1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Prior to this chapter, Paul’s aim was to describe how we should interact with others, how we should bless the lives of others in the body of Christ. He is ministering to those who, without question, love God. While he is pleased that many have acknowledged and learned to use their spiritual gifts, many have allowed divisions and addictions to lessen their spiritual gifts until they are nothing more than competitors with one another. Paul knows that to live our lives spiritually means to live our lives based on love and kindness, which is where we get today’s scripture.
The Greek word for kind is chrésteuomai. The root word is chrestos, which means fit for usage, or to be useful. This directly manifests what Paul is teaching. It tells your internal voice to say, “I will meet your need despite how you are treating me. I will stay useful to God so that God can keep accomplishing His purposes.”
Now, it’s easy to love who’s loving you back. It’s easy to reciprocate what someone has extended to you. But watch yourself: do not choose to be kind only to kind people. Even when they don’t reciprocate your kindness, even when they won’t say thank you, even when they talk behind your back, even when they take you for granted, you have to not only be okay on the inside, but act like it’s okay on the outside and be kind. You can’t enjoy the fullness of God if you can’t be kind.
It’s not easy. It’s not natural. Paul never said this was the easy way, but he did say it was the more excellent way.
Sometimes, you might want to mistreat those who mistreat you. You want to show them just how sharp your words can be, how menacing the returning dagger. It’s easy to cut someone off, to fight back, to distance yourself from the mistreatment of others and never speak to them again—to treat them how they treat you. But no, you must let love make you useful for God’s purposes. You must let the spirit lead your life and manifest in kindness to others.
We spend so much time concentrating on our response to mistreatment that we miss the Spirit’s provision in our own lives. We forget that while Sally over there misspoke and used cruel words against us, God woke us up, put His hands on us, opened doors for us, defeated enemies for us, sent us blessings, answered our prayers—all day long. Keep your eye on the bigger prize: God and your relationship with Him.
Paul is suggesting that we don’t have to be victorious or even respected, but we do have to be useful. We do have to be kind. God knows that you didn’t make that person cold—you are not the cause of their pain. Why would you take their behavior personally then? A cold heart treats everyone cold; it’s not a you and them connection, it’s a spiritual connection they are lacking. Recognize that you are not responsible for another person’s heart condition, but you are assigned in this season to help thaw it out. Imagine the torment and the fear they feel every day, so much so that they have to sabotage your dreams. That’s a lot of pain. Bend their trajectory back to God. Refuse to attack when attack is the natural response.
Plato once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Sure, you can put up walls and barriers and only let in the people who make you feel warm and fuzzy and comfortable and good about yourself. But the risk is that you won’t spiritually mature and neither will those you exclude, attack, and offend when you aren’t partnered with God to help thaw a frozen heart.
Matthew 21:6-11 (AMP)
Then the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them, and they brought the donkey and the colt, and placed their coats on them; and Jesus sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats on the road [as before a king], while others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him, and those that followed Him, were shouting [in praise and adoration], “Hosanna to the Son of David (Messiah); Blessed [praised, glorified] is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest [heaven]!” When He entered Jerusalem, all the city was trembling [with excitement], saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
On one end of the city, we have Jesus entering with humility—as the arriving fulfillment of hope. The crowds have been praying and expecting this Messiah sent from God. Jesus is the visible confirmation of prayers received, of disciples faithfully stewarded. Those people in the crowd waved their palms and when they looked at Jesus they knew they were looking at God. They knew they were seeing their future.
On the other end of the city, Pontius Pilate is entering with pomp and majesty.
While Jesus is the visible fulfillment of humanity’s hope, Pilate represents greed and mistrust. That same change they believed in then as they waved their palms is the same change I believe in now. I know, with deep-seated conviction, that Jesus can change people. This is the driving force behind my prayers and the reason I come to worship and lift my voice with praise. I am in a relationship with Christ who can change conditions. I don’t care how much weight I carry, how much pain I’m suffering through, or how much pressure is squeezing in on me. If I can just get to Jesus, then I know change is on the way.
Matthew 21:6-11 brings a different lens to today’s political climate, does it not? We are living in excessively embarrassing times as our political system threatens to weaken this country’s integrity and splinters this American experiment on diversity, plurality, and inclusion.
I must confess—and I suspect some of you are feeling this way too—that I live juxtaposed between severe pain and unbelievable excitement. One look at our fragile world today and you’re looking at the source of the pain. On the other hand, my excitement has never been higher because I know that God can change seasons, people, and conditions. Change is painful, but it is not as painful as staying the same. It’s not as hard as letting change pass you by.
