Saturday, 30 January 2021

The key to being bold with the Gospel - 1 Thessalonians 2:4-7

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As it happens, we've got a few working dogs at home.

They enable us to care for and to manage the larger animals.

And to be honest, working with them is one of the pleasures of the life we live here.

If there’s a lot of bad weather, or if times are tough or just hard going and our feet are starting to drag … not even working with them but just taking them out in the morning for their first exercise of the day is such a joy … they show every sign of just living to PLEASE you.

It makes you feel great!

To have a dog, let alone a person, living to please you is an astonishing privilege, which brings joy.

How much more the Father, when he sees that characteristic in those who were previously hostile to God but are now His loyal and loving adopted children?

Not living out some sort of performance for what they think they can get back … but genuinely, from the heart,  living to PLEASE Him.

That’s for US, say the Apostolic team that planted the church in Thessalonica.

THIS is the Way … now you Thessalonians, go on and imitate our example.

And for the avoidance of misunderstanding, here’s how …

I.            We Lived to please God, v. 4

We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”

A.           Negatively then

- not living our life to please people, v. 4c

We are not trying to please people”

Wow! Imagine that!

Not living to please other people.

Of course, before Christ steps into your life, you’re living to please your own ‘self’, but feeling guilty about that and feeling the need for esteem, it’s really common then to try to mend your perceived lack of esteem by seeking other people’s gratitude and praise.

Feeling insecure that there’s not much praiseworthy in ourselves, it is common then to solicit the praise of other people, and to do so by outward compliance with the standards they set for our behaviour.

When we read the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Luke, we find a set of blessings and woes being issued … it reflects the blessings and the curses (or ‘woes’) from Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal in Deuteronomy 27 & 28 which defined the Israelites as the covenant people of God.

Here's Luke 6:

“Looking at his disciples, he {Jesus} said:

‘Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.

23 ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
    for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
    for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

Jesus makes a NEW covenant curse and a NEW covenant blessing around this issue.

New Covenant blessing is with those who don’t live to please people and New Covenant woes lie in the path of those who do.

It is WHOLLY as fundamental as that.

The consequences for the way we live our lives are enormous.

And yes, the consequences for the way we relate the Gospel to the world around us are enormous too.

People speak well of you when you seem to be living to please them.

It’s very tempting … but of course THAT is the correct word there. Jesus makes clear it really is a temptation.

What have we DONE, what has the church of God done, to give the unbelieving world the idea we’re here to please them?

This is uncomfortable, let’s turn to the positive …

B.           Positively 

- the point of a believer's life is to please God, v. 4d

We are not trying to please people but God …”

Now look, let’s get right back down to the basics here.

It can be a hard enough job to please your husband, your parents or your wife.

Their standards for us set a certain level of difficulty, no doubt, but WHO wants to suggest the standards set by (say) Isaiah’s thrice Holy God are going to be any less stringent than those our spouse?!

Quite the reverse.

But the thing is, it’s actually tougher than we’ve already suggested to please God.

'Emulate us in trying to live please not so much people but God' (say the apostles) '… knowing that God doesn’t just judge by outward appearances … He is the God Who sees right into and tests our innermost HEARTS.'

C.           Principle 

- God tests the heart, v. 4e

We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”

He sees us through and through - and (in case you were wondering) where daring to tell people the Gospel is concerned, He's the One we need to concentrate on pleasing.

Here’s the key to our accreditation to serve you in the Gospel, says the team, God tests not just our hearts’ reflection in our behaviour.

The God Who sees and knows all … tests our hearts.

We seek to please Him inwardly, in our secret inner life not just when people are looking.

And we do this fully aware that He sees and judges the innermost thoughts of our hearts.

You know what we’re talking about here.

You’re dealing – say – with somebody DIFFICULT, and (let's say) today that person is performing at the very top of their game.

You do really well, you keep a lid on your own emotions, you manage soft answers that turn away wrath and you end up coming up smelling of roses.

But you know what you thought and felt, but didn’t say.

You know, and you know all too well.

Now let's say too that someone witnessed the whole matter and wants to support and pick you up ... they've seen the bashing you've had ... and they say ‘you handled that encounter really well’.

Who of us replies, ‘Don’t say that, you don’t know what I was thinking, man I’m struggling, my inner heart went really haywire back there!’

