We often like to add our two cents. It could be sufficient to say a particular thing but we add a little more because it’s on the tip of our tongue. We direct people to a passage of the Bible and then continue onward with our position. Some of us take whatever position we are in and go beyond the position’s description. For some of us, we serve those who are disadvantaged—we get saddened by their situation or irritated by their constant needs. Paul tells us to “keep a smile on your face” and not to add to whatever it is you are doing.
When you are preaching, it should be the Word of God, not your own agenda. When you are helping someone, you help—you don’t take over the situation and become an enabler. When you teach, you be sure to focus on teaching the Bible and not drifting off. When you are providing guidance and encouraging people, you do not cross the line and become bossy, trying to get the people to take your counsel and force your position. When you are in charge of something, you are not to use it to your advantage and get people to do as you desire. If you are in a position to help those that are in distress, be sure to pay attention so you can answer the call and not miss the boat. If you work with those who are disadvantaged, you should not be depressed by their situation. At the same time, you should never let them cause you to get irritated.
This is a lot of do’s and do not’s. It sounds like a bunch of rules. But what Paul is saying can be simplified—whatever you are called to do, do it with a smile and always point to Christ. It is not about you—it is about Him. If you always aim to point others to Christ and it is all about Him and not about you, all of these “rules” will be followed. When we add our two cents, we make it about us. It can never be about us.
“If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.” – Romans 12:6-8 [MSG]
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.’” – Haggai 1:7 [NIV]
Haggai is a very short book but in two chapters we read four times that we should “give careful thought” (1:5, 1:7, 2:15, 2:18). Something repeated that often certainly cannot go overlooked. It is such a simple command, but one that we cannot hear enough. At that time, the people had no argument with rebuilding the Temple, but they had chosen to do other things before undertaking the task of rebuilding the Lord’s house. They had skewed priorities.
We also need to give careful thought to our ways. We need to constantly be evaluating our own lives to make sure that we do not have our priorities skewed. It is so easy to be turned toward worldly items like the people of this time period. It is easy to allow our focus to shift gears.
The Lord declared that he was with the people (1:13, 2:4). The Lord is also with us. We do not do life alone. Today be sure to give careful thought to your ways, but don’t forget this promise—that he is with us. May that promise bring you peace.
“After thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money!’ Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem.” – Nehemiah 5:7 [NLT]
I love the beginning of this verse. “After thinking it over, I spoke” is what Nehemiah says. It doesn’t say, “When I found out, I became frustrated and immediately took action.” Nehemiah thought about it, pondered, took counsel, consulted with himself… the HCSB says, “After seriously considering.”
Now Nehemiah had set to rebuild the wall. He waited three days before he even spoke up about what he wanted to do because he wanted to see for himself. He examined the area. He then delegated the workload so no one was burdened. It then comes to his attention that there are people who are very poor because of injustice. Nehemiah did not rush in to verbally attack those who were guilty. Instead, he thought about it. He took the time consider everything before he went forward to make accusations. In doing so, he calmly proclaimed the problems and there was then justice for these poor people.
Today consider your words and your emotions. We are to be slow to speak and we are to watch our anger (James 1:19-20). Again and again we are reminded. It’s hard to keep our mouths in check at times, but once something is said, it cannot be taken back.
When I was a little kid, I loved to play pinball. If you look at a pinball machine, you will see it has the paddles at the bottom. Sometimes there are paddles up in different areas as well. There’s lots of noise. You shoot the ball up and the ball’s all over the place. It’s hard to really focus on where the ball is because your eyes have to go so fast. That is a lot like life.
We try to have time with God. We’ll sit and open up our Bibles. We’ll try hard. We will even listen to the Bible in the car as we are driving. While we are doing that, our cell phones are ringing. Horns are blowing. Things are happening. As a parent, I know I’ll sit down determined to read my Bible. Then I hear, “Mom, mom…” It could even be the dog barking or someone knocking at the door. Something is always going on.
In life we are standing there, and we keep on hearing all this noise. We are trying to keep our focus on God but it’s so hard. You keep on focusing everywhere else and you can’t focus where you need to focus.
I find that it’s important to take all the bells and whistles and put them all away, to take the cell phone and put that aside. You need to have yourself a special area, a special time, a special something where you can be alone with God– where you can read His Word and where you can pray. We need to be able to be alone and meditate and allow the Spirit to speak to us about what we are praying for and what we are reading. It’s hard to do that with all of the bells and whistles in the world. When we are listening to others… When we have full schedules and so m any activities that we don’t have that peace. Only Jesus can give us that peace and if we don’t have the time to take to listen and to have that peace, then we are never going to get it.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, it says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Verse 21-22 says, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” It’s very important to not quench the Spirit and if we are not allowing the Spirit to be heard because everything else is bouncing around in life and we have all the bells and whistles and the board is almost on tilt, it gets to be a little hectic. We get overloaded and the board tilts and we have to wonder: is it tilting because of everything that is going on or is it because of God? Sometimes it can be from outside influences and sometimes it can be God.
The problem is we keep on pushing the buttons rather than lifting our hands and removing them from the paddles. We need to find out if it’s tilting because God wants us to go in a certain direction or if it is ourselves or others making the board tilt. Removing the bells and whistles is how we effectively listen. We need to hear what God is actually saying. In the end it is all about who is controlling the pinball machine. Is it you? Is it the outside people? Or is it God?