J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Living For Others Part 1 – Bearing the Failings of the Weak

Audio for these notes will be up this week here.

There is no more powerful force on earth than the force that drives a person to seek happiness or joy.  You may hear that and think, “I don’t live for joy or happiness or to please myself.  I constantly work to take care of my kids or my spouse or I work all the time or I study all the time.”  You may think, “My life is not my own.”

That may be the case for all of us.  We may feel that we are constantly pouring ourselves out to pursue others more than ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that we are selfless or self-sacrificial.  The real determination is the condition of your heart or in other words, how content are you?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you content with where you live? I mean the actual home and location?
  • Are you content with lifestyle you have?  Do you feel like there are luxuries that would improve your life that you don’t have?
  • Are you thankful daily and is it evident and clear that you are content with your spouse, your children, etc?  Or do you really think you would be happier if either you had different people in your life or at least changed people in your life?
  • Do you see the non-Christians in your life as blessings sent by God to which you can serve and share the Gospel?  Or do you see them as annoyances because they disagree with you?  Heck, do you see Christians that way?

Let me tell you about one of the great scandals of American Christianity.  Somewhere along the line, we were convinced that if we give our lives to Jesus, He will give us everything we ever wanted:  health, wealth, prosperity.  I don’t think any of you in here would call yourself followers of the prosperity Gospel, but anytime we are mad or discontent about what we have or do not have in our lives, we are living out a prosperity Gospel mindset.  It says, “Hey, I have faith.  Give me what I want!”

But the call of Jesus and the example of Jesus is plenty clear.

  • John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
  • John 10:15 – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
  • John 10:17 – For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
  • John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
  • 1 John 3:16 – By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

We are tricked into thinking that God’s love is the means to our selfish ends whereas actually God’s love through Jesus is the means and the end.  We are called to reflect Jesus’ love to us in our relationships to others by laying down our lives.

Big Picture Question:  How does God use the life that is not lived to please itself?

15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

The push of the last chapter has been an emphasis for those stronger in the faith to be gracious to the weaker in faith and for the weaker not to judge the stronger.  So Paul begins here by commanding the stronger brothers how to act.  It’s almost as if Paul assumes everyone is a stronger brother which makes sense because obeying as a weaker brother immediately gives you the maturity of a stronger brother.  So he reminds us that we have an obligation to be patient and bear with the failings of the weak and not pursue the pleasures of self.  What we have here from Paul is a command and a rebuke.  Let’s look at both of them.

First the command:  Paul says, bear the failings of the weak or patiently love those who have not yet grown in maturity in their faith.  Hearing that we have to ask what it means to bear the failings of the weak.  As rare as patience is, bearing the failings of the weak is even more rare.  Let’s start with what bearing the failings of the weak is not.  This is not being faced with someone frustrating, offering a heavy Napoleon Dynamite sigh and thinking, “Well this person is not so smart but Jesus tells me to be patient”  (Speaking like Eeyore is helpful for the image but mixing Napoleon Dynamite and Eeyore is a mixed metaphor).  You get the picture.

That is not forbearance or patience.  That’s tolerance.  If you expression of love reduced so far as to think that merely tolerating someone is loving them, then your view of what love is pretty low.  I don’t think it passes the test for what love is.  Bearing the failings of the weak is an attitude of and service in joy especially when tested or exhausted.  Consider Jesus’ busiest day in Mark 4-5

After spending an entire day teaching thousands of people, Jesus, got on a boat exhausted and fell asleep.  His disciples freaked out when a storm arose, so they woke Him up.  Jesus calmed the sea with a word.  So, when they dock on land on the side, Jesus is attacked by man possessed by demons.  Jesus cast the demons out into swine and the pigs plunge to their deaths.  Jesus then gets kicked out of town.  Thanks but no thanks I guess.  So Jesus gets back into the boat, goes to another shore and there He is asked to heal the daughter of a man named Jairus.  Before he gets there He heals a woman with a discharge of blood.  In the meantime, Jairus’ daughter passes away so Jesus raises her from the dead.

That’s a busy day full of people and demands.  Oh Jesus got tired and was exasperated with both the people and His disciples at times, but He continually taught, healed, and ultimately poured Himself out on behalf of the people He loved who were at that time, His enemies.  That my friends is bearing with the failings of the weak and we are called to do just that.  There is only one way in which to do that.  We find it in the second half of verse 1.

Secondly Paul reminds us that we are not to live for the pursuit of our own pleasure or as the verse says, “Live so as not to please ourselves.”  Now in America that command might has well tell everyone that they should pursue having 2 heads.  We are in a culture that says you should be able to have whatever you want whenever you want and though the Gospel calls out against such heresy, it still seeps in to the church.

Take a moment folks and ask yourself some heart questions:  What gives you the most pleasure?  Hopefully the answers are things like worshiping God, serving others, and your family.  Those 3 things would include the commands, “Love the Lord with all your heart soul and mind and love others as you would love yourself.”  Truly, those are things that I see within this church body and I take great joy in seeing you guys walk in that type of joy.  But I’m afraid there are a million other things pulling at your heart for your happiness and joy and they are all pursuits of your own pleasure.

For example:  Have you ever been mad because something your husband or wife has done will keep you from doing something you enjoy?  Fights ensue.  Have you ever been mad at your children because they are keeping you from relaxing?   Shouting ensues.  Have you ever been mad at your parents because you want to have fun but you think they are just keeping you from having a good time?  Moping ensues.  Those are the easy ones.  Have you ever been a constant grump because  You don’t like your job.  You don’t feel well.  You don’t like the way you look.  You don’t feel like anybody is helping you get a break.  You feel like you are surrounded by incompetent people.  So you get mad because nobody is serving you which is the opposite of what this verse commands.  But this attitude is not of Christ.  Look at verse 2

Part 2 coming soon.


March 8, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. I loved your questions toward the top, especially the last one about seeing everyone as an opportunity to glorify God by serving others. I wrote a post about how we can often find our ministry right in the middle of the most difficult situations. I think God specifically uses them as opportunities, as you said, to show Himself through us.

    Thank you for sharing. I’m glad I found your blog today.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    Comment by bondChristian | March 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks Marshall. It is tough thing to remind our self of when we are tired. Part 2 coming tomorrow.

      Comment by jgordonduncan | March 8, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] Living For Others Part 2 – Building Up Your Neighbor Part 1 of this series can be found here. […]

    Pingback by Living For Others Part 2 – Building Up Your Neighbor « J. Gordon Duncan | March 9, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] Living For Others Part 1 – Bearing the Failings of the Weak […]

    Pingback by J. Gordon Duncan | March 10, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] For Others Part 3 – Christ Lives For Us Part One of this series can be found here, and Part Two can be found […]

    Pingback by Living For Others Part 3 – Christ Lives For Us « J. Gordon Duncan | March 10, 2010 | Reply

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