What we say and when we say it can have great impact in the lives of both hearer and speaker. How we say things influence how well they’re received. Perhaps, the one thing that is most significant is why we say them. What is behind what we say is a big reason to be slow to speak. Sometimes it pays to ask ourselves, “What purpose will this serve?” Secondly, and more importantly, is what I say congruent with love?
When someone says or does something that offends or inconveniences you, do you give them a piece of your mind? Are you quick to retort? Some give others a piece of their mind so often, it’s amazing they even have a mind left. Scripture does tell us to speak the truth in love; therefore, if love has nothing to do with what is said, it’s not truth. Even if what is said is true, a person is merely giving factual statements, at least as he sees it. But again, to what end? Some get a sense of justice when they “let others know about it.” Is that the same justice the Lord served you? “Well, they had it coming!” Did God give you what you had coming? Honestly, before any of us speak our mind in such cases, we need to begin with love and forgiveness. Ask yourself, “Does Jesus treat me this way?”
Jesus did say, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother” (Matthew 18:15). One reason to tell someone their fault is to protect the relationship, especially if it is a close one. Jesus seriously values relationships. There are certain boundaries that should be in place to protect others and ourselves. If one hurts another, and specially when it’s done repeatedly, the one hurt tends to build a barrier to protect his or her heart. It damages the intimacy until forgiveness ensues and reconciliation takes place. In some cases, it takes a long time to restore what was lost, let alone grow deeper in the relationship. As stewards of the relationship, it is appropriate to let another know they hurt or offended you. Nonetheless, be careful that it’s not said out of retaliation –which is easy to do. If you’re angry, it would be a good idea to walk away until you’ve prayed and submitted to Holy Spirit. At that point, you can address the situation. At the same time, it doesn’t mean you give the proverbial silent treatment; rather, let him or her know that you can’t talk now because you’re angry, but you will talk later. It is one thing to express that you’re angry; it’s quite another to allow anger to speak for you! Ephesians 4:25-27Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
We don’t always see the big picture. Only God knows the heart, and why people do and say the things they do. When someone is being offensive or hurtful, there’s something behind it. Our fight is not with flesh and blood. What we’re experiencing is often the result of something unseen, such as a wounded soul. A wounded bear is far more dangerous than a healthy one. We’re not animals, but when people have been hurt or harassed, they don’t always behave appropriately. Instead of being quick to retaliate when someone is being offensive, stop and ask our Father what’s going on with this person. “What does he or she need right now? What can I do or say at this point –if anything? Help me be who You need me to be.” James 1:19This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Unfortunately, some people get edgy with others when they need someone to talk with. This may be more true for those closest to them. Right now, they may need you to be a listening ear; and not a mouth. There’s a time to speak and a time to listen. Let Holy Spirit lead. If you let anger or hurt lead, things could escalate quickly. The next thing you know, you’re the one damaging the relationship. Reconciliation and restoration are big in God’s heart (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). If we make a decision to walk in love and thereby not be easily offended, we are in a better position to restore another, and maintain the relationship.
This leads to another reason to say it: to benefit another. If we can get our eyes off ourselves long enough, we may be able to reach out to those who are hurting themselves. It goes along the line of telling someone his fault to gain a brother. By speaking into someone’s life, we may be saving them a lot of heartache down the road. At times, people don’t realize they’re sabotaging themselves. By appropriately intervening, we may actually facilitate healing. Those who are deeply wounded and see little value in themselves tend to sabotage themselves, and need someone of an understanding heart to help them along. With God’s leading, we may be able to help them see what they don’t see, but need to see. Jesus can give us much insight if we listen carefully. That insight can restore and heal those in need.
None of this is easy to do on our own. One thing that helps us along is renewing our minds. The more we think like God, the easier it becomes. Pay attention to what you’re taking into your heart. Without realizing it, if we inundate ourselves in a culture that cries retribution in the name of justice, we can become hard-hearted. If you constantly fill your mind with movies and programs that highlight payback, your thought process will lend itself to retaliation instead of reconciliation. By spending time in the Bible and engulfing yourself in the culture of the Kingdom, your mind will conform more to the way our Father looks at relationships. This too, is a decision!
