Saying the word ‘no’ can be a problem for lots of us. The phone request, the email, the text message and the person who grabs your arm as you leave the meeting because they want you to join their team, attend their event, help with a project they’re planning or see if you’re free in the next week for a coffee and chat. Immediately we feel bad because we realise refusing this person is going to make them disappointed and so rather than reply negatively we bow to the demand, attend the event, turn up at the meeting or arrange a coffee that we’d really rather not drink! We fool ourselves into thinking that saying yes all the time is the “Christian thing to do” and that we’re being very selfish when we say no to the requests.
This is wrong. There, I’ve said it. Saying yes to all these requests is not a selfless thing to do it’s a selfish thing to do. We say yes because we don’t want to disappoint people. I agree to do stuff so that other people will like me. Our motivation for agreeing to requests is often rooted in a desire to have other people think highly of us. In the Sermon on The Mount [that we’ve been looking at in Carnmoney recently] Jesus instructs His followers not to be preoccupied with what people think of them. He makes it clear that the life motivated by pride is rewarded by people but the life motivated by humility is rewarded by heaven. Martin Lloyd Jones puts it like this
There is no reward from God for those who seek it from men.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:1 Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
For God’s glory and your own joy – feel free to say ‘no’
You can listen to the full message on Matthew 6 by clicking here
Stuart Baggs is an absolute legend. Self-awareness is not a quality he possesses. He has a youthful optimism that more than borders on the delusional and he’s pure quality entertainment. “Everything I touch turns to sold” he said in one of his more humble moments on this season’s hit series, The Apprentice. Very rarely do you encounter such a blatant caricature but when you do it is absolutely arresting to watch. I’ve found myself cringing behind the cushion on our sofa as he defends himself before Lord Sugar in the boardroom. The facial expressions and reactions of the other contestants seem to have no impact upon Baggs ‘The Brand’ He’s in a total bubble of self-confidence and optimism that makes David Brent look shy and retiring! The only sad thing is that this series will come to an end, allowing only personal acquaintances, family and work colleagues to be able to witness the life of the man who is Stuart Baggs.
His optimism about life is a far cry from the perspective of the author of Ecclesiastes (a book I’ve been studying/teaching for the last month or two.) In this brutally honest book of the bible I’ve been reminded that under the sun – everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. The author has pursued a variety of paths in life and all of them have left him feeling dissatisfied. Study and wisdom; laughter and pleasure; building and work; sex and relationships; popularity and significance – all of these things were pursued fully but ended up leaving a sour taste in the author’s mouth. A repeated phrase that comes at the end of every new pursuit or path is ‘this too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.’ There’s a blunt, down-to-earth reality about this book that is too often lacking in the Christian community. It’s not a negative book, it’s not an abstract book, it’s a ‘how things really are’ book. For many people life has become like chasing the wind. Life is just out of reach. Life has become impossible. Life is all over the place and doesn’t seem to have any source or destination. Thankfully, while the book raises these questions it doesn’t leave us believing that this is the only perspective on life.
We are urged in the final chapter (and throughout the book) to lift our eyes from ‘under the sun’. We need to look above the created world, above the sun, moon, stars, jobs, possessions, people and projects. We need to lift our eyes above creation to the Creator. He made us and place eternity in our hearts. He is an eternal God and He designed us for relationship with Himself. When we swallow a temporary pain-killer for an eternal ache the pain will soon surface. JI Packer says in his classic book Knowing God ‘there is in Christ a balm for every wound.’
It won’t be long before the bubble bursts for Stuart Baggs, the midas touch will evaporate and Lord Sugar may utter the famous words “You’re Fired.” How will Baggs react? What will he do next? The author of Ecclesiastes will point him in the direction of his Creator and encourage him to find life in the only One who can offer it.
New technology has had a defining impact upon our culture. There are more opportunities for communication, more avenues of connection, more possibilities for interaction than ever before, yet much of the current research says that young people growing up today feel more isolated or abandoned than ever before. In spite of these supposed opportunities to connect most young people sense a deep disconnection from adults and their peers, many young people confess to feeling like actors playing a part in a drama rather than being themselves. Fear is the driving factor here. Fear that by taking the risk of being themselves they will be rejected.
In Fusion this week we thought about the simple truth that God made us in His image and therefore we have a deep desire for relationship with Him and others. At the beginning of the Bible we read these words ‘it is not good for man to be alone’ Independence is the root of all sin, we selfishly choose our own way and reject God. His desire is for us to be dependent upon Him, to see Him as God and trust Him with our lives. He loves us for who we really are. Before we speak – He knows what we’re going to say, He knows our innermost thoughts and has numbered the hairs on our head. This is amazing but the most amazing thing is that even though He knows us better than anyone else, He still loves us more than anyone else. He’s not put off by our faults and weaknesses. We don’t need to pretend with Him.
