I am a regular user of the Maps app on my phone. It helps me when I’m driving out of town. I’m not too ashamed to admit that I am often using the app as a directional assistant in town as well. There are some residences and businesses that I just can’t find on the first try! So, Maps to the rescue.
One of the useful features, particularly when traveling out of town and on long distances, is the ability to choose your route. There are options based on time (which is always the winner for me!) and there are options based on experience, scenic routes or avoiding tolls. Sometimes, you are offered a way to avoid traffic.
This is what I would consider the most excellent way of travel. If I have to drive a longer distance, but I do not have to stop as often for traffic, that way wins in my book.
Scripture often does this. It presents an additional way of thinking, living, speaking, that will differentiate us, as Christians, from the ways of this world.
In First Corinthians, the apostle Paul, writing to a young church, gives some new ways of thinking. He calls them not just to a good way, but the most excellent way of using their gifts and exercising their freedoms in Christ.
That excellent way is Love. First Corinthians 13 teaches us how love is and how it is not. This allows us to read chapter 12 and 14 with some healthy boundaries.
When expressing your gifts, do it in love! When creating order and exercising authority, do it in love. When submitting to order and authority, let it be out of an outpouring of love! This excellent way speaks of not only the outcomes of your actions and words, but also the intent.
Now, that is not a normal way. Normal suggests that we can get away with poor intent if our actions are helpful. Or we can get away with poor actions if our intent is good. God teaches us a more excellent way. He calls us to transformation from the inside out, and totally cares about both our motives and the fruit of our time on earth.
Here are 5 typical stories we tell ourselves and their counter truths that are rooted in the most excellent way.
- Story: I am enough.
I see this often – people giving themselves affirmations and declarations to encourage the searching heart. While I appreciate the sentiment, I think it’s actually untrue considering how much we need Jesus. Without Jesus, we cannot reach salvation. Without God, the world would stop spinning. Without the Holy Spirit, we would lack the guidance, comfort and giftings to do the work assigned to us.
The most excellent way: Not only do we need Jesus, but we are blessed with gifts that help us achieve His purposes (1 Cor. 12:8-11).
- Story: I can do this by myself.
I have said this one many times, particularly to pump myself up after being disappointed in people or having a lack of healthy relationships. Committing to solitude or independence dilutes our potential to be hurt. But it’s not the most excellent way.
The most excellent way: God has designed us to be together. (1 Cor 12:13, 14, 19-20).
- Story: I can do this life for myself!
This is a motivation statement. There is permission to do things simply because you deserve to. You work hard, you deserve to treat yourself, let off steam, etc. This thought process can lead to behavior that totally lacks love, which is self-seeking.
The most excellent way: God has given us gifts and mission to build OTHERS up. God is FOR us so we can be FOR others.
- Story: I can do this life with people like myself.
I believe that looking for like-minded people for your inner circle is healthy. But committing the entirety of your social and missional mindset to a community of people just like you is not the heart of God and limits the ability for iron to sharpen iron. Different gifts, perspectives, and expressions make the Church stronger, sharper, and more effective.
The most excellent way: The body is made of many parts with differences that complement (1 Cor 12: 4-6).
- Story: I can do this life the way I want.
Most of us have a bit of a rebellious side within us. We love to have autonomy over our choices and methods of living. Submitting to Christ is not easy and it takes a lifetime.
The most excellent way: God has a design and He is about order. He holds the standard (Amos 7:7-9).
Do not give up seeking the better way in speech, heart and conduct. God is for you, helping you, and He has never left you!
Be blessed today!
Candace Cortez is Executive Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-582-1528.