“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
The hit TV reality show “American Idol” was in its prime during my high school years. Remember those days? I avidly watched this singing competition and my favorite judge was Simon Cowell. I felt sophisticated whenever my thoughts aligned with his, as if I were somehow superior to those on the stage.
In reality, I was just a girl sitting on the couch.
A Critic of More than just a TV Show
If I’m honest with myself, I can see that my critical nature goes beyond my thoughts toward televised talent competitions. I’ve been critical of others and of myself countless times. This critical spirit has kept me from taking leaps of faith, pursing dreams, and even serving others. Meanwhile, others are putting themselves out there, growing, and accomplishing. I greatly regret remarks I’ve said and thoughts I’ve had throughout my life.
As Teddy Roosevelt so eloquently put it, “It is not the critic who counts…”
When I think about the days Jesus spent on earth walking alongside man, he had plenty of opportunities to be critical. He could have presented himself pompously and rebuked all who came to him. Jesus was perfect; He was God’s son, and our ways were with such error. He didn’t hold his head high though, did he? Instead, he offered grace upon grace. He saw the ones who were downtrodden and raised them up. Yes, at times he did correct, but he did it out of love, while giving opportunity for repentance and change. As he traveled from place to place serving others, Jesus was willing to dirty his feet. Christ desired his church to be devoted to love and service, not criticism.
A Time for Criticism and a Time for Grace
There will be times for correction. Sometimes we will need to evaluate and address what’s stagnant. Other times will be times to call for change. How is our attitude toward each other through all of this?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
So now we must ask ourselves, “How are we clothed?” Are our words dressed with complaints? Do our ideals hold back our noble actions, as we wait for perfection? Do we put others down, only seeing their rough spots?
I want to be dressed in the virtues of Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. These verses remind me to roll up my sleeves and get to work, whether under perfect or imperfect circumstances. As the old song goes, “I want to be a worker for the Lord.”
Kingdom Worker, Not Kingdom Critic
I’m thankful for the gracious words in 1 Peter 4:8: Love covers a multitude of sins. Because this love covers even my own sins, I can put down the self-criticism that often holds me back. None of us will be perfect. But if we dwell on our mistakes, we will never move forward. Kingdom work cannot be done by only a few. God calls all of us to labor. We need each other.
God calls us to be workers, not critics.
I’m so thankful for grace. It’s such a wonderful replacement for criticism. Don’t you agree?
God’s word is powerful.
It has the power to stir our hearts and change our lives.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11 (emphasis mine)
Yes, God has purpose for His words, and His purpose will indeed be met.
I think it no coincidence for the words that follow this declaration….
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown…” Isaiah 55:12-13
Might that be part of His purpose? Yes, my friends, I think so. In the year 2016, we know even more of God’s word than the people of Isaiah’s time–we’ve seen the Christ! We know the rest of the story. As Christians, we know that God’s word should lead us to joy, peace, and worship. We do not always receive it that way though. Jesus knew this and he gave us a great lesson in Matthew 13 to help us understand the role we play in receiving God’s word.
Hearts of Good Soil Plus Other Types
A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, the seed fell among several different situations:
- Seed fell on the path, and was eaten up by birds.
- Seed fell on rocky places without much soil. These seeds sprouted but had no room to take root with such shallow soil, and s0 were scorched and withered by the sun.
- Seed fell among thorns, which choked the plants as they grew.
- Seed fell on good soil, and produced a crop even greater than what was sown.
Jesus ended this with the moral of the story being, “He who has ears, let him hear.”
Of course, the disciples wanted more explanation. (I’m glad they did because I appreciate the further details Jesus gave them in response!)
- Seed on the path — When anyone hears God’s word but does not understand it. The evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart.
- Seed on the rocky places — The man who hears the word and at first receives it in joy but doesn’t have any root. Then when persecution and hard times come, he quickly falls away.
- Seed among the thorns — The man who hears God’s word, but the worries of his life and deceitfulness of wealth choke him and he is unfruitful.
- Seed on good soil — The man who hears AND understands God’s word. He is fruitful and produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.
A Mixture of Soils
As a I look at these different spots for the seed to go, I know there have been times in my life where I’ve been in all of those places. Times when my lack of understanding drew me further away from truth, or caused my devotion to give way when temptation came upon me. There have also been times when I didn’t understand the greater picture of God’s word, and the troubles of life spoke louder than the peaceful and joyful truth. All of that comes from not truly understanding God’s word.
I can not help but think of Isaiah 52:12-13 (above) as I reflect on the seed sown on good soil. When we open our mind and heart to hearing and understanding God’s word we will be full of purpose, joy, and peace. Our lives will be productive in glorifying God, unlike the seed on the rocky places or the seed among the thorns.
