What’s in It for Me?

It is a question I have heard dozens of time. Sometimes it is not even verbalized. It is conveyed in a roll of the eyes or the groan of disapproval. As we get older we get more sophisticated in our approach. We no longer ask the question out loud because we know the situation. The card file in our mind flips through a long list of excuses and we find one fitting for the occasion. “That is my family night” or “I give in other ways” or “I am already involved elsewhere” are often our veiled ways of pushing away tasks that have no benefit to us.

I say this not as a perfect example of service. I write this because I do it too. When asked to do anything my mind does a quick evaluation and tries to determine if I will benefit because of my participation. “Will I get paid to do this?” “Will there be some sort of recognition for my service?” “Now they owe me.”

While my natural inclinations are to do activities that will benefit me in some way I am called to something more by Jesus. In the book of Luke it Jesus says this:

Luke 6:32-35 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them. (33) And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” do that. (34) And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” lend to “sinners,” expecting to be repaid in full. (35) But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Jesus challenges us to be people who do good things even when there is no benefit to us. We love and we do good and we loan all without a hope of getting anything in return.

I find this teaching to be one of the most unnatural things that Jesus tells us. My human nature wants me to spend my time doing things that benefit me. Jesus wants me to spend my doing things that benefit others.

I don’t know about you but I need to be continually reminded that the biggest question of my activities is NOT, “What’s in it for me?”

Talent Verses Training

Lately I have spent a lot of time watching football. My four sons are on three different teams and of course we are watching the Packers. Then whenever we have a quiet moment at home I turn on the TV and watch any game that is being played.

Having watched a lot of football ranging from kids in Pee Wee football through professional players who make the hall of fame I have come to a couple of conclusions. First, some people are naturally talented. I have watched and read about the great Bo Jackson who never really worked out and lifted weights yet had amazing strength. I know of KC great Derrick Thomas who hated to practice and often treated it like a joke. I could go on and on with names of people who were just born with something special.

The second thing I notice is that there are some people who can develop themselves through training. Sure they have some natural talent but it is often limited. As a result they commit themselves to countless hours of training. They throw the ball over 10,000 times to get it right. They kick the ball over and over. They lift weights and maintain special diets. They work, work and work some more until they get it right.

The reality is that professional level of skill can be given by God but for most people it is formed as the result of long-term training.

Honestly, I think this reality is true in every area of life – not just football (or sports in general).

If you want to know your Bible more, you can learn through repeated training.

If you want to be a kind person, you can learn that through repeated activity.

If you want to be a generous person, you can learn that too.

If you want to be a better spouse, better parent or better child, those things too can be learned through repeated effort.

The good news is that you can be trained to do almost anything.

I firmly believe that in life some people have unbelievable natural ability. God has blessed them with gifts and talents other people may not have.

But I also believe God has given each of us the opportunity to learn. We can be almost anything we want to be in life – if we will commit ourselves to the hard work of repeated actions to develop an ability. The real question is not “can I do that?” Rather it is “am I willing to work hard enough to do that?”

So – What do you want to do today?

Adding Value to Others

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

Many years ago I heard leadership guru John Maxwell say that one of his goals in life was “to add value to other people.” I always liked that phrase. It captures the simple concept of building other people up that Paul tells the Christian in Ephesus but it also includes so much more. Are people better for having been around me?

I think this is possibly even more important today than ever before. We live in a world filled with words. Articles, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given everyone a voice. The comment section that follows these posts are then filled with even more words.

My question for today and this week is simply, “Are my words adding value to people’s lives to build them up?”

Am I using my words to encourage other people?

Am I using my words to teach other people?

Am I using my words to thank other people?

Am I using my words to pray for other people?

Am I using my words to support other people?

How am I using the voice God has given me to further the work of his kingdom around me?

Tearing something down is easy. Building something up is hard. This week I am committed to the hard work. Will you join me?

Good Reading for the Weekend

Here are some interesting and thoughtful articles for you to enjoy this weekend:

What Did Jesus Look Like?

Eight Unexpected Blessings of Christianity

5 Pastoral Pet Peeves

What I Learned About God From Psych Ward Patients

15 Reasons Why Committed Christians Do Not Attend Church

Twenty More Funny and Strange Things Church Members Say to Pastors and Staff

18 Things That Are Hard to Explain to Third-World Friends

There Were 15 Times When The Wrong Answer Was So Funny It Had To Be Right These are great. You have to read #11 closely. Priceless

The Taming of the Tongue

James 3:7-10 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, (8) but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
(9) With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. (10) Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

While I am a self-professed introvert my voice seems to clearly resonate above all noise when I get frustrated. Sports events in which my children are involved are the fuel to my frustration.

I really wish it were not true, but I am the loud fan at the games. I am the first to point out a bad call. I frequently yell out instructions to coaches. I embarrass my wife. I often fear I damage my Christian witness.

The tongue is a dangerous beast. James actually says that “no man can tame the tongue.”

I am not sure how to take that. Does he say that to remind us that even good people will use their tongue for evil? Does he say that to comfort those of us who struggle? Does he say that to tell us that the taming of the tongue is a supernatural action? I really don’t know.

Believe it or not, I am better than I was years ago. My only stint as a youth football coach ended with a meltdown of epic proportions. I am better but I still struggle with my tongue.

I have learned a couple small lessons on this journey.

1. Ask God for Help. As with any struggle in the Christian life, I believe you need to ask God for help. Prayer is always a good answer.

2. Ask yourself, “Will I regret saying this later.” Yes, I still get loud, but I do not say ¾ of the stuff in my mind. My filter is getting stronger with age.

3. Count to 10 in your mind. Take a moment to process your thoughts and breathe deeply. Sometimes I like to get up and walk. I find my mouth often works overtime when I am nervous or afraid.

4. Find Something Positive to Say. Move your attention from the negative to the positive.

These are not fool-proof and I still struggle. I did it just last night. I literally have to remind myself of these suggestions daily. My tongue will always be a source of difficulty in my life. With the help of God and enough time to improve, I will get better. Lord willing!

The Principle of the Path

There is a simple principle that I learned many years ago: “Your destination is determined by the path you take.”

If I leave my home headed south I will not end up in Kansas City. If I leave my home headed north I will not end up in Joplin.

This is a simple and very obvious principle in life. For you to end in the right place you need to start the right direction.

This reality is true in our spiritual life too. You will not end up knowing God’s word if you seldom read His word. You will not end up feeling close to God unless you pray to Him. You will never have great Christian friends unless you care for other people.

You will only end up where you are investing your time.

This is also true with our children. They will not know their Bible unless you explain it to them. They will not value the Church unless you take them. They will not value prayer unless you pray with them.

They will only end up where we put the emphasis.

I tell you this because I know some people will set in my office in the future complaining. They will not understand how their life got in this mess. They will not understand how their children could make that decision. They will cry tears of remorse over where life took them. They will cry out in desperation, “Why?”?

The hard reality is that they should have seen it coming all along.

In the future you will only end up where the decisions you are making today take you.