1-1-13-Sharing a Blessing
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
A blessing was one way of asking for God’s divine favor to rest upon others. The ancient blessing in these verses helps us understand what a blessing was supposed to do. It’s five parts conveyed hope that God would (1) bless and keep them (favor and protect); (2) make his face shine upon them (be pleased); (3) be gracious (merciful and compassionate); (4) turn his face toward them (give his approval); (5) give peace when you ask God to bless others or yourself, you are asking him to do these five things. The blessing you offer will not only help the ones receiving it, it will also demonstrate love, encourage others, and provide a model of caring to others.
As you meditate during your quiet time, ask God to “make His face to shine upon you” (Numbers 6″25), to let His light shine through you an all the people you meet. Ask Him to use you to help lighten a burden, relieve someone’s loneliness, solve a problem or make God’s ever-present Spirit real in someone’s life.
Lord, help me to show Your loving concern to the people around me.
(2 Kings 4:6)
“When all the jars were full. she said to her son, Bring me another one.”
God’s provision was as large as their faith and willingness to obey. Beware of limiting God’s blessings by a lack of faith and obedience. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Miraculous interventions are just one way God expresses compassion to those he loves. Though people sometimes misunderstand God as harsh and judging, he has a loving nature and shows concern even in the small details of our lives.
The car gave a violent lurch and came to a stop. “What was that!” the children cried. Tip looked down into the deep draw below us. “I think we’ve gone through the bridge,” she said.
It was true. As soon as I stepped out onto the narrow log-and-dirt bridge straddling the steep gully, I saw that our rear wheel had plunged through the rotten timbers up to the axle.
Tib took the three kids back to solid ground. Gingerly, I jacked up the car, intending to fill the hole, then let the rear wheels back down and drive off. But searching that barren landscape produced nothing but small twigs and pebbles which fell right through the break in the bridge. Nowhere could we find rocks or logs big enough to plug the hole.
Since we hadd come to Africa we had never been in clearer need of guidance. We were still fifteen miles from the village where we planned to spend the night. Behind us were miles of empty bush; all afternoon we had met one car on the winding dirt track we were following in this little traveled district of Uganda. Thunder clouds were building up over the Nile, and night would be upon us in half an hour. We couldn’t spend the night in the car for fear the rest of the bridge would go. We couldn’t stay out of the car: this was Lion country. A mile back we had passed a fresh hippo carcass.
And so in this emergency we did what we had done frequently since arriving on this unpredictable continent. We asked God what to do. We used a principle we had used before, thanking Him ahead of time for the answer which we confidently expected would come. Then we simply waited.
And in the strange calm which follows this attitude, the answer was there simple and perfect. I got out the spare tire, slipped it beneath the jacked up wheel and found that it straddled the hole exactly. I let the car back down and, to the cheers of the children, drove off the bridge. Just in time too, for with nightfall came the first wave of a driving tropical rainstorm.
Now it would be possible, of course to say that we had not received guidance at all, we were just using common sense. Once I would have been inclined to agree. But not today. For our African year, from beginning to end, was above all else an adventure in guidance. There were so much was strange, we found ourselves daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute asking God’s direction.
(From Glimpses of His Glory by John and Elizabeth Sherrill)
Are you convinced of God’s love for you – enough that you expect and trust that he will intervene when you need him to? Are you facing a difficult situation? Find the courage to bring it to God in faith. Ask him to help you in the way he knows is best; then wait and see how God intervenes.
1. Remember God’s control of their lives and the world.
2. Practice with class members the skill of constructing a blessing.
3. Gain familiarity with the variety of blessings available to Christian trainers.
4. Experience Christian community with the class.
God, our merciful Father, your hand is on our head as you bless us with love and exude concern for our needs. Help us become instruments of your blessing to others so that in the end, we may come to the fullness of your glory and see with our eyes what we now believe in our hearts. Amen.
The Exodus, the ark, Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the stilling of the storm, feeding 5000 people with almost no food, the death and resurrection of Jesus – all of these events and many, many more are sources of strength and blessing to us. When we recall them. we are reassured of Goal’s faithfulness, of his loving and wise rule in the world.
Sharing a benediction is one way of linking a person with the whole history of God’s saving acts. It is a means of helping individuals find the faith they need to carry on. It is a wonderful tool of Christian ministry.
Sharing a Blessing
In a previous lesson I noted that you might not always want to use prayer for ending a visit. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, however, there is another distinctive technique that more aptly applies to such occasions – a blessing or benediction.
The Latin root of benediction simply means “well-saying.” In this sense, benedictions also abound in the secular world. “have a good day.” people say. “Take it easy.” “Keep your chin up.” These are all benedictions of a sort. When taking leave. they are ways of wishing that all might go well with the other. One of the more commonly used “benedictions” has religious roots. To say “good-bye” is to use a contracted form of “God be with you.”
There is an important difference, however, between secular benedictions and religious ones. “Take it easy.” “Hang in there.” and “Keep your chin up” all imply action on the part of the person to whom the farewell is extended, as though that person were responsible for the day going well. Christian benedictions, on the other hand, contain no such demand. They are professions of faith that the outcome of the day is in the hands of God. God’s action is the foundation of the Christian benediction “The Lord bless you…” “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…” “The peace of God…”.
These are all expressions of grace. God blesses you; you don’t bless you. A benediction proclaims that God has you in his care and is responsible for your well-being. In this sense benedictions are remembering tools. They remind the bestower and the recipient alike that God is present and He is in control. Christian benedictions carry greater impact and bring comfort because you are acting in God’s place, assuring people that God will continue to be at their side. In offering a benediction you can make the presence of God even more real to the other person. In essence, you are saying, “I am leaving you, but God will continue to be with you and in control.”
