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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

Date Posted: July 24, 2020

I don’t know that judging the success of others is really any of my business, especially when the topic is so subjective and there are so many levels and definitions of what it means to be successful. But any measure of success we accomplish as Christians must start and finish with our willingness to accept Christ’s call to, “Come, follow me.” Which can be a daunting task, until we realize that God is interested in and seeks to be involved with every aspect of our lives (Revelation 3:20) – if we allow Him to be – making our lives more productive, effective and enjoyable. Aligning our hearts and minds with God’s bringing “success” – as He defines it – especially as we direct our thoughts and efforts to His work and glory.

That’s why Paul confidently instructs us to, “…not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7 Jesus assuring us that if we, “…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness… all these things (food, shelter, clothing – the normal concerns of life) will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 The Psalmist directing us to, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (See also Matthew 19:29) The issue of priorities being settled by Jesus bluntly claiming first place in our lives. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for (or in) me and the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Whoever acknowledges me before men (or on the flip-side – is ashamed of me and my words)… I will also acknowledge (or be ashamed of) him before my father in heaven.” Mark 8:34-36 & Matthew 10:32,33 (Combined here for emphasis)

Being kingdom people and living righteously is often associated with our attitude toward others; much of our “righteousness” expressed in our response to their needs. (Which is also part of the purity we’re to maintain before God (Matthew 5:8), allowing the fruit of the Spirit to then find full expression through our lives. Galatians 5:22,23) Graphically characterized by Jesus as providing for the hungry and thirsty, entertaining strangers, clothing the needy, caring for the sick and ministering to prisoners. All active works of grace and mercy. (Matthew 25:31-46) These things not done to attain salvation but in response to it. The work of God being to believe in the one he sent. (John 6:29) Faith naturally leading us to faithfulness. (See Matthew 25:21 & 1 Corinthians 4:2) All of which includes our families, as we have a responsibility to care for those people God has specifically blessed us with. Paul characterizing how we treat our spouses and rear our children as an indicator of worthiness for service in church. One requirement being that a man, “…manages his own family well…” because “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” 1 Timothy 3:4-5 (See also 1 Timothy 5:4 Which speaks to the responsibility we all have in caring for our families by instructing us to “…learn first of all to put your religion into practice by caring for your own family…”; parents and grandparents included.) His personal assessment of those falling short of their duty found in 1 Timothy 5:8. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Ministry sometimes finding expression – literally – in an “aptly spoken word.” Proverbs 25:11 At other times through appropriate “works of service.” Ephesians 4:12 As such, maintaining our homes, paying the bills, educating our kids, feeding our families and providing health care are all legitimate concerns for Christians; a delicate balancing act being necessary between accomplishing our more “secular” responsibilities and maintaining a sense of ministry in all we do.

In fact, Paul stressed the ideals of the “Protestant work ethic” long before it was recognized as such. Encouraging believers to, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,…” Colossians 3:23 Urging us to, “…respect those who work hard among you,…” 1 Thessalonians 5:12 Pronouncing what appears to many today as a harsh edict as he warned against idleness, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (Notice: He did not promote a hard-hearted, callous response to those in legitimate need. There being a huge difference between those who cannot work and those who will not work.)

On the other hand, Jesus specifically warns us to, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 Paul admonishing us to live in, “…godliness and contentment… for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:7 Jesus once again reminding us of the true goal of our efforts, “…not work(ing) for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” John 6:27 Further challenging us to, “…not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Ministry, as charity, may very well start at home. But it must reach out from that base to embrace all of our “brothers” and “sisters” of the world, sometimes causing us to exchange family members, locations, occupations, etc. (Matthew 19:29) Occasionally, the decision to wholeheartedly follow Christ tragically causing strife and forcing decisions on us we’d prefer not to make (Matthew 10:28); the singular claim of Christ on our lives exerting pre-eminence over every other relationship. (Matthew 10:37-39) Discord and separation never being the goal, our faith never intended to be used as an excuse for bad behavior; as honoring our parents is not only a commandment (Exodus 20:”12), but the first commandment with a promise, “…that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2,3

Paul reassuring the Philippians – and us through them – that, “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” Philippians 1:6 The importance of words and actions working together to solidify our claim to ministry reiterated in his letter to the Corinthians, where he reminded them that because of, “…the service by which you have proved yourselves; men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ,…” 2 Corinthians 9:13

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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