Paul was human, he was a normal man like you and I. He was indwelt by the Spirit like you and I and he had strengths and weaknesses like you and I. He did not sign up to be a superhero and I seriously doubt he ever realized the depths his posthumous fame would reach!
He led a very hard life after meeting Jesus Christ. He details some of his struggles and sufferings in the book of Acts, and in his epistles.
23…in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
22The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. 23When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Acts 16:22-24
8For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
14Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 2 Timothy 4:14
This was not a fun life, nor one that was enjoyable by our pampered standards of the day. So I wish God would have put Paul’s thoughts in the Bible like He did David’s. The Psalms are full of David’s lamenting about his circumstances…but not Paul’s.
I believe this was intentional. All we read about with only a few exceptions is the overcoming that Paul did. He met the challenge, overcame, and adapted to the new “normal”, whatever that was. I desire to be that flexible and loose in the hands of the Master Potter. I wish I would not care at all about the things of this world, but my flesh is still too strong.
I wish I could have the same kinds of responses to the trials and problems of life, that in spite of them I would press on seemingly mindless of them.
Paul came to that place only over time, he must have! To begin so prosperous and respected by the Jews and to descend to being hated and abused in the ways he was- it had to be a major adjustment in his thinking. He suffered a terrible human cost, and he considered it all “nothing”
8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11
I am not there yet.
I have had many conflicted discussions with myself over this because frankly, I am tired of suffering and trials. I admit there are times I long for the apparent ease of the lives of those people who do not have the same desires I have for Christ. And yet, no matter what I come up against, it is always HIM I run to, HIM I desire, HIM I proclaim.
Please be clear, I am no super saint, I am not perfect (far from it!) and I have plenty of areas of my heart that need changing like any of you. I cannot explain this desire I have to know Him, to be intimately in tune with Him so that I may serve Him faithfully and glorify Him with my life. What I have learned thus far is that the things that once meant everything to me had to become nothing. Paul said: “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil 3:7-8).
I have a beautiful home that we have poured the last 18 years into refurbishing. It once meant so much to me to have this home, and now I cannot wait to sell it! It is a hindrance to me, to my service to the King. It takes up hours of my life to maintain that I would rather spend doing things that are Kingdom oriented. Overall, I have sincerely lost the desire for material things as compared to my former self. For this, I give glory to God! It is truly His hand in this change.
That is the bright side of this equation, the things that have been easy to surrender. Others have been and continue to be incredibly, miserably difficult. I could literally write a novella on them all, but I will spare you that. The point is that when God begins this process and brings these desires to you there is a cost. The old hymn I Surrender All contains this verse:
All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my precious Savior
I surrender all
I have learned that when you say that, God takes it seriously.
More next time
What does it mean to “know Christ” in this intimate way, and is that something we really can possess? I believe Paul knew Christ; he just was not satisfied with the depth of his knowledge! I don’t think he was asking for special signs and wonders or for God to whisper in his ear, what he wanted to know was the power of Christ’s resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and to be conformed to His life before identifying with Him in His death.
Too often I am presented with folks who are waiting for “THE EXPERIENCE” to overtake them, throw them to the floor in a holy fit of some kind, or to receive a special warm and fuzzy feeling from the Almighty. Ladies, none of this is emotional, it is all theological. There are no mysterious communications or secret signals that God sends to some of us. God has chosen for this period of time to communicate who He is and what He is about through His Word.
Many don’t realize that the Gnostics were waiting for these kinds of experiential things, some secret wisdom beyond Scripture, and that is heresy!
When I speak of having intimacy with Christ, there are a few things that come to mind. One is the matter of how we worship Him. Our idea of worship is rather narrow and we tend to look at it as the songs we sing on Sunday mornings. Others think of worship as burnt offerings, sacrifices, and ceremonial rituals. However, one look around the congregation while “worship” is taking place often reveals the attitude of the worshippers. Many stare off into space, or absently mouth the words while thinking of anything but worshipping the Living God.
We also think of “doing my devotions” as worship. Sadly, “my devotions” have been reduced to a small book with one verse taken out of context and made to be all about me and how God can make me feel better. Or they are hurried times of speed reading that chapter in the Bible – doing my duty so I can check it off the list for the day.
