Peter is trying to compare the actions of these two animals with how easy it is to backslide as a new Christian. Old habits are very hard to break…especially when we keep the same old friends and hang out at the same places that got us into trouble in the first place. When we’re stressed or pressured, we tend to automatically seek out what is comfortable and familiar…whether it’s the best thing for us or not. And falling back on old ways is always a dangerous and tricky thing…for we can so easily get sucked back in and entangled. For it tells us in Galatians 4:9, ” But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” As a new Christian, it must be then a conscious decision and determination to walk away and break off old ties…no matter how hard it may seem.
James 1:26 ” If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
Holding my tongue. It might be a very small body part, but it sometimes requires herculean strengthen not to blurt out what I’m thinking!…especially if it’s catty or unkind. And I find if I’m not careful, my manner of speech will quickly start to resemble the non believer group I’m part of…especially if it’s a grip session…or worse yet – a gossip session! One of my favorite Proverbs says, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps his mouth shut.” I may be doing a wonderful job serving God…but if my speech says the opposite…it’s all meaningless.
James 1:19-20 ” Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
Say someone you’re close to is going through a major health crisis…so as a good person off you go to their house. But soon this visit becomes very awkward, for the more you talk and ask questions, the more frustrated and angry the person becomes. Abruptly the visit ends with you walking out wondering why you feel discouraged and angry when all you wanted to do was to encourage and comfort that person. Aristotle referred to anger as desire with grief. And this verse in James should be a guide as we deal with those going through critical times. Listening should be the only goal we have…not preaching…not pumping the person for details…nor personalizing the visit with every awful thing we’ve gone through. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent.” I remember hearing a story about Mother Teresa, that when she visited the dying she rarely spoke…instead she just held them, stroking their face, and listening. When your only agenda is to listen…you are validating that person and giving consideration to what they’re going through without bias or opinion. They are then free to explore and verbalize their internal dialogue as they work through their emotions. Just listening can then become the greatest gift you can give that person.
Proverbs 8:13 ” To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”
What does God hate? The short list is right here in this proverb. God tells us over and over again not to have a relationship with any kind of unethical or immoral activity. But our pride and arrogance makes us think we know more than Him, so off we go, dabbling in things that confuse and slowly draw us in. And before you know it, we’re snared by the grip of sin. But even then, our willful and obstinate nature refuses to accept responsibility and turn away from the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Our corrupt human nature is constantly pulling us away from what is right and good…when God is telling us to shun evil and put away all our wicked ways.
Proverbs 10:4 ” Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”
Let’s look at this verse beyond just comparing a sluggard to a hard-working individual. Rather, I’d like you to apply this verse to your work for the Lord. Do you feel your life is full of steady, earnest and energetic efforts in fulfilling the Lord’s plan and purpose in your life? Or do you feel your spiritual life is dominated mainly by apathy,and idleness? Lazy hands and for that matter, lazy hearts, cause us to squander the gifts God has so graciously given us. But diligent hands not only brings spiritual wealth, but an abundance of peace and joy to the worker.
Matthew 7:11 ” If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”
God is a generous giver and His desire is to bless us. It says in James 1:17 that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” So as big-hearted as God is towards us, we need to reflect that generosity in our giving to others. But He’s not just talking about money here…for it’s easy to give money. No, He’s talking about our time…and we’re probably more tight-fisted about that than any amount of money we’d give. Proverbs 21:26 tells us, “The righteous give without sparing.” So if you’ve been stingy with your time for the Lord…think of this…you will never be able to out give God.
Proverbs 28:1 “…the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
A Holy Spirit empowered ministry is bold and fearless. Psalm 138:3 says, “You made me bold and stout-hearted.” And this Scripture is so true…for under our own power we’re nothing but scaredy-cats. It’s the Holy Spirit that endows our soul, spirit, and self with confidence and courage. It’s the Holy Spirit that gives us the trust to place our total dependence and hope on God alone.
Proverbs 16:7 ” When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”
When the Holy Spirit is deeply embedded in you and what you do, the Lord takes great delight. But you also need to remember that it’s about the people you touch, not about the things you think you need to accomplish. Projects are wonderful…outreach into the community, volunteer work, leading Bible Studies, etc. But they only become notches in your gun if that’s the sole reason you’re doing them. Sorry to say, but touching others for Christ isn’t about you at all. It’s about demonstrating God’s love in tangible ways to others and pointing them towards Jesus.
Proverbs 12:25 ” An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
You can ask my husband, I intentionally engage checkout clerks, wait staff and anyone else who may be helping me. I am polite and courteous, asking how their day is going and allowing them to talk. I ask thoughtful questions and encourage them with kind-hearted words. The other day I was speaking to a sleepy looking cashier at a large retail store…come to find out he had worked until 1am and was back again at 4am for his next shift. Sadly, we become so focused on our own agenda…our own needs…our own impatience – that we totally forget that it’s another human being standing in front of us, with their own story. I challenge you this holiday season to give a kind word to all those assisting you…for you don’t know how it may cheer them up.
Proverbs 14:1 ” The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
In most households, it’s either a mother or grandmother who’s the glue that holds the family together. They’re in charge of holiday dinners and celebrations, complete with all the family favorites and traditional foods passed down from generation to generation. But when they pass, many customs and practices can cease, unless the younger ones are willing to take up the mantle and carry on. Are you your family’s glue? You’re building your legacy with your own hands…strengthening and uniting your household and extended family into one. Keep up the good job!