How to Bless
Just as timing is important when praying or using Scripture, so it is important when you deliver God’s blessing. Most often, blessings or benedictions will be appropriate at the close of a visit, but you might decide that a blessing is called for in the middle of the visit or at some other time. There might be other times when you determine that a blessing is inappropriate. Ask yourself: What is the other person’s need? Would a blessing be appreciated and natural at this time?
When you decide it might be appropriate to use a benediction, you could lead into it by saying, “Before I go, if you like, I would like to share a blessing with you.”
As you share blessings with people, physical touch can be important. You can grasp the person’s hand or put your hand on an arm. Your touch can be a natural expression of the intimacy the two of you share at that moment as you stand before God, ready to receive the gift of his care. Touch is especially beneficial for those whose other senses might be handicapped – the aged, the infirm, the comatose, or the heavily sedated. If you feel stiff and awkward with touch, though, you might be better off not doing it. Your reluctance could be sensed by the other and detract from the blessing.
The Form of the Blessing
You have a broad range of options as to the specific benediction you use, and your choice can vary from one situation to another. As an aid in using this resource, you might want to write out one or more benedictions before a visit. Mark them in your Bible if you carry one, or better still, memorize several. You can be formal or informal in your choice of benediction. Use whatever is appropriate.
Formal, stylized benedictions have their advantages. For instance, the familiar words of “The Lord bless you and keep you…” can be a great comfort to the person who has heard them week after week at the close of worship services. Here is a sampling of some of the more formal biblical benedictions you might find opportunities to use:
• The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his continence upon you, and give you peace (Num. 6:24-26).
•The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14)
•And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7)
•Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Heb. 13:20-21).
Informal or extemporaneous benedictions are also appropriate and have their own advantages. If you are a layperson, you might feel uncomfortable using a formal, liturgical benediction. And if a caring situation happens to take place over a cup of coffee in a restaurant, a formal benediction could seem a bit out of place. Informal benedictions can be tailored to special needs and at times might even be more meaningful. For example:
•May God shower you with his blessings as you begin your new job out of town, and may a sense of his presence be with you always.
•Shorter blessings occasionally can be appropriate as well: God be with you. God bless you. Peace and joy to you.
Speak these as seriously as you would the more formal or lengthy blessings, rather than in a casual or flip manner.
The situation, the person’s needs, and your own preference will determine your choice of benediction. Whether you decide to be formal or informal, speak with conviction. Benedictions are not casual good-byes said halfway out the door, nor should they serve as a formula with which to conveniently conclude a visit. When you yourself are assured that the person really is in the hands of God, that assurance will come across in the blessing you speak.
Families, Communities and Counseling
Within recent years, one of the most exciting and potentially revolutionary developments in the counseling field has been the rediscovery of nonprofessionals. Of course, relatives, friends, classmates, neighbors, fellow workers and church members have been offering their own brand of counseling/training for centuries. With the rise of psychiatry, psychology, social work and related professional disciplines, however, the untrained lay person felt or was made to feel that he or she had nothing to offer people in need. After a shaky start, pastoral counseling began to develop as a discipline and school counselors were not far behind inn joining the counselor ranks, but the lay person still felt unqualified to counsel.
Then, in 1960, the government-sponsored Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health made what was then a startling observation and proposal.
A host of persons untrained or partially trained in mental health principles and practices – clergymen, family physicians, teachers, probation officers, public health nurses, sheriffs, judges, public welfare workers, scoutmasters, county farm agents, and others – are already trying to help and to treat the mentally ill in the absence of professional resources. With a moderate amount of training through short courses and consultation on the job, such persons can be fully equipped with an additional skill as mental health counselors.
This proposal to train mental health counselors was not met with great enthusiasm by professionals. Concerned about quackery, psychological naïveté, harmful or blundering attempts at counnseling or simplistic approaches to complex psychological problems, professionals hurried to “protect the public” (and their professions) by pushing for legislation which would limit counseling to those who were professionally trained and legally licensed. Nevertheless, at the same time, many of these professionals began to teach counseling skills and to encourage lay helping in accordance with the Joint Commission Report.
In the future, it is probable that professional counseling, including Christian counseling, will continue to grow as a field, and the requirements for licensing and certification will grow more stringent. As the world becomes more sophisticated psychologically and people become more open about their problems, however, the needs and demands for counseling will continue to be greater than the availability of professionals, especially Christian professionals. Friends, relative and church members will continue to counsel one another – often with the blessing of overburdened professionals. After all, friends are more available, understanding, not bound by appointment hours, less threatening – and their services are free. In addition, it appears that for many problems, especially crises and the more everyday problems of living, Christian lifestyle trainers are as good, if not better, than the professionals.
Christian Lifestyle Trainers can also do some things that professionals cannot do. Trainers can give guidance, practical assistance, assurance of spiritual care and continued support to people with problems and to their families. People who are in counseling with professionals often find that friends, trainers and relatives give important encouragement between counseling sessions. And if the person in need refuses to get help, the trainer can often teach the family and friends how they, in turn, can help their friend.
In this course, we focus on these families, neighbors, and other support individuals/groups who can supplement the professional counselor and thus engage in the long-existing but recently revived art of people-helping.
Support Groups and Training
At several places in the preceding lessons, we have mentioned the value of trainers, friends, family, church members and others who can give emotional support and practical help including guidance, more objective observations, friendship, sympathy, challenge, “feedback,” and tangible assistance (such as money or food) to help one another in times of need. Professionals refer to this network of helpers as a support system. Most of us get help from the system of people who back us up, and most of us are part of several systems which support others. These support systems show us that others care, and there is evidence that people who have well-developed support systems have less mental or physical illness and are better able to cope with the challenges of modern life.