This is not true worship. Real worship does not consist of rote recitation of prayers, songs, or Bible verses. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
Real worship is grounded in the right knowledge about God. You must think rightly about him and the only way to do that is to know Him as He is revealed through Scripture. If you want to know God, truly know Him, you must become familiar with His Word. It is essential to having true intimacy with Him.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9obtaining as the outcome of £your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9
This passage and many others in 1 & 2 Peter have meant a great deal to me over the years of my life in Christ.
Particularly as I hear of the suffering of those I come in contact with as the economy fails, the love of most grows cold, and hearts are hardened toward Christ. I often turn people to these 2 books to help them understand the “why” of suffering, and disappointment as well as the “why” of why things are what we consider to be unfair. I often turn here myself when circumstances get the best of me.
I need these letters Peter wrote so long ago. I need them to remind me that my hope is not found here, my living hope is found in Christ. You know I write of this often because it is so vitally important. We have a living hope- it doesn’t end for us when we leave this earth, it is only just beginning! The inheritance awaiting the believer has no expiration date and we do nothing but pass from one life into the next to obtain it. And to assure us of this, despite our ongoing struggles with sinful behavior, Peter reminds us yet again that we are protected by the power of God through faith (v5).
No struggle can take you away from Him. Paul reminded the Romans of this in Romans 8:37-39
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Recently, I was involved in a situation where a person had been falsely accused of something on the job. Written procedure was not followed in this process and a complaint was lodged against them. The situatio
n has the possibility of ending this person’s career, and eliminating their livelihood. There is proof the accusation is false. However, the allegation goes forward.
This is confusing at best and criminal at least. The person involved here is a long time, well grounded Christian and this situation threw them into a tail spin of doubt and despair. Suddenly everything was being doubted! Questions like, “Does God really love me?” “How could He let this happen?” “Maybe this (Christianity) is not all it is made out to be..” “Why do they (unbelievers) always win?”
Here, Dear Reading Friends is the reason:
7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Mmm, this is hard to swallow on the surface. All these crummy trials are proof of our faith. Our endurance is the proof of our faith.
I am going to continue this next time!
I have a PHD in details. PHD as in Piled Higher and Deeper. Occasionally, the details could swamp me if I let them. When I find myself being overtaken by all life brings my way my emotions threaten to take over and throw me about. I want to give up, I want to run away, and I do not believe I can handle another thing.
These are times when I realize (hindsight) I am trusting in myself and in my own power and ability to make it, and that is a deadly mistake! Jesus Christ is the “power source” of the believer’s sufficiency and perseverance. Because of Him I will persevere and I will grow in my faith because I have received all that it is necessary to sustain me through these trials and to eternal life through the power of Christ.
To experience the reality of my position, I must closely identify myself with Christ. It is in Him that I “…might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4) This means I must put on in practice who I am In Christ…
When I say: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20) It means that the part of me that had to sin is dead and gone and lives no more! That verse means that I am no longer under the obligation to sin- ever. Before I was saved, before I was crucified with Christ I was under obligation to the flesh, I literally had no choice but to sin! (Non passe non peccare Lat. Means: It is not possible to not sin) But now I have the ability to refuse to sin (posse non peccare Lat. ability not to sin)
I pray this brings you incredible hope today! You have the ability to refuse to sin, even in the midst of trials, discomfort, pain, misery, sorrow, disaster, and anything else you can think of. You and I have been thoroughly equipped to say “no” to the flesh when we are tempted to sin because we are “in Christ!”
Oh dear Reading Friend, I pray earnestly that you will grasp what I am saying here! I am showing you the freedom you have to live life above the discouragement and sorrow of this world. Not that you will be sorrow free, none of us will ever be that but in Christ we can face these worldly difficulties with a godly perspective.
Christianity offers more than “just Christ” – it offers life, freedom from performance driven living, freedom from condemnation, freedom from shame and guilt of sin.
“Without Christ you have nothing. With Christ you have everything.”
My Pastor says, “Once we lose our vision for God, who He is, what He has done through His Son Jesus Christ, we get a vision for something else. God is put on the shelf, an abstraction. Christ’s work on the Cross becomes a footnote in history that has application when I die but is irrelevant now.”
Has this ever happened to you? Have you lost your focus on Christ and begun to look at temporary situations as all there is?
I want to redirect you today from focusing on yourself, and your situation, the things that get you down, and cause you to feel bad to focusing on Christ in the Bible.