When it comes to conflict resolution or preventative measures to head it off, we already know being quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger is an important step (see James 1:19). However, good listening skills and being less apt to be offended requires another important spiritual principle: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Deny the self means you don’t insert yourself into the situation. It does not mean you become less of a person; rather, you humble yourself before the Lord.
Taking up your cross means in part that you don’t demand your “rights”; in fact, you gave up your rights to Jesus when you received Him as Lord and Savior.
Contrary to popular belief, you really are not your own anymore because you were bought with the price. It’s in the Bible. On the Cross, Jesus did not demand His rights; He relinquished them. As a matter of fact, He did that prior to the Cross. His heart was and still is reconciliation between God and mankind. It required His death. While being crucified, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He mediated for us. In our conflict with God, He became Who He needed to be for the Father and us.
In a number of conflicts, individuals are more concerned about what the other party involved did or failed to do. They want them to become or do something that suits them. They care about what they get out of the deal. They are more concerned about being offended than whether they’re being offensive to other person. Conflicts tend to escalate when people refuse to humble themselves. In essence, they depart from love. Following Jesus includes being who we need to be for Him. It does not mean we attempt to be something we’re not. People wind up being pretentious or hypocritical when they try to be who they are not. By submitting to Holy Spirit, one will be who he or she needs to be for Him. Sometimes, it is simple as asking, “Who do you need me to be for them at this time?” The quick answer is, “Jesus.” Denying yourself comes into play when others become quite aggressive in their posture. They can be demanding, reactive and explosive in the way they deal with you. When they are overcome by emotions, they tend to not be as rational as they normally would be otherwise. If they insult, mock or try to provoke you, it can be very difficult to remain calm. This is when James 1:5 comes into play: But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. Simply focus on God and ask Him, “What does he or she need right now?” Again, this is the time to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Wait for Him, and definitely stayed centered in love, so you do not become reactive. Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
How do I know when it’s wisdom from God?
If you read James 3:13-18, you can quickly discern wisdom from above versus earthly wisdom by comparing the two. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say righteous, and is peace my goal here?” Verses 17 and 18 say, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Earthly wisdom is filled with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Even when everything is correct in Father’s eyes, we must do our best to remain patient. As already stated, those overwhelmed by emotions don’t always respond rationally. Therefore, they may not immediately calm down, especially if there was a long fuse to the powder keg. Patience bides its time. It realizes that it may not see a peaceable response from the other person until a later time. By remaining submitted to Holy Spirit, you will be able to allow His fruit to manifest through you. Our fight is to remain spiritual and not become self-righteous and indignant. Philippians 2:3-4Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Denying ourselves does not mean we remain silent when we should speak; however, it does mean that we will filter what we say through love.
That means retaliation is not an option, and we do not allow anger to speak for us. There may be times when we simply have to say, “I can’t talk about this right now, but I will talk later.” From there we go spend time with our Father and listen to His heart on the matter. Pray as He leads, and obey what He says. It is not a time to go around getting other people involved and taking an opinion poll. Perhaps the Lord will lead you to talk with someone who is wise, but the discussion still begins with Him. The bottom line is that we do things on His terms.
Too little listening and too much activity has the been the cause of burn out for several believers. That is not what it means to follow Jesus. You cannot equate being busy doing things in itself to doing the work of the Kingdom. In many instances, they are nothing more than dead works. “What do you mean, I did it for the Lord.” Perhaps, but then, perhaps not. This is not intended to question anyone’s intentions; rather, its purpose is to bring clarity. It is one thing to do a good thing; it’s another to do the right thing. We can do what is right in our own eyes and in our own strength, but that is not following Jesus. We can also get quite busy by not saying “no” to others when we should. Sometimes doing the right thing is not convenient on more than one level. There is the answer to the call for help at an inconvenient time, or to some unpleasant task, which actually would be the right thing to do. At the same time, something that is inconvenient does not necessarily qualify it to be the right thing. There is only One Savior Who can help everyone at one time –all the time. None of us are Him; nevertheless, as we listen to Him, we can be Jesus to whom He sends us. It is not always convenient to say “no” when we should. This is especially true for people-pleasers. It’s not a bad thing at all, if someone is blessed or even be pleased by what we do; but, if we fail to do things as unto the Lord, we are not doing things for Him either. Galatians 1:10For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. This is not some general call to say “no,” unless it is. Meaning, this very blog may be designed to get someone’s attention. You cannot keep going on as you are, and expect to thrive in the Lord!
Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew16:24). We deny ourselves by not inserting ourselves into situations as if we are in charge. We deny our emotions the right to dictate our actions. We also quit denying God’s affirmation by constantly seeking affirmation from others. When another person’s opinion or affirmation has greater value to you than God’s, you make him or her your god. If you rely on man’s approval, you will be easily manipulated. You’ll find yourself doing things you shouldn’t be doing. That is unhealthy, and it is not stewarding yourself well. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body. Performances to gain acceptance are not “works of faith.” Likewise, if you have to perform to gain someone’s approval, you’re being manipulated. You’re not doing something out of love when you’re trying to gain love; you’re doing it for yourself. On a side note: master-manipulators recognize these things, and take full advantage.
1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. Kingdom work is a partnership with God, based on a loving relationship. Jesus did what He saw His Father doing, and spoke what He heard Him say. There comes a point in our walk when we must be still and know He is God. We operate from a position of rest, which includes ceasing from our own works. Hebrews 4:10For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His (“ceased from his own works, as God did from His -KJV). If you listen and obey, if you go along with His promptings, you’ll be amazed how much you will see accomplished. It all begins with listening. If you act before listening, you’re not walking by faith. If you try to get ahead of God, your timing will be off. In fact, it would be possible to delay your God-given destiny by not listening, and moving ahead on your own. The center of His will is found by listening and waiting on Him. Get still before Him!
Questions can be beneficial when properly asked, or asked for the right reasons; but, what do we gain by questioning that leads to doubt or strife? That sort leads to double-mindedness. The deception in the Garden of Eden began with questioning: “Did God really say?” The enemy still uses that ploy to divide people’s hearts and cause division in the Church. Sometimes, we use it on ourselves.
“What if _?” is not your friend.
This question has been responsible for more anxiety than you can shake a stick at. It is a major part of the curriculum found in Fear 101. It causes the imagination to spiral out of control. How often have people become anxious over a perceived event that never happened? One of the quickest ways to exit from the Secret Place of the Most High, which is a place of faith and peace, is to start asking, “What if _?” “What if I’m missing God in this?” “What if it happens again?” “What if tomorrow never comes?” Well, what if you did not miss God? What if it doesn’t happen again? What if God really does hold tomorrow? Unless you really love living in fear, it’s time to kill that line of questioning. A long while ago, I was playing the “What if” game in a certain scenario. As my imagination started to run wild, anxiety began to rush in like a flood. The Lord intervened and clearly said to me, “There’s no such thing as a what if!” He shut that thing down right then and there. By the way, the thing which I was starting to imagine never materialized. Instead of saying, “What if,” try saying, “God is!” Hebrews 11:6And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Perhaps, the out of bound questions should be the ones that generate fear, anxiety, and are completely opposed to faith and love. In short, the ones that question God Himself.
Perhaps, asking “Who” is far better than asking “why.”
We don’t always understand why we face certain circumstances, but that’s not requirement to trust God. Who is with me is far more powerful than, “Why did this have to happen?” Granted, certain why-questions can be beneficial when they are truly asked for insight. This type is asking God for wisdom. Things that bring clarity, and do not muddy the waters. Typically, it is more of a what-question, i.e., “What was the cause?” It has nothing to do with affixing blame, and has more to do with problem solving. Why-questions tend to be from a victim-mentality. A good question to ask ourselves would be, “Am I acting like a victim here, or am I asking from the standpoint of victory?” Even should something devastating come our way, knowing God is ever with us is a major comfort based on confidence in Him. Hebrews 13:5-6Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
Are you having difficulty receiving love or even loving yourself? Perhaps, all the above. Maybe you’re fine in that department, but you know some others who aren’t so fine. Let’s talk about some reasons to receive love from God and people. Even go so far as to discuss the importance of loving yourself. It may surprise you how much love affects your walk of faith.
