My six-year-old son Owen was thrilled to receive a new board game. But after a half hour reading the rules, he was frustrated. He couldn’t quite figure out how it worked. It wasn’t until later, when a friend came over who already knew how to play, that Owen finally got to enjoy his present.
Watching them play, I was reminded of how much easier it is to learn something new if you have an experienced teacher. When we’re learning, reading the instructions helps, but having a friend who can demonstrate makes a huge difference.
The apostle Paul understood this too. Writing to Titus about how he could help his church grow in faith, Paul emphasized the value of experienced believers who could model Christian faith. Of course teaching “sound doctrine” was important, but it didn’t just need to be talked about—it needed to be lived out. Paul wrote that older men and women ought to be self-controlled, kind, and loving (Titus 2:2-6). “In everything,” he said, “set them an example by doing what is good” (v. 7).
I’m thankful for the solid teaching, but I’m also thankful for the many people who have been hands-on teachers. They have shown me by their lives what it looks like to follow Christ and made it easier for me to see how I can walk that path too.
Who Is He?
On our way home from our honeymoon, my husband and I waited to check in our luggage at the airport. I nudged him and pointed to a man standing a few feet away.
My spouse squinted. “Who is he?”
I excitedly rattled off the actor’s most notable roles, then walked up and asked him to take a photo with us. Twenty-four years later I still enjoy sharing the story of the day I met a movie star.
Recognizing a famous actor is one thing, but there’s Someone more important I’m thankful to know personally. “Who is this King of glory?” (Psalm 24:8). The psalmist David points to the Lord Almighty as Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of all. He sings, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters” (vv. 1–2). In awestruck wonder, David proclaims God is above all, yet intimately approachable (vv. 3–4). We can know Him, be empowered by Him, and trust Him to fight on our behalf, as we live for Him (v. 8).
God provides opportunities for us to declare Him as the only Famous One truly worth sharing with others. As we reflect His character, those who don’t recognize Him can have more reasons to ask, “Who is He?” Like David, we can point to the Lord with awestruck wonder and tell His story!
As I stopped my car at a red light, I saw the same man standing beside the road again. He held a cardboard sign: Need money for food. Anything helps. I looked away and sighed. Was I the kind of person who ignored the needy?
Some people pretend to have needs but are actually con artists. Others have legitimate needs but face difficulties overcoming destructive habits. Social workers tell us it’s better to give money to the many aid ministries in our city. I swallowed hard and drove past. I felt badly, but I may have acted wisely.
God commands us to “warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). To do this well we must know who belongs in which category. If we warn a weak or disheartened person we may break her spirit; if we help an idle person we may encourage laziness. Consequently, we help best from up close, when we know the person well enough to know what he needs.
Has God burdened your heart to help someone? Great! Now the work begins. Don’t assume you know what that person needs. Ask her to share her story, and listen. Prayerfully give as seems wise, and not merely to feel better about yourself. When we truly aim “to do what is good for each other,” we will more readily “be patient with everyone,” even when they stumble (vv. 14–15).
In 2016 when the Chicago Cubs baseball team won the World Series, for the first time in more than a century, five million people lined the parade route and gathered at a downtown rally to celebrate the championship.
Victory parades are not a modern invention. A famous ancient parade was the Roman Triumph, in which victorious generals led a procession of their armies and captives through crowded streets.
Such parade imagery was likely in Paul’s mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church thanking God for leading believers “as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14). I find it fascinating that in this imagery, followers of Christ are the captives. However, as believers we’re not forced to participate, but are willing “captives,” willingly part of the parade led by the victorious, resurrected Christ. As Christians, we celebrate that through Christ’s victory, He is building His kingdom and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
When we talk about Jesus’s victory on the cross and the freedom it gives believers we help spread the “aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14). And whether people find the aroma to be the pleasing reassurance of salvation or the odor of their defeat, this unseen but powerful fragrance is present everywhere we go.
As we follow Christ, we declare His resurrection victory, the victory that makes salvation available to the world.
“My precious . . .” First portrayed in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the image of the emaciated creature Gollum in his maniacal obsession with the “precious” “ring of power” has become an iconic one today—for greed, obsession, even insanity.
It’s also a troublingly relatable image. In his tormented love-hate relationship with both the ring and with himself, Gollum’s voice echoes the hunger in our own hearts. Whether it’s directed at one thing in particular, or just a vague longing for “more,” we’re sure that once we finally get our own “precious,” we’ll be satisfied. But instead, what we thought would make us whole leaves us feeling even emptier than before.
There’s a better way to live. As David expresses in Psalm 16, when the longings in our hearts threaten to send us on a desperate, futile quest for satisfaction (v. 4), we can remember to turn to God for refuge (v. 1), reminding ourselves that apart from Him we have nothing (v. 4).
And as our eyes stop looking for satisfaction “out there” to gaze instead on God’s beauty (v. 8), we find ourselves finally tasting true contentment—a life of basking in the “joy [of God’s] presence,” walking with Him each moment in “the way of life”—now and forever (v. 11 nlt).