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No One Is in Your Life by Accident – Part II

Jun 17, 2017

W-1680-Part II

Life would be easy if we didn’t have to deal with people! Would you agree with that? People are the sandpaper of our lives. Far more than any other single thing we deal with, people cause more difficulties and are less controllable than anything else. Yet life would be boring, lonely, and unfulfilled if we didn’t have lots of people in our lives.

We all have two types of relationships in our lives: covenant relationships and contractual relationships. Having previously examined covenant relationships, I will now look at the other kind of relationships we have—contractual relationships.

Contractual Relationships

The contractual relationships of our lives are those which, though sometimes important, can indeed be filled by someone else. Our role is an important part of their lives, but guess what—if we walked out tomorrow, somehow they’d survive without us. For example, your church is a vital part of your life; however, when it’s time for you to move on to another church or another job in the church, someone else will come along to fill your role.

We owe a lot to our contractual relationships, but they should never have as high of a priority in our lives as our covenant relationships do. If we get the priorities reversed, it can cause a great deal of harm and stress.

Do you have some really good friends—the kind who build your faith and encourage you in the Lord? I hope so. Those good friends are not in your life by accident. You have a responsibility to them. In Proverbs 17:17 we read, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” A good friend is loyal and is there when things are tough. Have you been that kind of friend?

 At all times includes those times when a friend may not be giving us what we need in the relationship. But if we’re the friend we should be, we will love at all times, even when it is not reciprocated. At all times includes the middle of the night, or in the midst of a busy schedule. Can you think of some good friends who need a listening ear or a helping hand? It’s not an accident that God has put you in their lives to help them.

In Romans 12:15, we see where we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Do you know a friend going through a rough time? Perhaps you are there in their life to cry with them. Maybe you have a friend who has just had something wonderful happen. Have you celebrated with that friend? This is your responsibility; this is one reason they’re in your life.

In Proverbs 27:6 we read, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted. . . .” That sounds strange, doesn’t it? A good friend wouldn’t wound us, would they?

My friend was telling me of a woman in her Bible study who was complaining that God didn’t seem very close to her anymore; she couldn’t pray like she used to. She kept talking in these vague generalities, so my friend, Nancy, continued probing with love and gentleness. Finally, this woman confessed that there was an area in her life where she was being disobedient to God. The next day she called Nancy and said, “Thank you for not letting me get by with my weak excuses and forcing me to face myself. I didn’t like it at the time, but I needed to get that out in the open.”

Nancy wounded her, gently and with great love and concern, but in so doing she helped her to get things right with the Lord and restore fellowship with him. Now, you have to earn your right to be a friend who wounds. We can do great damage to a friendship if we do this kind of thing in the wrong way at the wrong time. I have friends who have earned their right to be a friend who wounds, and how I thank God for those friends! Those are wounds that can be trusted.

Think about your good friends today and ask this question: What is my purpose in their lives right now, and what is their purpose in mine? They’re not in your life by accident!

I well remember when I had a very difficult boss in my life; all I could think about was how quickly I might find another job and get out of there. For one year I tried my best to “fly away and be at rest,” as the Psalmist puts it, but nothing worked. Finally, that inner voice of God’s Spirit clearly said to me, “You’re here for a purpose.”

I thought, What purpose could be served by working for this very difficult, humiliating, and intimidating man? But I began to pray differently: “Lord, I believe that no one is in my life by accident. I accept this difficult boss. Please help me to see him through your eyes.”

What a difference it made when I finally stopped rebelling against him being in my life and truly accepted it for some good, good which I could neither see nor understand at the time. But now I can tell you that the next two years I worked for him prepared me to be self-employed, which in turn enabled me to start and run this ministry. Over the past thirty-three years, God has chosen to grow this ministry from one station to over 400, and I could have never done that without the freedom of being self-employed. God was using this difficult man to prepare me for his work, though it is only in retrospect that I can now see that.

Who is that difficult person in your life? Can you trust God that he has that person there for some good reason? Can you put that person in a different frame—a positive frame—and start praying for that person? When you do, God is then able to work miracles for you and turn that pain into gain for you.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul gives some practical instructions for us as to how we should treat three specific kinds of people: “Warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak.”

Idleness is never acceptable to God. Ecclesiastes 10:18 says, “If a person is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks.” Idleness leads to disaster.

Are there some idle people in your life? If so, ask God to give you an appropriate opening to lovingly warn them of this problem. If you can help them overcome that tendency, you will be doing them a great favor. Physical laziness will lead to deterioration of assets and property, loss of income, and loss of jobs or career opportunities. Spiritual idleness will lead to moral failure, loss of fellowship with the Lord, and lost opportunities to do eternally significant things. Those idle people are not in your life by accident. It could be that the Lord wants you to warn them of the dangers of idleness.

