Patient Pain (Micah Knowles)

[Editor’s note: These are the preaching notes for Micah’s message and not a manuscript]

Definition: Patience is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean: persevering in the face of delay; provocation without acting on negative annoyance/anger; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. 

Patience is important in the Bible– Job, Joseph, Abraham, Moses in the wilderness, the disciples waiting for Jesus.

What does a world without Patience look like- a lot like it is now 

Patience is a pain

 

  • I want it now

 

  • “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” ~ Julius Caesar
  • This is the type of world we live in, phones, internet, information highway, amazon.
  • Practicing impatient habits… we do all the same stuff- we grab our phones, park in the closest spot, getting in the short line, using your phone, – we are generally rushed without the need to be… you bathe your child and rush it, without anything else on the schedule.
  • We live in a world of lists and pride ourselves in getting things done
  • What we really need is to slow down, stop and smell the roses,
  • Life moves fast and you blink and things are gone
  • We are so excited about what’s next (having kids, getting the kids out of the house, grandkids, retirement) we choose the future over the present to our detriment.

 

  • People drive me crazy

 

  • None of us are going to argue that people aren’t annoying.  
  • They don’t do what we want them to do.
  • And they do what we don’t want them to do
  • God is patient with us

 

  • God is too slow-

 

  • God’s time is not like our time.
  • And he takes his time: 400 years between the last prophet and Jesus, 2000 years we have been waiting for Jesus to come back
  • I like being in charge
  • Satan uses impatience to frustrate us with God.
  • We like it when God moves fast, but we must simply learn to like it when God moves slow as well, and enjoy these moments where we are… moments of solitude, silence, quiet and fasting
  • It will amaze you how much you see God when you slow down! You wont take things for granted (your family time, simple prayers, the beauty of nature and a good meal) all of these things are gifts that you can miss.

That’s what it actually means! Long suffering

Sanctification and growth comes from trial… no one needs to be patient when things are good! And no one grows either

– By perseverance the snail reached the ark.- Charles Spurgeon

2 sides of patience

 

  • Explain how the Greek works

 

Work:

Anechomai (ἀνέχομαι)– stand firm, endure, – Ephesians 4:2 NIV (…bearing with one another in love).

Kartereo (καρτερέω)Strong and steadfast- Hebrews 11:27 NLT (… He kept right on going…)

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

KJV and several others translate this word directly as patience.

-Paul Running the race patiently but with endurance, perserverance

-This type of patience is not passive, it’s about running!

– not by fast sprints but slowly and surely, waking up every day and saying let’s do this again today. I’m going to walk in patience and endurance again today.

– Do you remember when you were young and were excited for Christmas morning? Or something exciting to happen? I remember laying in my bed staring at the ceiling fan, waiting for the morning to come, checking my alarm clock and watching the minutes pass like hours. When you are waiting the worst thing to do is nothing. If you want the time to go by and enjoy it in the meantime then get busy! The time will fly by and when you turn around heaven will be there 

  • Growing comes from doing, and doing takes time!
  • Too many churches/Christians relied on waiting

Wait:

hypomeno (ὑπομένω)waiting behind, perseverance- 2 Thess 1:4 NIV ”…we boast about your perseverance

Macrothymia (μακροθυμέωpassive, long suffering- James 5:10 (NIV) “ …patience in the face of suffering…”

  • We read the verses: “those who wait upon the Lord” but it doesn’t change how hard this part is.
  • There are things we can’t change
  • Waiting for a kid’s conversion,
  • Hard for me, I have given my whole life to ministry and I can’t make a Christian!
  • Romans 8:28
  • Do we Believe that God has this thing under control?
  • Do we believe that God is perfect, faithful, all knowing and all powerful? – than why don’t we trust him and sit patiently with him knowing he has everything under control 
  • Patience at its core is about faith- This is about trust in God.
  • Freedom…
  • Surrender vs. Ability (all of my ambitions hopes and plans, I surrender these into your hands, for its only in your will that I am free).
  • Proverbs 3:5-6

you don’t drop one to do another.

No pain no gain

 

  • Patience is HARD!
  • We grow through hard times and struggles
  • Calm seas never made a skillful sailor
  • Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

 

“Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.” ~ Brian Adams

Christ indeed endured pain through patience.

“Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life”.(1 Timothy 1:15-17, NIV).