Support system can include individuals who give one-to-one help to a friend, natural groups such as families or classmates, religious groups such as participants in a Bible study or the members of a local church, and “mutual self-help groups,” such as the people in Alcoholics Anonymous, encounter groups, Weight Watchers, Recovery, Inc., and others. In addition to giving care and guidance, these groups provide acceptance, training in social and coping skills, encouragement during behavior change, help with will power or self-control, and (for many people a feeling of significance. If the members of a support system organize formally, they can have great political influence in a community. Some times they challenge or criticize professionals, but more often they supplement the lifestyle training work.
Active participation in a support group can even help those with problems. This has been called the “helper-therapy principle,” which, in its simplest form, states that those who help are helped the most. This has led some trainers to encourage their trainees to get involved in helping others. It is well known that “the best way to learn is to teach.” It appears that one of the best ways to get help is to help others.
In helping others, many people ‘do what comes naturally” – giving the best advice and guidance that they can give. With a minimum of training, however, lay people can learn basic helping skills which can increase their effectiveness significantly. Of course, this training can greatly enhance the ability of support system members to help one another; with the help of a capable people-helper – a trained Christian Lifestyle trainer.
As the counseling profession develops and changes, a new role for counselors is emerging: the training of Christian Lifestyle trainers. Christian leaders in the church are prime candidates for this training, and to this end these courses have been developed and implemented. When people are trained to help their friends and neighbors, problems can be prevented, solutions can be found sooner, and the trainer’s work can be more effective because the trainee is “backed up” by an effective support system which includes lay helpers.
The Family and Training
There are two major ways by which the family can be involved in training. The family can be a support system in which the members give help and guidance to one another, and the family as a unit can receive training help and treatment.
1. The Family As a Support System. Although many families are scattered geographically or split by disagreements and tension, the “extended” family (which includes the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins) nevertheless provides help in a variety of ways. According to Caplan, the family
•collects and disseminates information about living;
•provides a place where individuals can get feedback about their behavior;
•gives guidance in solving problems;
•provides information about the sources of outside help;
•gives practical assistance when needs arise;
•provide a haven for rest and recuperation;
•controls behavior which gets “out of line”;
•gives people an identity;
•helps individuals master emotions such as anxiety, depression, guilt or feelings of hopelessness; and
•gives support during crises and through the much longer periods involved in adjusting to loss and deprivation.
The family is also the major source of the beliefs, values and ethical standards that individuals develop. In this respect, families and churches work together as a support system. Caplan’s description of this is technical in language but significant for Christian lifestyle Trainers:
The family group is a major source of the belief systems, value systems, and codes of behavior that determine an individual’s understanding of the nature and meaning of the universe…. These systems of belief and values provide the individual with a map of his (or her) universe, and with a set of goals and missions, as well as a compass in finding his way….
[There is] a reciprocal reinforcement of family units and religious denominations. Most denominations recruit their members from family units. Religious rituals focus on developmental incidents and transitions of family life…. Religious denominations deal with the entire family as a unit throughout its developmental history. Conversely, families inculcate and foster among their members the value and belief systems and code of ethics of their religious denominations and strive to recruit the marital partners of their children to the same beliefs, as well as to ensure that grandchildren follow a similar path….
years of crisis research have given me many illustrations of the advantage of individuals who conform to family and religious traditions over the nonconformists, the rebels, and the irreligious….
The family and church together can help people meet crises and cope with the realities of life. Christian lifestyle trainers who work with individuals should not overlook the helping, supportive roles of families and their churches. As support systems and adjuncts to Christian lifestyle training, the family and the church are without parallel in the society.
2. The Family As a Therapy System. There are many times, however, when the family is part (sometimes a major part) of the trainee’s problem. Even when family members sincerely want to help the trainee, they sometimes interfere with the training and create continuing stress for the trainee. For this reason many trainers work with whole families as well as with the trainee.
An individual’s problems never exist in isolation. As we have seen, the family does much to shape human behavior, provide values and beliefs, and teach people how to deal with crises. If an individual family member is having problems, this may indicate as much or more about the trainee’s family attitudes and communication as it does about the trainee. The person who comes for training, then, may be a “symptom-bearer” whose highly visible problems really signal that something is amiss in the family. Treating the trainee will not help much if he or she continues to live in an unhealthy family. Indeed, if the trainee starts to change behavior and improve, this could create confusion and even chaos with a family’s values and ways of operating. This family confusion in turn can create more problems for the trainee.
Consider, for example, a three-person family with an alcoholic father. As long as the father is drinking, the mother and child may have a clear purpose – to protect themselves and to work at changing the alcoholic’s drinking behavior. Now let us assume that the alcoholic goes for treatment, stops drinking, and determines to assume his role as head of the family. Suddenly the child, but especially the mother, may have no purpose for living. As a result she may get depressed, so the father and child team up to care for the mother, In many families a seesaw arrangement has continued for years. If the husband is drinking, the wife is complaining but otherwise fine. If he stops drinking, she gets depressed and so hard to live with that he starts drinking again. When this happens, she gets better – and so the cycle continues.
Clearly this entire family needs help and that is the goal of the systems approach to training. While the original trainee may be seen alone, the family members also come together for training as a unit. The trainer watches the family interact, mediates their disputes, and teaches them more effective ways to communicate and relate to one another. The family members learn how to listen, to express themselves – including the expression of their feelings – to be flexible, to understand one another, to deal more effectively with conflict, and to develop a greater sense of mutual awareness and support.
Family therapy is a growing and progressively complex field. It is a specialty which Christian counselors are only beginning to enter and influence, but it holds great potential for Christian lifestyle training in the future.
The Community and Training
Although everyone is a member of some family, almost all of us also belong to a community. We are involved in neighborhoods, recreational groups, schools, places of employment, and churches. neighbors, friends, local merchants, government leaders, schoolteachers, law enforcement officers, church leaders and a host of other people interact with us to both create tension and give support.
