Encourage and Build Each Other Up

Tucked away in an alcove of pine in Door County, Wisconsin, there is what many consider a treasure. Towers of precariously stacked stones populate this short stretch of shoreline at Lake Michigan’s Cave Point County Park.

Some towers are short and dainty looking, assembled quickly by someone passing through. Other structures clearly showcase much time, effort, and of course, patience. They are miracles of height and structure, balancing at six feet or more.

I visited this shoreline on a cold and windy autumn day. There were no builders in sight, just this evidence that many had been here and worked with their hands. Carefully, I made my way around the towers and down the shore. I wondered what inspires the visitors here to stack stones? What do they gain from building? Could this process of stacking represent anything similar in our own lives? Consider this verse:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV 

Therefore encourage one another…

In this passage of Scripture “encourage” translates to mean comfort. The apostle Paul wrote this verse in a letter to the Thessalonians who were persecuted for their new Christian faith. Their loved ones were punished and killed daily for their beliefs. In his letter, Paul reminds them to comfort one another and to live knowing their future is secure with those they have lost.

Our problems may not be as dire as the Thessalonians, but we still understand hardship. Everyone has problems, even the people who visited this rocky beach. Perhaps they walked next to the water like I did and tried skipping stones. Maybe seeing the towers around them calmed their spirits or inspired them to build too.

Whatever issues we face, knowing we are not alone helps us cope. Our faith comforts us and helps us comfort others. As companions in faith, our presence can encourage (comfort) others through hardship with compassion, hope, and thoughtfulness.  

and build each other up,…

Throughout his letter, Paul likens the members of the church to the parts of a body. Each person or part contributes to the welfare of the whole. His request to “build each other up” means to edify or improve each other intellectually, morally, and spiritually.

Our faith is always growing and in need of tending. We build each other up by praying together, discussing the Bible, and sharing how God touches our lives.

When we work with others, whether it is on faith…or stacking rocks, we soon learn people think and do things differently than we do. Comparing ourselves to others or judging them limits the learning and growth we can gain from them.

In the relaxed setting of these open waters, I imagine strangers building towers side by side. They learn from each other, share balancing tips, laugh, and cheer each other on as yet another huge rock remains in place.

It is not our job to fix or change people, but to build each other up (edify) as a community growing in a faith which benefits us all.     

just as in fact you are doing.

In this last part of the Scripture, Paul recognizes the Thessalonians for their supportive efforts. He gives them praise for holding on tightly to faith in the midst of tragic and challenging circumstances.

In today’s stressful and troubled world, confidence in our faith and purpose can become wobbly as well. We question if we are doing the right things for God and struggle to keep our balance.

Taking time to slow down and giving ourselves space to think about how we show up to love others brings meaning and purpose to our lives. For some understanding may come while on a walk, studying the Bible, or looking at the stars. For others, it may come stacking stones on a desolate shore. Paul’s words travel to all those places and more, imploring us to go a little higher.

Stacking Stones
by Jamie Trunnel

Wandering souls sometimes stack stones.
Marks of patience,
Balance,
And time free from phones.

Expressing their bliss
With careful luck.
Escaping from problems,
Or calamities which have struck.

What if each placed rock
Represented a problem someone had?
And, the stacking process made him feel…
Not so bad.

Standing back and taking a look
Put things in perspective;
Told him he had what it took.

Life could be organized
And balanced as such.
See all these other souls
Who thought just as much?

We all have problems.
We all struggle.
If we saw others’ towers,
Maybe ours would not crumble.

Standing vulnerably tall
With our problems on display,
Maybe we could all find
Peace,
Hope,
And a little less judgement along the way.

Stacking Stones is a poem from my new book Simple Wishes which releases in early September. Be sure to join my email subscriber list to receive upcoming sneak peeks of the book and other special offers!

