Too Close For Comfort?

imageWhy do some find it easy to make and keep lasting friendships while others struggle with allowing anyone to get too close? It’s said that President Reagan was like this in his relationships – although extremely charismatic and engaging with most, few if any, ever made his inner circle.

As we know, true friends are a rare gift, and if we always default to keeping people at a safe distance, we may never experience this unique treasure. Typically, three factors contribute to the building of the walls that keep our intimate fellowships at bay:

Individualism: Rugged individualism, especially for men, has no doubt been glorified. From John Wayne to James Bond, the strong silent type is always there to help others and never needs anything in return. The problem is if we remain largely disconnected from others, we are weakened and significantly reduce our opportunities to truly help anyone (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Vulnerability: Insecurities and fears of rejection encourage us to keep our distance from others. For if we expose too much of who we are, we may be criticized and even gossiped about. Sadly, this lie keeps us isolated and diminishes the potential for people to see Christ in us and witness what He can accomplish through us, despite our faults (Matthew 5:16).

Investment: Sometimes greed causes our hesitation in getting too close, because of the risk of being asked for more than we may be comfortable giving – either materially, or relationally. Alternately, pride can get in the way when we find ourselves too ashamed to accept anything from anyone during our times of need. Thus, the cycle of good will is broken (2 Corinthians 8:14). Unfortunately, when greed and pride is allowed to infect our relationships, division, isolation and destruction typically results.

Application: “A Friend Like Jesus” – 1 John 3:16
To get a perspective on just how important relationships are, all we have to do is look to Jesus. During His time on earth, He developed relations with the masses, chose twelve to go deeper with and then from the twelve, He drew even closer with three. Did He spend all His time with people? No – for He also made intentional time to be alone with His Father, but His life was given for others. So much so that He even allowed moments for His friends to care for Him, even though He needed not. Are we available to be used by God so completely? Even if it means getting out of our comfort zone, breaking down our false walls of protection and investing in the friendships God brings our way?

Favor In Fellowship

imageI recently read commentary that advised pastors to serve their people, but not to need them. Clearly, this was referencing the dangers that the need for approval can create in ministry. For if we become preoccupied with pleasing people, we invite the temptation of compromising truth and diluting God’s word in order to win favor.

However, the thought of needing others caused me to also consider those on the opposite spectrum whom state they don’t need church, or fellowship in order to be Christian. Is this true? After all, in some countries believers are denied the opportunity to freely assemble and are imprisoned for expressing their faith in Christ. But this reality presents a larger question – if these Christians willingly face death in order to worship with their fellow believers, why would so many others decidedly deny themselves this precious gift? For if we do, our spiritual walk is ultimately hindered in at least three vital ways:

Gifting: As believers we are all given gifts that serve to build the church, encourage others and mature believers in their faith (Ephesians 4:12). So, if we deny ourselves the opportunity to receive the gifts of others and to reciprocate the process by invested our gifts in them, we diminish our full potential to be used by Christ.

Grounding: There’s a lot of teaching that serves to “tickle the ears.” In other words, we can find people to tell us what we want to hear, but is it truth (2 Timothy 4:3)? When we commit to fellowship with believers who teach and live-out the inerrant Word of God, we are less likely to be swayed by false doctrine and in turn, we are able to share truth that breaks through captivating lies.

Growing: Without proper nutrition our physical growth deteriorates. Likewise, without consistent biblical consumption, our spiritual growth stagnates. Therefore, in order to grow in our walk with Christ, we can not disregard the biblical command for our active participation in church and fellowship as a primary component to our overall worship (Hebrews 10:25).

Application: “Feed The Need” Galatians 6:10
The church is the body of Christ. We are created with differences and various talents, but we are to operate together for the glory of God and to share His truth with others so that they may be added to the growth of His body. Therefore, we must congregate, we must fellowship, we must serve and we must not isolate. Rather, let us seek out every opportunity to share the gifts we’ve been entrusted to the prosperity of all.

Placed with Purpose

imageHave you ever struggled with having to go someplace you really didn’t want to go, or forced with a group of people when you just wanted some time alone? Or, perhaps it was just the opposite and you were stuck alone when you wanted to be around others. Additionally, have you ever felt trapped in a situation you couldn’t seem to break free from? What we do during these times is both influential and impactful. Clearly, we can either pout about not getting our way, or surrender the situation to God to change our outlook and redeem the time for His purposes as we take advantage of three primary opportunities no matter where we might find ourselves:

Expose: As Christians we serve as His ambassadors and therefore, represent Him no matter where we are (2 Corinthians 5:20). So, how do we show up? Are we reflecting negative, bitter and downtrodden attitudes, or joyful, uplifting and positive outlooks? It’s not to be fake, but we must remember people are watching, especially when they know we’re believers. After all, Christ has given us much to be thankful for, even when things aren’t aligning to our preferences, and exposing others to this truth comes in various ways.

Encourage: Is our time with others spent complaining, whining and gossiping, or are we seizing the moment to encourage others and ourselves with truth and love (Ephesians 4:15)? We are all aware of the obvious negatives in the world, but what about the positives? There’s plenty of those to share too, especially for those who know Christ.

