Philippians 2:4 NKJV
When we give to others, we can sometimes be tempted to do it because we want to get something back. Perhaps we’re in need of some encouragement, so we compliment others hoping they will give us a compliment back. Perhaps we want someone to do something nice for us, so we go out of our way to do something nice for them first. Any kind of relationship with another person should be two-way. We should give, and they should give. But we need to be checking our motives. As we become more like Jesus, we’ll realise that we need to be selfless in our giving. We need to be serving others because it’s what Jesus would do, not because we want something back. Jesus said: ‘Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great’ (Luke 6:35 NIV). He sees everything we do for others, and He sees the attitude we do it with. The Bible says, ‘Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.’ Being selfless doesn’t mean we never speak up about our needs, or take time for ourselves. It means we make sure we’re thinking of the other person, and their needs. It means we do what we can to meet their needs and support them, without expecting them to do it in return. However, we need to avoid being taken for granted. It’s clear when people are using us, or when they don’t care for our wellbeing. If the other person isn’t recognising our needs, we might need to pray about whether we should remain as close to them. God can give us wisdom in all our relationships.
Exo 30-32; Matt 8:18-27; Ps 89:1-14; Prov 2:20
Psalm 119:30 NLT
We don’t always like obeying rules that others have set. When it comes to obeying God, do we ever feel the same way? Obeying God means we have to surrender our own will, and follow His instead. It comes down to our attitude. Do we put ourselves first, or God first? Our obedience is a way we can express our love for Him. The Bible says: ‘Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome’ (1 John 5:3 NLT). It’s key to remember that His rules are ‘not burdensome.’ He doesn’t set out the way we should live to try to trip us up or crush us under the pressure. It’s out of love. Rules are often put in place for our own good; they help to keep us safe and to get the best out of life. And that’s what God’s commands are there for too. They encourage us to live His way because it’s so much better than our way. We need to become humble, and accept that we don’t know best. Each day we have some decisions to make. Will we live by our own desires, or live according to the instructions God’s given us in the Bible? Will we go according to our own thinking, or submit ourselves to the rule and the leading of the Holy Spirit who lives within us? The psalmist wrote: ‘I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.’ It’s not always easy. Paul said: ‘I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it’ (Romans 7:15 NLT). We can feel like that too. But when our heart’s in the right place, God will forgive us and help us follow Him.
1 Cor 5-8; Matt 4:1-11; Ps 90:7-12; Prov 1:5-7
Luke 17:10 NKJV
If you have a tendency to remind people of all the good things you do and the sacrifices you make, read what Jesus said: “When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say…’We have done what was our duty to do.'” We all deserve recognition for the good we do, and we thrive on appreciation. But lots of times we don’t get it, so we’re left with three choices: (1) We can succumb to self-pity and go around complaining about how the world doesn’t treat us right or give us a fair shake. (2) We can give way to resentment, walk around with a chip on our shoulder, and end up wondering why people don’t want to be around us. (3) We can adopt the attitude Jesus taught and say, “I’m only doing what God expects of me. And knowing He is pleased with me is reward enough.” If you try to run on the fuel of other people’s encouragement and praise, when it doesn’t come you’ll have no joy. And that’s bad because “the joy of the Lord [the joy that comes from knowing you walk under the smile of His approval] is your strength” (Ne 8:10). Living this way will make you a self-starter and a successful finisher. And when that happens, you’ll find favour at home and on the job, and end up with more friends than you know what to do with. Plus your real reward, the one that matters most, is guaranteed when you stand before the Master one day and hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Soul food: 1 Chr 10:1-12:22; John 8:42-59; Ps 49; Prov 25:18-20
Philippians 2:3 NIV
If you’re a “me first” person, here are some verses of Scripture that is designed to keep you on your toes, and your knees! “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but…to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5 NIV). That’s how Jesus treated people, and you have been called to do likewise. Is doing this easy or convenient? No, it runs contrary to everything in our self-centered natures. And because you were gracious yesterday, is no guarantee you’ll treat people the same way today. Grace is like a garment; you have to put it on each morning and wear it all day. “How can I live like that?” you ask. By drawing daily on God’s grace, and deciding to put others first. By looking for ways to support and encourage them. Everybody you meet is fighting a battle of some kind, and you may be the one person that crosses their path who is able to speak a word of encouragement to them (See Proverbs 16:24 NLT). Don’t let them down. Humility is an attitude that determines ahead of time: “I care about the people around me. I don’t always have to be first. I’m going to help somebody else win for a change.” Humility prays, “Lord, teach me to curb my competitive nature and turn that energy into loving and lifting others. Show me how You did it, and help me to do it too.”
Soul food: Est 4:9-5:3; Heb 4:7-16
2 Corinthians 6:8 NLT
We all probably know that Jesus calls us to serve others. But it’s not always easy. We can be faced with situations where we don’t want to serve. Sometimes we’d rather focus on our own needs and our own progress. Other times, we are faced with people who we don’t get on with, who don’t recognise or appreciate what we are doing for them, and will never serve us back. But serving Jesus’ way means saying, ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20 NIV). If we are struggling with serving, we need to check our attitude. Are we putting ourselves or others first? Are we remembering that we are not really serving people, but serving God? In Matthew 25, we are told: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (v.40 NIV). Thinking like this will help us serve willingly and joyfully, even if we are not getting anything in return. It can be easy to fall into the trap of serving in order to be recognised and appreciated by others, but God sees everything we do. Even when others don’t appreciate our efforts, God does. In Hebrews 6 it says: ‘God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them’ (NIV). Serving others requires us to have humility, to put ourselves and our egos below the needs of those we are serving. We can think that our God-given gifts are for advancing ourselves, for being successful and gaining recognition. But the Bible says: ‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others’ (1 Peter 4:10 NIV). Our gifts are actually to advance God’s kingdom, and to serve others.
Num 29:1-6; Matt 24; Rev 11:15-19; 1 Cor 15:50-58