Jan 10, 2011

Wisdom & Relationships

Sometimes in the Body of Christ we encounter hard relationships. Relationships in the church are close and rewarding, but sometimes in their closeness they can have rubs and head-butting.The question is: What do we do with people that are hard to get along with?

"Lord, give me wisdom to handle this person." It's a prayer I am well acquainted with.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him..." (James 1:6, NKJV)

Good promise, and familiar, but read on...

"...But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord..."
(James 1:6-7 NKJV)
Now, why this caution against doubt following a promise of wisdom? Think on this for an answer: Faith is shown by obedience. Whether or not I act on the wisdom given is a measure of my faith. If I am not willing to respond to what the Lord commands me to do in my relationships, I had better not even ask.

That settled, let's get on to the wisdom part.

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."
(James 3:13-18 NKJV)
Here begins our study:

There are two types of wisdom, God's and the world's (i.e. Satan's, if you want it given straight).
Godly wisdom is shown by good conduct in meekness. Meekness is great strength tamed by self-control and reigned into the boundaries of the Holy Spirit. It is well-taught by our great Counselor, the Spirit of Wisdom and well-learned by humble pupils. It often goes against our natural reactions, our idea of justice, or our sense of self-protection. Meekness lets God be the judge.
Worldly wisdom is sensual and demonic. It shows itself in envious practices and selfish motives and comes naturally to the proud and worldly. It is taught by the devil himself to those unwilling to restrain their sinful passions. With this worldly wisdom (reasoning, and self-seeking logic) comes every evil thing.

Now let's get personal...

Heavenly wisdom:

Pure - it is first pure. This must proceed all. Right standing with God will cleanse our motives and pave the way for right relationship with others. I cannot expect to begin restoration with a person unless all is restored and pure in my relationship with God. Impurity will taint all the rest if I let it remain.

Peaceable - does not look for arguments. When arguments do arise it goes to great lengths to quiet them. Peace comes from God and those that are His make peace (notice, the word is "make" not "keep"). Blessed are the peacemakers for their identity will be easily recognized (see Matthew 5).

Gentle - careful words and a tongue restrained. Gentleness will have no double meanings or hidden barbs. It will be evidenced in both demeanor and words - it starts in how we allow ourselves to think of others and shows itself in my expression long before the first word is spoken.

Willing to yield - doesn't have to be right. In fact, this wisdom doesn't even have to always present it's side. Think about "yielding" to some stranger as you walk through a door. You would stop, smile, and bid them pass through first. Yielding is far from passive in this form - it is the first to take proactive actions of humility.

Full of mercy - Mercy is the action in front of a heart of forgiveness. Mercy must begin with deep forgiveness because it must be shown to the undeserving. In fact, mercy is not mercy unless the object is undeserving! If the people around us were always in the right God would never have commanded mercy. Mercy begins with us understanding where we came from, our own sinful nature, and God's great mercy - once we grasp this we can be greatly merciful (Luke 7:47).

Full of good fruits - Ask yourself this: What comes as a result of my actions? Love, joy, peace, etc? The Spirit of Wisdom is another name for the Holy Spirit. If the Fruit of the Spirit are not evidenced in my action then I am not walking in true wisdom. A good measure of this is how my heart and conscience feel as I reflect on my actions later. If I was walking in the Spirit in good conduct I will be filled with love, joy, peace, and so on as I remember. If I am edgy, confused, or ashamed later, it is a sure sign that I did not act in wisdom.

Without partiality - Here is where the rubber hits the road. This is a test of your heart between you and God because no one else can judge your inner motives. Do you make decisions based on this person? That is a simple definition of partiality. Do you think of them in a different light than others? Do you avoid them? Do you shun them? Partiality is a great divider within the Church because by it we begin to identify people as something other than who God placed them to be. We call enemy who God placed as brother. We consider stranger who we should be unified with. Just as favoritism breeds bitterness in families, so partiality brings great wounding and division in the Family of God that cannot be afforded if we are to reach our full potential.

Without hypocrisy - without a pretense of good covering a real evil. This does not mean that if you despise someone you should show it to the world. It DOES mean to be, in your heart of hearts, as pure and kind as you would want the world to think you are! Lay your heart bare before God so He can deal with the envy, the bitterness, and the offense. You wouldn't cover a wound with the wounding object still in it. That would serve only to poison and destroy your own body. Why, in the spiritual, would you clutch a wound and not allow the offense and bitterness to be cleaned out of it? Let God wash your wounds, let it be a clean and final work. Allow the love of God to rinse you out, fill you up, and leave no room for the bitterness to creep back in. If you do you will find that kindness comes easily. There will be none of the stress and strain of trying to be nice while seething with anger inside. Those who are full of the love of God have love spill out of them - like an over-full glass of water - every time they move or speak.

Here is wisdom, if we choose to have the faith enough to obey it. Walking in it will change our lives, and our relationships can - by the power of the promise of God - be restored!

One last thought. I don't have to handle the burden of changing someone else. If I allow the Lord to change and shape my reactions I can walk in wisdom (and wonderful joy and peace), close to God, and showered in His Presence no matter what decisions another person makes. God gives us freedom to use His wisdom even if no one else does.

Jan 1, 2011

Count It ALL Joy

James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

If the Lord delivered us immediately from every uncomfortable or distressing circumstance we may be struck by His might and power...for a moment. Soon, though, the memory of would fade like a bad dream, and the memory of deliverance would fade with it. How could we remember? It was merely a fleeting second of need drowned in the cares of life.

When the Lord does NOT instantly deliver us from our trial, but walks with us in love, in comfort, in strength; that is when we are forever changed.
It is then we must lean on God to survive...and it is then we realize that, when in God's care, nothing can touch us.

It is in these sort of trials that we begin to truly understand the meaning in Psalm 91 "I will not be afraid of the terror by night, nor by arrows that fly by day..."
To be fully confident in the ability of God is to be without fear. As we watch the Lord carry us through our sorest trials we gain that full confidence...it is a mere matter of watching Him prove Himself. We can never have a chance to see the full ability of our God at work for us personally without trials. We can never have the ability to walk unscathed through life without these trials to test and strengthen us.

In this great trust and confidence we find that ability to accept any challenge without losing faith. We learn to smile in the middle of pain and sorrow. We gain a mature perspective of life and are able to weather the storms without shifting course.

In fact, the more we trust God, the more we become like Him. When we are fully trusting in the Lord and walking in His Spirit, love blossoms effortlessly and is not crushed by disappointment (because our hope is in God alone and He never disappoints). Joy flows out of us in rivers that are not stopped by circumstance (because God is bigger than my circumstance). Patience...here's the fun part....patient endurance gives birth to greater patient endurance which paves the way for greater acts of God to be worked in us! Gentleness comes naturally because we stop striving to survive. Goodness develops because, of course, we become like what we look at constantly. Faith rises in greater measure because we see the mighty works of God on an hourly basis. Meekness arrives as well, because trials also humble us - they expose the weakness and flaws of the old man so we are motivated to crucify him and live, instead, in Christ. Self-control, too, comes in trials as we learn to bring every emotion and reaction in check and fully possess this soul of ours to bring it under the Lordship of Christ in His ways.

Trials work patience. Patience work godly maturity. Enduring in trials stamps us indelibly with the character of Christ. THAT is both the reason and the means to count trials a joy.