True Riches—Part 3 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Money’s False Hope
by: Ben Biles

Few of us think of ourselves as rich because we know a lot of people who are richer than we are. Yet, on Sunday, Pastor Tim reminded us that the average income in an American household is enough to be counted in the top 1% of the richest people in the world. He then pointed us to heed Paul’s words to Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). The truth is that we are the “rich in the present age” and need to be careful of where we place our hope.

Paul’s point here is that wealth is a foolish thing to hope in, for it can only offer a false sense of security. It is useful in a lot of ways, but it can’t save you from heartbreak, loneliness, depression, anxiety, or self-doubt. It definitely can’t save you from the sin and death that plague us all. Money is completely apathetic to your situation and couldn’t care less if you succeed or fail. And yet, the problem is that the more money you have, the more likely you are prone to trust in its power. Though we might not be conscious of it, our tendency is to hope in the security and power that money seems to provide. We can tell where our hope lies for when our bank accounts drop, our anxieties rise.

Paul instead encourages us to hope in God who graciously and lovingly gives us all that we need. Not only does hoping in God take away the need to stress over finances, but it places our focus in building our relationship with our loving Creator as well as with those around us. We are able to enjoy what God gives to us in the present moment and use it to invest in the eternal as we turn our focus off ourselves and on to loving those around us. This new focus changes everything and brings extraordinary blessing to those who think this way.

I’ve found that the richest man is not the one with the most wealth, but the one most loved by his family, friends, and community. When we treat our wealth as a means to an end, and not an end itself, we are able to bless others in a way that impacts eternity. Believers that understand this prosper in far greater ways than money could ever hope to provide. So, when you’re worried or stressed or despairing, or whatever situation you find yourself in, place your hope in God instead of money.

Living out the Message:

Coming soon

True Riches—Part 2 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Return on Investment
by: Ben Biles

When it comes to finances, we ideally want to invest our resources in the present moment in order to reap the best possible future gain. If you had the option to invest in two opportunities, one yielding $1,000 and the other yielding $100,000, you would obviously pick the second because it gives you the best return on investment. Now, it is easy to make smart decisions based on financials and numbers, but we aren’t always so wise when it comes to bigger, more impactful life decisions. We don’t take into account the true ROI, or return on investment, of our time or our mental, physical, and emotional energies. We often invest far too much in things that won’t matter in the long term or, more importantly, into eternal life. 

This is what Jesus means when He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). Jesus is saying that we have two options. We can invest our time and energy focusing on earning and gaining for our earthly life. We can go for the high-paying job, the nice house, the expensive car, the vacations to the Bahamas, but all of these will fade in the scope of eternity. Yet, we find only a fleeting happiness in these. 

Alternatively, we can use our time, energy, skills, and abilities—the totality of our available resources—to build up treasures in heaven. This should be the obvious choice since any investment into eternity will last forever. What does this look like? It means using everything available to you in order to build your relationship with God and to positively impact the lives of other people. As Pastor Josh put it on Sunday, “We give to impact eternity.”  Not only is that the best investment of our resources, but we also have the guarantee that God will take care of us throughout our lives (read Matthew 6:24-34). It could be said that God invests in us so that we can invest in others.

Yet, we struggle in doing this because we don’t always receive the immediate gratification from building up heavenly treasures, and therein, don’t recognize their value. The Apostle Paul had it right when he wrote, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). He understood the incomparable value of his relationship with God, and he spent everything in order to know God better and love others. We should do the same.

Living out the Message:

The Heart of Giving
By Ben Biles

For the past three weeks, we have been promoting and challenging The Ridge community to participate in the Kindness Campaign. Though the campaign is coming to its end, we should continue to look for ways to show love and kindness to others with our words and our actions. Just as God gave His own Son for us that we might have eternal life through Him, we should seek out opportunities to give for the benefit of others. Those that have found a deep, gratifying joy in giving are in alignment with the heart of God and with His generous nature. 

The Apostle Paul explains his heart of giving in 1 Thessalonians, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:8–9). Paul desired to share all that he had—his time, energy, mind, heart—in order to love the Thessalonians. His love for them translated into his desire to give. 

Paul often invited believers to be “imitators” of his own faith. He writes to the believers in Colossae, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). The idea behind “put on” is that, as believers, we clothes ourselves in these attributes. Others should be able to notice your kindness and compassion just as they notice the shirt you’re wearing. When believers consistently show their communities kindness and love, others are better able to understand the true heart of God, who through His love saved us from sin. 

