Ever come across someone who refuses to admit they’re wrong? What about someone determined to do only what they feel like doing regardless of how it impacts others? If we’re all honest, we’re all guilty of doing both. Living this way habitually eventually leads to a loss of a moral center characterized by a rebellious, vague, everchanging lack of focus.
Determination can be good or bad. It all depends on the object, the focus, of that determination.
“They are determined with faces set like stone; they have refused to repent.” (Jeremiah 5:3)
Refusal to repent results from selfishness and pride. The
desire to follow feelings only drives selfishness. Unwillingness to admit when
wrong or even to consider being wrong a possibility comes from pride.
Humility is a learned attitude. It comes with experiencing the relational benefits of a humble attitude. This is especially true in contrast to the relational consequences that accompany pride and selfishness.
Humility is a matter of focus too. It’s a matter of properly
directed determination. It’s about allowing yourself to be led versus insisting
on leading self.
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” (Qui Gon Jinn, Star Wars)
You will let others down. Others will disappoint you too. Though
it happens in varying degrees, broken trust is inevitable because we are human.
When it happens, three actions on your part – regardless of the depth of broken trust or your role in it – serves toward the goal of restoration.
1. Trust God – He won’t let you down. Only he is completely trustworthy.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.”
2. Forgive – Trust cannot be rebuilt without forgiveness. Forgiveness is a decision; the feelings come later. There’s also no set number of times to forgive.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)
3. Be trustworthy – You cannot control others. You can only control yourself, and even self-control is often difficult. No matter what, choose to be trustworthy.
“Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.” (Proverbs 28:6)
Broken trust is painful. Forgiveness does not always make
sense. It usually does not make the pain go away right away either. Yet, the Bible
tells us forgiveness is the path to take, and God promises to direct us through
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Ever been told to “pay attention”? Ever tell someone else to
“pay attention”? We can all probably answer “yes” to both of these questions.
Every wonder why we so often struggle to pay attention? If
pressed to give a short answer, I would say, “comfort and distraction.”
Distraction probably makes sense to most. We struggle paying
attention often because we have so much other stuff vying for our focus.
Comfort, though? For me, yes. Often, actually.
A significant, often overlooked, danger to/enemy of our
attention is comfort. Comfort with the world and with our own level of growth.
When we get too comfortable, we let our guards down. As a result, things (habits, activities, people, etc.) get into our lives – and become distractions – that shouldn’t. We then begin to pay attention to those distractions and make them our focus.
If you’re struggling to visualize this happening, read
through the book of Judges. It’s filled with examples of how God’s people got
comfortable and failed to pay attention over and over and over again.
Do An Assessment
To avoid the damage that can happen when you fail to pay attention, take time to assess your own attentiveness to the things of God regularly. The following questions can help:
Do I regularly read and meditate on Scripture? Am I dwelling on it or rushing through?
Are my prayer times forced and obligatory?
How are my reactions? Am I quick to rush to conclusions? Do I make decisions based on far too many assumptions rather than taking time to get the facts?
Is my attitude like a roller coaster?
Am I always in a hurry? Do I constantly push others to step up the pace too?
Let the Holy Spirit show you where you need to make adjustments. Let God guide you to a place of focused attention that propels your productivity for Him.
While the extremes vary, everyone experiences changing seasons no matter where they live. Even Hawaii changes seasons, though not an extreme difference and only between two different seasons (summer and winter).
If you think changing seasons are unchangeable events, think again. Climate change experts say that the timing of seasons is now changing.
The Earth’s seasons have shifted back in the calendar year, with the hottest and coldest days of the years now occurring almost two days earlier, a new study finds. This shift could be the work of global warming, the researchers say. (Timing of Seasons is Changing)
Yes, even the changing seasons are becoming more unpredictable, though if you live in a place like I do (Michigan) that has always been the case.
Our season changes are extreme, and you simply love or hate it. I’ve actually heard of people missing the extreme changes after moving to a place with less seasonal change. Also, every time we enter a new season, someone (often a person who has lived in the area for many years) expresses surprise over it happening.
If you live in an area of extreme seasonal changes, you have to admit to the beauty of every season. I’ll admit, it’s sometimes hard to see when it’s hot and humid or rainy or bitter cold or there’s a foot of snow on the ground or you experience rain, fog, snow and cold with a 40-degree temperature drop all in one day.
