Spiritual Growth

When Perseverance Matters Most

When Perseverance Matters Most

The Made Well series were life-changing for many people at our church. (If you missed any of the messages, you can watch them right here.) Interestingly, while we learned a lot about healing, we in turn learned a lot about prayer. 

Not receiving healing can be discouraging. It can challenge our faith when we ask God to show up, and it appears as though He hasn’t. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us how to pray: 

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

-Matthew 7:7-10 (NLT)

For many of us, this is exactly when we give up on praying. We throw in the towel with disappointment and frustration when God leaves us with seemingly no answer. Some of us have prayed for God to show up for years, and we find ourselves wondering what He’s up to. It can be so much easier to accept current circumstances as the way it has to be, rather than trust God to provide, especially when you’ve asked God in the past. 

But this is precisely when persistence matters most. The place where you have reached the end of what you think God can accomplish, the edge of where you believe God can provide, is the EXACT moment Jesus tells us to keep on asking, to keep on seeking and to keep on knocking. It is the desire of our Heavenly Father to give good gifts to His children, and His promise will come to pass.

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

 

When we persist in our prayers to God, we expand our ability to trust Him. God’s promise to us is that He will never short-change us, never let us down, and never leave us empty-handed. Even if you have all the faith in the world, there are still moments when we ask, “Will God keep His promise?” 

When you face that question of whether or not God will prove Himself faithful, just remember, keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking.

How To See The Need In Your Community

How To See The Need In Your Community

Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? A man is attacked by bandits and left for dead when two religious leaders happen to come along. The religious leaders see the man, but they pass right by him. Maybe they had pressing matters to attend to, or maybe they felt overwhelmed by the prospect of helping. Whatever their circumstances, they did not lend a helping hand. Instead, it was a despised (by the culture of the day) Samaritan who was moved with compassion and helped the man in need.

What can we learn from the Samaritan?

First, the Samaritan STOPPED…

We have no way of knowing what the Samaritan was thinking on this particular day, but his example shows that he stopped. The busyness of life often puts blinders on us so that all we see is what is directly in front of us. The Samaritan reminds us we must be intentional about giving moments to God every day and paying attention to what and who has been placed around you. Are you willing to stop when you see a need?

 

Second, he LOOKED…

The Samaritan saw the man beaten and injured. What he saw caused him to show kindness and meet the need. There are people with needs all around us. Some of what is seen around us can be intimidating and even heart-wrenching.  Are you willing to look at the needs around you?

 

Finally, he LISTENED…

The story of the Samaritan begins with a man trying to test Jesus about what it means to live for God. Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” We don’t know for sure, but maybe this Samaritan knew this part of God’s law. Certainly, the religious leaders knew of it, but hearing and listening are two different things. In this story only one person demonstrated he had listened, the Samaritan. He was a neighbor by putting God’s love into practice. 

 

In the same way, Local Service requires us to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN to those whom we encounter on a regular basis. It is more than a one-time event; it must be part of our regular lives, especially for believers. Giving a meal to a person will not get them off of the streets. Cleaning a park will definitely have to be done again, but it is in showing kindness that the light of believers shines before men and allows them to glorify God. 

Isaiah 58:7 reminds us that God is interested in seeing “us sharing our food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into our homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to our own families.” Being involved in local service in the community and neighborhood around you gives us an opportunity to be kind. An act of simple kindness cannot be underestimated. Scripture tells us that it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). 

Is His kindness being displayed in you? It can by taking a moment to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN.

Why Patience Always Pays Off

Why Patience Always Pays Off

If there’s one thing that we seem to loath more than anything, it’s waiting. If you’ve ever found yourself in evening rush hour traffic, or in line at the DMV, you know this to be true. Something deep within us tells us that waiting is time wasted. It tells us that when we are not making motion forward, something has gone wrong. 

Truth is, we spend much of our lives waiting, whether we want it or not. We wait for all kinds of things. We wait for winter to be over, and for spring to come. We wait for that friend to come around after an argument. We wait for our situations to get better. We spend so much time waiting for one thing or another. Sometimes it can be infuriating, disappointing, and confusing.

