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Lord of all pots and pans…

Ephesians 1:12, “… so that we… might live for the praise of His glory.”

Why do we do “good works” as Christians?

This question about motivation came up in my women’s Bible study class this week as we work our way through the book of Ephesians.  Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus declaring who they are as a result of our Father’s gracious plan (chapter 1, verses 3 – 6), the Son who carried out the plan (chapter 1, verses 7-12), and the “seal” of the Father’s plan in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (chapter 1, verses 13-14).  This beautiful doxology of praise in verses 3 through 14 remind us not only of what He accomplished for us, but also of who we are because of His completed work.

It was the plan of our Heavenly Father to bless us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  We are not an after thought.  Before the creation of the world, He had a plan for us (Ephesians 1:4).  We are forgiven and redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), and our inheritance is secure (Ephesians 1:11) as adopted children of God (Ephesians 1:5).  All of this was according to God’s will (Ephesians 1:11) so that we might live for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).

Salvation does not depend on me.  Christ’s completed work on the cross is not dependent on my decision to believe He did it or on my good works to accomplish.  Redemption and forgiveness of sins was in accordance with God’s plan and design.  It is Christ’s work that secures my place in heaven for eternity.  The good I do, therefore, is not to ensure my salvation.  The good I do, then, is “for the praise of His glory.”

The message of Brother Lawrence in the little book entitled “The Practice of the Presence of God” has been foundational in my thinking about motivation.  I first read this book as a teen, and I have read it at least once each decade since.  Brother Lawrence was a seventeenth century Christian from France who lived a simple life, working in the kitchen of a French monastery.  He is said to have been a large, clumsy man who was unlearned, yet the simplicity of his faith and the message of his life reveals that he understood deep communion with God.

Brother Lawrence wrote of his motivation: “I engaged in a religious life only for the love of God, and I have endeavored to act only for Him…”  He worked from the perspective that “set times of prayer were not different from other times; that he retired to pray according to the directions of his superior, but that he did not want such retirement, nor ask for it, because his greatest business did not divert him from God.”

Brother Lawrence did not have a fanciful life of walking around in elaborate robes, constantly studying Scripture, and continually engaging in great theological debates with rulers of church and state.  His duties were to cook and clean the kitchen.  “…in his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion), having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God, and with prayer, upon all occasions, [asking] for His grace to do his work well, he had found everything easy…”

His prayer became, “Lord of all pots and pans and things… Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates!”  It was with this motivation to do all things for the love of God and as an action only for Him, that Brother Lawrence was able to “turn even the most commonplace and menial task into a living hymn to the glory of God.” *

So it is true for us as well.  Justification, the forgiveness of our sins and redemption through Christ’s sacrifice (Ephesians 1:7), has been accomplished.  It is completed.  It is finished (John 19:30).  Sanctification, the process of renewal, is an on-going work of God in our lives.

I think Brother Lawrence had it right.  My Saturday morning chores of changing bedding, cleaning the floors, and tending to a week’s worth of laundry, can become a hymn of praise when I do my work for the love of God, endeavoring to  do all things only for the His glory.  Likewise, when I sing a special song in church, send a card of encouragement to a friend, or bring coffee in for my co-worker, it is for the love of God and for His glory.  Whether in my home or in my community, my “good works” are not about me.

My prayer today will be: Lord of all pots and pans and things, may I faithfully complete my tasks, motivated by my love for You.  I cannot do this unless you enable me.  I will only fail if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss.*  May I live for the praise of Your glory.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.  

* Quotes from “The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims, a Classic of Practical Christian Devotion with Brother Lawrence, pp. 18 – 20 and introduction.  Revell, Fleming H. The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims. Grand Rapids, MI: Spire Books, 1958.

 

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Say Something… Anything!

I’ve known Jean for just shy of 2 decades, yet in the last 6 months, our relationship has transformed despite the 200 miles that now separate us.  Several years ago, Jean suffered a devastating and unexpected loss, and the woman who remains on this side of widowhood is very different from the married woman I met at church all those years ago.  These days, I can describe Jean with one word: Encourager.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Throughout the long months of my recovery, through various complications and an endless stream of medical disappointments, my friend Jean has sprinkled little words of hope, encouragement, and inspiration.

Recently I thanked her for the way she has ministered to my heart through her words, and she confessed that sometimes she doesn’t “know what to say or how it will come across.”  Yet she never fails to say something… anything… as a way of communicating, “I see you, friend; I hear you.  You are not alone.”

Jean shared with me that it is because of her own suffering that she has learned to be present with others through her words.  These are the things she “learned from grief.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (emphasis added)

It is an interesting reality that through suffering, people draw closer or people fade away.  I learned this lesson at the age of ten.  My mother died of breast cancer when I was in the 5th grade.  Ten-year-olds don’t know how to manage the big work of grief, and some adults don’t know how either.  My best friend, with whose heart my own seemed to share a beat, suddenly disappeared after my mother’s funeral.  Her mother didn’t know how to cope with grief and didn’t know how to teach her daughter to be a friend in the midst of grief.  In the passing of my mother, I also lost my best friend.  Days of silence turned into weeks, weeks into months.  More than 30 years have now passed but not a word between us.  I was the same little girl who loved to roller skate, giggle, swim, and have sleep overs.  I was the same but different.

Nine years ago, I suffered another devastating loss of a loved one.  In the same way as the loss of my mother all those years earlier, I experienced people drawing close and people fading away.  There were two women in my life, at that time, who called me nearly every day.  They understood life and loss enough to realize that I was the same person, but for that season, I was different, and the care they provided could impact the way I managed my grief work.  They understood that I needed intense love and support so that I could work through the complications of loss and come out the other side, the same person but changed.

This season of recovering from medical trauma and the resulting complications, has been similar.  Friends and family have drawn close or faded away.  I am the same person, but I am different.

I still need the women in my life to encourage and inspire my walk with God and my roles as wife, mother, and employee.

I still need my pastor to be my wise counsel and challenge my framework around how God’s word is alive and active in my life (Hebrews 4:12).

I need my siblings to check in and ask the tough personal questions about details that are delicate regarding my health.

I need my co-worker who asks me at least once a week, “How are you really doing today?”

I need the dear grandmotherly woman from church who regularly sends me cards in the mail with Scriptures.

This season has been another reminder to me that my words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).  One of the many redemptive purposes of suffering is so that I can comfort others with the comfort I have received from Christ (2 Corinthians 1:4).

My words need not be eloquent; if I fret about what to say, I may say nothing at all.  My words need not be my own; I can share an inspirational quote or a verse from God’s word.  My words can be in a text, over the phone, or as I pass someone in the hall.  I just need to say something…. anything!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24