See? Not many of us say that! But that would have been to tell the absolute truth.

Funnily enough this isn’t purely hypothetical, I once knew a man who did just that … and he’s a quite exceptional servant of the Lord, with a powerful ministry of service.

You see the point?

We live NOT to please people but God, and we live conscious that this God sees our HEARTS.

So the team is saying ‘imitate our example here, we were amongst you as those who were not trying to please people but God … who sees us right through to our very insides.

Sounds great?

But in reality what does that mean?

In vv. 5-7 the team point out the things that they did to put flesh on these bones in v. 4

II.     How we did that, vv. 5-7

A.           Negatively, vv. 5-6

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.”

That’s what living to please God and not people is always going to look like, say the preachers.

Let’s break it down.

1.           Flattery, v. 5

You know we never used flattery”

First Paul & co appeal to the Thessalonians on the basis of their own experience of the team to bear testimony to their good character with regard to flattery.

What did the Thessalonians know about how this apostolic team spoke like people approved by God to bring the Gospel …

Not with FLATTERING words did we come to you …

The Greek word κολακεία means flattery, flattering discourse

You get a lot of that in Graeco-Roman oratory and addresses … it was normal and expected … check the opening of Acts 1 … but Paul, Silas and Timothy writing in the sort of Greek that was the business language didn’t get into all that flattering nonsense.

They got down to business with the Thessalonians and were business-like in the way they set about it.

Why WOULD you flatter people you were bringing the Gospel to? The Gospel that starts at the point where we are all sinners and need the mercy of God?!

You wouldn't think it starts like that if you listened to some contemporary approaches taken to outreach and evangelism in Wales!

'We didn’t come flattering you to get inside your skin', say the apostolic team. 'We came with integrity: we didn't use flattery.'

The implication is that the Thessalonians should themselves imitate this.


2.           Masking greed, v. 5b

nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness.”

Secondly, the apostolic team calls not the Thessalonians but GOD to witness they weren’t covering up an underlying GREED.

οὔτε |ἐνπροφάσει πλεονεξίας

Greed

The Greek word for greed there (πλεονεξίας) is just pretty straightforward.

It means desire to have more, covetousness or avarice.

But Paul says he had refused gifts from the Thessalonians, working night and day not to be a burden to anybody.

What's going on here?

In other places Paul writes about the importance of 'not muzzling the ox when it's treading the grain', and about rewarding those ministers who work hard at preaching and teaching ... so quite what is going on here?

You need to recognise that our culture is REALLY different from Paul’s … we are used to the idea that both his Hebrew and Greek worlds were patriarchal societies (although by the first century there was reaction against that) but we don’t reckon on the way that both those backgrounds were steeped in a patronage culture.

Patrons and clients were clearly established as part of the infrastructure of Graeco-Roman society – it was ethical to give protection to a people who lacked it … to be their ‘roof’ or their ‘shelter’ from life’s storms.

Similarly clients were considered to be behaving ethically when they gave respect, honour and rendered help to the patron whenever they asked for it.

Why was Paul so keen to say he’d made tents on his missionary travels, and spoke of not being a burden to anybody?

It’s because in that sort of culture taking their money put him in a client relationship to his donors, and whilst he insisted you shouldn’t muzzle an ox that was treading your corn (indicating preachers should be paid and those who worked hard at preaching and teaching should receive a double honour). Paul needed to remain independent of patronage obligation as an Apostle and servant of Christ because of his priorities in the Gospel and his travelling, itinerant. Church planting, pioneering ministry.

He had to remain independent because being any church's 'client'meant they could call him to them at any time, and he had to remain free from that as the servant of Christ.

Gupta suggests that whilst Paul didn’t ask for money, he may nonetheless have accepted small gifts on the quiet with no strings, as Philippians 4:15 suggests.

Which goes some way to explain what on earth is going on in the next statement …

Masking it

At first sight what’s being said here sounds slightly confusing.

Gk. πρόφασις
1) a pretext (alleged reason, pretended cause) 2) show 2a) under colour as though they would do something 2b) in pretence, ostensibly

Now look, Paul had refused full scale patronage support from the Thessalonians, which everyone in the church would have known about.

