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.

To Love More & More

Love More & More - It's the Greatest

Love — the greatest commandment we can follow (Matt. 22:37-40), the greatest characteristic we can possess (1 Cor. 13:13), the greatest credential we can have as followers of Jesus Christ (Jn. 13:35).

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)

Why wouldn’t we want to love more and more?

To Love More and More Requires Dependence on God

Notice how the Apostle Paul prayed that the Philippian Christians would grow in their love. — “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more …” He didn’t ask the people to work at deepening their love. He asked God to do it. Remember that love is a fruit of the Spirit, something He develops within us (Gal. 5:22).

To Love More and More Revolves Around Knowing God More and More

To know God is to better understand love because God is love. — “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 Jn. 4:16) The more fully we comprehend His love, the more confident and secure we become in Him which spills over into a greater ability to love (1 Jn. 4:17-19).

To Love More and More Results in Goodness and Glory to God

The more we love, the more discerning we become and the more likely we will be to do what is best and right, obvious that we’re followers of Jesus Christ. No wonder love is the greatest commandment, characteristic, and credential we can have!

How Opinionated We Can Be!

If you pay any attention to the political landscape, you know how opinionated people can be. Great divides exist even among Christians over politics, doctrine, moral issues, and church practices. A plethora of denominations and church splits testify of how opinionated we can be.

A Christ-like Response to Differences of Opinion

Different opinions are not the problem. We can become better, as His Church, if we learn how to respond with Christ-likeness as described in Philippians 2.

Difference of Opinion
(Click to enlarge in Pinterest & repin.)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 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. (Phil. 2:1-4)

1) We must all be willing to learn from one another.

Notice this phrase in Philippians 2: “common sharing in the Spirit”

While at the end of the day we are all personally accountable to God for where we stand on issues and must assume responsibility for our own actions and reactions, we can learn from and grow because of one another.

2) We must not let our personal preferences, politics, and practices divide.

Notice these phrases in Philippians 2: “united with Christ” and “in the Spirit”

There’s a bigger picture — the cause of Christ. As individuals and as a Church, let’s keep the focus on HIM and who we are in Him, not on ourselves.

3) We must be considerate of one another and continue to love one another even when we disagree, responding with Christ-likeness.

Notice this part in Philippians 2: “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.”

Let’s remember the exhortation of Philippians 2:2-7 where the Apostle Paul wrote of his joy being complete if they would be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” If it would cause that kind of reaction in Paul, imagine how the Lord must feel when believers come together in unity despite our diversity!

4) We must keep an attitude of love and humility, that of servanthood seen in Christ, no matter how right we may feel we are.

Notice Philippians 2:5-7: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Let’s express and even celebrate our individual differences and learn from one another, doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

When we come together this way, despite our differences, the world around us sees the life of Christ flowing through us, not a people all fragmented and dysfunctional. That is something they would want to be a part of, not something to mock and run from!

As a church, we are more than a mere organization. We are a living organism, the Body of Christ. Similar to the human body, the Church has many different parts with varying ways of doing things. Yet, those parts come together to form a coordinated whole under the leadership of the Head. Imagine the difference we, the Church, could make in this world if we would function the way God designed us to be.

May God help each of us live out the oneness we have in Him.

God’s Search of Who We Are

Previously we noted that who we are can affect the way we serve. Consequently, it’s important that in nurturing our inner being that we look to God to change us from the inside out. God not only is our standard but He also is our means of changing. His glory should be our intent. Notice how the psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 gets beyond merely asking God to unveil the “true me” to submitting to His leading to bring about the necessary changes in our lives.

Search me, O God - Psalm 139

Ask God to Search Your Heart

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:23-24)

When the Psalmist asked God to search his heart, he wasn’t requesting a casual look but rather a deep, penetrating investigation. The Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon suggests that the “primary idea is perhaps that of searching in the earth by digging” which means uncovering that which is below the surface.

