Leaving Hurt Behind.

As a young pastor within a decent sized church, I’ve heard and seen a lot of hurt that people carry around like baggage in an airport, afraid to set down because they have been told that they must keep it in hand.

In fact, some of this pain comes from within the very church itself. Last week we discussed how sometimes the offense we receive from “within the flock” seems far more painful that that which we receive from the world. The pain caused by a church is what I would call a “silent killer.” I would compare this pain to a poison. I say that because the initial blow, public or not, isn’t what often kills you… it is a “silent killer” because of what it does deep in the fabric of the mind, heart, and soul after the fact. If not dealt with, it will destroy future happiness, joy, and well-being. The collateral damage of overall negatively towards people and the church affects the ministry and outreach of the church and the person, and sometimes the situation festers into far more than what it really should have.

The church is the bride of Christ and the body of Christ — a people set apart to declare God’s praises to the nations and called to become more like the people of God we are meant to be. The church is the one place almost everyone agrees should be safe, accepting, forgiving, and free from conflict and pain. Yet pain from within a gathering of sinful people is almost always inevitable. I tried to make it clear last week that not every church hurts people, and not every hurt is the church’s fault. Some people are hurt through their own mistakes, others because of sin committed against them, and still others because of failed leadership at home, at the workplace, or sometimes at church. Not every church hurts people… but most churches have hurt someone at some point in some way.

We shouldn’t be surprised by hurt and pain in the church, because everyone in the church is still sinful. But while saving faith in Christ is not surprised by brokenness, it is never content or negligent with it either. 

So how do we make progress in the midst of our flaws? Last week we discussed what our mindset needs to be after we have been hurt or offended. This week we will continue on that same track except we will discuss some actions we should, and should not, take when we have been hurt or offended. Let’s think together!


Take it to God.

Have you ever seen an ambulance pick up a seriously injured person and then stop to go around a drive-thru? I hope not! When a person is injured they are rushed to get help from a physician… one who can heal their pain.

When we are initially hurt here on this earth the very first action we should take is to rush to the “Healer” in prayer. It does us no good to sit in our pain and offense and wait for the healing to come to us. The hurt we feel is real and pretending like we aren’t hurt and not seeking help ultimately isn’t going to bring healing.

As a young man I like to pretend that I never get seriously injured. I have joked around in games of basketball saying, “no blood… no foul” but simply saying that doesn’t take the pain out of your hips when you get knocked to the floor on a drive to the hoop! You might try to “walk it off” and pretend you aren’t hurt, but in reality you are!

Sometimes when we get hurt in church folks like to tell us that we have no reason to feel bad and we just need to get over it. I will give them a nod on half of that statement, because we do need to get over it, but it’s not always true that we have no reason to feel bad. If someone is spewing malicious gossip behind your back and you find out about it, it stings. But, no matter what kind of hurt you’re dealing with, don’t rush into a confrontation with the offender. Take it to God in prayer first. Seek His guidance in what direction to take.

Psalm 50:15 says,

Call upon me in the day of trouble.

That “calling upon” works for a troubled soul just as well as it does any other trouble we could think of. Tell God how you feel and ask Him to heal your wounds. It may be that the Lord is going to deal with the offender directly and anything you say would just make matters worse. Or, it could be that the Lord will give you a graceful way to explain why you feel hurt. If you take it to God, He can give you the very words to say to your offender.

Luke 12:12 says,

For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

And not only can God provide to you the words to say, but He can also bring conviction to that person’s heart when you approach them with a spirit of humility.

John 16:16 says,

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

In order to begin the healing we must talk to the Healer.


Seek the Root.

Have you ever gardened? If you have then you have most certainly seen a dead plant. The interesting thing about dead plants are that their signs of death are on the outside where they can be seen…but nearly always the problem is in the root.

When we are hurt or offended it is important that we turn our focus away from the people involved and identify the root cause of our pain. Honestly identify what you are feeling. Find out what is at the core of your hurt. You’d be surprised how often that it is not what someone said or did to you, but something under the surface that is really causing your pain.

When you truly identify the root of your pain, then search the Scriptures to discover what God says about it. In every case God has a balm of wisdom, compassion, and love to heal your wounds. If you call on Him for help, your focus shifts to Him and off of other people and their actions. You will stop rehearsing the event that caused you harm, and begin to allow yourself to heal.

Proverbs 4:23 says,

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

We must work on guarding our hearts by carefully choosing our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions. We can guard our hearts in the midst or hurt by refusing to dwell on what happened, refusing to focus on the people who hurt us, and refusing to belabor the weaknesses of the church and killing the issue at the root. Giving up bitterness takes humility, but Proverbs 3:34 says,

The LORD mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble.

