Growth & Grace
This week’s question addresses something that the world sees a lot of. “How do you deal with strife in the church in the aspect of jealousy? How do you deal with someone who seems to always be trying to one up you? I think I should know how to deal with/handle this, but I don’t. I am really struggling to find a solution.”
This is a very good question, one that I have at many times dealt with myself. The interesting thing is, as I sit to answer, there is literally a flood of scriptures that pour into my heart. This tells me that this isn’t just a nowadays problem, but a human problem. What I want to start with is something the Lord showed me a while ago.
It’s summed up in this: It’s not what happens to us that matters, only how we react to it. Everything in walking out a pure Christian life, acceptable to the Lord, is how we keep our heart. We cannot change another’s heart and we will waste time trying. God Himself could not change the heart of man. That said, I want to refer first to Proverbs 6:16 & 19 which say, “These … things the Lord hates,
yes, … are an abomination to Him… one who sows discord among brethren.” Discord is as evil as murder to God. Strife is nothing more than plain discord. That said, we will all have plenty of opportunity to either get jealous of someone or loath how they act, but the truth is, we are not permitted to act back with anything but love.
The church is made up humans with human personalities and I am convinced that God mixes it up for us on purpose. We need the opportunity that others provide us to learn to walk in love. Love is what describes God’s nature and since we are His children, should describe ours. People need to see the love of Christ in us which by definition always yields ones own personal desire to that of others. This is what Jesus meant when He said to love one another. It’s one thing to love someone that’s easy to love and another to love someone who makes it difficult to love.
I love the words of Paul as he wrote to the Church of Philippi. He said, (Philippians 2:2-3) “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” When someone starts competing with others, this is selfish ambition. However, when those who are at the receiving end of their selfishness act out of offense, this too is selfish ambition. Our first reaction should always be to pray for them. Often people do not realize what they are doing to others. We have to remember what was said in 1 Corinthians 13:5, that love does not seek its own, is not provoked, and always thinks the best of others. When someone is acting foolishly, that can seem hard to do. This is another area we get to crucify our flesh in. I know, doesn’t that sound fun?
The key here is, no matter what, to keep our own minds thinking right. I do it like this: we are all called together to promote the work of the Lord. Period. If someone is acting wrong, God will correct them in due time. If I act right, He will bless me regardless. We must… think… right!
I’m now going in a direction that may seem surprising, but this is the life of a pastor. I love all the people God has given me to shepherd. I’ve dedicated my very life to them. If I’m honest though, there are tons of things that I could correct in even the most faithful of my people. There have been enough times when I’ve gotten frustrated, I’ve sought the counsel of my mentors. “What would you do when someone in your congregation does this or that?” I would ask to which is often replied, “Growth and grace Pastor Jeff, growth and grace.” In other words, in time, faithful people will make the right decisions and God will correct their stupid thinking if we give them space to grow. I once asked Pastor Michael, “Are there things in me I need to change?” He just smiled when he looked at me and said, “Growth and grace!”
Let me end with Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Your job is to do the best you can and follow the Lord’s direction for your life. Don’t look at what others are or are not doing, only make sure you do what you are supposed to. Think the best of them and walk in love. God will always make it up to you if you choose right. Besides, you may not know it yet, but you are probably in need of a little grace while you grow too.