So how do we do this in our everyday lives? Well, I think we make the mistake that we have to give in these grandiose ways. I have found that small acts of kindness repeated consistently over time are better than one huge act. It develops a consistent habit of giving that gradually but surely transforms your heart and mind from being self-centered to being selfless. Kindness feeds itself as one act inspires the next. So, look for a small way to show kindness and love to someone else today and develop a heart of giving.

True Riches—Part 1 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Living Through Giving
by: Ben Biles

The heart of giving is counterintuitive to our natural instinct. In a survival of the fittest mindset, we want to hoard our resources in order to feel secure. We want to keep all that we gain in order to build even more security and protection for ourselves and our future. What we give away today might be what we need later on in order to survive. So when God tells us that we need to give, the instinctive reaction is “No, that’s mine! I worked hard for this and I deserve to reap the rewards. Can’t God just give them what they need on His own?”

This mindset is toxic though. It focuses completely on the self at the expense of all others. This self-centeredness poisons the mind as we view others only as competitors. What we need instead is a change of heart that aligns with the generous nature of God. After all, if everything is created by God, everything belongs to Him anyway. Because He is generous in giving to us, we need to be generous in giving as well. As John writes, “If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?” (1 Jn 3:17). Our love translates into our desire to give just as Jesus’ love led Him to give His life for ours.

As Tim said on Sunday, “We live to give.” We are given everything by God for the expressed purpose of helping others and blessing them. This happens through giving financial resources as well as through giving our time, lending our skills and abilities to serve, or maybe just being there for someone in a vulnerable moment. When we give away our own resources, we signal to God that He is what we truly need and that He is our security. We trust Him to provide and protect us. We stop relying on the fleeting security money and other resources seemingly provide. 

Through this, we are freed from worry in order to spend our mental and physical energies loving others. As Paul writes, “God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Our lives are transformed by giving as we walk more and more in the will of God, spreading his Gospel message through our words and our actions.

Living out the Message:

Limited Kindness
By Ben Biles

When we talk about giving in the context of church, our minds naturally think of giving financial resources. Yet, we recognize greater things than money when we think of the higher needs of others. Above all things, humans desire to be loved—to know and be known by others and by their Creator. While we might have a limited amount of financial resources to help and bless others with, we have a limitless ability to love and show kindness. 

Anyone saved by the grace and love of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, Son of God, understands the sacrificial nature of God’s love. He loved us and gave Himself for us so that we would love and give ourselves of others. We seek to replicate God’s love over and over through our acts of kindness in our communities and social circles. Paul writes in Galatians, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22). Our kindness is evidence that the Spirit of God is working within us and through us. When others see our kindness, they understand that we are aligned with the character of God. We preach God’s goodness with our kind actions. 

If we are able to testify to God’s goodness with our kindness, then that would place upon every believer a responsibility to show kindness and love. John writes, “And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21). Yet, we often let ourselves get distracted by the urgent things we tend to day by day. Instead, we must focus our minds and hearts on God’s commandment to love and in so doing, bless others with kindness.

At The Ridge, we are in the middle of our Kindness Campaign, which is a three-week movement designed to share kindness with our community through our giving. We are encouraging everyone this week to do something kind for someone in your life. It can be anything. You can set aside time for prayer for others. You can serve someone in a unique way. You can reach out to someone who needs encouragement and love. You can write a note. You could reach out and support a local non-profit. It’s completely up to you. Just know that when we show kindness in Jesus’ name, we preach God’s goodness.

Hard Questions—Part 5 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

The Suffering Savior
by: Ben Biles

On Sunday, Pastor Tim talked to us once again on the subject of suffering. The reality of suffering causes us to ask many questions of God like “why would a good and loving God allow suffering at all?” and “why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” But something Tim said on Sunday stood out to me: “No one has suffered as much as God has.” I think we tend to imagine God as immune to pain and suffering as He sits on His heavenly throne, but the reality is that’s not true. He has suffered greatly on behalf of His creation. 

