Sermons

Summary: We bring out the best in people not with harsh words of criticism, but with words of grace and peace seasoned with salt.

An efficiency expert concluded a lecture with a note of caution: “You don't want to try these techniques at home.”

“Why not?” asked someone from the back of the audience.

“I watched my wife's routine at breakfast for years,” the expert explained. “She made lots of trips to the refrigerator, stove, table, and cabinets, often carrying just a single item at a time. ‘Honey,’ I suggested, ‘Why don't you try carrying several things at once?’”

The person in the audience asked, “Did it save time?”

The expert replied, “Actually, yes. It used to take her 20 minutes to get breakfast ready. Now I do it in seven.” (Aaron Goerner, Utica, New York, Joke of the Day, www.Preaching Today.com)

Criticism seldom, if ever, works. Even in our sincere efforts to help people, they don’t always appreciate it, and it tends to tear people down more than it builds them up.

Even so, it’s a terrible tendency especially for those of us who have followed Christ for a while. We’ve learned so much over the years, and if we’re not careful we find ourselves becoming critical of those who are less experienced or who just don’t do it the way we have done it for years. Worst of all, we can become crabby, old cranks that nobody can please, and I know none of us wants that. So watch out for a critical spirit, because it really does not benefit those we are trying to help, and in the long-run, it is self-destructive.

But somebody says, “I really want to help people. If pointing out their faults doesn’t work, what does?” That’s the question I want us to explore this morning: How can we truly help people? How can we bring out the best in people? How can we help those with less experience grow in their relationship with Christ and serve Him better?

It’s what Christ has called us to do as a church: equip people to follow Christ so that they KNOW Him, GROW in their relationship with Him, and SERVE Him as He has gifted them to serve. So how do we do that well?

Well, let’s see what Jesus told his first disciples who themselves were becoming overly critical. They had followed Jesus for three years, and they had learned from the best – Jesus Himself! So when they see somebody else trying to do what Jesus taught them to do, they cut him down. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 9, Mark 9, where Jesus shows his followers how to equip others to follow and serve Him well.

Mark 9:38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (NIV)

He didn’t go to the right “school.” He didn’t do it the way we do it, so we stopped him. The funny thing is these same disciples failed to cast a demon out of a boy earlier in this chapter. Oh, they’re quick to point out someone else’s faults, but they quickly forget their own. At least this man was successful, but they stop him anyway, because, well, “he’s not one of us; he’s not our kind.” What does Jesus have to say about this?

Mark 9:39-40 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. (NIV)

Men, we’re all on the same team, Jesus says, and I’m going to reward the least little effort of anyone who serves in my name.

Mark 9:41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. (NIV)

So don’t stop the young and inexperienced. Don’t stop those who are trying to serve me, Jesus says, even if it isn’t up to your standards, because those you would criticize I am going to reward.

How do we truly help people grow in their relationship with Christ and in their ministry skills? Well, 1st of all…

DON’T STOP THEM.

Don’t hinder them from serving. Don’t keep them from ministering in Jesus’ name, even if all they do is give a cup of cold water, because Jesus appreciates it even if we would criticize it.

Kay Warren, a women’s conference speaker, talks about returning home to California with a friend and passing through the Dallas–Fort Worth airport. On the way to their connecting gate, they heard loud patriotic music playing and saw a group, mostly women, wearing colorful hats, cheering, and waving American flags. The troops were coming home and this was their welcoming party.

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