Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Love does not Envy: Part 2

Three Phases of Envy

The key to overcoming envy is to learn its symptoms and its progression. Like a cancer, it is important to detect it early when it is most easily treated. Once detected, we can then, by the grace of God, begin to surgically remove it from our lives. There are three distinct stages, or phases, of envy.
Zeal: “Passionate ardor [heat] in the pursuit of anything, an eagerness of desire to accomplish or obtain some object, and it maybe manifested either in favor of any person or thing, or in opposition to it.” Noah Webster, 1828 New World Dictionary
There is nothing inherently wrong with zeal. Zeal, in itself, is not evil. The Scriptures tell us that God is zealous for Zion. Jesus also spoke of Himself, saying, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” (John 2:17 NKJV) We are even commanded by the Scriptures to be “earnestly desire for spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1) and to be, “zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14 NKJV) Solomon commands us to be, “zealous for the fear of the Lord.” (Proverbs 23:17 NKJV)

The sin of zeal comes, not from being zealous, but from what we are zealous for. It is a good thing to be zealous for the things of God and for what concerns other people, but when our zeal becomes self centered and self serving, we cross the line into sin. Our zeal is no longer an extension of our love for others but becomes an expression of our fleshly lusts and desires.

Zeal blinds us to the needs and wants of those around us. Zeal causes us to focus solely on the objects of our lusts. A zealous person lives with tunnel vision, unaware of what is going on around them, unaware of the pain and harm their actions are causing to others, unaware of the needs and feelings of those closest to them. They lose sight of the things that are truly important and sacrifices all for the sake of their lusts. It has been said of zeal, “Zeal, the blind conductor of the will” (Dryden)

Sometimes, in our zeal for the things we are pursuing, we delude ourselves into thinking that what we are doing we are really doing for others. The man who is zealous for his career, to the detriment of his family, justifies his behavior in that he is merely trying to provide a comfortable living for his family. So he continues to pursue his career while his family is left lacking the things they really desire. Love is not zealous. We cannot zealously pursue our own wants and desires and justify it as love for others.
Jealousy: “That passion or peculiar uneasiness which arises from the fear that a rival may rob us of the affection of one whom we love, or the suspicion that he has already done it. Jealousy is nearly allied to envy, for jealousy, before a good is lost by ourselves, is converted into envy, after it is obtained by others.” Noah Webster, 1828 New World Dictionary
Jealousy comes when we begin to fear loosing what we have worked so hard to obtain. Jealousy causes us to look at life, and others, through warped glasses. We begin to become suspicious and look for the worst in others. We begin to see others as threats to what we have and as potential rivals for what we wish to keep for ourselves. Our life begins to be consumed with a fear of loosing what we have. Instead of enjoying the blessings we have received, we spend all our time and energy trying to protect them from loss.

For a jealous person, it is not enough that his world revolves around himself, but he requires that the lives of others also revolve around him. The jealous person ceases to be a giving person while at the same time demanding more from others. A jealous person is only truly happy when they alone possess the attention and affection of others. Paul, in writing to the Galatian church, describes those who were jealous for them. “They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.” (Galatians 4:17)

In our relationships, jealousy causes us to grasp for the affections of others. Yet the tighter we grasp, the more we tend to drive others away. It is like trying to grasp a handful of sand only to have it slip through our fingers. Some desperate people have even resorted to murder in order to prevent losing someone or something they “love” to another. They justify their actions saying that they “loved them so much they could not bear to see them with someone else.” Love is not jealous. We cannot “smother” others with our demands for their affection and claim that such demands are born out of our love.
Envy: “Pain, uneasiness, mortification or discontent excited by the sight of another's superiority or success, accompanied with some degree of hatred or malignity, and often or usually with a desire or an effort to depreciate the person, and with pleasure in seeing him depressed. Envy springs from pride, ambition or love, mortified that another has obtained what one has strong desire to possess.” Noah Webster, 1828 New World Dictionary
Envy begins with disappointment; disappointment at not being able to have the things we want. We have all experienced disappointment at sometime in our lives. Perhaps it was in being passed over for a promotion. Perhaps it was in not having the money to live the life style we would like to live. Maybe it was in failing to win the affections of someone we desired a relationship with. Whatever the case, disappointment is common to us all. Envy results when we allow our disappointment to be made bitter by the pain of seeing others enjoy what we cannot have. Envy turns our disappointment into anger towards, and even hatred for, other people.