What makes this so interesting is that God does not have to suffer, but He chooses to suffer on our behalf. Humans, on the other hand, endure suffering naturally through living in a world corrupted by sin and evil. God, who is incorruptible and holy, enters into this sinful world of suffering by his own initiative. He sends His Son Jesus Christ to die as a sacrifice for our sin and to reconcile us to the Father. In this we see the fullness of God’s love, that He willingly subjected himself to suffering for our sake. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus endure a variety of sufferings through His life, but nothing compares to his taking on the sins of the world upon himself and dying on the cross as payment for those sins. Through his suffering, we can know God in a personal relationship as his sacrifice releases us from the bonds of our sin.

The writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). God knows what it feels like to suffer. He’s endured more than you could even imagine. He has a greater understanding of suffering and pain than anyone else. In this, we find comfort because anyone who has suffered knows that the best comfort and advice comes from someone who has suffered in the same way. We do not have a God who is callous to our suffering or unable to understand, but one who has gone through it Himself and offers comfort. For anyone going through suffering, know that God understands. Don’t let suffering cause you to doubt God’s goodness, but seek instead his comfort (for more, read 2 Corinthians 1:3-11).

Living out the Message:

Purpose in Suffering
By Ben Biles

As Pastor Tim interacted with the hard question of “Why do we suffer?,” his main point was to assure us that “we can make sense of suffering.” This was followed by seven points on why we can make sense of suffering:  

  1. All suffering can be traced back to the sin of Adam and Eve. 
  2. We should not expect God to intervene every time bad things happen. 
  3. Christians should view suffering as discipline, not as punishment. 
  4. No one has suffered as much as God has. 
  5. Suffering should remind us that this world is not our home. 
  6. Suffering provides an opportunity for us to care for another. 
  7. Suffering reminds us of our need for God. 

I think the main struggle we face in the midst of suffering is that we doubt God’s love for us. We question why God would allow us to suffer even as He calls us his children. But in this, we misunderstand the purpose of suffering. Did the Father not love the Son while He suffered on the cross? Yet Jesus’ suffering was necessary for our faith. In the same way, our suffering provides opportunities for the gospel to be proclaimed. For when we encounter suffering and then cling to the hope we have in Jesus, that shows the world that God is worth suffering for and that we believe that His grace is sufficient for our needs. If you are willing to suffer for the gospel, then it must really matter to you. 

James writes in his letter, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4). Here, our suffering isn’t purposeless, but provides us another opportunity to grow in our faith. When we endure, we become stronger. We have a greater trust in God and a greater hope in our glorious future with Him. 

As you encounter suffering in the present moment and in future ones, understand that suffering has a purpose. It gives you an opportunity to strengthen your faith and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t allow despair, doubt, or bitterness to overwhelm you, but stand firm in your faith and press on in the fullness of God’s grace.

Hard Questions—Part 4 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

The Most Important Issue
by: Ben Biles

With Election Day swiftly approaching on November 3rd, many people have been thinking about the political issues surrounding the presidential election. In recent weeks, we’ve been exposed to two presidential debates, one vice presidential debate, and a town hall from each of the candidates. As both sides disagree as to the best solution to the nation’s problems, voters try to find the candidate that most aligns with their own values. But as we’ve seen and experienced, the political tension between the two sides has created a charged atmosphere. We are left wondering how to engage with the political landscape as believers in Jesus.

On Sunday, Pastor Tim engaged with many of the top political issues and pointed us to how each issue aligned with biblical values. One of the points he made early on was that “people are more important than perspectives.” Though we have a responsibility to engage with politics, we must place a greater value on loving others. As believers, the most important issue is showing the world the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should engage political discussions with this as our foundation. This means that, although we may disagree with the political stance of others, we must not allow that to weaken our love for them. 

Tim also pointed out that Christians have different opinions on various candidates and issues. Some Christians will vote for Trump and some Christians will vote for Biden. Though we differ politically, we must not be divided relationally. When we allow the political issues to divide us relationally, we show the world that Christians are not united under Christ, but under something else. This happens when we place a greater importance on the political issues instead of the Gospel. 

The Apostle Paul writes to the Philippians, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). He encouraged believers to be united in Christ striving together for the gospel. This should be our goal as well. When we stand united in Christ, we are better able to focus on the most important issue: showing the world the love of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Living out the Message:

Praying Over Politics
By Ben Biles

On Sunday, Tim addressed issues related to political involvement as Christians. As believers, we have an opportunity through voting to influence our nation, and we should vote with biblical values in mind. This means that we need to first develop an extensive understanding of the things God values through the reading of His Word and meeting with Him in prayer. Second, this means that we need to be informed and knowledgeable concerning the political positions of each presidential candidate. We need to be able to discern how certain issues align with biblical principles and support the candidate we believe best aligns with those principles. 