The farmer sowed seed for a purpose: to produce a plentiful crop. Only the good soil was able to fulfill that purpose. In the same way, God has an intended purpose for us, but unless our hearts are like the good soil we won’t be able to fulfill it.
What type of soil are you in right now?
Are you prepared to hear and understand all God’s word has to offer you?
Hearing and understanding God’s Word will help us find joy and peace, and when our heart is in the right place, it will also compel us to be fruitful believers.
His Word gives us purpose.
Oh, how I long to be good soil. I want my life to echo Paul’s cry in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “His grace to me was not without effect.” I want to not just hear God’s word but understand it and live it out.
You are so wonderful to us. Thank you for giving us your Word! Help us to have hearts of good soil–to truly hear and understand your Word so that we might fulfill your purpose for us. Help us to find joy and peace in your Word, and may that stir us to worship and to live fruitful lives for your glory!
It’s in the name of Jesus Christ we pray,
Do you ever find yourself speaking before you think? I’m quite guilty of this habit, and it’s gotten me into trouble many times.
“I tell you that on that day of judgement people will have to account for every careless word they speak.”
Our words matter.
Just before this verse we read: “For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matthew 12:34b).
Our words are meant to be a reflection of our hearts. How often are we careful to make sure that our words reflect who we are in Christ Jesus? Jesus offers us much wisdom in this message as he lets us in on the secret to speaking what is good. He tells us that a good person produces good from his storeroom of good while an evil person produces evil from his storeroom of evil (verse 35).
What’s in your storeroom?
If I’m honest, my storeroom can easily be filled with Netflix binges and social media. I’ve noticed that when I’m engrossed in these things I’m usually moody and not as pleasant for my family. I become distracted from my priorities and ineffective for kingdom work. The truth is, though, that God lives in me! Am I allowing my life to show Him to others?
When I fill my mind with scripture, prayer, and uplifting Christian music and books, I feel so much better. When God’s goodness saturates my heart, it spills over into my life. In difficult situations, I have better reactions. I am much more secure in who I am as a child of the Living God. I’m able to see the the people around me and more ready to serve.
If we fill our hearts with God’s goodness, it will spill over into our words and deeds. It’s important to remember that our actions do not hold. saving power. Only the grace of God saves us. How shall we respond to God’s grace? Through our words and deeds, we will show the light of Christ to others.
Our words matter.
I want to pay better attention to the things I say, making sure that my words are not careless but full of grace and love. I want to make sure they reflect who dwells in me! This means that I need to make sure I’m staying in touch with God. This passage in Matthew has encouraged me to spend time more wisely, to take in less of the bad and more of God’s goodness.
So I ask you again, “What’s in your storeroom?” Is it full of the junk of this world, or the richness God has to offer? Do your words reflect the one who dwells in you?
Prayer over our Hearts
You are the maker of our earth and the giver of all that is good. Oh, that we might know you! May we fill our minds and our hearts with your goodness. May we embrace your spirit in us and be fruitful. Help us to shine the light of Christ near and far so that your kingdom might grow for your glory.
In the name of Jesus, Amen
The Easter Story is one of the grandest stories ever told.
Jesus hung on a cross to die an agonizing death which he did not deserve. Three days after his burial the ground shook and his grave was left empty. Jesus Christ had risen from the dead! He came to his disciples over the course of forty days to speak about the kingdom of God, and he lavished them with grace and promises to give them hope for the future. I love the glimpse Paul gives us in John 21:25:
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
It’s like a really good series that you never want to end. Maybe if the internet had been around in those days Paul would have found some people to start writing about those “many other things” Jesus did during that time. Surely with the internet, we’d have room!!
Eventually the disciples ran out of time with Jesus on earth, and they watched their friend, teacher, and Lord rise into the clouds.
They clung to hope that Christ would return (as he promised he would) and they devoted the rest of their lives to building His church.
It is a story of hope.
Hope is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a very hard thing. The people who were closest to Jesus had just experienced a whirlwind of emotions. They mourned his death, rejoiced in his rising, and then had to bid him farewell again. It could not have been easy to leave company yet again with this man they loved so much. But they had hope. Hope in his return. This hope filled them with joy. Joy that glorified God and gave birth to generations upon generations of believers.
Each year I pick a word to focus on. Last year, I had a difficult time choosing a word because I kept hearing God whisper “hope” but I didn’t want that word! I didn’t want to find myself in a situation needing hope. (Which is silly because we all need hope!) Reluctantly, I gave in and declared “hope” to be my word for 2016. Lo and behold, a couple of days later I found myself in a situation requiring hope. God is ever so merciful! He has showed me so much about hope in just a short few weeks.
So what does that mean and how does that relate to the resurrection story?
When troubling times come our way we can place our hope in many things. Mostly, I think it’s natural to put our hopes in our desired outcomes. We pray for these things in the hopes that God will give them to us. There is nothing wrong with those prayers either! Philippians 4:6 declares,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
But is your hope in your desired outcome or in God?
