“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:39

THE ONE CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE NEEDED TO CREATE RAVING FANS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD

A fellow business acquaintance called me recently to complain about the service he was getting from his vendors. He found that he was doing all the follow up and few deadlines were being met. As a customer he felt that he was doing all the work. This is not an uncommon comment that I hear. Lately, I have been hearing this comment more frequently. Leading me to think, “Wow, how much better would a company’s sales rise if they were great at follow up and follow through.” 

Recently I had another business associate call me to ask, “What is the most important thing I can do in running my business?” My answer to her was to create raving fans out of her customers. She wanted to know how and was wondering what steps she needed to take to do this. “It is simple”  I told her, “Treat customers the way you want to be treated.” To do this all she had to do was change her perspective from what was good for her business to satisfying the customers needs. This perspective means following up and following through!

How often do we have someone promise something and not deliver? How often do we find we are doing all the follow up? How often do receive commitments that aren’t met? Sometimes it feels like we are always pushing string up a hill.

Many businesses today over stretch their resources to generate more profits, leaving their existing customers frustrated. Some ignore their customers all together. How often are we left on hold?

Try calling your medical insurance company, but be prepared to wait many minutes to get a live person on the phone. Try your local cable company, where it may take hours to resolve an issue. Sure by under supporting the customer service staff, they improve profits in the short run. In the long run a disaster is brewing. Over time customers find a new solution or place to shop. Maybe not tomorrow, but inevitably it will happen.

Customers walk away silently. They usually don’t leave with a loud fanfare. Overtime the morning sales reports become dimmer. Businesses that truly put customer service as the number one business goal usually thrive.

Sure it means that they may have to give up some profits in the short run. Certainly there are people who will take advantage of companies. But this happens far less than we would think. Statistics tell us that 95% of customers don’t mean harm and just want to be served.

The same is true with our careers. We should strive to make raving fans out of our bosses and fellow workers. This is simple, treat all that we work with like customers. Solve their problems or needs with a positive and trustworthy attitude. Sometimes this might mean extra work. Sometimes it might mean we are taken advantage of. But generally it will mean appreciation, which will turn into support for our careers.

There are bosses and fellow employees that will take advantage of this attitude, but they generally fade away over time. Treating our bosses and fellow employees the way we want to be treated will usually pay off. We will feel better about ourselves and less stressed.

Recently, I had a supplier get upset with me because I wasn’t using his services anymore. Even though his product was superior, I opted to use a more reliable supplier, who said things like, “I will get back to you this afternoon.” And he always did! I never push him to get answers, he always pushed me. Our relationship is collaborative and his first concern is satisfying his customer. The supplier with the better product is losing business, because he is too hard to work with.

Jesus gave us two simple commandments; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) The second request of  “loving your neighbor as yourself” is the part that creates raving fans with our customers, bosses and fellow employees.

There are plenty of great examples of companies who do this, like L.L. Bean. And individually we know the places in our own community who treat the customer first. They are the places we want to shop at or do business with.

For our businesses we service and those we work with, creating Raving Fans should be our goal and focus. Applying the Christian principle of “loving our neighbor as ourselves”  is all we need to do to create Raving Fans. We should ignore minor few who seek to take advantage of this attitude and focus on the 95% who will appreciate our efforts.

The one and most important thing we can all do to improve our businesses and work relationships, is treat everyone as we would want to be treated. Sounds simple in theory, but requires a daily commitment to follow this simple rule.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

1 Peter 3:4

ANDREW, THE UNSUSPECTING ANGEL

On December 1st 1955, a bus driver named James Blake asked Rosa Parks to give up her seat in the “colored”  section of the bus. The “white” section was filled up. Rosa refused and set off the Montgomery, Alabama bus crisis. The crisis that catapulted Martin Luther King’s career and the public start of the civil rights movement in America.

Rosa was tired of the rules that had infected her community and her. She was tired of the oppressive commands of a society that felt because of the color of her skin she was inferior. Though a quiet and peaceful woman, this moment was her “enough.” In regards to this moment Rosa explained her action as follows; “I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear…It was time for someone to stand up–or, in my case, sit down. I refused to move.”

For her actions she was arrested. Later she was fired from her job as a seamstress and endured death threats. Life became very hard for Rosa.

What a lot of people don’t know was that Rosa was the Secretary of local branch of the NAACP. Later she would move to Detroit and briefly resumed her career as a seamstress, which she left to become the secretary of John Conyers, a member of the House of Representatives.

