What is Jealousy?

What is jealousy anyway?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines jealous as “Hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.” It also adds that jealousy is “intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness,” and “disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness.”

There are a couple of things to note from that definition: Hostile toward a rival and hostile toward one believed to enjoy an advantage. How do you handle a rival? What if someone comes along and threatens your authority? How do you respond when others around you just seem way more talented, positive and popular? When others have things (not just possessions) that you do not have, how does that make you feel? Does it affect how you view others, how you treat them and how you talk about them?

Yesterday we looked at the fact that jealousy is behind a lot of strife in all kinds of relationships. How was jealousy part of the equation?

  • What did Paul and his companions have that the Jews in Galatia / Thessalonica didn’t? The people, both Jews and Gentiles, were flocking to hear Paul preach the gospel. Many were hanging on every word and begging to hear those same words again the next week (Acts 13,17).
  • What did Jesus have that the Jewish leaders didn’t? Again, it was that the people (from nobility to the harlots) ran to Jesus en masse to hear His teachings, be healed by Him, and to find forgiveness and grace. The Jewish leaders just couldn’t stand it that Jesus had that much popularity (Luke 15:1-2).
  • What did Abel have that Cain didn’t? Abel’s works were righteous, Cain’s works were evil. Cain saw Abel as a rival and a threat, not as a brother and an inspiration to draw closer to God (1 John 3:12).
  • What did Joseph have that his brothers did not have? Joseph was the favorite of their father, Jacob. He enjoyed advantages and privileges that the others did not (Genesis 37).

We’ll develop this more tomorrow, Lord willing, but for now think about this. If jealousy is at the root of a lot of relationship problems, shouldn’t you and I be open to the possibility that we might be jealous of others? We might not want to think of ourselves as jealous people, but God is saying that we are and it is the building block for fights. Let’s get at the root of this problem.

God Granted Paul 276 Men

I encourage you to read Acts 27 in which Luke describes in amazing and accurate firsthand detail the dangerous journey they took by sea. Not only is the firsthand knowledge of Luke’s account an incredible witness to the accuracy of the Bible, this is just a breathtaking and emotional journey as you read what those men went through on that ship in the Mediterranean Sea. So many faith and leadership lessons can be taught here.

What I want to focus on for just a moment this morning is how Paul’s relationship with God and his leadership brought all those people safely to shore.

Notice this: When Paul is speaking to the men on the ship, he tells them about what God told him.

and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
(Acts 27:24)

God has “granted you all those who sail with you.” What is implied here? Doesn’t it sound like Paul had specifically made a request to God for all of these men on the ship? God seems to be saying, I am giving you what you requested. These men will all safely come to shore, even if they do so swimming or floating on broken pieces of the ship.

and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
(Acts 27:44)

276 men were on that ship (Acts 27:37). 276 men made it safely to shore, even if it was scary and ugly. And they all can be thankful for Paul’s dedication, prayers, and concern. Paul showed who he was down to his core – he deeply loved and cared for everyone on that ship. And Paul showed them the loving and mighty God he serves. When those men swam ashore and stood on the ground, they could rest assured that God keeps His promises, and God answers the prayers of the faithful.

As we go into Memorial Day weekend, let us also remember that we have made it safely through a lot of storms in our country. God is to be praised and thanked for that first and foremost. But do not forget those who sacrificed of themselves and poured our their blood because they wanted all of us to make it safely to the shores of freedom. We stand in freedom because others laid down their lives.

The Person, the Word and the Holy Spirit

Take a minute to read 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10. The text is at the end of this post.

What I saw here is that when Paul preached, three things were effective in helping the hearts of the Thessalonians to turn from idols to serve God.

  • The Word (verse 5).
  • The Powerful working of the Holy Spirit (verse 5).
  • Paul and the other preachers’ examples (verse 5).

Also take notice that the Thessalonians became “imitators” of Paul and the other ministers (verse 6). Look at what happened.

  • They received the Word (verse 6) and they themselves sounded out the word (verse 8).
  • The Holy Spirit created His fruit within them…Joy (verse 6).
  • They in turn became examples to people everywhere (verse 7-10).