Timidity can be very painful. Frequently timid people avoid contact with others simply to eliminate the uncomfortableness they often feel around other people. You’ll notice they hang back in a group, are reluctant to say anything, and are often the last to come and the first to leave a function. They appear to be loners, and many times people leave them alone because they think they want to be alone. In fact, they may even claim that they prefer to be alone.

But often deep inside they are longing for someone who will be persistent enough to get to know them and to include them in the group. We can encourage those who are timid by watching out for them, learning to include them, and trying to make them comfortable in our presence.

Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.” And Psalm 82:3 states, “Defend the weak and fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”

Who are the weak whom we are supposed to help? First, those who are weak in body. God is honored when we help those who physically can’t do everything for themselves like we can. As I watched my mom and dad in their latter years before going to be with Jesus, I gained a new appreciation for those who are there for the weak and helpless. What a ministry that is.

Most of us have someone in our lives who fits that category. How much do we do for those who are physically weak? We can visit nursing homes, help handicapped we see in public areas, offer to go shopping for someone who is elderly, just to mention a few. Help those who are physically weak.

The weak are also those who are poor. That means giving some money to people who have less than we do. I imagine you can think of someone right now who fits that description. Why not give them some money? It doesn’t have to be a large amount, but give them something. You’ll be greatly blessed.

I remember when a friend in our Sunday school class was out of work and needed money to move. We had been praying that God would send her the money, and at church that day she was sharing her need with a friend in a conversation. Someone else overheard her and, even though they didn’t know her, that person wrote her a check to cover her moving costs. Right there on the spur of the moment, she reached out a helping hand to one who was temporarily financially weak. I am certain she was even more blessed than my friend who received the money.

In Romans 14:1 we are told to “accept the one whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” The person who is weak in faith is not a second-class Christian. This is the first thing we need to understand. How easy it is for us to judge those who are weak in faith instead of to help them. We can help those who are weak in their faith more by example than we can by words. Love them, don’t condemn them. Pray for them, and then watch God work some miracles.

I hope you’ll remember the title of this message: No One Is in Your Life by Accident. When you start to believe that, God is going to show you marvelous reasons why he has put people into your life. You’ll be able to accept the difficult relationships much better, and appreciate the good ones so much more. You will find yourself reaching out to many people with the encouragement that God has given to you.


Fran and Jesus on the Job – Re-framing

Jun 16, 2017


How do you deal with someone who treats you obnoxiously? That is basically what our friend Fran is struggling with in this episode of Fran and Jesus on the Job. She has a very difficult client, Marge, who continually takes her frustrations out on Fran. Fran has been learning to re-frame Marge, as Jesus is teaching her to do. Instead of seeing her as intimidating and obnoxious, she is realizing that Marge is a very frightened woman.

The next day starts nicely for Fran, thinking that she has put the latest fire out with Marge and now it’s back to her normal routine. But about 11:00, Marge calls again and, with the same obnoxious tone of voice, says, “Did you really think that report was a finished product, Fran? When I presented it this morning, they asked me a ton of questions I couldn’t answer. It was a half-way job!” With further unkind and unrepeatable words, Marge tears Fran’s work apart.

Fran’s heart sinks like a rock. She knows she gave Marge exactly what she asked for, but now Marge is blaming her for her own omissions and mistakes. How can she defend herself to Marge?

She starts to say something, but Jesus reminds her, Keep your words as few as possible right now. Often Jesus has taught her that when she’s upset, the best thing to do is keep her mouth shut!

So, she mostly listens to Marge as she gives her an addendum to the assignment and demands it be ready this afternoon. After she hangs up, Fran says to Jesus, “Lord, I thought we had this problem solved yesterday. I thought Marge was changing the way she treats me. She’s back to obnoxious again.”

That quiet inner voice of God’s Spirit speaks to her again: Put her back in the frightened frame, Fran. She is more frightened now than ever. And like a cat caught in the corner, she’s striking out at anyone she can. Obviously she knows you can’t strike back because she’s a customer.

After some quiet thought, Fran realizes that this problem is not going to be solved easily: Marge may never change her ways. But Fran can be victorious in this situation as long as she keeps re-framing Marge and seeing her the way God does. That won’t be easy, but it will be a lot easier than getting upset and angry every time she has to deal with Marge. “Thank goodness I’ve got you, Lord,” Fran says. “I’d never be able to handle Marge without you.”