That God loves us unconditionally should impact how we see one another (it should even impact how we see ourselves). Our relationship with God is one were we respond to Him in love because He first loved us. This love should be obvious in my life. God’s character is revealed through His people. My desire is that through Fusion more young people will leave behind lives of isolation and get connected to Jesus. That more young people will discover the love He has for them and experience the freedom of true relationship with others.
It’s not only O2 who believe we’re better connected – God does too!
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
If you want to be able to face any situation and be confident, it’s helpful not to be alone. There’s a strength that comes from being in the company of a supportive friend, family member or maybe even a paid professional. As we finished our series in Philippians tonight at Fusion, we were thinking about the company Christians always have. Company which makes it possible for us to face anything that comes our way. Paul says
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We may not have Kevin Costner as our Bodyguard but we have the peace of God as our guard. This peace cannot be understood apart from knowing God. In a way, this peace only makes sense when we grasp the nature of God and understand life from His perspective. Paul was probably chained to a guard in prison as he wrote this book. He knew well what a guard’s job was and so when he tells the church at Philippi of God’s peace being their guard he probably pictured a constant presence that would impact every area of life.
Paul goes on to say…
This means that for the Christian there is not a situation which is beyond our ability to cope with. There is not a challenge that’s too much of a difficulty to face or deal with because we’re never alone. Everything is possible for the Christian because Christ has had victory, even over death! What is there left to fear?
This series in Philippians has been personally encouraging and a real help to all our young people.
Last week I got a little nervous as Dave (our worship leader) began his introduction to worship by talking about Billy Joel.. I soon realised the huge importance of the point he was making. He was reminding us that in one of Joel’s most famous songs we hear these words “we didn’t start the fire – it was always burning since the world’s been turning.” Our focus last week was this verse in Philippians he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Dave was reminding everyone that God began the work in us, He started the fire and that’s why we worship Him. Everything we do as Christians is a response to what Jesus has already done for us. Tonight we followed on that thought a bit more as we saw that humility and a concern for the interests of others should be some of the markers of Christian faith. We have no reason to boast in ourselves because God began the work and He will complete it. Jesus considered our need for rescue to be greater than His need for equality with God.
Tim Hughes puts it this way…
King of All Days – oh so highly exalted,
glorious in heaven above,
humbly you came to the earth you created,
all for love’s sake became poor.
Long lasting joy is only possible when in humility we consider others needs more important than our own. This is at the heart of God’s character and is revealed fully to us at the cross. Paul issues a challenge to us in chapter 2 of Philippians when he says Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Billy Joel sings that the fire has been “burnin since the world’s been turnin” The Bible says that God’s love for us was in existence way before that!
Back in May this year I finished the Belfast Marathon but I didn’t actually start it! I was part of a team of people (all of whom were much fitter than me.) We all did our bit but none of us completed the 26 point whatever miles. We did the race for a while and then stopped. In a sense we all ran for a bit and then gave up when someone else took over the responsibility of running.
The good news of the Bible is that God never gives up on us, He completes everything He starts. He doesn’t hand over responsibility for us to someone else because He never gets tired. Tonight in Fusion we were continuing our series in Philippians and thinking in particular about this encouraging part of the letter.
‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’
The world we live in is in a hurry: instant coffee, high-speed broadband, next-day delivery, fast track to management, express checkouts and drive through restaurants are indicators of this. The good news is that God is not in a hurry. Waiting time is not wasted time for Him or us. Chris Tomlin sings ‘Strength will rise as we WAIT upon the Lord.’ All of us are a work in progress, God has not finished with us. He will finish this work. He will not give up on us. Our job is to trust Him even when it feels like things are tough. We need to remind ourselves that it is Jesus who saved us, that it was the Holy Spirit who began this work and that God will keep us in His hand.
Maybe I’ll run the whole marathon in May 2010, it’d be great to actually start and finish the race!
Fusion started back tonight and we began a study in the book of Philippians. Our theme is Duracell Joy – we want to see how Paul keeps rejoicing (even in prison) and how we can keep on being full of joy no matter what is going on in our lives. In this encouraging letter Paul says “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Brenton Brown’s song which is called Adoration uses loads of the ideas found in the book of Philippians but one line in particular stands out for me. He sings ‘all we need is found in you.’ Not some of our needs, not most of our needs, but all our needs are met in Jesus. I have to discipline myself to surrender to this truth on a daily basis, I should have this verse engraved on my credit card and tattooed on my hand. True joy or eternal joy that lasts beyond a purchase or an experience can only be found through a relationship with Jesus. He knows the difference between what we want and what we need. The Bible does not promise Christians an easy life free from difficulty, pain, illness or grief but it does promise us that whatever we are facing that Jesus will be enough for us to get through it.
2 Things To Do This Week
Whatever your situation is right now – why not take 20 mins and read through the 4 chapters of Philippians? Allow God to speak to you about who He is and how He can help you to have joy even in the most difficult of times..
Pick up a pen and write a short note to encourage someone who has been an encouragement to you!