When Change Seems Impossible – Part 2

phil-1-6If you are waiting on heart change to take place in yourself or another believer, the wait can be long and tiring.  You will be tempted to become discouraged and angry, pull away, grow cold, numb, lose hope, and walk away.  As we talked about in part 1, heart change is messy business, especially when there is habituated sin involved.  But God is in the business of heart change, so we can rest assured that positive change can and will eventually take place in the life of one who belongs to God.  It might not come today, it might not come tomorrow.  It might take years, and even a lifetime.  So, what are we to do while we wait?

Here are some encouraging words from Scripture to read, meditate on, pray through, and act upon as we wait for the change that only God can bring:

  1.  Trust.  Be confident of this: “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” -Phil. 1:6.  This is a verse that I share regularly with women who are waiting for change to happen.  I ask them, “Who is it that began the work and Who is it that will carry it on to completion?”  Knowledge and understanding of this is key in the change process.  No, this does not mean that the person needing change is a passive bystander waiting for God to act. Change does require human repentance, and an act of the will to change thinking patterns, habits, and turn from sin.  According to this verse, though,  God IS already acting (carrying it on to completion) on behalf of the believer, and we can be assured that He will keep His promise.  So, the deeper questions to examine are, “Do you believe God is trustworthy to do this work?” “Do you believe He is capable of bringing about change even in the most impossible of situations?” “Do you trust Him completely to bring about change in His way and in His timing?” “Do you believe He is good?” “Do you believe all He does is right?” “Do you trust in His sovereign control over all things, including the messy work of heart change within a person?”  “Where are you struggling with unbelief?”  If you find that you are having a hard time trusting God with the change process, pray right now for God to help you in this area.
  2. Love.   “Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:7-8  It can be hard to love while we’re waiting on change.  Instead of bearing with the failings and weaknesses of the sinner, we can become judgmental, angry, frustrated, and bitter.  Instead of believing that God is at work, we may write the person off as a lost cause.  Instead of hoping for the best, we may become cynical and give in to despair.  Instead of enduring all of the pain, hardship, and suffering that comes with waiting (excluding situations where physical abuse is involved), we might find ourselves creating distance, pulling away, and giving up on the person whose change is not coming fast enough for us.  What do we do when we struggle to love as we wait?  We remember the Gospel.  We reflect upon the awesome love that God showered us with while we were still steeped in our sin – a love that reconciled us to Himself through the precious blood of Christ shed on our behalf.  What kind of love is that?  Let’s let this Graham Kendrick song put it into words for us…My Lord, what love is this
    That pays so dearly
    That I, the guilty one
    May go free!

    Amazing love, O what sacrifice
    The Son of God given for me
    My debt He pays, and my death He dies
    That I might live!                                                                                                                            Jesus commands us, in John 13:34 to “love one another as I have loved you.”  So, as you wait, ask yourself, “Am I loving as Jesus loves me?”