So remember, our example matters when it comes to preaching the word to others. Read 1 Thessalonians 2 to see the kind of example and character Paul demonstrated toward them. It also is very important to remember that the Holy Spirit is at work, too. As we are preaching the word, our example and the working of the Holy Spirit also has a tremendous impact on the conversion of souls!

1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

 

Learning to Hope

Romans 4:18-21
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 

25 years is a long time to wait, especially when you are already old and God promises you and your wife you will have a baby. Paul said after this period of time, Abraham hoped against hope and trusted God that He will deliver on His promise.

If you have been through great loss and sadness, it is hard to hope for good again, but we can learn to hope again just like Abraham and Sarah did. It takes time. But we are reminded that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not stay there (Psalm 23). Take time to look at the Psalms to see the goodness of God and His wonderful works for you (Psalm 103). Remind yourself of passages in the Bible that give hope (Romans 15:4), like the story of Abraham and Sarah. Cry out to God in your pain, and He will in time heal your broken heart (Psalm 147:3). Surround yourself with encouraging people who will lift you up in your pain. I had a friend, Benjamin, who gave me an assignment to take a mason jar and fill it with accomplishments, positive things, and what God has done for me. It was an encouraging and hope-building exercise to see all the great things God has done. The jar is full. Your jar is full too. You can hope again.

Proverbs 13:12 – Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. 

But As For You

In Paul’s letters to Timothy, the apostle warns and instructs the young evangelist about many things regarding the church, including those in the church who are behaving badly. As he teaches Timothy about those things, he repeatedly turned to Timothy, and said something like, “But as for you…”

Timothy, people around you who claim to be followers of Jesus are going to behave in ungodly ways, but as for you, this is how you are to speak, think and act. Below are just a few examples of how Paul turns the attention to encourage Timothy to watch his own behavior.

Timothy people are going to love money and it is going to destroy them. But you flee these things and follow righteousness and other godly qualities!

1 Timothy 6:10-11
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Timothy, some will bring great trouble upon the church, and eventually their folly will be known to all. But you keep following my teaching and my conduct.

2 Timothy 3:9-10
But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,

Timothy, you will be persecuted because you want to live for God in Christ. Others around you will go from bad to worse. But as for you…keep doing what you have learned.

2 Timothy 3:12-14
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

Timothy, times are coming when it will be hard to find folks who want to listen to the truth. But as for you, be clear-minded and do your job, even if you have to suffer.

2 Timothy 4:3-5
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Let’s ask ourselves…how many times have we allowed the bad behavior of others to influence how we think, speak and behave? Be honest.

How often do we excuse our own poor behavior on how others are acting? It happens all the time, doesn’t it. We say things like, “Well, if they wouldn’t have done this, then I wouldn’t have said what I did.” As if God is going to give us a grace pass for behaving sinfully just because others are being sinful. Cussing out someone because they treated you badly is not how it works – at least that’s what Paul is telling Timothy.

If Paul were talking to us today, I believe he would be saying the same things to us. But as for you…this is how you behave. It doesn’t matter how others are talking…this is how you talk. If others are treating you in a sinful way…this is how you behave. When others go down the wide path of loose living…you have your own path to follow. If others are being a bad example, you be a good example.

But as for you…

Has the Church Building Become Our Basket

Has the church building become our basket under which we have hidden our lights? I heard this idea posed in a sermon years ago by Jason Hardin. It is a great question. Read this passage about what Jesus wants us to be today in the world.

Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We are salt, but if the salt doesn’t fill out it’s purpose, it’s taste, then it becomes only good for throwing down on the road for people to walk on. We are light, but what happens when we cover that light with a basket? That light is not filling out its purpose. People can’t benefit from the salt and light if the salt doesn’t taste like salt and the light doesn’t shine because it is hidden under a basket.

Have our church buildings become that basket under which we shine our light? It is really easy to shine the light at the church building. But what about at home? What about at work? What about showing that light with our neighbors and friends? Do we cover that light the rest of the week?

