Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 13, 2011

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

Grace-giving is obvious when it comes to finding peace but how does empathy contribute to peace? What is the connection?

Now the mourning part is not so hard. We find it easier to commiserate with someone when they are down or struggling.

But to “rejoice with those who rejoice” may be harder.

Now, it is pretty easy to rejoice at the wedding of a friend if you’re happily married. But if you’re single, and you’d like to be married; if you’re lonely and feel rejected, then an invitation to someone else’s wedding may be a pretty difficult thing to handle.

You drive an old car that’s showing its age, and then your neighbor buys a brand new SUV.

Your sister’s kids are all star athletes and honor students and yours act like juvenile delinquents.

Someone else at the office gets a promotion and a raise, and you don’t, even though you have seniority. It is kind of hard sometimes, isn’t it, to “rejoice with those who rejoice” ?

You see, one of the difficulties is that when something good happens to others, we often compare ourselves to them. “Well, I’m smarter than they are.” Or, “I work harder than they do.” Or, “They’re just lucky. They get all the breaks, and I don’t.”

"It is, indeed, more difficult to congratulate another on his success, especially if his success involves disappointment to us, than it is to sympathize with his sorrow and his loss. It is only when self is dead that we can take as much joy in the success of others as in our own" (Barclay, p. 182). "

It’s not always easy to rejoice with those who rejoice. But that’s what I want to talk about this morning because when we start comparing ourselves with others, that can lead to discontent and envy, grumbling and broken relationships.


So here’s the question, “How do we learn to be unselfish, to rejoice with those who get more than we?”

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’  “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

I think one thing that is clear from this story is that God wants us to be empathetic to His agenda. He wants us to have the love and concern for others that He has. He wants us to be empathetic to the work He is doing in others so we can affirm that in them. It is our responsibility to help Him in the development of spiritual peace in our brothers and sisters.

Why do we struggle with that?

I think the parable gives us some insights into that as well. We tend to compare, we tend to compete, we fail to compliment, and we are not content


Well, here’s the prescription.

First - Stop Comparing

If these guys had never compared themselves with those who only worked one hour, there would have been no problem. They would have been satisfied. But the moment they started looking at others they became discontented, envious, and began grumbling.

As long as you’re looking at the grass on the other side of the fence, guess what? It’s always going to look greener. You’ll always find someone who has more than you have. So stop comparing and just trust God.

God has said, “I’ll take care of you. I’ll give you what you need.” You all look pretty well fed. You all look pretty well cared for. God is taking good care of you.

I came across an article that was entitled, “Is it better to be a jock or a nerd?”

The article was about Michael Jordan, and it was written just before he retired from professional basketball, playing for the Chicago Bulls. It pointed out that Michael Jordan received about $300,000 for every game he played for the Bulls. That means that if he played 30 minutes in every game, he received $10,000 a minute for every minute he played.

Adding in the fact that he received about $40,000,000 a year for his endorsements, Michael Jordan’s total income was $178,000 per day, whether he played or not. Assuming that he slept 7 hours a night, he received $52,000 while sugar plums were dancing in his head. If he went to a movie, it cost him $8 to see the movie. But while he watched the movie he was making another $18,550.

If he had a 5-minute egg, he made $618 while the egg boiled. And if he decided to buy a new C-Series Mercedes, a $90,000 automobile, he had to save up for a whole 12 hours to get it. Last year Michael Jordan made 2 times more than all the combined salaries of all the Presidents who have ever served our country.

So how do you feel about your salary this morning? But listen to this: As highly paid as he was, Michael Jordan would have to keep on earning as much as he did last year for the next 270 years and save it all to have a net worth equal to that of Bill Gates of Microsoft. Maybe it is better to be a nerd!

Don’t start comparing, “Did I get as much as they? Did I get more or did they get more?” Be thankful for what God has given you, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

Second, Stop Competing

You know, it’s hard to be jealous of someone you’re praying for. And if you’re praying for them, pretty soon you’ll begin caring about them. So pray that God will bless the one that you envy.

F.B. Meyer preached in London, England, while Charles Spurgeon & G. Campbell Morgan were preaching there, too. They were all great preachers, but Spurgeon’s church & Morgan’s church were both bigger than Meyer’s church. And he admitted to being envious.

He knew that wasn’t right so he asked God to help him. Of course, God showed him that he needed to pray for them to prosper and their churches to grow. That is what he did!

As he began praying for his fellow pastors, he found a peace in his spirit. Over time he discovered something else. Because their churches grew so rapidly there was an overflow of new believers that began to make their way into his congregation!

