Have you ever been in the middle of a mess between two people and just weren't sure how to behave, which side to take or how to respond?
Dealing with personalities and emotions can often be a very sticky situation. If not handled VERY CAREFULLY it can quickly get out of control.
Let's take a brief look at a scriptural lesson on this.
Philemon chapter one:
We have Paul, in prison, writing to a man and woman that are relatively new Christians. However they are apparently faithful and dedicated and have a church meeting in their home.
In this letter to Philemon we learn or assume quite a bit. First, we know that Paul knows him personally. We can assume he is a wealthy man because we know he owns or did own slaves.
As I already mentioned, we know that he and his wife have a church meeting in their home and are very involved in the work of The Lord.
And we know that he owned a slave named Onesimus.
Now we don't know many of the actual details of Onesimus, but based on this writing we assume that Onesimus has run away from the bondage of Philemon. We don't know why, we cannot speculate. We just know that he did.
Somehow Paul comes to know the slave Onesimus, perhaps in prison. And over the course of time Onesimus gives his life to The Lord.
Now he wants to return to Philemon. (We don't know the reason of his return.)
Paul is writing this letter to inform Philemon that Onesimus is now a loving, willing, servant of The Lord. He is asking Philemon to lay aside his personal feelings toward Onesimus and accept him as a fellow believer.
Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. (Philemon 1:20 NASB)
Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say. (Philemon 1:21 NASB)
Please take a few moments and read this chapter for yourself.
So, here is where my imagination takes over. I see Paul and Onesimus meeting up in prison, maybe Onesimus is a prisoner because he ran away and was caught or maybe he is a worker at the prison cleaning cells, but somehow they meet.
As always, Paul is sharing The Lord with everyone and Onesimus becomes a believer.
Perhaps as they are getting to know each other Onesimus mentions his hometown and Paul says, "I have good friends there. They have a church meeting in their home. When you leave here, maybe you can gather there with them." And he mentions their names.
"Oh, no," says Onesimus. "I could never go there."
And this is how Paul learns the situation.
Was he expected to take sides?
Was he given accurate information or was it slanted by Onesimus in his favor?
We don't know.
But we do know that Paul convinces Onesimus to return to Philemon.
And when Paul writes to Philemon he doesn't accuse or seem to favor one person over the other. No, he was a very good example of a mediator.
He did not take either side, he just encouraged both people to do the right thing.
After all, wasn't Onesimus going to Philemon? I'm sure he is very afraid to do so, to face the owner that he had wronged. His very life could be in danger.
But he is carrying a hand written letter from Paul, encouraging Philemon to no longer see Onesimus as a piece of property but to see him as a forgiven, beloved, child of God and fellow heir. In other words, in every way an equal.
I sure hope if we are ever faced with "being in the middle" that we would be like Paul. Do the right thing according to the Word of God, encourage others to do the right thing according to the Word of God. And Speak well of both sides to the other instead of speaking bad.
Again I ask you to read this chapter and think on it today.
Recently in my work I was driving in the state of Indiana and we passed by an Amish farm and saw a man plowing a field with a team of horses.
I was impressed with the speed at which this was happening and the straightness of the rows. It appeared to be going pretty easily.
In biblical days plowing was done with a yoke of oxen. It wasn't always an easy task.
To accomplish straight rows the oxen needed to pull at the same speed and the same direction. This is why a yoke was used. A yoke is a large piece of wood with two loops for the heads of the oxen. The yoke kept them side by side. But the oxen could be "bull-headed" and just stand still. In this case a goad was used. A goad was a long stick of wood, sharpened on one end to a point. When the oxen would slow or stop the farmer would poke or goad the oxen in the hind end and hold it there until they moved again. If the oxen would kick against the goad in stubbornness, the goad would prick them worse.
Do you like to be pushed? I don't.
I don't mind being encouraged. I don't mind being inspired, asked, or lead, but pushed? No!
No one wants to be pushed into something.
I recognize leadership skills and qualities in many people and I would love to see them develop those skills.
But I also know people who think of themselves as leaders but they do more pushing or goading than anything else.
I don't think you can lead from behind. To be a leader you need to be out front. If you push or goad people they will instinctively kick or fight against you.
When it comes to reaching the lost, be a leader not a pusher. You will not gain a sincere dedicated follower of Jesus by pushing people and goading them to move faster.
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 9:5 NKJV)
Picture an old time covered wagons bouncing over the prairies, the frightened horses racing out of control. Perhaps the reins had been dropped or maybe the driver fell asleep and was not guiding the horses by the movements and nudging of the reins.
It is not a good thing to watch the scared passengers. And then the cowboy rides in, climbs aboard, finds the reins and gets the horses back under control.
Someone once taught me that "gentleness" when used in scripture is defined as power under control.
