Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

How To Live A Rewarding Life

         Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

    2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

 

    16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

{Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21}

 

            Ash Wednesday kicks off the season of Lent—a time when the church traditionally focuses on spiritual examination and reflection.

             It is a time—6 weeks, not counting Sundays—to prepare ourselves spiritually to celebrate Easter.

             I have been seeking for the last several years a way to live in the present that matters for eternity.

            I have tried to discover and articulate how Christians can live our daily lives in such a way today, that it will have significance 100 years from today.

            It is not just about living a life, but about leaving a legacy!

             In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus gives us some insight.

             In this Scripture from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus contrasts 2 types of people—both who call themselves “Christians” or “followers of Jesus.”

            The first person Jesus contrasts is the one who lives for the “show”—the person who lives their Christian faith, not so much to serve God but to call attention to themselves. They do the right things for the wrong reasons. Jesus calls these people “hypocrites”—people who pretend, or simply act like something that they are not.

            Jesus says these people get their reward from the attention they receive for the things they do. He says these folks have no reward from God for their actions.

            The second person Jesus contrasts is the person who values substance over show. They serve God not for the acclaim the might receive, but to honor God and care for others. Jesus calls these people the children whose Father is God.

            Jesus says these people will be rewarded by God.

            Jesus doesn’t exactly define what He means by “rewarded by God.” However He does raise an interesting question: “Who do you think would have better rewards…anyone who know on earth…or God?”

            Who you would rather receive a reward from: Oprah or God?

            Who you would rather receive a reward from: Bill Gates or God?

             Here is what Jesus taught as the keys to live a rewarding life:

1) Give some money (Matthew 6:1-4).

             Jesus says, “when you give.” Not “if you give.”

            He also says it twice for emphasis (6:2,3).

            We give for significance and not for show. And when we do God will reward us.

            Money invested now for God’s kingdom purposes will affect eternity.

             Later on in this chapter Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Jesus says how we handle our treasure is a clear outward indicator of our inner spiritual condition.

The way we use our money and our treasures reflect “spiritual truth in a material way.” We can always measure the condition of our hearts, by the way we use our financial resources.

             The Apostle Paul said, “Remember this: the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

             Now, more than any time in my memory, we can demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ by how we give our resources.

             Here’s a challenge. For the season of Lent: give. For the next 40 days tithe on your income.

            Give one-tenth of your income to the advancement of God’s kingdom work.

            Put God’s tithe first and then live off the rest of your 90%.

             God can do more in your life with the 90% you have after you tithe, than you can with the 100% without God’s blessing.

            At the end of these 40 days ask yourself, “Has this been a rewarding experience? Do you feel like you have lived a rewarding life?”

            If you don’t feel like it has been rewarding, then go back to what you were doing before.                  

            If you find you can’t pay your bills after 40 days, then stop!

             If you aren’t blessed after 40 days, then do what you have always done!

             What have you got to lose? Nothing!

            What have you got to gain? Maybe the most rewarding season of your life. Maybe rewards from God that are far beyond anything you could ever ask or imagine.

 

2) Give some time to God in prayer (Matthew 6:5-6).

            Jesus said, “when you pray” not “if you pray.” Prayer is a characteristic of a follower of Jesus Christ.

            Jesus said it twice for emphasis.

            And he said when we pray God will reward us.

            When we talk to God today about God’s kingdom purposes, it affects eternity.

            I invite you to use Terry Teykl’s 40 day devotional book “My Most Wanted Devotional” to pray for the next 40 days for 10 people.

            Use this book as a guide and select 10 people to pray for who

a) Do not know Jesus Christ personally

b) Are currently far from God

c) Are not part of a local church

d) Then, invite them to attend church with you on Easter.

            We are calling this ministry 40/10. We want to get people to pray 40 days for 10 people far from God. And then, over the next 40 days invite those people to worship with you this Easter Sunday.

 

            What have you got to lose? Nothing!

            What have you got to gain? Maybe the most rewarding season of your life. Maybe rewards from God that are far beyond anything you could ever ask or imagine.

 

3) Skip some meals (Matthew 6:16-18).

            Jesus says, “when you fast” not “if you fast!” He expects us to do it.

            Fasting is a characteristic of a follower of Jesus Christ.

            He says it two times for emphasis, to make sure we get the point.

            And Jesus says, when we fast, God will reward us.

