Do Not Grow Weary of Doing Good

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Paul encourages us to not grow weary of doing good. That tells me it is very possible and likely that at some point in my walk with Jesus I’m going to grow weary of doing good. It happens. It happened to the best of the best in Scripture (Elijah, Jeremiah, Paul, Moses, etc.).

Here are some thoughts for why we sometimes grow weary in doing good.

  1. We lose sight of the mission. It may be that we become results oriented, instead of service oriented. For example, we get frustrated because people are not “doing” what we are teaching / influencing them to do. But our job is not on the results end, it is on the planting and watering end. It is God’s job to give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7).
  2. We feel like we are the only ones doing right. Following God may leave us at times feeling lonely, thinking we’re the only ones who “get it.” Elijah thought that, but God showed him there were 7,000 others. Rest assured that you are not the only person on earth who “gets it.”
  3. We take our focus off God’s glory and begin to direct attention to ourselves. This was Moses’ problem, even though it was temporary (Numbers 20). Moses blew a gasket, and I can understand why when you look at the Israelites’ behavior and attitudes. But for a brief moment, Moses took the glory from God and directed it to himself, and for it he paid dearly. One of the reasons we grow weary in doing good is because we make too much of it about ourselves and not about God. It ain’t about you.
  4. We take on too much. Sometimes, we are trying to do too much by ourselves. We begin to rely on our own strength instead of God’s. And instead of spreading the responsibilities and delegating the work to the body of Christ, we begin to think one body part can do it all. That is not good for you or others. That can get us tired and weary in a hurry! We are to bear one another’s burdens, that means we type-A personalities have to learn to rely on the strength of others (Galatians 6:2).

Remember, Paul said we will “reap if we do not lost heart and give up.” God is there with us. His strength holds us up and renews us. The body of Christ is around us to work side by side in His service.

The Barnabas Touch: How to Be An Encourager

Gentlemen, we have considered this week the importance of being a humble servant as we follow the example given to us by Jesus (John 13:1-17).  I came across an article (written by Jason Moore) I was provided many years back and in reading it I wanted to share it with you today as we wrap up our week.  I hope you find it encouraging and invite you to take today and the weekend to consider the importance of our encouragement to our Brethren and the impact this style of living will have on those we encounter in the world.  Have a blessed day!

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Barnabas was conspicuous for his encouragement of others. An examination of his life teaches us the skills of an encourager, the job of every believer. The apostle commands, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).  Barnabas illustrates the commandment:

