Bold Faith: Piety, personal agenda or God’s will?

Jesus’ ministry was marked by His preaching to pious, religious, Jewish people, who, by Biblical accounts, held many prejudiced beliefs about Gentiles.

In St. Mark’s gospel, the story is told of how Jesus honoured the faith of a Syrophonecian woman as she begged Him to cast a demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”   [Jews regarded Syrophonecians as dogs.]

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Jesus spoke in terms to which the Jews could relate.  His play on words was really a challenge to the Jewish disciples who were listening to His conversation with the Syrophonecian woman.  This begs the question – was Jesus indirectly addressing deep-seated prejudice and self-righteous piety that may have been in the hearts of his disciples?

I believe that Jesus was fully aware of the woman’s faith and was prepared to redeem her daughter from the grip of the devil.  But Jesus’ message was clear:  Salvation is not reserved for a few.  It was the Jews’ responsibility to accept Jesus’ teachings and spread the Good News to other nations.

Two dimensions of faith: trust and belief

Faith is the universally acceptable response to the Good News.  Responsive faith has two dimensions – belief and trust – both demonstrated by the Syrophonecian woman’s bold declarations that Jesus could rid her daughter of the demon and her belief that the Good News of salvation was also for the Gentiles.

Recent events have given rise to my own reflection on how declarations of faith can appear to be a veil for self-righteous piety and the promotion of personal agendas.

 

Belief or self-righteous piety?

  • The US Supreme Court’s ruling that makes same-sex marriages legal, has led to an uproar of debates in many Christian communities with quotes from the Bible to justify labelling ‘us’ against ‘them.’

It’s not my intention to make or break the case for same-sex marriage here.  I have a greater concern.  I question if the reaction in some Christian quarters is really about deeply rooted fear of others who are ‘different’?  I also question, if in the heated debates and hubris, have we strayed from the baseline teachings of Jesus – love of God and our neighbours?

The core belief of our Christian faith is love.  Jesus’ death is the greatest manifestation of love, motivated by our need for redemption.   If we agree that all of us are beneficiaries of God’s redemptive love, shouldn’t our faith lead us to embrace diversity as we proclaim the Good News?

Trust in God or a personal agenda?

  • And speaking about proclaiming the Good News, I recently learned that a prosperity preaching televangelist asked his congregation to purchase him a $65M private jet.

The intention to purchase the private jet was “to help empower the ministry to reach the lost and change precious lives around the world.”  Fair enough.  But I am led to question if the televangelist’s trusting faith has more to do with his own agenda, than the big picture of God’s plan when the televangelist declared: “I can dream as long as I want to. I can believe God as long as I want to. If I want to believe God for a $65 million plane, you cannot stop me. You cannot stop me from dreaming.”  I won’t judge the motivations and faith of the televangelist and his followers.  I will say, though, that the messages are mixed.

True faith expresses bold humility

There is much we can learn from Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophonecian woman:

  • Falling at Jesus’ feet was an act of humility, setting the stage for her bold declaration of trust and belief.
  • The woman had a trusting faith as she begged Jesus to heal her daughter.
  • Before receiving Jesus’ confirmation that her daughter was healed, she boldly declared her transcendent belief in God’s universal plan of redemption for all people.

May we, like the Syrophonecian woman, have faith that is marked by bold humility as we declare the Good News and receive the blessing of answered prayers.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters.

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@glorymatters

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I don’t believe in work/life balance

Work Life Balance

Although I tried it for many years, I no longer believe in work/life balance, and here’s why –

The term work/life balance implies that there is work and then there are other things in life.  According to this way of thinking, finding the balance means that there has to be a trade-off.  In the end, one or the other suffers.

As someone who enjoys working hard, I do cherish time spent with my family and people I love, as well as volunteering and having my ‘down time.’   For many years, I tried unsuccessfully to find a balance between my work and all the other things I wanted to do in life.  Trying to fit in one hour of long distance running, preparing supper, spending quality time with my husband and family, working on communications plans for the two social activities I was involved in, working on my latest art project and then factoring in two hours commuting to an 8-hour day job… all left me tired, frazzled, overweight and unfulfilled.  Then I tried to cut down some of my social activities in pursuit of the ideal balance between work and the other things in my life.  I got the same result – not enough sleep, weight gain and frustration instead of fulfillment.

