One of the mysteries of mental illness is how easily you forget what the experience of mental affliction is like. When I am flowing along well and my mental frame seems to be at an equilibrium then I can lose all appreciation of what the rigours of mental illness are like. But then when you get a flash of the experience back into your psyche or you once again step back into a state of mental turbulence/turmoil then you wonder how you could ever have forgotten it.
One tendency I have when I forget about my personal history of mental affliction is to think that I am self-sufficient rather than knowing that my sufficiency is in God. So easily I can fool myself into thinking that I can get through life on my own. Every reminder of my mental frailty should remind me that I need the strength of God all the time.
Sometimes this amnesia can be so deceiving that I lose all sympathy for those who are presently going through mental suffering. I can start to think: ‘Well I have come through it, so can they’. And the experience that should be a means by which I can sympathise with others and help them becomes a cause of self-satisfied disinterest. The situation as it properly should be is expressed by Paul to the Corinthians as follows:-
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-7).
Lord may my experience of mental suffering be ever a means of me being led to rely on you and not myself. And may it be a means by which I can be of help to others.
So easily we think we can survive on our own as Christians. No doubt the Lord can supernaturally sustain those who, through circumstances outside of their control, are disconnected from other Christians. However, it is God’s appointed order that we should dwell together in fellowship with other believers.
When we are isolated and not interacting with other believers as we should, then we lose our spiritual sharpness; we become lazy about the ways of the Lord. This is inevitable because if we are not immersing ourselves in company with those who are Christians then we will, almost inevitably, be immersed in the world. As a result the thinking of the world influences our spiritual convictions. So we:-
- Start to think that Jesus may well not be the only way to God.
- Lose sense that an eternal hell awaits all those who do not believe in Jesus.
- Are inclined to conclude that our way of life is just about a lifestyle choice. We have chosen the way of trusting in Jesus. Others have chosen their ways whether they be religious or not. And this does not really matter. Their way; our way its all “much-of-a-muchness”.
- Are no longer thrilled by the wonderful salvation that God has wrought in our life through Christ our Lord.
- Diminished in zeal to see the ungodly reached with the gospel.
All this is through withdrawing from fellowship. Essentially our ardour for the Lord fades and we are no longer effective believers.
We need each other.
One of the things to avoid in leadership is unnecessarily frustrating the people.
When we do not complete references with due expediency, we can frustrate people. When we are unreliable in keeping appointments, we can upset people. When when we fail to do what we say we will do, we end up causing people to despair of us. All of this is testing the patience of the people.
In fact such deficiencies in our conduct can start to undermine our ministry. People start to lose trust in us. And when trust starts to be eroded then we are not in a “good” position. This reminds me that if you look at the qualifications for an elder in Tit. 1:5-9 and 1 Tim. 3:1-7 then, in summary, you are looking for someone you can trust. So all leaders should be diligent to maintain a trustworthy character.
It is worth pointing out that we are talking here about unnecessary frustrations. There are times when people may well be necessarily frustrated with us. They may be frustrated when we seek to uphold godly standards. They may be frustrated when we seek to maintain a righteous walk before the Lord. They may be frustrated when we faithfully preach the Word of God.
If there is frustration on account of these godly things then we do not apologise, for we unashamedly seek to live godly and uphold scripture. However, let us seek not to unnecessarily frustrate the people.
(Originally published at Venabling on 18th June 2014).
Do these verses from Isaiah 3:8-9 not represent something of the state of our nation?
Judah is falling;
their words and deeds are against the Lord,
defying his glorious presence.
The look on their faces testifies against them;
they parade their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
They have brought disaster upon themselves.
We are a reeling nation staggering around and not knowing where we are going. We have cast ourselves upon the whims of civilised thinking and are left in a drunken state. The Word of the Lord has not formed our lives. The fear of the Lord has been far from us. Sin is paraded before our eyes without shame. As a consequences we are in a mess.