Related Posts:

Love on Ordinary Days

A New Kind of Resolution

Judged Instead of Loved

Some Clowns Showed Me How to “BE” the Church

And Just a Note: Some outdoor enthusiasts consider rock stacks like these an unwelcome reminder of humanity. There are concerns about the natural erosion process and the habitat of insects or mammals which burrow under the rocks. This blog post is not intended to support or discourage rock stacking. 🙂

Notice Me: Our Quest to Matter

Notice me. Two simple words. Like a broken record this phrase plays unspoken in our minds throughout our lives. During our youth, it shakes us at full volume as we search for acceptance from classmates and look for love. In mid-life, it annoyingly chants at us while we work hard to achieve career goals and possibly to raise a likable family. As we progress in years, the “notice me” noise might quiet down along with life’s demands. Or, it could ramp up as we worry about being cared for and our legacy.

Whatever phase of life we are in, it is likely that a “Notice Me” soundtrack is playing in some way. We confront a natural human desire to be noticed by our family, friends, love interests, colleagues, employers, communities, and social media.

Knowing that we matter is important to us. Our culture tells us to get affirmation we must stand out, be glamorous, and accomplish extraordinary things. We can easily get off track and become consumed by quests to be noticed.

Do you find yourself getting caught up in the rat race for attention and acceptance? Do you feel torn about how much to promote your work, family, or volunteer efforts? After all, sometimes being noticed can bring good things, not only for yourself, but for others and for God. How do we figure out where our boundaries are?

Lately, I found myself wrestling with these questions as I worked through a decision in my life. In thinking about what to do, this Scripture verse came to mind:

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NLT)

This Scripture is part of Paul the Apostle’s letter to Thessalonian Christians. In this portion of the letter, Paul’s words are written as a guide on how to live a life that honors Christ. He lays out three goals for Christians to pursue:

Live a quiet life…

A quiet life, huh? Most of our lives are brimming with physical, mental, and emotional challenges from ourselves and others.

In Paul’s time, life was also anything but quiet. The Thessalonians faced constant threats of being persecuted for their beliefs and many died young. Their lives were full of worry and sadness.

So, what did Paul mean by a quiet life? Obviously, then and now, most people cannot leave their daily lives behind to inhabit a peaceful tropical island. And, most would not stop pursuing their goals even if it meant things quieted down. Ups and downs and turmoil continue to be part of life. So, when we can’t change our circumstances, we change how we react to them.

We set limits on our involvement in drama and aspire to live peaceably with everyone. Providing ourselves enough time for rest and thought helps us not overreact in situations. Exercise, healthy food, and personal care cultivates an environment for calm virtues and an even-temperament to grow.

Spending time with God hushes the world around us and motivates us to take care of ourselves. In quiet moments God can help us discover how to handle our relationships and what our energies should be applied to. The world around us will not provide a quiet life, but spending time with God helps us create one. 

Mind your own business…

The preoccupation humans have with each others’ lives began long before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nosy neighbors, gossiping acquaintances, preachy know-it-alls, and better-than-you busybodies have always existed. Social platforms are just new tools of the trade.

Not minding our own business starts innocently enough through curious conversations and pre-conceived notions. The subject arises again, maybe while chatting with someone at work or at a coffee house. We just thought others should know. Or, we want to get another opinion. Then perhaps, we do a little more Google investigating and justify it to ourselves.

The process is so subtle, so sly that we may not even notice it happening. But, it does. Our curiosity, our enthusiasm to be in-the-know, and our simple unawareness overtakes us. We slip quickly down the slopes of boasting, gossiping, obsessing, comparing, judging, envying, etc. It’s not a fun fall; we feel it in our gut.

Paul warns the Thessalonians to mind their own business. God crafted us uniquely for specific purposes. He does not compare us. Each of us has the capacity to love God and to love others in different and amazing ways. If we are always preoccupied with everyone else, then we cannot discern what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in us. Rather than focusing time and energy on the lives of others, God asks us to devote ourselves to learning from him and helping his plans unfold in our lives.