This would cause confusion in such a culture as to why he was doing that.

What’s going on?

'What is WRONG with our money?' (some might have asked).

Well, Ambrosiaster writing in the fourth century helps us understand what is going on in this phrase about hiding greed behind a better-looking mask.

Ambrosiaster suggests an opinion grew in the church Paul was refusing these patronage gifts because he thought they were too small and he was pretending to not want such gifts in order to hold out while hoping for bigger ones ... and that would make sense in that sort of culture.

So the suggestion arose that Paul was refusing small gifts because he was greedy for bigger ones, and held out for those by his refusal of the public patronage-inducing gifts … thereby cloaking a hurt pumping with pure greed.

We did NOT do that says Paul.

How could the young church at Thessalonica be assured of that?

Paul says ‘You DON'T know this isn’t true about us, but GOD knows and I call Him to witness between you and me.

'We did NOT put on some cloak to cover up greed' says Paul. 'That is NOT what all this was about!'

The Apostolic teams refusing their money the way no contemporary Greek travelling philosopher or visiting rabbi would have done, was NOT a play-acting way to get more.

We lived to please God and not to please ourselves, they said.

So we were not looking for MORE money from people, furthermore neither we were looking for human praise ... we couldn't afford to get into a patronage situation with you, because of our commitment as apostles of Christ.

3.           Seeking praise from people, v. 6a

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else”

The whole patronage system which helped their society function was based ENTIRELY on this … the desire to get a good name bolstered by LOADS of social capital … and giving money and hospitality to get it.

In fact, the Greek word φιλοτιμια (literally ‘love of honour’) was a word used for ‘public benefaction’. It was all done to 'get honour', to get PRAISE FROM PEOPLE, and in this revolutionary way the Apostles are saying here 'we live to please God and not people'.

So this boils down to the apostles saying in v. 5 they stood away from a client role and now in v. 6 that they stood away from the patron's role too because they lived to please God and not people.

There’s a stunningly good example of how it works in the recent political history of Afghanistan.

In 2015 Abdul Dostum, an accused warlord from North Afghanistan, became Afghanistan’s Vice-President.

An article in the New York Times (Full Bellies Are the Measure of Afghan Influence and Hospitality’) on 23rd August 2015 began It is an unassailable truth of Afghan politics, particularly after the advent of a democratic system here, that influence is gained one stomach at a time.”

Basically, Dostum was apparently an absolute warlord, but his style mingles hospitality and patronage to gain and maintain power.

Every day he feeds over 1,000 guests in his sprawling palace and in return receives honour, praise and support.

Now, in 2001 Dostum’s militia allegedly tortured and killed several hundred Taliban soldiers.

But when questioned about this by reporters Dostum took great offence:
they gained weight here, I put them up in nice rooms, I fed them bananas, I fed them oranges. But they said ‘Dostum did this to me, Dostum did that to.’

The guest is supposed to receive hospitality and speak highly in return, you see?

The apostolic team is standing apart from that same sort of hospitality/ patronage system.

We didn’t act like clients (taking food and money), nor did we act like patrons seeking praise from people  (say the Apostles) … not with you nor with anyone else.

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else”

But we sought to live to please God.

And that also meant not living to wield the authority that creating a patronage relationship would have brought us.

4.           Not wielding authority, v. 6b

even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.”

The New English Translation is fascinating here:

although we could have imposed our weight as apostles of Christ;"

(throwing our weight around as the apostles of Christ - we didn't do that)

instead we became {Or “were,” or “proved to be”} little children among you”.

These were the negative things that characterised them, that they made sure had no place in their lives ... and this lay at the heart of the power and the effects ... the influence of their ministries and their lives.

B.           Positively, v. 7a

Instead, we were like young children among you.”

What was the place of children in their society? What does it mean: we were like children among you'?

1.           Children in their society

In Jewish and Greek society, children were people with little or no status.

They were not the little Emperors of the Far East and China.

They did not have legal rights or redress.

They might be cute, but they had absolutely no rights to stand on at all.

That starts to change in the early church because of what we hear Jesus teaching …

2.           Children in Jesus' teaching

The passage to sum up most of the Lord’s radical attitude to children might be Mark 9:33-37

“They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’

This gets us straight to the heart of the matter of the attitude the Apostles are claiming for themselves, and which they’re urging their sermon-deprived Thessalonian converts to imitate.