We must be sure to not blame God for how His children behave. Don’t abandon the church, either. There are many more dedicated, grace-filled, loving, and forgiving people than not in most churches. Seek them out. Spend time with them. Ultimately, we can have hope because our healing comes from the Lord. It is now up to us to do the right thing and turn our focus to the Person who will truly transform our life above and beyond the hurt we may feel.

Jesus promised, in Matthew 11:28-30,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.


Don’t Retaliate.

If you’ve ever been a child with a sibling then you know what retaliation is. I once had a friend punch his brother only to be nailed in the forehead with a fastball hotwheel car in return… now that is retaliation!

When you are injured in church or by another person whatever you do, do not retaliate. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek.

Matthew 5:38-40 says,

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

We are also told to do something pretty radical. Matthew 43-44 says,

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Man… just the thought of those things makes the prideful parts of my heart shudder with anxiety. If you are like me you may be upset a little bit with the fact that our “get even” mentality is sinful and honestly doesn’t make anything any better. In fact, we are supposed to love and pray for our enemies! And not those prayers of demise either!

With those things in mind, we must make it a point to not go around telling everybody what someone did to hurt our feelings and how we are right and they are wrong. This isn’t a game of flag football… so we don’t have to pick sides! We are all on the same time and we should unite and rally around one cause, the cause of Christ. We must own our feelings because they are our feelings, and look to reconcile them with the person we feel has hurt or wronged us. From experience I know that it’s very possible that your offender has no idea that what they said or did hurt you, and never meant to hurt you in the first place. If you approach them in humility seeing reconciliation, your offender may be quick to apologize.


Let the Lord Work.

Psalm 55:22 says,

Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.

I find that it is easy to misread these passages to mean that God is a magic problem-solver, a genie whose main job is to make us happy today. It’s easy to assume that casting our troubles on God means He will take our troubles away. Sometimes, though, He doesn’t.

Many of us have heard the phrase, “let go and let God.” But there are times when we aren’t clear what it is we’re supposed to let go of, and there are other times we want to let go of something, and we try to let it go, and it just doesn’t happen. Why is that

Sometimes there’s a difference in what we want to give up and what we need to release.

It’s never wrong to continue to seek God’s will in an area, but there does come a time when we have to let go of what we think is best and simply trust Him to work.

Don’t grip so tightly to your assumptions about the way you think life “should” be. Often we think things ought to be easier than they really are, and don’t understand when we are held to the fire a little. In those times we can either trust God, or fight what we’re being asked to do and effectively resisting taking up our cross the way Jesus commanded in Matthew 16:24.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Sometimes what we must give up are our preconceived notions of how life is supposed to work.

We need to let go of our own will. We even can witness Jesus doing this before the crucifixion in Luke 22:42 where He prayed,

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.

It could be that the Lord is working something out in you. Maybe you’re too sensitive, too prideful, too independent, too hardheaded or rebellious? We always need to check our hearts. Is the person who we feel hurt us really being hurtful or offensive are we looking at it through filters of past hurts or rejection or anger that cloud the truth? Ask the Lord, and then trust Him to work it out.


How is your pain and hurt limiting you? Did it leave you bitter? Broken? Reluctant to get close or involved again? We must work together to get up and leave our pain and hurt behind.

I’m a weird sleeper. I talk, I make noises, and sometimes, on rare occasions, I wander around. Now imagine sleep walking into a dangerous neighborhood, and suddenly waking up and realizing where you were. You would get out of that place as fast as you could! We should react the same way in our spiritual lives when we discover hurt lingering around and festering into bitterness or something else. Our hurt takes us to dangerous places spiritually that we don’t belong in. We must “wake up” spiritually and kick rocks as fast as we can!

The pain of your past is something you don’t have to continue to carry as you walk along in life. Just set it down and move on. Answer the call to leave your hurt behind.

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When we are Hurt or Offended.

I’m about to say something that probably won’t shock you… Christians aren’t perfect. Some of us may try to act like it, and I’m sure many of you get closer to that mark than I do… but in the end we all miss it.

We are going to mess up. We are going to let ourselves down and possibly tick each other off in the process. A symptom of this broken nature that we inherited from the fall is sin and failure, and because churches primarily consist of “fallen” Christians, they aren’t perfect either. It’s because of that that we shouldn’t be surprised when people who have a sincere relationship with Christ offend or even deeply hurt us… when people we may look up to let us down.

With that in mind, why does it hurt so bad to get wounded by a church, a pastor, or a close Christian friend?

