“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.””
–1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
I once officiated at a wedding, which was held in a large room at an assisted-living facility.
“Were you nervous?” my friend asked afterwards.
“Yes,” I groaned. “My computer held all of my notes, and of course it crashed moments before the wedding began.”
“What did you do?”
“There was nothing I could do except go ahead with things,” I replied, “so I just plunged in. But in spite of the circumstances, I think the wedding went off smoothly. I wish, however,” I continued reflectively, “that we had been able to practice the night before. I think that life is a lot like that wedding.”
“Okay, where are you going with that?”
“I suppose,” I answered slowly, “since we have one shot to get things right in life, God gives us the opportunity of calling out to Him. Unlike that wedding, where I had to pray constantly that things would go well, we often concentrate on our external circumstances, instead of focusing on the one who controls them.”
Today I would like to highlight a few of the external differences among us. When we see someone who is not the same as us, we have a choice as far as our reactions are concerned. By looking at people through the lenses of selfishness and indifference, our words can cause unnecessary pain and heartache. But if we attempt to see people in the way that God does, we will become encouragers. Let me illustrate how we can do this by using the institution of marriage in a Christian context.
My wife and I discussed this topic before we were ever married, and we agreed from day one that rather then making differences points of contention, we would try to make them a cause for celebration. While I admit I don’t always feel like celebrating when it comes to differences between us, I would like to share three words that begin with the letter S, which have helped me become more of an encourager.
The first S is Submit, so let’s look at what scripture has to say about it. Ephesians 5-21 tells us, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
The word “submit” is often viewed in a negative context in our society, but that isn’t the case according to God’s point of view. It doesn’t mean that one person should cower while another person dictates, but think of it like this. Just as you would yield the right of way in traffic, God commands us to filter every thought we have through His Word, submitting or yielding to it.
God’s Word tells us that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, and shows man and woman as the crown of His creation. So just as in a Biblical marriage, if we yield to one another, we can strive to celebrate the differences among people, instead of allowing them to become divisive.
The next S is Study. Scripture tells us that we are to study in order to show ourselves approved to God. Again, I realize that some of you may see this word in a negative context, as the horrors of textbooks flash before your eyes. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Depending upon the way you look at it, study can either be a delight or a drudgery. I’ll be the first to admit that studying God’s Word requires discipline, but loving what you study makes discipline a joy.
To demonstrate this, let me again use the example of marriage. I love my wife, and that love only deepens as I study what makes her tick. But learning what I can do to bring her joy takes the willingness on my part to study. Doing this becomes more of a delight than anything, and brings tranquility to our home.
It is much the same way with relating to God. The more you get to know Him through prayer and study of His Word, the more your relationship will be a joy. You will find yourself delighting in Him and becoming His friend as you walk together. There will definitely be hard times, but God wants to walk through those times with you. In this way, you can come to know a joy that few experience, and receive the peace of God in your heart.
The last S stands for Service. Unfortunately, service is a concept that we hear little about. We live in a me-first culture, in which many forms of customer service are a thing of the past. Most of us are very busy, and we use this mentality as an excuse for not getting involved in, or even thinking about, the needs of others.
The Roman world was much the same. It was also very busy, and it was filled with people who thought they were important. Here is one parallel between our two worlds–many people think they have the right to be served, rather than serving those around them.
To see the world where Jesus walked through His eyes, take a look at a quote from Wikipedia. Then, let’s think about some principals that relate to you and me today.
“Slavery in ancient Rome played an important role in society and the economy. Besides manual labour, slaves performed many domestic services, and might be employed at highly skilled jobs and professions. Accountants and physicians were often slaves. Slaves of Greek origin in particular might be highly educated. Unskilled slaves, or those sentenced to slavery as punishment, worked on farms, in mines, and at mills: their living conditions were brutal, and their lives short. Slaves were considered property under Roman law and had no legal personhood.”
In our culture and theirs, the me-first attitude and de-personalization are going hand in hand. While much of our labor is automated, and the Romans utilized manual labor, human contact in both societies decreased.
In both worlds, Jesus turned these ideas upside-down. For example, look at one statement He made in Mark 10:42. “And Jesus called them and said unto them, You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you, but who ever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the son of man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as ransom for many.”
Aside from other benefits, service is a great equalizer. Think about the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in the upper room. The men who had been arguing over their importance in the kingdom a few short pages ago were humbled.
If those of us who call ourselves Christians put our faith into action as Jesus did, a lot more people would listen to what we have to say. Instead of allowing differences to take center stage, we could be breaking down walls.
So get alone with God, and look at your life in light of the first S. Ask Him how you can Submit to that person who may drive you crazy, or that neighbor who is so different from you.
As you ask Him for wisdom, the second S comes into play. Study God’s Word, and allow it to shape your reactions. Then, study the other person, and find out all about them. Do these two things and you will find that God’s grace will be sufficient. It will also help you rise above the petty differences that you face.
Service, the final S, takes some practice, because it goes against our nature. Start out small, and ask God to help you as you venture out into new areas. You will find that while you may not feel like serving at first, the rewards are enormous.
As you can see, the importance we place on differences can be diminished over time. With God’s help, I pray that you will learn to accept and love all the differences you perceive in your life.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870. Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Monday night Bible study or Tuesday night prayer meeting. Both are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-432-6499. When prompted, press 1 for live chat rooms, and we’ll be waiting in room 31. You can press pound to bypass our friend Sharon’s intro message once you’ve entered room 31. We hope to talk with you soon!
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