If we are going to work during this pandemic, either remotely or physically, are we shining that light?

Now many are confined to homes. Most folks aren’t “going to church” now. It is a sad time, but it is also a time for reflection. It’s a time to look into the mirror. God doesn’t dwell in buildings made with hands (Acts 17:24), He dwells within the Christian. People call the area in the church building where we worship the “sanctuary.” God’s throne and God’s holy presence is the “sanctuary.” And our hearts are supposed to be that “sanctuary.” Our gatherings as Christians, no matter where they may happen, are that “sanctuary.” The holy temple of God is not at a church building, it is within the human hearts of those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.

John 4:21 – Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

It is a time to rethink that far too many have put way too much focus on a physical location. Jesus reminded the woman at the well of this fact, God’s people can worship God in any location. God’s people are to shine his light in every location. God’s people are to be that salt in every location. Let’s make sure that all of us are being that salt and light in every circumstance, not just at a church building.

Those Who Were Scattered

Acts 8:3-4
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word

In the days of Acts 2-7, the church at Jerusalem was huge. They were growing by the thousands. But then persecution arose, led by Saul of Tarsus (whom we know as Paul). The church was scattered everywhere. They could not all meet together as they were used to. Things had changed. Significantly. Times were dark and scary. But what did the church do?

They went everywhere preaching the word!

We are at a time where we cannot meet as we did before. Things have changed, even if for a short time. Times for many are dark and scary. But what is the call for the church today? Reach out to help others. Reach out to encourage others. Reach out to teach others. These are life changing events for many. Here is an opportunity for us to share the good news with others.

Use those phones and tablets. Take advantage of the time you have right now to say words of encouragement to others who need it. Find someone you know around you who could use words of God to help them today, and share those good words with him or her.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Hebrews 3:13
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

What Great Leaders Faced

Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln both suffered with debilitating bouts of depression. Other great artists, leaders, athletes and composers have suffered from various forms of internal struggles, such as bipolar disorder, suicidal thoughts and depression. I write this so that if you are struggling inside, you are not alone, and many others have gone through those dark valleys.

Here is an article on “Famous People and Depression.”

I think of the apostle Paul when he was at Corinth preaching. Luke writes in Acts 18 that he faced a lot of heated adversity in Corinth to the point that Jesus came in the night to comfort him.

Acts 18:9-11
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Jesus came to comfort Paul. Paul was afraid, wasn’t he? It seems from what Jesus said here that Paul was considering shutting his mouth to avoid any more pain and persecution. Jeremiah, Moses and Elijah all faced similar things. The Lord told him some very important things here. “Don’t be afraid…I’m with you…and there are people here in this city who will listen!”

Read how Paul described his mental state as he was in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Read it again slowly. Paul was with the Corinthians in what kind of mental condition? Weakness. Fear. Much trembling. And he couldn’t fall back on his excellent oratory skills because he apparently didn’t have them (2 Corinthians 10:10). Paul could barely function because of his great anxiety, but God wanted him to preach in Corinth. Why? Look at what Paul says. God did great things through him in Corinth. You could see God’s goal in working through Paul was that folks would not rest on Paul’s wisdom and abilities but in the mighty power of God. Paul was shaking in his sandals, but God did mighty works through Paul’s hands, and people came to faith in God because of God, not because of Paul.

I’m not sure what God is working in you, but it is a good thing and it is for His glory (Philippians 1:6; 2:13). You are afraid. You are depressed. You are about to give up. Please remember Paul. Jesus did wonderful things through Paul’s times of weakness, fear and anxiety. I believe sometimes people quote Philippians 4:6 where Paul says “Don’t be anxious,” and they talk as if Paul never struggled with that. I’m comforted by the fact that when Paul tells me not to be anxious, I know that this was an incredible struggle for him.