I believe it is because we expect to be mistreated in the world, but we’re often blindsided and get our feelings hurt when our brothers and sisters in Christ let us down… maybe they leave us out, seemingly underappreciate us, make decision we don’t agree with, talk behind our backs, stab us in the back, or aren’t there for us in a time of need. We are a little more understanding when we get hurt by those who haven’t yet received the grace of God and understood the fullness of His love, but we expect to be fully accepted and live harmoniously with those who are already “within the flock.”

Have you been hurt in church? What are you supposed to do? How do you handle it?

So the church hurt you? What do you do? Leave the church? Confront the issue? Bury it? Lash out at the person who hurt you?

When a church, a pastor, or church member hurts a person, how can they resolve the issue? What does this Bible say about this and how do you practically walk that out?

In Frank Viola’s book “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” he says this,

When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary on His first visit to Bethany, Mary could have chosen to be offended by her sister. But there is no indication that she felt that way. She also could have taken offense when Judas and the disciples protested against her act of extravagant worship. But again, there is no indication that she did.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the pain that was inflicted upon Mary in both situations. Here was a woman who loved her Lord with all her heart, and she was unfairly criticized for it. Not by her enemies, but once by her sister and another time by some of the Lord’s own disciples.

It reminds me of the old adage, “No good deed shall go unpunished.”

The words of Elbert Hubbard come to mind: “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

In both cases, Mary never opened her mouth to defend herself or her actions. In silence, she entrusted the matter to her Lord. And in both instances, Jesus rose to her defense.

Point: there will always be some Christians who will undermine and denigrate your good actions.

Austin-Sparks once wrote, “If you get upset, offended, and go off and sulk, and nurse your grievance, you will die.”

At times everyone gets hurt. Christians are no exception. The fact of the matter is that those you are around most often are those most likely to hurt or offend you. If you are a Believer, and tend to hang out with Christian friends, then statistics would say at some point you are going to get hurt or offended. So… when, not if, that happens what do you do and how do you respond? Many of us have responded incorrectly by avoiding certain people, leaving churches, bad talking our brothers and sisters in Christ, or even stopping our fellowship with God’s people all together.

This article isn’t going to help you determine whether you are rightfully hurt or not… because let’s face it, sometimes we are in the wrong and our intentions or priorities were jacked up in the first place. This article is going to help us sift through the wreckage once we are hurt or offended so we can move on in our walk with Christ, and hopefully live harmoniously with our local “body” of Believers.

Let’s think together about this sensitive subject.


  • Choose to Heal

In the Gospel of John we see an example of how Christ asked a “wounded person” to leave his injury behind, knowing that he could never again fall back on that as his crutch or identity.

John 5:1-9 says,

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

First, Jesus asked the “invalid” if he wanted to get well. I find this part alone fascinating because it is an amazing demonstration that God will not force himself on anyone, no matter how obvious the need, if we don’t make a decision to receive his healing then we won’t! This man had held on to his victimhood for thirty-eight long years. So when Jesus asked him the question, the man did what he had always done before… he played the victim.

Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.

That response did not answer Jesus’ question. In fact, Jesus did not ask what the problem was… Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed or delivered from it. Sometimes that is right where we are. We are on the brink of breakthrough… of healing, and Jesus is asking if we want to be healed and instead of answering we decide to relive the issue and make sure He hears our side of the story!

Still, in this situation Jesus showed grace mixed with a command to do something. He told the man to, “get up.” Jesus already knew the issue and problems this man faced, and he knew how much faith it would take to attempt that seemingly simple task. When the man chose by faith to get up and leave his victimhood behind after nearly four decades, he was healed.

Alfred D’Souza once wrote,

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

We have to come to the same realization regarding this life and the church. We are all flawed people and our flaws, collectively, are obstacles to our joy, but at the same time we are the community that Jesus ordained and the Kingdom on which His church is built. Waiting for individual people, humans, to meet our needs will leave us frustrated and unfulfilled here on this earth. We may fall into a flow for a while and our problems may coast under the radar, but I guarantee you that they will someday surface and we will take up an offense or hurt that can cripple us for a lifetime. The amount of energy invested in choosing bitterness or choosing healing is probably about the same… but the end results are diametrically different! One choice leaves us paralyzed in the past. The other choice gives us hope for the future.

In the Christian walk, hurts are inevitable. Feeling like a victim and deciding to stay there is optional.

Sometimes we choose to remain victims when we have the opportunity to move on. It is a waste of our spiritual potential to fixate on how events of the past could have, or should have, been different. Most of us, I do say “most” for a reason, who have been hurt could persuade any jury that the treatment we received from other Christians should have been different. But here is the truth… things are NOT different, and we CANNOT change the past.

No amount of time spent dwelling on how another person hurt us will change our present situation.

