Encouraging A Healthy Diet
What do you do with the person spiritually who’s been feeding on the junk of the world and who’s spiritual life is flabby and weak?
Alright, thank you very much and hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Everything going all right at your house? Well, I trust everything’s okay at your house and I just want to assure you right now that before I begin these broadcasts, I pray so earnestly that God the Holy Spirit may speak a word of love and encouragement to your heart. May that be so today. Look with me then at Romans 14 verse 19, “Let us,” said he, “pursue the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”
Let’s look at that phrase “things wherewith one may edify another.” The word “edify” is a Greek word “oikodomês” which means to build up like you build a house. Look for ways to build the other person’s life. This is an important concept. It’s true for parents. My father used to say to me, “It’d be far easier for me to say yes to you, my boy instead of to say no but I’m responsible to God for you. I have to build your life.” How often he would say that to me. “I have to build your life, my boy.”
Well, that’s true, then of parents and children, certainly. It’s true of pastors and people. The pastor is not simply the boss of the church nor indeed the slave or servant of the church. He is the one, who, under God, is to build up his people in the faith. Pastor, said Paul in Ephesians 4, are given to the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. A successful pastor will be building his people up so they can minister to others. It ought to be possible for your deacons and your elders and your trustees and your Sunday school teachers to pray as effectively with a hurting soul as you do, preacher. That’s your goal.
Build them up so they can minister in the things of God not to be full-time career church workers. They’re still volunteers. They’re still church members. And you’re the pastor. You’re the shepherd of the flock, but your job, preacher, is not simply to preach at them, nor indeed to try to guide them. Both of these things you do. But your job, preeminently, it seems to me, is to build them up so that they in turn are capable of sharing the gospel and sharing the truth of the Word of God and sharing the love of God to a hurting soul. Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.
Build up. This works then, I say, in family matters, it works in church matters, it works in one-on-one relationships with individual Christians. You have a friend, let us say, mister – you have a friend and he knows the Lord just as you do. What then is your obligation to him? Well, certainly, you can enjoy his friendship, you get together from time to time, you play golf together, or go fishing together, or you go to church together — whatever it may be and you visit in each other’s homes, and this is at it should be.
But what should your goal be? Simply to enjoy these times of fellowship? Well, certainly, you do enjoy them. There’s nothing wrong with that. But beyond the enjoyment, there should always be the awareness that your main objective is not just to enjoy the friendship but to build up your friend so that after having been with you, he is a better person. I tell our young people here at the college, every person you ever meet will either be better or worse off after you’ve met them.
They’ll either have moved a little closer to God or they have been shoved a little farther away with guilty fingers of yours after you’ve met them. Every person you ever meet will be better or worse off. And our job, the objective of our whole lifestyle and of each individual contact with other human beings is to leave them better and happier and closer to God. Oh, that’s a big order, isn’t it? I can’t say, really, that I’m very successful at that. I don’t really know. But I pray every day, oh, I pray every day that people who touched the life of a man named Cook may sense somehow that God is there and they may feel a little closer to my Lord.
“Things wherewith one may edify another,” that means to build another person up in the faith. And so you have a friend. Your job is not merely to enjoy that friendship but to look at that friend in terms of what does he or she need this minute or what is the great lack in that life? What needs to be built up? And then, prayerfully, prayerfully, and humbly and carefully, by little and little, seek to be a blessing in those very areas. A couple of words of warning at this point: don’t preach. Nobody is more odious than someone who comes to you to have coffee and ends up lecturing you.
You can’t wait to get out of there, isn’t that true? If somebody asks you a question, that’s something else again. Someone says, “What do you think I should do about this,” then you can answer. But wait your turn, wait for the opportunity, and don’t just sail in and give a lecture. It doesn’t work that way. I remember on one occasion, I observed that one of my church members, and this is a good many years ago and in a good many miles away and the brother involved has since gone to glory so I’m not hurting anybody’s feelings when I tell this story.
But I observed that this man was, well, his whole emphasis was “me first,” you know. Like my friend John Houghtcamp used to say in a Pennsylvanis Dutch proverb, “First me, then me, after that you, but not for a long time.” And that was this man’s approach and it bothered me because I wanted him to be different. As a young Christian, I had prayed with him for salvation and I’d seen him start to grow and now I saw this evidence of self-centeredness in him. So one day I approached him and calling him by name, I said, “You know, brother, I’m concerned about you,” and I proceeded to tell him how I felt about this.