Even the “great apostle Paul” wanted to give up.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Meditate on this section of Scripture from 2 Corinthians. See that Paul was so “utterly burdened beyond” his strength that he “despaired of life itself.” You may have never seen Paul that way, and I hope you will think of him as a real human being who really got down and who really had times when he didn’t see a way out. He despaired of life itself. If it happened to Paul, it will happen to us. We are not alone. But see that Paul’s deliverance through these dark valleys taught him not to trust in his own strength but in God’s. He also recognized that his suffering was not just for him, but it was for others because others were strengthened and brought closer to God because of what Paul went through. Remember that as God walks with you through those dark valleys, you will be able at some point to hold someone else’s hand through those times of despair.

Don’t suffer alone. Don’t suffer in silence. Just as Paul reached out to God and to his brethren for help in prayer, you and I can do the same.

Things That Are Lacking

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you–
(Titus 1:5)

Look at the various ways the phrase “put what remained into order” is translated:

“Set in order the things that are lacking” (NKJV)

“Set in order what remains” (NASU)

“Straighten out what was left unfinished” (NIV)

“Set in order the things that are wanting” (KJV)

“Amend what was defective” (RSV)

Considering these various phrases, we can see that Paul knew that something just wasn’t finished in the churches in Crete. There was something “defective, wanting, lacking, unfinished” in the churches.

What was lacking and unfinished? The churches were sheep without shepherds…they needed elders in every congregation. Without elders, the church is lacking, unfinished, defective, etc.

What is lacking when sheep are without shepherds?

  • Protection
  • Provision
  • Accountability
  • Direction

We should be able to see God’s wisdom in having men appointed as shepherds or elders to lead the local congregations. We are sheep, whether or not we like to admit it. Without a shepherd, I am in danger! When we have no shepherds, we wander and are in danger of being eaten by wolves!

God has designed His local congregations to have godly shepherds who will be after His heart (Jeremiah 3:15). These elders/shepherds are to think like God, to be on the same page as God. Because these elders think like God does, they can do for God’s sheep what God’s sheep need. We need direction, accountability, protection and provision.

Read Psalm 23 and John 10 and think about what shepherds do for sheep. This is what our elders in our congregations do for us. What a blessing! Thank God for godly elders!

Their First Love

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
(Revelation 2:4)

Ephesus would have been considered by most of us as a “sound church.” From the outside they were doing all the right things. They were facing persecution and standing firm against the devil. The congregation would not tolerate false doctrine and were testing any teacher to make sure the things said were directly from God. They were patiently enduring for Christ, but Christ said that they were about to lose their fellowship with Him. He was going to remove their lampstand from its place. They were in need of repentance!

Why? Because they had left their first love. Maybe if we were in Ephesus we would be shocked to hear these words from Jesus. We are doing all the right things, why would Jesus tell us to repent? They were doing works, indeed, but Jesus said they were not doing the “first works.” Whatever they were like before, they were not like that now. On the outside all appearances looked like this was a strong, Bible-teaching congregation. But to Jesus, He saw a congregation that was now going through the motions. The love they had at first was not there anymore.

This is true in churches, organizations, marriages, sports teams, etc. At first the fire is there. We know our “why.” A young couple is just full of energy, love, passion and all things are new! But after time, years, struggles, pain, stress, busy-ness, etc., the couple just starts going through the motions. That couple may even seem to many others like they have a great marriage, but to each other they know the “first love” is not there anymore. What happens in marriages, teams, businesses, and churches is that we forget where we came from and how we were when we got started.

We have to get back to those beginnings! Jesus told the church at Ephesus to “repent.” But how is that done? He told them to, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Remember. Do the first works.

For a married couple it may mean going out on dates again. Getting out the wedding videos and watching them. Do you have those old love letters in a box somewhere? Read them. Remember when?

For Ephesus, they could do the same thing. They could get out the old love letters and read them again. There was this great letter called “Ephesians” sent to them by Paul decades before. It’s time to get that letter out and dust it off. Read the first half of Ephesians and you will rekindle the old flames once again. Remember what it was like when Jesus saved you from your sins and covered you in His grace and His blood. Remember where you came from. Think of the newness, fire and zeal you had when you were a new Christian. It’s time to get back to the beginning, back to the basics. Read the old love letters and rekindle the fire.