Patience is dealing with the adversities/pain of life-

After looking at our 4 words of patience and really our two main subjects: waiting and working our application comes into play

  • (group of pastors) God gets what he wants
  • God’s time is not like our time.
  • Running a Marathon takes training
  • Waiting for God to help me change the world.
  1. And by that trusting God with what is in his hands, (what only God can do)
  • Believing God is in control.
  • Freedom
  • Surrender + trust
  • Recap
  • “Be still and know that I am God”
  1. Doing everything you can with what is in your hands.

 

  • Recap

 

Ending with Heaven

Everyone walks towards death with no hope (grandparents)

Yet we have faith, and trust that in patience we will someday arrive in heaven

Upon the day that I walk into heaven and I see God I will not be concerned with getting things done quickly, the frustrating people, or why he was doing what he was doing. Instead I will stand in awe, spending eternity with Him, and there is nothing I can hope for more than that he will look at me and say you did well on earth, and now you’re here.

1st Corinthians 15:58

 

Patient pain

KEY QUESTION
How does God provide the help I need to deal with stress?

KEY IDEA
I am slow to anger and endure patiently under the unavoidable pressures of life.


A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.

The engineer asked, “What’s with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes.” The doctor agreed: “I’ve never seen such slow golfers.” The pastor noted, “Hey, here comes the groundskeeper. Let’s have a word with him.”

The pastor called out to the groundskeeper, “Say, George, what’s with the group ahead of us?” George said, “That’s a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.”

The group was silent for a moment. The pastor sympathized, “That’s so sad. I think I’ll say a special prayer for them tonight.”

The doctor added, “That’s a good idea. In fact, I’m going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if we can do anything for these guys.”

Then the engineer spoke up: “Well that’s great, but in the meantime, why can’t these guys play at night?”

I grew up in the time of Heinz ketchup glass bottles. The most frustrating part of dressing the hotdogs or hamburgers was patiently waiting for the ketchup to eke out of the bottle. As a child that was my early introduction to learning about patience.

The key verse today introduces us to the big christian virtue of patience.

KEY VERSE
Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. Proverbs 14:29  

In this verse of Proverbs there is a comparison between the foolishness of short tempered people who will make quick and rash decisions as opposed to the patient or those who take a long time to become angry and by doing so make room for deeper understanding of what is taking place.

Have you lived long enough to see the wisdom of this saying? Can you look back on a situation in your life where instead of enduring and persevering through something you simply reacted often with a measure of anger only to regret that impatient decision?

Parents haven’t you noticed when you are patient with your children they achieve far more than frustrating them with your impatient demands to perform and excel!

Today we come to consider the quality of patience we are called to live out as followers of Christ. In fact scriptures tell us we are to clothe ourselves with with loving qualities that includes patience. (Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Col 3:12) When it comes to “faith fashion” patience is always a timeless look.

We may see the value of patience as a virtue worth practising in our lives but patience is bigger than that. we must see that patience starts with God – it is a divine disposition.

As one commentator describes the patience of God – it is one his attributes that “runs through the OT like a refrain And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…Exodus 34:6

God’s patience with his people is an outstanding example of the virtue. Though Israel turns to idols and wickedness, God pleads with them to repent and call on his name. He tells Solomon…

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14 RSV).

God waits, sending his prophets for generations, before exiling Israel and Judah to foreign lands. As Nehemiah prays, “For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets” (Neh 9:30 NIV).

This is God revealing Himself and the quality of patience is described in his divine revelation. This means patience goes beyond a common sense virtue to a whole new level. We who are his dear children are called to imitate God in everything we do. (Ephesians 5:1) The patience of God serves as the source and pattern for our human patience. Our patience is rooted in the patience of God. Patience is big in the journey of one who is a disciple or apprentice of Jesus.

Patience is a Pain

  • I want it now – We live in a time of speed. Our technology has made us impatient. We have access to instant information with instant made food. There are so many things we don’t have to wait anymore for.

  • People drive me crazy. People are manipulative, fickled and foolish. We can easily rationalize our impatience. We far too often expect others to act now how we want them to act and if they disappoint us or let us down we are so fragile we walk away giving up far too soon.

  • God is too slow. Behind it all our frustration with life circumstances and people in our lives is rooted in our thinking that God is too slow…We struggle to trust his timetable – we struggle to believe that God is really at work in our lives. When we don’t see God acting our behalf fast enough we take it upon ourselves to make things happen.  

