June 2020

Coping with other’s unexpected behaviour – Part 2

Relationships, God created humanity with both the ability for them and the desire for them. However, we can all learn how to participate well in relationships as the Lord intends. Similarly, how to respond graciously when illtreated.

Although not easy, the believer’s response to difficult relationships need to be measured, which often goes against the grain of our natural desires. This may well become the fiercest battle our hearts will ever experience. So, when hurtful and unexpected pains are forced on you, what things can you do to help honour the Lord and go toward maintaining your own sanity?

First should always be prayer. 1 Peter 5:7, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” We are speaking with a willing and sympathetic listener when we pray.

Choose and persist in humility. James 4:6, 10, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” It is OK to struggle and lean hard into Christ during times of severe pain, remembering that His humble strength will sustain you. Then, at the appropriate time, the Lord will lift you out of or above the trial.

Share your pain – do not isolate or bury the pain. When Paul was suffering under house arrest in Rome, he wrote and thanked the Philippian believers because “it was kind of you to share my trouble” (Philippians 4:14). Even though the circumstances were different, the principle remains, believers share in each other’s lives, including the difficult times. This is how we experience the kindness of Christ; it’s as we inject the Lord’s loving kindness at a human level into each other’s lives.

Calmly self-evaluate. This should not become self-mutilation, but an honest inner cleansing before the Lord. Jesus speaks to this difficult task in Matthew 7:4, “how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” Look within before looking to criticise others.

Love with Christ’s love, and forgive, even though the other person may not want to be forgiven. Forgive for Christ’s sake. Ephesians 4:1-2, “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” This does not mean you go all soft and gooey in the head, but it does set you free to rationally work through the issues that need dealing with.

Be patient with yourself and with God as you work through the various layers of hurt and regret. Surrender to His timeline. Remember, we do all this, not simply to ease our pain, but to experience and expose the reality of Christ living through us during these times. We do this as a living testimony to the power of Jesus within. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

We all know that damaged relationships hurt. Surrender to the developing character of Jesus may not always remove pain, but it permits assurance, it opens up an inner place of respite, and provides peace with God to be layered over the pain. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…” (James 4:8).

When confronted by other’s unexpected and painful behaviour, may we respond differently to what comes naturally. May we respond in ways which draw attention to the Christ who lives within. May we be thankful for our Saviour who says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), then walk faithful.

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Coping with other’s unexpected behaviour – Part 1

Predictability in healthy relationships enrich dependability and security. When unexpected behaviour by those we depend upon creates fear, doubts, and uncertainty, it can be traumatic.

I suggest the most unpredictable and extreme behaviour witnessed in Scripture was by Judas Iscariot. Imagine the shocked thoughts that must have gone through the other eleven disciples’ minds. “Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present” (Luke 22:4-6 NIV). How could you do this Judas? Well, verse 3 tells us that Satan had entered Judas, which changed everything.

Judas was nothing more than a religious man open to internal satanic influence despite walking with Jesus for 3 years. Yet, it was Jesus who had chosen Judas to be one His disciples (Mark 3:16-19). Had Jesus got it wrong? Was this an unexpected interruption to Jesus’ plans? Events like this cause us to struggle with the complex integration of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

However, Jesus, knowing what Judas was planning, permitted him to participate in the Passover and then exposed Judas when He said “the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:21-22). God had determined these events, yet Judas was also a willing participant. No wonder the disciples “began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this” (Luke 22:23). But Judas knew.

Later, Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter responded by cutting off the right ear from Malchus the servant with his sword (John 18:10). But there was no outburst against Judas. Mark tells us that everyone “left him [Jesus] and fled” (Mark 14:50). So much for the support of close friends. Matthew tells us that during the fake trial of Jesus the next morning, Judas “went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5). The entire scene was in human chaos.

Through these staggering events, we get to observe how Jesus and the disciples responded to Judas. There was no witch hunt, so to speak. Judas did not become the source of bitterness, or the target of personal revenge. In fact, as we read the New Testament, we don’t hear of the disciples carrying a grudge, slandering Judas’ name, or voicing their animosity against him.

Some observations may help prepare us for those times when others inflict unexpected pain upon us. First, you have no pain which has taken the Lord by surprize. Just as He knew what Judas was about to do, so also the Lord sees your circumstances coming. The Lord knows all the confusing and conflicting details and feelings with perfect clarity. The Lord knows us, our activities, our thoughts, and even our sleep patterns (Psalms 139:1-3). He knows whenever a sparrow falls and has even numbered the hairs on your head (Matthew 10:29-30). Nothing in your life escapes His attention.

