(October 18, 2022) Richard Winter shares comfort and a challenge…
Do you know who this is?
I’m sure you have seen him on an old TV show… it’s Mr T.
Mr T is known for his distinctive hairstyle inspired by Mandinka warriors in West Africa, his gold jewelry, and his tough-guy image. He is also known for his catchphrase, ‘I pity the fool!’
Today Mr T is a Christian who stopped wearing the gold jewelry and acting tough because it’s a contradiction to what he believes.
As we grow in Christ we begin to realise that our Christian maturity has many facets, just like beautiful diamond and I want to make mention of five of them today that all start with T so that we can become a Mr T in Christ!
1. Trust (Psalm 127:1-5)
The Christian life is not meant to be one of self-dependent toil, but one of interdependent trust with Jesus.
As Christians we are all to be busy about building His church but God says: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for He grants sleep to those He loves’ (v1–2).
As Victor Hugo wrote, ‘When you have… accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace; God is awake.’
It is easy to get caught up with our own plans for our lives, families and ministries. This psalm is a wonderful reminder that ultimately you are totally dependent on the Lord.
This is a message of great comfort – but it is also a challenge. Is God part of everything you do? Are there any areas of your life where you are going it alone, and therefore ‘labouring in vain’?
God wants to be involved in every area of your life. If you want your work to have lasting value, you need to make sure you are partnering with the Lord and not going it alone!
2. Trials (James 1:1-7)
One thing that you have in common with all Christians everywhere, is that we all face ‘trials of many kinds’ (v2b).
The letter of James is written to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations (that is, to all Christians everywhere). In one of the strangest verses of the New Testament, James says, ‘Consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials’ (v2).
What? Rejoice in difficult situations? This turns the world’s view upside-down. ‘Trials’ are the challenges of life that test your faith and develop perseverance (v3–4).
As has been said that –
- ‘Every storm is a school.
- Every trial is a test.
- Every experience is an education.
- Every difficulty is for your development.’
God will not do everything the way we want it. He does want us to say, ‘Yes, Lord, your way is best.’
In the midst of your trials you need wisdom. James says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’ (v5).
There are two ways to handle a problem. One is to go it alone – that is the natural way. The other is to ask God for divine wisdom to help you to know what to do.
3. Temptation (James 1:13)
Somebody else said: ‘Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.’
Temptation is when we feel like doing the wrong thing. Temptation itself is not a sin. Rather, it is a call to battle.
Where does temptation come from? Certainly not from God. James says, ‘When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone’ (v13).
Often, in the Bible, temptation is seen as coming from the devil.
- Jesus was tempted by the devil.
- Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent.
- Job was attacked by Satan.
However, the devil works on our own evil desires, ‘Each of you is tempted when, by your own evil desire, you are dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death’ (v14–15).
Sin is always a deception! James writes, ‘Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters’ (v16).
You are deceived when you think that you need things that are not good. The deception in the Garden of Eden was that Adam and Eve thought they needed to experience something beyond the good things God had given them!
God only wants you to experience good! Every time you feel like doing the wrong thing and choose to do the right thing, you grow in maturity, strength and wisdom.
4. Tongue (James 1:26)
One of the tests of your character is your tongue.
Keep a tight rein on the tongue. Get your mouth under control (v26).
James has a great deal to say on the subject of the tongue. He writes, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for human anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you’ (v19–21).
The word of God has the power to transform you. You need to allow time for God’s word to be planted firmly in you, to hear it and then do what it says. Rather than speaking too much, listen to God’s word and get rid of all the bad stuff in your life.
Listening in itself, though, is not enough. ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says’ (v22).
5. Turn (Ezekiel 32:1-33:20)
It is God’s will that ‘all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:4).
The word ‘turn’ (or ‘turns’) appears seven times in Ezekiel 33. God appointed Ezekiel as a watchman, held to be accountable. God told him to ‘warn the wicked to turn from their ways’ (Ezekiel 33:9).
Provided you speak the message God gives you, you are not responsible for the results. Ezekiel was only responsible if he failed to give the warning (v8–9).
This is an important reminder about family, friends and those you know who are not followers of Jesus – your responsibility is to love them, encourage them and give them the opportunity to hear the gospel and turn to God.
Yes, it is hugely disappointing when they do not respond positively. However, do not take the burden of their decisions on your own shoulders!
God wants everyone to repent of their sins and start ‘living a righteous and just life – being generous to the down-and-out, restoring what [was] stolen, cultivating life-nourishing ways that don’t hurt others… living a just and righteous life’ (v15–19Message).
Turning Point Prayer
Lord, help me to turn from evil and find life, and then to see others doing that in their lives, in our church and in churches all around the world – that many, many people may turn to you and find life.
As I mentioned above, the Mr T changed.
May you grow in your Christianity maturity and be a changed Mr T in Christ!
Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com