And work with your hands…

At the time Paul wrote this letter, some Thessalonians mistakenly believed that Christ’s second coming would be immediate, so many of them became lazy and relied on others to fulfill their needs. Manual labor was also often avoided because the Greek culture deemed it an unworthy cause. So, Paul reminds his audience to put their hands to work for whatever cause God has called them to. Respect from others is not earned by remaining idle.

Paul’s lesson applies to our lives today also. The work we can do for God waits in our careers, our homes, and elsewhere. It might involve the use of our hands literally, meaning we actually build, drive, cook, draw, write, dig, etc. And, it might mean the work of our hands metaphorically, as we brainstorm, crunch numbers, manage teams, make decisions, help people, etc.

Whatever the effort, our mission should be to think about what God wants to do through us. How has he gifted us to love and serve others? While working for him we need to mindfully consider our motivations. Are they self-serving or God-serving? By demonstrating God’s love in action, we will naturally draw others closer to him.  

Do you see a pattern emerging from understanding this Scripture? In helping the Thessalonians learn how to live Christ centered lives, all three of Paul’s goals focus on one thing – stop seeking the world’s attention and start inviting God’s attention.

Spending time with God builds a quiet life. Exploring our own personal instructions from him helps us keep everyone else’s business in perspective. And, displaying God, his love, and his good causes to the world is the quest that matters.

Let’s hit pause on the distracting “Notice Me” soundtrack playing in our heads. Then, let’s crank up the volume on “Notice Him”. It is such a better tune. Press on in faith my friends.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.
1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NLT)

Prayer for the Week:

Dear God,

Thank you for watching out for me and calling my attention to the slick spots in my life. There are times when life sweeps me away in dangerous currents of things like judgement, worry, and envy. Help me rise above all the forces battling for my attention and see the ways you rescue me. Teach me how to build a quiet life for myself in the time I devote to you. Remind me to direct more energy toward the things you are doing in my life instead of evaluating the lives of others. Guide me as I strive to reveal my love for you every day through the work that I do. May the people I meet notice you instead of me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen  

Standing Out
by Jamie Trunnel

When is the last time you stood out?
When you felt loved without a doubt?

This world, it is a fickle place.
There’s no rest from its race.

Be better, be smarter, be wiser they say.
Then, we will applaud you at the end of the day.

God says let me help you
Build a quiet life.
Spend time with me,
See how peace conquers strife.

God says avoid busy chatter.
Trust what I can do.
Mind my promises,
Listen for a word or two.

God says your hands are my tools.
Work for my glory.
Others will respect you
And, be drawn to my story.

God says I know the last time you stood out.
Yesterday, tomorrow, and today.
I love you,
There is no doubt.

 

Other related posts:

How to Perform for an Audience of One

Judged instead of Loved

Love on Ordinary Days

Embracing God’s Plan

Good books related to this topic:

Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009. Print.

Ehman, Karen. Keep It Shut. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. Print.

Lucado, Max. Great Day Every Day. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. Print.

*Note: All photos with the exception of the flowers/fence photo are courtesy of Pixabay.

Forgiving Others: the rise above resentment

I count three pairs of little feet. Encased in muddy rain boots, they are stomping in a creek next to the path where I walk. Their mother, notably unconcerned about the clean up to come, smiles and cheers them on from the sidewalk.

Later heading home on my walk, I see them again swinging at a park playground. This quartet of chipper voices is clearly seizing the day and enjoying each other’s company. Listen in:

The older brother says, “Take off your boots, Madeline, then you can go higher! That’s how mom helped me. She took one off and it felt much more comfortable. So, I kicked the other off, and I could go so high! Then, you just start pumping, like this, Madeline. See?!”

This sweet brother’s instruction about how to swing unencumbered made me chuckle. Then, it got me thinking about how much higher we might swing in life if we removed our mud laden boots.

