Effective & Productive?

Who doesn’t want to make a difference now and for eternity? But, how does God identify effectiveness and productivity? As believers we must get beyond the world’s standards, defining our ultimate purpose and reaching our greatest potential in and according to Him.

The Potential for Being Effective & Productive

2 Peter 1:5-7 lists important traits for followers of Jesus — faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection (brotherly kindness), and finally love (agape, divine love). Verse 8 goes on to state that “if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Effective & Productive Lives

Note how all these qualities culminate in love. As believers we have the potential of living effective and productive lives by loving as God loves. In identifying love as the Greatest Commandment, Jesus set up love for the Lord and others as the ultimate purpose in life. He said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40). When we love, we are doing the greatest thing we could ever do and exhibiting the greatest character trait we could ever possess. In 1 Peter 4:8 we’re exhorted, “Above all, love.” Certainly then, when we love as He loves, we’re reaching our potential in Him.

The Process Leading to Effectiveness & Productivity

We don’t get saved one day and wake up the next filled and overflowing with God’s love. According to 2 Peter 1:5-8, reaching our potential to love as God loves, requires certain traits being built into our live with love being the ultimate. We must “make every effort” to keep progressing toward this ultimate purpose. When the Apostle Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12), he was acknowledging that reaching our potential in Him isn’t automatic. It’s a journey, an ongoing growth process.

The Problem that Halts the Growth Process

Notice how perseverance sits in the middle of the traits listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8. If we don’t persevere, we won’t make it to love. And, without love, all our efforts are meaningless, hallow, just noise. And, we “gain nothing” without love according to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

If we don’t keep increasing and progressing in the growth process, we won’t reach God’s ultimate for our lives. — “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:8) Believers who do not possess these qualities are “nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins” (2 Pet. 1:9).

The Plan for Persevering

To persevere, we need focus, not on a process but rather on a Person. Jesus provided the ultimate expression of love in dying on the cross for us. — “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13). We mustn’t forget what Jesus did in order for us to be cleansed from our sins. We must “fix our eyes on Jesus” so that we can “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1-2). He went before us, setting an example for us to follow.

The Power to Live Effective & Productive Lives

Fixing our eyes on Jesus must be more than looking at or following His example. We don’t have it within ourselves to love as He loves. How, then, can we ever live effective and productive lives? We must look at Jesus not only as our Standard but also as our power Source. Jesus Himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). As a branch pulls on the sustenance and strength of the vine, so we must look to Jesus if we have any hope of living life with purpose and making an eternal difference.

How appropriate that within the context of the verses we’ve been looking at in 2 Peter 1, we find verse 3. — “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Resources:

  • The Church Purpose Ministry Manual could be a starting point for leaders and leadership teams to work through living life with purpose as a church in order to make a greater difference.
  • As church leaders model this in the decisions and ministry of the church, you are then ready to teach the congregation. The Living Life with Purpose Curriculum will help adults in your church reach their potential in loving God and loving people in all aspects of their lives.

Help for When We Hurt

Help to Walk When It HurtsIn times of pain and loss, we most need comfort, peace, and hope. Yes, we might want tangible help, healing, and restoration but that doesn’t always happen right away. We need that which will help us walk through the valleys of life no matter how long it might take.

Check out the Walk the Walk Even When It Hurts Devotional for thirty devotions from Psalm 23 pointing to the Lord as your Shepherd who provides what you need to make it through even the shadow of death.

Sources of Help for When We Hurt

We can try to pull ourselves together but sometimes we are so emotionally wrung out, mentally exhausted, or physically depleted that we have little reserve to pull on. Perspective can become skewed when we hurt and we could lose all sense of hope.

We can wait for our circumstances to change but sometimes life gets worse rather than better or the change isn’t as we thought it should be. Prospects of a better life can allude us and so we become more anxious rather than finding a sense of peace and contentment.

We can expect other people to come to our rescue but sometimes they seem blind to our pain or fail to consistently show the compassion and understanding we need. Problems can be compounded by additional hurts from people we thought would be there for us and so we lack any sense of comfort.

Ultimate Source of Help for When We Hurt

We can’t rely on self, circumstances, or others. But, there is One who can give us what we truly need when we hurt — God, who is the God of all comfort, peace, and hope.

God of Comfort:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

Even when we find comfort from other people, it’s because of God. He is the ultimate source of comfort. God designed the Body of Christ to be there for one another in both the ups and downs of life, the joys and the sorrows. But, the Church is composed of imperfect human beings incapable of consistently showing unfailing love and compassion. Only God can be counted on at all times and in all circumstances. Let Him use other people through your grief and pain, but put your trust and ultimate reliance in Him for the comfort you need.

God of Peace:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:6-9)

We can’t dwell on our negative circumstances and expect to have peace. We won’t feel good when we dwell on the bad. When, however, we turn to the Lord who is good and works for our good, we can find rest for our souls in Him even when circumstances remain unchanged for He is the God of peace.

God of Hope:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13)

When we come to the realization that we can’t fix what’s wrong in this world, albeit even in our own lives, but that there is Someone who can and will one day right the wrongs, we can experience hope. We can believe God’s good purposes will prevail no matter what happens.

Persevering in our suffering lets us experience God in a way we otherwise would not know. It puts us in touch with the God of all comfort, peace, and hope — who is sufficient to help us when we hurt.