Within recent years a new approach has appeared known as community training. Just as family trainers believe that it is ineffective to help a trainee apart from the family, so community trainers assume that one cannot really help people without dealing with the community at the same time. The community trainer and trainee participate in a mutual exploration which asks:
1.To what extent is the individual capable of resolving the issue through personal change?
2.What resources in the environment are available to help the individual grow?
3.To what extent does the solution really rest in the environment instead of the individual?
4.How can the trainer and/or the trainee act to bring about the necessary changes in the environment?
In addition to personal training, community trainers are involved in activities such as providing educational programs; giving training in self-help skills; assisting governments and social service agencies in planning social programs; identifying community support groups; working to establish telephone hot lines, rehabilitation centers and other community resources, and at times participating in political movements in an effort to improve the community.
Community trainers recognize that they are not alone in trying to improve the community. For this reason they work with a variety of professional, political and other resource people to bring about change. By improving the community it is assumed that community residents will be enabled to better cope with life and its problems.
It takes only a casual look at the literature to discover that the field of community training says very little about the church. If we consider the helping ministry of Jesus, however, we might conclude that he was a community trainer. He tenderly and sensitively helped individuals with their doubts and struggles, but he also spoke out against hypocrisy and poverty. He drove the moneychangers out of the temple, criticized the government, and spoke of a day when his kingdom would come and eliminate injustice.
In view of the recent trends in community training, it is exciting to ponder how Christian lifestyle training might change in the future. Christians live in communities too, and believers – including trainers – must have an active concern about hunger, poverty, injustice, crime and the other social ills which give rise to many of the issues discussed in previous lessons. The church, as a community within a community, must ask how it can have an impact both on the unchurched and on church members. Following his oft-quoted instruction that we should “bear one another’s burdens,” Paul wrote:
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Christian community lifestyle training is a virgin territory, clearly consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
The Environment and Training
Several times in this course we have mentioned the effect of environment on trainees and their trainers. Four of these environmental influences are of special importance.
1.Weather. A large amount of research has attempted to study the influence of weather on human behavior. Everyone knows that people feel sluggish and tired when the heat and humidity are high. It has also been shown that weather can influence suicide and accident rates, crime, academic performance, productivity, degree of participation in social activities, mood, subjective feelings, and attitudes. When weather conditions are extreme – as in heat waves, intense blizzards or storms – an additional stress is applied to everyone. People who are under stress already may see these weather pressures as “the last straw” which then produces dramatic change in behavior. Following a recent snowstorm in Chicago, for example, travel was restricted, people were forced to stay home, frustration and domestic quarrels increased, and the number of family murders rose sharply.
2.Noise. In urban areas especially, people constantly are bombarded by noise from traffic, aircraft, radios, typewriters, construction, barking dogs, people talking, telephones, and other sources of “noise pollution.” While some sounds (such as desired music) can be soothing and relaxing, other noises can increase tension and irritability, prevent sleep, interfere with job performance and even lead to a reduction in sex drive or a loss of appetite. People who live in noisy environments often find the perpetual sound to be annoying, and this can be stress-producing.
3.Crowding. Most people enjoy having a little, but not too much distance between themselves and other human beings. We like a little stimulation from others but too much or too little can be harmful to our well-being. We like to be near people, but we can withdraw for a time of solitude. When such withdrawal is impossible (as often is the case in crowded cities, campus dormitories, ships at sea or some mission compound situations) tensions build, tempers often flare, and people can feel trapped.
4.Architecture. Architects and interior decorators have long recognized that room shape, colors, type and arrangement of furniture, decorations (such as pictures or books), temperature and lighting can all affect people psychologically. These architectural and design effects have a subtle bearing on work productivity, interpersonal relations, attitudes, emotions and the extent to which people feel comfortable and relaxed.
These environmental factors influence training in two important ways. First, they can create stress and complicate training. In the midst of his busy life, Jesus moved away from the noise, crowds, and other environmental pressures to get alone with his Father. Trainees and trainers at times need to do the same. The sensitive trainer keeps alert to environmental stresses which may intensify both the trainer’s and the trainee’s pressures and thus hinder training effectiveness.
This brings us to a second influence of the environment on training. The place where we do our training can be important. It is not necessary or always desirable to train in a formal office. When one does use an office, however, recognize that comfortable chairs, pleasant surroundings, neatness, warm colors (like yellow, brown, red of even blue – never white), soft floor coverings, comfortable temperatures, soothing music (or silence) can all reduce tension – providing the trainee feels comfortable in this kind of environment. If you are training in a restaurant or public place, be alert to the potentially adverse influences of background music, commotion, architectural design and other environmental influences.
Groups and Training
Although the major emphasis of this course, so far, has concerned the training of individuals on a one-to-one basis. It is well known, however, that much training also occurs in croups. led by a trained lifestyle trainer, the group participants come together to share their problems and help one another. Within the group there is acceptance, freedom to share, and a sense of solidarity. Group members feel a closeness with others, especially when there is no nearby family or other support system.
The early church probably consisted of small groups of believers, meeting together for the teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer mentioned in Acts 2:42. Undoubtedly there was mutual support, encouragement, sharing and burden-bearing. It could be argued, therefore, that small group training is at least as old as the early church.
Today, in more modern times, there is a revival of interest in the formation of small groups in the church; including small support groups. Literally thousands of techniques have been developed to facilitate group discussion and interaction. A consideration of some of these techniques is covered later in this course, Christian lifestyle trainers should be aware of the unique benefits of small group training, of the technical expertise required for effective group leadership, and of the current upsurge of interest in group training as a way to help people in need. Christian lifestyle trainers who want to start group counseling should seek further information about group techniques, and attempt to get training in the process of group therapy.