Change – unexpected or not – keeps life interesting.
Our lives have seasons too, some expected and some not. Some people embrace the change, some resist; most do both, and all are at times surprised when change takes place.
Staunchly resisting change is futile as well as unhealthy. We all know this both by observation and experience, but it doesn’t stop us from stubbornly resisting change at times.
Why do we sometimes resist the changing of life’s seasons and other times embrace them? Why do we in our hearts often wish things wouldn’t change?
The answers to these questions are unique to every person. What we all have in common, though, is the need for stability within change.
Stability Within Change
Stability within change is essential for thriving as the seasons inevitably change in our lives. For Christians, this means focusing on God who does not change.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 )
“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[a He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17
As the seasons of life morph in both expected and unexpected ways, I am learning to lean heavily on Jesus. The hope he gives keeps me stable amidst the changes of the many extremes in my life.
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” Hebrews 6:19
Life can be discouraging. One area of persistent discouragement for me involves lack of apparent progress. That lack can be in myself or in those closest to me, but it also can be in general with how I see people living as a whole.
The only way I’ve found to keep discouragement from turning into depression is by replacing my thoughts, which focus on my feelings, with God’s thinking, which focuses me on him and all he’s done for me.
Reading the Bible is the best way I know to make this switch. During a recent struggle with discouragement, this verse served to refocus me.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Breaking it down helped to defeat my discouraging thinking and to replace it with hope.
What initially stands out is the “therefore.” Whenever I see “therefore,” I know that the author is basically telling me, “Because of what I just told you about… here’s what should happen/what you should do.”
In this case, the “therefore” refers back to the two verses immediately before it:
“The stink of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
In other words, because Jesus conquered death — because of His resurrection from the grave — here’s how we now should live. See how the focus is on Christ? That’s a key with overcoming discouragement. Get the focus off yourself and on Christ.
Steadfast. Immovable. Abounding.
Now that my focus is on Christ, I can now see my way through discouragement.
Be Steadfast = be fixed and firm in purpose; changeless, dedicated, dependable and faithful.
Be Immoveable = steadfast in purpose; not influenced by feelings
Always Abound = let it exist in great quantities; let it be well-supplied.
No matter how I feel, no matter my circumstances, no matter whether or not I see progress … if I focus on Christ, I can keep doing the work He directs me to do because I know none of it is without significance.
“…knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
For something to be in “vain,” it is ineffectual, unsuccessful, futile, baseless and worthless. All very discouraging states. But because of Christ, I find motivation to be steadfast, immovable and abounding. Any work I do for him has significance.
A Go-To Verse
This is a great verse to go to when you feel like you’re spinning your wheels. It’s great encouragement for those times when progress feels absent. It reminds us to keep our focus on Christ and to keep doing the work he calls us to do.
For me, I am reminded that discouragement is often just a distraction to slow me down or stop my work. Focusing on Christ allows me to push through those feelings and to know I there is progress even if I don’t always see it or feel it.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was young (teenager up to age 30) was failing to be teachable, especially in the area of taking advice. I remember my mom encouraging me once to learn from her mistakes. My response, “I want to make my own mistakes.” I know… stupid.
I’ve since realized the immense value of learning from others, of taking advice forged in the depths of consequences. I see reminders of this value throughout the Bible, and they always encourage me to stay willing to receive advice from others.
Let’s look at a few verses in Proverbs 13 for insight into how taking advice is beneficial. By no means is this all the Bible has to say about taking advice, but it’s a good start.
“Pride leads to arguments. Those who take advice are wise.” (v. 10)
“People who despise advice will find themselves in trouble; those who respect it will succeed.” (v. 13)
“The advice of the wise is like a life-giving fountain; those who accept it avoid the snares of death.” (v. 14)
“If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept criticism, you will be honored.” (v. 18)
My initial observations/thoughts/application points after reading these verses are:
Notice the role pride plays in distracting us from receiving advice.
We are to respect advice, not necessarily follow every piece of it.
Who we receive advice from is important.
Advice sometimes comes in the form of criticism.
