Infinite Value

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:35 am

We live in a world where success is determined by numbers. The more people, the more results, the more sales, the more fans … more is better. More is successful. The corollary? Less means failure.

Unfortunately, we bring that yardstick right into our Christian ministry. We evaluate our “success” on the basis of how many lives we touch, how many people we preach to, how many books we sell, how many listeners we have for our radio show until we achieve … success.

More is better. Less is failure.

But let’s face it. Only a small percentage of Christians alive today preach to crowds or write books or talk on radio shows. Only a handful will reach hundreds or thousands or millions of people. Most of us live, serve, and minister quietly within a small circle of work, church, family, and friends. Does that mean that the vast majority of Christians cannot experience “success” in Christian ministry?

Well, if “more is better” and numbers define success, then I guess the kingdom of God is doomed to failure. Fortunately, that is not the case! Here’s why, in six short words:

Every soul is of infinite value.

That’s right. Every soul. Every person you meet. Every woman you speak to. Every man you work with. Every child you know. Every soul is of infinite value.

That means that if you touch just one life with God’s truth, God’s love, and God’s Spirit, your “success” rate jumps from zero to infinity. Just like that. Think of it like this: everything you do has infinite worth, because it impacts people of infinite value.

Suddenly, the playing field is level. All of us who serve the Lord are working toward one end: furthering the kingdom of God. We all have gifts, and the gifts all differ. What is required is that we use our gifts as he gives us opportunity. There is no such thing as one person having “more success” than another just because they have a ministry that reaches a greater number of people. What matters is that we are reaching the people God has given us the responsibility to reach. That is why Jesus taught us so clearly:

“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

Remember: Every soul is of infinite value. Therefore, everything you do has infinite worth.


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Jesus Understands Loneliness

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:33 am

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” Mark 15:34

There has never been greater loneliness than the loneliness on the Cross. Jesus, who from eternity had been one with the Father, was separated from him. The weight of sin crushed him, causing him to be accursed. And at the height of his pain and suffering, the Father appeared to abandon him.

And while my heart breaks because of what Jesus suffered for me, I am so very, very glad that he did. Because it means that he understands. He is no distant God: immovable, unshakable, removed from the world he created. He came and walked this earth and suffered and died so that he could truly say, “Yes, I understand the pain. I understand the loneliness. I understand the grief. I have walked the same road that you are on now.”

  • What does it mean to you to realize that Jesus not only intellectually understands pain and suffering and loneliness, but that he has experienced it?
  • Jesus’ suffering isn’t the end of the story. His suffering qualified him for a very special role. Hebrews 2:17 affirms, “Therefore, Jesus had to be made like his brethren in all things, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest …” What does it mean to you to realize that Jesus is extending mercy to you, is faithful to you, and is interceding for you all the time? 
  • Likewise, your suffering isn’t the end of the story. Your suffering qualifies you for a very special role. Ask God to use your loneliness and suffering to increase your sense of compassion and mercy for others, and to deepen your ability to serve them.


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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God is Compassionate

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:33 am

“And Elijah was afraid and arose and ran for his life …. He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, ‘Arise, eat.’ Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.” I Kings 19:3-8

This passage is, to me, one of the most tender images we have of God. We see Elijah – the strong, courageous, faithful prophet – exhausted. Completely done in physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. He actually begged God to let him die in the wilderness.

Does God rebuke his prophet? Get irritated and demand that Elijah stand up and get with the program? Tell him to snap out of it?

No. God comes to him. In person. This is “the angel of the LORD” – the preincarnate Christ. And God makes him a meal, bids him eat, and tells him to go back to sleep. And when Elijah wakes up, God has again been in the kitchen, and has made him a second meal. And as he eats, God says softly, “I know how hard this is. I know this is a tough journey. Take your time. Regain your strength. I’m here.”

  • Imagine God coming to you in your pain and exhaustion and comforting you as he did Elijah. Take the time to imagine in the scene in detail. How does it make you feel?
  • One of the places that God meets with us to extend us his comfort and his strength is during our quiet time: time we spend reading his Word and talking with him. How is your quiet time right now? What do you tend to do during your quiet time? How long do you spend? Are you spending enough time to actually be able to quiet your heart to hear God speak?