There is nothing new about our impatience with God. When God was delivering the people of Israel from Egypt rather than thanking God for the food they have, their freedom and his visible presence with them in the wilderness, they grumble because they are taking a long route. Here impatience is shown for what it is: selfish, whiny demanding. the self is placed above God’s purposes and demands that its desires be met immediately rather than according to God’s perfect plan.

So let’s take the time remaining and do a deeper dive on how we clothe ourselves with patience

THE TWO SIDES OF PATIENCE: WORK & WAIT

Patience has both an active and passive aspect to it. In fact we discovered that in the New Testament there are 4 Greek words to describe what it means to to be patient, to be steadfast to endure. In those four words we get a deeper sense on how to meet the battles of life. And we see there are two sides of patience. One in which we work and one in which we wait.

The first side of patience is that we work

 

  • Bear it and Keep Going

 

    • Ephesians 4:2 NIV (…bearing with one another in love). The idea of this word means to hold up and stand erect. Do not sit down in the midst adversity. We love others by holding up others in times of struggle. We endure through the hard times with others.
    • “I am going to stand with you” is a powerful and loving way to express an enduring love.
    • (Root word – anechomai)
    • Hebrews 11:27 NLT (… He kept right on going…) The force of this word is do something persistently in the face of opposition. In this passage it refers to Moses not afraid of the Pharaoh’s wrath but kept moving forward in what God wanted Him to do regardless of the resistance. What areas of resistance are you facing right now where you need to patiently keep going?

    • I think of Jesus who who tempted to by Satan in the wilderness to shortcut his mission…but he was willing to work patiently in unfolding God’s plan of salvation. 
    • (Root word – kartereō)

The second side is that we wait by demonstrating…

 

  • Perseverance and Patience

 

    • 2 Thess 1:4 NIV ”…we boast about your perseverance” Paul is describing how early believers stood one’s ground. In the midst of life’s difficulties rather than remove oneself from the adversity one stays put. It speaks of a courage to stay in it rather than run away.
    • (Root word – hypomenō)
    • James 5:10 (NIV) “ …patience in the face of suffering…”

This last word for patience is about being long tempered not short tempered. Jesus demonstrated this with all those he meet. Especially in times of suffering –  he yielded to arrest without resistance (Mt 26:52, 53, Ja 5:6, 7), and He refrained from returning scorn for scorn or threat for threat at His trial.

Jesus demonstrated that at the heart of patience is that instead of hasty action and anger we are willing to trust God especially in the midst of trouble and trials – that God will keep his promises. We are willing to wait in God’s time.

We are willing to show a patience with others because Christ has shown patience – he has a grace filled long temper . Look at Christ’s mercy toward Paul. He displays his unlimited patience and mercy – Paul speaks of this in his words to Timothy, “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Tim 1:16

(Root word – makrothymia)

So in the midst of trying times will we have stay patient and work? Doing what we can do. Standing with others in love. Bearing with them. Will we be willing to keep going – moving ahead?

And in the midst of adversity will we wait.? Will we be willing to persevere by courageously staying our ground? Will we wait on God? Trusting that God is at work when there is nothing we can do but wait? We will not lash out in anger or seek revenge but leave it in God’s hands?

NO PAIN NO GAIN

 

  • I’m trusting that God is at work
  • I will do my part

 

The hard news is that when we speak of learning  patience in God and with others it always involves a measure of pain and frustration.

I’M TRUSTING GOD IS AT WORK

The growth in my spiritual walk with God is measured to a very great extent in my patience. Our temptation is too often think I am the one in control of my life. When we begin to see how we are powerless over so much…The more I know God’s grace and presence – will I stop trying to be the manager but simply a laborer in God’s work where I say “Lord what is that we are about today in the your world and in your kingdom that is coming?”  

I think what it says in Romans where Paul is saying how did so many who were part of the Jewish nation miss out on the Messiah Jesus. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. Cf Romans 9 (Message) – so often we miss out that God is at work.

Often in the midst of the pain of impatience/patience we are faced with the choice to trust to let go and believe that God is at work even when so much seems not to be working.

It doesn’t mean we will not feel sorrow or concern nor is it about that we resign ourselves in a passivity that is devoid of feeling and passion. I still believe we can have a passionate patience.

But we will wait upon the Lord. We will renew our strength in Him. Like Abraham of old waiting for the promise of his son scriptures say, –  Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.(Rom 4:20 RSV)

Indeed often patience is a quiet revelation about our faith in God.

I WILL DO MY PART

As I wait to see how the work and ministry I am doing in my studies, job, my family in my church and greater community what is the “patient work” that I can do?

