From Dispensational Publishing House; used by permission.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).
Whenever I think of this verse, my mind goes back to a Friday in October of 1996. I was pastoring in Iowa at the time, and my wife and I took a day off to attend a banquet held by the Kansas City Youth For Christ.
That day is memorable to me for several reasons. For one, that was in the age before GPS, and we got lost both going to the meeting and coming back home. Secondly, I remember that, as we were eating our meal at the banquet, we suddenly heard the strains of the theme from “Mission Impossible” and saw some young men going over our heads toward the platform on zip lines. But the third reason that day is memorable—the most important one and the reason that we went to Kansas City on that beautiful autumn day—was that the speaker was one of my spiritual heroes, Dr. Dave Breese.
The Book of Philippians is one of the most positive books in Scripture. Its theme is joy. One of the best books on Philippians at a popular level is the one penned by Dr. Warren Wiersbe titled, Be Joyful.
Wiersbe presents Philippians as a book about joy and suggests that Paul identifies four thieves of joy: circumstances, people, material things, and worry. Weirsbe then suggests that Paul offers a solution to neutralize each thief of joy: the single mind (Philippians 1), the submissive mind (Philippians 2), the spiritual mind (Philippians 3), and the secure mind (Philippians 4).
Real joy comes from rich meaning; as Christians, we possess tremendous meaning if we live to glorify God. But this meaning needs to surface and affect the way we think. We can either aim to win by the world’s standards, or aim to win by God’s standards. If we try to do both, we will fail on both counts. Obviously, I advocate the second choice!
This post continues a lecture from C.H. Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students (read the series so far).
Avoid with your whole soul that spirit of suspicion which sours some men’s lives, and
Suspicion makes a man a torment to himself and a spy towards others. Once begin to suspect, and causes for distrust will multiply around you, and your very suspiciousness will create the major part of them. Many a friend has been transformed into an enemy by being suspected. Do not, therefore, look about you with the eyes of mistrust, nor listen as an eaves-dropper with the quick ear of fear. To go about the congregation ferreting out disaffection, like a gamekeeper after rabbits, is a mean employment, and is generally rewarded most sorrowfully.
You’d think after ten years, I’d have figured out a better way. You’d think that I’d have learned how to motivate, how to cajole, or how to simply avoid the conflict altogether. But no. Ten years into this thing called parenting, dinner time can still be a battle.
Not every night, of course. The nights I serve up macaroni and cheese, chicken, or pizza, all is well and all manner of things shall be well. But the nights we’re broadening our palate, the nights my husband and I enjoy a grown-up meal or attempt some exotic recipe, these nights devolve into protestations, stalling, and outright depression. I can never guarantee precisely how it will all go down–which food will be the stumbling block or which child will stumble–but I have noticed a pattern.
It begins with quiet resistance, moving the food around on the plate, sad looks, and barely uttered sighs. Perhaps all the other portions are consumed, leaving behind the one offending pile of vegetables or curry. My husband and I will have finished by this point. We will be ready to clear the table or have dessert, ready to move on. But instead, we stay. We stay for round two. We stay to encourage, to confront, and eventually to demand. We set timers, appeal to their sense of gratitude, and promise no other food until morning. Sometimes this works; sometimes they take us up on the offer.
After ten years, I should know better. Yet, each time, I continue to be surprised.
Reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections.
Have you come to prize the importance of journeying sufficiently far from home? To illustrate negatively, do you not bristle at the thought of a privileged young woman, growing up in a mansion, residing in an exclusive suburban neighborhood, attending posh private schools, who never leaves her comfortable surroundings? Would not this woman be aided by the experience of volunteering to scoop soup at a rescue mission, or by distributing medical supplies to refugees in a war torn country overseas, or something? If this member of the privileged class never leaves her comfort zone—never witnesses poverty and suffering firsthand—will she not nurse in her mind a distorted view of the world?
Conversely, consider a poverty stricken inner-city youth whose neighborhood is crawling with vice and whose chances of ever leaving his environment are bleak. Do we not readily commend the opportunity for such a youth to visit a rural farm or to attend a youth retreat in the Rockies, or something of the sort?
A while back I lost hearing in one ear. I made an appointment with my doctor and suggested the problem might be sinus pressure. He corrected me: my problem was earwax. After the physician removed the blockage, my hearing instantly returned.
But a strange thing happened: I was now hearing all sorts of things. When I walked, I could hear the fabric of my pants rubbing. I heard birds and trucks and high frequency noises that I didn’t remember hearing before. After a few days, my experience returned to normal and I heard just as I had before.
What happened? The answer is that my mind selectively targeted what to focus upon and what to blot out. It did this by habit.
Let me share two major advantages of habits, routines, and unwritten rules.