My wife is interested in emergency medicine. The idea behind emergency medicine is doing what it takes to keep a person alive, or preventing as much long-term damage as you can on a case-to-case method. With that I mind, imagine that you have been shot and rushed to the emergency room. Would you spend all of your time worrying about who shot you? Or do you think your first concern might be to stay alive?

I hope it would be to stay alive! Who cares about who shot you if you are dead!

In real life, with real physical hurts, we immediately seek physical help. But emotional and spiritual hurts seem to evoke a response unlike any other wound. When people within the church hurt us, we tend to focus on the person who hurt us… the pain inflictor, not the Healer. This is one of our Enemy’s most effective distraction strategies, he knows that healing is available, and he does not want us to get it. So he keeps us where we are through offense and bitterness. Our own feelings can leave us paralyzed and vulnerable.

Satan wants us to forget that being broken is an integral part of God’s plan for our growth.

The apostle Paul, who begged God to remove his affliction, came to an important realization in 2 Corinthians 12:9. It says,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul had to quit focusing on his handicap in order for Christ’s power to shine through and take over. Want to continue to be used by God after an injury? The first step to recovery is choosing to allow yourself to be healed.


  • Choose to Forgive

Bernard Meltzer once said,

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

The bottom line is this… you can’t heal until you forgive.

It doesn’t matter how wrong you think your offender is, you HAVE to forgive. Ultimately, forgiveness is not for the other person… it’s for you. Forgiveness doesn’t justify what someone did that was wrong, nor does it necessarily mean that the relationship goes right back to where it was. If you don’t forgive, you end up bitter and resentful and before too long you’ll end up hurting other people. The healing process can’t really begin until you spit out the bait of offense.

The call of forgiveness is not easy. It requires us to practice maturity, patience to allow the process to unfold, and the tact to endure it. But, we should not forget that forgiveness is also a mandate from our Lord. We can take great comfort in knowing that He is working while we are waiting, and sometimes even suffering. We can best practice forgiveness by realizing how much we have been forgiven. The magnitude of forgiveness from our Lord for what we have done can never measure up to anything others could do to us. When we put forgiveness into practice, we will be free from the bondage of bitterness and pain that sin imprisons us with.

God desires that we seek forgiveness, because God is a God of relationships, and God is committed to our relationships. Relationships are what this life is all about! What is a church without the people? Nothing. Satan seeks to destroy relationships. His first attempt was in the Garden of Eden, nearly defeating our relationship with God and with one another. God’s plan is to prove Satan wrong, and, our call is to build one another up, not destroy one another.

When we have been wronged, and we experience feelings of betrayal, God calls us into reconciliation. When we fail to forgive, we are the ones who suffer the most. Anger, resentment, shame, bitterness, contempt, and defensiveness all synergistically build on top of one another, so every segment within us is held hostage. We are chained like a dog on a leash, unable to reach the destination we desire, what Christ has for us.

Matthew 18:23-35 says,

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

This passage in Matthew is a story of a forgiving king and a wicked servant. The king forgave this servant’s enormous debt, which is an illustration of our enormous debt of sin that we held until Christ forgave us by the cross. This servant represents the Believer, who, after experiencing the forgiveness of God, harbored bitterness to another, and then refused to forgive his fellow Christian, or a non-Christian, for a much, much smaller debt. The king became furious, and handed the servant over to be tortured. The Bible is telling us that if we refuse to forgive one another, and continue to harbor bitterness, we cannot be relinquished from the torment that comes with harboring resentment, hurt, or pain.

I love what Mahatma Gandhi once said,

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

For some reason in our society everyone wants to carry some chip on their shoulder or wants to have the one “soap box” that they carry around with them in hopes that they can one day stand upon it and vent their insufficiencies, or the insufficiencies of others or their past church, out to the rest of the world, when in reality God calls Christians to operate in the parameters of forgiveness, love, and mercy. How can we receive Christ’s forgiveness, and claim Christ as our Savior, when we are unable to forgive one another?

When we have a forgiving attitude, then we will have a heart at rest and in peace!

What does that “soap box” or unforgiveness look like for you? Is it a wound from a past relationship or church that you carry around willing to share with “friends” or on Facebook for all to see, or is it a reluctance to get involved in another Body of Christ or group of Believing friends? They are all the same… they are unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment in all of it’s flattering forms.

In order to start the healing process you must first start the forgiving process!


  • Choose to Forget

General Robert E. Lee once paid a visit to a Kentucky home, where a bitter and angry woman pointed to what was left of a magnificent tree in front of her house. She was upset that Union artillery fire had ruined the shape and beauty of the tree, and she wanted General Lee to share her anger. She wanted her great leader to condemn the Yankees and sympathize with her. Lee paused and quietly said,

Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.