  1. Get off your island. Barnabas was born on the isle of Cyprus, but left Cyprus for Jerusalem (4:36), Jerusalem for Antioch, the third largest city in Roman world (11:22), and Antioch for the world (13:2). Encouragers are not just naturally gregarious people—that’s a myth. The essential qualification is unselfishness. Encouragers leave their comfort zone to go help. It’s the best cure for self-pity and any “self”-ish tendency.
  2. Build a bridge. Barnabas believed in men like Saul and John Mark even when others didn’t (9:26-27; 15:37-39). He risked his own reputation in reaching out to them. Bridge building is hard work and there is always the risk of falling. But encouragers run the risk of seeking, finding and enfolding folks whom others have isolated or who have isolated themselves.
  3. Spread good gossip. Barnabas told Saul’s story to the apostles (9:27), Antioch’s story to Saul (11:25-26), and the Gentiles’ story to an assembly in Jerusalem (15:12). A gossip likes to tell the bad he knows about others while an encourager likes to tell the good. An encourager can’t keep the story of others’ growth or progress to himself. He broadens their influence by telling something good on them.
  4. Lead the line to lend a hand. Barnabas led the file to relieve needy saints on at least two occasions (4:36-37; 11:30). It’s not that the encourager is always the first on the scene when a need arises, but he is always out of breath when he gets there. The promptness of an encourager says that his service is a privilege and not a burden.
  5. Acknowledge an effort. The word of God commends Barnabas as a “good man” because of his encouragement of the church in Antioch (11:23). The Holy Spirit acknowledges him for his acknowledgment of the efforts of others. At least three steps are involved in mastering this skill.
    1. Be watchful. An encourager is observant of the progress of others, however slight.
    2. Be thoughtful. He finds new ways to say, “Good job” and “I appreciate you.”
    3. Be impartial. The encourager never reserves his encouragement for just his circle.
  6. Go out of your way to involve another. Barnabas went looking for Saul in Tarsus in order to bring him to Antioch (11:25-26). Seeking someone’s partnership in a project says, “I need you,” or, “I believe in you.” Both of those are encouraging sentiments. The essential element in this skill is the nonverbal message sent by going out of one’s way to solicit another’s help or participation.
  7. Keep your commitments. Barnabas built a reputation for dependability (11:22, 30) and for fulfilling his mission (12:25). He always got the job done and often exceeded expectations. Over-commitment and empty promises encourage no one; quite the opposite. They cool enthusiasm. Encouragers honor their commitments in a timely, unimpeachable fashion.
  8. Don’t forget your family. John Mark was Barnabas’ kinsman (15:39; Col. 4:10). That surely was not the only reason for his peculiar encouragement of him, but it also wasn’t a reason to ignore him. Family members frequently air their complaints and criticisms, but neglect the custom of encouragement. Happy is the home where mutual encouragement is a habit. Miserable is any abode in its absence.
  9. Be a sympathetic ally of the leadership. The apostles gave Barnabas his nickname (4:36). He was their A Peter and Paul need encouragement as much as a John Mark. And a Barnabas needs it too. Leadership is far more resilient and confident when others stand with them. Leaders are also far more willing to hear the criticism of the encourager than the whine of the complainer.
  10. Always leave people better than you found them. The apostles, the poor saints in Jerusalem, Saul of Tarsus, John Mark, the church in Antioch and many churches abroad were bettered by the Barnabas’ touch. Midas was the fabled king of Phrygia to whom Dionysius gave the power of turning all that he touched to gold. Encouragers have a golden touch too. But they invest themselves in people, not trinkets. And they enrich others and not themselves.

The GOD of the Towel–Day 3

The verses under consideration this week, John 13:1-17, concern a physical demonstration of the humble service of Jesus and a practical lesson for all of us as men. Today we are thinking about our kids…and they might be our own children/grandchildren, or nieces/nephews, or children at church, or many other circumstances we are in a position of influence in their lives.

The bottom line for today is does our “demonstrated behavior over time” match what we are called to be as humble servants in Christ? Our words matter for sure, however, if young eyes are watching and our actions are not consistent with our words or change over time, doesn’t that have a profound effect? The kids in our lives know who we are in terms of the position we hold in their lives. For the most part, kids who are taught properly know their position in relation to those older than them and the respect and attention they ought to provide. They have expectations of us. They want to see what right looks like. They are going to assume what you are doing is what right looks like. So we ought to be careful to ensure we are not only talking about being humble servants in Christ Jesus but acting that way too. Again, they are watching!

Jesus taught extensively using the spoken word. What Jesus also did was amplify and solidify His lessons in His actions. We see that in this passage. In verses 4-5, Jesus gets up to serve and in doing so to teach. This action was not inconsistent with His teaching and was not inconsistent with the other actions He took in His ministry. It is a beautiful scene and is a continuance of what He had already done in Heaven…it is what Peter wasn’t yet going to understand…but when Peter had matured and grown up spiritually, the lesson would be profound. Just as Jesus rose up, laid aside His physical clothes, took a towel, girded Himself and went forth to cleanse their feet…He had rose from His kingly throne in Heaven, laid aside His royal garment, took on the towel of humanity, and ultimately poured out His precious blood making it possible for us to be cleansed! Jesus consistently demonstrated humble service and though not everyone understood this, they were not going to be able to find fault in it and/or any version of His words/actions that didn’t match or wasn’t consistent.

Also notice Peter’s words. “Lord, are You…”. Peter knew who Jesus was. “…washing my feet?”. Peter knew who he was…and as we know from the passage didn’t think it appropriate that Jesus be doing what He was about to do. Peter’s pride dictates the terms…but Jesus’ humble attitude and mission of service remained the same and He wasn’t going to alter that because of misplaced ego or pride. Jesus works for us…He serves us because He loves us and chooses us. Christ is saying to Peter and to each of us “Me for you”.