Patient work, in the midst of the waiting,

  • Speak words of encouragement
  • Learn and studying
  • Listening for God’s voice and others
  • Paying attention to what is in front of me
  • Praying for strength and wisdom
  • Serving in small ways while waiting for the big moment.
  • Stay with others – Stand next to others
  • Worship – Sing praises like Saul and Barnabas when they were imprisoned.

The greatest work of patience is to love…1 Corinthians 13 is what is known as the love chapter. As the late Haddon Robinson observed – Paul demonstrates what love is by showing what love does. For Paul love first of all is patient.

Paul knew this in his pastoral ministry to others within the church family.

  • (1 Thess 5:14; Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone
  • 2 Tim 4:2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

I know I am going off the rails when I become impatient, unforgiving, angry and demanding with others – love is leaking – I lost sight of God’s grace and patience with me.

Patience is listed among the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It comes when one is strengthened with the power of God (Col. 1:11). But that gift, that empowerment, is also an obligation. We are to clothe ourselves with patience.

Lk 8:15, And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest

Conclusion

Joseph Story in Genesis is a story where he learned patience in God and with others. Joseph is an example of what it means to wait patiently trusting God…

 

Just Say ‘No!’

This Believe Series message (self-control) was delivered by Brent Hudson at River of Life Church on October 15, 2017. 


For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13, NIV)

Acknowledging the problem:
“I want what I want when I want it”

In 2008, Dallas Willard published an article in the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, which is a publication of Baylor, a baptist university in Texas.  In that article Willard writes a compelling argument that our society is moving into a time where people do not differentiate between their identity as persons and the desires that they have.  He basically said we are the impulse of “I want what I want when I want it” was winning the day.  In fact, people are feeling that they cannot be complete persons without fulfilling the things they desire.

This may be distressing at an intellectual level for philosophers like Willard, but this has been the human challenge from the very beginning.  It was in the very first book of the Bible where that problem first surfaced.  A person looks at something and thinks: that looks awesome, I want to have that!” Enter stage right, the serpent, saying, go ahead, you want it take it. It does look awesome.  The only reason you were told not to eat it is because that person is afraid you’ll become just like them and they won’t have any power over you.  Be your own boss!  Eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil. No more convincing was required. And individuals have been eating from that tree ever since believing, to borrow from William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”

No greater lie has ever been spoken and no lie has ever been believed by more people in every subsequent generation. While the greatest commandments may be love God and love neighbour, they fall behind the idea that there is a God — a supreme one.  The true master of all history and the true captain of my soul.  The entire story of the Old Testament could be summed up in the command “I am the Lord your God…  you will have no other gods before me”.

Before we can love God, we need to believe that God exists and know what kind of God he is. If the original humans had reflected on that second part — what kind of God he is — the lie of the serpent would have been obvious. But it wasn’t obvious — and it still is not obvious — because people are still opting for personal desire over God’s plan again and again.  In fact, one could say that human beings have such a difficult time knowing  “what kind of God he is” God actually chose to enflesh himself in human form, spend some time with us so we could witness the Divine making human choices.  As Jesus said to Philip:

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8–9 NRSV)

This is our problem. We do not understand who God is and so we make stuff up.  We even bend his message to better suit our needs rather than change how we think and how we behave. Instead, as Willard says: “We want what we want when we want it!”

Because this is a problem, one of the things the Holy Spirit does in the lives of believers — people who put their faith in Jesus Christ — is self-control and that is what I want to address today.

Sometimes Pastors get to stand up front and talk about joy and the promises of God and other times, Pastors have to stand up and call out behaviour that ultimately required Jesus to suffer and die on a Roman cross.  I say it this way so there is no confusion as to the seriousness of the problem and the great need for self-control in our lives.

There are actually two words that are used throughout the NT for self-control.  When Paul speaks about the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23, he uses a word that was most often used regarding powerful sexual urges and desires.  It is used 3 times in the NT as a noun but the verb form of this word is used in 1Corinthians to encourage unmarried and those widowed to marry if they are not “practicing self-control” (1Cor 7:9). The word is also used in many non-biblical text with this sense (cf., ἐγκρατεύομαι).

The other term (*σωφρόν-) is the one found in our text today – it is actually used three times in this chapter.  The NIV translates the same Greek root as:  ‘temperate’ in 2:2; “self-controlled” in 2:5; and again with “self-controlled” in 2:11.  The word is used for a person who shows restraint with their words and actions.  A person is controls their desires and is well balanced in their relationships and life.

