James 3:17-18 (the message)
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
Romans 12:11-12 (the message)
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
I’ve been reduced to a very simple (overly simple it seems) prayer: God, please do something big.
Have you ever been, or perhaps are you now, in a season such as this? It’s funny. I find the closer I get to the end of myself the more simplistic my prayers become. Maybe with less energy to spend on spiritual platitudes we get down to business. And maybe He kind of likes it that way…
Did God answer my prayer? He did. And as is so often the case, the big thing God does is in my own heart. Sure, I hope when I pray that the big thing will be outside of me! Someone else’s heart! Some practicality! Alas, whether we like it or not, God does not waste an opportunity to refine us. Grow us. Heal us.
The scriptures above tell us a couple of very important things. First, real wisdom is characterized by getting along with others. The lessons we were supposed to learn on the playground come back to haunt us. Smile. Really, I can’t pretend I’m wise and spiritually mature if I can’t get along with others. Real wisdom overflows with mercy. Here is the hard part: We want to live soaking wet in the outpouring of God’s mercy for us and let desert-sun judgement bare down, hot and heavy, on others.
It’s not an appetizer. Doesn’t taste like dessert. It’s the main course of life: We won’t enjoy a healthy and robust community without doing the hard work of getting along, of treating each other with dignity and…uh-oh…honor. What does that mean? Really! You guys know I’m no theologian! But what if honor simply means esteem? Value? What if God is telling me that I will never enjoy a healthy family, friendships, working relationships etc unless I am willing to treat those in my family, friendships and workplace with dignity and honor? Unless I am willing to treat them as though they are supremely valuable.
Because they are.
I love how real scripture is and how truly applicable it is to real life. God’s not pulling any punches with us…He knows it’s not easy. He acknowledges that it’s hard work! We can reach out for answers when the work of honoring and mercy is so hard that we start to “burn out” and want to quit. As we do we find God saying, No, don’t quit! Don’t let yourself burn out! Refuel! Stir the flame within your heart! Pray! Matter-of-fact I notice the verse in Romans above says keep yourself fueled and aflame. Is God asking us to show mercy and honor to others, to live in true wisdom, in our own strength and power? What is this fuel we are to use to keep the flame going?
I’m pretty sure there is more than one answer but here is my thought today…the love, mercy and value for others God wants to see overflowing in our lives comes from what He longs to pour into our own hearts first. His love for me. His mercy for me. The value He places on my life. This is the fuel my life should burn in the hard work of getting along. Want to know the degree to which someone is filled with a personal revelation of God’s love, mercy, grace and value in their own life? Observe how they measure out love, mercy, grace and value to others. See, we can’t give what we don’t have. We can’t burn fuel from an empty tank.
I really want to be part of a healthy and robust community of faith, enjoying the blessings of mercy and honor as I live with a gentle and reasonable heart. But I know that even though I want to, I might not if my flame burns out. Somewhere in this getting-along work I stop seeing my own need for mercy and God’s never-ending supply. I stop letting His love medicate my hurts and slowly let anger and disappointment siphon off my fuel. I no longer receive. I no longer give.
Do you have big needs today in your “community?” Maybe relationships with your spouse, children, coworkers, neighbors, in-laws, or extended family members? Are you burning out from the hard and seemingly fruitless work of getting along? Has cheerful expectation given way to negativity and hopelessness? I write today for one simple reason. I understand. And I want to share my own heart’s reminder for you today: Don’t quit! Let Heavenly Father, so full of mercy and kindness, refuel your life. Let His love and grace for you stir the embers into a white-hot flame. Let the heat of all God is to us and within us become the supernatural energy you need today for this good work of getting along.
Some things only God can do. And those are always the best things.