 

            Bill Bright wrote extensively on fasting throughout his decades of ministry. He was an experienced practitioner of fasting. He taught some of the following insights derived from fasting:

  • Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras. For example, Moses fasted at least two recorded forty-day periods. Jesus fasted 40 days and reminded His followers to fast, “when you fast,” not if you fast.
  • Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the “first love” for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ.
  • Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21). King David said, “I humble myself through fasting.”
  • Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
  • The Holy Spirit will quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you!
  • Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.
  • Fasting can result in a dynamic personal revival in your own life-and make you a channel of revival to others.
  • Fasting and prayer are the only disciplines that fulfill the requirements of II Chronicles 7:14:

            “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

             Going without today will affect eternity.

            Fasting is doing without what we need, to allow God the opportunity to show up in our lives and do what we really need.

             Doing without allows God the opportunity to do the amazing.

 

            When God wanted His people to know the blessings of fasting, He told this to Isaiah the prophet:

 

    6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
       to loose the chains of injustice
       and untie the cords of the yoke,
       to set the oppressed free
       and break every yoke?

    7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
       and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
       when you see the naked, to clothe them,
       and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

    8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
       and your healing will quickly appear;
       then your righteousness will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
       you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

{Isaiah 58:6-9a}

 

            In Isaiah 58, God tells us that the fruit that results from fasting as God desires will:

1) Loosen the bonds of injustice

2) Undo heavy burdens

3) Let the oppressed go free,

4) Break every yoke,

5) Give bread to the hungry and provide the poor with housing,

6) Allow the people’s light to break forth like the morning,

7) Cause their healing to spring forth speedily,

8) Cause their righteousness to go before then, and

9) Cause the glory of the Lord to be their reward

10) Cause God to be present in our times of need and say to us, “He am I. I have come to help.”

 

            Wouldn’t you like to experience the bond and burdens of your life being lifted? Wouldn’t you like to experience the yokes that hold you back, being broken and the joy of being set free?

            Wouldn’t you like to see your needs being met? What about the needs of our church, our community, and our world?

            Wouldn’t you like to experience healing, wholeness, and restoration?

            God told His people, “When you fast the way I intend, these are the results you will see.”

 

            I can’t really explain how doing without opens the door for God to do more in our lives. But I can tell you, God has designed us, that some things are possible only by prayer and fasting.

            Years ago, I went to visit the home of Bill and Frances. They had been attending the church for a few months after moving to the community from out of state. They were actively involved in the church. Bill sang and played his guitar. They both attended Sunday School, worship, and were at the church whenever anything was going on.

            So I stopped by their house and asked them if they were ready to join the church.

            When we got to that subject, Bill got a strange look on his face. He abruptly blurted out, “I’m not ready to join the church. I’m not going to join the church until God lays it on my heart.”

            I didn’t know what else to say. I had already gone through everything I could think about regarding church membership. I told Bill whenever he had a change of heart, or whenever the Lord laid it on his heart to join the church, just to let me know.

            I puzzled over that for a few days and finally realized this was out of my hands. I didn’t know anything else to do. So I decided to fast. I made up my mind to fast each week, from noon Saturday until noon Sunday. My focus would be to ask God to move on Bill’s heart and show him whatever it was that he was looking for, or to remove whatever it was that was hindering him.

            The first Saturday I fasted and went to church on Sunday. I saw Bill and greeted him. Nothing was said about joining the church.

            The same thing happened the second Saturday.

            Then came the third Saturday. I fasted noon Saturday until after church on Sunday. When I walked into the church on Sunday morning Bill greeted me with a serious look on his face and he said, “You can stop now. I’m ready to join the church.”

            Looking back I realized that incident had nothing at all to do with me. But in that time of fasting, somehow, someway, God was able to remove the hindrances in Bill’s life to church membership. He and Frances joined the church not long after that, and remained faithful members from that time on.

 

            Will you take some time over the next 40 days to fast? Maybe you can just skip one meal a week. Or maybe you can fast from sun up to sun down. Get up early and eat breakfast before the sun rises. Then fast all day. After dark eat dinner. Maybe you will want to go 24 hours at a time without eating.

            Why would you do this?

            Because Jesus told us it is part of being a Christ-follower.

            And because it may work to bring healing in your own life, or the transformation of someone else’s life.

            And lastly, because it may be one of the keys to living a rewarding life.

           

            Why don’t you take this 40 day challenge to fast and pray for those on your 10 most wanted list?

            What have you got to lose? Nothing!

            What have you got to gain? Maybe the most rewarding season of your life. Maybe rewards from God that are far beyond anything you could ever ask or imagine.

           

            The right act, done the right way, brings the right reward.

 1) The right act:

give

pray

fast.

 

2)The right way:

For substance and significance over show.

Not “look at me,” but “look at God.

Not “look what I’ve done,” but “look what God has done.”

 

3) The right reward:

The blessings of God that are far greater than anything we can imagine.

The Bible says, “20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” {Ephesians 3:20-21}

 

 

 

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