Living From Abundance

1 Thessalonians 2

Most of us go through life working hard, trying to get ahead.  We all define “getting ahead” differently.  Some strive for money, others look for more time, we even throw family into the mix.  We think that having more of this one thing will give us the life we dream of.  We think it will bring us abundance.  Sadly, it never comes.  In fact, the harder we chase it, the more elusive it becomes.  For example, our toil for more money never reaches abundance.  John D. Rockefeller confirmed it.  When asked, “how much is enough?”  He replied, “just one dollar more.”   The Apostle Paul, however, knew better.   Simply said, Paul worked out of his abundance, not for abundance.

In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul tells us how he works from abundance.  To start, he reminds us of his terrible sufferings and mistreatment.  How can that be abundance?  Obviously, Paul’s definition of abundance did not look like ours.  His definition sounds more like righteousness.  Now before you check out because you are not righteous, consider this.  Paul references the righteousness of Abraham in Romans 4:21.  He says that Abraham was granted it by having “no unbelief to make him waiver concerning the promise of God” and that he was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”  The result was righteousness.  Paul shared in God’s righteousness as well.  This righteousness is exactly what allows him to live abundantly in any situation.

When we are fully convinced, like Abraham and Paul that God is able to do everything he promises, we too will be able to live from abundance.  In fact, Jesus promises it specifically in John 10:10.  Like Paul, when we live in abundance, no adversity, no pain, no suffering or mistreatment will ever discourage or destroys us.


Your Eulogy

Angel on top of gravestone in the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn - Black & White

2 Samuel 18; 2 Corinthians 11; Ezekiel 25; Psalm 73

I was recently asked to write my eulogy. No, nothing is wrong. Writing your own eulogy is an exercise that prompts focus. It allows us to envision our lives complete and accomplished, thereby giving us the ability prioritize today. Have you ever thought about your own? What would it say? What will you be remembered for?

As I think about it, I am tempted to write about all of my accomplishments. Maybe I want everyone to think of the beautiful homes that I built, my beautiful wife or the amazing kids that I raised. Today, as I listen to Paul boasting of his accomplishment’s, I am reconsidering. According to 2 Corinthians 11:22-28, Paul’s eulogy would include

  • He was a Hebrew
  • He was an Israelite
  • He is the offspring of Abraham
  • He was a hardworking servant of Christ
  • For Christ, he endured prison with countless beatings, often near death
  • He was whipped, stoned and beaten with rods
  • He lived in danger of being robbed, everywhere he went
  • He was often hungry, cold and endured sleepless nights without protection

I don’t know about you but reading that list does not fill me with warm fuzzies. Even so, it’s exactly the list that Paul is most proud of. Why? They were the periods of his greatest weakness. What Paul had figured out is that when he was at his weakest, he was at his best because he was fully reliant on Christ.   Ironically, we are taught to avoid our weaknesses.  Instead of weaknesses we are taught to find our strengths.  Once we do, we are told to exploit them. Paul warns us against such philosophies in verse 3.  He says, “I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.” (NLT).   He continues to explain that our adoption of such success strategies are really our acceptance of “different gospels.” In other words, they literally steer us away from the King and Christ, Jesus.  Paul continues to explain that our adoption of these teachings will affect our eternity.  Hear his words in verse 15. “It is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

If you die today, what will your eulogy say?  God willing, we all have many years ahead of us.  Remember, you get to choose, today and every day, whether it will be an account of your worldly accomplishments or your ridiculous love and dangerous witness.

What to do when you fail

Today’s reading: Numbers 27; Psalms 70–71; Isaiah 17–18; 1 Peter 5

May 18th, 2016

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd. – Numbers 27:16–17

What to do when you fail

Whenever I read these phrases about ‘going out and coming in before them’ in the Bible my heart longs to be a leader. I love. I thirst to serve and help others. Yet my desire brings about failure. Repeatedly. Today I pain for those I have failed along the way as we went out and came in.

Yesterday marked a failed attempt to restore a previous failure for me. This morning I sought advice from a stronger and better leader of what to do now. The chapter was titled ‘Dealing with failure’, from Mastering Self: To Lead Self and Others by Donald G Hanna. I was looking for a next step. Here is what I found.

Chief Hanna teaches that leaders fail for three basic reasons: relationship, commission and omission.

“Leadership is demanding of time, priority, and emotional energy. A tendency persists to neglect prayer, Bible study, spouse, and children. Relationships become strained or deteriorate with residual failure. Relationship failure occurs due to improper relations with God, family, superiors, or others. Commission failure results directly from wrong decisions, actions, and priorities. It results indirectly from wrong values, beliefs, attitude, and thinking. Omission failure results from failing to decide or do what should be decided or done. It often involves overlooking in lieu of overseeing, i.e., failure to exercise authority in oversight obligation. Procrastination and rationalization enhance omission failure.”

Chief Hanna goes on to say that, “three biblical steps are necessary to respond to a personal failure or wrong:

  1. admit the failure or wrong without rationalizing or blaming,
  2. seek forgiveness from the person wronged by your failure, and
  3. take remedial action if the failure or wrong can be restored.”

Praise God for a system of forgiveness. Oh how I rely on Him. Chief Hanna’s perspective on the causes of failure leave me with much work to do. How are you doing with your leadership?

God would you help me lead. God may You abide in me and I in You. This is my only hope. Amen.