Now let's look at the scripture below in that light.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 ESV)
We all know someone who has taken a step backward in their walk of faith. Maybe they stopped serving with the church, maybe they stopped adding to the discussions during Bible studies, maybe they stopped attending some of the gatherings, maybe they've stopped coming altogether.
We, the rest of the church, miss that person. After all we are "one body with many members" as described in Ephesians. We all need each other. So when one falls, it hurts all of us.
The verse above tells us that we need to try to restore such one, but in a spirit of "gentleness." In other words, with tact, carefully, perhaps slowly.
And the verse goes on to say, be on guard lest you too be tempted.
Hmm, be tempted to fall into the same sin, me, never!
Well, maybe the temptation would be to act arrogantly like you couldn't possibly behave in the same manner because you are too much of a Christian.
You know, don't you that we are still sinners? We all still sin each and everyday? Not a single one of us are above it!
A man in our congregation was slipping back. He was falling away because in his words, "no one really cared about me."
Some of the people rallied around, worked with him, begin visiting him and his family, offered him some serving jobs inside the building so that he felt included. And one Sunday night he came to service again,( he never stopped coming Sunday mornings.)
One woman came right over before he was three feet inside the door and said, "It's about time you're here again, YOU SHOULD be here all the time."
Immediately this man felt offended and all the "gentle" work that the others had done for this man was destroyed by her callous comment.
No one likes to be "should on." It feels terrible.
When someone comes back to church gathering it is because they realized in their own mind and heart that they needed to. Welcome them, hug them, love them and encourage them.
Sometimes things happen that just don't seem right. And I wonder why God would allow something like that to happen. And there are even occasions when in spite of many prayers things go in the exact opposite direction of what I had been praying.
I find myself wanting to question, "What are you thinking?"
I am not alone in my questioning. David often had conversations with God involving many questions. Job is another that asked questions of God.
Here are some of his thoughts. Have you ever wondered any of these things?
Why is life so hard?
Why do we suffer?
God has made my days drag on and my nights miserable. And so, I cry out to you in agony and distress.
I go to bed, hoping for rest, but you torture me with terrible dreams. *
Why do you watch us so closely? What's it to you, if I sin?
Why am I your target and such a heavy burden? (Job 7:1, 3, 11, 13, 14, 20 CEV)
God answers Job in Chapters 38-41 of the Book of Job. He answers him with many questions of His own. Why does He answer him this way instead of being comforting?
As a mother I have very often used this method with my children. By asking questions in return for their questions, it causes them to think. It causes them to reason and come to an understanding on their own.
God is so very omniscient (all-knowing.) He holds ALL the answers.
We, as humans, are limited. Our minds, even with Google, are finite, while God's is infinite.
Our timeframe of our lives are vapors in the scheme of eternity. Our problems and worries, although they seem insurmountable to us are nothing for God and probably do not make a difference in the Eternal.
No, it is our attitudes in those struggles that will matter towards the Eternal.
The Apostle Paul had the right idea when he faced troubles and worries, he said,
"These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing." (2 Corinthians 4:17 CEV)
There will be so many times when God's ways will just not make sense to us. But He is God and we are not!
He is good all the time.
Our lives here are vapors, but then comes the Eternal.
All of my questions about here won't matter there, but if they do....Then I'm sure there will be plenty of time for answers then.
"We are all just trying to get to the same place."
"I don't think God would condemn anyone. He is the God of love."
"God wants us to be happy, doesn't he?"
"God made me this way."
"I don't need to go to church to worship the Creator."
"Attend the church of your choice."
"The preacher preaches at me."
"I live a good life."
There are so many who want to "worship" in their own way. They don't want to be obedient to God's word. They want to be told that they aren't so bad. They get their feelings hurt by the preacher or other Christians.
So it seems easier on us to go about our business not offending anyone, doing a good deed now and then, and expecting to get to Heaven.
And sadly, many religions will even teach some of that.
Many religions would have us believe us think that we can all live together in peace and harmony.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:8 NASB)
Now let me say one thing here, I am not the only Christian but I am Christian only. I want to be a Christ follower. I want to be obedient to God's word because I know that He loves me. I know what He saves me from. I know that He gave His son to die FOR ME.
He gives very specific guidelines for me, who am I to try to bend those guidelines to suit myself?
I am by no means pure or perfect. I fail daily. But God provided for that as well by extending mercy and grace.
God knows that if I start to be influenced by those that don't follow Him completely, that I could be lost. He tells me that I must choose my friends wisely and that I must come out from among the unbelievers.
"Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "A nd do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. (2 Corinthians 6:17 NASB)
However, We can never be too far from unbelievers because we do live and work in this world. But our thoughts, words and behaviors should set us apart.
Our purpose is to try to bring others to Jesus. But, coexist? No, never!
I often thought about how many times as the Israelites wondered through that desert, how often they grumbled. They were always moaning about something.
