Welcome to the final day of Withhold to Behold 2023. I’m proud of you and I honor your hunger for the Presence of God. I pray you recognized God and His voice in a fresh way that stirred you to draw closer to Him.
We are looking forward to celebrating who God is and what He has done over the fast at our Encounter gathering tonight (1/29) at 5p. It will be an extended time of corporate worship, prayer, and community as we break the fast together.
Unity is one of our desires as we partake in Withhold to Behold each year. We long to see the Church of the Tri-Cities unified across denominations, races, socio-economics, and any other man-made barriers. We desire to see one another as God does. We see separation yet God offers connection. We see division yet God has made us one through Christ (Ephesians 2:14).
May we be reminded that we are deeply connected to all humanity. Paul describes the Church as one body with many members. Each person is deeply connected. What happens to one, affects the whole. Read 1 Corinthians 12:26:
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
We are connected with all of humanity as creations of God that bear His image. Just as a man cares for not only his hands but also his face and every other part of his body, may we value and care for others as we do for ourselves. In doing so, we will live out the two commandments Jesus gave us that satisfy all others – love God (often by loving others) and love your neighbor as yourself. The Enemy came to separate yet God sent Jesus to restore unity with God and throughout the entirety of His creation.
Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 & Ephesians 2:11-22
- Take a moment to thank God for the union He has given us through Jesus. In Christ, there is no longer any separation other than the lies we believe. Remind your soul that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection cover all of your failures, your sins (ways we separate from God’s truth), and/or any other accusation or deception that would lead us to believe otherwise.
- Pray over the Church of the Tri-Cities. Pray by name over a church other than your home church. Confess to God your desire to see unity in the family of God as it is in heaven.
A good coach prefers for his or her team to experience a challenging opponent or a difficult game prior to entering a playoff or tournament. This “test” is an incredible teacher. It reveals the weaknesses and strengths that the team possesses. It helps the coach plan a course of action to move the team forward toward being their best.
Difficult people come in all forms and fashions. Co-workers, friends, online, in-person, family, and if we are honest, we are sometimes the worst offenders! Our human reaction is typically to return fire for fire or to remove ourselves from the situation as quickly as possible. The person in these situations is generally viewed as a problem to get through or over.
What if our perspective shifted? What if we took a moment to consider why we got so angry, defensive, or bitter? What if, like a good coach, we leveraged difficult interactions as a way of revealing areas that need to be matured? What if challenging individuals actually teach us how to express the fruit of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, and so on?
The next time you find yourself reacting instead of responding, don’t slip into condemnation or frustration. Allow your interaction to be a teacher that can then guide you into a conversation of confession and mind change with God. Think of challenging and difficult human interactions as a refinement that is preparing you to be all God designed you to be.
Scripture Reading – Matthew 5:43-47
Think of a challenging person or interaction you’ve recently experienced where you found yourself reacting without Godly character. First, ask God to forgive you, and then take a moment to forgive yourself. Now take some time with God to understand why you reacted the way you did. What was the underlying fear or lie you were believing at that moment? Ask God what He wants you to know about the situation and what truth He wants you to know now.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to love others when you are alone? Isn’t it relatively effortless to love people who agree with you? Unfortunately, or fortunately, not everyone agrees with me and I rarely experience an extended time of being alone. That means that I’m often in situations where I can practice what I preach. I like how 1 John 4:20 reads:
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
The life and faith that Jesus invites us into are not merely a philosophy or knowledge to embrace. Jesus is the incarnation of God, meaning He embodied the fullness of God on earth as in heaven. He said the greatest command is to love God and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus completely fulfilled these two commandments and in doing so, fulfilled every commandment of God. We are invited to incarnate the love of God that we generously received from Jesus. Practically, that looks like loving people.
As we consider others this week, may we see each person, regardless of how challenging or agreeable they may be, as an opportunity for us to incarnate the love of God. In doing so we will grow in the likeness and image of Jesus and we will give space for the kingdom of God to be expressed through us as it is in heaven.
Scripture Reading – 1 John 4:16-21
- Ask God for a fresh revelation of His love. Take a deep breath and rest as He fills your mind with His truth.
- Imagine with God what it would look like for you to incarnate His love as you go about your day. Let Him give you fresh ideas to demonstrate the love you first received from God.