Then, one Saturday morning a few years ago, I woke up feeling tired.  I was overwhelmed when I read the uncompleted items on the previous week’s “to do” list that was running and ruining my life.  The reality check came when I tried to add another set of commitments for the coming week to the list of “to do’s.”

Realizing the impossibility of accomplishing all of the tasks, I had an honest dialogue with myself about what mattered most to me in my life at the time.   Instead of identifying specific actions, I considered what my priorities ought to be.  Here’s what I came up with –

  1. My spiritual well-being,
  2. My family and the people I love,
  3. Developing my talents and career and
  4. Serving other people.

Overarching all of these priorities was my health and well-being and the need for a holistic, balanced way of life.

What I realized was that if I stayed true to my priorities, I wasn’t making a choice between work and life.  My priorities covered every aspect of my life, of which work is only one component.

Since then, I have reframed my thinking about how I manage my time and energy.  Treating my priorities as assets and the hours in a day as a portfolio, I invest my time and efforts in activities that matter most while ensuring that my health and well-being are not compromised.  Since I’m most alert and productive in the early morning, I spend my first waking hours in meditation and getting ready to start my work day early, allowing for more time in the evening to spend time with my family and with people while being involved in social activities.  Then there are boundaries I set on the commitment and number of volunteering opportunities that I’m involved in.

It’s simple, but then again it’s not that simple.  Having it all is eventually possible.  It’s all about setting priorities and making choices that are appropriate at a given time in life.  As King Solomon stated, “For everything in life there is a time and a season.”  These are wise words to live by.

Christ in you, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters.

Visit my website www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

Practical ways to uncover your God-given gifts and talents

Acts 9:36 -42, gives an account of the death and raising to life of Dorcas, a faithful follower of Christ. She was a Christian. That’s the first thing we are told about Dorcas. It’s true that she did good deeds, including using her sewing talent to help other people. It’s noteworthy that we are told that she is a Christian first, not what she does, or what her career or actions are. There was great weeping in the community when Dorcas died, because of the admiration and affection they had developed for her. She was a humble and kind Christian woman.

Dorcas did good work making garments for other people. What about you? What good work can you do with the gifts and talents that God has given you?

  • Don’t spend a lot of time looking for your gift by comparing yourself with other talented people. If you aren’t quite sure what gifts and talents God wants you to use to serve Him and other people, you need to spend time in prayer with an open heart and open hands to Him, ready to serve. You could do spiritual gift inventories or ministry/servant passion profiles. I know that The Salvation Army encourages the use of these tools to help you as you seek to understand how God wants you to use your gifts.
  • Think about the interests you have. Consider the opportunities you have to serve – not only in the church, but in other places. Ask yourself and ask God to show you the unmet needs there are in your home, church, your job and community and if there is any possibility for you to serve Him in any of these places.

Here are some specific ways you can explore your talents and know what God wants you to do.

  • You can explore your talents by taking a course in a community centre near you. At the beginning of every year, most community centres send out announcements about courses and activities they’re offering. There are all sorts of activities – arts and crafts, music, sewing, gardening, cooking, sporting activities, book clubs, etc.
  • Check out opportunities to volunteer in your neighbourhood. Is there a hospital near you? Is there a seniors’ home or nursery, women’s shelter near you? At your workplace, do they offer opportunities to serve in the community? Volunteer. Very often training is provided to volunteers. You can work the reception desk, help with filing, serve in the kitchen, volunteer at events, visit patients, organize games for the kids… you name it!
  •  Have a chat with other people who are doing things you like, or would like to do. Learn from them. How are they using their talents? How did they discover and develop their talents? Don’t be shy. Many talented people like to encourage other people who are interested in their talent.
  • Having said that, I want to reassure you that once you step out in faith, God opens and closes doors in your life which lead you in the way He would have you go. Be sensitive to that leading and use the gifts and interests you already have to serve Him.
  • Spend time in prayer asking God to use you as well as other Christians around you to reach others for Him. You’ll be amazed at how many opportunities to share Christ will come as a result. Colossians 3:17 says, Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Women of faith, be like Dorcas in the Bible. Arise! Use Your gifts for Christ and bring glory to His Name.