Two lines from two favorite worship songs come to mind:
My hope is in you Lord, all the day long.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
What does it really mean to have our hope solely in Jesus?
When the disciples faced hardships while spreading the gospel, I’m sure they desired relief but their hope remained in Christ and his second coming. They knew there was a bigger picture than what they were going through.
As I face my current struggle, I’ve been able to stay pretty peaceful (not that I’m always glad about my circumstance, because I’m not) but I know that there is a bigger picture than what me and my family are going through.
This picture is the life of Christ! The Easter story!!
God won when sin wanted to overcome and God invited ME to claim his victory. My hope in that promise is what gets me through my trials. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small problem or something completely life changing, I know that I take part in God’s victory and that ultimately I will see Christ one day.
No matter what struggles I come upon in this life, I’ve already overcome the bigger and more important picture!! Are you with me? Do you understand this truth tucked inside the writings of the gospel?
He said to them, “Go unto all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Let me tell you, I believe!!! I believe that Jesus is who he says he is. With that confession I was baptized, and I claim my salvation that he offered to me. I claim God’s victory over sin and death.
The Easter story is about hope.
Hope in his promise that we can overcome through Him. Hope that when we claim God’s victory over sin as our own, no trial on this earth can defeat us.
Wherever you are in your life this Easter, may you take hope in this glorious promise.
Do you ever look in the mirror some days and feel so unhappy with the person looking back at you? I’m not talking about physical appearance, but the inward flaws that plague us. Perhaps it’s a shameful past, or a shameful present. Maybe it’s just an overwhelming sense that you’re not good enough for anyone, that you’ll never measure up, you’ll never make “that” person happy. Oh, sister, if you do, you are not alone.
Just recently I caught myself in one of those moments, and I snapped this picture as thoughts were whirling through my mind. I looked fine on the outside, but inside my insecurities were haunting me so heavily that I almost felt seventeen again. My jumbled thoughts plagued me. I just wanted to be free from insecurity! I’d forgotten that God already had set me free.
After what I believe to be a divine series of events and conversations, I have come to terms again with my worth. I came out of this mood more quickly and strongly than the last time. I wanted to share the scriptures that help me, because maybe there is someone who needs to hear this too.
Are you listening?
You have received mercy. You are enough. You have a purpose.
I find the entire book of 1 Peter to be empowering, but my favorite portion lies in chapter 2.
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (2:2-3)
To rid ourselves of every kind of wrongness and crave only the best way of living seems like lofty thinking to me sometimes. Who can ever achieve that? Shouldn’t we just accept ourselves for who we are and enjoy life? No. God has called us to high standards and to pursue goodness. This goal can be overwhelming. We can find ourselves insecure about our inabilities to measure up, so I love what’s said next:
“As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him–you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (2:4-5)
Hold on, friends. Let’s stop right there, because there is so much to take away in this verse alone!
–You have been rejected by humans–
Can you relate? While I believe this to be specifically referring to the rejection we receive as Christians, I think this phrase resonates with the hearts of many. We all face rejection, but that rejection doesn’t have to define us. As we read on, we see why.
–but chosen by God and precious to him-
Did you catch that part? God, the Living Stone, has chosen us, and we are precious to him! How often do we forget the impact of this truth? We matter.
–you also, like living stones, are being built-
We’re a work in progress, friends. It’s okay if we don’t have it all together or that we haven’t reached our ideals. We are being built, we’re incomplete. We won’t be complete until we meet Jesus face to face. What are we being built into though? This next part is where we find our purpose.
–into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ-
Our purpose is to live for God, through Christ. We are to set aside the ways of the world and the ways of our self and take on the ways of Christ. Our purpose is for his glory, not ours. Insecurity steeps from selfishness and pride. I’m fully convinced that if I choose to look outside of myself, look to Christ and his ways, see the people around me and think of them first, then I can step out of the waters of insecurity.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (2:9-10)
One again, we see that we matter to God and that He gives us purpose. What I love most about this passage is the last part about mercy. You see, we can’t do it on our own. We need mercy because we are human and we sin. God lavished it upon us through Jesus. So even though we will mess up, God’s mercy covers us. We don’t have to drown in the lies that tell us we are not enough, because we are enough.
We press on toward our high ideals, toward craving what is good, toward righteous living. When we mess up, we rest in the promise that the blood of Jesus Christ covers us. His mercies are new each morning. Yesterday’s sins don’t have to plague us. We can move on. We can take hold of who we are in Christ and his purpose for us.
Message for Believers
This is a message for believers in Jesus Christ, for those who have taken him on as their Savior, but it’s not an exclusive club. All are welcome to this table. All can taste the sweet mercy and grace of our Lord.
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Take hold of who you are in Christ and let him set you free from insecurity!