God’s love is The Standard, there’s none greater than His. That is where we must begin. We know God is love and we are created in His image (see 1 John 4:8; Genesis 1:26-27).
That means we were designed with the unique capacity to love; in fact, if we fail to give and receive love, we are incomplete.
In order to be effective in loving God and others well, we need God’s love to be active in us. Why do you suppose love is the first on the list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23? Incidentally, “fruit” is in the singular form, which means love is not an option, neither are any of the other things listed. In order to fully be in the image of God, we need His nature living in us. Since we are hard wired to love, when love is absent, we become dysfunctional. Even neural scientists have found this to be true. Your mind requires love in order to be renewed and for your brain to function correctly. Interestingly, hatred and fear are not innate, which means they must be learned. We were not created to hate, nor to be fearful. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (“fear” –KJV), but of power and love and discipline (“sound mind” –KJV). If you don’t receive love, you will not be in your right mind. That means your thought process will be faulty.
Without love, acts of faith will be performance based.
Love works by love, and faith apart from it does not profit us (see Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). If you lack love, you will tend to seek affirmation through the things you do (i.e., “earn love”). Some confuse identity with such things as professions, what they’re skilled in; or in terms of being a Christian, their gifts. More specifically in this context, being “person of faith.” For them, they will always have to perform “acts of faith” in order to feel any value. Performance based faith is not faith; it is dead works. Faith works relationally, since it works by love. If faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (see Romans 10:17), how then, can one hear without a relationship with Him? In a number of cases, people act on something they consider faith. “I’m stepping out on faith.” If there is no word from God, they’re stepping out on presumption. Yes, many acts of faith are recorded in the Bible, but there still needs to be an unction from the Lord in order for someone to follow any of the examples. Jesus did what He saw the Father do and said what He heard Him say, because He loves the Father. Every act of faith was based upon a loving relationship.
If you don’t identify with being a well-loved child of God, there’s a good chance you will identify with being a servant. Is being a servant a bad thing? Not in itself, but consider this: servants look for the reward. While it is true our Father does reward us, as a faithful son or daughter, we do things out of love. Would it be better to serve God out of love instead of the desire for a reward? Servants serve out a different perspective than children of God.
Those who fail to receive His love tend to test His love.
Not only will they try to earn it, they test its legitimacy. That means if God doesn’t perform up to their expectation, He fails the test. Unfortunately for them, God fails every time because it’s a setup. Even though God never fails, in their mind, He does. Because they don’t believe He loves them, their hypothesis will be “proven correct,” one or the other. God has already been pronounced guilty before the trial ever begins. Rebellion crops up out of the same idea. Much like small children who act up in order to see if mommy or daddy really loves them. If a person seeks affirmation by faith, he’s seeking the glory, instead of giving it to God. They’re not walking in love.
Refusing love may be an act of pride. Some take pride in rejection.
They’re actually saying their “unworthiness” is greater than God’s love, and it surpassed the worthiness of Jesus Christ. Rejecting love isolates. Those in isolation for long periods of time have been known to think irrationally. In short, rejecting love leads to poor mental health.
Those who don’t love themselves often become needy. While on one side of the coin, some isolate themselves, these go to the extreme opposite. Of that number, some always have a crisis that requires someone to come to their rescue. They subconsciously sabotage themselves in order to rely on others. One of the few ways some feel loved is when others minister to them. Of course, ministry is an act of love, but they depend on it as part of their affirmation.
Conversely, others minister in order to feel valuable. If a person loves himself as God does, the neediness goes away. In so doing, he actually honors Him Who created him. Here’s the deal: if you think you’re a piece of trash, you insult your Maker. He is good, and only creates good things. That includes you. Please note, this is not talking about people being good apart from Jesus Christ in relation to sin and so on. In short, you are wonderful and amazing because He is all that and more! The enemy of your soul has been lying to you about your identity. Don’t believe him, or the world for that matter.
Your thoughts about yourself should coincide with God’s thoughts about you. It might be a good idea to read what He says about you in the Bible.
Psalm 139:13-18For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.