Like these three children burdened by their boots, we find ourselves weighed down by hurts, resentments, anger, and even hate. Grudges are difficult to budge. Hurts accumulate and stick to our souls (or soles) like thick mud, pulling us down. What toes don’t love feeling the freedom found swinging high in fresh air? What hearts don’t long to soar peacefully? But, how, oh how, do we get there? How do we forgive and rise above resentments?

1. Recognize Our Hurt

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 New Living Translation (NLT)

Forgiving others first requires us to recognize the emotions that are harming us. Anger, resentment, hurt and hate bubble up inside of us, often unexpectedly, jeopardizing our peace, harming our health, and pushing away those who try to love us. Experiencing our feelings without judging or berating ourselves helps bring acceptance to whatever situation caused them.

When we are hurt by others, we often feel isolated like no one understands our side of things. But, God knows and cares about everything we endure. He is a confidant, a ready and willing listener for any topic, especially our struggle to forgive. He can handle raw honesty and painful feelings; he wants us to give it all to him. Allowing painful feelings to surface in our time with God moves us closer to forgiveness because it helps us feel heard and understood.

2. Redirect Bitterness to Goodness

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 New International Version (NIV)

When we feel the sting of someone hurting us, it’s easy to get wrapped up in understanding why or seeking revenge. But, Scripture tells us to remember that God has our back. He reworks the harm done by others for our good.

Consider the story of Joseph (Genesis 37:1-50). Over his lifetime, Joseph suffered through many acts of injustice. He was discarded by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of attempted rape, and spent years prison. He could have easily given up and viewed the situation as hopeless. Instead, he viewed every situation as an opportunity to be a positive example for others and shine light on God. Time and time again, the people in Joseph’s life witnessed God working through his trials. His gift of interpreting dreams allowed him to assist a king and eventually placed him as Egypt’s second-in-command. Through that position, he was able to reunite with his broken family and find emotional healing.

Interestingly, throughout Joseph’s trials he did not dwell on asking God “why” when hard things happened. Instead, he accepted what was. Then, he redirected his attention towards looking and listening for the next opportunity God presented. In doing this, Joseph was always seeking the good he felt God had in store for him.

Following Joseph’s example, if we refuse to rehash our hurt repeatedly, then we free ourselves to discover the good God has planned. We try to see our pain from God’s perspective. For example, we may discover God using our hurt to bring us closer to him, to teach us how to help someone else, to prepare us for something ahead, or to reveal a new purpose in life. Redirecting thoughts away from bitterness and putting them towards looking for God’s goodness prepares our hearts to forgive. 

3. Respond with Love and Prayer

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Matthew 5:44 NIV

When our emotions are redirected towards God’s good works, our hearts become prepared to respond with forgiveness. The Bible teaches us not to retaliate and punish those who treat us poorly. Rather, we are to love and pray for those who hurt us.

Undoubtedly, showing concern for people who inflict pain upon us can seem difficult. However, if we keep our hearts full of bitterness, it is truly impossible to love others as we love ourselves, which is the second greatest commandment. By not working at forgiving others, we essentially distance ourselves from God.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid the price for our sins so we could live eternally with him. Even on the cross, he forgave those who crucified him and those who stood by watching him die. (“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 NLT) Considering this great sacrifice for a world full of sin (including our own), how can we withhold forgiveness from others? Isn’t it hypocritical to ask forgiveness for ourselves and not offer it to others, especially since we are called to model our lives after Jesus?

Praying for the people who we are trying to forgive helps us release our anger and resentment to God. Surrendering control and trusting the situation to him, takes the focus off of them, and helps us learn more about ourselves. We can ask God to teach us something through the process of forgiveness and to work on strengthening us in the fruits of his Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Offering love and prayer to forgive others helps us model our lives after Jesus, ultimately bringing a closer relationship with God.  

