Verbal histories from our elderly family members give us insight into just where we come from. Those precious stories are filled with important events, human struggles, and surprising accounts of things we had no prior knowledge of. Within those verbal histories, we hear bits of wisdom, sage advice, personal warnings, and lots of humor. With our own ears we listen as important information is given to us about the past. But have you ever thought about how important it is to give a “verbal history” to your children or grandchildren about God’s influence in your life? A once I was… but now I am… testimony showing the Lord’s redemptive power over sin in your life is more important than any other story you could share with them.
The Apostle Paul was encouraging Timothy to stand up for himself as a Pastor, even though he was considered young for the position. Paul admonished him to behave in such an exemplary way, with integrity and confidence, that no one within the Church would question his assignment. Timothy was to lead by example…his way of life on constant display for others to imitate and follow. I would then challenge all of you who are also considered “young”…don’t think being youthful is an excuse to not set a good example. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t influence others for Christ while modeling God’s love to the world.
This verse is referred to as the “Shema,” which is how the first word in the Hebrew text is pronounced. This word means “to heed, listen, and obey.” Moses stressed the priority of belief in only one God as the people encountered countless foreign gods around them. And the next verse showed them, and us, the way to perpetuate and foster this belief of only one God, for it states in verse 5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” It tells us in proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” To know God is to love Him, and the more we love Him, the more we desire to listen and obey Him.
Without hesitation I know you’d answer a resounding “Yes!” to my question of whether you’d die for your spouse or children. But if we look closely at this verse, we’re not being asked to do that. Rather, we’re being directed to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians . OK wait, you want me to sacrifice for who? My family is one thing, but a neighbor or friend or somebody I hardly know at Church…I don’t know if I can do that. But when Jesus died on that Cross He didn’t pick and choose who He was dying for…He died for all. In John 10:11 it says, ” I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” To love one another with the Agape love that Christ first showed us is to be willing to be poured out like a drink offering for our brothers…regardless of who they are.
God could easily use the powerful and super-intelligent to move His Kingdom forward…but He doesn’t. He could utilize those who are idolized and obsessed over…but He chooses not to. God would rather select those who the world would view as ridiculous to direct the course of redemptive history. Verses 28-29 go on to say, “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” God uses everyday, common, ordinary people to do extraordinary work for Him on a regular basis. He takes the nonsensical and creates the incredible. All He needs is a willing heart and spirit.
If the Lord Almighty is defending my cause…why do I always feel compelled to justify or explain myself? If God is contending for me in a dispute…why do I need to somehow prove myself right also? St. Augustine was correct when he prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” We have this fleshly desire to be right…to explain ourselves away until everyone finally agrees with us…but if you look at Jesus teaching among the crowds, He never explained anything or made excuses for Himself. He left the misunderstandings and misconceptions of others to correct themselves.
There I was a few nights ago…lying in bed, awake and worrying about medical tests I had just completed. Mentally, I was taking myself through every worst-case scenario, when God stopped me mid-thought with, “Haven’t I had your life in My hands all these years, and won’t I continue?” For the next few minutes it was like a video ran in my head of past situations where God had literally saved my life…some I had been immediately aware of at the time, but some I had totally forgotten about. By the time this “Video” was done, I was seeking forgiveness for my lack of faith and declaring with new-found confidence, “My life was in Your hands then, and it’s in Your hands now…my faith and trust is in You, Lord, regardless of what happens.”