The Church and Training
A Christian psychologist named Lawrence Crabb has suggested that psychological problems arise from inaccurate thoughts or ideas about life, ineffective patterns of behavior and a lack of involvement with other people. Effective biblical training involves enlightenment with other people. Effective biblical training involves enlightenment (to help people “think right”), exhortation (to help people “do right”, and encouragement from a caring community (to help people “live right”).
Crabb believes that the local church should provide all three of these elements. Encouragement should be the responsibility of every church member. People with training in basic helping skills can, in addition Christian lifestyle train with exhortation (helping people “solve all conflicts in a manner consistent with scripture”). Then, especially sensitive, gifted Christian people should be given intensive training which enables them to do “enlightenment counseling/training.” These people would “need to understand psychological functioning in some depth; how childhood experiences channel our thinking in wrong directions, where feelings come from, what controls behavior, how to unravel the tightly woven knots of foolish thinking, how to figure out the real causes behind surface problems, and so on.”
Crabb’s creative ideas have stimulated the thinking of many Christian leaders. While some have called them simplistic, and others have argued that they too quickly sweep aside the special expertise and positive influence of professional/paid counselors, the encouragement-exhortation-enlightenment model deserves further study, testing and implementation nevertheless. This view points Christian lifestyle training away from the exclusive domain and secluded office of the paid professional, and back where it belongs – in the context of Christian spiritual gifts within the control of the Holy Spirit and the Christian church as a whole.
This was where we began this course, discussing the church and Christian lifestyle training, There continues to be a need for paid professionally trained Christian counselors, but we also need effective, trained volunteer Christian lay people who know the joy and gift of caring. Psychological theories and techniques will continue to be used to help people in need, but the Scriptures alone must be absolutely authoritative and the ultimate standard against which all counseling methods are tested. Bearing burdens and individually training people who have challenges will surely continue to be an important task for many gifted Christians, but especially in our public meetings we must also emphasize the prevention of problems and the elimination of environmental circumstances which create human misery.
Quality of Life Ministry and Quality of Life Ministries were founded for the purpose of promoting the concept that if Christianity can show that we offer a better ‘Quality of Life” to the world, we can be the effective influence that can turn around this world into something that is truly God’s kingdom on earth and then have the world looking forward to God’s eternal heavenly kingdom. For some individuals, this will be true; but why can’t we dream that that we can strive for all to reach for this Quality of earthly life and eternal life. But to even to strive for this we need almost everyone to seek to be led by the Holy Spirit, enlightened by the Word of God and acquainted with the insights of our faith’s relevance to the world, Christian Lifestyle Training can be one of the most fulfilling tasks to which any believer may be called.
Quality of Life
Jesus as our Quality of Life Model
The Quality of Life Ministry training programs are mostly based on the life Jesus Christ lived here on earth to be our model for Quality of Life. Through the following 6 semesters you will be taking a indepth look at what Jesus has left for us to follow. We are going to take a brief introductory look at it now.
Some portray Jesus as a leader who first accepted the enormous assignment of redeeming a lost and corrupt world, and then was sent to figure out how to do it. At times, leadership experts present Jesus as though he stood on a mountaintop overlooking Jerusalem musing to himself, “How am I going to gain a following and spread the gospel worldwide? Should I seek to convince the religious establishment? Should I preach to the masses? Should I perform an impressive array of miracles? No, I’ll invest myself in the lives of twelve men. I’ll train them so thoroughly that after I am gone they will be able to carry out my mission for me. As they invest in other leaders they will multiply themselves and hence they will multiply my ministry until they have extended my kingdom throughout the world.” This is clearly a misunderstanding of Jesus’ ministry.
Some leadership development proponents observe that Jesus concentrated primarily on training twelve followers; they conclude this model of leadership must be the pattern for all Christian leaders. While not depreciating the value of leadership development or the significance of small group dynamics, leaders would be remiss to infer that the methodology Jesus adopted is the key to Quality of Life. It is not. The key to Jesus’ leadership was the relationship he has with his Father.
Scripture indicates ‘when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Gal. 4:4). The salvation plan had always belonged to the Father. Even as he expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after they fell into sin, the Father knew how he would ultimately redeem humanity. His plan involved developing a people for himself out of Abraham’s descendants. It called for the Law, introduced under Moses, to reveal sin’s nature and its consequences. The Father’s plan culminated in his Son’s lowly birth, his excruciating crucifixion for sins he did not commit, his resurrection and ultimately his ascension to the right hand of the Father. This plan was not the Son’s. It was the Father’s (John 3:16).
Because Jesus knew the Father’s will, he recognized his voice and understood his will. The temptations in the wilderness were Satan’s attempts to prevent Jesus from obeying the Father (Matt. 4: Luke 4:1-13). Satan approached Jesus with a proposition: “So, your assignment is to bring salvation to the people of the earth. That’s a big job. Let me help you. Turn those stones into bread, because if you feed the people they will follow you.” Jesus refused, so Satan offered another suggestion: “Cast yourself from the top of the temple. When the angels save you, everyone will see the miracle and they’ll know you are God’s Son. Then they will follow you.” Again, Jesus refused. Satan offered a final alternative: “Jesus, there’s no point in fighting over the dominion of this earth. Bow down and worship me, and I will hand over all the people to you. Then you won’t have to do battle with me and you can avoid the cross. Crucifixion is despicable and is totally unnecessary in order for you to accomplish your goals.” Once again, Jesus refused to take any shortcuts in carrying out his Father’s will. This would not be the last time Jesus would have to resist such temptations (John 6:15; Matt. 12:38; Matt. 27:40).
