January 17, Tuesday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

How to Help an Immigrant or Any Kid to Succeed

2 Tim. 3:6, 10-11 (ESV)

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. . ..  10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.

17Soon after immigrating to the States, I began attending a middle school without understanding hardly any English.  But I felt that I could handle math and geography, since it didn’t involve much English.  Ironically, my intent to take tests put the teacher in an awkward position, since he had been excusing another immigrant boy from taking them but would give him a “B” anyway.  Since I chose to take tests, the teacher could no longer excuse the other boy—who now had to work.

Later, one thrilling moment in high school occurred when my 10th grade English teacher told me to move to the right-side of the class, where those who passed a test on grammar had gathered to study on their own, while the teacher reviewed the test for those who failed—including some who mocked my English.  Having taken an ESL class in the 9th grade, in which the teacher expected the students to know basic grammar, that test wasn’t as hard; in fact, I felt ESL was more difficult than the 9th grade English class.

In guiding a youth, whether immigrant or not, it is important to lead them with a reasonable expectation and constant encouragement to work hard.  But when the bar is set too low by those who think that they are being understanding (like the middle school teacher) and lack of effort is met with indifference—or worse, a reward—that’s a recipe for going through life with untapped potential.

In Thessalonica, the apostle Paul faced an unusual situation: some believers quit working, believing that “the day of the Lord has already come” (2 Thess. 2:2); instead, they lived off on other people’s generosity.  Apparently, the Thessalonian leadership tolerated them—meaning, they lowered the bar of what is an acceptable Christian living by putting up with their laziness.  Mincing no words, Paul declared, “Brothers, keep away from every brother who is idle. . . If a man will not work, he shall not eat. . . Never tire of doing what is right” (2 Thess. 3:6, 10, 13).

What happened in my middle school class isn’t all that different from what can happen in the church: Having lowered the standard for what constitutes faithfulness and commitment to the Lord, many Christians get a passing grade for doing hardly anything.   May someone in your church humbly and silently show what “never tire of doing what is right” really looks like; may your pastor demand that you know well the basics of the Christian faith, so that your potential for Christ is fully tapped for God’s glory.

Prayer: I thank You Lord for all those in my past who have pushed me to tap fully into the potential You gave me.  I thank You for all the spiritual leaders who set the bar high and demanded that I work hard for God’s glory.  Mostly, I thank You for Your grace, without which I’m either given to pride or misery. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 18


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read 1 Cor. 9:24-7 (NIV): Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

2 Tim. 2:6-7 (NIV): The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Questions to Consider

  1. This morning we talked about setting the bar reasonably high, and then to be sufficiently motivated to work hard. Apply that to spirituality: what motivated the apostle Paul to set the bar high for him?
  2. Like what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:7, consider what is said in 2 Timothy 2:6—what understanding has the Lord given you through it?
  3. If you were the spiritual coach of your own life, what kind of coach would you be (lenient or tough)? What would you tell yourself about your current spiritual condition?  Is your bar set low or high?  Are you working hard or just coasting?

Notes

  1. If we are being honest here, Paul, at least in this passage, expresses his fear of becoming hypocritical—that is, living contrary to what he tells others to live. He set the bar high, meaning to lead a highly disciplined life to ensure that he receives an imperishable crown from God.
  2. Work hard, so you will be the first to receive your share of the crops (Prov. 14:23b: “All hard work brings a profit”); conversely, the expectation of receiving your share of the crop should motivate you to work hard.
  3. Personal response.

EVENING REFLECTION

As a missionary in Mexico, whenever a pastor would invite me to preach at his church but would give me a passage to preach on, I wasn’t exactly a happy camper, since I couldn’t use any of my sermons previously prepared.  So, I had to work to prepare a new message—which was always good for me.

Have you ever faced a similar situation?  Enjoy the moments in your life when you still have opportunities to work hard for something.  Go all in, but make sure to take God with you—meaning, don’t decrease your time with God.  Using your time praying diligently, though you might have less time to work can actually increase your productivity—try it.  How about starting right now?

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