Well, all it did was it wounded him deeply and he stayed away from church for 3 or 4 months, I guess. I just about lost him. And then the Lord graciously worked in his heart in a different way and he came on back and we had some good fellowship for several years. But you can do damage by sailing in with a lecture. It doesn’t work that way. In other words, you don’t build people up by lecturing them. You build them up by modeling for them, Christ-honoring procedure, answering their questions from the Word of God when they have questions. Use the old adage that I learned from Ben Weiss, “Things taught as though we taught them not ,and things remembered as things forgot.”
“Oh, by the way, have you ever thought of this?” Ask a question. “What is your opinion?” “What do you think of this?” “What would you think of this idea?” Instead of barging in to their life, ask permission, so to speak, to raise the subject. You build people up by modeling. I have learned more by watching God work in other people’s lives than I have out of all the lectures that well-intentioned folk have given me. I said to you the other day, I learned a lot about prayer from Peter Deyneka, Sr. Dear man of God. When he prayed, the angels folded their wings to listen, I’m sure.
I learned a lot about praying from him and Armin Gesswein and other great men of prayer. More, I must say, than I ever learned in my notes taken in school in graduate courses that dealt with praying. I learned about visitation from people who took me along early on in my ministry, people who kindly took me along when they went to visit. I learned something about making a visit not by the classes in seminaries so much as by seeing how a person with consummate skill would bless and encourage and pray and leave the patient feeling better somehow because they’d been there.
You build a person up by the model of your own life. “Let us follow,” he said, “let’s pursue the things that build somebody else up.” What are they? Personal rightness with God, personal peace in the midst of pressure, personal power through prayer, personal purpose in the will of God through waiting on God until you know what His will is, things that make for peace. You model them in your own life. “Let us,” said he, “follow,” that is pursue, “as the objective of your living now. The reason you’re living is to make other people stronger in the Lord.
Now, what makes for strength? One is to take away the things that weaken. Here’s a person whose diet is highly deficient. He’s living on junk food and concentrated sugars and fats and all of that and he is not all that healthy, you’re in charge of building him up. What do you do? You put him on a different diet first of all. Now what do you do with the person spiritually who’s been feeding on the junk of the world and who’s spiritual life is flabby and weak? Well, you encourage them on a different diet spiritually.
You put them in touch with things that will help them and you show them how by your own example how to feed on the Word. I was greatly challenged many years ago when I was given as a roommate the Reverend David Morkan. I had never met him before and so it was that I got to this particular conference. After a few hours after the conference had already started, I was delayed in Chicago and didn’t get the plane that I thought I would get and so I got into this conference at night and I had missed some of the meetings already but I thought, “Well, I’ll go to my room and I’ll get some sleep and I’ll be ready first thing in the morning.”
So I found where my room was in this conference center, north of Boston and found that my roommate, whoever he was had already checked in and so I took the bed that was left and found the dresser drawers that were available to me and put my things in them and put on my pajamas and said my prayers and went to bed. Later on, the door opened softly and in came the man who was to room with me, Dave Morkan. And he greeted me and I got acquainted with him and then I said, “Well, brother, I’m whipped. I’m going to go to sleep.” He said, “Okay. Good night.”
And then as I lay there and he had now gotten ready for bed and gotten in bed across the room from me, I heard these quiet words “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” This dear man is quoting the book of Hebrews.
And he went on and he quoted it while I fell asleep. I fell asleep at Hebrews 11:6. It says “he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” And I whispered under my breath, “I do believe Lord. Good night.” I fell asleep. This man was so full of the Word of God that before he closed his eyes in sleep, he quoted a whole book of the Bible. Oh, that was such an impact on me. I never forgot it. I began with renewed vigor to memorize portions of scripture myself and I found that it made a difference in my own life. “Things wherewith one may build another up.” Model for the other person. Those actions that make you stronger, you’ll find that it works for him as well.
Dear Father, today, help us to build other people up in Christ, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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