In the NASB the terms “in Him” appear 94 times. The terms “with Him” are there 114 times. If something is mentioned that many times, it has got to mean something! So let us look today at Him and discover some of the realities about Jesus. It is inevitable that we relate some of them to ourselves but it is important that you understand that these things are true about Him regardless of how they do or don’t affect you.
. …in Him you have been made complete… Jesus is able, by virtue of who He is to make us complete. I have heard women and men say of their spouse, “He/She completes me.” While I have no doubt that we can find someone who so matches our personality that it seems that we are incomplete without them the only One who can truly complete you is Christ.
Remember that you are born with that God-shaped void in your spirit. You and I were born sinners, spiritually dead, without life, unable to do anything about it at all. We are helpless and as hard as we may try, as many good deeds as we may do we are still insufficient and incomplete without Christ.
Who else in the history of all the world can make a person complete? No one but Jesus.
When we are complete in Him, we are also immediately positionally secure. This means that no matter how you may feel about it God says that you are secure. Recently I was watching the hurricane recovery efforts in the south, and I watched a man being hoisted into a helicopter in the arms of a rescuer. The man had some security line around him, and he was being held tightly by the other man but I can only imagine that he was a little concerned about how secure he truly was as he was lifted hundreds of feet in the air.
The man who is the rescuer knows exactly how secure his charge is. He knows what it takes to rescue him, and he has done all that is necessary to harness the man in. Regardless of how that man being rescued feels, he is safe.
Jesus knew exactly what was needed to rescue you and He went the whole distance. He did not stop short of the necessary sacrifice to secure your eternal destiny. This is why as he hung on the cross he cried, “It is finished!” because all that needed to be done was done.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)
You and I cannot add nor subtract from that in any way because we did not do it! Our salvation was monergistic meaning it was a work done by One. We are passive in this process because we have been saved by someone else. Just like that man could not get up into that helicopter alone; you cannot get saved from your sin without Christ for He is your rescue.
More next time.
A person so severely depressed that they are catatonic is not going to communicate with a therapist or a counselor of any kind. Medication is helpful in the short term in such a case. If a person has a terminal illness, or a chronic illness, medication for no other reason than to make their last days more bearable may be beneficial to enable them to enjoy what is left of their life.
However, most times these medications are prescribed to otherwise healthy people because they are feeling bad, or sad, or because of a traumatic event in life that they felt they could not cope with alone.
People do many things to medicate their emotions. The person who drinks or uses drugs for the purposes of escape, the teen that cuts or self-mutilates in other ways does it as a way to medicate emotions. They are trying to create a temporary relief of stress and create the happy or euphoric feelings they lack.
There maybe a desire to relieve guilt or shame from activities that violate the conscience. Women who have realized too late that their abortion did indeed kill a living human being carry an overwhelming sense of guilt. Some of those women cannot cope with the reality of what they have done and they turn to medication to sooth the conscience. Young girls who have been abused may carry guilt after being wrongfully told they asked for their abuse, or that they had it coming. This brings additional scars and often these girls are medicated in attempt to make them feel better while time heals the wounds. Older women in menopause are being prescribed psychotropic medications with increasing regularity! The normal course of this time of life with its emotional ups and downs is suddenly unacceptable and as long as we have a pill to make her feel better…why not?
I have several good reasons for “why not.” Medication should be reserved for illnesses. The common cold is proof of how schizophrenic the medical community is on this subject of medications. When you go to the doctor feeling like you are going to die, stuffy, coughing and congested and ask for an antibiotic (because you want to feel better!) you are denied! The doctor tells you no antibiotic because he cannot prove that you need them. Your blood work is normal, and no medical scientific testing proves there is anything wrong with you that time won’t cure.
The same protocol is not applied to the prescribing of these drugs that affect your brain. Even though at this point in medical science there is no way to test that a person is “mentally ill” these drugs are handed out like candy. There are no medical tests to prove a person is mentally ill…honest.
So if there are not medical tests, what methods are used to conclude that a person needs medication? Subjective questions are asked by the doctor. The patient goes to the doctor and he uses a interview questionnaire that is based mostly on how the person feels as compared to anyone else.
In no other realm of medicine is this method for diagnosis or treatment employed or is this
considered acceptable. Only in this special category of pseudoscience is this accepted.
What I say here is provable although, the pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know this. They would prefer you believe and buy what they are peddling. My challenge to you is to think and verify what I am telling you. I can back up every word I say.
