Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Be Good! (Part 3)


Dear Friends,

I woke up this morning right after a most bizarre dream. Struggling to understand the full meaning of it and why there was so much clarity in the details, I suddenly got it. Thank you Lord! God had just changed what I was going to write about today in this series on “Being a Better Person and Doing Good.” In the dream, I’m walking across a field of grass soaked with recent rains. I see a woman nurse trying to push a hospital gurney that’s now stuck in the mud. I somehow know that the woman on the gurney is dying and the nurse is trying to push her to where the person’s life can be saved. Realizing she needs my help, I rush over to the nurse. Pushing with all my strength, the gurney surges out of the thick mud and starts rolling over the wet grass. I now see, over on my right, a large crowd of people watching. I suddenly feel very prideful and I’m overjoyed to find that so many people are seeing me do a “good deed” for another. We push the gurney into a hospital and look down to see that the person has died. The nurse is  angry that she wasted her time pushing a dead woman. But my thought was that I couldn’t wait to go back to the crowd because I could tell my exciting story of how I tried to save the person. That was when I woke up. Was that dream for ME, Lord? And to some extent it was. I wish that God would not use my propensity for pride as an illustration for the AMEN Corner but He does. And in my quiet prayer time this morning, I felt God say, “Why do you want to be good?” And both you and I need to answer that question...

I thought about the poll showing that the number one New Year’s resolution was to “Be a Better Person – Be Good” and wondered how many want to be good for selfish reasons. We contribute money anonymously to a popular “gofundme” campaign for an needy family and then post a boast about it on our facebook to let all our friends know what a wonderful person we are. We volunteer for a homeless organization and tweet the dramatic stories with the selfie photos of us and the old man in the park to our friends. But, if our motivation for “doing good and being a better person” is no more than a selfish desire to feel good about ourselves, and make ourselves look good in the eyes of others, we need an attitude check.  

What does God say about us rushing to post or tweet our latest good deed? The word of God says: Watch out! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. Those who boast about it to call attention to their acts of charity  have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4

We need to be a better person and be good while remaining humble. Sometimes we instinctively, and out of the goodness of our hearts, do rush to do good and help others (push the gurney out of the mud) and then we later take advantage of the good deed (hey.. awesome..look at all my friends over there watching me). Instead, when we yield to the leading of the Lord to do good, He tells us “..when you obey Me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’” Luke 17:10 NLT

I’ve prayed about what I’m going to tell you next and truly have no wish to be “admired by others.” I’m an unworthy and struggling servant of God doing what it was my duty to do. So I’m sharing something intensely personal with you and God gets all the glory because He was the one who told me to do it. In fact, the first time I did this, it was out of a begrudging obedience to Him. I did not want to do it. Five years before I retired, the city I worked for began giving upper management $350 bonuses at Christmas time. For each of those years, I’d cash the check and put the cash in an envelope with an unsigned Christmas card. I had a good friend who worked in the Human Resources department and I would ask her to find a city employee for me who was a single mom with young children and struggling financially. (HR people were often aware of an employee’s personal struggles when helping them with issues affecting their job) I asked her to give the single mom the envelope of cash but the conditions were that my HR friend was to never tell the recipient who gave the money and never tell me who she gave the money to and never tell any other employee what I had done. I looked forward to doing that each Christmas because it was one of the most joyful things that I have ever done in my life. Other than just a couple of people (and now you), only God knew what I had done. What God was showing me, and hopefully now you, was that when doing good for others, the most joyful and satisfying experiences are when it’s for His eyes only.

I’m not alone in my desire to be a better person and to do good in 2018, but the question remains, “Why do you want to be good?” The answer is found in who we are living for. Is our life dedicated to people or to God? Do we live to make other people admire us or do we live to please God? We can test our motivations by asking ourselves, “If no one but God knew that I was giving (this money, time, help), would I still do it?” If you’re not sure or if the answer is a “no” then we are living for people’s praise, and before we can be unselfish, loving, altruistic Christians, we need to dedicate or rededicate our life to God. If our resolution is to be a better person and do good, our motivation can only  be a Christ-like life in the presence of God.

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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