persecution.  We are not supposed to close our eyes and cover our ears to the suffering of those caught in the evil web of human trafficking, where they have no freedom, are abused, worked as much as sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, for no pay, meager rations, and no comforts or pleasures.  We are called to help the helpless, give hope to the hopeless, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and visit the sick or imprisoned.  We are called to present the gospel to a lost and dying world, compelling them to come into the salvation provided through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

We are not called to simply warm a pew each Sunday, and then go out and do nothing for those less fortunate then ourselves.  We are not, once we accept the free gift of salvation, to just sit back, waiting for Him to return while watching the latest reality programs or just going out having fun.  As I said above, we are called to a life of service to God and our fellow man.  Our joy should come from pleasing our Lord and experiencing the privilege of having Him work through us, using us as His instruments to fulfill His purposes.  If we have no desire or passion for Christ, or we have no interest in helping those less fortunate than ourselves, or we simply ignore those who are suffering and abused by evil people who care about nothing but how they can benefit, then we should seriously evaluate our walk, because we quite possibly have not made Christ our Lord, but have deceived ourselves into thinking we are now saved.

I implore each of you who are reading this and identify yourself as Christians, to pray and seek God as to whether you are doing what He wants, or what you want; if you are serving God, or yourself.  I have been praying that God will prepare me for the work He has for my wife and I after we retire, as well as for the work He has for me now.  And let me tell you, I have been humbled and disappointed in myself in what He has shown me.  It is not fun to hear you are not where you ought to be, that you are self-centered and not giving your all.  But He also reinforced the fact that He loves me and will mold me into what He wants, as long as I yield to Him.  I will assure you, it is difficult, but well worth the time.  If you find yourself in the same position I did, do not waste another moment.  There is much to do, so many to help and encourage, so many prayers to lift up to God, so many people who simply need a hug, or some other expression of love.  Let us give our all for His service, and encourage other Christians to do the same.  The joy that comes from meeting a deep need in the life of another far surpasses what we will get from focusing on ourselves. 

Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets.”  Mat 7:12.  If we are hungry, would we like someone to bring us food?  If we are thirsty, would we like someone to give us water?  If we are sick or in jail, would we like visitors?  If we are trapped in the cruel world of human trafficking, would we want to be rescued?  If we are persecuted for our beliefs, would we want prayers and encouragement?  I know I would, therefore, I must do the same for others.  And if you also answer ‘Yes’, then you know what you must do.  Let’s get out there and give our all to the one who gave His all for us.  If you are unable at this time to go out and physically help, get on your knees and pray fervently on behalf of those who are less fortunate than us.  This is a great way to show our gratitude for what he has done, and a way to give to others what we have received.  For this is the mind we are to have, because of Christ.

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