Ordinary People

Most of us are normal ordinary people. We come from ordinary families and spend our time with similar people. There will be no statues made of us or books written about us. The majority of people in the world will not know of us. That does not though lessen us as people or make us inferior to those who are famous.

These days though, for some reason, it’s not unusual for people to want to be famous. We can observe this from some who may achieve fame through a reality TV programme. Sometimes sadly some base their self-worth on their fame. There are others who might gauge their importance on the number of social media followers they have. They are not content to be ordinary people.

I have recently been reading a biography of Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century preacher. One of the lessons from Spurgeon’s life is the important role three ordinary people played in his conversion and early part of his Christian experience.

Spurgeon became a Christian in January 1850. Due to the bad weather on that day he was unable to reach the church he had intended to attend but instead went to a small chapel. No-one knows who the preacher was that Sunday. Spurgeon himself in later years, when recalling that day, was not very complimentary about the preacher’s style of speaking. However God used this unknown person to make Himself known to Spurgeon. An ordinary person had faithfully preached God’s word and the young Spurgeon was changed forever.

William Cantlow, an unknown baptist pastor baptised Spurgeon later the same year. The only reason anyone has ever heard of this man is because he baptised Spurgeon. Once again an ordinary person who was faithfully serving God.

The third ordinary person who played an important part in Spurgeon’s life was a cook called Mary King, who he spent time with whilst at Newmarket school. She spent several hours with him sharing the truths of the Christian faith and helped him grow in his theological understanding. Mary was just an ordinary person. She never preached or was a church leader. However, she played an important role in the development of Spurgeon’s faith.

All three of these individuals were just ordinary people who served God faithfully. Yet they played an important part in the development of a man who became a famous preacher known and loved all over the world. It’s impossible to know the number of people over the years who have been effected by the preaching of Spurgeon. However, without the three people mentioned above, the numerous people who have been blessed by Spurgeon may not have been reached.

The important lesson we can learn here is that God uses ordinary people, like you and me, who are faithful to Him.

 

Reading a Biography

This year I am endeavouring to vary the genre of the books that I read. I think one of the most interesting genres can be reading a biography.

At the time of writing this posting, about 25% of the books that I have read in 2019 would be classified as a biography. The subject matters come from a different number of fields e.g. sport, Christian leaders, spies, writers, political leaders. No matter what field the person is in there are a number of recurring themes that interest me.

How did the person become well known?
Although it may not be true of every single person for the majority of them there was a time when they were not very well known. You could even call them a nobody. Then they became famous and well known. How did they make this transition from a nobody to a somebody? Was it years of hard work that eventually paid off or did they suddenly appear from absolutely nowhere? Maybe they were in the right place at the right time and things just worked out for them?

What were they like before they became famous?
It can be interesting and enlightening to read comments from their contemporaries before they became famous. That might be from their school teachers, school friends, people they grew up with, their coach at the local sports club etc. Did they display obvious talent at an early age or were others better then them?

What are they really like as a person?
Most of us have only seen the public face of the person in the biography we are reading. However what are they like in real life? We may be reading about a famous Christian leader but what is he / she like away from the pulpit? Are they a good family person? Do they always make time for their children? Are they known for their humilty or do they have a high opinion of themselves? What do the neighbours say about them?

What did it take for them to be successful in their field?
It’s likely that the majority of us do not appreciate the hard work and commitment it takes to be successful in a field. Whilst we need to have a talent in that field, hard work is also needed to make the most of that gifting. I may be the most naturally talented tennis player in the world but without a lot of training I will not reach my full potential. This will no doubt involve sacrifices which may include me not seeing my children for weeks on end because I am at an overseas training camp. Am I willingly to to make that commitment? Do I want success at any price? The person we are reading about has had to make these difficult decisions.

What about their failures?
Unless the person writing the book is very selective in the biography then at some stage in their life the subject matter will have encountered failures and setbacks. We all encounter these but the important question is how did they respond to them? Did they just give up or did they persevere? How did they cope with their failure? Did they learn from it or was it repeated constantly? This part of the biography has the potential to be a great source of encouragement to us. We often put people on a pedestal and don’t expect that they will fail. However, when you read that someone that is well known has made mistakes and come out of the other end you realise that you can too!

If you have never read a biography why not visit your local library and have a look at what they have available to borrow. You can always start with a short one to get you in the habit of reading a biography. Alternatively your local Christian bookshop should have some biographies, if you wish to discover more about well known church leaders. Whatever one you select they are an interesting genre to read,

 

Do not Worry

A few days ago I came home from work and I was very worried about some upcoming deadlines for two tasks that I needed to complete at work. I found myself in panic mode about the situation facing me and not really sure what to do about it.

Whilst running my eyes over my bookshelf I saw the devotional book “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers and decided to read the reading for the day. The piece was called “Careful Unbelief” and really spoke to me in the midst of my worrying. In fact it was so helpful that I stopped thinking about the work situation and experienced a real peace about it.

I thought it might be useful to post the article below so that it might help others who may be worried or anxious about a situation at the moment.

do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. (Matthew 6:25)

Jesus summed up commonsense carefulness in the life of a disciple as unbelief. If we have received the Spirit of God, He will squeeze right through our lives, as if to ask, “Now where do I come into this relationship, this vacation you have planned, or these new books you want to read?” And He always presses the point until we learn to make Him our first consideration. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion.

