Daily Readings: Numbers 13-14, Romans 15
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you read any self help article online today entitled “5 things you need to stop doing to be happier” or “7 habits to kick in 2017” or “I stopped doing these 10 things and became so much happier!” one of the most common items I read is to stop spending time with people that drain you. Remove relationships from your life that seem to bring you down. Stop spending time with those people who are just hard to be around!
Every time I read that bit of advice I think to myself, “Man is there a lot of truth in that!” It is easy for every single one of us to think about relationships in our life that make us feel drained. At any given time I always have a handful of relationships that would absolutely make my life less stressful if I was to just walk away. My life would be so much easier without them.
The unfortunate reality with self-help articles is in their title.
If you go back and read the entire message of Jesus throughout the gospel, he doesn’t seem all that pre-occupied with how to help us advance our career, have less stress, make more money, grow our brand, or increase our social status. If Jesus were to create a section in a bookstore it would almost certainly have a very different title.
I love what Paul writes today. We are not called to please ourselves. We are called to view others the way Christ did. Jesus sought out the broken hearted. He sought out the people that others wanted nothing to do with and were all too willing to cast aside. Jesus commanded us to do the same.
And yes, sometimes dealing with difficult people can take a great deal of the endurance that Paul spoke of! We frequently have to turn to God and pray for the encouragement and endurance to lock arms with folks who are struggling.
It is hard to walk with someone in all of their messiness. It is challenging to watch them make the same self-sabotaging mistakes time after time. It is maddening to have them push you away in the middle of their low moments even though you are one of the few people willing to walk alongside them during these times, especially when you would love to walk away as well!
It is so easy to want to jump on Facebook, read an article about removing those relationships from your life, and say, “Sounds good to me! This year is my year!”
Jesus asks us to see people the way he sees them. When we are feeling strong, Jesus wants us to do what Paul suggests and help those who are currently feeling weak and vulnerable. He wants us to be a source of encouragement and endurance for them as the run their race. He wants us to focus on serving them first instead of ask ourselves the question, “How is serving them impacting me and my life?”
This isn’t the message that we typically hear today in our society. Then again, neither was most of what Jesus taught!
Here is the interesting thing though; when we stop asking ourselves whether or not this relationship is really benefitting us in any way and make serving others the singular focus, life ultimately becomes way more rewarding for us as well! Even though the title hanging above the section Jesus creates in the bookstore is “Help Others” and most of his advice runs counter to what you are going to read in the Self Help section, the result is a more fulfilled life for us as well.
They key is motive. If we are helping others simply to “please ourselves” and feel good about what a great thing we are doing and what a great Christian we are, ultimately we will eventually say, “Man this is draining and not worth it!” If we are helping others just for the sake of helping others because the harvest is truly plentiful and the workers are few, encouragement and endurance will flow naturally from our father in Heaven.
Thought to ponder
Who is someone in my life I could really encourage at this moment in their walk, but if I am truly honest with myself, would rather simply let go?
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