  3. Forgive. “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?” – Matthew 18:33  Forgiveness and love go hand in hand while we wait.  As we learn to love as Jesus loves us, we also need to stand in the same attitude of forgiveness that Jesus stood in towards us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).  When we realize how much sin we have been and will continue to be forgiven of by God, we need to extend that same forgiveness while we wait.  Rick Thomas calls this “pre-forgiveness”.   He says, “This idea called pre-forgiveness is a word I manufactured as a way of communicating the heart of Joseph before his brothers came to him to ask forgiveness. This was also the spirit of Christ before you came asking for His forgiveness. Being ready and willing to forgive the sinner is essential if you want to reconcile.If you have not done the preparatory work in your heart to forgive someone, when they do ask for forgiveness you will have a hard time forgiving them.”  Ask yourself, “Am I ready and willing to forgive?”
  4. Bear with. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1  Believer, we’ve been given a great and wonderful responsibility here.  We, who have the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us have a duty to come alongside our brothers and sisters, in an attitude of tenderness and sweetness to help in the process of change, bearing with them the weight of their difficulties and aiding them in their distress.  Our tendency is to want to punish and treat the offender as an enemy, but this is not the way it should be for believers.  Every one of us will be in the same position, at some point, in desperate need of change and correction.  Even on our best days, we’re still in desperate need of change.  What better place is there to display our imperfections and brokenness than in the church where we can bear with one another as we struggle with sin and suffering?  Ask yourself: “How am I helping bear the weight of  sin, discomfort, and hardship during this waiting period?”  “In what ways can I be a helper and encourager?”  “What can I do to help restore the person?”
  5. Pray. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” – James 5:16  This should probably be number one, but I have it here because I think that if you are solidly pursuing the things above, then your heart will truly be in a position that desires to pray for the person you are waiting on to change.  What a privilege we have to intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ as we are waiting upon God to bring heart change!  “God’s friendship to us and ours to others go hand in hand”, says Andrew Murray.  “It is when we draw near to God as the friend of the poor and the perishing that we may count on His friendliness; the righteous man who is the friend of the poor is very specially the friend of God.  This gives wonderful liberty in prayer.  Lord!  I have a needy friend whom I must help.  As a friend I have undertaken to help him.  In Thee I have a Friend whose kindness and riches I know to be infinite; I am sure Thou wilt give me what I ask.  If I, being evil, am ready to do for my friend what I can, how much more wilt Thou, O my heavenly Friend, now do for [my] friend?” (Murray)  Ask yourself: Am I helping my needy friend by taking to prayer for her, believing that God is willing to act? “What is the aim of my petition?” (Murray)  Is it merely for my own comfort and joy, or is it that God be glorified, that my friend be restored, that I grow in love, trust, patience, and endurance as I wait?
  6. Confront Self. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3-5  When waiting on another person to change, we can get so focused in on and consumed by their sinful behavior that we fail to see how we may have become an offender, ourselves.  Our failure to love, forgive, pray for, and bear with the other person demonstrates that our relationship has experienced another sin; now we, too, need heart change. We need to take a good, hard look at the ways we may have become an offender.  Have we been judgmental, harsh, gossiping, angry,  and punishing?  Perhaps we’ve been ignoring the other person, or denying there’s a problem?  Have we been blaming the other person for the way we are behaving?  We need to take responsibility for our own part in conflicts and work to repair any harm that we may have caused.  David Powlison says, “Only if you face up to your sin and your resistance to God can you see clearly and act gently, helping others to face up to themselves as well.”  Take some time, now, to create a “log list”  and identify possible faults of your own that you have been blind to.  This always helps establish a proper heart attitude before approaching another brother, the next step.
  7. Speak truth. “…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” – Ephesians 4:15  There will be times that we must confront error.  Biblical love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6).  Being willing to confront error and sin is the most loving thing we can do for another brother or sister in Christ.  But, the goal truly must be restoration.   Confrontation is hard.  It makes us uncomfortable, but if we’re going to steward our responsibility of loving another believer well, then we must be willing to do the hard work of speaking the truth in love.  Ask yourself:  “Is there something that I need to speak up about?”  “How is my reluctance to speak the truth in love contributing to the problem?”  “Is there a lack of love in my speech?”  “Am I motivated by a desire to see restoration take place, or by a desire for my life to be more comfortable?”
  8. Wait. “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9  Waiting can be the toughest part in all of this, but waiting, according to this verse, is not passive – it’s not sitting back and waiting for God to work His “magic” on the person we’re waiting upon.  It’s an active waiting that keeps up the “well-doing”; it’s a waiting that keeps trusting, loving, forgiving, bearing, praying, confronting, and speaking.  It keeps hoping and believing.  It keeps encouraging and waiting in eager expectation for Him who began the good work to bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.  Ask yourself: How have I been waiting?  Impatiently?  wearily?  or Actively?  Am I worn out and exhausted? Why?  Have I thrown my hands up in frustration and stopped all of the well-doing?  What can I do to be a better waiter?