General Lee knew that the damaged tree would only be a constant reminder of her victimhood and the pain that she felt from the impact of the war. He wisely suggested that the reminder be cut down entirely so she could get on with her life. That tree would never be the same, and her bitterness would not change that fact, so she was better off to forget the tree and move on with things in her life that she could still impact and make a difference with.

Have you turned your wounds into things that define you?

So many of us harbor our hurts for so long that we basically build a monument to that thorn in our side and no matter how far we go in our life we can always look back on the horizon and see that it is still there! Don’t allow the hurt of your past to become monuments to your future that constantly remind you of the hurt that once was. For many of us it is time to follow the words of Robert E. Lee and cut it down, so that we can forget it.

Many of you may point out that the phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in Scripture. However, Scripture does say that love keeps no record of wrongs and that love conquers a multitude of sins.

Psalm 103:12 says,

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Micah 7:19 says,

He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross, God will never again allow the knowledge of these sins to play a part in His relating to us. Christ reconciles us to God the Father, who then sees us as washed white as snow through Christ’s shed blood.

Isaiah 1:18 says,

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Humans are not able to forgive and forget perfectly like God does, and this is why regular reminders of the Gospel are so important. Christ’s atoning work on the cross perfectly covers all of our past, current, and future sins. So any pain we have dealt with in the past, are currently dealing with, or will deal with in the future are perfectly cared for by Jesus. The Gospel frees us up! We have been forgiven so that we are able to forgive.

Colossians 3:13 says,

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 confirms that we have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation. It says,

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

God perfectly models what forgiveness entails through Christ. We are called to walk in the power that is extended to us through God’s mercy. To let the pain from a past hurt or offense keep us from walking in healing is to misunderstand the all-encompassing work of the gospel to save, sanctify, and glorify us.

If we choose to nurse our victimhood rather than treat our wounds, it can become spiritually life threatening. 


Next week we will continue on with some practical ways to move past offense and begin walking in forgiveness.

Spiritual Exercise

I enjoy certain types of exercise. I like to go to the gym and lift weights, I like to play basketball. I don’t, however, like to run. Maybe it’s because I think it’s aimless… or maybe it’s because conditioning to run is hard and it hurts! My wife enjoys running… she does it a lot. On the other hand, I joke with people and tell them that the only thing that would make me run is a bear behind me! I go through phases though where I will jump on a treadmill and run. I particularly remember the last time because I went from not running at all to running 3.5 miles on the first go round. I felt fine the day of… but the day after was a different story all together. My body, although conditioned for other types of exercise, was not conditioned for strenuous running! The point I am trying to make is… exercise is hard. Especially if it is an exercise that we haven’t been conditioning for.

Today we will talk about conditioning our relationship with God through a different exercise plan… service.

Think about a relationship that you hold dear. Maybe it is with a lifelong friend, a husband or wife, a family member… most relationships that have proven to be lasting have experienced hard times that you have to work through. Any good relationship takes work to develop. I can remember in the early stages of dating my wife how I took the time to get to know her, what she liked and disliked, how she handled situations, her sense of humor, etc… It took time and effort to form a stronger relationship with her and a better understanding of her.

Some people have the idea that knowing God should be easy. That developing a relationship with the Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe should require nothing more strenuous than listening to an occasional sermon or reading a book or two. Why is that? Why is it that we will study for years in college to get a degree, we’ll labor nights and weekends to get ahead in our careers, and yet we think that knowing God should be effortless? We’ll exercise for hours to improve our physical health. We’ll eat right and sacrifice junk food, and torture ourselves on the treadmill.

In other areas of life, we understand that having things of value require work and dedication. Yet in the realm of the spirit, we expect good things just to drop into our laps. But that’s not the way it works! Like anything else of great worth, knowing God requires diligence and sustained effort. Is it worth it? Yes, the reward of seeking God far exceeds the cost. But there is a cost.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 says,

Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

You see, “knowing” God isn’t something that just happens. It requires that we “train ourselves” or as other translations put it, “discipline ourselves.”

The Christian life is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s not just some kind of self-improvement motivational program. Nor is it a set of rules and regulations. The essence of the Christian life is truly knowing God and having a vital, living and intimate relationship with Him; experiencing His presence and activity in our daily lives.

The good new is that God is not hiding from us! He wants nothing more than for us to know Him. He promises good things, and rewards, to those who seek Him. But a true relationship with God is not going to be had by anyone with only a casual, passing interest. The half-hearted may as well not waste their time. The merely curious can and will eventually find something else to tickle their fancy and temporarily fulfill their curiosity. I say all of this because God is only found by those who seek Him earnestly, who seek Him with “all their heart.” God is known by those willing to persevere, those willing to keep asking, and keep knocking, and keep seeking.