While self-control is an effort for everyone, the problems present themselves as a kaleidoscope of human sin.   One person struggles with food and another with drugs or alcohol. Others may struggle with pornography or other sexual sins. Still another has anger issues, or is unleashes a wildfire of destruction with gossip or slanderous stories.

Learning that God’s Spirit at work in us is producing “self-control” challenges us to address our urges.  One area where most modern people struggle is distraction. We have become accustomed to checking our devices multiple times every hour.  There is nothing “temperate” or “self-controlled” about a person who can’t stop themselves from checking their devices when they know it is inappropriate to do so.  I’ve seen people checking their phones during wedding ceremonies and during funerals and usually doing it on the discretely  — which only underscores of problem.  They just can’t wait. What did they learn by covertly checking their device —  99.9% of the time: absolutely nothing. But people can’t stop themselves, it is habituated behaviour.  We absolutely can’t stand the prospect of being bored — even for a couple of minutes.  Many people value non-boredom more than they value self-control.  This is not a biblical point of view.

Just as Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit in us is producing the capacity for self-control in Galatians, he tells us that the gospel message itself promotes self-control as a value. Grace is presented to us as a transforming gift — grace teaches us to to say ‘no’.  When we embrace the gospel of grace, we are confronted with the fact that grace means change.

The Transforming Gift: Grace means change

Most people love the idea of transformation; mostly, I think, because we think about a force outside of ourselves transforming us from A to B.  We think of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly — it is a natural process. . .it just happens.  We have grand hopes that our Christian transformation is the same.

The trouble is the same as most false hopes, there is just enough truth in it to make it believable.   But it will leave people ultimately unchanged.  Just thinking about it for a few minutes will make this clear.  When Paul or Jesus tell us to stop doing behaviour A and instead do behaviour B, the implication is that no one is going to do that for us.  We are not magically  going to stop desiring too much food, or using pornography, or spreading gossip.  The fact that these are still desires in a person is why Paul doesn’t just pray for them only — knowing that God will do all the work.  But that is not how it works.  Eve had to not eat from the tree and we need to avoid the behaviours that are destructive to us.

One of the great truths of Scripture is that we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.  All of these are true of our salvation.  The same is true about our becoming like Christ — what the bible calls ‘holiness.’  We have been made holy, we are becoming holy, and we will be made holy.  The thread that runs for all of this is the gospel of grace. (cf. 1Co 1:2 where they “have been made holy” and simultaneously are “called to be holy” and v.8 where they will be blameless on the last day).

After Peter denied Jesus, he was dejected and had given up thinking about himself as a leader among the disciples.  Jesus had different thoughts about Peter.  Jesus simply asked him: “Peter, do you love me more than these” (Jn 21:15)  Jesus knew that Peter’s failure was not his defining feature and he put a stop to that kind of thinking before it derailed Peter completely.

Grace defines our relationship with God.  It is why Peter was the leader of the disciples even after his fear caused him to deny his Lord, the son of the living God ( Matt 16:16). But as the pastor-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out when he risked his life opposing the Nazi Party in wartime Germany, the grace that stands at the heart of our faith is costly…it’s not cheap grace.  It is grace that cost Jesus his life and it is grace that will cost us too.  Graces teaches us…”teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:12).

The word that is used for ‘teach’ in this passage is translated elsewhere as ‘to train’ or ‘to discipline’ and yes, it has that dual sense in Greek as well.  When Pilate found no fault in Jesus the NIV translates his words as: “I will punish him and then release him” . . . the word ‘punish’ is literally ‘discipline’ and it is the same word used here. This is no different than when we hear someone say “we’re going to teach them a lesson”.  We all know what is meant by “teach” in that context, but we would say that is a godly form of teaching.  Grace teaches us the way God teaches his children. In 2 Timothy 2:25, Paul tells his apprentice pastor to “correct opponents with gentleness” — again, the word ‘correct’ is the same word used here in Titus.  Grace teaches us to say no.  It teaches us gently, but forcefully.  We cannot understand God’s grace toward us without seeing our need to change.

If we fall, he picks us up.  We are told to forgive 70×7 times to the one who seeks our forgiveness and this simply modelling our lives after God. God forgives us whenever we sincerely seek him.  Grace defines our faith. But it is not cheap grace.  It is a transforming gift.  Grace means change. Grace teaches us to say ‘no’.