Satan’s overt temptations during this time in Jesus’ life are obvious. First, there’s an easier way, with a lower personal cost. Second, God’s way is not necessarily the only option in achieving the desired goals. But, there was also a more subtle temptation at work here. Satan sought to persuade Jesus that saving the world was HIS job, so he should develop his own plan to get the job done. Satan was offering what appeared to be shortcuts to God’s will, but shortcuts that carried with them devastating consequences. Jesus had no freedom to negotiate with Satan over various approaches to redeeming mankind. The Father had already developed the plan and Jesus’ responsibility was to carefully obey his Father’s will. Jesus’ own words say it best: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these…. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:19-20, 30 NIV).
The setting was Bethesda, a healing pool in Jerusalem. There Jesus encountered a multitude of invalids, all vainly surrounding the pool and hoping an angel might come and stir up the waters. Tradition suggested the first person entering the pool when this happened would be cured. Among the crowd that day was a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years. Of all the people there that day, it appears Jesus chose to heal only this one man. When the religious leaders challenged Jesus’ actions, he explained that he was doing exactly what the Father showed him to do. Jesus had cultivated such a close relationship with his Father that he could recognize his Father’s activity even in the midst of a large crowd. Whenever and wherever he saw his Father at work, Jesus immediately joined him.
The setting in your life, is where God is leading you. There you are encountering a multitude of troubled people, all vainly seeking for a better life. The Holy Spirit will lead you and call you to who the Father want’s you to lead into a better “Quality of Life” so that they will be healed too. If you learn how and do what the Father shows you, through the Holy Spirit, to do; you will be a successful leader. To prepare to do this, you must cultivate a close relationship with the Father, so that you can recognize the Holy Spirit’s leading. And when you can recognize this leading, you will become an effective leader of others.
Significantly, even choosing the twelve disciples was not Jesus’ idea but his Father’s Scripture says Jesus spent an entire night praying before he chose his disciples. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles” (Luke 6:12-13 NIV).
This was a critical juncture in Jesus’ ministry; perhaps it took most of the night to understand clearly the Father’s plan for the Twelve. Perhaps the Father spent time explaining the role of Judas to his Son during those intimate hours of prayer.
On the night of his crucifixion, Jesus once again indicated that the Father had chosen his disciples. In what is commonly referred to as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, he gave an account to his Father for all that the Father had given him. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you” (John 17:6-7 NIV).
This passage indicated clearly that Jesus did not choose twelve disciples as a matter of strategy. Nor was there any formula in the number twelve. Jesus did not calculate that twelve was the optimum number for his ministry. Jesus had twelve disciples because that is how many his Father gave him. Would Jesus have chosen Judas if he were simply implementing a discipleship strategy to multiply his efforts? Judas was included because he was given to Jesus as a part of God the Father’s redemptive plan.
According to Jesus, even the teaching he gave his disciples came from the Father (John 6:49-50; 14:10; 15:15; 17:8). If these twelve men were to develop into the leaders God wanted them to be, the disciples would need the Father’s teaching. When the twelve began to mature in their understanding of spiritual things, they recognized Jesus as the Christ. Jesus knew this was not the result of his teaching methods, but it was due to the Father’s work in their lives. This truth is evident in Jesus’ response when Peter confessed him as the Christ: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17 NIV).
Jesus made it clear that when his disciples developed spiritual understanding, it was not due to his efforts, but to his Father’s teaching. Even in that sacred moments when he fell on his face and pled with his Father to let the terrible cup of crucifixion pass from him, Jesus yielded himself entirely to his Father’s will (Matt. 26:39). Never was there any question about replacing or modifying the Father’s plan with the Son’s plan.
Further evidence of Christ’s complete dependence on his Father is the fact that Jesus did not know when his own Second Coming would be: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36 NIV).
Jesus came to fulfill his Father’s plan of salvation. He spent each day looking to see what the Father would reveal about his will. When he observed the Father at work, Jesus adjusted his life to join him. When Jesus entered the large city of Jericho, with masses of people crowding along the streets trying to catch a glimpse of him, Jesus did not set the agenda for that day. He did not strategize: “This is the last time I will pass through this great city. What can I do to make the greatest impact on the crowd and see the most people accept the gospel?” Instead, Jesus spotted the diminutive Zaccheus in a tree. Out of the intimate relationship Jesus had with his Father, he recognized the Father’s activity in the despised tax collector’s life, and he invited Zaccheus to spend time with him (Luke 19:1-10). Had Jesus entered the city planning to have lunch with the most notorious sinner of that region? Once he saw where the Father was working, Jesus immediately knew the plan for his ministry. Likewise he trained his disciples to watch for God’s leading rather than to set their own plans.
Even in the most difficult assignments, including the cross, Jesus accepted his Father’s will unwaveringly. Jesus left his future, as well as his Second Coming, for the Father to determine. Jesus characterized his entire ministry with these words: “By myself I can do nothing” (John 5:30 NIV).
Jesus demonstrated this truth throughout his ministry. In the wilderness Satan tried to entice Jesus into using the world’s methods to accomplish God’s will (Matt. 4:1-11). Satan said in effect, “Provide food and you’ll attract a large following. Use dramatic miracles, and you’ll win followers. Worship me, and you’ll provide Christianity without a cross.” Of course Jesus saw through Satan’s guise and recognized his reasoning as unscriptural. In fact, Jesus identified many of the world’s commonly accepted principles as being contrary to God’s ways. The world says being first is preferable. Jesus said the last shall be first. The world idolizes strength. Jesus said God demonstrates his strength through people’s weakness. The world values large numbers. Jesus choose a small group to be his disciples and often ignored the crowds to focus on individuals. The world seeks happiness. Jesus said blessed are they that mourn. The world is attracted to large, spectacular performances. Jesus said his kingdom would be like a mustard seed. The world does good deeds in order to win people’s praise. Jesus said, do your good deeds in secret, because the Father will see them and give a reward. The world uses slick marketing campaigns to attract people. Jesus said no one can come to him unless the Father draws them. Over and over again Jesus rejected human reasoning in favor of God’s wisdom. What is the difference between human reasoning and God’s wisdom? Ephesians 3:20 says “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (NIV).