Knowing this gives us the initial confidence needed to respond as Jesus did to His suffering. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV). As he suffered, He entrusted through surrender to His Father who knew best. As we begin this short series, may we begin with trusting surrender in our heavenly Father.

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Being thankful for Holy Spirit Sanctification

For many of us, it’s difficult to be genuinely thankful to the Lord during painful times, let alone being thankful for the actual cause of pain. For most, gratitude during these times of painful purification does not come easy. However, what makes gratitude possible is understanding God’s purpose and His goals. To experience the realisation of privilege and love from our heavenly Father can be life changing. As we grow in our ability to think and prioritise as the Lord does, so our ability to express gratitude as a reflection of His pleasure becomes key in striving for Christlikeness and contentment.

Herein lies one of the greatest challenges for believers today; “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2b). A sincere person may be able to put on good behaviour temporarily but changing the way they think takes the work of the Holy Spirit. Those patterns of thought, those heart habits, and those relentless bad attitudes which self-empower defiance and sin are so embedded within the deceived (Jer 17:9) heart, that it takes divine intervention to change.

Some rejoice in the luxuries of life, some celebrate their sense of worthiness, and others are glad that they have freedom to do as they please. But the child of God considers “it all joy, …when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Why is this? How can a believer think this way? Because they understand “that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3). Steadfastness creates faithfulness in your relationship with the Lord which enables you to think through the issues and evaluate your motives, then respond correctly.

The believer chooses to “rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). This seems crazy if you are only thinking of self. But if you are thinking of God it makes sense. God administers the painful periods of life “so that the tested genuineness of your faith… may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). God kindly permits us to discover if our faith is genuine or not. And when faith is proven to be genuine, God assures us that apart from any present glory He may receive, the greatest glory shall occur when Christ returns to snatch up His bride.

So, Paul says, “let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). If we believers genuinely want to understand God and His sanctification in our lives to such a degree that we rejoice in the trials, we must “let steadfastness have its full effect.” There are no short-cuts, no bypass tricks, joyful sanctification takes time, patience, and a desire for God to be God in your life for His glory.

One of the blessings for a mind that is being transformed, is “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2c). This does not speak of a dark heart attitude which challenges God. Rather, it speaks of observing the “genuineness of your faith” (1Pe 1:7) and realising that this contentment in God through sanctifying trials is God’s will for you. This understanding affirms that the sanctification is indeed “good and acceptable and perfect.” This is at the heart of living in pursuit of Christlikeness.

Through this Holy Spirit energised work of sanctification joy gets ignited by the sparks of thought, faith, and steadfastness. Intellect, for the most part, is the mechanism intended by God to fire signals to your emotions that joy is the appropriate response to the Almighty’s sanctification. May we walk in this reality as a testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Living with Holy Spirit Sanctification

For most of us, when we turned to the Lord for salvation, we had no idea what our future Christian life would hold. However, Peter explains that salvation’s purpose was “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:2). God intended much more for our lives than we had imagined. God not only knew our future, He mapped it out so that no matter where we travelled, we would be accessible by Him to accomplish His will.

That initial divine work of salvation, which included cleansing through the shed blood of Christ, was a work of purifying sanctification by the Holy Spirit. That was the Spirit’s beginning of a life-long commitment to never stop setting you apart for greater holiness and Christlikeness. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Just as the intrinsic ministry of the Holy Spirit is inescapable, so too is His ministry of sanctification.

God the Father knows what He wants for your life, and His Spirit is bound to fulfil His purpose. Sanctification is the process of “being transformed into his image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). What a privilege, to think that the Lord wants us to accurately reflect His image. The Lord is intimately involved in this ever-changing ministry for the entirety of our time on earth. And upon completion of this life’s sanctification we get promoted to our heavenly home to enjoy eternal life (Romans 6:22). This is the rich and certain hope we have inherited from the Lord.

Although the Lord rarely sends advance notice of His intention to step up your sanctification, you can rest secure in the knowledge of His perfect purposes. You can believe Him when He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). You can have confidence in “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

He understands your disappointments, your confusion, and your frustrations. In His purposeful ministry the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Rest assured; the Holy Spirit never fails to accurately present your case to your heavenly Father. Your innermost thoughts, feelings, weaknesses, and beliefs are perfectly delivered through divine language which surpasses human words. You are never as alone or without heavenly representation as the devil would have you think.

As many of God’s people will verify, during the deepest pains of change and sanctification, the Lord’s reassuring words to Paul still stand true, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As you lean heavy into Christ during personal struggle, it can be with the expectation that the Lord will mature you to profess Christ as the apostle Paul did when dealing with his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

May the Holy Spirit have His way, so that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

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