  • What will God see if He searches your heart? Are there things you have been trying to hide that need to be rooted out and dealt with?

Ask God to Test Your Thoughts

When the psalmist asked God to test His thoughts, he wasn’t requesting God to merely mark off a check list of what was or wasn’t there. Rather, as Strong’s Concordance suggests, the idea is testing our thoughts like metals which means putting them through fire, of sorts, to identify any that are not strong enough to endure.

  • What will God find if He tests your thoughts? Are there strongholds of doubts, insecurities, stress, and anxieties that need to be purged from your mind?

Result of God’s Searching and Testing

Through the searching and testing process, God becomes thoroughly acquainted with who we are on the inside — “search … and know my heart” “test … and know my anxious thoughts”. The prayer of the psalmist wasn’t, however, that God simply knew his inner being but that He acted based on what He saw. The psalmist wanted God to take him from where he was to where he should be, to root out offensive ways in him and then transform him from the inside out.

  • Are you willing to submit to God in these ways?

Who We Are Affects How We Serve

Let’s be honest with ourselves. What’s truly on the inside does have ways of showing itself outwardly, even if subtly. We need to ask ourselves what really is inside of us. Who we are from the inside out affects how we serve either propelling us forward, positively affecting our ministry, or holding us back, negatively impacting what we do.

attitudes:

We can say we love people but in reality hold grudges, biases, or bitterness. As a result, we don’t truly accept or trust people which affects our fellowship with them and ability to serve together as a team.

beliefs:

We can say we believe certain doctrines but not really hold onto those beliefs in our heart. As a result, we may put emphasis on certain truths over others and skew God’s character and ways.

character:

We can say we are Christians but not actually walk in the Spirit and consequently not be very Christ-like. As a result, we may lack the integrity and humility essential to God-honoring ministry.

motivations:

We can say we want to serve but don’t want to be inconvenienced or taken out of our comfort zone. As a result, we make one excuse after another on why we can’t get involved or perhaps quit shortly after beginning.

thoughts:

We can say we are trusting God but be filled with all sorts or doubts and insecurities. As a result, we take a cautious approach in ministry, not living up to the full potential of what God wants to do in and through us.

When was the last you prayed similar to Psalm 139:23-24,

Search me, O God - Psalm 139

The next post will take a closer look at the above prayer. (Subscribe to receive e-mail notice of new posts.)

Remember this: No matter how big the gap may be between who we truly are and who we should be, change is possible as we rely on God’s power. We are not hopeless. We are not helpless in Him. We have a God who is able to transform us from the inside out.

How to Have a Good Heart

Above All Guard Your Heart
(Click to enlarge in Pinterest & repin.)

 

Proverbs is a very practical book, not only letting us know the type of heart we should have and why it is important but also what produces the kind of heart you have.

Look at the following verses and you will be able to note how God uses instruction and discipline in the shaping of our hearts.

  • turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— (Prov. 2:2)
  • For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. … Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. (Prov. 2:6-10)
  • My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, (Prov. 3:1)
  • Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. (Prov. 3:3)
  • Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. (Prov. 4:4)
  • My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; (Prov. 4:20-21)
  • You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! (Prov. 5:12)
  • My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. (Prov. 6:20-21)
  • Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. (Prov. 7:2-3)
  • Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Prov. 12:25)
  • Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known. (Prov. 14:33)
  • The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. (Prov. 15:28)
  • Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Prov. 18:12)
  • The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. (Prov. 18:15)
  • Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away. (Prov. 22:15)
  • Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you. (Prov. 22:17-19)
  • Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge. (Prov. 23:12)
  • Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. (Prov. 23:17)
  • Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Prov. 23:19)
  • applied my heart to what I observed (Prov. 24:32)

You can also see that some of the instruction and discipline needed to have a good heart comes through God’s Word but some is also parental nurturing. And, we must have an active role in the process, being diligent and purposeful in pursuing this kind of heart with a humble, teachable attitude.