Read Luke 9:51-56.
When Jesus and his disciples encountered a rude reception from the Samaritan villagers, how did James and John respond? Call down fire! Incinerate them all! What were these overzealous “Sons of Thunder” thinking? James and John may have had good motives. perhaps they saw this as an opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate his power so that in sacrificing one village, many others would come to believe. It could be they were acting out of misguided protectiveness toward Jesus. They would not stand for their Lord to be mistreated. Whatever their reasoning was, Jesus rebuked the brothers. Their best thinking was completely out of line with the Father’s plan.
Jesus Christ exemplified the unpretentious life the heavenly Father honors in his servants. The only person in history with justifiable reason to exalt himself was the Lord Jesus, God’s only Son. Yet he chose to live and die in extreme humility. It was the Father who continually affirmed his Son, as at Jesus’ baptism, when God proclaimed in an audible voice: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Likewise, on the Mount of Transfiguration when Peter attempted to step in and take charge of that sacred moment, the Father, not the Son, intervened: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35).
Throughout Jesus’ life, at his death, and finally through the resurrection, God the Father exalted his Son – Jesus never promoted himself, even when Satan tried to entice him to do so. This is the pattern of true Christian leadership. When Christian leaders pursue the praise and respecct of others, they may achieve their goal, but they also have their reward iun full. Some people solicit awards, positions, and honors from others. If they succeed, they will be esteemed but their honor will come from people, not God. Those who seek God’s affirmation receive a true and lasting honor. There is no comparison between the fleeting praise of people and the esteem of God.
A Successful Track Record
Jesus told the story of three servants who were entrusted with large amounts of money to invest for their master. The first two servants invested their resources and doubled their investments. The third servant buried his assets and earned nothing for his master. Their master’s response to the first two servants was: “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (Matt. 25;23). God’s kingdom operates on this truth: Those who prove themselves faithful with little will receive more from God. Conversely, those who squander the initial responsibilities God gives them will not be trusted with more. They may even lose the little they had. The problem is, too many people want to bypass the small assignments and get right to the big jobs – the ones with the influence and prestige. But God doesn’t work that way. God is sequential in the ways he develops leaders. The biblical pattern is that God generally begins by giving leaders small assignments. When they prove themselves faithful, God trusts them with more weighty tasks.
Although Jesus had a small group of disciples, he exerted tremendous influence through his teaching. Jesus spen great amounts of time studying Scriptures and praying. Jesus told his disciples, “All things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). As a result, Christ radically challenged the commonly accepted beliefs and customes of his day. He presented a profoundly different view of God and of salvation than was commonly held. In his Sermon on the Mount, he put forth a standard of living that was breathtakingly fresh and different than anyone had ever imagined. Jesus commanded no armies; he controlled no organizations; he had no access to large treasuries; yet his influence has endured and multiplied for over two thousand years.
Larger, Faster, and More
The seduction is in believing that God is as impressed with crowds as people are. he is not. The essence of Satan’s temptations for Jesus was trying to convince him to draw a crowd rather than to build a church (Matt. 4). When Jesus fed the five thousand, he became so popular that the people wanted to forcibly make him their king. In response, Jesus began teaching them about true discipleship. Jesus knew that, even though there was a large crowd following him, many of them were not believers. They were simply wanting their physical needs met. So Jesus preached to them about the cost of discipleship. “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). So quick and so vast was the exodus of would-be disciples that Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked if they, too, intended to abandon him (v. 67). Jesus was never enamored with crowds. In fact, he often sought to escape them (Mark 1:37-38).
Leaders Work Hard
Jesus was his disciples’ leader, but no one worked harder than he did. After Jesus fed the five thousand, he allowed the disciples to get away for a much-needed rest while he remained to send away the multitude and then to pray (Mark 6:45-46). On another occasion, Jesus ministered to the crowds until he was so exhausted that even a raging storm at sea could not awaken him as he slept in the back of a fishing boat (Luke 8:22-24). At other times Jesus would forgo meals with his disciples so that he could continue ministering to people (John 4:31-34). Jesus taught his disciples not just with his words but always by his example. Even when Jesus’ disciples suffered persecution, they knew Jesus had provided them with the model for suffering (Matt. 10:24-25).
Read John 13:1-17.
The example of Jesus has become the model not just for Christian leaders but for secular leaders as well. In all of literature there is no clearer example of servant leadership than that of Christ on the night of his crucifixion. Yet it was the love Jesus showed his disciples (even Judas, whose feet he washed as thoroughly and lovingly as the other eleven) that brought him lifelong loyalty from his followers. Because of Jesus’ unfathomable love for his disciples, the eleven would eventually follow Jesus unwaveringly, even when such loyalty was rewarded with martyrdom.
The account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is often cited in discussions of servant leadership, and rightly so. But Scripture only records an account of Jesus doing this once. If Jesus had been a servant to his disciples, he would have washed their feet every evening. If he had been his disciples’ servant, he would have granted Peter’s request to be excluded from the foot washing. But Jesus was not trying to give his followers what they wanted; he was determined to give them what his Father wanted to give them. Jesus’ response to Peter, therefore, was “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13;8). The disciples did not set the plan for Jesus’ ministry. The Father did. Jesus was the Father’s servant not theirs.
Jesus served the twelve because that was what the Father wanted him to do hat evening. Jesus was always aware that he was the teacher and Lord of his disciples (John 13:13). When Jesus finished washing their feet, he concluded: “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:15). Jesus was not only serving his disciples; he was teaching them. Jesus was demonstrating the ethics of his kingdom.
