Standing Out

All these people were still living by faith when they died…admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

Do you ever feel like a foreigner and stranger on earth? In America — and many other countries — only a minority of people today:

  • Attend church service at least once monthly.
  • Pray at least once daily.
  • Read the Bible at least once weekly.
  • Believe the Bible is God’s Word that should be taken literally.
  • Look primarily to the Bible to decide right and wrong.
  • Talk about their spiritual beliefs.

While living for God brings us far more life, it may also leave us feeling like an outsider. Bible-based perspectives are not welcome in many conversations. Asking questions that reveal a Biblical worldview can lead to rejection or ridicule. Sharing a Bible-derived moral stance can get us cancelled. As we examine the Scriptures, we find this explanation for many of those experiences:

But the person who is not a Christian does not understand these words from the Holy Spirit. He thinks they are foolish. He cannot understand them because he does not have the Holy Spirit to help him understand. (I Corinthians 2:14, NLV)

In order to understand God’s ways you must be connected to God. Most people who do not have a relationship with Him will not value His perspectives and instructions. So when we base our decisions, morals, and values on the Bible, we stand out from many around us.

Jesus stood out in His culture, too. He said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) to people whose country was occupied by a foreign ruler. He said wrong thoughts are as sinful as wrong actions (Mark 7:20-23) to people who had over 600 rules governing their behavior. He built relationships with people who were unpopular and scorned (Mark 2:16-17). His focus was on fulfilling God’s plan for Him, not fitting in.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38, NIV)

Jesus knew His message would resonate with some and offend others (John 6:60-69), so he was not swayed by people’s reactions to the content. He continued to share the truth with those whom God drew, but did not try to convince those who were not interested in His message (Matthew 10:14). He told His disciples to expect rejection and persecution — even from their own families.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. (Matthew 10:16-17, NIV)

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:21-22 and Mark 13:11-13, NIV)

Many people — including religious people — rejected Jesus during His lifetime. Today many people believe Jesus was a good teacher, a wise man, maybe even a prophet, but they do not believe He was God in the flesh. But Jesus’ own words left no question about His identity:

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26, NIV)

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me…I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24-25, 30, NIV)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

We are called to represent Christ to those around us. So how do we live out far more life in a culture that is hostile toward God and the authority of His Word?

Far more life allows us to demonstrate God’s character, love, and power. When we are put under pressure of criticism, rejection, or persecution, people expect us to respond with hate, anger, revenge, or condemnation. But through God’s Spirit we are able to respond with truth, love, and forgiveness. We stand out as we represent Christ with integrity.

Far more life speaks the truth in love to those who are open to hearing it. We know that many of the problems our society faces are actually spiritual problems. We also know that only God offers the peace, joy, purpose, and fulfillment people are seeking. We stand out by speaking the truth in love, whether it is accepted or rejected.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

Far more life remembers who the enemy is…and is not. We may feel attacked or be accused of attacking others. We stand out when we remember the spiritual forces at work around us and focus on glorifying God:

We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. (Ephesians 6:12, CEV)

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4, NIV)

Far more life either attracts or repels people. As we live authentically for Christ, people will notice and respond. Praise God for those who find far more life!

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.  (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, NIV)

Sisters,
How do you stand out for your faith?
Where are you afraid to stand out?
Ask God for courage and wisdom to fully embrace far more life and stand out for Him.
-Shari

Reflections

Some Bible verses bring us comfort. Others offer perspective. They can even motivate us to do better. Here are some of my favorites; reflecting on them helps me consistently experience far more life.

…The God we serve is able to deliver us…But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18, NIV)

I love the boldness, confidence, and faith of these young men! They did not know whether they would live or die, but they knew God. He is ABLE to deliver. He is WORTHY of complete allegiance. Far more life is knowing God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

This verse reminds me that God is in control. Even when my circumstances are rotten, God is at work, bringing beauty from ashes. Although I prefer better circumstances, His “good” is often character development. But in the long run, that is better because it leads to far more life!

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:17, NIV)

This is my go-to-verse when I need a kick in the pants! When I am tempted to be lazy or selfish, this verse keeps me from justifying my sin. Rather than condemning me, its bluntness encourages me to be honest with myself and God. Far more life is found in doing good rather than sin. I am thankful for this motivating truth!

And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14, NIV)

Mordecai posed this question to his niece, Esther, during a life-or-death situation. She had to choose whether to risk her life to try and save the Jewish nation from genocide. This verse reminds me that even when it appears evil is “winning”, God is still working. Sometimes He positions us to play an unexpected role in His plan. Far more life looks for opportunities to join God’s work.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  (Genesis 50:19-20, NIV)

Joseph was mistreated by his brothers and sold into slavery as a teenager. Instead of letting anger turn to bitterness, he entrusted himself to God. He focused on the blessings he received rather than the hardships he endured. Then the tables were turned and he got to to determine their fate. Far more life forgives others and trusts God to bring good despite their sin against us.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

I love the “Hall of Faith” chapter. It is encouraging to read of the hardships people suffered in a different light — one that illuminates their faith. Although I have not built an ark, sacrificed my son, left my home, escaped the sword, shut the mouths of lions, or been tortured, this chapter encourages me to face my struggles with faith. And to remember that Heaven, my real home, is ahead. Far more life looks to the future with faith that it will be all God has promised!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

I am so thankful for a fresh start every day. (Actually, God’s children get a fresh start with Him each time they sin, but that is not as poetic!) These verses reveal so much about God’s character: He is greatly loving; He is unfailingly compassionate; He is flawlessly faithful. We do not deserve a fresh start, but He generously offers it. Far more life radiates God’s character qualities.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13, NIV)

It was a great relief when I learned that God wanted me to be confident of my eternal destiny. He knows we need certainty in order to prosper, so He gives it! Once we accept Jesus, we can have confidence that our “sin debt” has been settled. We no longer need to fear Judgement Day. Far more life is free to live for God, knowing we will never be separated from Him.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:18-19, NIV)

Whether it is my personality or being a first-born, I want to stay in good standing with the authorities and avoid punishment! I am thankful I no longer need to fear God, the ultimate authority! His Word assures me that I will never suffer His punishment now that I have accepted Jesus’ offer to take it on my behalf. His love has given me a perfect standing before God, even though I do not deserve it. I can focus on loving Him and others. Far more life offers love because it has received God’s perfect love.

Sisters,
What Bible verses do you like to reflect on? How do they communicate far more life to you?
What aspects of God’s character bring you peace, comfort, and hope?
What makes you confident in God’s forgiveness and love for you?
Do you have a “life verse” that serves as your mission statement for life (or this season of life)? If not, prayerfully consider adopting one.

Praise God for far more life!
-Shari


Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso