Church

Living a Gospel Centred Life

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When starting to read a new book, it is always helpful to contextualise what is being said. The second book of Timothy is written by Paul in a very challenging time. Paul is writing this book out of captivity, in a time where many other believers have distanced themselves from him because they are ashamed of being associated with a prisoner.

Paul thus starts of by affirming his own identity: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”. Paul makes a statement saying: I am not what others think of me, neither am I what I think of myself, but I am who Jesus says I am. This might sound arrogant, but it is not, it is beautiful. 

Paul then proceeds to give us a beautiful picture of his relationship with Timothy and the relationship spiritual parents should have with their spiritual children:

  • Timothy is deeply loved by Paul (even as much as a “beloved child”) (verse 2)
  • Paul prays for Timothy (verse 3)
  • Paul is thankful for Timothy in his life 
  • Paul sees his relationship as joyous, not a burden or something that steals his time (4)
  • He affirms Timothy and the faith within him (verse 5)

What a beautiful picture of spiritual mentorship!

Now, back to what Paul actually wants to say to Timothy. I think verse 8 encapsulates what Paul is trying to say to Timothy here:

‘…do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord (the Gospel), nor of me his prisoner (associating with Christians), but share in the suffering for the gospel…”

Paul starts of the book of 2 Timothy focussing on the gospel of Christ, the core of the christian faith. Verse 8-10 is a beautiful rendition of the gospel and Paul uses this to remind Timothy what this is all about, what all the suffering is for. 

He encourages Timothy to ‘fan into flame the gift of God’ given to him and to not be afraid to spread the gospel ‘for God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. 

This challenges me, you see Paul was a well esteemed man, he was known throughout Israel, he was educated and revered, yet He was willing to lay his life down for the gospel of Christ.He is not writing in a time where everything is going his way. No, he is writing out of a prison in the middle of a trail. He has been stripped of everything he had and he chooses to preach the gospel in and out of season. (You see suffering is not void of Christ and the things of Christ)

2 Timothy 1: 11 & 12

“ I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed , for I KNOW whom I have believed

Paul knew God, he had His desires and that is why he went. Just like Paul we have been appointed, let us flame into fire our gifts and not be afraid or ashamed of being associated with the Christ.

Questions:

1. Do you believe what Christ says about you: that you are chosen and called, that your sins are forgiven and that you will be raised from the dead as Christ was raised from the dead to spread the good news?

2. Are you ashamed of God and His people?

3. Are you willing to sacrifice all you have so others might know God?

Christ gave it all for us and sacrificed Himself on a cross. 

Romans 12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers, through the compassions of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy to God, well-pleasing, which is your reasonable service.

Marks of Leadership #1 (1 Timothy 6:1-10)

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Before we jump into the end of this book, there are two small caveats about how this book has been split up/structured that might be helpful here as we continue reading:

  1. The bible is the perfect and authoritative Word of God, and yet the chapters and verses we use to structure it were added much later on. This means occasionally we get a chapter that starts in a strange way (for example, Acts 8, 1 Timothy 6 or Hebrews 12). When’s this happens, we should go back to the previous chapter to remind us of what the author is speaking about. In 1 Timothy 6, verses 1 and 2 seem to be the end of the discussion of chapter 5, and from verse 3 onwards we enter a new section.
  2. You might, just like me, read verses 1-2 and hit a big cultural mine (if you are unsure what I mean by this phrase, go back to our post on 1 Tim 2). These verses discuss slavery in a way that can lead to some confusion. I personally prefer the translations that use the word “bondservant” to “slave” because it is far more descriptive of the socio-cultural landscape in the 1st century. If you hit the cultural stumbling block, like me, you may find this article by Common Ground helpful to read. They are a partner church in the Advance network of churches, and it’s great to see these resources being produced! https://commonground.co.za/?resources=why-does-the-bible-condone-slavery

Now getting into the chapter!

1 Timothy contains a clear writing structure that was designed by Paul to communicate his central purposes. There are consistent themes that run throughout, moments of praise (doxology) that break up different sections, and two bookends at either side of this short letter. We can think of them as the two pillars at either end of a building that help to keep everything else standing. Without these pillars, there would be no context to Paul’s words. Everything would feel random and out of place, because we would miss the context in which Paul is writing to Timothy.

The pillars are the sections where Paul directly confronts the bad leadership in the Ephesian church. In both chapters 1 and 6, Paul charges Timothy to confront bad leadership and to model godly leadership. Today, we look at how Paul characterises bad leadership; and tomorrow we get to see how he encourages Timothy towards good leadership.

This has been a repeated theme throughout the book, the essential combination of leadership and holiness, and Paul highlights it here by examining both good and bad leadership. Lets look at some of the marks of bad leadership that Paul provided us with:

  • Bad leadership rejects the person and teachings of Jesus (v3)
  • It grows from greed and a self-centeredness in the heart (v4)
  • It leads to irrational and sinful thinking (v5)
  • It is motivated by a desire for worldly gain of some kind (5)
  • It will result in the destruction of themselves and others (v9)

It seems relatively clear here that Paul sees all of the physical acts of these false leaders, and yet he shoots straight for the heart. In leadership, never satisfy yourself with the surface level symptoms. Gods Word always cuts to the heart (Acts 2:37) and transforms our deep roots. The root sin here is exposed in verse 10 as an unhealthy love of money. And this love of money brings “all kinds of evil”.

Look how dangerous sinful leadership is. It’s no surprise Paul isn’t pulling his punches here. Chapter 6 sounds similar to chapter one, but it also seems like an escalation. For example, in chapter one, the effect of bad leadership on other people was “swerving & wandering” (1:6), but now it’s “plunging people into ruin and destruction” (6:9).

We should not play games with bad leadership. It’s warfare. It’s live or die stuff. It should not be flirted with or entertained, because it’s destructive power has eternal consequences. However, we should also be weary of our own hearts, and where we’d might see some of these marks of bad leadership in ourselves. We should interrogate our hearts and minds. We should reaffirm our commitment to serving and living for his kingdom. Friends, let’s hear the warnings.

Some Questions To Consider

  1. Why do you think Paul brings up this theme of bad leadership again?
  2. What roots of bad leadership do you see in the world and church today?
  3. Are there any roots in your own heart that you need to repent of?

Leadership Note

A godly leader should be especially aware of the state of their own heart, and should hold an appropriate fear of the Lord to remain constantly prayerful that He might keep and protect against any roots of evil that might start to grow.

Accountability leads to holiness (1 Timothy 5:17-25)

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(By Donrich Van Schalkwyk

Paul now shifts his attention from widows towards church elders and church leadership.

He starts off by saying that we should keep church leaders in high regard (1 Thessalonians 5:12) and that we should make sure that they are cared for. Paul proceeds to quote scripture from Deuteronomy 25:4 where he compares the elders (especially those in teaching and preaching) to an ox treading out grain.

The idea here is that an ox that treads out the grain will be allowed to eat from it as he does the work. So too should preachers and teachers be cared for whilst doing the work of God. There are many examples of this in scriptures:

Galatians 6:6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

He also points out how church leadership should be corrected, once more visiting the recurrent theme of holiness in the church. He makes sure to give clear direction on how to keep leadership accountable, because he knows a healthy church is accountable to one another. Paul ultimately stops at nothing and nobody to make sure the church beams of holiness.

He is so serious about holding people accountable that he urges us to publicly rebuke those who persists in sin. Imagine walking into church one morning and an Elder rebukes you in front of everyone for persisting in sin.

Paul understands that we now only see in partial and that one day we will all see in full. There is no time for our self-righteous pretence. We are all sinners and it is our responsibility to keep one another accountable. Even if you hide it as best you can, one day it will all be revealed for all to see. Paul knows that publicly rebuking someone might just be the thing that sets them free.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

We have been called to walk in the light and to grow in godliness. We need to be willing to die to ourselves in every regard, not letting our image get in the way of knowing God.