Envy destroys the relationships we have with other people. Envy causes us to become bitter towards other people. Our friends become our competitors; our advisories for the things we desire. Envy causes us to believe that others have harmed us in that they have obtained those things which we have desired. Envy can grow to a point where we even look forward to and delight in the demise of others. We are glad when others fail and believe it to be proof that we were right all along. An envious person will even at times set out to purposefully sabotage and hinder the success of others. The envious person becomes like a vulture that is waiting and watching for others to stumble and fall, even helping them stumble if possible.

The Bible gives many examples of envy. One of the best known is the story of King Saul and David. King Saul was a man who was eaten up with envy towards his rival David.
“It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’ Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?’ Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.” (1 Samuel 18:6-9)
Saul's envy of David and the praises afforded him caused his heart to turn bitter toward David. Saul, from that day on, began to seek a way to destroy David. Saul slandered David to his son Jonathan and to David's wife (Saul's daughter) Michal, and even tried to slay David with a spear. Saul's envy consumed his whole life to the point where he cared about nothing else but destroying David. Envy drove out every drop of love for David in Saul’s heart until there was nothing left by envy itself.

More to come… David Robison

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Love does not Envy: Part 1

Envy is a disease, or cancer, that attacks our soul. It often begins small, innocuous, and difficult to detect. Its initial symptoms can even be mistaken for positive qualities in a person, such as passion, commitment, and a will to succeed. However, like a cancer, when left unchecked, the sin of envy grows and spreads until it permeates and influences every area of our lives. Envy eats away our life from the inside out. When envy is mature, there is little left in a person's life except for their envy. Solomon described envy as a rottenness that attacks us on the inside.
“A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)
Our bones give strength and stature to our bodies. Without our bones we could not stand, walk, or sit. Envy robs us of our strength. A heart filled with envy lacks the strength to live a Godly life. We lack the strength of spirit to say “no” to our flesh and “yes” to God. As envy grows within us, we grow in bondage to our lusts and our desire. Our bones also produce the life giving blood that distributes oxygen and food to every cell in our body. Envy not only robs us of our strength, but it also robs us of life itself. Envy consumes all that is important to us. It consumes our relationship with God and our relationships with those we love. It consumes our peace, our joy, and our contentment, leaving behind only a burning desire for more. A life consumed by envy, is devoid of all else except the envy that consumes it.

Envy not only affects us personally but it also affects the lives of those around us. Paul said, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (James 3:16 NKJV) When envy enters a relationship, it brings with it a tumult of disorder, instability, and confusion. Instead of peace and harmony, there is a constant commotion that unsettles the soul. Envy opens the door to the activity of Satan in our relationships. James speaks of “every evil thing”. Other translations speak of the presence of “every evil work.” Envy is like a breach in the wall that allows the enemy to come in, to set up camp, and to begin to work for evil in our lives and in our relationships. When our relationships are bearing the fruit of commotion, confusion, and “every evil thing”, this fruit is not from the Lord. Paul reminds us that, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33 NKJV) Envy, and the fruit of it, is not from God. It comes from our sinful nature and is fuelled by hell. Love does not envy. If we desire to show the Love of God to others, we must first eradicate envy from our lives. Then, instead of confusion and every evil work, we will find peace and the fruit of the Spirit.

More to come… David Robison

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Love is Kind: Part 5

Growing in Kindness
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
It is curious that Jesus promises rest then offers a yoke. Jesus says that His yoke is “easy”. The Greek word used here for “easy” can just as easily be translated “kind”. The yoke of Jesus is kind and His burden is light. The Gospel does call for a certain level of responsibility and obedience in our walk with the Lord, but the demands of the Gospel are not onerous but they are actually kind and beneficial to those who choose them. The Good News that Jesus proclaimed was not the piling on of additional rules and regulations, but it was an offer of a freedom that comes from the Grace that is found in the kindness of the yoke of the Lord. This stood in stark contrast to the yoke of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus remarked of them, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” (Matthew 23:4) The kindness of our Lord is found in His yoke and His burden.