So why these two points?

1.  We have to be humble, we have to serve, and we have to be consistent for our kids. We have to love our wives in a way God has called us to so our boys will love/honor their mom and might one day love their wives that way…or so that our girls will know what a Godly husband looks like and seek out her own man who loves God before he loves her. These are two of many scenarios that apply. And we can be honest with ourselves and easily see if something is amiss in our behavior. If I see one of my boys quickly losing their temper or yelling at their siblings…I might want to consider if they learned that from me? Am I setting a bad example with how I control my temper or am I modeling patience and meekness? You get the picture. Think about it. How are you doing?

2.  Our children are little people and they develop their own personalities and their ego, hard-headedness, know-it-all, selfishness, etc. can keep them from seeing the service or leadership you are providing in humility and love…just like Peter didn’t quite understand what Jesus was doing. Does that mean we get mad and stop? No. We can be angry and disappointed…for sure…but we should strive to be righteous in that and remember that we are giving a little bit of ourselves…for them…because we love them and we want them to be safe…to be ok…to learn…to develop into what God calls them to be. And I have been told…when they get older and more mature…they will come to understand what we are doing just as Peter came to understand what Jesus was doing and how that shaped his life and ultimately the lives of others…for the sake of the Gospel.

So think about this. Think about your “demonstrated behavior over time”. Think about what might derail you from providing the kids in your life the modeled humble service they so very much need. Pray about it. Talk to brothers be vulnerable. We are in this together and we don’t always get it right…but we are called all the same to humble ourselves and serve…we could make the case our children need it the most…and we have an awesome example of all of this in Jesus.

The GOD of the Towel–Day 2

This week, we are considering Jesus’ act of humility and service in John 13:1-17 in the context of our lives as men. Humility is the key word I am inviting you to meditate upon this week.

What does the word mean? Humility is a freedom from arrogance that grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God. The Greek philosophers despised humility because it implied inadequacy, lack of dignity, and worthlessness to them. This is not so with God. God calls us to be humble and the “meek’ are the ones to be victorious in Him. Jesus is the supreme example of humility, and He is completely adequate and of infinite dignity and worth. Biblical humility is not a belittling of oneself, but an exalting or praising of others, especially GOD (John 3:30; Philippians 2:3). A humble person, then, focuses more on God and others than on himself. Biblical humility is also a recognition that by ourselves we are inadequate, without dignity and worthless. Yet, because we are created in God’s image and because believers are in Christ, we have infinite worth and dignity (1 Peter 1:18-19). True humility does not produce pride but gratitude.

With all this in mind, are we humbling ourselves with our women? Whether it be our mom, or wife, or sister, or girlfriend, or fellow Christian or even those ladies we come into contact with our eyes…are we elevating God in our life and therefore humbling ourselves so that we can serve? There are a lot of snares Satan lays before us to keep us from this way of living. What might that look like?

Do we find the “needs” of the very person who has nurtured us through life inconvenient or bothersome? Do we keep lists or wrongs or do we keep lists of “all we have done” and think in our hearts “why can’t they do as good as I am?” Do we find those special quirks that are part of a special being God created annoying and avoid rather than celebrate? Are we “bossing” more than “leading” or “serving”? Do we allow our lust to color our view of women so that we miss the most important part…their souls? Are we more interested in being served, or entertained, or pleased than we are in filling ourselves with the humility of God demonstrated in Jesus so much so that we can’t help but let it pour out to those precious ladies God has blessed us with or has put in our way for one reason or another?

