I recall a Christmas when I was about 10 years old when I did not receive the gifts that I wanted or expected. I was vocal in expressing my displeasure to the dismay of my parents. I was neither pleasant nor civil with my disrespect and ungratefulness. I was immature and did not appreciate all of the blessings and advantages that were mine, but today it reminds me of Christians who are begging and even demanding favor from God. They do not realize how much favor they already possess.
“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.” Luke 6:43–44 (NLT) We may find it astonishing that someone who does not act like us or think like us can produce good fruit, but Jesus commanded us to love one another and in doing so, each one of us will produce even more fruit in our lives for the glory of God.
It is not uncommon to hear the words praise and worship used in tandem and even interchangeably, but do they really mean the same thing? On one level they may seem the same, but there are significant differences. There are many Hebrew and Greek words for both praise and worship as translated into English. The most prevalent Greek word for praise indicates esteem and honor, a recognition of God’s glory. The word that is used most often for worship has the meaning of bowing down, paying homage or prostrating oneself before God.
Jesus told his disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 (NIV). When we are confronted by a mountain we should ask, “Why is it there before exercising our faith to remove the mountain.”
Without a doubt, the way of love is too difficult for us to accomplish in our own strength or ability. When we see what it actually means, we may not even be inclined to try, but we must remember that we were not always as lovable as we are now.
Writers know that a provocative title can entice people to read what they have written. However, the ploy cannot be overused because it will soon lose its effectiveness. I am writing this because I have been inspired by the words of Paul to the Galatians. “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Galatians 4:19 (NIV). Paul used the illustration of childbirth to convey the seriousness and determination that he had to see the life and character of Christ developed and formed in the lives of those who were in the church at Galatia.
There are times in life when we have insight and God reveals to us specific direction and we are able to pray with targeted conviction, strong faith and without doubts, but there will be other times when we are standing between withered fig trees and mountains and we won’t be exactly sure what it means or what we should do.
I returned home a few days ago from a 12 day mission’s trip to Mexico. Although Paul was speaking of the churches in Macedonia, what he says here is equally applicable to many of the churches and people in Mexico. I saw that generosity does not necessarily flow out of the abundance of material possessions, but instead it flows out of hearts that are filled with abundant joy.
Faith is a difficult thing to quantify. Jesus said that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed that you would be able to command a mountain to be moved from here to there.
Whether we are blessed by trials and adversity or we are tested by prosperity and abundance, we should not be deterred from always pursuing the one who is the Truth, the Life and the Way. God may bless us with material possessions, He may bring us through the fire or, most likely, at one time or another we will experience both blessing and trial.