My yoke is easy. Imagine a man in a canoe, without a paddle, and floating down river towards some waterfalls. Imagine also, four people offering help to the imperiled boater. The first person simply turns away and ignores his plight. The second person stands on the river bank and shouts directions to the boater. The third person tosses the boater a pair of ores and hopes for the best. But the forth person swims out the boat with some paddles and helps the endangered boater bring the boat to shore. It’s one thing to hope the best for someone; it’s another thing to get in the boat with them and to help them with their problems. Jesus refers to “His” yoke. This is because a yoke is worn by two animals, not one. When we put on Jesus’ yoke, we realize that He is in the yoke with us. Jesus came, not to load us down with a heavy load of rules and regulations, but to help us and to give us His grace and power to live holy lifes. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12) Jesus invites us into the yoke with Him. In the same way, we too can express our kindness towards other people by helping them, teaching them, and walking with them as they learn to grow in their relationship with God.

My burden is light. One of the greatest burdens we lay on other people is the burden of our expectations. We often place unreal expectations on others and hold them up to a standard that we ourselves are not even able to keep. We expect others to be like us. We expect others to measure up to our standards. We expect others to meet our needs. The problem is that, often, our expectations of others differ from God’s expectations for them. We can end up trying to force others to become someone that God has not made them to be. Perhaps, the greatest act of kindness we can show someone is to free them from our expectations; to set them free to be and become whom God has made them to be. The key to releasing others from our expectations is to start seeing them as God sees them. “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16 NKJV) When we learn to see others as Christ does, we will begin to realize that God’s plans for them are far superior to our own.

In our effort to grow in kindness, we should take a lesson from our Lord. We should let our yoke be kind and our burden light.

David Robison

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A personal note

I was hoping to make my last post in the Love is Kind series tonight, but unfortunatly our family dog of 13 years died today. It has been an emotional time for the past few days trying to get her to get better. Though she was only a dog, she was our dog and we will miss her. Thaks for you patience and stay toon, there is more to come in the "Love is" series.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Love is Kind: Part 4

The Power of Kindness

We often do not think of power and kindness in the same sentence, however kindness has the power to produce amazing results in the people we love. Here are some of the ways kindness can benefit your relationships.
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
Kindness can bring others to repentance. This scripture is usually, and rightly so, applied to our repentance towards God, but when we employ kindness towards other people, it too can lead them to a place of repentance. Repentance embodies two actions. First a turning away from one thing and turning towards another, and secondly a changing of one’s mind. How can we encourage others to change their habits and behaviors that are hurtful in a relationship? I know from personal experience that nagging, complaining, fault finding, and belittling do not work. Often they only serve to cause the other person to dig in their heels and to resist any suggestion to change. Kindness, however, has the ability to soften the other person and to actually motivate them towards a change in behavior and a change in heart. This is why King Solomon said, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21-22) Kindness can soften the hard hearted and cause a heart of stone to melt like wax.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Kindness diffuses hostility. When tension enters into a relationship it often escalates into hostility and strife. We have all witnessed this escalation in our own relationships and in the relationships of those around us. Someone makes a hurtful comment and the other responds in kind. This then causes the first person to make an even more hurtful remark which is meet in kind by the other person. In no time a simple, though hurtful, comment escalates into a full-blown argument with yelling, shouting, and even violence. The key to stopping this escalation is kindness. Kindness cuts off and diffuses hostility. This is why Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.” (Luke 6:27-29) When someone “strikes you on the cheek,” hitting back will only cause the argument to continue and to grow, but by showing kindness we can defuse the argument and bring resolution with minimal pain and hurt to everyone involved.
“By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15 NKJV)
Kindness breaks down resistance. When you raise teenagers, and I have three, you will from time to time experience resistance from them. They don’t want to go to the meeting with you, they don’t want to go camping during vacation, and they don’t want to have to get a job. Even worse, there are times that they resist your morals, beliefs, and values. They don’t understand why you won’t let them see certain movies that all their other friends have already seen. They don’t understand why it’s such a big deal when they stay out with their girl friend till one or two in the morning. The teenage years can be a time of tremendous resistance and tension between parents and child. It can seem that they have their hand raised in defiance to everything you believe and value. But kindness has the ability to break the bone of resistance and to motivate your teenagers towards compliance, even if they still don’t agree or understand. This does not mean that they will never try to buck the system, but when they are convinced that they are loved by the ones they are resisting, they will be more likely to come around to compliance. Knowing that you are loved, and experiencing that love though the kindness shown to you, can make all the difference in the world.