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t have all this figured out? Even when I am doing my best, the snares Satan has laid before me are still there and if I lose focus, get tired, get annoyed, etc…that is when I step into one and it is a scary thing to be trapped by my own selfishness. In order to avoid this, my only hope is in Jesus. I need to abide in Him…fill my heart with His love and word, allow His Spirit to guide me while I continually commit myself to a heavenly perspective so that I can be a blessing today. God is both our Creator and Redeemer! Our existence…our righteousness…our ability to humbly serve the ladies in our lives is completely dependent on Him! (John 15:5; Acts 17:28; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Take some time and meditate on this today. Boldly go before your Father and ask Him to humble your heart and strengthen your service towards the women in your life. Be a blessing because you are blessed…and I am blessed in you. Lead on brothers!  Serve well!

The GOD of the Towel

By the time you get to reading this, the week will be already started and the pressures of time and responsibility will have started to push against you.  Thank you for taking time to consider these thoughts as we work in “Drawing Closer to God”.  To do so, I am thinking back to a sermon I have heard Brother Cicero deliver both to the general assembly and as part of a the first men’s leadership study I ever attended.  The sermon and lesson is titled “The GOD of the Towel” and provides great thoughts for us to consider as we reflect on our God, on ourselves and how we need to and can draw closer to Him through His Son Jesus.  The word to keep in mind as we do so and throughout our discussions this week is “humility”.  We are called to be servant leaders in our spiritual lives, in our homes, in the Body, at work, and as we interact with those in the world.  There is no greater example of a servant leader than that of Jesus and we read about it very clearly in John 13: 1-17.  I encourage you to take some time and look over these verses and I will reference them as I go.

In this passage of scripture, we have Jesus humbling Himself and washing the feet of the apostles as they are gathered together in the upper room, leaning around a U-shaped table and preparing for the feast.  What is an interesting amplification of the significance of what Jesus is about to do is what is on the minds of the 12.  Jesus, God in the Flesh, is about to wash their feet and the 12 are thinking about who will get to sit in the chief seats…further one of them, Judas, is thinking of betrayal.  Take a minute and apply that to your life.  As God works mightily in your life…do you find yourself self-centered or faced with the strong luring of a specific sin?  We all struggle and are not much different than the apostles in this situation from time to time…and it is no secret to God.  With the apostles (as with us)…Jesus knows all this, but still He proceeds and in what He accomplishes is the beginnings of the much need explanation of the bigger picture…of who Jesus IS and why Jesus is HERE.

So take time today and read these verses over and meditate on them with this thought in mind…Our God is a servant and He is working and preparing our hearts for service.  Reflect on your life and consider how He is accomplishing this.  Conider whether or not you are opening your heart to this transformation.  If you aren’t or are struggling, what is getting in the way?  Finally, consider how you might be a servant leader in all aspects of your life, with the responsibilities God has given you and the talents/abilities He has blessed you with.  Think on these things and let’s use this lens tomorrow and consider the women in our lives.  Lead on brother…and serve!

 John 13:1-17; NKJV

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”  9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”  10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”  12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Meet Dr. Audrey Evans

They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,
(Psalms 92:14)

Dear friends, Stephen and Samantha, shared this video with me about a wonderful 92 year old woman, Dr. Audrey Evans. Please take 10 minutes to watch this video. Think about how this Dr. knows her purpose and lives it.

Meet Dr. Audrey Evans

5 Love Languages: Acts of Service

I’m currently reading the 5 Love Languages for Men by Dr. Gary Chapman. Click here if you want to purchase the book for yourself.

Dr. Gary Chapman’s famous approach is that we all speak different love languages, and he categorizes them as:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Gift Giving
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Today is about Acts of Service

First of all, let’s demonstrate that this “love language” is most certainly Bible-based. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul:

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).

Dr. Chapman mentions three parts to become truly fluent in acts of service.

