Handling Your Blessings
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
It's not fair! From the time we're very young, most of us spend a lot of energy making sure things are fair. We watch our parents to make sure they don't give our siblings more than they give us. We watch our friends to make sure they don't have better toys, or nicer clothes, or more dates than we do. We do the same thing with God. We look at how he blesses someone else, and we can't resist the urge to compare it with what he's given us. We don't realize the audacity involved in accusing God of being unfair. The Bible leaves no question that God is completely just. Our problem is that we don't look at things the right way. Our problem is not that we have been given too little. Our problem is what we have done with what we've been given. Jesus made clear that we're responsible for what God gives us, not what he gives others. If any unfairness is involved, it's in the way we mishandle what God entrusts to us.
Take some time to consider how well you're handling your blessings. Remember, God holds you accountable for what he's given you, not what he's given your neighbor. If you've grown up in a Christian environment, with years of Bible study opportunities, God expects you to know his Word. He's not being unfair to expect obedience from you, because you clearly know what he wants you to do. The important thing in life is not who gets what but how well you manage what you get. As a Christian, you've received a lot, so be ready to give an account for what you've done with it.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Just about everything in this life is subject to change without notice. Your friend can become your enemy. Your family can be removed from you. Your health can go. You can lose your job. Nothing is guaranteed to remain the same, except one thing. There is one constant, one thing you can count on, now and forever, and that is the unfailing love of God.
There is nothing you can do and no place you can go where God's love for you is not there. The apostle Paul tried to imagine a way that God's love would not be available or sufficient. He couldn't think of one. No matter what your situation is right now, whether you are healthy or suffering from disease, employed or unemployed, on top of the world or feeling like a failure, living the Christian life victoriously or suffering the consequences of sin, no matter what, God loves you.
God's love isn't altered by your circumstances. It doesn't depend on your environment. It is steady and unchanging. Even demons cannot stop God from loving you. God is not intimidated by your problems or your faults. If there is anything the Bible makes crystal clear, it is that God loves his children. That's why the psalmist could proclaim with confidence, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; / his love endures forever" (Psalm 106:1).
You may feel at times that even God couldn't possibly love you. You may look at your circumstances and wonder why a loving God would allow you to go through such difficult times. Always remember that your state of mind is not what determines God's love. Nor is his love decided by your situation. God's love is the one thing in life you can safely count on. Base your security on this one unchanging truth: nothing can separate you from God's love. That's a promise.
The Glory to Come
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Many of Paul's friends suffered because they were Christians. Some lost their jobs; others were beaten; many were killed. In light of the dangers involved, some were questioning whether Christianity was worth it. At least it would be easier to be silent Christians, outwardly following the crowd to avoid persecution. Paul assured them everything they were going through was worth it, as they would see when they were with Christ in heaven. He promised that their present suffering would be more than compensated by the rewards that awaited them in heaven.
In light of an eternity in heaven, this life is only a blip on the screen. If only we could fully understand how magnificent heaven will be! No tears. No pain. No suffering. When we reach our eternal home, we will realize that everything the Bible said was true. Everything God promised will be ours. Then we will know that living the Christian life was well worth the effort.
If you are going through a difficult time right now, keep in mind that this life is only temporary. Nothing you might be suffering now can compare to the reward you will receive for having patiently endured. One day, you will enjoy eternity with God, and eternity will be more wonderful than anything you could imagine. Don't become disheartened by the problems you face right now. God has things for you to learn and to do for him. Remain faithful to him today, and your reward in heaven will be beyond comparison!
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
Don't be surprised when not everyone is as excited about the gospel as you are! As you enjoy the thrill of walking with Jesus, you may be surprised when others choose not to experience God in the same exciting way that you do. Paul understood that those who approach Christianity with skepticism will not find any power in it. Such people consider the gospel foolishness. On the other hand, those who believe the good news know firsthand the power of God that changes lives.
Why is it some people never experience God's activity in their lives? Their lack of faith prevents them from seeing him at work. Ultimately, their rejection of the Truth costs them their lives. However, those who approach God with faith see him at work, and they experience his mighty power.
The Bible says some people will refuse to accept the truth of the cross. To nonbelievers, the Christian message is nonsense; therefore it holds no power for them. They won't understand how anyone could accept it. They may even ridicule you for believing it. The Bible says these people are doomed to perish. Don't ever stop sharing the good news simply because some reject it. There will be those who accept the truth of Christ, and you will see them experience God at work in their lives in the same powerful way he has worked in yours.
Honor Your Parents
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Depending on what kind of parents you have, you'll find this fifth commandment easy or difficult to follow. Honoring your parents means treating them with respect whether or not they've earned it. That's not exactly the way we do things these days, is it? You've heard the saying, "If you want respect, you have to earn it." Yet God offers no exception clause here; he simply says to honor your parents.
If your parents are loving, kind, and fair, you'll want to return their consideration. If they are cold, critical, even abusive, you are to honor them nonetheless. Does that mean you agree with the way they do things? Of course not. Does it mean you respect the way they live? No. It means you honor them because God loves them. Showing respect to them is an act of obedience to God rather than an act of submission to them. You are treating them as Christ would. If you no longer have contact with your parents, or if they have died, this means treating their reputation or their memory with integrity by speaking about them respectfully.
God understood that this is asking a lot in some cases. Perhaps that's why he attached a promise to this command. It's not always easy, but doing the right thing comes with its own rewards, including a heart free from guilt, anger, and bitterness. Obedience to the fifth commandment brings a double blessing, for both the parents and the children benefit when a son or daughter shows honor no matter what.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
The world suffers from a severe shortage of kindness. We learn cruelty when we're very young. Remember some of the cutting words you heard on the playground? It's really no wonder; adults aren't always great role models. We say vindictive things; we accuse each other of all sorts of sins. We spread rumors and hold grudges. Over the centuries, the world has experienced incomprehensible violence because of people's refusal to treat one another the way God intended.
Jesus knew firsthand how cruel people can be. He was abused, rejected, tortured, and killed—all in the name of God! If there were a limit to how much cruelty one had to take before striking back, Jesus would certainly have passed it. If anyone had cause to be bitter and unforgiving, Jesus did. But he set the standard for us when he hung on the cross. Every breath was bringing indescribable pain, but he cried out, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34).
Christians ought to be conspicuous by our kindness. We should stand out as people known for our forgiveness. We should be characterized by gentleness. We should have a reputation for our compassion. If we are known, instead, for our bickering and our cruelty, we are unworthy to call ourselves by the name of Christ.
Forgiveness is the ultimate act of kindness. It's one thing to show kindness toward someone who has treated you kindly, but it's quite another to show kindness to someone who has hurt you. That's forgiveness; when you can do that, you are loving the way Christ loved.