All that is left is for us to learn what Grace is teaching.  We need to capture our will — to take it back — we need to learn to say ‘no’.

Capturing the Will: Learning to say “no”

Phillippa Lally, a psychology researcher at University College London, followed ninety-six persons who each chose a new behavior to adopt as a habit. How long would it take each person to form a habit? In her research, the shortest time it took was 18 days; the longest was 254 days. The average was 66 days. (see the article here).

Her research was clear on one thing, no habits are formed overnight, and some of us need to work harder and longer to form a habit.

Making good habits is important but so is breaking bad ones.  Dallas Willard tells the story of a man who confessed that he could not stop yelling at his son. Willard told the man, who happened to be wealthy, that every time he expressed ungodly anger at his son, he needed to give $5,000 to his wife’s favorite charity and increase that by $5,000 for each subsequent infraction (i.e., $10,000 for the second time he yelled at his son, $15,000 for the third time, and so on). (This story was recounted in: Merkle, Benjamin L., et al. Greek for Life: Strategies for Learning, Retaining, and Reviving New Testament Greek. Baker Academic, 2017).

The cost of losing thousands of dollars with each outburst of anger was great enough that the man found renewed self-control.  He understood money and cost. He also knew that it was costing him spiritually to yell at his son — the self-imposed fine just brought those two realities together.

Of course, only God can change an angry heart into a loving one — but to think there is nothing we can do in the meantime — or that our habits do not affect heart change is just not listening to the Bible.

When people asked Jesus about this kind of thing, he was pretty radical.

Matthew 5:29–30 NIV
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Obviously Jesus is speaking in hyperbole.  He is going to an extreme to make a point.  Both of these actions were against the Law of Moses — but everyone there would have understood his point.  Just as we do when we say: “I told you a million times”.  Or “give your head a shake”.  We use hyperbole and idiom all the time to make our points vivid and memorable.  But as we look at this hyperbole, we can’t miss the point.  Jesus is saying that extreme measures need to be taken in our lives to break free from sin.

For the rich man who spoke with Dallas Willard, an every-increasing fine of $5000 did the trick.  Telling himself to stop being a jerk didn’t help him.  It won’t help us either.  We need to learn what will push back the sin that we struggle against. Maybe you need the embarrassment of telling a trusted friend when your internet view habits are not pure. Or maybe you need to put up a few roadblocks in your life — something that would really bum you out if you had to pay up.

One professor who was writing a book told his three daughters that they were to ask him when he got home from work each day if he had wasted time on the internet and if he did, he would pay them $5 each.  One day he got an notification that one of his students had updated his Facebook page and he went to look at it.  He spent maybe two minutes there — but it was writing his book and was clearly a ‘waste’.  His youngest girl asked him dutifully when he got home whether he wasted any time and he said he had.  He paid her $5. Needless to say, blood was in the water and it didn’t take long for the others to ask him the same question.  Just like that, 3 minutes wasting time online cost him $15.  Not a lot.  But certainly more than reading that Facebook post was worth. (Robert Plummer in Greek for Life: Strategies for Learning, Retaining, and Reviving New Testament Greek. Baker Academic, 2017.)

We need to set up rails along our path so we don’t lose our way.  It’s easy to be distracted and attracted to something along the way.  But Grace teaches us to say “no”.

I find it fascinating that the greatest human struggle — with controlling our urge to sin — can be beaten by saying ‘no’.  ‘No’ is an easy word to say.  But we need to be instructed to say it because in the moment of desire — whatever that desire — ‘no’ is not usually high on our minds unless we learn to put it there.

As Christians we know that we are more than just a physical body. We are living soul and that soul has given us a will.  It is not just instinct for us.  We can step back.  We can think.  We can learn to say ‘no’.  Maybe some of you need to just say it out loud.  When the urge is upon you and you feel your focus shifting, maybe you just need to yell out “no”.  Sure, the people around you may wonder if you’re a bit crazy, but in the end that’s not a bad deal.

You have hope.  God is at work in you producing the ability, the power to say ‘no’ to the things that drag you down.  Will you always get it right?  Probably not.  Did Peter always get it right?  Not at all.  Did God still use him — yes He did!  Because Peter was willing to get back on the horse and trust God’s Spirit to change him and his grace to restore him.   God wants to use you too but   lack of self-control will get in the way every time. There is a reason it is mentioned three times in this paragraph of Titus alone. It’s important.  It is important for each one of us to learn what God’s grace teaches — to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.  It teaches us to be radical in our approach, if necessary.