3.           Status in God's upside-down Kingdom

Mark 9:35 puts it totally clearly:

  • “Sitting down”
    Adopting the position of a Teacher in first century rabbinical Judaism.
    He is taking authority to teach.
  • “Jesus called the Twelve and said,
    Now Jesus calls those supposed to be sitting under His teaching, who have acknowledged His authority to teach them.
    The servant is NOT above His Master … and Jesus is about to TELL them the way that it is.
    (And by the way the relationship Jesus is activating is a personal one – He sat down to teach, and called THEM )
    So Jesus eyeballs THOSE people and says:
  • “‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’”

That’s a totally upside down view of the world for anyone who hasn’t come to Christ.

And it still calls for a REMARKABLE re-set of values and aspirations for every single one of us every day.

Everyone WANTS to be first.

But no-one wants to get to ‘first’ by putting themselves last ... but that's the way to win the race, says Jesus.

Athletes notoriously only succeed if they’re selfish … putting their training and regimes mercilessly above everything and everybody else … they say you have to do it if you want to come first.

Go on, dare to imitate our example, say the apostles: “we were like young children among you”

C.           Principle, v. 7b-8

The principle of what the apostles have been saying about how to live to please God and not people, now gets spelled out with one of Paul’s classic rich mixes of metaphors.

He's been talking about taking up the lowest status, the low position of a child.

And then he says but we gladly went lower.

He says this is the principle ... get this:

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you.”

That's astonishing!

Who is the person that puts themselves second, so the lowest in society might come first?

It is the nursing child's mother.

Time and again putting herself second to the lowest in society's 'standing stakes' is the mother of the very small child.

         Conclusion

The apostolic team’s intention in these verses is to explain the reason that accounts for how
1 Thessalonians 2:2bwith the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition”

How did you dare to tell the Gospel at Thessalonica after Philippi in the face of such strong opposition?

The team is laying bare the foundations in their lives that made this possible, and here they say that it was their commitment to pleasing and serving God and not people (whether themselves, the Church or outsiders) … and they give examples from their own lifestyle and spiritual lives which indicate what living to please God and not any people looked like.

And that team is saying ‘Come on then, imitate us ... this is the way!’

This is how to resiliently sustain a Christian life and witness, faithfully serving God and the Gospel in spite of the strong opposition you will meet as a citizen of God’s upside down Kingdom in this run-away world.

How come that after taking a beating in Philippi the Apostolic team journeyed to Thessalonica and there, in spite of strong opposition, dared to tell the Thessalonians also the Good News of God?

It’s about the strength of an integrity driven inner life.

But it’s ALL about who you’re living to please.

And in an age such as ours where wooing goats is more common than daring to declare God’s Gospel to rally sheep to the call of the Shepherd, there’s a desperately urgent message for us here.

What example are the Apostles displaying to us here?

Theirs.

And what is the appeal that they make on the basis of what they've been saying?

Last time they urged us to tune our heart strings to the song of our God.

This time they are urging us to live only to please the One Who plays for us and gives to us our song.

It was because of the attitude of children without status in their society … the attitude which the Apostles adopted … that they lived to serve God and not people.

And that life-choice bore fruit in their daring to declare the Word of God boldly to the Thessalonians, as self-sacrificially and caringly as a mother with her fresh new-born infant, putting herself below the one with the lowest status in her society.

‘Watch and learn’, said the Apostles.

‘Watch and learn’. 


Thought for the Day 30th January 2021 The Stag and the faith of the faithful

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The FRIGHT

Not so long ago I was walking through thick bracken cover on the brow of a hill flushing out sheep.

It was heavy going and I was taking my time because it would have been very easy to fall.

And all of a sudden a big stag stood up six or eight feet in front of me ... I guessed two hundred kilos of muscle and this thing had horns on its horns!

It was one of those stomach clenching moments as I watched him decide whether he was going to chose fight or flight.

The prophet Habakkuk in our verse for the day was having a stomach clenching moment of his own. His beloved land as getting invaded by a violent foreign army that brought killing with famine and pestilence in its wake.

What was a man of faith to do in such a situation?