4. Make it “Right” in our Hearts

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 NLT

When we are angry and hurting, our human nature eagerly jumps in, ready to deliver justice. We feel the need to retaliate, prove someone wrong, or explain our side of things. Scripture, however, warns us against playing judge. Only God truly knows a person’s heart, and he is the only one with the authority to judge (1 Corinthians 4:3). Forgiveness cannot be based on whether someone deserves it. Forgiveness is given solely because we, ourselves, have received it.

We make things right through forgiveness by placing trust in God’s judgement of the person and the situation. Obviously, reconciling with those who hurt us would be ideal, but that may not always occur. We can hope for reconciliation, but there are circumstances and people in the equation that we cannot control. We have to trust God with those unknowns. What matters is that we continue expressing a sincere desire to forgive, then God will help our hearts get to where things feel right.

5. Release Pain

Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. Psalm 34:14 NLT 

Forgiveness is hard work. It takes time and patience and strength. It requires us to recognize what has happened to us and accept it. We redirect our thoughts to the opportunities God presents which bring goodness from our pain. By focusing on God, we can respond to our hurts positively through love and prayer. Continuing to express our desire to make things right through forgiveness opens the door for God to heal our hearts. As we seek and work to maintain our peace, he helps us release pain with forgiveness.

God is always ready to help us rise above our resentments. He knows our boots get muddy in this world. If we were at the swings, I bet he’d ask us to have a seat and stick out our feet – to count on him to pull off those heavy boots. He would give us a push that is “good”.

As we rise high above resentment, we, too, would shout out to our brothers and sisters in Christ, “It is much more comfortable. See?!”

Prayer for the Week

Dear God,

Thank you for the blessings and opportunities to model your love this week. Help me flow through my days free of judgement and full of kindness. Guide me to accept the people and situations that are hard for me to understand. Keep my attention focused on the ways you are working good through these struggles. Lead my heart in love and prayer for those who hurt me, and work with me to make these relationships feel “right” in my heart and in your eyes. As I move towards forgiving others, help me rest easy in your peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

Resources

  •  Idleman, Kyle. Grace Is Greater: God’s Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story. Baker Books, a Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017. Find Grace is Greater on Amazon.

Other Related Posts

Note: Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com and Fotor.com

Idolatry: Worshipping Family instead of God

 

family-1466262_960_720

Do you worship family instead of God? I did.

While my children were growing up, I gave my family priority over everything else. I devoted myself to their health, their safety, and their happiness. Getting up in the morning, my first thoughts revolved around them. What do they need? Where do they have to go today? How do they feel?

Going to bed at night, they were my last thoughts as well. Do they have friends? Is their school safe? Are they getting sick? What activities should we add or cut?

Like many parents, I did my best to raise them right. I volunteered at their school, taught them values, took them interesting places, hosted playdates, read lots of books, and loved them more than anything else.

More than God.

You see, in those days, I knew OF God, but I had yet to KNOW God.

Amidst the busy schedule of youth, we saved a place for God on some Sundays and for a week during summer’s Vacation Bible School. When I look back on those days now, I can see that I treated God as an afterthought. Worshipping him was something I would “try” to fit in. Faith was important, but not as important as my family. I worshipped my family.

When you worship someone or something more than God, the Bible calls it idolatry. Today, it is easy for many things to become idols. Money, achievements, food, fitness, entertainment, relationships, and family are just a few examples of some things we can unintentionally begin to worship. They evolve into gods gradually as we devote more time, energy, and thought to them. Eventually as idols rule over our lives, they become the cause of struggle or sin.

I know, you might be shaking your head saying, “No way, serving family is a good thing. Surely, God is for that!” Love for family is important, but God wants that love to be drawn out of our initial love for him. As the source of all love, God helps us love our families in deeper, better ways.

How do we change the focus of our worship from family to God?

Make God the Centerpiece

You must not have any other god but me. Exodus 20:3 New Living Translation (NLT)

Picture a long table with lots of chairs. Each of those chairs provides a seat for all the important things in life. There are seats for family members, work, vacations, hobbies, dreams, etc. In the center of the table is the most beautiful centerpiece you’ve ever seen. It is extremely long and wide, with fragrant blossoms extending the length of the table, and foliage flowing out to the rim of every place setting.

