Living Our Lives For God And Others
“Living Our Lives For God And Others”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 31, 2016
Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:12-14, 2:18-23; Psalm 49:1-11
The instructions from God’s Word seem simple, but they are not easy to live out. We have set standards for what we consider as success – standards based on how we’ve progressed in life and how much we’ve gained materially – but these things pass away because we put our trust in our works rather than in what God has done in our lives. We don’t put our trust in what God has done in our lives because we don’t know that they are ours or don’t believe they are there because we don’t see or experience them. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creature; the old things passed away and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). We should renew our minds to believe that we have become new in Christ and the work He has done is available to us, if we will only believe.
We seek after things that will build us up so we can live the life we dream of. Parents send their children to learn a profession so they can succeed in life. But our definition of success excludes others. Many lawyers can’t practice their profession well because they didn’t learn ethics. Many leaders today are motivated by the need to be successful, without much thought to the people they serve or how they can improve the lives of others. A popular song from years ago has this famous line – “I did it my way”. This has become our song; we always do things for ourselves without thought for others, and always do them our way, without considering how they will affect others. We either don’t know or ignore the fact that it is only God’s way that is eternal and true. True success can come only from and through Him. All the good in our lives is because of God. We do the work but it is God who causes the success and brings about the fruit that lives forever. Success that is measured by material gain and power is fraudulent. Our success should be measured by how much God lives in our lives, and how much we live our lives for Him through others. “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me….” We must die to self daily. This way, we give glory to God in everything we do.
In our early days in Manila Garden, we reached out to a number of people, and their number grew when we transferred to Magallanes. Some of these people were wealthy and high in society. None of them could stay because they couldn’t let go of their old life to embrace and live the new. The choice is always ours to make. God is always with us to help, but the choice and work are ours. People nowadays have become self-centered. Just observe how they are on the road; they are rude, cutting in line, not wanting to wait. We judge everything according to what we think is right, without considering how we affect others with our decisions and actions. Everybody thinks they are on the right, and we have different interpretations and definitions of what is right. Nike tells us to “just do it”, and many times that’s the way we live our lives.
Scripture tells us that our life is in Christ. Colossians tells us that “all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together”. Also “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form and in Him you have been made complete”. Everything we have is because of the work He has done. Adam and Eve were given everything they could possibly need till the enemy came to tempt them with the question, “Do you want to be like God?’ They were deceived with the temptation to be what they already were. Today we are just like Adam and Eve because we don’t believe who we have become in Christ. Instead, we think that our success or worth as a person is defined by what we possess.
“Christ is all and in all.” “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.” There is nothing lacking in Christ, and if Christ dwells in us, then His fullness also dwells in us. We don’t need to spend thousands to learn this and to become what He has created us to be. We just need the Holy Spirit to bring this life out of our lives so we can live it. Sin blinds us to this fact, and the consequences of disobedience and sin are suffering, pain and the absence of peace. This life that God has given us in Christ is in our DNA; it’s who we are – created in the image and likeness of God. We were made perfect. Everything we will ever need is already in us, if we will only realize this and believe it. It’s just like Php1 million has been deposited in our account, yet we continue to struggle financially because we don’t know and believe that we have the money. God put new life in us; He renewed our heart. The Holy Spirit came to live in us; Christ came to live in us. The fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form in Christ; therefore, because He is in us, the fullness of Deity also dwells in us!
Sadly, this truth has not sunk in because we continue to measure our success according to how the world defines it – in terms of material possessions, fame and influence. Back in the Manila Garden days, a socialite joined us and she would come bedecked with jewels worth millions and with bodyguards carrying machine guns. She was very wealthy because their family owned many businesses, yet come offering time, she would give only a few pesos. Her husband left her for another woman so she lived alone with her son in a big house with 16 T&B, 22 servants and 8 cars. We think hers was the best life; utopia. Yet I got a call one night asking me to go to her. She was hiding in her bathroom because her son had a gun and he was shooting everything in the house. How deceptive material wealth is. It doesn’t bring happiness. This woman died cursing God because she was in pain. Her wealth was just a façade that she used to hide her misery.
Colossians goes on to say, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”. Ecclesiastes talks about the vanity of the things that we do when we do them for the wrong reasons. We should always ask ourselves what our motives are for doing the things we do. In Luke 12, Jesus told of a parable about a man who built larger storehouses for his grain and goods so he can take it easy for many years to come. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you have prepared?” Jesus was really saying that it would have been much better if the man used the food to feed the poor. God blesses us so we, in turn, can be a blessing to others. The challenge to us is to use the abilities and potentials God has given us to serve and honor Him, through others. For example, if we have a good singing voice, we use it to worship Him. Each of us has been given a gift and this gift is not to be kept to ourselves, but it is to be used for the body. Otherwise, it’s just vanity; because we can’t take anything with us when we leave this world. The rich man in the parable could have been wealthy with the things of God had he used his wealth to feed the poor.
God expects us to care for and love one another. What we did for Len, that’s what it’s all about. We have compassion to see beyond ourselves and reach out to help. The heart is the very source of life. It is the first organ that is formed in a child because the heart is the wellspring of life.
We’re challenged today to put on the new and die to the old ways – immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, and to put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech. We die daily to self. We take up our cross daily because it is in the cross that we crucify the old life. We don’t ask God to change us because we have already been made perfect. What we need to change is our thinking. We have to renew our minds. All of creation is sacred because all life comes from God. We should live this out. When challenges come, we don’t give up; we overcome. We are more than conquerors in Christ. Thank God that He deals with us where we are. However, He doesn’t want us to stay there. He wants us to rise up and be everything that He created and empowered us to be.
What are we doing with what God gave us? We should already have our own dancers and drummer. I remind you that reality is temporal; the truth is eternal. Everything that we do shall be for God’s glory. The more we give to Him our abilities, the more we get better at them. The book of Colossians is so powerful because it tells who we are in this new life we’ve been given – that we have received the fullness of Christ. Such potential in us to do so much good for this world! Let’s bring glory to God’s name!