Monday, October 1, 2012

Building Character: Availability

This week we are talking about AVAILABILITY vs. self-centeredness.

In weeks past, we have discussed Attentiveness and Alertness, which are both character qualities that help us learn to put others ahead of ourselves.  Availability focuses on the same thing: others.

When I think of availability, I think of giving of my time.  If my time is scheduled down to the very minute, there will not be much left for spontaneous, and much needed service.  Time is a valuable, and limited resource, so we must learn to use it well.  I am blessed to have more freedom and flexibility with my time than many other people, but I need to make sure that I am using my "extra time" for the glory of God and for serving, not just for my own gratification.  

The bottom line is that I need to always keep the proper perspective.  I'm sure most of you are familiar with this cliche, but it is simple and makes the point well.  My life needs to be ordered in this way:
1. Jesus
2. Others
3. You

And with that, you get JOY.  What a nice, simple way to keep our priorities straight, and it is easy for our kids to remember too.

AVAILABILITY vs. self-centeredness

Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving.

Philippians 2:20-21 - "For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus."

Doesn't that verse make you feel sad for Paul?  The only person he felt like he could trust to send to the brethren in Philippi was Timothy.  Let's admonish ourselves and our children to never let the same be said of us.  Let us always remember that nothing else in this life matters one single bit.  Nothing else but Jesus Christ.  And EVERYTHING we do, is all about Him.  If we are so busy seeking our own interests that we are not able to serve Him and His saints, then we need to cut some things out of our lives. 

Note to Mothers:  By serving your husband and children, you are serving Christ.  I am fully aware that there are times in our lives where being faithful in those two realms of service require ALL of our time and energy.  If that is where you are at this time, then know that you are doing Holy Work and continue serving faithfully.  Do not feel guilty if you are unable to keep up with Sister So-and-so, especially if she is in a different stage in life or has different circumstances.  God does not ask you to do what she is doing, He only asks you to be faithful in the tasks He has given to you.

This week's Bible story:  Jesus Makes Himself Available to the Multitudes
Mark 6:30-44

Jesus was having a difficult time.  He had just found out about the death of His cousin, and faithful servant of God, John the Baptist.  And John's death particularly distressing because he had been beheaded for offending the king when he said that he had no right to the wife he had married.  Jesus loved John and was surely mourning the loss while He also had to comfort the other disciples.  Jesus said to them, "Come away to a deserted place and rest a while."  Verse 31 tells us that they had been so busy lately that "they did not even have time to eat."

So they went away into a boat by themselves, but the multitudes saw them and ran to meet Jesus.  Jesus had been hoping for a little downtime with His disciples.  No doubt He wanted to rest, get nourishment and meditate before getting back to work, but it was not to be.  Verse 34 says Jesus "was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.  So He began to teach them many things." 

While it is not the focus of today's study, you can go on to talk as much or as little as you like about what happened next, which was the miracle when Jesus fed over 5,000 people!  Jesus saw the needs of the multitudes, set aside His personal wants and wishes, and showed them compassion.  He took time for them, teaching, healing and serving them.  Jesus is a wonderful example to us of pouring out our lives to glorify God and serve others.

  • Young children are so naturally self-centered, that I think they need help learning what things they are doing for themselves and what things they do for others.  Bring it to their attention and offer praise when you see them serving others - helping with a chore, assisting a sibling, cleaning up after themselves, etc...
  • I think it is also helpful to point out to them when they are being self-centered.  For instance, we have a child that likes to dictate how the other child can play and always wants things to be "his way".  Sometimes I question him saying, "Are you playing that way to make your brother happy or yourself happy?" Sometimes they need a little help figuring out a way to play where they can both be happy.  Don't think it is impossible to teach siblings how to serve one another.  What better way to learn than at home? 
  • Think of a service project you can do together.  It can be as simple as coloring pictures to send to someone that is sick or suffering.  It could be visiting a friend that is shut-in or a nursing home. Try to find some way you can go out of your way to show compassion and service to others.
  • Just like Jesus, we need to make sure we always take the time to share the gospel with someone that is interested in the message.  Talk about ways that you can do this.  Pray for God to send you someone that is looking for the gospel.  Pray for God to help you speak His name with boldness when you are interacting with other people.  Take the time to talk about Jesus throughout each day with your children.  Remember, they need to hear the gospel too!
Next week, BOLDNESS!

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