Live and walk in the light of the truth and by His Spirit as you wait upon God in faith to bring change.  Welcome it as a gift from God in your own sanctification process.  Only God can change the human heart.  That change begins at the moment of salvation, and it continues throughout the believer’s life until the day of completion when we reach glory, and the battle for change no longer rages on inside of us.  Until that day, will you stick by that person you’re waiting on change for as close as Jesus continues to stick to you?  Will you come alongside this fellow saint for the glory of God and the maturity of the Church?  I hope that your answer is, “Yes!”  I pray that you will be blessed beyond all measure to catch a glimpse of God’s handiwork in the life of a fellow sojourner as you await, together,  heart change that comes from God alone.

Wonderful books on the topic of change:

The Process of Biblical Change, by Julie Ganschow

How People Change, by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp

When Change Seems Impossible – Part 1

phil-1-6

Imagine that your friend has just handed you a page from her journal…

Another day, another disappointment.  I’ve been waiting, studying, looking for any signs of the slightest change.  Nothing. Zero.  Nada.  It ain’t happening.  He’s the same person today that he was yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. It goes way back, this sin that he still hasn’t managed to remedy in his life, that defect of character that he hasn’t yet shored up.  It’s ugly, unbecoming – hideous to me,now, really.  I am numb.  I don’t care about it anymore.   I’m resigned to the fact that change is probably never going to come.  I have been in pain, waiting on change to come.  Well, I’m done waiting.  Now, I just want to know how to get on with my life.

As a Certified Biblical Counselor, I am familiar with these types of “journal entries”.  This type of interpersonal conflict is common among us.  Each of us has probably penned something similar to this at least once in our lives about someone.  For some, the ink might still be fresh on the page.

Change is hard, especially when we’re dealing with habituated sin – “I do not understand what I do… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:15-24).

But, if we are in Christ, the good news is that heart change is always possible. ALWAYS…”Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).  If we are going to have any hope in this kind of a “hopeless” situation, we have to believe this.

If we give up hope that God can and will eventually bring lasting change in a person, we will be left frustrated, despairing, and tempted to sin.

Now, I want to interject a common question that arises here – What if the person who is failing to change really isn’t a believer? Or, what if the person professes to be a Christian, but they just aren’t changing (there are no visible signs of fruit)?

Well, I would say, You have two choices here:

  1.  Decide that this person is an unbeliever, in which case you can relax about change, because they are not capable of it.  Instead, now direct your attention to presenting the good news of the gospel, from which you know the only hope of change can come.
  2. Take them at their word and trust God to continue working in their life and using you in the sanctification process.

Either way, you’re at a crossroads here.  You have the privilege and opportunity, now, to wait upon and watch God work to affect change in another person’s life – a chance to witness a miracle of sorts, or you can throw your hands up in the air and surrender to despair.  The choice is up to you.

Heart change is hard, messy work, and it can be a long time coming.  We want and expect it to be quick, but, with deep-rooted sin, often it’s not.

Aren’t we so thankful and grateful that God is long-suffering?

So, what do we do when we’ve grown weary, waiting for someone to change and we just don’t feel like waiting any longer?

We have to start by asking ourselves some crucial initial questions:

  • Am I willing to wait however long it takes for God to bring about the change I’ve desperately been waiting for?
  • Am I willing to suffer as I trust the same Author and Perfecter of my faith (Heb. 12:2) to initiate and carry through on His promise to conform His other children into the image of His Son?
  • Am I willing to be faithful and obedient to continue running with endurance this race set before me (Heb. 12:1) –  in the sharing of the Gospel with an unbeliever or in bearing with the imperfections of my sister or brother in Christ?

The choice, again, is ours:  stay and “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3), or give up and walk away.

