“Fix your thoughts on Jesus.” Over the past year and a half I’ve had friends and family suffer great adversity and loss due to the Pandemic…and it’s been during those times of anguish and distress that fixing our thoughts on Jesus has became real. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “God, Who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” Probably one of the best examples of this is Job, who the devil was convinced would curse God when afflicted…but he didn’t…instead, Job focused on God, and not the chaos around him. Yes, it will be difficult, you may falter a thousand times, and the pain may be overwhelming…but God is there to encourage you every minute of the journey. Or as Paul exhorted the young Timothy who had found himself under duress, “Fight the good fight of faith. And take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” (I Timothy 6:12) Just remember, the difference between whether you can withstand hardship or not is based on the foundational truths within you…for they are the bedrock of your faith.
Inner conflict…it happens every time we face the decision to either follow God or follow self. On one side is immediate gratification and the unleashing of selfish pleasure seeking…while on the other is righteous behavior befitting a Follower of Christ. This clash between opposing forces is real within us every time we have to make a decision to either give in to our sinful nature or not. In Romans 7:15 Paul deplored his failures about this when he wrote, “I don’t understand what I do. For what I want to do I don’t do, but what I hate I do.” Daily there’s a contest…a tug-of-war so to speak within as our corrupt nature battles against the Holy Spirit for dominance. But just remember this, Greater is He that is in me then he who is in the world!
If you would listen to the world today, they’d tell you that you were the master of your own destiny, in control of everything about yourself, and when adversity hit, you could with resolve, pull yourself up by your own boot straps. But our life is not determined by our own selfish desires, or how hard we think we must strife for happiness. It is solely dependent on God’s mercy. Or as Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” God looks on mankind’s wretchedness and the plight of our misery consequent to sin and has compassion on us…that’s called grace. Ephesians 2:8 sums it up well, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” We can and will never be able to save ourselves…just as we can and will never be able to buy ourselves a ticket to heaven…it is a gift given by a merciful God who loves us. It’s very simple… By grace alone. Through faith alone. In Christ alone.
You’ve heard it, thought it, and probably even said it, “They make me so angry!” But sorry, no one can MAKE you angry. You choose to do that yourself every time you don’t get your way. A verbal dispute or argument happens when selfish desires aren’t met…and we always try to justify our anger towards the other person by placing the blame on them…thus, “They make me so angry!” We then become as Romans 7:23 calls, a prisoner of the law of sin at work within us. So what do we do? The first step is to acknowledge and take ownership of our anger…it belongs to us and no one else. We then need to confess, repent, and ask forgiveness of our sinful anger. Finally, we need to replace sinful anger with humility and a more Christ-like attitude.
This Proverb shows that we always have a choice. We can react to a hostile situation by defusing the negativity with kindness, quietness, and a servant-like attitude. Or we can react with cruel, bitter words in retaliation…spewing the same poison from our own mouths. The choice is ours. But remember, when we return evil for evil…when angry emotions run high…we are not in control, but rather the selfish desires of our sinful heart is ruling us…and we are then left open and vulnerable to the enemy. And the enemy would love to have you angry all the time…alienating family, friends, and those you care for…until no one is left.
Harsh, angry, and inconsiderate words are compared here to a drawn sharp sword that brings violence. And as we look around today, it’s very apparent that our world has become more and more angry. But also realize that this anger is never neutral or impartial…is it always either righteous or unrighteous. Sinful or unrighteous anger is directed to hurt someone we’re angry at…it is self-centered, judgmental and takes offense easily. While Godly or righteous anger is directed towards the sin not the sinner, motiving us to right wrongs and speak out against injustice and oppression…thus fighting evil in a way that would always glorify God in the process. So as it says in this Proverb, sinful anger destroys while righteous anger heals.
A good Biblical definition of love is unconditional, selfless giving for the eternal good of others. And if you want to study the attributes of said Biblical love, I would suggest you read I Corinthians Chapter 13…aptly called the “Love” Chapter. But this verse in Colossians is telling us that Biblical love ties together all that the Lord calls us to strive for. So just think about it, without love, it’s impossible to be compassionate, kind, gentle, or patient. Biblical love binds moral excellence, decency, goodness, and integrity together in our lives… as we learn to love others.
Job lamented his feelings of rejection this way, “My friends have forgotten me.” (Job 19:14) And even Jesus quoted this Scripture in Psalm 41 to describe one of His close friends and disciple, Judas Iscariot’s, treachery. (John 13:18) When we’re rejected by friends, we’re confused, hurt, and sad. Why? To start off, we’re created in God’s image and designed to be in relationships with others. And our deep desire to belong is fundamental, so it hurts deeply when we’re rejected….so much that the acceptance or rejection by someone can even shape our identity and how we view ourselves. That’s when we need to be very careful to not value the opinions of others and their acceptance of us…more than being accepted by God and valued by Him.
To put what we’re really battling into perspective, Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Indeed, the enemy – our own flesh and sin nature, the world and its temptation, and the devil and his schemes – can’t be destroyed by any physical weapon of ours…it would be like going out to fight a tornado or a hurricane with a baseball bat. Our deliverance and victory can only be found in the Lord…for only He can rescue us from our enemies. Or as Hosea 1:7 says, “I will save them – not by bow, sword, or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord their God.”
God is faithful and will never abandon us. He is full of compassion towards those who fear Him, (Psalm 103:13) and takes pity on the weak. (Psalm 72:13) You may have been rejected by friends, family or the world…but God will never forget you! And remember also that while He was here on earth, Jesus suffered rejection and thus can not only sympathize but empathize with your feelings of being an outcast. He will never forget you!