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, a famed British painter and sculptor, was one of the most famous painters of the Victorian era. His first showing was at the tender age of 13, and the Royal Family quickly took notice of his talent, commissioning him to complete portraits. He was even recruited to provide Queen Victoria and Prince Albert private drawing lessons.
He was visiting a family in an old mansion in Scotland. One of the servants accidentally spilled a pitcher of soda water on the wall, staining the wall. The family went out for the day, but Landseer stayed behind and observed the mistake on the wall. He picked up some charcoal, and incorporated the stain into the development of a beautiful piece of art. The family came back to an extraordinary drawing of a waterfall with trees and animals. Landseer figured out how to incorporate the stain into a change until an accident became a masterpiece.
We are all here today, like the crowd waving palms, because Jesus stood before us looking at the stain of sin. He took the charcoal of His grace and painted a picture of what salvation looks like. Salvation put the paintbrush into the master’s hands until redemption turned us into a masterpiece. Just look at what God has made out of a stain.
God’s grace provides strength to meet every challenge and to overcome every weakness. He brings proof that spirituality still works. He shows us a crowd of hopeful, liberated people shouting Hosanna as Jesus approaches—a beloved community welcoming social parity, political integrity, and economic prosperity for everybody. On the other side of the city, we have economic exploitation, political oppression, religious manipulation, and social domination.
Which side of the city are you entering in on?
Only a spiritual life can produce the change we want; it’s the only change that makes a difference. You can change anything in your life without changing spiritually, and the change isn’t going to last. But if you change spiritually, then nothing about every other part of your life can stay the same. Spiritual growth means deeper commitment to His Word, deeper discipline in prayer, and increased intimacy in worship.
2 Peter 1:5-8 says, For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We live in a post-Christendom age, where our spirituality has become diluted, eroded, and fragile. Our spiritual maturation determines our human elevation. Don’t neglect your spiritual growth because everything else is connected to it.
Tell me what you need today, and I have a simple answer for you: grow spiritually.
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Corinthians 15:14, NIV).
The Resurrection is controversial. It’s radical. It’s almost unbelievable, but its power is what builds the foundation of faith. The same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in all believers.
That power is what fuels an almost unbelievable event in human history. It’s a power that we can either embrace or overlook, but it’s a power that exists and it exists for YOU.
We base our faith on a living Savior, a man that died for us and yet lives in us. It’s a great mystery that we may not understand completely, but when we accept it, it changes our lives. So, the hope for today is that this remarkable Resurrection happened for you.
When we examine the Resurrection, we can find 4 soul-serving truths—truths we can hang onto when life gets rough or when it becomes more than we can bear.
1. The empty tomb means God’s work continues.
When Jesus rose from the grave, time did not end. Death did. Jesus’ sacrifice on that cross defeated Satan and offered a path for every man and woman in creation to enter the eternal Kingdom of God. The power that rose Jesus from the dead brought the Kingdom to each and every person who believes. If God’s work continues, then the work you do continues. The progress you make matters to Him.
2. The empty tomb means you will never be the same.
When you embrace the empty tomb as your gift from God, it changes everything about you. When the man who left the tomb alive and well enters your life, you become a work of God. He shapes your purpose, your choices, your life for His glory. You can’t hide from it.
David writes in Psalm 139:7-10 NIV, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Once you are His, you will never be the same.
3. The empty tomb makes the irrelevants in life irrelevant.
The enemy is greatly concerned with getting you so tangled up in the irrelevant things in life that you take your focus off the relevant work God is doing in you. When your steps have been ordered, the enemy has no power. You have the same power that emptied the tomb. It empowers you to look past the struggles and the pain and to look into the eternal. What’s relevant today is that you are alive, you are a disciple, and God is on His throne.
4. The empty tomb means you have God’s Word.
A man of His word, Jesus Christ fulfilled all the promises God gave you when He went to that cross and walked out of that tomb alive. His Resurrection means you have God’s Word.
God said He would stop death. God said He loved you enough that He sent His one and only Son to die and live again so you don’t have to perish (John 3:16). He loves you with the same intensity He used to raise His Son from death.
Invest your time and attention in that promise and all your mistakes get erased. That’s hope for today.
Luke 5:1-11 (AMP)
When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon [Peter], “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch [of fish].” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night [to the point of exhaustion] and caught nothing [in our nets], but at Your word I will [do as you say and] lower the nets [again].” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were [at the point of] breaking; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats [with fish], so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all his companions were completely astounded at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon [Peter]. Jesus said to Simon, “Have no fear; from now on you will be catching men!” After they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him [becoming His disciples, believing and trusting in Him and following His example].