Are you trying to deal with difficult people in your own way and energy? It’s a losing battle. Let Jesus give you the power to re-frame them and see them the way he does.


Fran and Jesus on the Job – Re-framing

Jun 15, 2017


If you’ve ever had to deal with someone who was very demanding, rude, intimidating, and generally obnoxious, then you can relate to our friend, Fran. In our on-going story of Fran and Jesus on the Job, Fran is learning to re-frame a difficult customer, Marge, who has been making Fran’s life pretty miserable. After praying that the Lord would help her to see Marge the way he does, she realized that Marge is very frightened, and Marge even told her why: she’s scared of losing her job.

Fran works frantically to complete Marge’s job on time, and a little after 3:30 she has it done. “Whew, we made it, Lord,” Fran says to Jesus, as she calls Marge. The same abrupt greeting comes as Marge answers the phone, and Fran tells her she has the report ready to e-mail to her.

“How many pages is it?” Marge asks.

“It’s about 12 pages,” Fran replies.

“Took you all this time to do 12 pages?” Marge replies with sarcasm.

Everything in Fran wants to strike back at Marge. She killed herself to get this report ready and Marge can’t even say thank you. She opens her mouth to voice some of her frustration, but she hears Jesus say, Remember Marge’s new frame: Frightened.

Suddenly Fran can see Marge in this new frame—with fear all over her face. So, instead of venting her anger, Fran says, “I agree, Marge. As hard as I’ve worked, seems to me like it ought to be about 100 pages. But I wanted to make sure there were no errors and that everything was laid out very clearly. If you have to present this to your management, you don’t need a silly error making you look bad, I figured.”

The phone is quiet for a few seconds, and finally Marge says, in a quieter manner, “Well, that’s true. At least you kept your promise and got it to me by 4:00. Send it to me right away, and uh, thanks, Fran.” With that, she abruptly hangs up.

“’Thanks, Fran!’ Did you hear that Lord? She has never before thanked me for anything,” Fran says in amazement as she hangs up the phone. “I guess new frames can help—even with difficult people!”

Fran thinks about that conversation: I didn’t say anything to her about being frightened, but I guess the fact that I saw her as frightened rather than obnoxious changed the way I responded to her. That, in turn, changed the way she responded to me. Interesting, very interesting, she thinks with a grin.

Can you think of someone in your life that you need to re-frame? You may be amazed at how it helps.


Fran and Jesus on the Job – Re-framing

Jun 14, 2017


Have you learned how to re-frame? Re-framing is asking God to give you a new, positive way to look at a person or situation. It’s amazing how a new frame can make a difference.

Our friend, Fran, is having great difficulty with a customer named Marge. Marge has a big chip on her shoulder and she truly has taken a lot of her frustration out on Fran. Fran has had Marge in the “obnoxious” frame for many weeks, but Jesus has urged her to pray for a new frame for Marge, and she has done just that.

As she arrives at work today, she is under a great deal of pressure to get a job completed for Marge, who rather rudely told her what she expected yesterday. There’s no time for lunch today, so she stops at the vending machine for some crackers to munch on at her desk. When she returns, there is a message from Marge demanding an immediate call back. “Even her telephone messages are intimidating,” Fran says. She dreads having to call her back, but she starts to make the call.

Pray first, the Spirit of God quietly says to Fran.

She puts down the phone and prays briefly, “Please give me a kind heart toward Marge. Please, Lord, help me to see her as you do, and please give me a new frame to put her in!” With that short prayer, she returns the call.

An abrupt telephone greeting tells Fran she’s reached her. “Hi, Marge, sorry I missed your call but everything’s coming along pretty well. We ought to be able to have this ready for you by 4:00 or so this afternoon if nothing unforeseen happens,” Fran explains, trying to sound cheerful and confident.

“You mean, you can’t have it before 4:00? What’s taking so long for such a simple report? You people drag your feet over there so you can bill more hours! I could have done it myself by now,” Marge yells back at Fran. Fran’s heart starts beating a mile a minute.

Remember, you asked for a new frame for Marge, Jesus reminds her.

She’s still obnoxious, Fran thinks to herself. I can’t see any other frame for her. But suddenly she thinks, Anyone this angry has to be frightened.

Frightened? Marge? What would frighten her? Fran thinks. Maybe I should find out.

Fran hears herself saying to Marge, “Marge, it sounds like things are pretty hot over there; you must be under some tremendous pressure.”

“Fran, you don’t know the half of it! They’re trying to take my job away from me and give it to some young chick—save them a ton of money, I guess. They’re just looking for one excuse. . .and I’m out of here. Yeah, it’s hot over here.” Marge pauses realizing she’s said much more than she intended to. “But that’s neither here nor there. I expect to hear from you no later than 4:00.” And with that, the conversation ends.