…do not worry about your life….” Don’t take the pressure of your provision upon yourself. It is not only wrong to worry, it is unbelief; worrying means we do not believe that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything but those details that worry us. Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in us? Is it the devil? No— “the cares of this world” (Matthew 13:22). It is always our little worries. We say, “I will not trust when I cannot see”— and that is where unbelief begins. The only cure for unbelief is obedience to the Spirit.

The greatest word of Jesus to His disciples is abandon.

The Words of the Wise bring Healing

One of the themes running throughout the book of Proverbs is the importance of the words that we speak. Whilst reading Proverbs chapter 12 last Sunday I came across the following verse:

Some people making cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” (Proverbs 12:18 – NLT)

What a wonderful verse! Just think that the words we speak to others can bring healing. We can be a vessel through which God brings healing to others. This is indeed good news.

However, this verse has two parts to it and I expect many of us have been guilty of the first part of it, making cutting remarks. The part of the verse is even more hard hitting in the NIV:

Reckless words pierce like a sword

Our words are very powerful. They can bring both damage and healing to others. It’s so important to remember this before we open our mouths. In Proverbs 13v3 we are told:

Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”

There have been so many times in my life when I have opened my mouth and said something that has ruined situations. Sadly more times than I would care to remember. Once the words leave my mouth I cannot bring them back. It’s not possible to delete or recall them. They have been said and heard by others. One can apologise but unfortunately the damage may already have been done.

However, it does not have to be like that. Instead of using words that can ruin everything we can use words that bring healing to others. What a privilege and honour it is to say something that brings healing to others. Who would not want to be the person who can bring healing to others though our words?

We need to learn to think before we speak. The apostle James tells us:

My dear brothers, take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Just think of how much of a blessing we might be to others if we actually did this!

 

Adverts for Christ

I was reading a devotional book a while age which challenged me with the question: what sort of advert am I for Christ? Many of us can ‘talk the talk’ and quote Bible verses off the top of our head on various subjects but how many of us ‘walk the talk’ in our daily life?

When our non-Christian friends and family members look at us what sort of advert do they see for Christ? Do they see someone who genuinely reflects Christ, or do they see someone who is no difference from them?

Are we one thing for an hour on Sunday and a couple of hours at housegroup, but a different thing at home and work? Do we have a reputation at work for being a gossip or as someone who speaks well of others? Do we use holy language at church but coarse language at work?

If we manage people at work do we treat them fairly and speak to them politely, or are we rude to people and treat them like dirt? Do we tread on other people, so we can get to the top or treat everyone respectively?

What about at home? Do we speak to our families in a Christ like manner or are we rude and horrible to them?

If a film was shown of everything we had said, done and thought over the last 24 hours would anyone be able to say yes that is a good advert for Christ or would everyone say no that is a bad advert for Christ?

Of course, none of us are perfect and still have areas in our life where we need to change. However increasingly we should reflect Christ and be a better advert for Him as time goes on. If this is not the case, then something is wrong.

 

Do not be anxious about anything

The book of Philippians contains some very well known verses, one of which contains the phrase “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil 4v6). This is an incredible statement to make, especially when you consider that Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the church at Philippi.

I expect that there were many things that Paul could have been anxious about in his situation. However instead of being anxious, Paul instructs us “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” No matter what the situation is we are told to present it to God, nothing is too big or too small to present to God. The result of this is that “the peace of God, which transforms all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4v7).

Once we have presented our requests to God what should we be thinking about now we no longer need to entertain anxious thoughts? The answer from Paul is in the next verse (Phil 4v8) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

What an incredible three verses these are in Philippians 4v6-8. Oh, how we all need to live out these verses! I wonder how much time we waste being anxious? When you think about it we cannot change anything by worrying or being anxious, so we might as well make better use of our time!

Reviving the Soul

In Psalm 19v7 there is a wonderful statement by David:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”

I’m not sure about you but so often my soul needs reviving. At the end of a stressful day at work or an exhausting and busy week I certainly need to be revived. Yet to be honest I don’t always turn to God’s word for revival. There are occasions when instead of doing this I turn to earthly things e.g. leisure activities, food, sport, TV, social media etc. Whilst none of those are necessary wrong in themselves, they will not bring revival to the soul.

This is because those things are not God’s word. They may be enjoyable past times and activities, but they do not revive us. Instead of turning to them we should turn to God’s word. We regularly need to read the scriptures, study them and meditate on them. It’s important that we set aside time each day to do this.

If we neglect these disciplines, then we miss opportunities to experience a revived soul. Some people also find it helpful to have a bible verse in their mind for them to ponder as they prepare to go to sleep each night. It’s a good way to finish the day.

If you ever read anything about the persecuted Church, you will see their love for the bible. In many of these countries a person can get into severe trouble for owning a bible. When they receive a bible, they are so grateful and full of excitement. Conversely, many of us in the west have numerous different translations of the bible at home, not to mention the ones on our phones! Yet we often rarely read them.

Let us not neglect the scriptures but instead know the reality of this wonderful phrase in Psalm 19v7:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

Continue reading “Reviving the Soul”