WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
There is a common thread winding through all these stories. In each case, the person involved had (1) done something unacceptable to someone else, (2) someone else had done something unacceptable to them, (3) the person was required to do something he or she didn’t want to do, (4) things didn’t turn out the way the person wanted them to.
The reactions in each case were similar: anger, bitterness, stubbornness, rebellion, and hate which became intolerable.
In each case, the idea that the people and circumstances involved merely revealed, rather than caused, their reactions was firmly rejected. The possibility of becoming a loving, peaceful, joyful person without the people or circumstances changing was an unpalatable option. If nothing changed, they preferred to be mad rather than glad.
Isn’t it strange that it’s so hard to let Christ come into our lives and then let Him change us? We tend to resist Him like a tiny baby will resist its mother’s efforts to give it life-providing food.
Strecker and Appel describe this struggle as they observe it in their clients: “Countless people at every corner unnecessarily deprive themselves not only of pleasure, but actual necessities in order to assuage the goading of a troubled conscience and fulfill a need for punishment. Feelings of unworthiness, or undeservedness, result at every hand in conspicuous neglect of health, comfort, and peace of mind.”
“The man who, unprovoked, insults his best friend, the man who fails to show up at an important business conference, the girl who refuses an invitation to a party she would very much like to go to, the man who declines to propose to the girl he loves and remains unmarried, the woman who spends endless hours in unnecessary house-keeping drudgery, who ‘works her fingers to the bone,’ the brilliant man who insists upon engaging in a petty, monotonous routine, a drab, colorless existence, people who seem to court accidents and have always a tale of hard luck, those who repeatedly make plans which seem inevitably to lead to failure—all may be motivated by guilt, the need for punishment or self-directed anger. Added to this are countless hours of sleepless worry, or self-recrimination, self-accusation, bitter regret, which also may be traced to the same source.”
Why do we do this to ourselves? Jesus, who knows all about us, says:
And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God (John 3:19-21).
The prophet Jeremiah gives us another glimpse of the human heart:
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways… (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
There it is. We are at least vaguely aware of our evil inner life, but we hate to admit it. We tend to turn away from such light. The more brilliant and educated we are, the more we are capable of coming up with endless varieties of ways to justify ourselves.
THERE IS A WAY
Enough of this gloom. There is a brighter side. There is hope. When we finally quit running, the Lord will search our hearts, show us our evil ways, clean us up, and fill us with His strength.
Like any other agreement, this step is taken at a point in time never to be forgotten or confused with other times. But such a crisis works itself out from a point to a line.
It involves a continual drawing upon His resources as each occasion for it comes, just as a decision to maintain an exercise program must be renewed day by day.
In conclusion, take a look at the riches available to you in the inner man—which will build your self-respect…your self-love.
THE POSITIVE SIDE
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you (Colossians 3:12-13).
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful (Colossians 3:15).
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (James 3:17).
What credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But, if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God (1 Peter 2:20).
Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Here are some of the qualities contained in these verses:
- not jealous or envious
Help yourself. It’s all free. The more you take, the farther along you will be on your way to becoming indestructible.
1. What do your reactions involve?
2. Negative emotions cause tension, anxiety, and frustration. The Bible describes the same responses as _____________________________________________ ________________________________.
3. Jesus says there are two kinds of peace. Name the two kinds:
4. There is a deeper kind of peace than the kind that simply relieves body and mind. It comes when you __________________________________.
5. To what does letting God into your life give you access?
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Continue on to Lesson 8.