Also, this should not be considered “medical advice” nor do I ever advocate the starting or stopping of any medication prescribed by your physician without his or her advice.
The chemical imbalance theory says your brain chemicals are out of balance and that causes you to feel depressed or manic or any other range of emotions. The reason it is called a theory, is because it is not provable. There are no tests, zero tests that prove something like a chemical imbalance exists. It is frankly an invention of the pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs. Testing is junk science unreliable and not reproducible.
In the majority of the cases of diagnosed emotional disorder or mental illness there is no objective evidence to prove the body is functioning abnormally. There are no tests that exist that will produce definable and measurable data; therefore there is no basis to prove that an organic illness is present. The current method of diagnosing all of these mental illnesses and disorders is based only on subjective reasoning and thinking and not on changes in the body. Currently, nothing exists in the way of objective medical testing to prove there are such things as mental illness or disorders.
I was recently given an article that says: Study: Blood Test May Determine Bipolar Disorder. I researched the study, read the report on it and was not surprised to find that it is more of the same- inconclusive results coming from studies and data that is cited as having “discrepant outcomes*.” It appears that that they used former studies that were inconclusive in their conclusions as baselines for new research!
When it is determined that there is no medical basis for the patient to feel “bad”, depressed or anxious, the default diagnosis has become one of the previously mentioned disorders.
This is where the controversy lies from my perspective as well as the other respected physicians, psychologists and neurophysiologists who share my concern over the explosion of these diagnoses. To be clear, I am not questioning the desire of medical professionals to help their patients.
Something we can prove is that various medical conditions will cause chemical changes in the body. For example, a person who is diabetic has a chemical imbalance, they have too much or too little insulin. Blood sugar that is too high or too low causes the person to experience various emotions, and display behaviors uncharacteristic of their usual selves. They may become combative, abusive, or lethargic.
This is a key to the people around the person that something is wrong and needs to be checked. Once the blood sugar is corrected and stabilized the chemical imbalance is corrected. We don’t say that person has a chemical imbalance, they have diabetes. When the blood sugar level is corrected the imbalance disappears and thoughts return to normal. Another case would be a person with endocrine disorders, like Graves Disease or some other disease of the thyroid. These illnesses also cause emotional responses.
What I do question is the treatment of feelings and emotions with medications that are not treating true abnormal physiology. It is right medically and morally to pump people (including children) full of medication that alters the brain chemicals, brain wave patterns, and physical structure of the brain when there is no medical basis for it?
In the opinion of many respected medical professionals (and that number is steadily growing) it is not good to be handing these medications out so people can “feel better.”
If you would like to research these issues I suggest the following resources from an abundant list on this topic: Psychology Debunked (firstname.lastname@example.org), Toxic Psychology by Dr. Peter Breggin, Deceptive Diagnosis, by Dr. Kurt Grady
What has taken place in your body is that when you thought you were in danger a series of chemicals were released from your endocrine system, adrenaline and epinephrine which trigger the release of a hormone that triggers the release of approximately 30 other hormones that prepare your body to fight or take flight.
The point I want to make here is that all this reaction began with a thought. Your outer man is along for the ride. Our brain almost always functions as it has been created to: reflecting our hidden inner thoughts.
The brain is an organ, it serves the body. It is like the hard disk drive of the body. It constantly is receiving information, taking in data and converting it through amazingly complex series of chemicals and electrical impulses into vision, smells, motions, and sounds the body makes.
You may have heard someone say about an elderly person, “they just gave up their will to live.” This is an example of the brain following the inner thoughts of a person, it is the brain carrying out the desire of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 says “the word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Sometimes our feelings result from a combination of physiological problems and /or our interpretation of them. It is true that certain medications/illness/injury/constant pain can cause uncomfortable emotional feelings.
A personal example of this would be my own mom. In the last 3 years she has gone from an independent, active woman will all her abilities and zero restrictions to someone who cannot see from AMD, is in constant pain from arthritis of the spine, and has lost all freedom and independence due to this and to being on oxygen 24/7. Before this recent hospitalization she went to the store and the doctor and the senior center for lunch and that was pretty much it. Currently, she goes no where.
She has many sad feelings. She also has anxious feelings. She is fearful she will go completely blind, afraid she is going to be alone, and the constant pain is wearing and frankly depressing. She has genuine physiological issues that cause uncomfortable and sad feelings in several areas.