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Move Forward Despite Doubt

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:32 am

“Therefore, thus says the LORD, ‘If you return, then I will restore you – before Me you will stand; and if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you, but as for you, you must not turn to them.’” Jeremiah 15:19

When I first studied this passage – and even since then – I have struggled with God’s response to Jeremiah’s doubt and despair. In the previous verses, his prophet poured out his heart to God, asking if God was really with him, if he cared, if was going to act. And God’s answer is almost brusque: “Get your relationship with me right, do your job, and stand up.”

Not exactly comforting. But sometimes, the fact is that we don’t need comfort. We need a kick in the pants. Doubt can mire us down – as it evidently was doing for Jeremiah. Plus, he had apparently let his doubts draw him away from God. On all fronts, he was stuck.

God knew that this was a time for tough love, so he pointed out the problem, and commanded his prophet to get his act together and do his job. Likewise, we sometimes need this tough love. It’s as if God is saying to us, “Yes, you’re doubting. Yes, things are hard. Here’s my answer: get back on your knees and start praying, then stand up and do your job, doubts or no doubts. It’s time to get your priorities straight.”

No pity parties allowed. Stand up, and move forward.

  • How do you tend to respond when someone rebukes or reproves you? Why?
  • What happens to your faith if you focus on your doubts?
  • What do you need to do right now to move forward despite your doubts?


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Jesus is the Truth

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:31 am

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life…’” John 14:6

When I am doubting, I want answers. I want specific facts to lay to rest my specific questions.

But over time I have learned that facts are not where truth really lies. I know this, because no matter how many facts I have on hand, my doubts never fully disappear. I doubt the new facts as they appear, and new answers only give rise to new questions.

Instead, truth – and its companion, peace – is found in relationship with the One who is the Truth: Jesus Christ. 

When I am focusing on my relationship with Jesus, I can be content to know that he knows the answers to my questions – I don’t have to have all the answers myself. I am comforted to know that he loves me and cares for me and protects me – in and through my doubts. I am perfectly safe from the storm of doubt when I know and have confidence in the Captain who stands at the helm of my ship. The storm may still rage, but I know that he will see me safely to shore.

  • When you are struck with doubt, be sure to spend time reading the Word. Not reading to “find an answer” to your questions, but reading to understand God better.
  • It can be hard to pray when you are doubting, especially if you are doubting the existence or love of God himself. Write out a series of verses that talk about God, Jesus, and his love for you. Read the verses aloud before you enter a time of prayer, and use them as a springboard for praying. For instance, John 3:16 might unfold into a prayer like this:

“God, I affirm that you loved this fallen world so much – and that includes me – that you sent your very best to save it. That very best was your Son, Jesus. Thank you for giving your very best, even when you knew I would doubt him and you. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying on the cross to save me, even though you knew that I would doubt you now. Your love encompasses and transcends my doubts. You have given eternal life to me because I truly believe in you, regardless of what my doubts are now whispering inside me. Help me to know you better through this period of doubting, so that my faith in you and my love for you would grow even stronger.”


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Anger is Part of the Image of God

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:30 am

“His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime.” Psalm 30:5

Time and again throughout both the Old and New Testaments, God is revealed as experiencing anger. Therefore, we can state with sureness that anger is an appropriate part of God’s character.

But now we need to move one step further: because we are made in God’s image, anger is an appropriate part of our character.

God’s anger is against sin and unrighteousness. Our anger, unfortunately, tends to be a lot more wide-ranging, and often includes things we have no right to be angry about. Another problem is that, while God always demonstrates his anger in appropriate ways, we often do not.

Because we are often angry at inappropriate things or act our anger out in inappropriate ways, people sometimes tell us (or we tell ourselves) that “we should never be angry.” “Never”? No, that is a lie of the devil. We have every right to be angry at the things that make God angry. We have every right to demonstrate and act on our anger as long as we do not sin in doing so.

Rather than being ashamed of your anger, it is time to hold it up to the light, examine it, reject what is sinful, and embrace what is good.

  • What does it mean to you to realize that anger, in and of itself, is part of the image of God within you?
  • What parts of your anger at your anxiety are justifiable? What parts are not?
  • What is an appropriate way of addressing or demonstrating your anger? What is not?


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Express Anger Appropriately

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:30 am

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.’ So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?’ Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’” Numbers 20:7-12

Moses was rightfully angry at the Hebrew people. They griped and complained at every turn, and continually turned away from the Lord. Yet again they needed water, and yet again they didn’t trust God for it. Nevertheless, God was willing to meet their needs one more time, and he gave specific instructions to Moses.

