A Season for Humble Gratitude

It’s baaaack! The age-old yuletide season is about to slip in the door once again. Better not shout, better not pout, for the malls will be playing “Jingle Bells” several thousand times between now and December 25.

Christmas
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If you’re not careful, the crowds and commercialism will weigh you down like that fourth helping of stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner.

And there’s nothing worse than a jaded attitude that resists the true spirit of the season.

Although this has been a challenging year in numerous ways, we have a practical reason to look back over it with gratitude for God’s protection and grace.

This reflection sets in motion the ideal mental attitude to carry us through the weeks ahead.

Looking at the Big Picture . . . and Finding Hope

Before you preach again on the birth of Jesus, it might be best for you to lay it aside and start from scratch. The Christmas story has been so sanitized and romanticized over the centuries that even Hollywood—as jaded a culture as can be found anywhere—fails to capture the gritty pathos that surrounded Jesus’s arrival.

Nativity
Image from Pixabay

Truth be told, even some churches annually idealize the birth of our Savior. Yet it was anything but ideal.

Without question, 6 BC was a lousy time to live in Judea. Herod the Great had seized the throne of Israel through bloody intrigue and with political support from Rome.

The Integrity Assault

Our jobs as pastors are not without work-site hazards. We don’t wear hard hats, of course, but maybe we should!The hazards I’m speaking of are those within our hearts.

Pastor
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One of the greatest of these is what I call “the integrity assault.”

I believe our integrity is assaulted when we yield to the temptation to allow our position—and the privileges that come with it—to lower our standard and to weaken our witness.

Three Promises Regarding Our Faithfulness

In several places through the New Testament, there are statements of promise from God to faithful servants. I’m thinking of three in particular: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

More Promises
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Note: “your toil is not in vain.”

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:9–10)

Note: “we will reap.”

God’s Promises for His Servants from Revelation

Among the best-loved promises Christians have as their ultimate hope, two are found in the book of Revelation. Here’s the first set of promises:

Promises from God
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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4)

The second set of promises is equally inspiring:

Postponed But Not Forgotten

Based on 1 Corinthians 3:10–14, I see three facts about our eternal rewards for serving God. Let’s review the first two facts I mentioned last week, and then I’ll complete the list with the third.

Man Reading Bible
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First, most rewards are received in heaven, not on earth.

Second, all rewards are based on quality, not quantity.

Here’s the third: no reward that is postponed will be forgotten. Make no mistake about it, the Bible clearly teaches that each of us “will receive a reward” (1 Corinthians 3:14).

Biblical Facts about Rewards

Scripture not only supports the idea of eternal rewards, it spells out the specifics. In 1 Corinthians 3:10–14, we find three primary facts about rewards. We’ll look at the first two today and complete the list next week.

Bible
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Before I mention the facts, let’s review the verses:

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:10–14)

First, most rewards are received in heaven, not on earth. Please don’t misunderstand. There are earthly rewards. Even the world provides certain people with special honors:

The Dark Side of Serving Others

We pastors have received a priceless treasure (the glorious gospel) in a very frail and perishable container (our weak bodies). There is a reason.

Man
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So nobody will have any question about the source of power, which must be of God and not of any human origin.

Read the words of the apostle Paul—an honest, humble, transparent servant of God:

A Season for Humble Gratitude

Sometimes it can be a challenge to give God daily praise, even when we possess the knowledge of His love and faithfulness. If you find yourself in this situation, the Psalms are often a great source to get you back on track.

Reading Bible
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Psalm 116 is an extraordinary expression of love—addressed to God. “How do I love Thee, God?”

It reminds me of Browning’s poem: “Let me count the ways.” In counting the ways, the psalmist sets forth several magnificent truths about God’s goodness and deliverance.

Paul Was Normal, Like Us

Funny, we seldom think that a great apostle like Paul ever suffered from insomnia, but he did. He couldn’t sleep sometimes because of acute deprivations, like hunger, cold, and exposure . . . and sometimes because of his concern for the many ministries to which he had given himself.

Just like us
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“Daily pressure,” he calls it. Read his own words:

I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:27–28)

Now that’s being under pressure. Sounds like the pastorate, huh?