It was the sort of time when the reality of a person's faith gets revealed.

Would Habbakuk keep faith with God through the hard times, or wallow as he lost his assurance of faith?


Back to the stag whose slumber I suspended.

Well, obviously, I'm still here so it ended happily!

I'd clearly disturbed the sound sleep the big beast had been having, and he took off with all his ladies appearing and flowing through the bracken behind him.

When he got to the bottom of that hill there was a fence five feet high, and across it a steep bank dropping another six to eight feet onto a sunken little road.

That huge great beast with that hat-rack of horns on his head stopped at the fence looked over his shoulder back at me, and from a standing start leapt the fence effortlessly and was off and away.

You see, Habbakuk's conclusion of the threat he was facing wasn't about the deer's horns but all about its' legs and its feet. Rescuing legs that could be safe on the heights.

It's not about the strength of the horns to defeat what was coming against his people ... that was God's job ... but staying nimble and resilient in the challenge to faith and to life.

The point

The key was that Habakkuk resolved plainly and clearly in his own mind that whatever came along he was sticking with God:

"Though the fig-tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Saviour."

Why Habakkuk, why when things are getting so grim?

The takeaway

Ah. Because whatever the challenge He takes care of my ability to rise up and deal with it, as long as I'm sticking with Him. 

Then:

"The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights."

Habakkuk 3:17-19


Friday, 29 January 2021

Thought for the Day 29/01/21 - Heal the Land

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I haven't heard it happening again yet, but normally when something bad happens there's a big outcry against God ... blaming Him for the thing we're  not happy about.

But with the current pandemic, apart from a few Christian books addressing this question that nobody I've met has been raising, there's been silence about God and the matter.

That seems odd.

Interestingly, the Bible isn't silent about pandemics, and sees the hand of God very much in them ... from the plagues of Egypt to the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem under King Solomon to be the place of God's special presence there's a rich Biblical theology of natural disasters and plagues.

Here comes the solution to them first in 2 Chronicles 7:14 from the promises God made at the dedication of Solomon's Temple:


One of the reasons for the Temple's existence, which was the place where God symbolically 'was', was for to be able to go to God there.

And in the previous verse it spells out that their God was to be their 'go-to' particularly in times of trouble, to renew and restore their relationship with their Creator, Who meant them all good things.

Verse 15 promises: "my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place."

We are pretty much ENCOURAGED in our troubles to turn to Him!

But what sort of troubles are in mind here?


It's not just about those days when you can't find somewhere to park and fling out a desperate plea towards Heaven!

No - check v. 13: "‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Life-threatening, wide-area natural disasters that are NOT remote from the activity of God, and therefore well within His power to reverse!

Now, it's great that we've got vaccines and treatments for all manner of diseases now from Ebola to COVID and beyond. 

Of course we must make good use of whatever modern medical scientific solutions that the Lord has put into our hands. 

But we hear in the news of their weaknesses and imperfections and it's a reminder that it's not WE who control our human destiny.

What God warns us of and calls us to in times such as these is recorded for us in v. 14:

"if my people, who are called by my name, will 
  • humble themselves and 
  • pray and 
  • seek my face and 
  • turn from their wicked ways, 

then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."


  • Called by My Name is a Hebrew idiom for 'owned by me'
'It's my life' is not valid syntax for people that God has redeemed.

  • Humble themselves is what our client status before our God calls for ... He is the King of Glory Who fills His Temple with His glorious presence ... read the chapter this is taken from ... and to humble yourself before the Mighty is just to recognise reality.
  • Pray ... given Who He is and Who we are, talking to Him about our trouble should be natural ... another straightforward recognition of our realities.

  • Seek my face ... to seek the face is a is figurative expression for seeking God’s presence and acceptance.

Astonishingly to minds that have tried to write off and write out God from their script, the Word of God that comes to Solomon here declares boldly it's quite possibly their relationship with God that's been disturbed and this has caused the hard experiences that they all have been going through ... 

And so the thing they must do to sort it is this: they must ...


Turn from their wicked ways to seek God and let Him hear their prayers for deliverance

... or as one fairly recent translation puts it, at times like these God's people should seek Him out, restore their relationship with Him to clear the way for effective praying and to do so they need to "repudiate their sinful practices".