More to come… David Robison

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Love is Kind: Part 3

The Kindness of Jesus

Jesus was approachable. Jesus was constantly surrounded by people. People would come from all over to see Him and to hear His teaching. Some came to see a miracle; others came out of an inner sense of need. Some came for healing; others came to find the way to eternal life. For whatever the reason, Jesus was often thronged by the crowds wanting to see and touch Him. Many times, because of the needs of the crowd and the number of people wanting to see Him, Jesus would have to sacrifice His own personal needs. “And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.” (Mark 3:20) Yet Jesus was not like the important people of today who hire body guards to keep people back and who only have time for other important people. Jesus was as comfortable with the lowliest of persons as He was with kings and priests.

There was a time when His disciples tried to prevent the people from bringing their children to be blessed by Him. “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (Mark 10:14) The disciples did not want the children to waste the Master’s time, but Jesus didn’t see it that way. When He was with people, it never was a waste of time. There was another time when an especially sinful sinner came to worship Him. “And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:37-38) The Pharisees were indignant and murmured amongst themselves, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39) The point is that Jesus did know what sort of person she was and He loved her just the same.

Jesus was also available. Jesus had time for people and was often willing to change His own plans to meet the need of someone seeking help. There was a particular Synagogue official whose daughter was very sick. He implored Jesus, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.” (Mark 5:23) The scripture simply records, “And He went off with him.” (Mark 5:24) I’m sure Jesus had other plans that day, but at that moment, there seemed nothing more important to Jesus than that sick little girl. Jesus may have been busy, but He always had time for people.

Are we approachable, or do we hide ourselves away in our own busy lives? I must confess that I am not always as approachable with my own children as I should be. I can easily become too engrossed in my own activities that I do not have (or will not find) time for them; to play a game or to just listen to them. If you want to see this in action, the next time someone greets you with “Hi, how are you?” try to tell them how you really are. You will find that we have become a society that is far too busy to actually care about each other. Jesus expressed His kindness in His approachability and His availability. What else in life is so important that we do not have time for each other? If we spend all our time on ourselves, what have we gained? But if we spend ourselves in loving and caring for others, then we will find what is of true value; in this life and in the life to come.

More to come… David Robison

Monday, March 13, 2006

Love is Kind: Part 2

Jesus is Kind

Jesus offered us the greatest example of kindness in the way He lived His own life. Jesus spoke of Himself saying, “I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) This is not to say that He was weak. Though Jesus was kind, gentle, and humble, He was also very strong. Jesus was not afraid to show Himself strong in challenging the customary practices of the day. There was the time when Jesus entered the temple and found the people buying and selling goods and using the ordnances’ of God as a pretence for profit. Jesus’ anger burned against them and He set forth to cleanse His Father’s house. “And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business.’” (John 2:15-16) Though they were selling animals to the worshipers for use in sacrifices, their hearts were not right with God and Jesus called them to account for their hardness of heart. Jesus was also not afraid to challenge the religious elite who thought they knew God but who were blind and clueless. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)

Jesus was strong, but He was also kind. The kindness of Jesus drew people to Him. People loved to be around him. People’s hearts were touched by His life and His kindness and that kindness turned the hearts of many back to God. Paul reminds us that “the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) This was certainly the experience of Zaccheus. Jesus had invited Himself to have supper with a notorious sinner, a tax collector named Zaccheus. Zaccheus was so touched by Jesus’ kindness that he repented of his sinful ways and committed himself to making restitution to all that he had cheated. “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.’” (Luke 19:8-9) It seamed that the only ones who weren’t Jesus’ friends were the religious elite. While Jesus was being entertained by Zaccheus, they were grumbling and complaining, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) and they condemned Him as being a “gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34)

Can it be said of us that we are the friends of sinners? For some of us, we have so insulated ourselves from sinners that we no longer know anyone who is unsaved. We have forgotten those who need God’s love the most and we have grown indifferent to their needs. We are very willing to point out to them their faults and we are quick to judge them for their sins, but we have forgotten that we were once like them and we hide from them the same kindness of God that lead us to repentance. We have come to believe that the kindness of God belongs to us and the severity of God to them. For those of us whom this describes, Jesus wants to change our hearts. He wants to give us His heart for the lost that we may become His ambassadors of love and kindness to the world. It is time we put aside our hardness of heart and let the love of God shine through us.

