Of Kicks and Crowns

The fruit of the Spirit is … faithfulness. – Galatians 5:22 NIV

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master. – Matthew 25:21 RSV

Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. … the Master you are serving is Christ. –Colossians 3:23, 24 NLT

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

“I knew I shouldn’t have sent that manuscript evaluation before the guy paid me,” I grumbled to my husband one night at the supper table. “Now I’ll never get paid. What do I get for being nice? A kick in the pants.”

“No,” he said, with a knowing smile. “Another jewel in your crown.”

“And what about that book order I sent on good faith that the lady really did just put the check in the mail, like she claimed?” I continued, ignoring his comment. “Twenty-two bucks may not sound like a lot, but we could really use that money now.”

He grinned. “Another jewel in your crown.”

I wasn’t in the mood to hear about jewels in my someday crown. We needed money in our checking account. My freelance work wasn’t just slow—it had come to a screeching halt.

I thought of all the books and bookmarks I’d given away, the hours I’d spent—way more than I was paid for—painstakingly editing mediocre manuscripts because I felt each author deserved my best work. I thought of all the work I’d done gratis—articles written, workshops taught, manuscripts edited. I thought of all the recent opportunities for writing, speaking, and editing that had fallen through. I thought of the paying job doing something I loved that I gave up because I believed God called me to write full time. And now doors were slamming shut in my face.

Weren’t you supposed to be rewarded for doing the right thing and being faithful?

“You know the verse about ‘casting your bread on the waters and after many days, you’ll find it again’?” I said.

Sensing I was on a roll and nothing he could say would derail me, Dean didn’t even nod.

“Well,” I continued, “my bread must have gotten water-logged and sunk, or gobbled up by fish and fowl.”

Faithfulness isn’t easy. Especially when you’ve done all the Good Book says to do, and you don’t see the fruit of your labors.

When you’ve trained up your children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and they choose not to follow it. When you’ve faithfully brought your tithe into the storehouse (Malachi 3:10), but the windows of heaven remain shut tight. When you’re kind, thoughtful, and pleasant to people, treating them the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), and they’re snippy, rude, and thoughtless in return.

Sometimes I get tired of doing the right thing. Of being the nice guy. Nice guys get taken advantage of. They get ignored, overlooked. They’re overworked and underpaid. And, like me, they sometimes become battle-weary and weak, vulnerable to doubt and despair.

We can give in or choose to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), remembering that “He who called us is faithful” (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and will keep His Word (Isaiah 55:11). Even when we’re faithless, God remains faithful because He cannot be false to Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

These days I find myself repeating the words of Jim Cymbala: “Though in my heart I’ve questioned, even failed to believe, He’s been faithful, faithful to me.”

How can I be any less?

Dear God, I’ve poured my heart and soul into what You’ve called me to do, but, for all my labor, I see little, if any, fruit. I feel like such a failure. Help me to persist and persevere in the face of disappointment and discouragement and to leave the fruit up to You. Remind me that You have not called me to be successful, but to be faithful. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Matthew 25:14–46.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Time in the Tomb

Photo by Tim Reid from flickr.com

Read and meditate on Matthew 27:57–66.

Stop judging by the way things look. –John 7:24 ERV

 Jesus was dead.

What now?

They’d believed He was the Messiah, the Promised One, the Son of God. Divine. He’d healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out evil spirits, fed crowds of thousands with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, walked on water, calmed storms. He was their friend, their teacher, their master, their Lord.

How could this have happened? More important, how could He have let this happen?

His enemies had had the last word. So everyone thought.

Now what would happen to them?

I think about that day between Jesus’ death and His resurrection.

His body lay in a cold, dark, dank tomb, buried in haste by a rich disciple who also happened to be a member of the very Council that condemned Him to death.

His disciples were locked away in an upper room, cowering in fear, wondering if they’d be next. Best stay hidden.

His enemies visited the Roman governor and asked him to post a guard at the tomb, “lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.” (And by getting guard, they proved that the disciples could not have come and taken the body. Ah, I love how God works!)

Yes, the time in the tomb was bleak. The disciples’ dreams of a Messianic kingdom were gone, bled out by the nails that pierced His hands and feet. The last shred of hope pierced by the spear that plunged into His side as He hung on the cross.

But all was not as it seemed.

It never is, is it?

We cannot see what God has in mind. We can only trust that He’s got this, and He knows what He’s doing. That eventually His plan and purpose will be fulfilled. We just have to wait it out.

Wait and pray.

Wait and hope.

Wait and fluctuate between fear and faith. Between despair and hope.

And waiting is the hardest part. It tests our faith, runs roughshod over what hope we’re left clinging to. It stirs up doubt. Does God really care about little me? Is He ever going to make something good happen?

But it’s in the cold, dark, dank tomb that our faith, through trial and testing, strengthens and grows. It doesn’t grow in the good times, when euphoria and adrenaline feed our emotions.

Faith isn’t about emotions, is it?

Faith isn’t about what we think, is it?

Faith, to paraphrase a favorite quote, is like driving at night in the fog (or heavy rain). You can only see as far as your headlights’ beam, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Laverne enjoys a grandchild seven months before her accident. (Photo taken by James Hooks. Used with permission.)

My friend and sister-in-Christ Laverne has lain in a coma since a speeding car hit her and sent her careening headfirst onto the pavement. For nearly two years friends have prayed for a miracle.

I prayed. But, like the disciples, I doubted. Two years of of nothing. Her time—and our time—in the tomb.

But a thought came, unbidden: “Wouldn’t Easter be the perfect time for God to bring this precious lady of faith out of her tomb?” I pushed it aside. After all, look at the facts. Even the doctors said there was no hope. And even if her body survived, her mind wouldn’t.

Then I got a message from her husband: “Today Laverne was alert, with one eye open, squeezing my hand. Actually moved her hand sideways. When I got there, the nurse that shifts her position said Laverne was actually helping her move. (Never happened before.) Small miracles, slow but adding up. Thanks for continued prayers.”

Shame on me. I’m too much like Thomas. I want to see before I believe. But I have to believe before I can truly see.

Are you in a tomb?

Have faith. Cling to that last thread of hope.

Sunday’s coming. New life will explode out of that tomb.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Amen.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.