Rosa continued her career of quiet activism with the Black Power movement and was an advocate for political prisoners. Throughout her life she continued to quietly push back against racism and inequality.

The Montgomery bus company had to endure a long period of passenger decline due to this incident. All of the local black population refused to ride the buses and many white folks joined in as well. For one year, people would ride share or walk long distances to work. The bus company only survived when they agreed to a Supreme Court order to change their rules.

Martin Luther King became a national figure from this incident. His calm and intellectual approach captured national interest. He preached non-violence in resisting the oppressive life circumstances of the black community. He himself was arrested numerous times for protesting unfair treatment. Later he won the Nobel Peace prize and became a national figure. His fame grew to the point that two presidents, Kennedy and Johnson, would take his calls. He was a significant catalyst for the Civil Rights bill passed in 1964.

Rosa spent her life quietly helping others. It was until much later that she was recognized for her bravery. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. After her death, a statue of her was built and now stands in the National Statuary Hall.

Upon her death in 2005 she became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capital Rotunda. Congress later would call her the “first lady of Civil Rights.”

It would have been nice if in the moment she created the events that started Montgomery Bus crisis, if people and our nation had supported her refusal. But life isn’t like this. Her act of bravery created a personal crisis for her, but never defeated Rosa.

We can only imagine what each of us would have done in the same moment. This story had a positive outcome, initially at the expense of a quiet and polite woman. A woman who had long watched her community suffer when they resisted incredibly unfair practices. A woman who knew her life would be in jeopardy. A woman who stood up when she had enough. Her only ally in that moment was her faith in God. A faith that stood with her for the balance of her life.

Rosa lived with a quiet strength. When she wrote the book of her life story, her publishers suggested the title “Quiet Strength.”  A book that details the life of a remarkably strong woman who knew through God it was time to stand up. Rosa wasn’t looking for the fame that followed, she just wanted the rules to be clear and fair. Her only aim. She has become in our national history, a Christian heroine.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.”

Luke 22:43

ANDREW, THE UNSUSPECTING ANGEL

A friend of mine related to me a story about a time in his life when he felt all alone and that he was not a likeable person. He felt that he didn’t measure up and wasn’t worthy enough to be friends with those he met.

He had turned to God and prayed that he could become a likeable person. He prayed that others would see value in who he was and who he could become. He desired to be accepted in a world that he saw was unaccepting.

He wasn’t sure why over the past few days he hadn’t received much validation in his humanness. But wanted to be better received. He committed to God that he would try to be happier and be open to others. He committed to God he would try to hear other people’s story and not impulsively tell his life story. He just wanted to be liked.

He prayed over and over for answers to his dilemma. He prayed daily for an answer.

One day after a long day of activity, he found a bench surrounded by other benches that were full of people. He looked around and was sure no one would want to talk with him. Sure he didn’t measure up. He still sat on one of the open benches.

A friendly man looking for a rest sat down next to him and immediately said, “Hi, I am Andrew.” Immediately, my friend went to the deep recesses of his mind and rehashed all that he promised in his prayers. He wouldn’t blurt out his life story, but try to discover who this person was. He remembered to be friendly and open. He remembered he had promised God he would treat people with openness and positive thoughts.

My friend replied, “My name is Jack, where are you from?” Immediately Andrew responded and began to regale Jack with story after story about his life. Jack propelled Andrew along with questions and positive affirmation. Never really telling Andrew anything about himself, but searching for who this new person was.

He sat and listened to a life well lived. A life that included raising three children. Andrew told him about his career and his complicated life story. Andrew told him about what a wonderful woman he had married. Andrew told him about how he loved life.

In Andrew telling his life story, Jack discovered a person, who always received favors. Doors were always opened in his life because he was inviting and kind. He had been a great salesperson, because he didn’t sell for the sake of selling, but because he liked helping. Out of Andrew came a life well lived and a happy soul.

After sometime had passed, two of Andrew’s friends showed up. The bench was their meeting point late that afternoon. Andrew introduced my friend to these two new people, by saying, “This is Jack, he is an extraordinary person.” My friend was stunned and wondered what had he done to be called an extraordinary person. He had just sat and listened. Revealing little about his life and only had shown intense interest in the value of his new friend, Andrew.

The four of them sat and talked for another hour. My friend listened and learned about two new people. People who had also lived good lives. People who went to college, raised families and were successful.

When it was time for all to depart, my friend said it was nice to meet these new people and wished them well. They did likewise.

