When people bicker amongst themselves, they resist hope. Bickering is void of love, faith works by love (see Galatians 5:6), and of course, faith is the substance of thing hoped for (see Hebrews 11:1). Without love, there is no hope. In some cases, bickering leads to fear as the result of anger. These have no place in hope. Bickering leads to questioning, and questioning leads to doubt and suspicion. These two attack love, faith and hope. Division in the Church leads to hopelessness, especially in young believers. This is particularly true with unhealthy theological debates. When this happens, people tend to to question what they believe in an unhealthy way.
With a departure from love, there is a lack of true understanding.
Strife has nothing to do with clarity. It is prideful and arrogant. It leaves no room for proper correction and repentance. What is the goal of a debate? To prove oneself right. Where is the love in that? You can be right in your own eyes, but wrong in the eyes of God. One’s personal theology does not trump the truth of God. It leads to error when it’s void of love. Anything void of love is void of the Holy Spirit. That which is void of the Spirit is void of truth as well as life. How can strife give life to anyone?
James 4:14-16But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (NASB).
Being disciples of Jesus Christ has innumerable advantages. One is we don’t have to go it alone. As a matter of fact, we are implored not to be independent. Freedom from manipulation may come much easier than some realize. As mentioned before, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit is crucial. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 goes a long way in this.
The Holy Spirit is the Gift, and the things listed are some of the ways He manifests in the believer.
The word of wisdom; word of knowledge; faith, gifts of healing; working of miracles; prophecy; discerning of spirits; tongues and interpretation of tongues, are all designed to operate through the believer at the proper time. They are not separate gifts as some suppose. Keep in mind that 1 Corinthians 12-14 explains how these work in a church setting; it is not limiting believers to any one area. For example, one believes he has “the gift of prophecy”; whereas, another has the word of wisdom as his “gift.” These passages of Scripture reveal a certain order to a public service in order to eliminate confusion. Note that 1 Corinthians 12:7 uses the singular form of manifestation; not manifestations (plural). That means all of them are supposed operate in one believer, similar to “the fruit of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5:22. We cannot pick and choose which fruit we like; they’re all one complete package. Likewise, the Holy Spirit manifests in us as He desires.
That being said, some have a misconception concerning discerning of spirits (verse 10). They tend to limit it to determining what kind of spirit one is dealing with (i.e., an angel or demon; spirit of fear or an unclean spirit, and so on). However, it actually is more far reaching than this; it also reveals the heart of people. The word “spirit” likewise refers to attitudes and motives, besides spirit entities. That means the Holy Spirit can reveal whatever is behind what is said, done or given, in this way. He may also use the word of knowledge to give specifics, or perhaps the word of wisdom to explain how to handle the situation confronting us.
By walking in the Spirit, you do not have to spend your life being suspicious of people.
By living life this way, you actually allow the peace of God to rule in your heart while navigating through it. It frees you up to love people well; while living with constant suspicion does not. It affords you the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt and to allow for change in others, as God works in their life. Should the need arise, the Holy Spirit will warn you to steer clear of coming manipulation. You simply have to stay open to Him.
People generally detest being manipulated by others; nonetheless, they have all fallen victim to manipulation at one time or another. Some are easier to manipulate than others. So, how does one eliminate, or at least greatly reduce manipulation in one’s life?
It starts with you. Even though we hate it, we all have been guilty of manipulating others at least once. It’s in fallen mankind’s DNA. Even after coming to Jesus, a number of believers struggle with it. Their thinking hasn’t changed to the point where they’re void of it. The ones who struggle with manipulation the most are those who learned to use it in order to survive dysfunctional lifestyles. Some have affirmation issues, which we will address in greater detail. Regardless of the reason, if you do not address your own manipulation, you will continue to fall prey to others.
