Monday, December 29, 2014

At The Ready

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo by Matthew Wells, from Flickr
"Nothing of any value ever happens without a cost." -- Bill Kraski

Yeah, I know.  Quoting myself seems egotistical.  But it's not.  I quote a lot of people in my posts.  And I give credit where it's due.  I could have credited that to God.  It's a thought He gave me while I was watching a rerun of "Madame Secretary" on Christmas Eve.  But, unlike some of the charlatans out there, I don't like claiming some special connection to God.  I believe we all have that possibility, as long as we're saved. But it takes the rest of our lives keeping a path cleared through the muck we spend our Christian lives removing.  And most of us, myself included, aren't spectacularly good at clearing the way. So, those thoughts don't necessarily show up very regularly.  I'll explain after the break, including how it all fits together.

Our illustration shows members of the Maryland National Guard practicing hand to hand combat. And it really points out two important spiritual principles.  First, we have to understand that the moment we decided to go with God, we entered spiritual warfare.  We became Satan's enemy, without doing anything more than make one decision.

Second, those soldiers are training by practice.  They understand that we can't go into battle and expect to win by just reading a book.  We have to make the necessary skills an integral part of who we are.  Our opponent will have practiced all their moves, fine tuning their skills.  If we don't do the same, we're, at best, at a disadvantage.

When I was watching "Madame Secretary", it was a storyline much akin to Benghazi.  except that she went out on a limb to send a specially trained military force to save the ambassador, without gaining prior authorization.  They were successful, partly because she recognized that timing was important, partly because they were properly trained.  Everyone involved had made a commitment to succeeding.

Think about the spiritual battle.  Perhaps the biggest battlefield is marriage.  And that's the example God brought to my mind.  God has two people come together as one, each supporting and loving the other.  In itself, that's not always easy, certainly not in the flesh, and definitely not when the demons attack it.  But several examples came to mind.

One of my friends at church is in the construction/remodeling business.  When things are going well, he's out selling jobs.  When things aren't going so well, some of the employees may not be working and my friend will be doing some of the remodeling work, himself.  There have been times when I knew things were really tight.  But he and his wife never had a negative word, they stuck together, they raised some really amazing kids, and they never played the blame game when things were tough.

I have another friend who went through a separation because of circumstances in the marriage. She and her husband are back together.  As a friend, I did some long distance counseling on that one and I'm really happy to see them back together.  I'd be more at ease about it if I knew they were getting good local counseling about it and each was also getting individual counseling.  It would certainly make marital success more likely.  But that's their business, not mine, unless they choose to include me.  I can pray for God to move in the situation.

There are some things that are common to both couples and whether they remain successful as couples.  And the same applies to almost anything in life.

1) 1 Corinthians 2:12, 15-16 (KJV)  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

No matter what our endeavor, we need the mind of Christ guiding us.  Our fleshly mind tends to deviate in directions aren't in our own best interest.  We need to think with God.  Which brings is to the second item.

2) Matthew 6:33 (KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

How can we expect to be successful in our relationship with God, in our relationships with those around us, and in what we think and do, if we haven't committed to thinking with God?  Too often, we run to the Word of God to fix a problem after it's happened.  The Bible is good at that.  But why repair problems when thinking with the mind of Christ would prevent them in the first place?  Our top priority has to be allowing God to direct our thoughts and steps.  So, we start with being directed by the Word, instead of relying on it only after we've made a mess.

3) Romans 12:10 (KJV)  Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

John 13:34-35 (KJV)  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Jesus made it clear that everything hinges on loving God, loving others, keeping it in that order. With the couples we mentioned, we see that.  So, when Ephesians 5:22 tells wives to submit, it's saying to honor a God given difference in physical attributes, position and function.  That doesn't give the husband permission to be mentally or physically abusive.  God quickly continues, comparing the relationship to the one between Christ and the Church.  Just as Christ loves the church, Ephesians 5:25 states outright that husbands are to love their wives.  Even though the wife is to honor the husband's leadership position and function, he's commanded to honor his wife in love.  While he might lead, it's not a master and servant relationship.  Both have spiritual equality, both have Christ in them.  So, while the husband leads, he does it while loving and honoring his wife and her own spiritual connection to God.

When I was writing the part for #3, I was thinking of how many businesses would be so much more successful if that same scenario was in play.  There has to be a structure of leadership, but that doesn't mean that the employees below each level of management don't necessarily have ideas as good as their managers.  Both marriage and management require honor and trust in both directions.

4) Philippians 3:13 (KJV)  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

Ephesians 5:22, 25 speak of a commitment to each other.  Philippians 3:13 talks about a commitment to success.  Whether it's marriage, work, life, or spiritual relationship, we all make mistakes.  We let go of honor and trust if we refuse to move beyond them.  But focusing on the success of being led by God will bring good fruit.  We need to agree with God that we blew it, then move forward by doing things the right way.

5) 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (KJV)  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

Everything we do involves more than one person, even if that other person is one of the members of the Trinity.  When that comes to dealing with each other, we're supposed to build each other up, not tear down.  #4 was a commitment to success.  This is a commitment to each other.  Whether it's marriage, work, or whatever, edification has us building trust, building love for each other, building commitment to mutual success.  Each brings the other along.  It's reminding each other of our strengths instead of reminding each other of shortcomings.  It's whatever romantics signs are possible for the husband to show love and appreciation for the wife.  And, likewise, the wife will seek ways to bless her husband.  The boss will look for ways to reward good workers and help others to improve.  The worker will look for ways to make the boss's day easier.

Galatians 5:22-23 (KJV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

We're approaching a new year and it's that point when we make resolutions that we never keep. Which is why I'm not big on resolutions.  But these are well laid out guidelines for building ourselves up in the Lord, for spectacular marriages, and for successful relationships.  How about each of us committing to letting the Lord train us to live in them, so we can be "at the ready" to be all God wants us to be?

1 comment:

  1. Great post Bill, so often we want the walk of faith to be easy. However it is a battle that we must prepare ourselves to fight (knowing Jesus is the one who does and has done the heavy lifting). Sadly we often find it easier to set back and get ran over and blame God. I pray I will be more proactive in my walk for 2015