After this, Jack reflected on the events and connected them to his prayers. He was worthy of being liked. He was worthy enough that three people could like him. He hadn’t done much but shown he cared about their lives. He had mostly sat and listened. Most of time he spent was smiling and probing for more. Just as he had promised God he would do in his prayers. He was validated.

Jack knew why Andrew had shown up. Andrew was an unsuspecting angel sent to prove to Jack that he was okay. Sent to Jack, so Jack could try out a new way of being a friend. A way that only included being open, positive and listening.

Andrew will never know that he helped God that day or perhaps he did. But he did help another human regain a sense of connectedness and to try out a new way to be a friend.

Jesus’ approach to those he met was similar. He never judged, he met people as they were. He learned life stories, he heard people’s fears and joys. Even if they were nefarious tax collectors or prostitutes. Jesus searched for their humanity.Jesus listened to the stories of the “stray cats” of life and cared. He listened to the rich, the poor, the disenfranchised and all that humanity could bring. Jesus was open to all and many were open to Jesus.

In every person there is a wonderful story, we only have to ask and listen. Jack learned his goal in life wasn’t to be liked, but to like. He wasn’t to judge, but hear.

God had answered Jack’s prayer, not the way he expected. But in a far richer way. In moments of desperation Jack had prayed. His prayers had been answered through an unsuspecting angel. Answers that were far better than what he prayed for.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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Blessed Assurance

Blessèd assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

FANNY CROSBY, A BLIND SERVANT OF GOD

The song Blessed Assurance is one of the most popular songs in  Christian Hymnals. Written in 1873 and first sung in churches the same year. The hymn was inspired by the life of the Apostle Paul and his steady faith and his work. The hymn was written by Fanny Crosby, the world’s most published hymn writer and who was blind.

Shortly after birth, Fanny caught a cold that settled in her eyes. Her parents took her to a doctor, who applied a mustard base ointment. It did not cure the affliction, but damaged Fanny’s optic nerve, leaving her blind. Later the doctor was discovered to be a quack and was banished from practicing medicine.

However, her blindness did not leave her helpless. She went on to become the most prolific hymn writer in America and the world. She wrote over 9,000 hymns. The most famous being “Blessed Assurance.”

She lived from 1820 to 1915. From the age of 23 to her death, she knew and spoke with every American president. She spoke in front of congress numerous times, urging for the support of the blind. In fact, she became the first woman to speak in front of the U.S. Senate, at the age of 23.

Crosby wrote over 9,000 hymns during her lifetime. Her publishers paid her $1 to $2 a song. While her publishers only requested 3 to 4 songs a week, Fanny wrote 6 or 7 a day. She was so prolific some denominations asked her to use a pseudo name, to ensure their hymnals didn’t appear to be written by one composer.

Fanny’s songs are in every denominations hymnal’s. While a life-long member of the 6th Avenue Bible Baptist church in Brooklyn, she also attended many different denominations. Believing she was a Christian first and not denominationally directed.

When Fanny began any hymn composition, she prayed for direction. She was also inspired by people she met during her day. For example, she came across a prisoner being sent to jail and heard him say, “O Lord, don’t pass me by.” This meeting created the song, Pass me not, O gentle Savior.

Today, Fanny isn’t a household name, but in her day she was one of the America’s most influential people. She openly communicated with presidents and members of Congress.

Many times people expressed sympathy for her blindness. Her response was, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?” When asked why she would say this her reply was, “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

Fanny memorized the entire Bible. As a child she learned five chapters a week. As a child she could recite, Proverbs, the Psalms and the entire Gospel. Every day of every week, she made the study of the Bible her goal.

As an adult she taught at the New York Institute for the Blind. She spent 11 years teaching, only to leave to pursue her writing career. But remained a lifelong benefactor of the school.

Fanny died in 1915 at the age of 95. She left a legacy of Christian commitment and service. “You will reach the river brink, some sweet day, bye and bye,” was her last written stanza.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalm 9:10

THREE VITAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A GREAT BUSINESS PERSON

During my business career as a CFO in organizations such as, Footlocker and Yankee Candle, we seldom used resumes to identify great employees. Instead we used three other determinants to decide who was going to be hired or promoted. We looked for people that were positive, trustworthy and desired competence in their work. Sure it is an unorthodox and counter intuitive approach, but it worked. We put people in jobs that didn’t indicate they could do the job, frequently. We relied exclusively on these three traits. In the end it always worked out. There is also a fourth component to our success and it is relying on God, especially in tough times. Faithful people know how to  maintain these skills during moments of stress. During tough times these people worked with God to gain insight and to steady themselves.