God loves his children so much that if he were to come back at this moment, every single person who has placed their faith in him would be embraced and taken to an eternal home. But until that moment arrives, God is not finished with us.  He wants more for us and from us.  We love to hear about the Spirit producing peace in us.  We love to hear about the Spirit producing joy in us.  But self-control… that is a tough one. But it is also a word of hope to everyone who is struggling.  God is on your side in this battle against sin. He is producing in you the ability to “say no”. The ability to stand against what’s dragging your down. But you need to say it. You need to get on board.  We all need to learn what grace is teaching us — to Just Say ‘no!’

 

Pursuing Peace

This Believe Series message was developed by Dave Morehouse and Brent Hudson. This post is the message delivered by Brent Hudson at River of Life Church. You can view Dave Morehouse’ version from the TJC YouTube channel here


God pursues peace with us

Ephesians 2:13–14 NIV
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

Last week we doubled up in our Believe series looking at love and joy. We saw the connection between experiencing the full joy of Christ with a close relationship with him and active engagement in loving one another — obeying his commands. As we continue to survey the Christian virtues given by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 we come to the complex theme of peace.

Just like Paul, we want to start looking at this from point of view of God making peace with us through Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate starting point. Understanding the value of peace to God must start with God’s seeking peace with you and me.

Ephesians 2:17 NRSV
So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;

Clearly, the idea of peace is important to us because it is important to God. Just paying off our debts was not God’s plan. He did that in Christ, but that was not his goal. That was a means to another end. That ‘end’ is reconciliation which itself is technical and really just means making a friendship out of a broken relationship. This is at the heart of God’s pursuit of peace with us. It is why multiple times in the Bible, God is called “The God of peace”

Romans 15:33 NRSV – The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.

Romans 16:20 NRSV – The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Philippians 4:9 NRSV – Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 NRSV – May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 13:20 NRSV – Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant

Judges 6:24 (NIV) – So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace….

And we like the idea of Peace with God.  We sing about it. We give thanks because of it. And it is good that we do — peace with God is at the heart of our experience of Salvation.

In fact, it is because of we are at peace with God that can experience inner peace.  We experience turmoil and anxiety in a variety of ways.  Life brings its stresses to us in various ways.  Being aware that greatest enemies of humanity have been defeated in Christ — namely Satan and death — gives comfort to all of us. (cf., Hebrews 2:14)

Hebrews 2:14 NIV
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil…

No wonder Paul writes that God is the God of all comfort (cf., 2Cor 1:3-4).  There is a pattern though and we would be wise to see it.  Let’s look at that verse in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NIV
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.

What we experience from God, we are called to share with others. This is an important principle that we must understand.  Often our inclination — because of our highly individualistic culture — is to just focus on the inner quality of God’s comfort. We celebrate our feeling comforted and all too often just leave it at that.  But that is only the first part of what God intends.  God gives us this comfort so we can bring comfort to people around us. This same principle is at work when we look at the idea of peace that we receive from God through the Holy Spirit.  It is for our benefit – there is no doubt about that – but not for our benefit alone.

It is because we have peace with God that…

We pursue peace with others

This can sometimes make us uncomfortable because the idea of Peace with God is powerful and triumphant.  God accomplished this through Christ.  But when we start asking how this has affected our relationships — how the inner peace have moved outward into our relationships all we can think about is our conflicts.  We all can think of people very easily who we need to have conversations with.  Who we have had rough patches that have been smoothed over by the eroding forces of time more than have experienced the peace of God at work in our relationships.

Dave Morehouse mentioned a story he once read about a Christian Speaker who asked his audience to close their eyes and imagine peace. After a few seconds the audience was invited to share their mental pictures of peace. One person described a field with flowers and beautiful trees. Another person spoke of snow-capped mountains and an incredible alpine landscape. Still another described the scene of a beautiful, still lake.

After everyone described their mental picture of peace there was one thing common in them all—there were no people in them. Ramsden commented, “Isn’t it interesting, when asked to imagine peace the first thing we do is to eliminate everyone else.”

I think we can identify with this.

We think Pursuing Peace is hard because…

It doesn’t make sense

Maybe it was a bad bad experience and you feel that addressing that particular conflict is just going to unearth a lot of misery.  It just doesn’t make sense to jump into that again.

It’s not my fault

Maybe you found yourself in a conflict because of demands others have placed on you and you feel you are not to blame.  The other person is at fault, so they are the ones that need to initiate any conciliation process.

