Daily Devotion - Tuesday, November 17, 2015
This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though. Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.
"Do not act out of selfish ambition or conceit, but with humility think of others as being better than yourselves." - Philippians 2:3
One of the distinguishing marks of the true Church is when followers of Jesus put the needs of others ahead of their own. One act of sacrificial kindness and grace has more power to draw people to Jesus than anything we might say, and infinitely more power than any of our doctrines, dogmas or traditions. I have seen the hardest hearts melt when faced with the humility of a Jesus-follower who simply served and loved with no strings attached.
There is this incredibly endearing story in the 9th chapter of the book of Acts that gets buried in all of the other big, epic accounts of the Apostles doing grand things. Peter is traveling to the coastal regions of what is now modern Israel to a town called Joppa. When he gets there he finds out that one of the great saints of the small Christian community there has died--a lady named Tabitha.
Tabitha was known, it reads in the text, for "always doing good and helping the poor." When Peter arrives at the house where her body has been laid, he finds a bunch of her friends who are mourning her loss. Through their tears, they show him clothes and robes that Tabitha made for them.
The story ends well, of course. Peter goes in to Tabitha and tells her to "get up," as you would if you were an Apostle who walked with Jesus and who saw people raised from the dead (Can I get witness?).
The thing I love about this story (aside from the miracle, of course) is the way the writer of Acts goes on and on about what a selfless, humble person Tabitha was. She was a simple person, living in the background of epic events in those heady days of the Early Church. But her story was preserved to give hope to countless Christians throughout the centuries.
And what was the central message of this story? What was it that gave those who heard it such incredible joy and hope for the future---despite persecution, despite imprisonment and even death? Simply this: When Christians act with selflessness, sacrificial kindness and humility it offers the world a glimpse at what eternal life is like.
I am going to leave you with these words from author and poet Marie Chapian, who offers these words of encouragement to those of us who would live eternally in the here and now:
I will not be jealous./I will not contend./I will not strive./I will rejoice at another's victories./I will delight in the success of others./I will not think others less worthy or less important than I./I will not see my work as more important than someone else's./I will pray for those who are my competitors./I will rejoice in my relationship with the Lord./And so it will be.