Love over time = worth
People know you value them when over time you are forgiving, when over time you are gentle with them, when over time you protect their hearts, when over time you consistently have something good to say, and no matter what, even though they try to put walls up, even though they try to sabotage your friendship, even though they put you off about this Jesus stuff, when you stay committed to them in love over time, you are helping them see they are worth it and that Jesus thinks so too.
I believe we live in a kind of disposable society. People are used to being abandoned, being de-friended, to being ostracized, to being shut out. Friendships are easily discarded, young people are given up on way too fast. Love says, “I’ll stay.” “I am here for you no matter what.”
Someone, somewhere is longing to know that they are valuable to someone and to God. Be the one to love them over time.
Words over time = direction
Positive messages, instructional messages, godly advice, will enable a person, over time, to be moved in the right direction. Many have missed out on that kind of instruction. Many are living defined by their failures, living without hope that their life could have meaning or make an impact, believing they won’t amount to anything and that all they could hope for would be a cheap imitation of the real joy, peace, and the happiness God says we can have in Christ. When you grow up hearing you are stupid or clumsy or ugly or not talented, those words over time will give you direction as well. They will send you in the wrong direction. They will rob you of your destiny and take you to a place of isolation and low living, to the place Satan has planned for you. Trust me, just as God has a plan for your life, so does Satan. Harmful and discouraging words over time can mess with a person’s future and play into the destructive plans of the enemy of our souls.
That is why we need to constantly be people of a good report. We need to be ones with the repetitive message that Jesus saves. We need to be like broken records repeating that you can always start again. We need to relentlessly be letting people know they matter to God and to us. We need to be the ones with a compliment, a word of encouragement. Our habitual speech needs to be that which lifts people up and points them to the redeeming power of God. We need to be the people who say, “I believe in you. You can do it. Go for it. With God all things are possible” because the direction of positive and instructive words is right into a relationship with Jesus.
Stories over time = perspective
Some of us have walked a few paths we wish we wouldn’t have. We need to tell our stories. Those coming behind us need to hear from us what we regret and what won’t work. We need to keep our testimony on the tip of our tongue. We need to share it regularly with people. We should not be stingy with the stories that begin with “When I was your age.”
Why does sharing our stories matter? People need to know the stories because sometimes miracles happen in time and sometimes miracles happen when people of faith are willing to stick their necks out and walk on water in response to the call of God.
Biblical history tells us the stunning importance of the Jewish people’s passing of their God-stories from one generation to another. When God would meet them with a miracle, they would build an altar to remember it, and they would make sure future generations would hear about it. The same God that had been faithful to free them from slavery, the same God that had been faithful to part the Red Sea, the same God who had led them through the wilderness by a pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day, the same God who had fed them bread straight from heaven on their journey, could provide the miracles that future generations would need. There is power in sharing our God-stories.
Tribes over time = belonging
Those of you who have small children, attend regularly. Go every time you can come. Your kids need to have a sense of belonging in the family of God, and if you are hit and miss the bonds they could develop, the relationships they could form, the identity as a member in God’s family that could result will be stunted. Go every Sunday unless you are on vacation. Go on Wednesday nights and go deeper in fellowship. I grew up in the church, and I loved it. It was my happy place. I knew I belonged. I knew I was loved. I knew I was part of something special, something bigger than myself. You are my family! Cultivate a sense of belonging in your children’s hearts by getting them here.
Work over time = purpose
I was crushed in my spirit several years back when I had a teacher tell me about an exchange she had with one of her little elementary students. She said the student told her she wanted to be a “drawer” when she grew up. When the teacher said, “You mean, you want to learn to draw and be an artist?” the little girl said, “No, I want to draw a paycheck from the government like my parents.”
Church, I fear we have a generation of young people who will struggle to find their purpose unless we teach them the value of work and why it is important. Those who are able-bodied need to work not just for the paycheck, but because God created us to have dominion. We are made to oversee things, to lead things, to build things, to create things, to exercise decision-making and to have influence. Work is the mechanism by which we exercise the dominion God created us to have. We were created to work. We were created to have responsibility and to manage it well, to be stewards of all God entrusts to us. If we are going to work just for the paycheck, we are missing the point. We discover who we are, who God created us to be, in a large part, through the work we do, whether paid or as a volunteer.
Perhaps the real challenge of this message is found in the title. “Over time.” The very title implies dedication and commitment. Are you willing to keep loving, to keep telling the stories, to keep speaking life-giving words of instruction, to stay committed to being part of this church family, to finding ways to infuse fun into people’s lives and to work with all your heart for the glory of God? Life-change is possible, living well is possible, having a positive impact on others is possible, but it takes time. Join me in making a commitment to run this race, over time, in a way that helps other people join the race and live their best possible life.