Tag Archives: faithfulness

I am not alone

Words of Grace  

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.    Psalm 121:5-6


We just experienced something that reminded us of the presence and activity of God on our behalf.  It was fairly simple, something the world would call a happy coincidence, but we know better.  We believe that God, once again, intervened in a small thing in our lives and revealed His kind hand.

How often does this happen?  Frankly, I don’t know.  I probably miss most of those times.  But I am privileged to see it once in a while, like the shadow or the movement in the woods that tells me my Protector is there.  And, most of the time, that’s enough.  I don’t need to hear His voice or see His face.  I just need to know that He is there.

Do you realize that the continual presence of the Lord on behalf of His people is promised in both the Old and the New Testaments?  Psalm 121 is so clear and so encouraging; and then we have the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always!”

He who watches over the sparrows, knows all about you and what you are going through.  He knows your pain and your struggle.  He knows your fear and worry.  He knows and He loves you.  He is with you.

And His purpose will be accomplished in your life.  In the midst of disappointment, distraction, interruption, and failure, you can trust that He is still at work for you.  Even when things don’t go the way you want them to, trust that He knows and He is with you.

I am not alone.

I am not forgotten.

The Lord knows me and loves me.

The Lord is with me.

I am not alone.


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Faithfulness and Worldly Success

Over the past few posts I have been writing about some of the strange ideas we pick up in the church.  One idea that has many forms is that God blesses the faithful with worldly success.  However, the opposite is also taught: Worldly success is a sign of spiritual compromise. 

The idea that faithfulness and success are connected has a flaw.  Who gets to define these terms?  My definition of faithfulness would probably mean far less activity and far more heart connection to the Lord, but I doubt that many teachers today would agree with that.  And success, well that’s something even harder to define.

Let’s say that Mr. X is a Christian businessman.  Let’s say that he makes a lot of money.  He takes home substantially more than you and I do.  So, does that mean that the Lord loves Mr. X more than He loves us?  Or does that mean that Mr. X is more faithful in his walk than we are?  Some would go there.  Some would suggest that business success is dictated by spiritual faithfulness.

But others would suggest just the opposite.  They would say that Mr. X couldn’t possibly make so much money if he was being honest or kind or faithful to the Lord.  They would say the fact that he lives in the big house on the hill proves that he takes advantage of others and is miserly.

Many legalist groups subtly teach that worldly success is a sign of God’s approval.  They teach how to get out of debt, how to be a good employee, how to dress for impression, etc.  They welcome the wealthy businessmen on their boards and committees.  But outwardly they say they don’t trust business success and teach that God works through financial struggles to teach and to bless.

So what’s the solution?  How do we determine success in life?  How do we decide who is successful and who is not?  Maybe we don’t.  Maybe that’s not our responsibility.

I try to be consistent in teaching that the Christian life is walking with Jesus.  My only goal in ministry is to follow Him.  Now, if that’s the case, then what would success be?  I think success would be to be with Him.

That means that He will take care of the money, the reputation, the influence, and the popularity of my life.  As He leads me, He will give me whatever I need to do what He asks of me.  My resources will come from Him and be for Him.  If He wants me to have a great deal of money at a certain time, the money will be there.  If He wants a large number of people to listen to what He tells me to say, the people will be there.  But sometimes I might not need money for what He asks me to do.  And sometimes I may need to focus on a much smaller group of people.  Success will never be measured by the standards of the world, but by His delight in using me for His glory.

Think of the disciples.  What did they have?  Houses, land, bank accounts?  But were they successful?  Were they faithful?  We remember them because they followed Jesus.

Let’s face it: the flesh wants to measure success.  The Spirit doesn’t care what the world thinks.  The flesh compares itself to others and wants to stand in a certain place.  The Spirit knows that this world is fading away.  The flesh sees others as competition and wants to get ahead.  The Spirit longs for relationship and love and doesn’t care who’s ahead.

Your thoughts?


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Little Churches

The inverse of yesterday’s post is probably more interesting.  You have heard that one also, I suspect.  “Our church is small because our message is pure.  Not many people can handle the kind of faithfulness we represent.”  In other words, our church is small because we are better.

I call this the “sour grapes” school of church growth.  It excuses our limited connections with the people by asserting a spiritual superiority.  Everyone else wants to compromise, that’s why they go to the other churches.  Especially that big church.  You can tell how compromised they are by how large they are.

Never mind that the logic of this would keep us all at home by ourselves.  After all, if the smaller the church the better, then just me by myself should be the best.  Right?  Just you and me and I’m not so sure about you.

Let’s be honest: some churches are small because they are bad at connecting with people.  Maybe it is true that some large churches are too open with the ideas and lifestyles they accept.  But it is certainly true that some small churches are too closed about what ideas and lifestyles they accept.

It is not only unproductive to try to discern God’s favor by the size of the church, it is wrong.  It is foolish to suggest that church size is any measure of success.  We say that we believe God looks on the heart and does His own thing with His church, but we still try to judge according to the world’s standards.

I suggest that we begin to understand that some people need small churches and some need large churches—and God provides churches of all sizes.  We can go even further and say that some people need one size church at one point in their lives and a different size church at another point.  My wife and I fellowship with a church of 40.  Our last church home numbered over 3000.  Different points in our lives.

Let’s get away from this idea that church size is a way to judge things like faithfulness.  Let’s let the Lord be the Judge.  I think there are good churches and bad churches and I think that things like doctrine and relationships matter, but church size doesn’t matter at all.

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Big Churches

“God has really blessed XYZ Church!  Look how they are growing.  They must be doing something right!”

Ever hear a line like that?  Then you look at your poor little church and wonder what you are doing wrong.  Few people understand how difficult these comparisons can be for pastors and church leaders.  If the church isn’t growing, you must not be in favor with the Lord.  I wonder how many pastors have lost their jobs because their people have blamed them for lack of numbers in church attendance.

Pastors go to their denominational conferences and guess who is asked to speak—the pastors of the large churches.  Who is on the cover of the magazine?  The pastor whose church is growing fast.  After all, these guys must have it together.  They must be doing something right.

Church success equals right doctrine and God’s favor.  Is that right?  I’m not so sure.  Does the largest retail store always offer the best prices?  Is the largest newspaper the one filled with the most truth?  Is the largest sales company the one filled with the most honest people?  Does the largest car company make the best automobile?  Does size always indicate quality?

Well, when I put it that way the answer seems obvious, doesn’t it?  We sometimes forget that churches are in the marketing business today.  Some are better at communicating with the community than others.  Some connect with people in more ways than others.  Large churches, like large retailers, offer a wider variety of entry points or products.  Some have the organizational structure to grow.

I have observed the church scene for nearly 40 years and I can’t say that the largest churches are the best.  Some large churches have lousy messages and lousy doctrine.  Some are outstanding in both areas.  Church growth has a great deal to do with location, timing, and marketing.  Just like any other business or organization.

But not all large churches are compromising.  I certainly don’t mean to suggest that.  I just mean that church growth seems to have less to do with pleasing God than with connecting to people.  It may simply be that a much larger percentage of the people are more comfortable with a large church.

More tomorrow…

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