Encouraging Devotions Blog

“The Secret to Writing a Good Story.”

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

In every good book or movie, you will find the same formula. Every scene, every chapter, every line, and every action all point to the obligatory scene - the scene towards which all is culminating. Anything that doesn’t lead to that scene or lend to the advancements towards it must be removed so that the focus remains clear.

In Star Wars, it is when the Death Star is destroyed, and the Empire is defeated. We see it in Toy Story when Buzz and Woody go from enemies to friends and finally make it back into Andy’s care. Everything leading up to these scenes shows the journey that it takes to arrive but never distracts from the main point of the story.

We are intrigued by the conflict, saddened by the heartache, encouraged in the triumphs, and overjoyed in the fulfillment of the promise the story undoubtedly, yet subtly, gives at the beginning. This promise is different from story to story, until you start to read our story.

So what is our end and our hoped-for promise?

Every Christian is eagerly waiting for one thing, to see Jesus face to face. Whether we live until He returns, or He takes us home, we will one day see Jesus.

The Westminster Catechism sums it up beautifully, stating, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” Everything in our lives, every scene, chapter, line, and action must point to that. The end that we look toward is not the end of the quarantine or the end of any other trial or circumstance in which we find ourselves. Our purpose is found in Jesus, and everything in between is our opportunity to point to Him.

There is no better time than now to fix our eyes on Jesus. I love what John Owen said about seeing Christ, “No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven who does not, in some measure, behold it by faith in this world.”

Herein lies our reminder: press on! Today, many find themselves with more time than ever before. Everything has stopped, and this has filled their hands with opportunity. Others continue with work, perhaps in different ways, but work nonetheless. Christian, whether you have an abundance of time or not, use your life to point towards the end to which you have been called and the end to which you have been promised.

Let us live now in such a way that we can look back on this chapter of our lives full of conflict, heartache, and triumph as a season that pointed to God. Be diligent, lay aside encumbrances, don’t get tangled up in laziness, and be amazed at the story God desires to write for you.

“No trifling in this life of mine;
Not this the path the blessed Master trod;
But every hour and power employed
Always and all for God.”

- Author unknown

“Being a Spirit-filled Servant.”

“So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.”
Acts 6:2-3

We are introduced to Stephen as a man who was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 6:5) He was one of the seven men chosen to serve tables, but throughout the rest of Acts 6 and 7, we read nothing of Stephen serving tables. Stephen is a shining example of being faithful “with a few things” and later “put in charge of many things.”

After Stephen and the others were prayed for and after the apostles laid their hands on them, Stephen was then described as a man “full of grace and power, performing great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8).” Stephen’s faithfulness in the few things propelled his service and usefulness forward. So much so, he became a threat not only to the local religious leaders but to those from surrounding regions.

Stephen’s great wisdom and being filled with the Spirit so threatened the enemies of God that they began to treat him very much like they treated Jesus. They drummed up false charges and brought him to an unfair trial before the council and high priest. Stephen, with the face of an angel, then responded. His response was not to get himself out of the trial but to lay out an account of Israel’s history from Abraham to Jesus.

Stephen’s knowledge of the Scriptures and applying them to his situation was so convicting to the religious leaders, “they were cut to the quick.” (Acts 7:54) As the religious gnashed their teeth, cried with one loud voice, covered their ears, rushed him with one impulse, and stoned him, Stephen then directed his attention to the Lord. He asked the Lord, “receive my spirit!” and prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! (Acts 7:59-60)”

Also, there was a young man present, assigned to watching over the robes of those stoning Stephen, who was in hearty agreement with Stephen’s death, Saul of Tarsus. We know this impacted Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) so greatly. Paul had ravished the church on many occasions, but he described this scene specifically when giving his account to the Jews in Acts 22:20. Stephen’s testimony had a dramatic impact on the author of much of the New Testament.

Stephen began his ministry as a waiter and ended as a martyr that changed the history of the world. Stephen was not serving tables, but he served as a template of grace, faith, power, full of the Holy Spirit. He served as a bold, faithful witness for Christ before a hostile group of religious leaders. He served as a contributing factor to Paul’s conversion. He served as an example for all of us; a fulfillment of what Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

At this time, the need within the Body of Christ and the need in the world, in general, is greater than ever. Laborers are needed. Men and women ready to serve with the humility of Stephen. It begins with a willingness to wait tables - to do unglamorous tasks for the glory of God. Stephen was not much more than a willing humble servant, but God used him in mighty ways.

We can often overcomplicate how we can be used in ministry. What are a few things in front of you today that God is calling you to do? In other words, how can you be waiting tables for the glory of God today?

Even under quarantine, there are symbolic tables to be served in our own homes. Seemingly humble areas of service to the body of Christ can propel a Christian into other areas of service they didn’t know existed. What is truly needed in the mix that is COVID-19 pandemic are people willing to be Spirit-filled servants.

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