When I combine these reflections with my experiences in receiving advice along with other Scripture on the topic (Proverbs 11:14, 12:15, 19:20 & James 1:5), I realize the importance of listening to the advice that comes my way. It’s not always accurate, but it is always worth hearing out and storing for future reference.
As a young person, I failed to listen to the advice of those older than me and instead relied on my own feelings or on the advice of those my age who also acted mostly based on feelings. As a result, I ended up making the same types of mistakes that Rehoboam made (1 Kings 12:6-8). Age isn’t always important when it comes to the source of advice; however, experience does matter and can play a tremendous role in the value of advice.
Taking advice and learning from the experiences of others is just one example of how to be teachable. Being teachable also involves listening, asking for help, and pursuing wisdom.
Are you good at receiving advice from others? In what ways are you teachable? How can you become more teachable? I encourage you to spend time prayerfully considering these questions and determine to cultivate a teachable spirit.
Doing your part to Live at Peace with others is highly contextual. Specific situations and people require certain and different actions and words. The right response varies from one context to the next. At the same time, there is one approach that applies in almost every situation.
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
“Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” (Proverbs 21:23)
“Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” (Proverbs 26:20)
In a nutshell, take care with the words you use. If possible, don’t use them.
All About Balance
The theme of watching what we say is clear throughout the book of Proverbs. The rest of Scripture is not silent about the importance of the words we use either. In fact, considering the balance of what we say to what we do not say is better for everyone involved.
“Turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding.” (Proverbs 2:2)
“Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.” (Proverbs 25:12)
“Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 5:7)
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
In other words… Talk less. Listen more.
Simple, but not easy.
Ask for Help
Sometimes, not saying something takes all the self-control I have, and there’s little left for engaging in listening. Yet, truly listening is often what’s necessary to understand another and to establish a peaceful relationship.
On my own, I fail to keep quiet and to listen all too often. I need help.
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
God never let’s me down. He faithfully leads me to fulfilling his desires for my relationships. I promise He’ll do the same for you too.
Fore more on the impact of what we say and how we say it, read James 3.
We live in a time when taking personal responsibility is happening less and less. That means what the Bible says about taking responsibility stands more and more in contrast to our surrounding culture. Let’s look at one example of this.
“Do your part to live at peace with everyone as much as possible.” (Romans 12:18
When I read this verse, I immediately ask, “What’s my part?” The specific answer to this questions varies from one situation and person to the next, so it’s important to continually seek the answer.
Each one of us also has to realize that we are each responsible only for our own efforts. We cannot force anyone to act peaceably toward anyone else. Also, we must face the hard truth that living at peace with everyone isn’t always possible even if it’s always the goal.
The Bible has a lot to say about how to live at peace with others. Many verses offer guiding principles for doing our part in every situation to continually “live at peace” with others.
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
“Live in peace with each other.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13)
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
Some of these verses give specific instructions for living at peace with others, such as turning from wrong and doing good and not retaliating when someone wrongs us. Others simply restate the command. All of them cement the truth as integral in the lives of Christians.
We simply cannot escape that God wants us to do whatever we can to live at peace with others. That doesn’t mean we compromise convictions and values to keep the peace. We must, however, exhaust our efforts to live in peace with others through personal responsibility and sacrifice.
Only through the transforming power of God as His Holy Spirit works in us is this possible.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Did you notice that everything we need in order to live at peace with others exists as fruits of the Spirit?
What does God want me to do on a day-to-day basis?
How does he want me to live?
What is His will for my life?
The Bible certainly provides much detail in answer to those questions. Sometimes, though, I just want (need) a simple answer.
Some days get so overloaded I feel overwhelmed and like I’m barely keeping up. On those days, I want a basic answer to help me refocus. Fortunately, we can find those in the Bible too.
“Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
This verse comes at the end of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. So, it’s part of his final instructions. I always look at the end of Biblical letters, verses like this one, as “if you remember nothing else of what I said, remember this.” Or, “if you want a starting point, here you go.” That’s how I usually take those instructions.
In other words, I see final words like these as ways to not over-complicate God’s will for us. Yes, there are more details we can and should delve into. At the same time, instructions like these help me keep a simple focus, something I need help with when life feels overwhelming.
Even on my worst days, simple instructions like these serve to refocus me on God’s will. Even the slightest turn of my focus more fully on him serves to encourage my spirit and lessen the burden of overload.