Unless there is repentance we can only anticipate disaster. Accordingly, we should not be surprised about terrorism, crime and insurrection. The only surprise we should have is that there is not more of these phenomena. The Lord’s mercy is continually known in holding back so much from this nation. But surely the Lord ‘s patience has an ending. It did with Sodom, it did with Israel, it did with Judah. What of the United Kingdom.
Lord have mercy and yet would you turn many in this nation back to yourself
Here are some sobering words to ponder upon:-
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
I am so easily inclined to think a certain message or a certain conversation or a certain whatever, will be the means by which someone will get straightened out in and for the Lord. How foolish I am. Reading 2 Tim 2 some time ago I was struck by the above scripture. Herein is a reminder that it is the Lord who works to bring transformation. It is He and He alone who can bring people to Himself.
This appreciation should bring a significant impact upon our ministry.
- We are never aggressive or manipulative. As Paul says elsewhere we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor. 4:2). We do not have to use devious tactics to get people changed. Rather we present the truth plainly and attractively.
- We are to be gentle with people. We are not to get frustrated if they don’t “get it”. We simply, as opportunity arises, continue in gentle instruction.
- We urge people in the right way according to the truth. We tell them of the call of God on their lives and the need to align themselves with God’s way and God’s truth.
- We pray. We remember that it is God’s work to convert. It is His work to use His Word to transform a heart.
“Most people are too busy to be kind.” These were the words my Auntie Kath once said to me. They are sobering words. Has kindness been sidelined in my life as a result of being too busy? Do I justify my non-interest and non-involvement in the needs of others by saying: “I’m too busy.”
It is good to remember that one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness (see Gal. 5:22). So for myself as a Christian, kindness is to be an essential part of my life. If the inclination towards kindness is not manifest in my life then I am most likely not a true follower of Christ.
But what is kindness? It is that desire to bring goodness and benefit into the lives of others. It is a generous, warm-hearted concept. The Good Samaritan was a kind man. We read that: a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him (Luke 10:33-34). He saw the need of the man who had been attacked by robbers and got involved to do good and bring benefit to that man.
But sadly, as my Auntie said, most of us are too busy to show that generous interest which brings benefit to others. We say that we just cannot spare the time. Accordingly, parents never get a call or visit from sons / daughters who are too busy. Shut-in neighbours never have contact with anyone, because those nearby are too busy, of course. And there is no listening ear for our work colleagues who are carrying the burdens of life because we cannot spare them the time. This list could go on – and all because people are too busy to be kind.
We must remember, though, that the Good Samaritan did not have to go and help the man who had been attacked on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (he was after all on the road to Jericho), if there was such an individual. His responsibility was to be kind to the pressing need on the road to Jericho. This is because he was on that road. But when the need did press upon him; he did meet it with kindness. It is not ours to chase around for situations into which to express our kindness. Rather, the important thing is to show kindness into the next situation we encounter which requires it.
So, am I, are you, too busy to be kind?
(Originally published at Venabling on 2nd August 2013. Re-published here with slight alterations)
I heard these two statements recently about how prayer leads to God working to save:
- When a church starts praying for the unsaved then God will be working to save through those prayers. We do not know the timescale, but God will be working to honour those prayers by granting salvation.
- When someone is saved that person has always had someone praying for them.
These phrases got me thinking. I don’t think either statement can be specifically proven by cross-reference to a scripture. My conclusion is that both statements reflect general principles of the ways that God operates. Neither of them indicates the way that the Lord always works, but they are generalisms which reflect the general character of the Lord’s workings. So you may well find a church which has genuinely and passionately prayed for the ungodly in their community and not seen God work to save. And there may be those who have come to faith without anyone specifically praying for them.
However, it stands as a vital principle that the church that is praying for the unsaved in their community is setting itself in the flow of God’s purposes. For our God is the God of salvation. Prayer asks the God of salvation to work salvation for the honour of his Name and the good of those created in His image.
Further, when God places you in a situation where prayer is drawn from you for someone in your ambit of contact, then that may well be an indication that God is going to save that person. Parents with children may be one particular example of this. Also there are times when we have someone laid on our hearts to pray for, And again this may be an indication that God will work to save that person.