  1. Impact. Its the idea of working harder, not smarter. Are you listening to what she really needs? Do you hear her talk as to where she really needs the help? You could work all day doing all kinds of chores, and not add a drop to her love tank, Dr. Chapman points out. However, if you make dinner, clean up the kitchen and put the kids to bed, you might overflow her love tank. It comes down to listening to her needs and wants, not serving where you feel the most comfortable serving.
  2. Initiative. Making a list of things you can do for you wife really means nothing until you start DOING things on the list, particularly the things that mean the most to her. This requires drive, discipline and dedication, Dr. Chapman adds. Don’to let this very important to do list get lost under your mountain of paperwork. Think of what that says to your wife and how she will perceive your love and commitment. So, get busy!
  3. Attitude. Have you ever had someone do something for you, but you ended up feeling bad and guilty because of how that person behaved through the whole task? Motive and attitude are everything, aren’t they (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)? We are neither heroes nor martyrs, Dr. Chapman writes. Jesus says we are servants who have merely done our duty (Luke 17:10). So that means we are not trumpeting our good works before others, especially our wives. This is very hard for some of us! When we do that good deed, we want to make sure our wives really know we did the dishes and cleaned the bathroom, but that is contrary to the heart and attitude Jesus wants us to have.

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly (Matthew 6:1-4).

Pages 80-81 have some great practical tips for acts of service that you can do for your wife. If you have not already purchased this book, please do. It will be a helpful guide in your relationship with your wife. The Bible is of course always the first and best guide, but we also have great help and advice in many other resources like the 5 Love Languages.

 

 

 

 

 

It Has Been Fully Reported

And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).

Ruth was from Moab; she was an outsider, a Gentile. When she was shown such great kindness and generosity by Boaz, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. But she was also puzzled…why me?

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10).

Ruth’s humility here is evident. Her whole mindset was to serve God and work hard to take care of Naomi and herself. She didn’t expect a parade for her service, nor did she expect this bountiful treatment from Boaz. Ruth was perfectly content to get dirty and sweaty working in the fields to get just enough for two widows to survive.

However, Boaz kindly reminds her of why she was being so treated.

“It has been fully reported to me…”

The behavior of Ruth got people talking. Ruth’s commitment first and foremost was to serve the Lord God. She left Moab, her family in Moab and her gods in Moab to come under the sheltering wings of the great I AM. Secondly, her life was but to serve Naomi and to make sure Naomi was provided for.

Ruth’s manner of life got the attention of the people of Israel, and word eventually came to Boaz. He was greatly impressed and I believe he was encouraged by such behavior. It seems like Boaz saw himself as one of God’s instruments in helping provide for Ruth and Naomi. Boaz knew full well that God was pleased with the commitment of Ruth, and he was convinced that the Lord would repay her for her work (Ruth 2:12).

The same is true for us today as God’s people. If our mindset is the praise of men, we will get our reward, Jesus said. When our heart is all about the reward and the material goods, we will get our reward (Matthew 6:1-4). But when our hearts are set on heaven as was the heart of Ruth, heaven takes notice.

Jesus Himself observed this kind of behavior in a poor widow. He watched how the rich people were giving large sums to the temple treasury, but what really grabbed His attention was the two coins given by a widow who gave all she had. Those two coins didn’t make much of a sound when they dropped in the container, but they thundered in heaven (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). Ruth’s service was just like that…God took notice of her and used Boaz to take care of her.

Let us reflect on our own service to God. If our hearts are like the heart of Ruth, then heaven will take notice. And really, it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices if God is the one who sees it.

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews 6:10).

Some are givers, some are takers

Some are givers, some are takers…which one defines us? The passage we are going to look at today showed two very different agendas. The Jewish leadership was at the temple to take (steal, really). They had turned God’s house into a den of thieves, according to Jesus.

That day, Jesus restored the temple back to its original purpose. He drove out the corrupt money changers, and He began healing the blind and the lame. Children were running around praising Him as the Messiah. Because of Jesus, the temple once again became a place of healing, a safe place for the broken, and a haven of praise.

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ‘DEN OF THIEVES.'” Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES AND NURSING INFANTS YOU HAVE PERFECTED PRAISE’?”(Matthew 21:12-16).

Some Are Givers, Some are Takers

Because Jesus came to serve, the blind and the lame found a welcome place in the temple. When our attitudes at the church building are all “me-oriented,” then the broken will not come to us. We wouldn’t even notice it anyways, because if we are “me-oriented,” the broken can offer us nothing.