Engage: No matter where we are, do we sit on the sidelines, or get involved? It’s amazing how our attitude changes from negative to positive when we decide to make the best of a situation. We may not have preferred it, but since we’re there, let’s engage others and ourselves to participate, and be a positive influence to what’s going on around us (Philippians 4:12).

Application: “Make The Most” – Galatians 6:10
God is always with us, no matter how high, or how low our experiences may be. Therefore, even though we may not “feel” like doing something, we have His redeeming power to overcome, persevere and make the most of every opportunity that comes our way. Are we sitting with our arms folded, head down and pouting about something? Even though we are all tempted with these moments, thank God we don’t have to linger there! It’s a choice and through Christ we have the power to change our attitude from that of victim to victor and to share it with others.

Called and Committed

imageVince Lombardi once declared, “the quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” If this is true, what do we consider to be the chosen field we’re most committed to? Is it our job, our hobby – or, do we consider all things in this life as platforms and opportunities to make disciples, reflect Christ and fulfill the great commission (Matthew 28:19)? Considering three characteristics of commitment helps ensure all we do is unto God and therefore done with excellence.

Genuine: What motivates us to give our best? When we’re “sold out” for Christ, we discover a genuine desire for excellence becomes a joyful pursuit because we realize what we do goes beyond ourself (Acts 20:24). Although our efforts may result in perks and promotion, those outcomes no longer possess us, for the thrills of making Kingdom impact takes their place.

Guardian: We protect what we’re most committed to. If it is Christ, how well do we guard our time with Him? In addition, how well do we seek to protect those areas He has entrusted to us such as our mind, body, soul, family and time? Do we abuse, infect, or neglect these blessings with compromise and excuses? May we never grow lukewarm, but excel in all areas of our stewardship (Revelations 3:16).

Gracious: When we’re committed to something, we also tend to be generous with the time and resources necessary to support it. Therefore, when we consider all God has given us as gateways to introduce His truth and light into the world, our motivation to graciously give our best in all we do overflows (Acts 20:35).

Application: “Passing A Legacy?” – 2 Corinthians 9:9
What do we want to be remembered for? Honestly, is it what our job was, how well we played a game, or where we lived? Those may be identifiers, but in the end, will anyone be able to say we were an authentic witness for Christ? Will others know our heart and how deeply we loved them? Will there be ongoing produce from the seeds we planted in faith during our lifetime, or will it all end? Will our family, our work, our community and our relationships rejoice because we lived? Again, what will be our legacy be, and what will be left behind? Thankfully, when our life and primary commitment is for Christ, He can be trusted in answering these questions for us, for our legacy is in His hands.

by Dagan J. Sharpe @ CareerCall.

Marketplace Missionaries

imageWhy do we work? Is it just to make money? Obviously, work provides us with the means to support ourselves and our families, but is that its sole value and purpose? Or, could it be that what we do for a living is also one of the most powerful platforms we have been entrusted with by God to propel the gospel and promote His Kingdom agenda? Typically, there are three consequences to Christians impacting the marketplace – expecting them helps us maintain our perspective as our work operates as another opportunity to fulfill the great commission:

Priorities Revealed: As we enter the marketplace, our priorities, along with the priorities of others are revealed. This helps us to discern which master we’re seeking to serve (Luke 16:13). For example, do we covet our position? Are we motivated by power, possessions and prestige, or do we seek to glorify Christ in all we do by giving our best, helping others and making our workplace a better place for all?

Prohibiting Responses: We may feel as though our faith is not allowed to be expressed where we work. In fact, our jobs may be at risk if we even dare to share it. However, we also know that our good deeds, hard work and contributions to a prosperous environment can not be denied, or over looked. By promoting the success of others and our employer, we are presented with opportunities to share truth, awarded with a voice that is respected and offered with a powerful influence for Christ (John 15:8). Let’s consider the contributions of Daniel and Joseph and then analyze how we show up at work. Are we fueling problems, or serving as part of the solution?

Protection Received: Whenever we step out in faith and obedience, God assumes full responsibility for our protection and His promotion (Jeremiah 1:8). He may even use a nonbeliever, the government, or some other secular source to protect our advancement as we seek to expand His Kingdom and not our own. Therefore, we can be confident in knowing that whatever comes our way, God can be trusted with the outcomes. How does believing this change the way we approach work?

Application: “Persuasive Platforms” – 1 Peter 2:12
Work occupies a significant amount of our time. It also catapults us into the world arena and presents us with a choice. We can either conform to the world’s standards, cower in reluctance, operate as an undercover Christian, or courageously embrace the opportunity to perform at our best, shine as a bright light amidst the shadows and serve to promote the welfare of those around us. For as we positively impact our environments, we soon realize our work is transformed into a persuasive platform where Christ is glorified, the gospel is shared and His church is grown.

Additional resources for Christians in the marketplace are available through the “My God & My Job” message series by Dr. David H. McKinley.