Hebrews 11:6 says,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Lamentations 3:25 says,

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

Jeremiah 29:13 says,

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Imagine that you’re an actor preparing for a role, and you want to know what makes your character tick… you want to understand how they think, what they feel, how they view the world. What would you do? Heath Ledger was cast as the villainous Joker in The Dark Knight. Up until Ledger was cast in the movie he was notorious for playing more light-hearted roles. Playing the Joker required a bit more preparation, which Ledger took to an interesting level. It is said that he locked himself in a hotel room, isolating himself from everyone, and took prescription drugs in order to get into a Joker-like state of mind. Ledger slept an average of two hours a night while playing “a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” He put himself in that very state of mind to play the role. Ledger was reported as saying, “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.”

Actors have discovered that in order to really understand and get inside the head of their characters, the best kind of research is to actually live that life. Go through a day as them. Experience for themselves what it’s like. See what they see, hear what they hear, and hopefully feel what they feel.

In the same way, in order to really know someone, you have to enter their world and walk a mile in their shoes. If we as Christians want to know Christ, we have to do what He did. We have to imitate Him. Our topic today is “Seeking God through the Spiritual Exercise of Service.” I believe that we are never more like Christ than when we are serving others.

Matthew 20:25-28 says,

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Why did Jesus come? For two reasons. Everything He did can be summarized under these two headings. First, he came to die… to give his life in exchange for ours, to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could be forgiven. The crucifixion wasn’t something bad that just happened to him; it was in his plan from the very beginning. The other thing Jesus came to do was serve. He served people by healing them, He served people by teaching them, He served people by walking with them, attending to their needs (spiritually, physically, emotionally). Jesus even displayed service by washing his disciples feet!

John 13:3-5 says,

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It continues in John 13:12-16 where it says,

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

You see, as many of you already know, at these times foot washing was a menial task, usually done by a household servant, upon a master or guest entering a household. Because of the footwear and road conditions of the time foot washing was necessary but dirty and unappreciated work.

That’s exactly the kind of service Jesus calls us to!

If you are not serving, you are not living like Christ. And to know Him, you have to be like Him. You have to follow His example. Christ came to serve, and unless we think we are greater than Him, we should be serving one another also.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Galatians 5:13 says,

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

The service that one should perform for another in Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest (lowest) service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too seriously.

True Christian service is humble service. It delights in being a blessing to others, and is not concerned with receiving praise, or recognition, or thanks. It’s only goal is the welfare of the one being served.

Finally, let me give you some quick practical principles for exercising your faith and relationship with God through service.


Plan to be Available

It is helpful for us to get in the habit of serving by planning to serve. But… we must also be available to serve on the spur of the moment. Our exercising of service needs to include both scheduled service and impromptu service. For instance, you could offer to help out one of the mothers in the church by babysitting once a week so that she can spend an hour or two without the kids. OR… you could serve in a planned and organized ministry of the church. That’s planned service. But you can also be available when a family needs help on short notice. Are you the kind of person that people call when they have a need? Do you have a history of service that would cause them to think of you?

Often, a need arises, or an opportunity to serve presents itself, but we can’t respond because we’re too busy. Part of being available to help others is simplifying your life so that you have free time to serve when you’re needed. I understand… this is hard! Life is busy! But, we must evaluate our priorities. Are we too busy for people?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps — reading the Bible. . . . . it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.


Look for Opportunities

Take initiative! Don’t wait to be asked!

Jesus responded to requests for help, but he also took the initiative to serve when he saw a need. A true servant always has their “radar” up. They stay alert for anything someone might say or do that indicates an opportunity to serve. Let’s be honest, sometimes our lack of service isn’t because people don’t want to ask… it’s because they don’t know to ask! Have you waited so long to be asked that people have no idea that you are even willing to step up to a task and possibly get your hands dirty?


Be Flexible

Don’t pigeonhole yourself and your service by having specific ideas of what your “serving” should look like.

In fact, don’t be too particular about how you serve. God has uniquely gifted each of us, but we shouldn’t be so concerned about only serving within our “specialty” that we pass up anything that doesn’t fit. I am absolutely certain that Jesus wasn’t an extraordinary “foot washer.” He saw a need and rose to fulfill that need.

We must be willing to serve in the small things as well as in the large. Don’t wait for a big project to come along, but seek out opportunities for everyday acts of generosity and helpfulness.

If there’s a genuine need, and you can meet it, don’t be too concerned with whether it’s one of your “gifts.” Just do it.


The key to a deep knowledge of Christ, and a deep experience of God, is to do the things that Christ did. The more we follow the example of Christ, by serving one another in humility and love, the more we will be like Him. The more we are like Him, the better we will know Him. And that is worth any price, any service, any sacrifice, and any suffering.