So, when we go to worship services this Sunday, what is our agenda? Do we view it like a movie theater, we pay some money, sit down and are entertained and then go our way? Is my expectation for a perfect service, flawless music, awesome sermon, and for everyone to treat me perfectly? Are we full of ideas and critical of how the doers are doing things? If so, that’s a taker’s attitude.

Or do we see this as an opportunity to serve and to help heal? Do we come with our sleeves rolled up and ready to offer our assistance? Are we on the search for the brokenhearted? Do you look for new faces? What about taking a young college student or a struggling mom out to lunch? Take note of that widow who faithfully comes every time the doors are open, but doesn’t say much. Build a relationship with that dear elderly brother or sister. Notice that preteen who comes with her grandparents that may seem a little distant. Try to create conversation and show her you genuinely care.

Jesus came to serve, the other Jewish leaders came to take. Let’s decide to follow Jesus’ example.

What Now Lord?

Thanks, Andy Harrison, for sharing this article about Ralph, entitled, What Now Lord?

 “Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:25-26

Over the last few years I’ve gotten to know an old man, let’s call him Ralph.  Don’t worry, he wouldn’t be offended, he’s in his 80s and calls himself an “old man”.  Ralph is really nothing special to look at and in many ways is just your average elderly person.  He’s got white hair and wrinkles and has been in a wheelchair for a number of years.  He is soft spoken and his voice can get a little shaky when he talks.  Ralph lives in a very modest assisted-living facility with a few other elderly people.

But when Ralph was younger…oh man, that was different!  He was a pilot in the Air Force and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  For those who don’t know that is just a couple ranks away from a Brigadier General.  After his military service he found a home in the financial sector, responsible for significant sums of money.  One of Ralph’s passions in life was raising prize-winning Doberman Pinschers and he has pictures and trophies testifying to his accomplishments.  There was a lot about his life that one could envy.

But, as with all of us, time caught up with Ralph.  His wife got ill and died a number of years ago.  He started to lose muscle control in his legs and was forced to use a walker.  It wasn’t long until he deteriorated to the point of needing a wheelchair.  Because of Ralph’s physical condition, he was no longer able to take care of his dogs and he had to find them new homes.  Speaking of homes, he had to sell his and give up his freedom and space for a single room in a small assisted-living facility.

I suspect Ralph’s story is not that different than a lot of people in their 80s.  If I live long enough, I’m sure my decline will have a number of similarities.  What has impressed me (and humbled me) is his outlook and attitude throughout these stages of life.  So many people meet the loss of status and power and physical health and freedom with anger and bitterness but Ralph has embraced these changes with one simple question, “What now Lord?”  In every situation he sees opportunity to continue working for the Lord.

When he was forced to sell his house he spent time in prayer and decided that if the house sold he would use the money to support the preaching of the gospel.  He has confidently stated, “When I die I don’t want one cent left to my name.  I want it all used up for the Lord!”

When Ralph found himself lying in bed one night, shortly after moving into a small assisted-living facility he went to God in prayer and said, “Here I am.  What now, Lord?”  Shortly after that he realized that there were lonely people in that facility nearing the end of their lives and he could be a comfort and an encouragement to them.  He got busy and he shared Jesus.

After Ralph could no longer support his weight with the walker he was forced to stay in a wheelchair.  Many of us might consider this a greater restriction but Ralph turned it into an opportunity.  At worship he took his seat with him everywhere he went, all over the auditorium.  Instead of sitting in the same place, next to the same people, week after week, Ralph wheels around and sits by different people all the time.

Ralph is the very definition of a servant and he realizes that the Lord’s people don’t “retire”.  Wasn’t Moses 80 years old when God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt?  Ralph is not stuck on “how things should be” or “this wasn’t part of MY plan”, he simply does the work that is in front of him.

Now here is the kicker and a little bonus lesson in humility that I received.  I started my relationship with Ralph thinking, “Now there’s someone that could use some attention and encouragement.  I should be a ‘good Christian’ and help that lonely old man.”  Maybe it didn’t sound just like that in my head but you get the picture.  A few years have gone by and I don’t know if I’ve helped Ralph but one thing I do know:  I have learned a ton from him.

“Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:25-26