Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Hard Work and Generosity

One of the many things that I learned from my father was that hard work provides for a man’s family and the surplus is to be used to help those in need. That lesson has always remained in my heart and I realize that I have an obligation to share my surplus with others in their time of need.

Paul, when he bids farewell to the elders at Ephesus, said in Acts 20, “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. 34 You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. 35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Look at what Paul has to say about material items. The first thing that he says is that he had never coveted anyone’s silver, gold or fine clothes. When you look up the definition of “covet”, you will find that it does not mean to steal. It means “yearn to possess or have”. In short, coveting means that we look at others and envy what they have. Those thoughts and desires, in turn, lead to other sins like stealing. We find ourselves willing to do anything to possess what other people have. The things of this world begin to wedge themselves between God and ourselves. We believe that our happiness is founded on possessing more and more. 

As we desire more and more things in our lives, we begin to desire God even less. Those items become the center of our lives. In time, they will become our master and take over our lives. Many say the same thing, “I would be happy if I only had this or that.” We predicate our happiness on the central belief that if we had a fancy car, home or clothing, we would be happy. All of our dreams would be met and we could easily enjoy our lives. We believe that our lives would be fulfilled. 

Would we really be living a fulfilled and happy life? Every year, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network produces a report called the “World Happiness Report”. In the report, 156 countries are ranked by how happy people are. Using surveys and polls, a sample population is asked about how they feel. In 2018, the United States, with all its wealth, prosperity and upward socioeconomic mobility, did not even rank in the top 10 of the list. In fact, the United States ranked No. 18 — falling four spots from last year and five from two years ago. For a nation that has everything a person could ever want or desire, we are becoming more and more unhappy with each passing year.

In other studies, we see suicide rates increasing. Abuse of drugs and alcohol are on the rise. More and more Americans feel depressed and unhappy. What has happened to us? Have we lost our way? Have we forgotten what we need in our lives to be happy?

Look at what Paul says in verse 34. He states that his own hands provided for his needs and even the needs of those who were with him. Paul found his purpose in preaching the Good News and in providing for himself and others. When we have a purpose in our lives and we are dedicated to that work, we find not only that we are able to take care of ourselves and others but also that we are doing God’s will in our lives. 

In his epistle to the Colossians, Paul writes in chapter 3, “23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Paul, in short, tells us that we are not working for the glory of men. We are working for the glory of the Lord and our inheritance is our reward. We serve one Master who is Christ Jesus. Once again, we find our purpose in our lives and we work willingly and diligently to do the best we can. When we excel, others will see that we are not working for the praise of men but rather the glory of the Father.

In Colossians 3, Paul writes, “17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

As we work, we are not doing it just because it allows us to buy more things. We do all things as representatives of our Lord Jesus Christ. We give God the glory and thank Him for the opportunity to serve in the Kingdom. Our one and only purpose in life is to do all things that are righteous in accordance to God’s will and to give Him all glory and praise. We do not do anything for ourselves. We are to put others above our needs.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, writes in chapter 2, “3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

This is part of having a Christ-like attitude. Once again, Paul reminds us that we are not to do anything to impress others. We are to be humble and think of others. We are to look out for the interests of others and help whenever and wherever possible. We are all called to do so.

In 2018, my family and I found ourselves having to deal with medical issues and financial problems. You could say that 2018 was not a great year for us and it was very difficult to thank God for blessings when we were in the middle of dealing with so many problems. Each day seemed like more and more problems were heaped upon us. Every time we took three steps forward, we found ourselves knocked back two steps. Each moment of every day was a trial and each day was tough for us. We honestly felt, at times, that God was not listening to us. 

As I was recovering from my horrible illness, I began to realize that my purpose to serve God never vanished and God was there all the time. Each step, whether forward or backwards, was another step closer to God. My family and I experienced setbacks, but we never allowed them to be failures. Failure never became an option for us. As long as we moved closer to the Lord and relied on Him, we knew that He would see us through whatever we faced.

As I relate our story and experiences to others, I realize the relevance of Paul’s words in the second chapter of Philippians when he writes, “13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. 14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

The other thing I realized is that when we give our surplus to those in need, we will receive when we are in need. I call your attention to 2 Corinthians. Paul writes in Chapter 8, “11 Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. 12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. 13 Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. 14 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.

Just as we have times of plenty, we may also face the lean times. We give to others. Others, in turn, will give back to us when we need it. It is through this sharing that we are able to do what is good and pleasing to God. We are called to share our prosperity with those around us and always remember the old adage, “What goes up will come down.” Things change quickly in our lives. One minute we are healthy and the next something dreadful will pop up. One day we have a job and the next we are without a job. Those events occur regularly in the lives of individuals.

The thing that distinguishes Christians from the rest of the world is that we share by putting others ahead of ourselves. We become “bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”

As you go through this new year, take time to share your surplus with others, put others before yourself, work hard not for the praise of men but for the glory of the Father and “live clean, innocent lives as children of God.” When you do all those things, you can most assuredly stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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