But can you imagine such a trip? It is hot! It IS the desert. And at night it is cold. It is dusty. They are walking. They have children asking, "are we there yet?" They are carrying all that they own. They have brought some animals, so they need looked after. They have to stop to prepare meals then clean up, then right back on the road. There is little rest.
God gives them miracles. He provides water from a stone. He drops manna from Heaven.
I wonder why He just didn't make them not hungry or thirsty. He could have done that. That would've saved a lot of time, trouble and grumbling.
No, I believe that God wants us to work for somethings. I think that He is waiting for us to come to the realization that He will provide all that we need. We may have to do our part to receive these things. But I think He is wanting us to believe and act without grumbling. He will give us our "manna" we just have to gather it.
Yet we must also remember that we have one day set aside in which to rest and reflect on Him and how good He is to us.
Do we expect God to take care of us without us doing our gathering? Do we grumble and growl instead of believing and acting on His provisions? Do we set aside that day to honor, reflect, and be very grateful for ALL He does?
Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none." (Exodus 16:26 NASB)
I wonder why we so often see the grass is greener somewhere else? But yet when we get to there, it isn't all that different or much better than here.
So we look and see more green there or there or there. But still once there, it looks a little less green, a little less appealing, and a lot disappointing.
Do you worry because you don't have everything you want to be happy? Or are you happy with what you have?
What is it that drives us to always want more, to be somewhere else, to be with someone else, to look like someone else?
It makes me think of all the yard sales that I see. You once thought you just couldn't live without these items, now they are sitting in your yard for others to pick through and hope that they now feel like they must own the treasure.
Someone else's stuff or place always seems better than our own, but they may be looking at you thinking the same thing.
Contentment and peace come from God. Does He not provide ALL that we need?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33 ESV)
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Philippians 4:11, 12 NASB)
I heard a news story on the radio the other day about the football player, Tim Tebow.
He has been the center of much controversy because of his Christian beliefs and lifestyle.
He is now playing ball for the New England Patriots.
Recently while in the locker room, a teammate was frustrated and shouted, "Jesus Christ" in a loud and irreverent way.
Tim shouted back, "He loves you."
Which of course brought even more negative attention, mockery and condescending attitudes toward him.
Believers are scoffed at in our society. It seems that everyone has rights except the Christian.
Because of this many Christians won't take a stand. They won't defend or even talk to others about their faith anymore.
How sad it is when we are afraid to share the gospel.
Let God use you today. Allow Him to work through you by sharing your faith with at least one person today who might need to see and hear the love of Jesus. Do not be afraid. Ask God to give you an opportunity and ask Him to give you the words to speak.
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. (Jeremiah 1:8, 9 ESV)
There comes a time when we get Anxious. and I am talking the true sense of the word. Maybe it's worries over finances, maybe our doctor told us what we didn't want to hear, maybe our kids are are forging ahead foolishly, maybe we feel unappreciated in our relationships, maybe we have to go somewhere we don't want to go, maybe we have to stay when we would rather go.
I don't know every scenario but I do know anxious thoughts and feelings.
Anxiety equals fear.
Maybe it is a realistic healthy fear or maybe it is an unknown fear or worse, maybe it is an irrational fear.
Regardless of what kind of fear, anxiety, or worries that you have, God tells us so many times throughout His word, Do not fear!
He can and wants to give us peace. It is there for us. But it is up to us to give up the fear.
Do not fear.
You say, "yeah, but...."
No, there are no, yeah, buts.
God says, "do not fear."
The best two ways that I know to start moving past whatever it is that is troubling you is to:
1. Talk to God about it.
2. Talk to someone else about it.
Then believe and trust that God wants only the very best for you, all the time.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)
One time while visiting Central Park in NYC I had an artist sketch my picture. I was so excited while he was drawing. I couldn't wait to see the finished product. I couldn't wait to see myself through someone else's eyes.
When he was done he showed me the picture and he had drawn it cartoon style and he had made me into a very vivacious woman with big beautiful hair wearing a Wonder Woman costume. It was hilarious. I loved it.
When I read the daily verse today from the NASB version, It uses the word "drawn" and I began thinking about how God would draw me. How would I look through His artist's eyes? What values would He see and portray in my drawing?
But then I went to read the same verse from several versions. The meaning changed for me. I now read that God is "faithful" to me and that He is very patient and kind towards me.
Yep, that's exactly what I need from Him. And I am so thankful for Him and His loving kindness.
I can't see His drawing of me yet because He is still patiently and lovingly completing me. I can't wait to see the end result.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NASB)
I will always love you; that's why I've been so patient and kind. (Jeremiah 31:3 CEVDCUS06)
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3 ESV)
PS: I wanted a pencil drawing to go with this post, but my photo program wouldn't let me do it. So I enlisted some help from our Whew sister, Elizabeth Housel.
While see was working on my photo, I had the same feeling of anticipation that I had while waiting for the real sketch.