It reminds me of Joshua’s challenge to his brethren: “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15)

Like Joshua, will you say, “…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”?

If the answer to that is, “Yes!” then I invite you to join me for part 2 of When Change Seems Impossible where we’ll discuss what to do while we wait*.

* If you are in an abusive or destructive relationship, you need to enlist the help of your pastor, elders, and possibly even the civil authorities.  Safety is your number one priority, right now.  You can still love, wait, hope, and pray for your loved one, from a distance, where you can be safe)

 

 

 

What Does Paul Mean, “Forgetting What is Behind?”

press-on

…I Press on…

…I Press on…

…Forgetting the past…

…I press on.

When the Apostle Paul talks about “forgetting what is behind” and “straining toward what is ahead”, in Philippians 3:13, 14,  what exactly is he talking about?

Is he really saying that we should just forget our past and put it all behind us?

It’s a question I’ve been asked by other women who want to know how to handle negative things from their past.

It’s common to see this verse applied as a way to deal with past sin, hurt, and disappointment.

But, is it a correct interpretation and application?

First, let’s take a look at what Dr. Bob Kellemen has to say on the subject…

“Some people mistakenly interpret Philippians 3:13 to mean that we should try to forget our past. The Greek word for “forget” does not mean not to remember, but not to focus my attention on.”  “More importantly”, he says, “the biblical context is whether Paul would focus his attention on his works of the flesh, attempts at self-righteousness, and putting confidence in the flesh, versus focusing on Christ’s righteousness and the power of Christ’s resurrection.”

If we are going to counsel well, we need to be careful not to read our own meanings and ideas into Scripture, but submit our thoughts to the meaning that is already in the text. Looking at a verse in context goes a long way in helping us do that.

Another good principle to remember is that Scripture interprets Scripture.

So, I thought I’d do a little exercise with us, here, today, and examine Philippians 3, verses 13 and 14 within the larger context of chapter 3 to see how it helps us more clearly understand what Paul is saying about “Forgetting what is behind”.

In Philippians 3:1-4, Paul writes:

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:

Something I’ve started employing, whenever I read my Bible, is to ask it questions.  It slows me down and forces me to become a more active reader.

In verse 4, Paul talks about having “confidence” and says that he has more reasons to put “confidence in the flesh” than anyone else. I find this quite interesting, and it leads me to ask a few questions: “What are you so confident about, Paul?” “What’s your line of reasoning?”  “Why do you have more reasons than anyone else?”

Can you think of some other questions you might want to ask?

As we ask questions, we begin to engage our minds more with the text as we naturally begin to search for the answers to our questions.

Thankfully, in this passage, we don’t have to look very far, because Paul gives us his answer right in the next verses (5,6):

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

 Okay.  Now we have some answers.  But, as 21st century, non-Israelite women,  we may need a little help understanding why these things give Paul so much confidence.

To help us hear and understand the Scriptures the way the original audience did, sometimes we need to seek an outside source for more information.

For our exercise, I’m going to paraphrase some of what John Gill says in his Exposition of the Bible to help us better understand what Paul is so confident about.  He tells us that Paul-

  • had a mark in his flesh that proved he was a distinguished Jew, not a Gentile, and that it was done on the eighth day proved that it was most valid and authentic
  • was a natural Israelite, to whom various privileges belonged
  • was a genuine and legitimate son of Jacob, and a genuine Hebrew, since both of his parents were Hebrew
  • was from the strictest and most respected sect among the Jews, the Pharisees, brought up in the most strict way by his own father, who was also a Pharisee
  • was zealous in the traditions of his elders, and for the law of God, and for God, and persecuted the church more than any single individual
  • could not justly be found fault with by any, or be charged with any defect in his obedience, either to the moral or ceremonial law

Now, we are a little more equipped and ready to move on in our reading.

The very next word we encounter, in verse 7, is the word,  “But”.

Hmmm.

 Interesting.

It leads me to ask another question, “But.. what, Paul?”