Lack of sleep, too much or too little food, over-work/ and lack of exercise can also cause a depressed mood. Have you noticed that if you are not well rested your mood can be affected? Tired people are cranky people.
Add to that our Hormone levels that vary from day to day.Ladies notice this more than men I suppose, but believe me guys, we notice it in you! We have constant hormonal changes in our bodies throughout the day. And these changes can affect our feelings and moods. This is one reason we cannot allow our decisions to be made based on feelings.
Certain chemicals can cause change in mood, i.e. caffeine/sugar/alcohol. If you overindulge in any of these things, you will experience results. If you make overindulging in any of them a lifestyle the physiological effects become obvious as well as the emotional responses to the abuse.
Now, here is the point that is most often abused: In very rare instances the body can malfunction and cause the brain to release mood altering chemicals into the bloodstream causing moods that don’t correspond with thoughts or circumstances.
Next time: Chemical Imbalances
We are going to look at feelings and emotions. This is one of my favorite hobby horses and I can get quite animated, so hang on!
Our society has become almost completely feeling oriented and I think this is very bad. I have said before that it seems that we have lost the ability to think, and reason. Rare is it to find someone who is willing to risk sticking their neck out for a belief or a thought. Feelings are sacred ground, especially for women. I can say that, I am one of you.
I have a friend who I love dearly who is very feeling oriented and I kid her all the time about it. She feeeeeellls everything. We make each other nuts as she tells me I am an ice princess and I tell her she lives in her emotions. We balance each other out very well as she comes to me to get balance on her thought life, and I check with her to be sure I am humane in my dealings with people :)
So ----we are going to dive into our topic with some gusto here- are you ready?
First thing I want you to think about is this: what are emotions? Have you ever thought about that before? Are they physical? Are they concrete? Where do they come from and why do we have them? These are all questions I hope to have answered for you through this blog.
I believe that emotions are the physical experience of our thought life; the body’s response to thoughts that either please or displease us. I am sure you would agree that we experience billions of thoughts each day. I would further say that our thoughts often provoke emotional responses that relate to what we call happiness, hope, well being or sorrow, despair, fear, or anger.
Where do our emotions come from? To understand this, you have to hang with me a minute while I take a little side trip to explain briefly some background about the origin of emotions.
We are composed of essentially 2 parts- material or physical which is all you can see, and immaterial or spiritual and this is all you cannot see.
No one denies that these two “parts” of us, if you will – interact with each other constantly. Our emotions almost always come from the inner man. The inner man is the place of thought and reason. (Matt. 13:15) It is also the place of feelings or affections (Ecc. 7:9, Isa. 35:4) and our will. Our will is what enables us to make choices and decisions. With me so far?
Emotions are actually chemical reactions in the body brought on by thoughts in the inner man. For example: when you think someone is in the house in the middle of the night, you sit up in bed, your hearing becomes acute, your heart begins to pound faster, your respirations increase, you begin to sweat. All of this began as a thought. Your thought will either prove to be right or wrong, but in either case, your body responded the exact same way.
What has taken place in your body is that when you thought you were in danger a series of chemicals were released from your endocrine system, adrenaline and epinephrine which trigger the release of a hormone that triggers the release of approximately 30 other hormones that prepare your body to fight or take flight. (For those that are really curious on this, the website howstuffworks.com has a great detailed and understandable description of this process.)
One of the common things I see women (and men) struggle with in the area of communication is listening. Listening is the first key to good communication!
Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Proverbs 18:2 (NLT)
What a great statement! I love Proverbs. They are full of wisdom, and reveal to us how we can detect a fool. This verse is the antithesis of a fool- someone who loves to talk and does not listen- unless he is listening to himself talk!
The poor listener is not listening to understand, nor are they engaged in the conversation. If he listens at all, it is not because he “has interest in understanding” it is because it gives him a chance to speak. This is an arrogant person and one who wants to be center stage. He delights in calling attention to himself. The poor listener is quick to give advice or counsel.
He who answers before listening- that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13 (NIV)
“A quick retort can ruin everything.” Don’t be too fast to answer. Proverbs 13:3 9 (NLT)
A fool loves the sound of his own voice. A poor listener will not hear what you do say. The poor listener is frequently an argumentative person.