Mark 2:17: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Some Questions To Consider:

  1. Do you hold leadership in high regard, or are there maybe some resentment/disappointment/anger that you need to work through?
  2. How can you better care for the eldership of our church?
  3. Do you allow your image to get in the way of knowing God?
  4. Is there sin in your life that you feel God is calling you to confess to those around you?

Leadership Note:

Throughout 1 Timothy we discover the kind of leaders God is calling us to be. It should be remarkably encouraging to meditate on the delight of God towards leaders who faithfully serve him. However it should also evoke the fear of God inside us when we consider the call to leadership. It is not an easy task, and we must remember the hope we have as we serve (1 Tim 4:10). I love Hudson Taylors phrase and think it apt to end with here; “lets go forward on our knee’s.”

Contending for Holiness & Justice (1 Timothy 5:1-16)

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To contend for holiness is to contend for justice.

Over the last few chapters we have seen a recurring theme. Paul’s wartime dispatch to Timothy contains a simple message, that believing in the gospel changes you. You can hear the gospel, know the gospel or even study the gospel, and still be left utterly unchanged. However you cannot believe in the gospel and be the same. It will transform you.

In this chapter we see Paul take his recurring theme, and, just as he did in chapter 2, apply it to specific situations that Timothy needed to address in the church. We know that Paul is contenting for the holiness of the church, because his concern is for ‘purity’ (verse 2), ‘honor’ (verse 3), ‘godliness’ (verse 5) and ‘good works’ (verse 10). Paul also calls out a variety of sinful behaviors that have taken place (verses 8, 11-13). Paul is like a broken record, playing the same beat over and over again, determined that the church should display the beauty of God’s holiness.

What might be surprising to us as we read however, is how much time Paul spends focusing in on one particular group within the church; the widows. It seems strange, perhaps weird, that in such a short letter so much ink and paper would be spent here. If you are surprised, then a quick survey of the whole bible will completely confound you! Widows are directly mentioned over 80 times, with a few key verses here below:[1]

  • “…father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)
  • “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” (Deut 10:18)
  • “Leave your orphans behind, I will keep them alive; And let your widows trust in Me.” (Jeremiah 49:11)
  • “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn…” (Exodus 22:22-24)

Do you see the theme of justice permeating throughout these verses? Lets remind ourselves of the people that these verses, as well as Paul in 1 Timothy 5, are focusing on. Widows are often among the most marginalized and powerless in any society throughout history. They are among the least important, those without voice or agency, with little hope of a brighter future. So the idea that God, the Alpha and Omega, is so determined to love, support and protect widows is an awe-inspiring revelation! It’s so counter cultural, so unexpected and oh so beautiful! It reveals the holy beauty of God to us in a remarkable way. It reveals who He really is.

So back to 1 Timothy, and Paul’s charge to us who believe in the gospel is to live out the gospel and therefore become more like the one we believe in. Just has God has always done, we also are to love, care for, empower, highlight, restore dignity and empower all of those who have been marginalized in our communities.  As the Adam Clarke commentary on 1 Timothy 5:3 says, the word ‘honor’ means to support or sustain.[2] This is an active, sacrificial, intentional command from the bible. This is what Paul is charging the church to do. This is a challenging reminder, to put in the center of our attention and service those who the world is trying so hard to marginalize. It is the inseparable fusion of holiness and justice, and we cannot simply read this section of scripture and not obey its commands.

Our holiness, the thing Paul has been talking about throughout this book, is not just about character attributes we should nurture. It is also about good works that we should dedicate ourselves to, which is why James (1:27) describes real belief as looking after widows. To contend for holiness is to contend for justice, and lets remember that as we do, we display the love of Jesus to the world around us.

SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

  1. In your own words, why does Paul spend so much time focusing here on widows?
  2. How is our personal holiness connected to living justice-shaped lives?  
  3. How are you challenged to change your life so you can be obedient to the command to ‘honor’ the marginalized and disempowered in society?  