Prized Verses in Philippians

Prized Bible Verse in PhilippiansThe last post looked at practical issues in the Book of Philippians.

Perhaps the reason the Book of Philippians contains some of the most treasured and quoted Bible verses is because of how practical that book is for our daily lives and the church.

Prized Verses for Reflection and Memorization in the Book of Philippians

You might already have some of the following verses memorized. Let me encourage you to take some time to reflect on how these verses can help you today with whatever issues you might be facing. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) You may even want to work at memorizing those verses which are especially meaningful to you.

1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.

1:6 – being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

1:21 – For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

2:9-11 – Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

3:8-9 – What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

3:10-11 – I want to know Christ -yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

3:12 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

3:13-14 – Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

3:20 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ

4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.

4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

4:12 – I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

4:13 – I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

4:19 – And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Other familiar verses from Philippians could be added to the list but the list was getting quite long with those included. Imagine if we regularly applied these verses to our lives! We can when we remember Philippians 4:13. — I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

God Gets Practical

Self-help books and seminars may have a place but so often take a humanistic path void of divine intervention. The Christian life, however, centers around what God does for us, not what we do for ourselves. — “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

God already provided The Book, His Word, that contains practical solutions for issues we still experience today along with the power we need to apply these truths to our lives. While “all Scripture” is intended to be “useful” (2 Tim. 3:16-17), we’re going to zero in on just one small book in the Bible to demonstrate how practical God gets — the Book of Philippians.

Practical Issues in the Book of Philippians

Outline the Book of Philippians and in just four chapters you will find the following practical issues we face in our daily lives as individuals and as a church today:

  • becoming more other-centered (1:1-11)
  • learning to better cope and deal with circumstances (1:12-26)
  • maintaining unity (1:27-2:11)
  • living a life of obedience to God (2:12-18)
  • serving wholeheartedly (2:19-30)
  • setting priorities (3:1-14)
  • getting an attitude adjustment (3:15-4:1)
  • experiencing peace (4:1-9)
  • being content (4:10-19)
  • praising God & embracing one another (4:20-23)

Imagine the difference in our lives if we took the help He offers to deal with these issues!

Practical Issues in the Book of PhilippiansIf you haven’t read through Philippians lately, perhaps this is a good time to do so. Maybe you would find it useful to study it with a small group. You can order the Practical Issues in the Book of Philippians Discussion Guides which follows the above outline. You are permitted to copy the guides which contain questions to discuss.

Giving God Your Best Is . . .

Give God Your BestGod exhorts us to do all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) and to work at whatever we do with all our heart (Col. 3:23). And, we are to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17). 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved …” We read of our need to test our own actions (Gal. 6:4) and to “run in such a way as to get the prize … not like someone running aimlessly” (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Certainly verses like these suggest that we give God our best.

Before continuing on, please be sure to read the previous post for some clarification of what it does not mean to do or give our best to God. What follows must be read with an understanding that this is not about gaining merit or applause but rather honoring God and doing whatever we do through His grace, power, and strength, not self-effort.

What it Means to Give God Your Best

1) Your best involves giving God your total being.

Jesus quoted the greatest commandment as loving the Lord “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). The whole of who we are is the best we can give Him which is why this site refers to our best fit in ministry as that which involves all of who we are. To give God only a part of ourselves falls short of loving Him with “all” of who we are. To present ourselves to “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” as commanded in Romans 12:1, is only reasonable in light of what God has done for us.

2) Your best involves giving God your first of everything.

Throughout the Old Testament we read of the Israelites giving God the first fruits and the best of the flock. We serve the same God, still worthy of the first and best of our time, efforts, and resources. To give Him leftover or misdirected time and energy isn’t giving Him the best He deserves.

3) Your best involves giving God your most superior work.

To give God a half-hearted or sloppy effort falls short of doing whatever we do “for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). How can we be “a workman who does not need to be ashamed” if we inaccurately represent Him (2 Tim. 2:15) because we didn’t take the time required to get it right?

In light of these three points, we must conclude that to give God our best, we can’t compartmentalize our lives — God time, me time, work time, family time. All of our lives, at all times and in every way, must be seen as God time. Wherever we are and in whatever we do, we do it all to the glory of God!

Giving God Your Best Isn’t …

Give God Your Best

Before looking at what it means to give God our best, we would do well to first consider what it does not mean. We want to make sure we’re coming at this biblically, not from a worldly, humanistic perspective.

What It Does Not Mean to Give God Your Best

1) Doing or giving our best is not to gain merit with God, for salvation or otherwise.

Scripture makes it clear that all our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). We all fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). We are saved by grace through faith, not by our good works (Eph. 2:8-9). We live our lives in Him just as we received Him — by grace through faith (Col. 2:6).

2) Doing or giving our best is not about getting applause for a job well done.

Our objective should be to honor God, to in every way “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10). We should do that whether or not we receive recognition. — “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters …” (Col. 3:23)

3) Doing or giving our best is not about self-effort.

Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). No matter how excellent we perform on our own, apart from His power at work in us, we will come short. As a branch draws its sustenance from the vine, so we must abide in Christ to bear eternal fruit. Remember verses like Philippians 4:13. — “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” We must “strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works” in us (Col. 1:29). We are at our best when we put all of who we are into all of who He is and watch Him work through us.

We’ve considered what giving God our best does not mean. In the next post we’ll look at what it does mean.