Today’s guest post is by Michael Whitworth, founder and owner of Start2Finish. Michael preaches in Bowie, Texas, and is the author of several books, including The Epic of God and The Derision of Heaven. He writes regularly for the Start2Finish blog.
All my life, I’ve been called “Daniel” by a lot of people. And before we go any further, I want to make it very clear that my name is not Daniel. Not even close. It isn’t my middle name, and it’s not a nickname. But people have called me Daniel all my life because my dad’s name was Daniel. Though my dad passed away when I was a junior in college, he had a made a lot of friends in his short life. Whenever I’m around those friends, they inevitably and absent-mindedly lapse into calling me “Daniel.”
Recently, I was a guest speaker at a church whose minister had been a long-time friend of my dad. Throughout the introduction, he correctly called me “Michael” at several moments. But in his closing remarks, he lapsed into calling me “Daniel” without realizing his mistake.
To be honest, I’ve never minded that. For one thing, I bear a striking resemblance to him. I joke with people, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father,” (John 14:9). Even people I’ve never met remember my dad and approach me with, “Are you Daniel Whitworth’s son?”
Another reason I don’t mind it is that my dad was a wonderful person. It’s not so bad being confused with someone who loved the Lord, loved the Lord’s people, and did a lot of good in a short amount of time. In fact, I had such fond memories of my dad that I named my firstborn “Daniel” in honor of him.
While driving back from that speaking engagement a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that every Christian should live his/her life in such a way that their identity becomes one with their Father. We wear the name “Christian” because we are to be like him. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, because we so resembled our Savior, others called us “Christian” as opposed to our given name?
I want to offer three brief ways in which, especially in our day, it is crucial that we reflect the nature of our Father. It would be easy to mention things like “in our actions” or “in our words.” Instead, I want to go deeper.
We should remind others of our Lord by the way that we . . .
Peter wrote of Christ, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:24).
When I am made to endure hardship or bear up under mistreatment and abuse, it’s difficult not to retaliate in some way. It’s tempting to complain via social media or make my oppressor feel as miserable as I do.
But the way of Christ is to bless and not curse, to repay evil with good, to entrust ourselves to the righteous Judge who will grant relief to his people one day. When we suffer, let us do so in a way that explicitly reminds others of the attitude of Christ.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely—though I’ve been told that it absolutely rocks also! I would argue that it is more difficult for most Christians to be faithful stewards of power than to endure suffering faithfully. Pain often sends us running to God for comfort. Power, however, can intoxicate us and easily turn the strongest Christian into a tyrant.
Paul encouraged the Philippians in a famous text to have the attitude of Christ when wielding power (Philippians 2:3-8). Instead of doing things out of selfishness or conceit, we are to seek to serve, to use our power to bless others. Just as Christ did not play the God card on earth whenever it suited him, but rather sacrificed himself for our sins, we too are to submit to others, even though we might be higher on the totem pole than they.
Through kindness, gentleness, and consideration, we will be such faithful stewards of our power that those under us will be reminded of the righteous, gracious rule of Christ (Matthew 11:29-30).
When it comes to love, ours is a very selfish society. If a relationship is not personally gratifying at all times, then it can (and even should) be discarded as quickly as possible—so says the world. But the world has a massive, gloomy graveyard of painful, broken relationships that stands as testimony to the fact that it has not learned to love as Jesus did.
Jesus’ love for others was enormous and sacrificial. His love even for those who hurt him (e.g. Judas, the religious leaders) was great. In Paul’s comments in Ephesians 5:25-33, he notes that Christ’s love for the church is paralleled by a husband’s love for his wife.
Christ’s love is not just self-less; but it provides, protects, and redeems. His love is also faithful in spite of our faithlessness, for he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). May our love for others, especially our close friends and family members, remind them of Jesus. After all, sincere, sacrificial love is the ultimate identifier of God’s children (John 13:35).