LEADERSHIP NOTE:

In my experience, church leaders generally are good at pursuing one type of holiness (fruit of the spirit) but are not as intentional about pursuing the type of holiness that Paul has challenged us on today. Leaders must lead by example in living justice-shaped lives. To live passionate about gospel-centered justice means changing how we live, sacrificing things in our lives so we can be obedient to the bibles commands and so we can show other people the love of God. Don’t duck out of this. Be bold. Count it as joy. Be a leader.


[1] Accessed 11/12/2019. Walker, Austin. 2015. https://www.crossway.org/articles/why-does-the-bible-say-so-much-about-widows/.

[2] Accessed 11/12/2019. https://www.studylight.org/commentary/1-timothy/5-3.html

The House that God is Building (1 Timothy 3:1-16)

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Sometimes it is possible to forget that the church isn’t ours. It is God’s people, brought together as His family, united by His blood, to advance His mission and magnify His glory. For sure, we are the church, strengthening and taking responsibility for its purposes on Earth, however it’s not ours to mold and change as our own. Don’t mess! This is God’s house!

Paul holds a deep concern for the church, as it is the household of God. This explains the whole letter, but verse 15 is especially helpful when reading chapters 2 and 3. Paul states that his purpose in writing is so that we “may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” If we read chapters 2 & 3 again, understanding that the church belongs to God, we will see that God himself cares deeply about how His church is being built. That’s why, at the very onset of its inauguration, in Matthew 16:18 we read that Jesus claims ultimate responsibility for building the church.

Paul’s deep concern for the well being of the church comes from remembering what the church is. In verse 15 we get three different descriptions of the church. It is the household of God, referring to the church as the family of God.[1] Next is the church, meaning the assembly / coming together of God’s people. Finally we get the church as “the pillar and foundation”, because whilst in the world the church is meant to be both the firm foundation and the high tower of truth. These are awe-inspiring truths of who we are as the people of God, and it demonstrates how intentionally God is building His bride.

God’s concern for His people is shown in chapter three through his concern for the holiness of leaders. Found in the list of Elder and Deacon characteristic’s, we see practical examples of the kind of gospel transformation Paul has been exhorting throughout the book. These ‘qualities’ are also a direct contrast to the false teachers influencing the church in Ephesus.[2] At the heart of the churches problems was a failure of leadership character, necessitating Paul’s detailed descriptions of what godly leadership should look like.

One of the fundamental problems behind all church failures (not just in Ephesus) is a failure of character, and this failure will always be found when leaders over-emphasize their importance in the church. Then egos begin to inflate (1 Tim 1:7), sound doctrine begins to wane (1 Tim 1:10) and church roles begin to get muddled as people are not guided into holiness (1 Tim 2).

When I was young up I had the privilege of growing up in a church plant with leaders who were clear that the church would not rise or fall based on their abilities. From my childhood onwards, I learnt that church leadership is about gospel transformation, internal character and spiritual dependence on the God who is building His church.

This chapter is a continuation of Paul’s concern for gospel transformation in the household of God. It is an incredible gift to the church from God Himself, as it will protect us from bad leadership and constantly point us to good leadership. But we also should be regularly asking the Holy Spirit to encourage and challenge us personally, trusting that God is transforming us as He is building His church.

SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

  1. Why do you think Paul is so concerned that Timothy establishes healthy leaders in the church?
  2. What does these two lists of leadership characteristic’s reveal about the heart of God towards His church?
  3. How could these lists help you to assess your own spiritual transformation?

LEADERSHIP NOTE:

These lists are incredible gifts to help guide us as we seek to grow more and more into imitators of Jesus, and they are worth our regular meditation. You may find it beneficial to ask others you trust to help guide you through them. Remember, God is transforming you. God is building His church. These character traits are not about performance, or striving to be better. They are about seeing an inner renewal by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.


[1] This is the ‘most likely’ understanding as verses 4, 5 & 12 use the same word is used to refer to family households.

[2] You can read 1 Tim 1:7 & 6:4-5 to see how different these church leaders were from the standard that God required in His household.