If I am competing with you, you are against me, you are my enemy and that destroys unity. That stirs up strife.

Stop comparing and start congratulating and celebrating! Don’t compete – complete.

Third, Be Complimentary

The Bible says, “Let us encourage one another.” Now we recognize that the down and out need encouragement. But do you realize that others also need encouragement?

The writer of Hebrews says, “Encourage one another daily as long as it is called today so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceit."

After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated they went through his personal belongings and in his wallet they found a yellowed, tattered, often-folded and unfolded note that he had received from a British reported. It was a brief message telling Lincoln that despite his current struggles and opposition he would some day be regarded as one of history's greatest presidents.

No one knew how long he had had it or how many times he had read it, but it was obviously a much needed encouragement for him in difficult days.

How important has encouragement been in your life?

Who do you need to encourage?

Fourth, Be Content

Paul wrote, “Do everything without complaining or arguing and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you…”

Lou Gehrig died in 1941 at 37 years of age. He had contracted a disease called ALS, which came to be known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” For 14 years in the 1920’s and 30’s he was 1st baseman for the legendary NY Yankees. That team was perhaps one of the best teams that ever played baseball.

On June 2nd, 1941, Lou Called up Bob Considine, his friend. Just before he died he said, “Bob, I’ve got good news for you. The boys in the lab have discovered a new serum, and it is really working for 9 out of 10.” “What about you?” asked Bob. “It hasn’t worked for me yet, but how about those other nine?”

Two years before, Lou Gehrig had stood before the Yankee faithful in Yankee Stadium to receive their applause as he left his career and the game he loved. Knowing that he was dying, he said, “Today I’m the luckiest man in the world.” His biography is entitled, “The Luckiest Man in the World.”

Imagine that you are at an NFL game with a friend. You were given two free tickets to the Redskins game and so you invited him to go with you. These are the best seats you have ever had! You can’t believe your good fortune. It turns out to be a great game and they are winning big against the Cowboys and you have a great view of it all. With every big play , you and your friend jump up and rejoice together, high-fiving and cheering for the home team. You rejoice with those who rejoice. But then, between the third and fourth, a voice comes over the P.A. and announces that someone in the stadium is going to win a new house, a new car, a dream vacation. He announces the level, the section, the row. It is someone in your row! But when he reads the seat number you see that your friend is sitting in that seat. He has won. You have not. They were your tickets. You invited him. You just happened to sit the wrong seat. Technically, both are your seats. But he got the big prize package – you didn’t! Now how easy is it to rejoice with those who rejoice? Suddenly you are overwhelmed with feelings of anger, envy, discontentment. You pretend to be happy, but inside you mutter and complain. You hate your friend and want what he has been given.

How would you respond?

Would you be happy for him?

Would you celebrate with him?

How you answer reveals your level of empathy. And, you level of maturity.

February 12, 2011

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."  Romans 12:14-16

Empathy means - "Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives."

Doesn't that sound like a good thing? Isn't that something that you would want from others?

But what does this have with finding peace? How does being empathetic lead to finding peace?

Let me ask you this, "What happened the last time you were insensitive to what your spouse was feeling?"

What happened when you acted according to what you thought your spouse was wanting when in fact, they wanted something different. How did that work out for you?

If you fail to empathize with someone due to unfamiliarity, or insensitivity, misreading some emotional cues, or  failure to listen well, you will be percieved as not caring about that person. Or, it could indicate that you are too preoccupied with your own troubles that you don't have empathy for the needs of another. Those responses put stress on a relationship. They indicate a lacking for caring or a lack of really knowing the person. Over time it can begin to erode trust. Once trust is diminished it becomes much more difficult to give the benefit of the doubt to you. They will tend to be less patient with you. That changes the entire way that person begins to look at you. It will be more difficult to extend grace to you. Over time, the relationship becomes strained.

Furthermore, your ability to empathize with the feelings of others and to show genuine concern for those emotions will win you loyalty and love from that person. It also indicates that you have found inner peace and resolved your issues so you are able to devote yourself to ministering to the needs of others - to know what they are feeling and how to best meet that need.

God is able to more completely meet our needs because His Son, Jesus, lived as a man on this earth for 33 years and felt the stresses and strains, the fears and frustrations, the pain and pathos of the human experience. He could have relied on His omniscience to know what we are feeling, but He didn't. He donned the flesh and blood of a human being to be able to identify with our sufferings by suffering Himself.

Empathy is a hallmark of caring relationships. And like Hallmark, it cares enough to send the very best. Therefore it calls forth the best in relationships.