More to come… David Robison

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Love is Kind: Part 1

We live in a world that has grown increasingly violent. Murder, drive-by-shootings, bombings, and domestic violence have almost become an everyday occurrence. Many people today do not feel safe in their own homes and their own communities. I grew up in a small town where it was common to leave your doors unlocked, even at night. Now those doors are locked and dead-bolted. Even our schools have become battle zones with an increasing number of children bringing guns and weapons to school. Kids are killing kids at an alarming rate. In fact, one of the leading causes of death to males under the age of 21 is other males under the age of 21.

Recently, violence has been elevated to a whole new level with the increase in terrorism. There was a time when “terrorism” was something that happened “over there,” but not any more. The violence of terrorism has been brought home to many countries leaving behind many deaths and massive destruction. Such violence happened in the United States on September 11, 2001, in Spain on March 11, 2004, in Russia on September 1, 2004, and England on July 7, 2005, just to name a few. With each new attack our lives, and our world, is being change forever.

Our world is caught in a cycle of violence; violence begetting violence. “They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.” (Hosea 4:2) We see this not only in the increasing voracity of terrorists, but also in the increasing violence in our schools, cities, and homes. Violence is even being passed from one generation to another. Violent parents producing violent children who eventually become violent parents themselves. Mankind has become enslaved by a sin that they are powerless to escape. We can have peace talks, peace treaties, anger management classes, and counseling, but violence has become a part of our fallen human nature and it will take more than our best efforts to defeat it.

Man’s violence against each other breaks the heart of God and provokes His righteous anger. When God first created man and set him in the garden, He looked over all He had made and pronounced that “it was very good.” (Geneses 1:31) But it didn’t take long for things to go bad. Sin entered God’s creation and man’s hearts began to grow cold. Man became increasingly violent towards each other. God saw and was grieved. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart… Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence… Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.’” (Geneses 6:5-6, 11, 13) God was sorry that He had made man. God had created a world that was “very good” but mankind had filled it with violence. Because of their wickedness and their violent ways, God destroyed all of them with a flood, save eight.

Jesus warns us that, in the last days, it would be like in the days of Noah. “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.” (Matthew 24:37) The end times will not only be like those days in regards to the wickedness of men but also in their violence. Jesus warns us that mankind’s wickedness will only increase as that day approaches, and with the increase is wickedness, there will be an increase in hardness of man’s heart. “Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.” (Matt 24:12)

Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote a song that said, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” Love is the only antidote for the violence of today. Not a human love, but a love from God expressed through human vessels. This is the kind of love we are called to share with the world. A love that is, among other things, kind.

More to come, David Robison

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Love is Patient: Part 5

Growing in Patience: continued…
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)
Faith takes patience and patience takes faith. This faith, however, is not in man but in God. Our faith is not that our patience will somehow produce change in those with which we are patient, but rather our faith is that it is God who is working in all our relationships. Our faith is not in the other person, but in God with whom all things are possible.

Jesus did not come to this world because He believed that mankind was willing and able to change and follow Him. He came because He believed in the will of His Father, that His sacrifice for the sins of man would pave the way for all mankind to be reconciled to God. Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32) Jesus was speaking of His death on the cross. Jesus believed that His death on the cross would result in all men being drawn to God.

The secret of patience is our trust in God. If we trust in man, we will be disappointed. If we trust in the working of God, then our faith will be rewarded and our patience will bare fruit. So how does love express itself in patience? Peter said, “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1 Peter 4:19) Patience expresses itself in doing what is right. Even when faced with wrong, even when faced with injustices, we are still called to do what is right. We are called to live rightly towards those around us, even if our right living is not reciprocated by them. Patience is the ability to do right even when others do not do rightly towards us. How can we do this? By trusting ourselves to God. We can be patience because we believe in the word of God that, “the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8) and that, “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Hebrews 6:10) Without God, we could never be patient, at least not for long, but with God we can do all things. Thanks be to God!

David Robison

Friday, March 03, 2006

Love is Patient: Part 4

Growing in patience: Continued…
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)
Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of exercise you could do to help you become more patient before you actually had to be patient? The problem with patience is that, when the opportunity to employ it presents itself, we are usually unprepared to be patient. How can we condition ourselves to be more ready to be patient? James gives us a hint: be quick to hear and slow to speak.