The reason is simple: you reap what you sow. The Bible clearly tells us that those who deceive others will also be deceived (see 2Timothy 3:13). Manipulation is deception, even when it’s clear to everyone involved. The most dangerous form is self-deception. When people are oblivious to their own character defects, hypocrisy will run deep. We’re all familiar with faultfinders who are guilty of the same crimes of which they accuse others. Even though they may believe they’re on the up and up, their motives are duplicitous.
Self-denial is the guardian of self-deception.
Perhaps, one thing believers have a hard time believing is that they still manipulate. At least, until they become aware of it. Manipulation is very subtle, which means it can be very hard to detect. It loves to hide in the shadows and masquerade as something considered good. Shadows evaporate in the light. That means we have to allow the light of the Holy Spirit to shine on our hidden thoughts and agendas. The bottom line is we have to get honest! By the way, when you become aware of your own manipulation and eliminate it, you’ll see it coming from miles off. It generally becomes crystal clear when others attempt it. That doesn’t mean one will never get by you, but you most definitely will be able to restrict its flow into your life.
Obviously, people manipulate to get what they want when they don’t feel they can get it any other way. Those with control issues tend to rely on it as well.
Manipulators don’t trust! A believer who relies on this heinous vice doesn’t trust God.
He insists on his own way, and does not believe God has the best way. He doesn’t like to hear “no;” in fact, he’s afraid to hear it. It’s as if the manipulator thinks he knows better than God. Underneath it is something deeper: he doesn’t believe God loves him. That means this Christian will spend his time trying to earn the Father’s love. His motivation is affirmation. That’s not to say anything of which he does for the Father is void of love for Him. When a child of God knows he or she is loved, he or she is free to serve out of a pure heart. If you struggle with God loving you, answer this question: do you love Him? If you answered yes, you have one major proof that He does indeed love you. It would be impossible for you to love Him; unless, He loved you first. 1 John 4:19 We love Him, because He first loved us (KJV). By the way, it’s a great idea to love whom and what He loves, so please by all means, love yourself as well. Until you do, you won’t love others well either. Read the Bible and see what God actually thinks about you.
If you struggle with God’s love, your relationship with others is probably struggling too. We all like to think we do things for others out of the goodness of our heart. Unfortunately, those who lack affirmation, often seek it from others by using manipulation. For example, self-deception says, “I’m doing this out of pure love” (you fill in the blank to define “this”). Reality reveals, “I’m doing this so they will appreciate me.” Question: ultimately, was the doing for the recipient or the doer? The recipient benefitted to a degree, but essentially it was for the doer. When people believe they are unlovable and crave affection, they will try to gain it through service or gifts, because they don’t trust others to freely love them. They will ever be striving for love and affection, which is a form of bondage. Of that number, many had parents who didn’t give them affection. In some cases, they never heard them say, “I love you!” Even a smile is worth manipulating another for in their estimation. Have you ever feel like there were strings attached to a “gift?” Did you discover the hard way that your gut was right? Anytime a person gives something to another for an ulterior motive, it’s not a gift: it’s manipulation.
If you are going to freely love God and people, you need to be honest with yourself.
That doesn’t mean you question your own motives every time you do something for someone; rather, you allow the Holy Spirit to convict you when necessary.
Be open to correction. As a suggestion, try sitting quietly with a notebook and pen. Ask the Lord to speak to your heart, and write what you sense Him saying. Read it objectively as possible without shame, guilt or condemnation. Allow Him to show you how to think differently. That’s repentance at work, and with it comes healing and restoration. When you see it the way God sees it, you’ll detest manipulation enough to get rid of it. Once you confess it to Him, it will go if you’re sincere. As already stated, once you’ve faced your own manipulation, it will be easier for you to spot it in others. Please be careful about judgment when you do. Be compassionate and pray for them. They’re struggling with love too!
The lessons from God can be hard to understand at times, especially if you’re in the middle of one. Know that He is thorough, and leaves nothing undone.
The Father teaches each of His children according to his or her makeup, or DNA if you prefer.