God does not want us to save him a seat at the table; he wants to be the centerpiece of the table. He wants to be the center of our lives, seen from every place setting and touching every aspect of our days. Becoming the centerpiece means he is involved in everything. And, his love becomes visible to others in everything we do.

When family is the centerpiece of the table instead of God, life can get – well, stinky. Family relationships can start to rule daily life, plans, and emotions. Parents and children both feel pressured to keep the family happy, to live up to expectations, and take care of problems they can’t control. The disappointments cause stress and hurt; they can drive families apart.

When God is the centerpiece of our lives we think of him first. Instead of trying to fix and control things ourselves, we remember to tell him our worries and ask him to guide our family. We listen and watch for his answers. Efforts are made to learn about his ways and his promises. We learn to trust his results rather than our own.

Model God’s Love

We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:19 (NLT)

Putting God in the center of our lives helps us love our families the way he intended. This does not mean we love them less; it means we love them differently. Love for family flows out of our primary devotion to God. We love them using our love for God as a reference.

His love provides reassurances and hope we cannot find on our own. Our prayers direct us to people and ideas we did not consider before. Learning about his love teaches us to love family in healthier, more productive ways.

Modeling God’s love means we stop getting too wrapped up in the happiness of others. It means recognizing that each person we care for is on their own unique journey. We can lovingly offer guidance on this journey, but we cannot lead the way. Through love, God grants us free will and extends grace, so we must work hard at doing the same for our families.

Let Go and Let God Work

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

In choosing us to be parents, God hands out some tough assignments. First, he entrusts us with the care of our children. Second, he expects us to model his love well to them. And, finally he asks us to stand back and let him work.

God did not intend for us to raise our children without his help. He has the instruction manual for each child, and he doesn’t even have to read it. Because he wrote it. He knows the plan for all of their days – where they will go, what they will feel, and who they will be. He gives them a purpose and all the skills they need to fulfill it. He will never be surprised by their choices or unsure of their destiny. He has already seen it all played out. He created them, loves them, and relentlessly pursues a one-on-one relationship with them.

Just like us, our children will also have trouble worshipping idols. Unhealthy temptations and addictions are difficult for all of us to resist. Other longings, which seem healthy and positive, like success, beauty, fitness, and love can also get out of control.  As children grow, many things get in the way of a relationship with God. We struggle, and so will they.

Ultimately, we cannot control who or what our children will worship. Like us, they are blessed with the freedom to make choices, to learn and grow, and to discover what faith means. We can, however, control our prayer life, and prayer is a very mighty thing. We can pray they come to know God and develop a relationship with him. And then we rest, knowing that our prayers for them will live on even after we are gone.

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A Prayer for your Week

Dear God,

Blessed be your name above all earthly things. Thank you for the family you have given me and for the intense love I feel for them. Help me as I strive to make you the centerpiece of my life, and guard my heart from worshipping anything but you.

Make me aware of the opportunities you provide each day to model your love. Keep me humble as I display you as the source of this love. Letting go and trusting my children in your care is hard. Reassure me of your plans for them, and strengthen my trust in your care as they walk with you.

I know you are at work in the lives of everyone I love, enlightening them to your plans. I pray that they come to know you in spite of the world’s distractions and whatever else competes for the devotion of their hearts. May they find faith to worship you alone.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Additional References:

For more on the various idols that compete for our hearts, I highly recommend the book Gods at War by Kyle Idleman on Amazon here.

For more on letting children go, read the previous post A Hand to Hold

For more on coping with family transitions, read the previous post Hot from Life’s Kitchen – Platefuls of Transition

 

How to Perform for an Audience of One

magic moment

In her 1984 Oscar acceptance speech, Sally Field famously declared, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” Her buzz worthy words were quickly adapted into the more quotable expression, “You like me. You REALLY like me!”

