My friends, today I want to talk to you about an interesting phenomenon I've observed in my own life and in others. It's a very curious thing and is quite the opposite of our "normal" tendency. And I believe it is one of the weapons of spiritual warfare that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians:
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, — 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)
We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NLT)
These verses have continued to "show up" repeatedly for me so I've been praying for Abba to show me what these spiritual weapons are. The obvious ones are God's Word, prayer, truth, love, faith and praise. SUMites, I'm sure you can add to this list as well, and please do. And I find that most of these weapons are opposite in value and in instruction to what the world teaches.
Today I have another to add to that list that I believe is probably on the extreme opposite end of what this world values and understands, though I do believe in this season of joy and celebration we catch a glimpse of it more.
This weapon is service. Specifically when we serve others when every "argument" of this world would tell us not to, that we should take care of, fix, minister to our own lives and issues first. Granted, we do need to do these things as well so that we can continue to give and serve as God calls us too, but I'm speaking of the spiritual warfare aspect of this today.
Let me give you a scenario that I think will help clarify. You're mired in confusion and anxiousness over something you really can't change at the moment. It consumes your thoughts at times and leaves you feeling depressed and even in despair at moments of deep contemplation. You know the truth of 1 Peter 5:6 that says to cast your cares on Jesus, but it's just not helping.
Then you get a call, an email, or a Facebook message from a friend about something that's happened or that she's struggling with. You can relate to her anguish but your first thought is of your own struggle and you feel you have nothing to offer. Or you feel you have to fix yourself and/or your situation before you can help anyone else.
So, we pull back, withdraw, and continue to focus on our own situation. I know that's our "normal" tendency, and that's the exact reaction and course of action the enemy wants us to take because he knows two things.
1.) We will miss the opportunity to encourage someone.
2.) We will miss the opportunity to be encouraged.
More often than not, God will make you aware of another person's need as an answer to your own prayer for relief, help, strength, etc.
Think about the times you have felt the most alive and encouraged in your faith? Has it been while you were helping someone else? And while you were doing that, were you focused on your own issues?
My friends, don't let the enemy steal a blessing from you by using the false arguments against you that your needs, problems, or challenges keep you from helping others. Those very challenges and weaknesses in your life will suddenly become your strength as you give comfort and compassion to someone because you understand that need.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. — 2 Cor. 1:4
Astonishing things happen when we do this. As we comfort, we are comforted. As we help to give clarity, we receive clarity. As we help another make their mountains fall into the sea, our own mountains begin to tumble and fall too.
It is so contrary to what the world says, isn't it? The world says to take of yourself. God says, "Seek my kingdom first and you will receive all you need." (My translation.) My observations of others and my own behavior has show me that self-seeking leads to depression, yet selfless living with a heart for others brings such joy and excitement!
What do you think, SUM family? Share your thoughts in the comments. And even better, share your stories that come to mind as you think about this. I know you have some good ones. Our family here is full of the most giving and loving people I have ever had to privilege to meet and know. You show Jesus by your love for each other each and every day!
This week I'm in New York with my mother and a dear friend to see the city at Christmas. My mother was born and raised in Manhattan and has always wanted to show her daughter (me!) what the city looks like at Christmas. God has blessed us with the provision so that we can finally do this. So I will be back next week, dear friends, hopefully with some amazing Christmas stories from New York!