 

Why Music Speaks.

When Christians get together to worship there’s almost always music. In fact, the very term “worship” often takes a person’s thoughts directly to the musical portion of a church service, or is considered a “genre” of music. There are choruses, psalms, interludes, free-worship, songs, hymns, and spiritual songs that seem to speak right into our heart and soul, and meet us right where we are in any given situation.

Ephesians 5:19-20 even says that we are to sing together! Those verses say,

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

In fact, musical worship is so ubiquitous and feels so “natural” that we need to keep reminding ourselves that worship is more than the congregational singing we do in a church service. So, what is it about our music that makes it so right for worship?

I believe that music, like language, is one of the few universal human cultural activities. It transcends religion, economics, social or economical class, and ethnicity like few other activities can. Think about it… there are very few universal activities! Some sports get close… but in reality they fall far short. Music is found in the most primitive isolated jungle tribes and the most advanced, wealthiest and congested cities. It’s woven into the everyday fabric of life of every human culture throughout history.

Try walking into a shop without hearing some sort of tune playing softly in the background… it is impossible!

Music is popular, but also powerful. Our most important personal, or communal events nearly always employ the power of music. Every wedding, funeral, celebration, or party uses music to evoke certain feelings or actions. Music has and is used in entertainment, sports, war… and in worship.

When I think about it the only thought that comes to my mind is “Why?”

Let’s think about the universality of music, and why music speaks to humans together!


  • Music is Emotional

Martin Luther once said,

Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate… what more effective means than music could you find?

It’s true that nothing affects us quite like music does. Music is powerful, and obviously when God created music, He knew its power, He called it good, and He instructed us to use it to worship Him. 

First and foremost, music is powerful because it is emotional. This doesn’t mean that music is about emotions, but that it expresses and engages the emotional life. Psychology and neuroscience would agree, with studies showing both creating and listening to music engage the emotional centers of the brain. And it is not that music evokes the emotions it expresses (after all, why would we like sad songs if all they did was make us sad) but that it evokes a heightened emotional state. And as emotional creatures, we like that.

God created us as emotional beings.

In Mark 12:29-30 Jesus says,

The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

After reading the passage out of Mark I would say that part of loving God with our whole heart must include our emotions. Think about it… emotions are the outlet for displaying what the heart feels! We are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” This is a command to worship God with every human faculty we have, including both our intellect and our emotions! To worship God with our intellect only or our emotions only is to love God with less than all of our faculties. Our intellect and our emotions need to be equally engaged in worship. 

Colossians 1:16 says,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Music is a gift from God that simultaneously engages our intellect and our emotions. Rich lyrics need to be coupled with rich music. When this happens, our worship songs engage all of us and we sense the delight it is to worship God in song. Next time you’re in a worship service, love the Lord your God by singing with as much thought and passion as you can!

  • Music is Physical

In her book, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott wrote,

Music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We’re walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn’t get to any other way.

The rhythm of music resonates with the body in spontaneous foot-tapping, finger drumming, clapping and dancing. This reveals a subtle but important link. Music is an auditory experience that the mind seeks to echo and express physically. And it’s not just the rhythm. How many times have you found yourself absolutely shredding a guitar solo on your air guitar or beating your steering wheel to death like a mistreated snare drum? If you are like me then don’t worry about answering!

Music evokes a physical response!

Music can motivate you and make it easier to start moving, walking, dancing, or any other type of exercise that you enjoy. Why do you think everyone jams their favorite songs while at the gym slinging heavy weights around? Music can make exercise feel more like recreation and less like work! Furthermore, music enhances athletic performance.

Musical rhythm has the remarkable ability to move our bodies. Because we are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” I believe the physical way that music speaks to and moves us is important to note!

Think about the physical responses that worship evokes… hand raising, clapping, jumping, dancing, etc… We even can look in Scripture and find David dancing in worship before the Lord. Music speaks on many levels!

  • Music is Social

Ever wonder why singing is the dominant art form or artistic expression in churches? I believe the answer to that question is simple… singing is social and is the easiest way to unify a large group of people.

People sing together in all kinds of places including church. We sing together in different scenarios and for different purposes… but it always unites a group of people for a sole purpose or with the same words. Singing together binds us together. When we sing corporately it provides a way for numerous people from all races, backgrounds, social and economic classes, and ages to express the same thoughts and passions together.

Music is social!

As powerful and as meaningful as all the other aspects of music are to us individually, they are magnified when shared and experienced with others. Shared melodies, lyrics and rhythms have the power to unify a crowd around a deeply felt cultural moment. Think of the national anthem or football songs that fill a stadium. And when that happens, each one of us brings all of our individual experiences of music, merging them together into a captivating corporate experience.