Cultural Minefields and Wartime Holiness (1 Timothy 2:8-15)

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Reading the second half of this chapter is like walking across a cultural minefield in 2019. There are many different ideas that can offend our ideological sensitivities. This chapter should really come with a warning sign! Yet if we remember the setting Paul is writing into, then we shouldn’t be surprised. This is because 1 Timothy is a wartime dispatch sent to the frontlines. Timothy was sent to wage war in Ephesus, where a mix of different cultural values had combined to undermine the Gospel. Does this sound familiar to our context at all?

As you read through the chapter, you might be able to recognise a theme that runs throughout. For sure, you can easily spot the cultural mines of gender inequalities, or the potential kindling of a toxic purity culture, or perverse patriarchal preferences. However, if you haven’t prematurely stepped on one of these exploding mines, you may notice a road through the mines. A theme that will help guide us and helps us understand how the Gospel actually empowers us to engage our cultural sensitivities. The question when we look at the chapter is: what’s Paul’s purpose?

I believe its holiness. It’s living out this incredible good news (the Gospel) in a way that it affects our public worship. The Gospel transforms the believer’s hearts, lives and church experiences. Let me quickly show you why I think this:

  • “First of all, then…” Just as we saw yesterday, what Paul is saying in chapter two is a continuation of his ideas from chapter one. He is talking about Gospel transformation and believers’ living holy and humble lives.
  • “…rather she is to remain quiet.” Is Paul here silencing women and robbing them of agency? Well just before we hit a huge mine, let’s focus on the word quiet and its purpose in the sentence. In verse 2 Paul says that we (all) may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified…”[1] This shows that the word ‘quiet’ is linked to, and for Paul a synonym of, godliness. It isn’t a sinful or cultural attempt to undermine the dignity of women. We know that elsewhere Paul recognizes the important value of women’s contributions to church gatherings (1 Corinthians 11:2-5 & 14:26), and overall leadership (think of Nympha, Mary, Lydia, Phoebe or Junia).  Therefore, Paul’s encouragement to pursue this ‘quiet’ holiness is something that every person should aim for. It externally displays our internal Gospel transformation.[2]
  • “I desire that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands…” Paul’s purpose is to encourage the holiness of men in the church! This is applied to the men of Ephesus with a specific instruction not to quarrel. So Paul’s desire for holiness involves a correction of the men first.
  • “… but with what is proper for women who profess godlinessPaul’s purpose here is now to encourage the holiness of women in the church! He wants everyone to be holy! This desire is applied to the women of Ephesus with a specific instruction to stop being so focused on materialism and looking good to others that they take they’re eyes off of Jesus and ignore the Gospel transformation that should be taking place in their hearts.
  • “Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness.” Its almost like Paul pre-empts some opposition (this is war after all) and so he repeats his goal, and in the bible repetition denotes importance. Paul is going to some lengths here to make his aims here – he loves everyone in the church and desires that they grow in holiness.[3]

Once we see these things, hopefully a path begins to develop through the mines, and we can appreciate the heart and instruction of Paul here. It should show us one thing; Gospel transformation changes everything about us! Not one thing. Not most things. Everything. Our entire lives should be a display of this quiet, humble godliness that has been supernaturally worked inside of us by God Himself! Furthermore, this should be applied to our churches, as Paul is writing about the whole church in Ephesus. All people in the church, in every context of the church, should display this powerful and graceful transformation. Whatever we do, and however we do it, it just all be pleasing to the God who desires to use us to save others (verse 3).

SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

  1. Do you find 1 Timothy 2 difficult to read? Why do you think this is the case?
  2. How does Paul’s uncompromising call to holiness challenge the way you are living at the moment?
  3. Can your church be characterized by the Gospel transformation described the chapter?

LEADERSHIP NOTE:

Worldly cultures will try to dismantle your faith and knock you out of the fight. To put it another way, they will try to stop you trusting God. However as leaders we should read this chapter trusting and loving God, which develops some unshakeable beliefs. Belief’s such as the authority of scripture, the perfection (inerrancy) of scripture, the loving nature of God and his good desires for our flourishing. We cannot lead if we get knocked out of the fight. To quote Paul elsewhere, we should not be ashamed of the Gospel (Rom 1:16). Instead we should be of good courage and faith that God is working powerfully through His Word.