Always Maintain a Positive Attitude

People migrate to others who are upbeat, energetic and happy. These are the people that always seem to have things go their way. These people can make otherwise resistant people want to help. They get things done because their paths are clear and straight. Drama is what they avoid and camaraderie is what they seek. Maintaining a positive attitude opens more doors than grumbling.

Be Trustworthy in Everything

Trustworthy people are the ones we turn to when we have a difficult problem. They are trustworthy in everything; their conversations, work and social interactions. When they say they can do something, we know they will. They don’t let momentary obstacles delay their tasks. They figure out how to meet their commitments. These people treasure being honest and always provide clear facts despite being in a difficult situation. Every conversation with these people leaves us assured we have the facts and answers.

Desire to be Competent in Everything

Competence isn’t created because we are good talkers, but good doers. There may be times we don’t know the technical aspects of our jobs; great employees seek to understand how to improve and spend their days listening to learn. They thirst for knowledge and are careful with ill-informed opinions. While these people may be slow at first, their unquenchable desire to be the best raises them up over time. Competency does come on a resume, but comes through learning and listening openly to others.

Learn to Rely on God

While all these traits are easy to do when things are running smoothly, it is much harder in times of duress. During difficult times it is hard to stay upbeat. When confronted with difficult tasks it is hard to stay assured and confident. It can be hard when pressed to give a different answer then what the facts say. But we have one resource available to help us through the times. Prayers and a close relationship with God will certainly buoy us during these storms. Adhering to the values of God in our responses to duress we protect us and tell us what path to follow. Through God we will receive the right answers to life’s difficult times to help us stay positive, trustworthy and competent.

Why not try these four values out today and don’t forget to pray for guidance.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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SEVEN WAYS JESUS’S VALUES CREATE SUSTAINABLE AND FAITHFUL SUCCESS

All of us want to be successful in our lives, careers and if we run a business, our business. Much has been talked about regarding the prosperity Gospel, which doesn’t exist. What does exist is a way to be faithful and achieve sustainable success in our lives through using the values expressed by Jesus. There are seven things we can all do to achieve our life goals.

Become Committed to the Values of Jesus

“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

John 5:19

In this famous statement made by Jesus we receive the advice on how we should handle the circumstances of our career’s and lives. Simply put, only do what we know God wants us to do. Without compromise, by adhering to this simple statement we will straighten our paths and create a persona that tells the world who we are and what we stand for. We are the ones who don’t waver from doing good and we are the ones who put others first. But we also create a business and career that is sustainable for a longer term.

Seek to Solve Needs Not Profits

“When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

To create a sustainable career or business we should solve needs first and not profits first. Sure, the fastest route to becoming successful is to acquire money or profits. But it isn’t sustainable. It might work in the short term, but over time this strategy will fail. A business or career that is designed to serve will always outpace those who seek personal gain, over the long term. Over time a business or career that thinks only about serving will be recognized as such and will generate a loyal following. In the tough times it is these people or businesses that others will call upon.

Measure Success Differently

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13

Think less about how much money we made, but more on the impact we made. How did we help? How did we make life better? Don’t become slaves to our to do lists, but focusing on  what God wants is what counts. At the end of each day there will be noticeable differences that we made. Over time, making an impact will become a habit.

Run Our Career’s and Businesses Ethically

“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,”

Colossians 3:23

Simply put, whatever we do in our careers or business, we should always follow the ways of God. Sure, this might mean we lose a sale or a job we wanted. Certainly, there will be times when our results are lower than our expectation. But in the long run, we will become remembered as trustworthy and reliable. When tough assignments or jobs are needed to be completed, we will be at the forefront of the mind for those who need help. We will build a legacy of trustworthy and ethical behavior.

Treat Failures as Lessons

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13

In our lives we will all stumble. Failure is inevitable. Our perspective should not be to become dismayed, but to learn from failure. The greatest lessons in business are not learned from success, but from failure. Our failures are investments in our future successes. The greatest asset we have in failure is what we learned. With our hearts pointed to God, we will have trust in the future and the lessons of the past.

Seek to Serve and Not be served

“Just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:28

In all interactions we should first look to help. Whether it is with our customers or fellow employees, our first concern should be are we helpful. We take burdens away when we help and move further away from becoming a burden. Our customers and compatriots will index to coming to us, because they know we will help. We become valued not only because we can do our job, but most importantly because they know we care. Resisting the first impulse to avoid getting involved improves how others think of us.