All throughout the story of God, there are people waiting. Abraham waited for many years for God to fulfill the promise of a child. Joseph endured hardship after hardship until it was the right moment for his God-given dream to be fulfilled. The disciples waited for three grueling days for Jesus to defeat death. 

Waiting can feel an awful lot like growing pains sometimes. It can be uncomfortable to let tests and challenges “do their work” in us. In the book of James, we are reminded this: 

 

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

 

Tests and challenges are not to be shooed away, for they are gifts! Through enduring these circumstances, moments and seasons, our faith in God is forced to show what it’s really made of. Enduring forces us to rely once again on God to provide for our every need. Patience in these times makes us rely on God to make a way to a better tomorrow. Patience always pays off. God can and will always do an amazing work in us when we wait and rely on Him. 

When we are patient for God to work, are never waiting in vain. God is not one to go back in what He says would be done. Life begins to look radically different when we remember this: 

God always keeps his promises.

 

Everyone is in a different spot along their faith journey. Patience and waiting will look differently for every person. No matter where you are, just remember this: It’s never hurt anyone to trust God for something. When we patiently wait for God, He will bring us good in one way or another.

The Power Of Hospitality

The Power Of Hospitality

A few weeks ago, we experienced something new at River Valley Church. We had the privilege to host the Global Leadership Summit at our Apple Valley Campus. Over 500 business and ministry leaders from all over the south metro came to be inspired by world-class leadership teaching. 

Though this isn’t my first Global Leadership Summit, this is the first year my Summit started with an early morning prep to meet with our amazing River Valley Lifeteam volunteers who would welcome and host the hundreds of guests about to walk through our doors. 

Something significant occurred to me: What would happen - what could happen - if these business leaders were so impacted by experiencing our team’s hospitality that it changed the way they ran their companies? What kind of impact could we make? How far-reaching can hospitality like that be?

What would happen - what could happen - if these business leaders were so impacted by experiencing our team’s hospitality that it changed the way they ran their companies? What kind of impact could we make? How far-reaching can hospitality like that be?

 

During the Summit, Horst Schulze, former CEO of Ritz-Carlton, spoke about customer service as a way to develop customer loyalty. Even the Disney Institute created a phrase called Guestology for market research on how to discover and serve customers…

but it was Jesus who first said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

Why would we as the Church not lead the way in hospitality?  Wasn’t it something the very Person we model our lives after commanded of us and lived out himself? 

The difference is in the mindset: “coming to church” as opposed to “being the church.”  

Some people come to church. They enjoy the environment, the music, the friends, even the teaching. And while they will even claim it as “their church,” it’s just a stop in their weekly routine— like the gym or the grocery store. 

Then on the other side of that coin are those who have decided to “be the church.”  For these people, church isn’t just something to meet their own needs.  It’s something bigger than just themselves; something to be a part of, to meet the needs of others. Those of us who have committed to this lifestyle also realize that by serving others, so many of our own needs are met. 

Places like Disney and Ritz-Carlton want you to have the best possible experience at their establishmentsso you will come back! They want you come back and to tell your friends so they will come back— and bring their kids! Because you have a great experience, customer loyalty has been developed. Anytime you are ready to spend money for vacation, they are the first places on your mind. That’s not wrong, that’s good business!  

Now, how much more focused should we be as the Church? It’s not someone’s vacation dollars we care about but their entire eternity! We cannot let people walk through the doors of our churches and get all the way to their seats and just passively hope that the music or the message gets to them.  We get to step up and BE THE CHURCH from the moment they step foot in the church building! 

It’s one thing to hear the gospel message and to sing about freedom. Even more powerful is the experience of a living example and relationship with other believers.  We are part of the message!

Christ came to serve, not to be served.  So let’s show the world what true servanthood and hospitality is really like! When people walk out of church changed, they’ll change their world!