Let’s look to the following verses (7-14) to see if they provide us with any answers.

Paul continues…

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

And, There it is. Do you see the answer to the question, “But…what?”

Take a moment, now, and see if you can put it into your own words.

***********************************************************************

Here’s what I came up with…

“Everything that I, Paul, had confidence in before this point in time, I now consider garbage!”

  • my pure heritage
  • my rigid adherence to the law
  • my zeal for the law
  • my self-righteousness
  • all of the things that I personally valued
  • all of my past achievements
  • all of my past blessings
  • anything that was of gain to me
  • EVERYTHING I thought was necessary for salvation, eternal life, good service, happiness, acceptance and approval of man, and favor from God

***********************************************************************

Here’s the next question:

What is the one thing, now, that Paul is going to do with all of that?

Yep, you got it.

First, he’s going to FORGET it.

Take some time, now, to put into your own words what he means by “forgetting what is behind”…

***********************************************************************

Here’s what I said:

For Paul to forget what is behind, it means that he is going to turn away from his trust and dependence upon everything that he had, prior to this moment, placed his confidence in. He is never going to look back at it for the purpose of boasting in or gaining satisfaction from it again.  He is not going to rest on his laurels, either.  He is not going be content focusing his attention even on the recent past, and his new-found blessings in Christ.

***********************************************************************

In addition to forgetting what is behind, Paul says that he is going to “strain towards what is ahead”.  What does this mean?

Does it mean that he’s going to move forward into a future that’s devoid of all things relating to his past?

To answer this question, we need to look to verse 14:

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Write down, in your own words, what you think he means by this.

***********************************************************************

For me, I said that Paul is going to…

…press on, now, towards a different kind of future -one that is in full pursuit of Jesus Christ, His righteousness, and the final prize that awaits him (and all believers) – eternal life.

***********************************************************************

So, now that we have a good idea about what Paul means in verses 13 and 14, we may find ourselves asking some more questions:  “What does this mean for me?”  “What does this mean for others?” In other words, we’re looking for applications.

Again, if we look a little further, the very next verse (15) provides the answer:

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

So, how should we apply Philippians 3:13,14?  We think about our past and future the way Paul thinks about his past and future.

I’ll let John Gill, once again, do the talking here:

 We “reckon all things but loss and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ; to be willing to suffer the loss of all things, to win him, ( Philippians 3:8 ) ; to desire to be found in him, and in his righteousness, and not a man’s own, ( Philippians 3:9 ) ; to know more of him in his person, righteousness, sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead, ( Philippians 3:10 ) ; and to attain to such a state, and yet to disclaim all perfection, and acknowledge their imperfection, ( Philippians 3:11Philippians 3:12 ) ; and to forget things behind, and reach to those before, ( Philippians 3:13 ) ; and press towards the mark, Christ, for the prize of eternal glory, ( Philippians 3:14 )”

And, if we think differently about how these verses should be interpreted and applied, well, God will make it clear to us.  “Such errors will be made manifest sooner or later”, says Mr. Gill, “the day will declare them, and such wood, hay, and stubble, will be burnt up by the fire, which will reveal every man’s work, ( 1 Corinthians 3:12 1 Corinthians 3:13 ) “.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this post and working your way through this passage with me.  It’s been a long one.  It was not my intention to get so theologically involved with it at first (and there certainly is so much more that could be done with it), but I am glad I embarked on the journey with you because I now have a much better understanding about what Paul meant about “forgetting what lies behind”, and I will be much more careful in how I apply Philippians 3:13, 14 to my own life, and the lives of other women who want to know how to apply it to their past.

So, what do you think?

  • Are verses 13 and 14 wise choices for helping someone deal with the past?
  • How might you, in the past, have read your own ideas into this text?
  • How can you explain the meaning of Paul’s words in verses 13 and 14 to a woman who believes that in order to get over past hurts she literally needs to forget about them?
  • How can you use this passage to instruct another woman about the proper things she needs to leave behind and press on towards?
  • How does this passage speak to your own life?
  • Who can you share the truths of this passage with?