What is more encouraging than standing amongst your peers, your brothers and sisters in Christ, when you are at your highest high or lowest low and hearing them sing praises to God? James 5:13 says,

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

Not everyone is in the same spiritual, or emotional place on Sunday mornings when we gather… but yet we still do. It is encouraging to sing, and it is encouraging to hear other’s sing to our God. When Paul and Silas were in prison what did they do? They prayed and sang… that should say something.

Acts 16:25,

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

At a loss for words? Have nothing in common with the person in the pew or seat next to you other than salvation? Good. Sing together.

  • Music is Healing

It’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t feel a strong connection to music. Even if you can’t carry a tune or play an instrument, you can probably reel off a list of songs that evoke happy memories and raise your spirits. Surgeons have long played their favorite music to relieve stress in the operating room, and extending music to patients has been linked to improved surgical outcomes. In the past few decades, music therapy has played an increasing role in all facets of healing.

Harvard studies have shown music has healing effects in: easing anxiety and discomfort during procedures, restoring lost speech, restoring memory, reducing side effects of cancer therapy, helping with physical therapy and rehabilitation, aiding in pain relief, and improving quality of life for people with dementia. But those are just the physical healing properties of music. Often in worship we deal with spiritual and emotional healing.

Just yesterday I was speaking to a woman from church about our services on Sunday. She started to explain to me how on Sunday we were singing about the love of God in a semi-spontaneous way, just bouncing around different sections of a song, and how the enemy began to work on her and disrupt her worship with annoyance to the repetition of certain parts and lines. Then suddenly the last time through she had a breakthrough and discovered a whole new meaning or relation to the words we were singing. She was “overwhelmed” with the healing love of Christ that we were singing about.

Music heals. It bandages deep wounds and scars that we have hidden from others. It can uncover and relieve us of baggage from our past. The weight and power of words expressed in song seem to be much heavier and pack a bigger punch than those just spoken.

Allow music to speak to you. Allow it to bring you to the One who can heal you.

  • Musical is Intellectual

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to recall the words of songs you haven’t heard for a numerous amount of years? Some would refer to this as the “Mozart Effect.”

In earlier years it was thought that listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, enhanced performance on cognitive tests. However, there are findings that show that listening to any personally enjoyable music has positive effects on cognition. Basically meaning that music improves memory performance! That’s great news for people like me!

The idea that music makes you smarter received considerable attention from scientists and the media. Listening to music or playing an instrument can actually make you learn better. And research confirms this. Studies show that music has the power to enhance some kinds of higher brain function such as, reading and literacy skills, spatial-temporal reasoning, and mathematical abilities.

The power of music to affect memory is quite interesting to me. Mozart and other music from the Baroque period, with a 60 beats per minute beat pattern, activates the left and right parts of the brain. The simultaneous left and right brain action maximizes learning and retention of information. The information being studied activates the left brain, while the music activates the right brain. Also, activities that engage both sides of the brain at the same time, such as playing an instrument or singing, cause the brain to be more capable of processing information.

Listening to music facilitates the recall of information. Researchers have shown that certain types of music are a great “keys” for recalling memories. Information learned while listening to a particular song can often be recalled simply by “playing” the songs mentally.

We remember songs much better than words alone. In Deuteronomy 31:19-22 we see a particular passage in which God uses music to help his people remember his words. In this passage we see Moses commissioned by the Lord to write a song for the people of Israel so that they can easily remember God’s words.

“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel.

It is crazy that even in the Word we can see the fact that music has incredible memorization power for humans acknowledged. Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly…singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Therefore, we can see that songs whose lyrics expound on the person, work, and glory of Christ tend to stay with us long after we’ve forgotten the main points of a sermon.

Music speaks because it communicates to our brains in a more holistic way than other sources!


All of this all gives us a clue to the connection between music and worship. As believers, we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And music uniquely has the power to engage the entirety of who I am in that moment of expressing my devotion to God. When I sing in worship I am engaged emotionally, physically and intellectually. It’s like “all of me” is caught up in one single act of appreciation and love.

It’s music that makes this happen.

In song I am holistically engaged, the words I sing are expressions of all that is in my heart to say, but for which mere spoken words seem insufficient.

But music is even more than all of that! In song it’s not just me who is having the experience. The person next to me is too! And our experiences are in unison! The same words, the same rhythm, the same melody, the same emotions, the same truth, the same everything. We are here together, in one voice, around one cause, focusing all of who we are in a holistic outpouring of affection and devotion to the Faher.

Times of corporate worship are one of those moments when “we” can truly become “one.”

And it’s music that makes that happen. Music speaks.