[1] The word ‘all’ isn’t in the original manuscripts of the bible, yet Paul is talking to both men and women here (as the gender differences only begin at verse 8) which is why I have added it in.

[2] This is a very challenging passage to read, with many different interpretations avaialbale. If you are confused or interested in RRC’s position, please do email the church office at admin@recroadchurch.co.za

[3] This verse is complicated and often misunderstood. Paul isn’t saying there is another way that women can be saved apart from Jesus’ atonement. He is actually referencing the atonement, by mentioning the curse of Genesis 3 on Eve and how He promises to crush Satan on the cross. If you are interested in this, I found this article by John Piper very helpful: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-are-women-saved-through-childbearing.

Unity, Love & Harmony (Philippians 2:1-11)

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Unity, harmony and love within the family of God (the Church) is not just a nice to have but essential!

Jesus said it like this; ‘by this will all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:35).

When Paul thought of the Philippian believers and thought of what would make his joy in them complete (vs2) he urged them to do three things;
to agree, to be of one mind
to have the same love
to be harmonious (‘in full accord’) with one another

As believers, a family of faith, a gospel-community, Scripture urges us to be united in our thinking. Disunity of thought brings uncertainty in relationships and damages trust and the vulnerability that trust thrives on. But is such unity even possible?

Yes, it is! Unity is possible for those who have been included and encouraged in Christ. Unity is possible for those who are living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Unity is possible for those who have all experienced God’s love poured out into their hearts (vs2).

Unity without these shared experiences would be impossible, but within a gospel-community, it is possible; otherwise, Scripture would not command it.

More than this, gospel-communities are to be harmonious according to vs2. The Greek word translated ‘being in full accord’ (ESV) can also be translated ‘harmonious’.

Harmony is not the same as unity. By way of example, an orchestra is not an orchestra unless there is unity in diversity, not uniformity. Both unity and diversity are essential for there to be harmony. An orchestra’s beauty is its harmony of diverse instruments united one piece of music. It is having one conductor arranging their unique contributions in such a way that each contributes their unique sound, thus creating a beautiful harmony.

Gospel communities, likewise, are to be united but not uniform. They have a diversity of personality & gift but are united around one desire – to bring glory to Jesus Christ and to serve His mission in the world.

This was a passion in the heart of the apostle Paul, and thus, he makes this appeal to the Philippian believers urging them to be united and harmonious.

So what hinders unity and harmony? Its things like selfish ambition, pride (conceit). Such things ruin relationships and damage people and gospel-community.

Therefore, in the Church, let’s be those who humbly consider others more significant than ourselves. Let’s prefer others, be one another’s greatest fans and be very slow to posture or put ourselves forward (vs3).

Let’s also ensure that we are not selfishly looking after our interests but that we are considerate of the interests and needs of others seeking to serve others always (vs4).

What could possibly motivate us to act in these ways? There is only ONE; His name is Jesus! The single mind that we are all to have (vs2) is that we are all to have the mind of Jesus (vs5). We are to follow His example as He did not live selfishly or proudly but in humility, He came to serve you and me. Jesus, although He was God, emptied Himself taking the form of a servant (vs7), and humbled Himself to the point of death, death on a cross (vs8) for us!

He is our example; He is our motivation. He is the one we worship and live out our whole lives as a response.

Unity, love and harmony matter. But they are only possible when a gospel-community together fix their eyes on Jesus our great Saviour and example and live out their lives with one another as a response to Him.

Reflection:

  1. Ask God if there is any way you have been contributing to disunity in your gospel-community (Church)? Is there any way you have been acting selfishly, ambitiously or proudly? If the Holy Spirit shows you anything, then repent now of such things.
  2. Meditate again on what Jesus did for you (Philippians 2:5-11). What do you feel God is showing you about Jesus? What is God showing you that might need to change in your life?
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you more and more ‘other-aware’, looking out not just for your interests but also the interests of others.