Any other questions or comments?

 

 

 

When the Rains Come

rain-must-fall

I live in an area of California where drought is becoming more commonplace.  A couple of years back, our well ran dry – the water table had dropped so low, due to lack of rain, that the pump could only bring up air!  So, when the rain comes here, it is a welcome sight.

I was reminded this morning, however,  as I read a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that rainy days aren’t always so cheerful.

In his poem, The Rainy Day,  he describes the day as “cold, dark, and dreary”, with the wind “never weary”, keeping the image of death alive as it continuously blows the dead leaves off of the trees.   He then describes his life in this same manner. It really is quite depressing, this Rainy Day, and it gets even more miserable when he then talks about this dreariness being the fate of every human being:

Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary

Trials and sorrows are guaranteed to be a part of every human life.  It’s not a matter of if, but when the cold, dark, and dreary rain will fall!  It will come into your life.  It will come into mine.  It will come into the lives of our loved ones and everyone whom God places upon our path.  Oh, lovely rain!

Well, sisters, as painful as it is to hear, this is a truth that Jesus spoke about thousands of years before Longfellow ever set pen to paper.  It is recorded for us in John 16:33b when He said,

“In this world you will have trouble.”

Yes, it’s a surety that some of our days will be marked by great tribulation, sadness, loss, and death.  We will feel as if we are being enveloped by great clouds of darkness and tossed about by harsh winds that are continually at our face.  We will grieve the loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations.  As we scan the horizon, everything will look bleak, hopeless, and lifeless. We will wonder, “When is this storm ever going to pass?”  “When will this darkness be lifted?”  We will be tempted to question God and demand that He give us answers as we ask, “Why me?”  “Why now?”

But, this must not be the time when we let ourselves fall into a pit of utter hopelessness and complete despair.

No.

Instead, this is a time when we,  like Longfellow (in the spirit of the Psalmist)  must begin to speak truth into our lives and the lives of those whom God has given us to encourage, saying…

Be still, sad heart, and cease repining

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining!

Yes, we must remember that behind all of those dark clouds is THE SON,

and He tells us to…

take heart, because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

How do we take heart?

  1. Remember that there is nothing strange or unique about the trial you are going through – “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (1 Peter 4:12, 13)
  2. Be both “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Corinthians 6:10)
  3. Know that Jesus understands our sorrows, so pray – “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15 ,16)
  4. Remember that God will work all of our sorrows for good – “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)
  5. Be joyful, because God is at work to make you more like Christ! – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
  6. Remember that a day is coming when God will put an end to the “Rainy Day” forever – “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Four Key Things a Titus 2 Woman Possesses That Qualifies Her to Become a Great Biblical Mentor

having-nothing

We live in a day and age when there is more information available to us than ever before. We can learn just about anything we want to know – instantly – on the World Wide Web.

All of this information really can be a blessing.  Whether we want to find out how to roast a turkey,  grow artichokes, or understand the meaning of a particular Bible verse, we can simply type whatever it is we want to know into an online search engine and, in an instant, have answers to (pretty much) all of our questions.

But, from a biblical perspective, information isn’t humanity’s greatest need.

No.

Christ is.

 And, while a search engine can give humanity an abundance of information about Jesus, it cannot make a disciple, nor can it participate in helping achieve the goal of discipleship, Christ-like maturity.

That God has left to His people, the Church.

As a Titus 2 Sister, you are an indispensable part of this process! (if you haven’t read it in a while, take a few moments to refresh your memory of this truth in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Unlike a search engine, your primary purpose as a member of the body is not to dispense information. You, my dear sister, have been given a much greater commission:  “Go and make disciples”!