Have you ever had a rough night? A rough day? A tough year? Times like this can take the wind out of your sails. It’s tough to keep showing up for anything but the mediocre when life gets like this.
When life gets like this, all you want to do is retreat—to bed, to the recliner, to anywhere but here.
We also have this reaction when we’re asked to do something out-of-the-ordinary like serve in a new ministry, reach out to a sandpaper person, or go on that mission trip. Our first reaction is fear or doubt, which are close cousins. Our mind tells us, “No, not me. I’m too…I’ve too much…Not now…”
That’s what Peter does in the beginning of this conversation with Jesus on the boat. He’s cleaning up after a failed night of fishing and Jesus says, “Let’s go back. Let’s go fishing.”
Everything in Peter is telling him to not do this. He’s too tired and frustrated. That’s his human lens, but when he puts on his faithful lens, it says: “But at Your word I will lower the nets again.”
The result? When he lowers his fear and lets faith step in, Peter experiences the power of success with Christ. That’s the answer. We have to trust that Jesus wants us to succeed.
That first step of faith is radical. When Jesus calls us to Him, we want to do everything He wills for us. As we grow in faith, we face the struggle of this Christian life—the world’s way or Christ’s way.
Jesus wasn’t going fishing because He was hungry. He was firing up His disciples to do the real work. He explains the incredible journey He’s about to take Peter on—“Have no fear; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10, AMP).
So, how do you do what Peter did? How do you become the man or woman Christ beckons you to become? Here are three steps from our passage:
1.Accept the risk of faith. Faith does not come without risk. It means we have to die to ourselves. It means we have to get to the end of our rope. We have to be willing to put the boat back in the water when He calls us to do it, even if we aren’t sure. But trust the risk. Jesus gives you power to overcome the objections, the fears, the naysayers. All you have to do is show up and keep watching Him.
2.Tap into your God-given imagination. This passage was interesting because Peter is a visionary. He’s impulsive and sees that Jesus is going to change the world. But sometimes, his sin and humanness catch up to him. Trust that vison. Trust that God has a specific plan for your life and you are his child. He wants the best for you.
3.Say no to your fear and stay close to Jesus. Peter was not unfamiliar with Jesus. He’d seen him heal. He’d seen him preach. He knew that Jesus was worth the risk of saying no to his fear. This exercise is immensely easier when we are close to Christ through our prayer, our presence, our practice of reading and applying His Word.
Don’t forget what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16. You are His plan for reaching this broken world. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire!
It’s storm season. This spring we’ve seen inches and inches of snowfall. We’ve seen nor’easters and snowmaggedons. The estimated damage in the Northeastern United States is well into the millions. It’s remarkable what wind and snow can do to powerlines, trees, and airline flights.
Life’s storms are usually just on the horizon. We may have some warning signs. However, we often don’t see the storms coming, or we think they’ll skip us. To the outside observer, Christians may seem to avoid the storms in this broken world, but that’s a misconception. Christians get hit with storms and suffering just like all of mankind. But the difference is that they don’t erase us.
What’s the foundation of this difference?
Our focus Scripture tells us: “We receive a Kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is our foundation. We have been given a gift of the unshakable Kingdom of God. Its foundation is in His power. The power of God makes YOU unshakable in the face of the storm. Here are four reasons why:
1. God’s power is unstoppable. Our focus passage calls God a “consuming fire.” Ephesians 1:19-20 (NIV) says God’s power is “incomparably great for us who believe” and the same “power as the mighty strength that raised Christ from the dead.”
2. God’s power is LIVING in you. You are strong in your foundation of faith in Jesus Christ because that unstoppable power lives in you. “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV).
3. God’s power is for the living. You are ALIVE. You may be storming, but you are alive. That’s something to be thankful for and it’s often the power we need to overcome the storms—when we pray, when we worship. When we stand at the foot of the cross in awe, God’s power strengthens us from within and gives us the power to live for His glory and purposes. The Kingdom LIVES in you: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (I Corinthians 4:20, NIV).
4. God’s power is eternal. Isn’t the Word of God always fitting? When we talk about the storms of life, we picture a life that’s potentially sliding off the cliff. But the Word promises us that our faith secures us a foundation on the rock of salvation—an unshakable, eternal foundation in the Lord Jesus Christ. “For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11, NIV).
Application: Are you stuck in one of life’s storms? Remember, you are unshakable because you have Christ in you. Lean into thanksgiving and worship and you can access that power that raised Jesus from the grave.