Many snickered about her statement afterwards, belittling Hollywood’s need for accolades. But, as much as we try to believe otherwise, truthfully, we can all relate to this drive for approval, and the success which often follows it.

Recently, I discussed the difficulties of writing a blog with some friends at church. I told them many things we do in life receive immediate and visible feedback, but that’s not the case with writing a blog. I asked questions like: How do I know I’m on the right track? Should I be concerned with approval? How do I measure success?

I received some wise advice stated in this one simple sentence, “You need to write for an audience of One.”

For a couple of weeks now, I have thought about that sentence, and how it really applies to everything we set out to do in life. Replace the word “write” with whatever your heart calls you to do for God.

In what areas has he gifted you? Is it in encouraging, teaching, healing, giving, leading, or organizing? Maybe you’re not certain what your gifts are or how to use them – that’s fine too. You can contemplate for an audience of One!

The point being we should seek to please God, not others. In everything we do, we can measure success by our drive to know, serve, and please him. Of course, we hope if we perform for God that our results also please others, but that is not something we can control.

Human nature desires results in large numbers, but God sees even one life changed as significant. Can we try to rest in knowing that? Maybe the difference we make will never be known to us here on this earth. Should it matter? If we work for God’s approval, not others’, we clearly see the success in our endeavors.

Here are three Scriptures teaching me how to perform for an audience of One:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 New International Version (NIV)

We spend so much time working to please other people – family, friends, neighbors, teachers, employers, and co-workers. Then, long after the effort, we worry whether we met their expectations…if they approve of us.

How would our actions and attitudes differ if we dedicated ourselves to meeting God’s expectations first? Yes, we will mess up – it’s guaranteed. So, is forgiveness.

Sometimes we may be asked to do some hard and unpopular things. As difficult as it can be, serving Christ faithfully requires us to stop worrying about what others might think and seek his approval above everyone else’s. Give God your best performance.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Misusing our talents, using them only for our own enjoyment, or pushing them aside is not what God intended for us. It is never too late to pay attention to the places in our lives where God’s goodness or grace can shine through us.

If pinpointing your gifts is difficult, keep in mind that God may be preparing you before enlightening you. Or, perhaps he is protecting you from acting too soon. There is a right time, place, and person planned especially for your contribution.

Even with uncertainty, we can ready ourselves by serving in different ways and considering what trusted people tell us we are good at. God is glorified when others see him working through our talents. Dedicate your talent to serving him.

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 (NIV)

It is so easy to claim all the glory for our accomplishments. I wonder, if we take all the credit, all the time, then do we truly reach our full potential? Scripture tells us that no one is competent enough to carry out God’s calling in their life without his help.

Our own natural abilities can only take us so far; we need God’s strength to move beyond our limitations. If we invite him to our performance and ask for feedback, who knows what might happen? Thank him for coming to the show.

So here’s how I think it goes. You give God your best performance. You dedicate your talent to serving him, and you thank him for coming to the show. One day the curtain falls, and you wait to hear a call for an encore.

Peeking between the curtains, you see no one but God remains. Empty seats all around. Yikes, were you performing only for him all along? I don’t know.

But, here’s what I do know. After a performance like that, he will be standing, clapping for all he’s worth. There will be no denying that he likes you. In fact, he loves you. He REALLY does.

Prayer for the Week:

Dear God,

Blessed be your name above all earthly measures of success. Help me look past the things that represent approval in the eyes of this world, and find it by serving you.

Lead me to people and activities that shine a light on my gifts. Show me the places to use these gifts to the best of my ability. 

Thank you for entrusting me with an assignment designed specifically for me. I pray that through my efforts others will see your goodness.

God, teach me to trust whatever plans you’ve got for me. Let me lean into you when the corners ahead look uncertain, and steady me with your confident hand to go beyond the limitations I place on myself.  

In Jesus’ Name, Amen