Tim encouraged us at the end of Sunday’s message to focus on love and prayer in the midst of your decision to vote. We need to remain united in love as the body of Christ and shouldn’t allow political diversity to divide us as believers in Jesus. We also need to be prayerful toward how we are to vote. If you haven’t already voted, spend some time in prayer this week processing the political issues with God. Seek out His heart, then go vote.

After you vote, Tim encouraged us to pray even more. Why? Because this is how God desires His people as citizens. The Apostle Paul writes to his pastor friend Timothy on how to direct the church in Ephesus, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1–4). As believers, we are directed by God to pray for whoever is in leadership—and this was around the time of the reign of Nero, one of the most corrupt of the Roman Emperors. We pray that God will give them wisdom and understanding to lead our country well and into greater peace. 

Finally, trust that no matter who is elected as President of the United State, God is still sovereign in all things. He is in control and His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Do not let despair, anger, or apathy take hold of your mind and heart, but go on praying so that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Hard Questions—Part 3 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Hope in the Darkness
by: Ben Biles

I used to listen to a song by Mumford & Sons that goes, “So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light / ‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright / But I will hold as long as you like / Just promise me we’ll be alright.” From the lyrics, I knew that the singer was suffering. I knew that he viewed the world as a source of pain. I knew that he had been beaten up in life and felt overcome by his circumstances. I knew these things, but I wondered at his source of hope to which he reaches out. What, or who, was he depending on to bring him out of that painful place—out of the darkness?

This is something I often wonder about people who don’t know the salvation of our great God. There were times in my life that I honestly wouldn’t have been able to weather without the provision and protection of God. I would’ve sunk to a dark place. But I held on to this truth about Jesus: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5). I knew that God was with me and could overcome any suffering. Though I experienced pain and sorrow in the present moment, He was my hope in the darkness.

The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Paul’s encouragement to the Romans acknowledged that life was full of suffering. Yet that didn’t cause him to question the goodness of God. Rather, it convinced him that the glory waiting for him was worth all the suffering in the present moment. As with all things, he knew that the path to glory always goes through the valley of suffering. He had his hope fully set on God and didn’t allow his suffering in the present moment to distract him from the glorious eternity waiting for him.

Whatever you are experiencing in your life, know that God is with you and He is for you. Cling to Him as your hope in the darkness. Don’t let your present suffering rob you of the reality that you will experience the most glorious future with God in eternity. Let that hope give you strength to carry through.

Living out the Message:

Bearing Burdens
By Ben Biles

There is a curious habit that’s plagued our society for several generations: the desire to privately endure the suffering in our lives. Though it is not a new trend, it has become more obvious on social media. Almost everything we see is positive—a smiling face, a beautiful vacation, a funny moment. We like everyone to see the happy stuff, but we tend to hide the things that hurt. Rarely do you get a glimpse into the personal suffering of a person. Why? Because we prefer to suffer alone, without anyone seeing our hurt. 

Yet, it is very difficult to process grief and suffering alone. We get overwhelmed with our emotions and thoughts. We question our circumstances, God’s goodness, and ourselves. But God created humans as relational creatures to know and love others and to be known and loved. We are naturally disposed to share our lives with our friends, family, and neighbors. This is true for both the good and the bad times—especially for the bad times, for that is when we need the support of the community the most. 

Solomon shows us the need for community in Ecclesiastes. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12). We see that those who suffer alone have no one to lift them up. When we suffer privately, we sink to the depths of our inner turmoil and stay there. But when we let others into our suffering, we are lifted up and out. We are strengthened by our community. 

So what do we do with the suffering in our life? We find support in the context of Christian community. But we go further than that. We purposely join a community in order to support those who are suffering. We look for ways to lift others out of their suffering. The Apostle Paul commands the church in Galatia, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We rely on others and others rely on us. When we let others into our suffering, our burden becomes lighter. It becomes bearable. It gives others an opportunity to love you and for you to love them. This is what community is all about. We need to drop the façade of a purely positive life and let others into our suffering.