Fran now has a new frame for Marge: Frightened.


Fran and Jesus on the Job – Re-framing

Jun 13, 2017


Fran is dealing with a client, Marge, who is difficult, to say the least; a more appropriate description would be obnoxious. Marge intimidates, harasses, humiliates and demands unfair things from Fran. But since she’s a customer, what can Fran do? Fran truly cannot stand her.

Jesus has asked Fran to at least be willing to love her—not necessarily like her, but love her with his kind of agape love. After another unpleasant encounter with Marge yesterday, Fran is driving to work and praying for a lot of people, as she often does, and Marge comes to mind.

“I’d like to pray that lightning will strike her,” Fran says with a grin, knowing that she halfway means it. But she attempts to pray for her: “Dear Lord, please help Marge to see how obnoxious she is and change the way she treats me.” Her prayer bounces off the car ceiling; she knows it’s the wrong prayer.

“Praying that Marge will change—I guess that’s not exactly how I should pray,” she says to herself. “But Lord,” she continues, “she should change. Her behavior is awful,” Fran defends herself.

Her spirit is uneasy. Somehow, she has to get beyond this selfish kind of praying, even though Marge is difficult. She can’t change Marge; she can only change herself.

“Well, what should I pray?” Fran finally asks.

Then she thinks of something she heard on the radio—to pray that she could see Marge the way God sees her. To pray for a new frame for Marge: a new way to see her by putting her in a different frame.

“Put her in a different frame,” Fran thinks. “I guess I can do that, but she really is obnoxious.” As she drives along she thinks about that further. “I guess I’ve had her in the obnoxious frame too long. Maybe I should pray for a new frame for Marge—a new way to look at her.”

Even though she feels a little foolish and not totally sincere, in obedience Fran starts her prayer again: “Dear Lord, please help me to see Marge the way you do. Please give me a new frame to put her in. There’s got to be something good about her, Lord. Please show me what that is.”

Who is it in your life right now that you just simply do not like? They may be very unlikable, but you can learn to see them through God’s eyes; you can ask God to help you re-frame them and see something positive about them. Why don’t you stop where you are right now and pray for that person? It will start to make a real difference in how you relate to him or her.


Fran and Jesus on the Job – Re-framing

Jun 12, 2017


It’s time to catch up with our fictional story of Fran and Jesus on the Job. Fran is a workplace woman who has two young children; she has gone back to her career since her husband was tragically killed a few years ago. The purpose of this story is to help us see how critical it is for us as believers to practice the presence of Jesus in our everyday lives. We have the Spirit of Jesus within us, but sometimes we live as though Jesus stays at home when we go to work. This episode will help us get hold of a basic Bible principle and remember that Jesus is with us always!

Fran is just finishing a conversation with one of her clients. “Yes, Marge, I will do my very best to have that ready by tomorrow. Uh-huh, yes. I understand. Okay, Marge, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Fran hangs up the phone and begins talking to herself, forgetting for a moment that Jesus, of course, hears everything she says or thinks. “I don’t believe that woman. She is going to drive me nuts! Nothing we do is good enough for her. She makes last minute changes and then expects me to work miracles. Furthermore, she is so rude. I really can’t stand her!”

Quietly she can sense the Spirit of God whispering to her: Did you ever think that I love her as much as I love you?

The thought startles her. “Well yeah, sure, I knew that,” she thinks out loud. “You love everybody, Lord. But she’s a really nasty, demanding person. I’m sorry; I just don’t like her.”

As these thoughts continue, her mind goes back to a recent sermon she heard in which her pastor said that there were people Jesus didn’t like, but he loved everybody. He had said that you don’t have to like everybody, but our commandment is to show God’s love to everybody.

“I thought you have to like someone, then you can love them,” Fran says to herself, “but I guess that’s not the way it is with God. The problem is, I just don’t know how to do it. There’s just no way I can love Marge. She’s obnoxious!”

Do you want to love her? again that quiet inner voice catches her up short.

“Do I really want to love her? To tell you the truth–not really,” Fran admits. “I guess that’s really where my problem lies, isn’t it Lord? But how can I even want to love someone like her?” Fran exclaims.

As she sits and thinks about that, the answer becomes clear: “I can want to love her simply because you want me to, Jesus. I can do it for you. I can’t do it for Marge, but I can do it for you.”

“Now,” she says to herself, “the next step is to start praying for Marge every day. That’s what I have to do now.”

Do you have somebody in your life who drives you crazy? You can learn how to love even unlikable people.

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