Have a Heart for God

“Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

In all that we do, we should point our hearts to God and the ways of God. There will be tests that arise along the way, but they are momentary obstacles to our overall success. When our hearts are pointed with pureness to seek God, obstacles begin to melt. God does not desire our perfection in all things, God desires a closer relationship with us.

While these tenets may not bring about grand material gains, following these seven simple principles will provide a straighter path to sustainable success. We will not be tossed to and fro when following these simple principles. Instead we will have straighter paths and a sustainable future.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (2) And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. (3) Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. (4) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”

Acts 2:1-4

“I was enthralled by this plain spoken cowboy, and his words about the Holy Spirit.”

OUR LIFE COACH, THE HOLY SPIRIT

Recently I was on the “Zeb at the Ranch” radio show and became inspired by one specific listener. Zeb broadcasts his show throughout Southern Idaho and has a large faithful following. This particular listener, called in to ask me a question. His question was part seeking an answer and a mini sermonette on the Holy Spirit. As the caller was talking for a lengthy time, I could sense Zeb was getting anxious. But I was enthralled by this plain spoken cowboy, and his words about the Holy Spirit.

One particular comment he made stated that he was frustrated that people don’t make their morning plans with the Holy Spirit in mind. His long winded point was that we were given this wonderful being to guide us in prayer, to walk with us throughout the day, but few of his Christian friends consulted with the Spirit in making their plans!

“What he conveyed was that we have both within us and with us every moment of our day, the guiding force of God in the form of the Holy Spirit; a force we should mobilize in our lives.”

While Zeb was frustrated with his overly long question/sermonette, I was amazed. After sitting in theology classrooms for the better part of the last seven years, I had never heard a better explanation of the value of the Holy Spirit. What he conveyed was that we have both within us and with us every moment of our day, the guiding force of God in the form of the Holy Spirit; a force we could mobilize to help us with our lives.

“His point was, we should bring the Holy Spirit into our daily lives.”

Plainspoken and exactly on point! How many of us consult with the Spirit when we make our daily plans? How many of us search with the Spirit to resolve difficult issues? How many know that the Spirit is one of the three parts of the Trinity that is God? We often speak about God the creator or Jesus, but the Spirit is usually left in the back. The cowboy’s point was bring the Spirit into our lives.

In the book of Acts on the final day of the Pentecost, the Spirit descended, as promised earlier by Jesus. The purpose was to be both with us and within us. Many times when we pray we feel our prayers change subtly from what we first desired. Events in our lives will occur that could only be those unusual things of God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. On the fiftieth day after the resurrection the Spirit descended for humankind, the day now called the Pentecost.

So why not listen to this rambling cowpoke from southern Idaho. Shouldn’t we try to ask the Holy Spirit to not only approve our plans, but also help create our plans.? I am sure we should. Maybe for me that day I was getting a new lesson in life from the Spirit through a plain spoken cowboy from southern Idaho.

Praise the Spirit who helps with all things!

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

(John 4:24)

TRUTHFUL PRAYER STRENGTHENS OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD

Our prayers are our way of talking with God through Jesus. They are our way of creating and growing a stronger personal relationship with God. Over time it becomes a deep mutual partnership in our lives. As with any relationship, we must approach it with complete honesty. For this relationship to become strong, a high degree of mutuality and truth must be present. The relationship with God is sacred. Jesus tells us, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

“Being truthful strengthens our partnership with God.”

If we want to have reliable relationships, it must come from a spirit of being truthful. So, it is with God as well. When we communicate with God, our goal should be of taking responsibility for our actions and to be truthful. Being truthful strengthens our partnership with God. Our mirror is then always pointed to ourselves. However, when we simply deflect difficult conversations back to God, we are not really searching for the truth, we are searching for an easier way out of difficulty.

When we pray, truthful admissions help our prayers. When we only point our problems back to God, we disrupt the relationship. Sure, God wants to hear our anguish, joys, and concerns, but God also wants us to be a partner. God has plans for us that require our active involvement.

“Our Prayers are our direct line to God through Jesus.”