And sometimes we actually just give up on reconciliation because addressing conflict makes us feel bad and…

I don’t need the stress

At the outset we need to hold on to the words of Paul when he said that we don’t control the outcomes ultimately.  Sometimes we seek reconciliation and the other party is not willing.  Maybe they are angry. Maybe their belief system opposes the idea of reconciliation — there are a thousand reasons why people will walk away from peace-building.  Which is why Paul said

Romans 12:18 NIV
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Notice how much uncertainty is in this.  Is it possible?  Is the ball in your court in terms of communication?  Paul is saying don’t be the reason for lack of peace in relationships.  Be the one who humble enough to engage a conversation.  Have we even tried? If we have, sometimes we need to accept the brokenness of the situation.  But we must never close the door on the possibility.  We must not grow cold and hardened toward making peace. We are reminded of this by Jesus himself:

Matthew 5:23–24 NIV
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Jesus is saying that it is not really about whether your conscience is clear. It is about a broken relationship.  I know I have broken relationships in my life where I have a clear conscience. I know I have not sinned. But I also know I need to keep the door open to conversations . . . and for me that is harder.  I have a desire to shut the door, lock it, reinforce it with iron girders. What Jesus is saying is that we need to be the one to bring the olive branch.  To ask if there is a need to have a conversation.  To allow forgiveness and reconciliation a chance.

Often we don’t allow for this because we forget

The Challenge of peace is forgetting…

the Gospel that saves us is the Gospel of peace

Ephesians 6:15 NIV
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

When we think about the gospel, we often think about believing in Jesus so our sins will be forgiven.  We think of receiving the promise of eternal life.  We think about Jesus, the cross and the resurrection, heaven and so forth.   I have talked about the idea of Shalom before — the Hebrew word for peace and the idea of well-being associated with it.  This Shalom is when people live in harmony and relationships thrive. People pay a fair price for work and workers get paid a fair price for working.  It is integrally connected to societal justice and also mercy and covenant love.  This is the framework that Jesus talks about peace and following him, the disciples and the NT writers.  when we read ‘peace’ we need to think Shalom.  It is a simple word infused with great depth of meaning.

Our gospel is a gospel of peace. Paul calls it that when writing about the armour of God in Eph 6:15.  It is more than me being at peace with God, it is the Peace of God, the Shalom of God blanketing my entire life.  My spiritual life, my relational life, my financial life, my thought life, my entire being and everything that my life touches is under the dominion of God’s Shalom at work in me through the gospel.

We cannot simply turn a blind eye to unresolved conflict or having angry relationships with other, particularly brothers and sisters in Christ.  We believe a gospel of peace.  It is a Gospel that bring peace with God and a gospel that touches our entire lives.

Getting back to the idea of the Fruit of the Spirit, which this section of our Believe series is ultimately rooted, we see that this Shalom of God is something that the Holy Spirit works in us and extends outward into the world.  We see that…

the Spirit within us is the Spirit of peace

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

I suppose would think about “unity of the Spirit” as being purely functional. Just do the task at hand. But it seems that Paul means more than that because it is rooted in the bond of peace.  The ‘bond’ is not some spiritual word about “bonding” or anything like that.  In Greek it can also be translated as “fetter” or “chains”. Here the use is probably epexegetical, meaning “the bond which is peace”.

Peace is that agent that keeps us in unity.  We can’t just do whatever we want.  And when we feel anxious about that, we can go to our theme verse in Philippians 4:6-7 and understand that the context here is Paul telling his ministry partner to help two women in the church — Euodia and Syntyche —  to get along.  To actually become “one mindset”.  That’s a difficult undertaking and one that can cause significant distress and anxiety.

What Paul does there is genius really. He connects the building of peace between these two women with the peace that passes all understanding given by God, which will help that worker in his or her anxiety about working with these two — no doubt outspoken — women in the church.  Peace is not an option.  It is what God is working in us through his Spirit.  It is at the heart of his message to us, the gospel.  It is at the core who God is.  He is the God of Peace.  He gives us peace with himself.  He gives us internal peace that passes understanding.  But he does this so that we can pursue Shalom — peace — in all our relationships — if it is possible and as much as it depends on you.

When Jesus sent out the 72, he told them to stay in the homes of “people of peace”.  People of Peace.

Are you a person of peace? Better yet,  Who are you becoming?

Are you becoming a person of peace?


The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6 NIV)