If that is a little intimidating to you, remember that God has promised, in His Word, that He will be with you always, equip you, and teach you all things relating to this.  You may feel like you “have nothing” to add in the way of any significance to the body, but – believe me – you “possess everything” you need to come alongside another younger woman and teach her what it means to follow Christ. There is absolutely nothing to fear.

Ephesians 2:10 assures us that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

As you engage in Titus 2 ministry with other women, you will be walking in those “good works”. Some of what you do will come naturally, but there will be times when what you do will require great thought, effort, and even sacrifice.

Loving, serving, and making disciples is not an easy process, but it’s what you’ve been called to and are being equipped to do.

The Apostle Paul says, in Philippians 3:12: “Not that I have already obtained all of this or have already become perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Like Paul, we, too, are  works in progress.  We haven’t attained to all that God has purposed for us, but we possess everything we need to come alongside another woman in Christ and help her walk along the path towards Christ-like maturity with us.

Here are four of your most important “possessions” that God will use to help you mentor and disciple other women:

  1. Your Life. God has said, in Genesis 2:18 that  “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Although He was specifically speaking of Adam in this passage, because all mankind has been created in God’s image, we are – by nature – relational beings.  We are not meant to live life on our own, in isolation. Christ has called us out of a safe life of isolation and into the messy world of relationship building.   You possess a life that is worth sharing – all of it: the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of it!  There are women in the body who need you.  They need to hear your story, and experience friendship and life with you.  They need to hear about your successes and failures and about the things that God has taught you through all of them.  They need to learn, from you, what it takes to love and serve others, how to find joy and peace in the midst of life’s trials, and how to trust God when circumstances are overwhelming.  I know that you haven’t arrived yet.  I know that you still struggle trusting God, at times, and that you sometimes completely give into despair when things aren’t going right.   That’s real life, isn’t it?  It’s what makes you human.  It’s what makes you authentic, and it’s what a younger woman in Christ needs:  she needs to know that there is someone out there, just like her, who doesn’t have life all together, but that knows how to point her to The One who can redeem it all.  That’s you.  Are you sharing your life in an authentic way with other women so that you can point them to Jesus, the ultimate example of a life perfectly lived?
  2. Your Talents, Abilities, and Gifts.  1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”, and Romans 12:6 tells us that “We have different gifts according to the grace given us.”  You possess God-given gifts, abilities, and talents to help the body grow in very practical ways.  Are you a natural-born speaker, teacher, servant, motivator, or encourager?  Do you love to show hospitality to others?  Are you good at cooking, parenting, sewing, building, sports, gardening, writing, or designing?  What are you passionate about?  What kinds of things do you just naturally do better than others? Believe it, or not, you are an expert in some field!  You possess skills in certain areas of life that others don’t have, and you’ve been instructed by God to use those gifts to serve others in the body.  There are women all around you that will greatly benefit from what you have to share with them, and it’s a great platform for building relationships.  Let me give you an example.  I have a talent for gardening, so I grow a lot of the food that my family consumes.  Cooking it, however, is another story.  It’s not something that comes naturally to me.  I rely heavily on the internet for recipes and instructions for most of the meals that I cook. There are other women in my church body, though, that are master chefs – just give them a list of ingredients and off they go creating the most amazing meals ever! Because we are involved in each other’s lives, they are constantly asking me what I’ve got growing in my garden.  One time I shared that I had some cabbage, onions, green tomatoes, and dill growing, and an older woman volunteered to come over to my house and teach me how to make “chow chow”. What a treat it was spending time with her!  Not only did I learn how to make this new food (and even use a pressure cooker!), but I also learned more about my beautiful sister that day.  I learned about other ways she uses green tomatoes, and that she loves to garden, too.  I also learned that it has become much harder for her to garden now that she is older and that it is not as much fun for her to do because there is no one left at home to share the fruits of her labor with.  We talked about how she misses her husband who was recently placed into an Alzheimer’s care facility, and how lonely she becomes, at times, now that he is no longer living with her.  We did life together, that day – just as God intended it, and all because she was willing to share her life, gifts and talents with me.  The body grew, that day, and God was glorified.
