Have you ever had the experience of someone telling you something that is true, and you know it.....but you really don’t want to hear it, or like hearing it at that time? You can even sort of resent the truth or the fact that someone is actually bringing this to your attention? I know I have been there, and I am guessing that many of you have as well.
There’s a back story to all of this that gives context to what I’m saying. I am the Chef de Jour in my house. I’ve have always liked to cook, especially when there are others who truly enjoy the end result and compliment the chef! So what started off as a hobby has now evolved into a full time job (i.e. menu preparation, some grocery shopping etc.). If I don’t plan and cook, then we probably wouldn’t eat (I am not suggesting this for every marriage by the way). On the other hand, my wife who is not wild about cooking, really does like to clean and has no problem cleaning up the mess I make in the kitchen, and does it gladly. One of the lessons in cooking and food preparation that I’ve learned is that there is no substitute for good product. Sometimes, it ends up being a bit more expensive, but the end result is generally a “home run.” All of this has been taken to a new level in the last two months, post-surgery, where part of the wound care healing regimen has to do with diet, eating well and getting proper nutrients that will help with both God’s and the body’s healing process. So, in order to accommodate this I had stocked the outside freezer in my garage with a number of different food “treasures.”
Then, last Friday. I had come home from some doctor’s appointments, and Mona was going to run out and do some errands. She came in and told me that the freezer door had not closed properly, that there had been some kind of obstruction. And now, the Tucson summer heat in an enclosed garage had caused all the food to defrost. The food was not bad, it was still cool, but definitely defrosted. You can’t really re-freeze food that has been thawed. My first reaction to seeing this was a deep, “Oh, no! You’ve got to be kidding!” Unless I was prepared to enter a food-eating contest, all of this food (and the money to buy it) had been lost. As a bit of a “foodie” this was a mini-disaster in my mind. Beautiful Scottish salmon, thawed. Mexican raballo (snook or white fish), thawed. Pork shoulder which makes delicious green chile, thawed. A nice roasting chicken, thawed.
Things were wet and dripping and messy in the freezer, and I knew that I had to immediately respond and do something. So I initiated a “culinary yard sale” on the spot. The food was still good, but it had to be eaten either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I started calling people and neighbors. Freddy Gonzalez was there, so I told him to take what he wanted. My neighbor, Bobby, had just started a diet, so I called his wife to come pick up some nice grouper. Another neighbor, Kelly, her husband likes to cook, so I called her and she came over and took some product. Leonard’s kids came over and they took the pork shoulder, which I heard ended up in some delightful red chile. Then I called Wesley and Hannah, who had recently been married, and asked them, “do you want to eat well over the weekend?” If so, then get over here quick! Since she’s from Cape Cod, I gave them a box of Maryland Crab Cakes and other things. I’d be lying if I told you that all of this was fun for me. There was a part of me still saying, “Oh, no” as I gave over away what was now a depleted freezer. It was in the midst of all of this that my wife, Mona, uttered words I didn’t really want to hear at the time, “We can bless others!” It was true, it resonated in my spirit as true, but my emotions hadn’t yet come into line with my mind or my will, so I wasn’t overly excited hearing it, although I did sort of nod in agreement.
One of the reasons that I love the Bible, that I read, study, meditate and hide it in my heart, is because it is a means of bringing men into an intimate and satisfying knowledge of the true and living God. It is not just a book of religious platitudes, it also provides us with a road map for victorious living, in every situation of life.
One of the truths to all of this is that what we go through, what happens to us, what we receive and become, is not just for our benefit alone, but for the BLESSING OF OTHERS! Listen to God’s promise to Abraham, the “father of the faith” where He said to him, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and YOU SHALL BE A BLESSING.” (Gen.12:2) Christians talk a lot about the “blessing of Abraham” and generally in a financial setting. But the full promise and working of God in Abraham’s life, and in our lives is always to flow out to others. “You shall BE a blessing.” He works in us, so that He can work through us, in order to flow to others. This is what real maturity and Christian living is all about.
As you study the Scriptures you discover that this is a profound reality. Consider with me briefly a number of settings.
Financial prosperity. (2Cor.8:13-15)NLT Of course, I don't mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say, "Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough." The principle of mutual and timely blessing is clearly seen. There are times of plenty where we can be a blessing to others, and there are times of need where we find ourselves on the receiving end of things.
Work. We just had our Labor Day weekend. There is tremendous value in a good’s day work! This is why our current unemployment crisis is so difficult, especially for men. But, the Bible enlarges upon this, and says there’s more than you and I having gainful employment. Paul wrote to the Ephesians where he said, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Eph.4:28) The blessing of honest work is that it enables us to be a blessing to others! I can still remember the joy and deep satisfaction I had when I got my first job after becoming a Christian, and was able to pay my tithes. I was blessed, but first and foremost, I could honor God with my finances and with the fruit of my labor. I was learning that money was “me in spendable form!”
Trials, hardships & difficulties. This really speaks to the times in life where the going gets rough, and the way gets hard. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2Cor.1:3,4) Paul is extolling the faithfulness of God to give us strength and courage in times of adversity. Then he tells us that one of the reasons is “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.” This is not some glib or superficial response, but this is a deep and experiential, “I know what you’re going through.” One of the reasons for the things that we go through, especially the trying seasons of life, is that we have experienced grace that we can extend to others in similar circumstances. The beauty of a healthy church congregation is that there are faithful saints there who have gone through incredibly tough times, and have experienced the “many-colored graces” of God, which becomes instrumental in helping others in their time of need.
A life of ministry. (2Corinthians 1-6) is the richest exposition of a ministering life, of “able ministers” that you will find in all the Bible. Paul touches one of the keystone promises and realities of this kind of living, “All of this is for your benefit. And as God's grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” (2Cor.4:15) Look at the kind of chain reaction that he describes. First, our life is lived not just for ourselves, but for others, for their benefit. This grace reaches them and ministers to more and more people. The end result is that God receives more and more glory!
So, when my wife told me Friday, “We can bless others,” she was echoing a truth that the Bible teaches us over and over again, and one that she herself has learned and embodies. And you know what, it wasn't long before I came around too! My “mini-disaster” was turned into other people’s blessing and full bellies! It helped when I asked one of the brothers how he liked things and he sent me a text, “Pastor, did I eat that food? Honestly, I did not know food that good existed!” So the message I want you to hear in all of this, and one that I am still learning, is that I want my life (and yours) to be as much of a blessing as it can possibly be. My prayer is not just, “Lord, bless my life” which He abundantly has. It is also, “Lord, make me a blessing here, and in whatever place or situation you send me.”
I will also be accepting spare change to replenish a now empty freezer! LOL. Just kidding!