Since people learn differently, His lessons are tailor-made for the individual. You cannot assume God is going to teach you a lesson the same way He teaches it to another. After all, you’re different. Everyone comes from diverse backgrounds and have unique life experiences. While some may have similar experiences that even appear identical, each one’s take is not the same. Their perceptions of events differ one from another. For example, two people can see the same thing, but one’s description will be unlike the other. What does God’s curriculum look like for the individual?
Understand that His lessons are not from a textbook.
Don’t expect to merely read words from the Bible and expect to gain a full understanding. Yes, you most certainly can gain much knowledge from the Bible, especially when the Holy Spirit is revealing things to you; however, learning life applications also require experience. It’s important to realize the Bible is not a textbook; therefore, we cannot approach it like would a schoolbook. It’s relational by design, which means we must maintain communion with the Lord in order to glean the treasures found in its pages. Not only can we read the Word of God, but rest assured it reads us as well. Do you ever feel convicted when you read it? The Word of God penetrates the heart and will not leave the soul unchanged. Hebrews 4:12For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (NASB). This is very true for those who are teachable. This is not an emphatic statement, however, it may be that the amount of time people spends reading their Bible correlates to how teachable they are. The more teachable one is, the more he or she will want to study it. This is not some litmus test, but something to consider.
Please note that the lessons mentioned here are not necessarily in the order in which God may use to teach us. Of course, there will be other teachings not listed here. That being said, one of the lessons will be about ourselves.
The lessons concerning the self reveal just where we are in the scheme of things.
For example, as much as one may want to love God and others well, one may discover he or she has great difficulty doing just that. One reality we all learn is in order to do any of the things of God, we need Him. Let’s flesh this out a bit. As many of you know, the New Testament word for “love” in reference to God’s pure kind of love is AGAPE (also rendered “charity” in the KJV). It takes joy in the recipient for the recipient’s sake alone. It doesn’t look for the return. Using this brief definition, we find that God’s curriculum includes tests. They are ultimately designed to conform us to the the image of Jesus. One thing a test reveals is what is actually in our heart. As a saying goes, “You don’t know what’s in a cup until it gets bumped.” A test may be the “unlovable individual” who walks into your life, and God says “Be his friend.” His personality is abrasive at best. Nothing about him draws you to him. If it were up to you, you wouldn’t open the door should he knock. In fact, in the natural, he detestable. Nonetheless, the Father loves him, and He want you to express that to him. What to do when it’s not in you?
We soon learn to go to the throne of grace to receive mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need (see Hebrews 4:16). Grace is God’s unmerited favor that empowers us to do what we can’t do on our own. By His grace we exhibit love by extending mercy. It takes compassion and mercy to soften the hardened heart.
Another lesson we learn has to do with others. In this case, we may find that this unlovable one has been deeply wounded. He’s experienced rejection on the deepest level. He doesn’t love himself, and is incapable of loving others. In fact, he’s angry. He expects rejection, and acts in such a fashion as to be rejected. Life has not been good to him, and he needs a break.
Yet another lesson is to teach us to see beyond the fault. Love covers a multitude of sins. God shows us what people will become because of His grace in their lives. People can change, and in this case, will change when love is involved. God multitasks. Not only does He teach you to love, but to be merciful as He is merciful. When you give mercy to the “undeserving,” things happen. Oh yea, how about patience? Do you want to do patience well? In lessons like this one, we soon learn it takes time for a breakthrough to happen. We’re talking the long-haul, but then love is patient (see 1 Corinthians 13:4).
In the process of learning to love, we learn to minister to others. Our hard case here will help us learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, so we may have what he needs in the moment. It could be something as simple as a listening ear void of judgment. It may be an encouraging word, or even a hug. Whatever the need is, the Holy Spirit will lead us. After all, love is part of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). Yep, we just learned submission as well. As we learn to yield to the Holy Spirit, the love of God will shine through us.
The curriculum of God is so vast that an entire library couldn’t contain it. The important thing is to look for God in everything. Every circumstance you face will have lessons to be learned, but you must remain teachable, which requires an open and honest heart.