That might easily be dismissed by folks who are not keen to give God His proper place, but the record of Israel's history bore this out ... and that historical record gets harder to argue with!

So where does this leave us with COVID?

The Point

The general principle is that God always stands ready to help His people in trouble when they turn back from their rebelliousness and sin and take all necessary steps to restore their relationship with Him ... and that works at a much larger than individual scale, at the scale of nations and peoples and continents.

But in any given case the particular causes for a given calamity are always much harder to come down to.


The takeaway

What we can say is that our world has generally and for some time risen up against the idea of and the ways of our God, and there's definitely scope for repentance and seeking His face.

Is COVID God's judgement? It's hard to say yet.

But it's always a good day to turn back to God, to restore the relationship and get our prayers into the ears of the Almighty!

"if my people, who are called by my name, will 
  • humble themselves and 
  • pray and 
  • seek my face and 
  • turn from their wicked ways, 

then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Or would we prefer to stick with the life of a sinner, a rebel against the hope held out by God?


Thursday, 28 January 2021

Thought for the Day 28th. January 2021 One Life ... but HOW will we live it?

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We get quite a lot of Landrovers around here that are used very much for agricultural purposes and in the winter they can be pretty much needed.

We even run a Chaplaincy Landrover!

But every summer we've been used to getting much cleaner Landrovers around our roads.  They're obviously driven by a friendly lot of visitors because if you are driving your Landrover, their drivers always wave at you ... even though they don't know you and obviously aren't from around here.

Landrover owners that are into philosophy

Quite a lot of them seem to be into philosophy too, because they often have a sticker somewhere on their truck that says, quite boldly: One Life - Live it.


I'm not sure that sticker's very helpful, really. It doesn't answer the much bigger question.
 

It's all very well to say 'Live it' ... but that doesn't help with the bigger question: 'HOW?'!

King David's mother may have something to teach us here about how to make a difference with your one allotted life.

We know a lot about David's father, but only one thing about his mother.

They were quite a family ...

"Jesse was the father of

Eliab his firstborn; the second son was Abinadab, the third Shimea, the fourth Nethanel, the fifth Raddai, the sixth Ozem and the seventh David."

Seven boys was a lot for any mother to cope with, but then there were two daughters as well ... 

"Their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail."

Then there were four grandchildren, from at least one cross-cultural marriage, to cope with too:

"Zeruiah’s three sons were Abishai, Joab and Asahel. 

Abigail was the mother of Amasa, whose father was Jether the Ishmaelite."

1 Chronicles 2:13-17


David - the 'not-so-favourite' son of his father


We have reason to think that Jesse didn't think too much of his youngest son, David. 

The relationship may not have been very good, because David was relegated to living in the desert with the sheep, and when the prophet Samuel visited Jesse to anoint one of the boys to be King, David was dismissed by his father as a possibility ... blind to the visible promise that was in the boy:

"‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered. ‘He is tending the sheep.’

Samuel said, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.’

So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; this is the one.’"

1 Samuel 16:10-12

The relationship can't have been great ... but LOOK what David says about his un-named mother (about whom we know absolutely nothing else)


One life lived so that it was well-invested

King David lived a very troubled life ... he was richly blessed and used by God, but the blessings would come through many a battle.

He'd grown used to a tough experience in his younger years with the treatment he got from his father, and the hardships of the life of a desert shepherd.

But how did his mother prepare David to be resilient through all the trials and the troubles that lay ahead of her son in this life?

According to David she'd taught him, by the power of her example, that the way to live resiliently was to live as in the service of the Lord.

And LOOK at the heritage that gave rise to, and look at the impact that resulted as the fruit of this nameless faithful woman's godly example ... the Apostle Paul puts it like this:

"Isaiah says,

‘The Root of Jesse will spring up,
    one who will arise to rule over the nations;
    in him the Gentiles will hope.’

And it's that very verse which enables the Apostle Paul to pray for all non-Jewish people everywhere:

"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."

Romans 15:12-13

The Takeaway

It's not really very contentious to say that the best investment we can make in our young people is to prepare them well for what lies ahead in life. 

Here David's unsung hero mother shows us the way.

So if you want to make something of your life, change the slogan:

You have One life - be sure to INVEST it!

"I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains."

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