The Apostle Peter has been described by some as the disciple with the foot shaped mouth. Peter was impetuous and hasty in speech, and often he spoke without thinking. So many times while he walked with Jesus he said foolish things that he soon regretted. The greatest of these was when he denied Jesus those three times by the fire after the arrest. He lived with the shame and regret of his words until after Jesus rose from the dead and came to him as he was fishing.
He was too swift to answer, and replied out of fear for his own life. You might think that is completely reasonable considering the circumstances, however, an attentive listener demonstrates patience and an active listener demonstrates humility.
“…consider others better than yourself...” Philippians 2:3(NIV)
It is extremely humbling to have much to say and wait courteously until the other person is finished speaking. What you have to say can probably wait until the other person is finished, and you may learn in the meantime that what you would have offered is covered, or you would have embarrassed yourself by speaking up sooner.
Please understand that active listening is not a passive activity!
There are so many distractions, that it is easy to zone out while someone is speaking. To remove that temptation, remove yourself from the enticing distraction! Turn off the TV, go into another room, don’t attempt to do another task that requires concentration if you have indicated a willingness to listen to someone.
Good listening requires attention. If you really can’t concentrate tell them so! It is much more polite to tell him that you are in the middle of something and just can’t listen attentively right now. Offer to call back or stop by in a designated amount of time, and then be good to your word.
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15 (NIV)
Good listener’s seek out and probe for accurate and adequate knowledge of what the other person is trying to communicate. To be a good listener you must seek out and probe for accurate and adequate knowledge of what the other person is trying to communicate.
Ask the following types of questions of the person speaking to clarify points that are unclear.
It is a devastating error to draw conclusions without all the facts! Many arguments could be avoided, and many relationships salvaged if the people involved would just gather facts before making conclusions! You must listen to what is being said to you with “clear ears.” Clear ears are ones that are not waiting to pounce on everything being said and reply in attack mode. Clear ears are those that are not twisting and manipulating the words they are hearing!
Listen carefully to the choice of words of the speaker and ask clarifying questions when appropriate. These responses will indicate to the speaker that you really are listening, and that you care about what he is saying to you.
Once you have learned to listen, you have earned the right to speak! Listening is an art, it is something that must be cultivated, practiced and learned. You want to learn how to put off poor listening skills and put on good ones…biblical ones.
That comes next time!
Changing the way we communicate is challenging
…but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:8 (NIV)
Without the change of the heart no lasting, real change in any area will take place. Heart change is not something you can do to yourself or for yourself - your heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9), and you cannot possibly know the depths of its depravity, nor can you conjure up enough goodness within yourself to truly change.
The way you communicate is a reflection of what is in your heart. Ask yourself some hard questions- what is your speech like? Do you freely curse and swear? Do you gossip, backbite and use your words to hurt other people in the midst of an argument and then say, “I didn’t really mean that”? Do you manipulate to gain the advantage, being superficially nice only to “turn on” that person? These are all sick, sinful and ungodly methods of communication. And even if you don’t want to believe it or agree with me, you really do mean every word you speak.
These words come from the heart. The heart is like the roots of a plant or a tree. If the roots are healthy so is the tree, right? What is at the heart level is what is guiding your thoughts, beliefs, actions and desires and directly affects communication. None of these things operate in a vacuum or independent of each other.
If the heart is the root of the communication problem, how do we correct it? First you have to be sure your heart is right with God. Because apart from God. His truth and enablement, change here will always be elusive.
Heart change is not something you can do to yourself or for yourself. Remember that your heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9), and you cannot possibly know the depths of its depravity, nor can you conjure up enough goodness within yourself to truly change.
Only God can change the human heart.
And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)
I often tell my counselee’s that the goal of their lives is to live in a manner that brings glory to God. This means, to cause others to speak well of God. That as others witness how they act, speak and conduct themselves they would say, “Wow this person is different, and it is because of God.” Truly, it is because of God! It is a result of being “in Christ” that we are enabled to walk worthy. It is fruit, evidence of the changed heart of the Christian.
“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Eph 4) means setting a good example of Christ to others. Make it the goal of your life to live in a manner that brings glory to God. This means, to cause others to speak well of God.
These things are results of being “in Christ” they are fruit, evidence of the changed heart of the Christian. You cannot fake them or manufacture them yourself. They come only as a result of being united with Christ in a truly salvific relationship.