Most of us are poor listeners. When involved in a conversation, we listen just enough to decide what we are going to say next. We are less concerned with what the other person is saying and more concerned with how we are going to respond. We listen enough to hear their words, but we too often fail to hear their heart. In this passage, James is not simply speaking about the importance of hearing when we are in an argument, but rather developing a lifestyle of listening. If we never listen to each other in the easy times, how will we ever be able to stop talking and listen in the heat of an argument? We need to invest ourselves in listing to and understanding the people we relate to. In so doing, we will be more prepared to stop, listen, and be patient when it counts the most.

We can learn some amazing things when we stop talking long enough to really hear the other person. Many times, when I take the time to listen, I find out that what I was offended over was really just a misunderstanding. How many times do we get offended or angry at something someone else does only to find out that we misjudged the intentions and motivations of the other person? I have done this many times with my own children. There have been instances where I have gotten angry with one of my children over something I thought they had done, only to find out later that I was wrong and that it was really someone else. My impatience lead to anger and judgment for and act not committed when, if I had only had the patience to first find out what really happened, the whole incident could have been avoided. King Solomon put it this way, “He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame.” (Proverbs 18:13 NIV)

After listening, we must also be slow to speak. In that time, between listening and speaking, it is a good time to ask ourselves some questions. One of the scriptures that has help me the most to be patient is, “Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 NKJV) One of the questions I ask myself is, “Do I do the same thing for which I am about to get angry over?” When I am driving on the freeway and someone cuts me off, I say to myself, “That’s OK, for I too have at times accidentally cut other off.” Before speaking in judgment, it helps to first judge our own life. When we listen and understand the other person, then look objectively at the situation, we learn that we are all not too different from each other. We all have stuff. We are all imperfect. We are all in process. If I can have patience for my own short comings, then I can have patience for someone else’s as well. I know how most of the time I don’t mean to harm or offend someone else, even though I do at times, so I can understand that others do not mean to harm or offend me. Listening to others and considering how to respond will make us more patient people.

More to come… David Robison

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Love is Patient: Part 3

The need for patience

What is the measure of true strength? Is it measured in one’s ability to control his surroundings, to command those around him, and to achieve his own desire? King Solomon said, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” (Proverbs 16:32) True strength is measured in how one is able to rule his own spirit. True strength is shown in one’s self control and self discipline. Anyone can be lead around by their emotions and their impulses but it takes a man or woman of strength to deny their fleshly lusts and to do what is right. When we rule by wrath and anger, we may feel like the “big man on campus” but we are really giving expression to our own weakness and immaturity of spirit.

Life is too short to live by the flesh. When King Solomon reflected on the brevity of life he concluded, “So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.” (Ecclesiastes 11:10) Most of our relationships will not last forever. This is especially true of our children. At most, we only have them for only 20 Christmases, 20 birthdays, and 20 summers. Our time with our children is so fleeting. They are little for such a short period of time and then they are grown up and off on their own. We have such precious little time with them that it would be a shame to spend it in anger, conflict, and fighting. How much better spent would our time be if we employed some patience and overlooked a transgression or two?

Growing in patience

Here are some practical suggestions that can help us grow in patience.
“A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)
Discretion is the ability to make good judgments. It is the ability to analyze a given situation and to choose wisely between two or more courses of action. When choosing between various options, the correct option is often identified by first examining the motives of our heart. I can think of many examples where someone offended or hurt me and everything within me wanted to lash out and “let them have it!” But I’m learning to stop and ask myself why? Why do I want to retaliate? Without exception it is because I want to hurt them back for hurting me. My impulse to lash back is out of a motive to hurt, to retaliate, and to extract some sort of vengeance. No matter how nicely you dress it up, these motives are not the motives of Christ. Even if I’ve been hurt unjustly, it is never Christ-like to respond in kind. “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:39)

Responding in anger and getting even is never our only option. Paul gives us another option, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7) The solution to anger and wrath is forgiveness, to overlook a transgression, for love’s sake. Jesus loved us and has overlooked and forgiven us for our transgression and so should we do for others. Why is it that we have so much patience for our own sins but little patience for the sins of others? We are quick to excuse our transgressions but equally quick to judge others for theirs. Instead of responding in anger, let us choose to forgive. In doing so, we will grow in patience and we will find that the little stuff no longer bothers us as much as it used to. Remember the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff”.

More to come… David Robison