Leaders Seek to Understand God’s Will
Jesus was the consummate leader. No other person in history has been in higher demand than he was. Jesus’ disciples had their opinions on how he should invest his time (luke 9:12, 33; mark 10:13, 37). Religious leaders had other designs for Jesus (Matt. 12:38; Luke 13:14). The sick, the poor, and the hungry had definite ideas on how Jesus should spend his day (Mark 1;37; Luke 18: 35-43; John 6;15). Jesus family had opinions about what he should do. Some people wanted Jesus to stay and teach them. Others wanted to travel with him (Mark 5:18). Satan planned to sidetrack Jesus from his Father’s will. Jesus was besieged with opportunities to help other people, and he had the power to make a difference in every situation. It was only as Jesus kept his Father’s will continually before him that he was able to stay focused on doing what was most important: obeying God’s will.
Why did Jesus rise early to pray? He knew that maintaining an intimate relationship with his Father was the single most important thing he could do. Why did Jesus occasionally escape the crowds in order to spend time teaching his disciples. Why did Jesus associate with outcasts and sinners such as Zaccheus and the woman at the well? he knew it was for the spiritually needy that he had come. Why did Jesus spend time with friends such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany? He knew it was good to have close friends. Jesus enjoyed such a close relationship with his Father that he always recognized what his Father considered to be important. Since Jesus understood what was critical, he knew how and where to invest his time.
Leaders Manage Time for Their Health
Jesus understood that there were times he needed rest and solitude. After ministering to the crowds all day, Jesus and his disciples deliberately sought restoration (mark 6:45). At the beginning of Jesus’ final week of ministry on earth, he allowed his good friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary to minister to him (John 12:1-3). On the climatic night of his arrest and crucifixion when he could have preached to the crowds one final time, Jesus chose an intimate supper with his close friends (Luke 22:7-13).
Leaders Schedule Time for People
The biblical record demonstrates that Jesus often narrowed his focus to a select few. Certainly there were times when Jesus delivered profound teaching to the multitudes. At other times, he took his twelve disciples aside and gave them divine teaching that was not offered to the crowds (Matt. 10; 13:10-17; Mark 7:17-23). There were still other occasions when Jesus met with his inner circle of disciples – Peter James, and John – and went still deeper in spiritual matters (Luke 9:28; Matt. 26;37-38). Jesus sometimes invested time in a solitary disciple (John 20:27; 21:15-19). Why would Jesus be so selective with divine, life-changing truths? He knew that some people were more willing to receive his teaching and to act upon it than were others. By investing in small groups such as the twelve disciples, Jesus was preparing for the day when people like Peter would be powerful leaders themselves. Because Jesus took time to help Peter develop as a leader, he in turn would influence many others to become followers of Christ as well.
One way Jesus helped his disciples grow as leaders was by teaching them how to make sense of their circumstances. In Luke’s Gospel, the twelve disciples are depicted as being unable to process the events that were unfolding around them. Luke indicates that Jesus gave them authority to cast out demons and to heal diseases (Luke 9:1). The disciples experienced and witnessed incredible miracles as a result of God’s power. When they returned to Jesus they excitedly reported their success, but they soon proved they did not grasp the significance of what had happened. Shortly afterward, when faced with a multitude of hungry people, they surveyed the situation and instructed Jesus to “send the crowd away” because they could not possibly feed such a large crowd (Luke 9:12 NIV). If the disciples had contemplated the power they had seen demonstrated by Jesus thus far, they would have understood that feeding a multitude would not be difficult for Jesus. Jesus miraculously fed the multitude, but the disciples did not process that event either. Thus, they would be disoriented to God the next time an opportunity came to trust him. Mark 6:45 indicates that immediately after Jesus fed the five thousand, he sent his disciples in a boat across the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. When the disciples encountered a storm, they were terrified. They had been given authority to cast out demons; they had recently cast out demons from other people; they had just witnessed the power of God demonstrated in feeding five thousand men and their families, yet they were afraid in the midst of a storm. Why? They had not processed the events of the past, so they were unprepared for the challenges of the present. Scripture indicates that “they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (Mark 6:52). Because the disciples did not take time to process and learn from their earlier failures, they continued to fail when they met new challenges. Jesus rebuked them for being slow to understand the events and the teachings they were encountering (Luke 9:41).
Help me to be patient, and to turn from bitter feelings toward those who do wrong. Let me love them with your love, and help me to look at my own life to see that it is pleasing in your sight. Amen.
1.Has anyone ever given you the popular, secular benediction, “Have a good day?” What were some of your feelings when this was said to you?
2.Think about some of the Christian benedictions people have given you both in a formal (worship service, church, or similar) setting and in an informal setting (after talking with a friend, in passing, and so on). Which ones meant the most to you? What made them special?
3.How might hurting people be helped if they are reminded that their day is in the hands of God? How might they be harmed?
4.Can you think of some examples of times when it might be appropriate to share a blessing other than at the end of your time with another person?
5.Take a look at the “secular” blessings. Can you edit and revise these or some other everyday secular benedictions so they have a distinctively Christian flavor? For example, how might this be accomplished with “Have a good day”? What about others?
6.Constructing a Benediction-7-8 minutes
For the next few minutes do some creative thinking. Construct a benediction of your own. You might wish to refer to the course for some help. Ready? Begin?
7.Remembering a Blessing-Turing the next eight to ten minutes share with the class a time when God really blessed you.
8.Now take the next eight to ten minutes to share with the class a time when someone shared a type of blessing or benediction with you and it was meaningful to you.
9.Situational Benedictions-In this exercise, spend 10 minutes alone, thinking of two people you know who are hurting or in need. Either find in the Bible or construct a benediction appropriate in each. Keeping confidential any identifying information, share a little background information for one of your benedictions. Then read the benediction to the class. You may went to start again and share the second situation and benediction. You have 15 minutes.