Moses, however, let his anger control him, instead of the other way around. And as a result, he himself would never see the Promised Land. From Moses’ example, we see that when we are angry, we should:

Honor the LORD. Anger tends to make us very self-focused. Even if you have “righteous indignation,” keep your eyes off yourself and on God.

Watch your tongue. You can positively hear Moses’ scathing voice, “Listen now, you rebels!” Regardless of how angry you are, don’t throw around insults and epithets.

Control your actions. When you are fit to bursting, you want to lash out. Sometimes a physical expression of anger may be appropriate, but most of the time it isn’t. While you should not internalize your anger, you should control your outward expressions of it.

  • How do you express anger? Are you in line with Scripture with what you do and say?
  • Looking back at times when you were angry, what words or actions fed your anger so that it increased, and what words or actions addressed your anger so that it decreased?


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Follow Jesus’ Example

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:29 am

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came …” Matthew 4:1-3

The reason Jesus can be our merciful and faithful high priest (Hebrews 4:14-15) is  because he suffered as we suffer, and he was tempted as we are tempted.

Consider: Jesus wasn’t tempted by Satan right after coming up out of the water of baptism, right after being announced as the Lamb of God, right after hearing the voice from heaven and seeing the Spirit descend as a dove. Temptation then would have been easy to overcome: Jesus would have been feeling great.

No. Instead, Satan waited. Waited until the Son of Man had become exhausted in the wilderness. Waited until forty days and nights of fasting had taken their toll. Waited until the pain, the sunburn, the blisters, the dirt, and the fatigue had accomplished their dreadful work on the body of the incarnate Word. 

Then, Satan struck.

“Why don’t you take the easy way out?”

“Why don’t you give in to pride?”

“Why don’t you forget about God?”

Satan whispers such dreadful temptations to us when we are exhausted, too. But we have an example we can follow: our Savior, Jesus Christ. The same Word that he turned to is available for us, every day.

  • What temptations do you most commonly face when you are exhausted?
  • What Scriptures can you turn to to resist these temptations?
  • Who can you turn to to help you resist these temptations?


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Comfort Others

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:28 am

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4

“So that.” Those two little words in the above verses pack a powerful punch. When we have been the recipients of God’s comfort, we have a responsibility: a responsibility to pass on what we have received.

That means we cannot sweep our struggles under the rug and hope no one goes poking around and discovers them. Be honest: it’s often what we want to do. We want to pretend like nothing is wrong; pretend like nothing has ever been wrong. But that is actually one of the many faces of pride. We are, in essence, being too proud to admit that we have had a problem; that we have been in need of God’s grace.

On the other hand, when we obey God’s command to pass on his comfort, it takes humility. We have to admit our humanity. Our weakness. Our struggle. Our doubts. Our fears.

But by the amazing grace of God, our very humility and humanity become the source of comfort, wisdom, strength, faith, and courage for others.

So reach out. You have been given great gifts by God during the course of your struggles. Don’t hold those gifts to yourself. Pass them on.

  • How has God comforted you in your struggles?
  • How has God provided for you in the midst of your struggles?
  • What wisdom have you gained from your struggles?
  • How can you pass on what you have received to help others?


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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Be Honest with God

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By Paula Marolewski, September 22, 2010 10:28 am

“Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice.” Psalm 55:17

David was angry. A close friend had betrayed him, with bitter results. So what did he do? I could say that he called upon God and prayed. David himself was more blunt: “Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur.”

Complaining. Murmuring. David was being devastatingly honest with God: about his situation, about the pain it was causing, about his despair, and about his anger. Without apology, he brought it all before God night and day, complaining and griping about what was happening.

We see two important truths from this psalm:

It is all right to be honest with God. God can handle your anger. Pour it out to him. Let him be the first one you turn to, and hold nothing back.

Honesty with God brings resolution. If you read through Psalm 55, you will see a progression. David pours out his pain and expresses his anger, but then the tumult of his emotions begins to calm down. He reaffirms his trust in God, culminating with the verse, “Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). 

If you are honest with God about your anger, you will find that he will help you to think through the situation and to place your trust in him. But he can only work with what you bring him, so bring him everything.

  • What were you brought up to think about anger and being angry? Were these ideas true and scriptural or not?
  • Do you feel comfortable being completely honest with God about your anger? Why or why not?
  • What are you most angry about? Spend time in prayer telling God about the situation, and about your anger. 


© 2010 Paula Marolewski,

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