  3.  Your Knowledge of The Word.  Ephesians 4:15 tells us that  “we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”  As a believer, you possess the Word of God.  It is written on your heart and inscribed into your mind by God, Himself.   It is there so that you can speak it into the lives of others God places on your path to help them grow in Christ-like maturity.  Even more than our friendship, gifts, and talents, the women God has placed into our lives need to hear His life-giving words from you.  “Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances”, Proverbs 25:11 tells us. You possess a treasure.  Spend time in The Word so that you know it, not just know about it.  Memorize it.  Be able to quote from it.  God will use what you know, and you have the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you.  I am always amazed at how God uses a passage that I’m currently studying to speak into the life of another woman as I share with her the truths that I am learning from it.  I have a friend that I meet with each week.  We walk together, talk about life, and spend time in prayer.  I was sharing with her, the other week, about something new that God was teaching me from His Word in John 13:34,  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  I shared how I had never seen this new level of love that we are commanded to give to our fellow believers before.  “Now”, I said, “We have to go beyond loving others as we love ourselves.  We have to love each other as Jesus loves us!” “I don’t know why I’ve never seen this before”, I told her. “Wow!” she said.  “I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about that either!”  That sparked a wonderful conversation, for us, about the meaning of the verse, how it compares to the other ways Jesus instructs us to love in His Word, and then we began discussing the perfect ways that Jesus loves the body and how we might imitate that.  We both agreed that we’d like to spend more time studying, on our own, how it is that Jesus loves.  God used that conversation to spur us both on to more Christ-like maturity that morning.  Do you see how He does that when we share our knowledge of The Word?
  4. Your Knowledge of The Gospel.  In Galatians 2:20, it says of the believer,  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me.” In addition to The Word, you posses knowledge of the most important message in all of history:  The Gospel, or “good news“.  It’s something that every woman (including ourselves) needs to hear – daily.  The Gospel is not only the good news for salvation, it is a message that is intended to resonate with and instruct believers for the rest of their lives.  The message of redeemed sinners, living by faith in the Son of God who loves us and gave himself up for us, is one that we constantly need to be reminded of as we walk through this sin-cursed world together.  A wonderful book on the subject is Jerry Bridges’ The Discipline of Grace.  I highly recommend you read it, if you haven’t.  It will help you grow in your knowledge of the gospel so that you can then share it with others in your life.  Many Christian women do not have a good understanding of the gospel.  “Christians”, Mr. Bridges says,  “are not instructed in the gospel. And because they do not fully understand the riches and glory of the gospel, they cannot preach it to themselves, nor live by it in their daily lives”, so they either live “puffed up” in their pride,  thinking that they are doing a pretty good job of keeping the rules, or downcast and depressed because they are consumed by what horrible sinners they are.  They need someone to share with them, over and over again, the good news of the gospel, so that they can “continually face up to [their] own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life”.  They need to see that “God has removed [their] transgressions from [them] as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), that He has blotted out [their] transgressions and remembers [their] sin no more (Isaiah 43:25), and that all these wonderful promises of forgiveness are based upon the atoning death of Jesus Christ” (Bridges). Are you familiar with this gospel?  Can you articulate it well?  Do you know how to apply it to your life and instruct others in how to apply it to theirs? As you come alongside other women believers, it will be a message that you will come back to over and over again as you walk with them through all of life’s circumstances. It will be one that you will love to preach as you fall in love, over and over again, with its powerful and essential message.

In this day and age of information, you have so much more to offer people than a search engine – your life, talents, abilities, gifts, knowledge of the Word and of the Gospel; you possess, by God, all you need to mentor and disciple other women and help them grow in Christ-likeness.  Do you believe this?

“His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!”

-from Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus