Living Life to the Glory of God

“Humans are made to fight and overcome. We love heroes, and we all get opportunity to be one, whether in small situations or large.”

I wrote that earlier in the week in a query letter for my leukemia book. Even though I wrote it myself, it really convicted me.

I started paying more attention to opportunities to be a small hero in someone’s life. Well, to be more precise, I was forced into a situation where I had to help a stranger. Afterward, I felt so good that it reminded me that I had been convicted and needed to be paying attention to these small God-given opportunities.

First, let me point out that I know people who live like this all the time and have for years. They see everything around them, and they are always meddling in other people’s affairs, sometimes to life-changing effect. I’m not one of those. I’m writing about this subject for those who, like me, don’t naturally consider other people. We’d be happy to be locked up in a room somewhere reading a book or, in my case, writing one.

So now I’m trying to pay attention. I’m at 2.5 out of 4 for being a small hero since then.

Twice I saw a situation, and I followed through. Once I was driving by somewhere, saw someone, and thought, “Nah, that has nothing to do with me,” then drove on. Later I realized I could at least have cheered someone up.

The half point came from an elderly couple I saw when I was taking my daughter to a physical therapy appointment. It’s a great story.

The man was old, tall but bent over, and struggling to push his wife’s wheelchair up the tiny ramp to the front door. Worse, he was trying to move a steel walker along beside him. Walkers are made to be in front of you. They get in the way when they’re at your side.

The man let me carry the walker for him, though he was intent on making it up the ramp, which he did. Then he looked at me and said, “Would you take my wife up to the second floor? I’m going to go park the car.”

I was a little surprised. This man didn’t know me, but I did it anyway, chatting with her a bit along the way. When I got to the second floor, she said thank you, and I left … sort of. I didn’t want to leave her alone until her husband showed up, so I got a cup of coffee (free in almost every doctor’s office in my experience). As I was doing so, I thought maybe I should offer to bring her a cup of coffee. Thinking (stupidly) in my mind that she’s pretty old and probably didn’t drink coffee, I just found a seat near her to wait for her husband to come.

A sweet lady came over just to talk to her, and the woman in the wheelchair said, “Would you get me some coffee?”

I shouldn’t ignore those little promptings by the Holy Spirit.

I gave myself 1/2 for that opportunity, so I’m 2.5 out of 4 over 3 or 4 days.

By the way, I haven’t created those opportunities. They’ve just arisen.

A couple weeks ago I was coming out of a Starbucks, and a homeless guy asked me for money. I didn’t have any. I use a debit card almost everywhere, so I only occasionally have cash. It wasn’t till a few minutes, and a few miles, later that I realized there was plenty I could have done. I could have offered him a meal at Taco Bell next door. I could have offered him a drink from Starbucks. Either way, I not only could have fed him, but I could also have talked to him. Homeless people are easy to talk to if they’re in their right mind, easier than comfortable people who have no time to talk. I just didn’t consider the possibility of offering time as well as provision.

Anyway, from one inadequate person to another, there are small ways we can make a big difference in people’s lives. Stories like this help me not to live my life dodging the uncomfortableness of meeting strangers, so I thought I’d tell you a couple of mine in case you needed the same motivation.

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7 Responses to Living Life to the Glory of God

  1. paulfpavao says:

    I’ve been trying to remember all day who I was waiting to respond to. Thank you for the clarification on Mr. Servant.

    I’ve been thinking about this exchange for a bit, and I have drawn a conclusion (confidence level 60-70%). I think you read what I write not only more harshly than I intended, but more harshly than most would read it.

    For example, you wrote, “I have to ask what kind of tight rope we are on if fear of hell is going to affect whether we do a single small act of kindness or not. You mentioned in the post above that you were 2.5/4. How do you know if that’s enough?”

    Of course, the question isn’t relevant at all. Without claiming to be able to judge all my motivations, I am motivated by love for God, the desire to please others (usually a fault), actual care for others, and fear that I’ll live like the inconsiderate person that I am by nature (that often wants people to go away and stop causing me trouble). I’m as mixed up as everyone else, but I do things to try to get past that craziness and just walk in peace with God.

    None of that, however, has the slightest effect on how I see my relationship with God except one thing. If I sit on my butt and give in to that natural desire to just be left alone, then yes, I would expect God to judge me so thoroughly for such a course of life that I would not expect to enter the kingdom of God.

    But the 2.5 out of 4? I know that anyone who knows me knows the humor behind that. I’m pretty sure most others do, too. I am jabbing at myself on purpose because if I don’t, I’m prone to coasting through this life.

    Surely you have read what I believe about entering the kingdom over and over. The normal Christian life is to be saved by faith in the King, receive the forgiveness of sins in baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit, then walk in the light, being forgiven of sin day by day and even minute by minute, as long as we continue in the faith, grounded and settled in it.

    The 2.5 out of 4 is in the past. Hopefully, I will achieve the goal I desire of being 4 out of 4, because I want to be a good son to my Father in heaven and the best disciple possible for my King and Savior, Jesus.

    But the thought that failing those 1.5 times does not make me think of heaven and hell. Personally, I’m delighted I’m even keeping track. Shows I’m working on it. It shows that to God and to me.

    Anyway, I think you have a pretty thick filter that changes what you hear into something else. Maybe you’re so on your toes against legalism that you react to the faintest hint of it.

    Either that, or I see only two other possible (and greater) differences. I am very careful to speak straight from the Scriptures when I’m writing so either 1.) you interpret the Scriptures that way and don’t like them, either, or 2.) you don’t consider the Scriptures the authority that I do.

  2. Jon says:

    As an initial kick-start then I’m sure fear of hell may indeed work, but as your primary ongoing reason it is poison. I can give a few reasons, but the primary one is simply my own experience (of which I have mentioned before).

    My own Christian life has gone through entire stretches utterly crippled because I had no idea if I was doing enough (or sinning less enough) to earn/merit/evidence/whatever salvation. It sucked and I can tell you that I hardly was inclined to worship God in those periods. (indeed, I believe Luther once said “Love God? Sometimes I hate Him!” for similar reasons).

    These days I do good simply because I believe it’s the right thing to do. Recently for about six months I gave up most of my Saturdays to spend time encouraging and just being with a friend of mine who was struggling with deep depression. I was not for a minute motivated to that because I thought that doing so would earn my salvation (I know it won’t) or compensate for my sins (it certainly won’t). As soon as I start contemplating my own actions to test my spiritual state has been such a wild goose chase in the past that I just don’t bother with it anymore (faulty explanations of 2 Corinthians 13:5 not withstanding).

    I have to ask what kind of tight rope we are on if fear of hell is going to affect whether we do a single small act of kindness or not. You mentioned in the post above that you were 2.5/4. How do you know if that’s enough? You might be damned for not doing the 1.5.

    At least with religions that are more explicitly works-based the line is cleaner (as with Islam, I understand that your good deeds simply have to outweigh your bad).

    P.S. I don’t dislike Mr. Servant. Despite disagreeing with some of his teaching, there are articles of his that are very well written. I of course I applaud what his ministry does – I think the main issue I have is that his soteriology is so one sided that it often comes across as if we are expected to be more kind, merciful and just to others than God is towards us.

  3. laura says:

    There is not much greater satisfaction of using one of God’s given days than to step, ever so momentarily, into someone else’s life, doing a little thing that made them smile…or made them realize there are people ‘out there’ who really do love and care…..even if you have not yet met them. The expectation of common courtesy is seemingly lost often…on both sides, not just the one who needs, but in the one who can assist….just by being a loving person concerned about someone other than self. Great post! It sums up my “walking with eyes wide open” thought.

  4. Jim Riege says:

    Sounds like me. Five minutes later, I think of something I could have done. I often feel like one of the goats in the parable in Matthew 25. But what should be our motivation? Ideally, I suppose, our motivation to do good deeds should be agape love. And I’m sure we should not do good deeds so we can be proud of what a “great people” we are. But is fear of punishment (the fate of the goats) a proper motivation?

    • paulfpavao says:

      We can worry about motivation, but Scripture says we will be judged by our deeds, not our motivations. Love and gratefulness are better motivations, but fear will do.

      Jesus certainly wasn’t afraid to use fear. He said it is better to cut off your hand and enter life main, then to enter hole into the fire that is never quenched. Peter says that because the father judges according to works we should live our life here in fear (1 Pet 1:17). Jesus wrote letters to seven churches in Revelation 2 and three, and they are full of threats and promises both. Let us be motivated by one or the other, but let us be motivated either way.

      • Jon says:

        You do it because it is good. Full stop.

        I’m not sure I’d accept a good deed from someone who I know was only doing it to get their backside out of hell.

        • paulfpavao says:

          I’m not sure I even understand your thinking this time, Jon. How would you even know? If someone offered to help you carry something after a concert, would you ask him his motivation? If someone slows their car to let you cross the street because they’re trying to please God out of fear of him, how are you going to know?

          How many people in history have began their walk with God purely out of the desire to escape judgment? The idea of the Gospel is that those who submit to Jesus will find themselves transformed by him, and they will learn to love his will–or maybe even begin by loving his will. I know an awesome ministry that help at least hundreds of people every day that began with the fear of the Lord brought on by Jesus’ story of the sheep and the goats. You might not accept help from them because I know you don’t like its founder, but there is no denying the lives they have saved, nor the suffering they have averted or relieved. Some of the money they have used to feed persecuted Christians in Korea, rescue children, provide aid after disasters, start third-world businesses, and support missionaries has been coerced from people by either teaching or reminding them that it is hard for the rich the enter the kingdom of heaven.

          Bottom line for me when I wonder about a “best method” is to look at Jesus. Jesus used any motivation he found at hand. Keith Green once sang, “And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown.” That may be a good personal attitude, but it’s not a good public message. Jesus appealed to rewards all the time, and Paul mentions the crown he was seeking repeatedly.

          Give me the guy or gal who does good to keep their backside out of hell over the guy or gal who doesn’t do good.

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