Prayer life is the essential part of building faith. It requires daily persistence, patience and truthfulness. No one’s faith can be built without these ingredients. Prayer that is Biblically based will be fundamentally sound. Our Prayers are our direct line to God through Jesus. We will see answers, not in only in human terms, but through miraculous events that are so extraordinary and personal, we know they are from God. We will move from seeing things as random, to an answer from God. Through a productive prayer life our faith is strengthened, and we are healed through our continuous dialogue with God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

—John 5:19–20

FAITH THAT OVERCOMES ALL ODDS

Jesus has returned to his current home in Capernaum. A great crowd gathered in and around the house. So many, that even the front door was blocked. At the same time, four friends had heard about Jesus’ arrival and picked up their paralyzed friend to take him to Jesus. They arrived too late to get into the house and found every entrance blocked. They knew in their hearts there had to be a way to bring their friend to Jesus. They persistently studied the house and began to debate the best method.

After some discussion, they decided to go to the roof of the house and create a hole, which would allow them to lower their friend into the house. They climbed to the top of the roof and began to remove parts of the roof just above Jesus. When they had removed enough material to make a hole, they lowered their friend into the house. Immediately, Jesus saw the man and looked up to see the faces of his four friends expectantly looking back at him. Jesus saw in their faces a persistent faith of trust and hope. He immediately said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)

Upon hearing this, the religious leaders in the crowd began to question the authority Jesus had taken in forgiving the man. Jesus responded by saying, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?” To demonstrate his divine authority, Jesus says to the paralyzed friend of the four, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” Immediately, the man stood up and went home. (Mark 2:8–12)

“A simple act driven by their hearts and full of compassion, was rewarded by Jesus, who saw in their faces a trusting faith.”

Four friends knew in their faith-filled hearts that Jesus could help their friend. When blocked, they responded with a faithful ingenuity and found a way. A way that changed the course of a life. A simple act driven by their hearts and full of compassion, was rewarded by Jesus, who saw in their faces a trusting and persistent faith.

“Our hearts sense when our neighbors are in need, and when we reach out we can change the course of their lives.”

There are those times in our lives when we must lift up our neighbors, when they cannot lift themselves. Maybe through providing a meal, or a ride, perhaps a prayer that is filled with a deep sense of compassion for our neighbor. Our hearts sense when our neighbors are in need, and when we reach out, we can change the course of their lives. Our compassion for others and a persistent and trusting faith create a powerful healing.

These are among those times in our lives when we cross over to the threshold of believing and knowing that the solution requires a persistent faith. A faith that relies on and trusts beyond what we physically see, to what is unseen. They are times when we know that the next step requires an unusual persistence in our efforts. Obstacles may seem too high, but our faith drives us to carry on. We know our efforts may result in our momentary suffering. It is in this spot, that we should not give up but should persevere.

The apostle Paul describes this persistent faith and how it generates hope, in Romans 5:3–5: “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” In this brief statement, Paul describes the process of building a persistent faith. A faith that requires us to share with God the results we hope for; not to sit back and wait for our hopeful outcomes, but to work persistently with God. We then have the firmness of a faith that is sure that our honorable efforts, regardless of the hurdles we face, will be answered.

The four men were successful in getting their friend healed because they were sure their persistent efforts of compassion would be answered. They worked around the obstacles that stood in front of them and pressed on. Jesus, seeing this, healed their friend.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

– Matthew 9:10-11

LESSONS FROM A PERSISTENT WIDOW

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a persistent widow. He starts the story by telling those around him, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’” (Luke 18:2–3)

Widows in the first century had few rights or resources. Losing your husband and not having family to support you, was a sentence of poverty and helplessness. There was no Social Security or other societal safety net. Widows were essentially helpless. To survive, they had to be persistent and tough. Jesus picks the widow, one of the lowest of society, to demonstrate that a persistent faith will prevail against even the toughest of circumstances.

The widow in the story Jesus tells us about in Luke has been wronged by an unnamed opponent. In her town, the judge was corrupt and only cared about his position of power. He had little interest in God or his neighbors and this was the only place of recourse for the widow; a corrupt judge who showed little interest in her or in doing right. Day after day, she showed up in his court to ask for justice. Day after day, this justice was denied. Finally, after many days of this, the judge said to himself, “I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” (Luke 18:5)

Jesus talks about this woman in the Parable of the Persistent Widow. He uses the figure of a widow to highlight the value of being persistent, even when we feel powerless. The judge in the story is the symbol of a society that moved along its daily course, considering nothing but its daily route. Lost are people like the widows because they were not part of that route.

Jesus’ point in telling this story is that our persistent faith in achieving an honorable outcome, even in the face of the evil, will produce results. He asks at the end of the story, “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. (Luke 18:7–8)

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jade