This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Pastor Zhu's wife (from China, described as a "pillar of God in China"), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? (1 Corinthians 6:7)
Quarrels among believers are never good. Lawsuits among believers are even worse. When there is a conflict among believers, they should talk it over in the love of the Lord--with a humble and forgiving heart.
Do not wait and grumble against each other. It only gives the devil a chance to intervene. 'Completely defeated' means: failure.
Jesus teaches us that victory is not the emphasis of personal innocence and fairness, but peace and humility among the Body of Christ (Matthew 5:39,40).
We Christians in China often find ourselves in a situation where we have to appear in court. We are ill-treated, put in prison without cause; nobody defends our rights.
We have every 'right' to complain. But it will not be to our advantage. We will only suffer more and lose our peace in the Lord.
If we are learning not to react in a worldly way against unbelievers, how much more should the mind of Christ dwell in us when we disagree with fellow Christians? 'Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose...in humility consider others better than yourselves...your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus' (portions, Philippians 2:2-5).
'Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and then remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift' (Matthew 5:23,24).
A moment of introspection: Do you ever feel completely defeated, at a loss, no options available? Pastor Zhu's wife describes a situation that might lead to such feelings: lawsuits between Christians. She describes such defeatedness as "failure". Through this and other examples from her life, this godly woman brings forth a good lesson in humility. "Save the complaints, already", one might hear her say. Complaining often doesn't achieve its intended goal. Instead, through complaining, this witness tells, "We will only suffer more and lose our peace in the Lord." Samuel Johnson (noted English author/writer) was once quoted as saying, "Depend upon it that, if man talks of his misfortunes, there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him." Dr. Johnson saw a tacit reward for a complainer who communicates his/her complaints to others. Yet despite that reward, complaining deprives the complainer as losing one's peace in the Lord. Julia Moss Seton, decried the propensity of some to fuss, saying "We have no more right to put our discordant states of mind into the lives of those around us and rob them of their sunshine and brightness than we have to enter their houses and steal their silverware." Complaining--a right? Or a step toward further suffering, and loss of peace? Pastor Zhu's wife took the higher ground, and chose victory. "We have every 'right' to complain, but it will not be to our advantage." For one's own sake, it would be better not to complain; rather, God's Word urges one's "discordant states of mind" to be brought to the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7). Thereby, not losing our peace in the Lord, but gaining an incomprehensible peace in the Lord.
Though we might be inclined to complain about mistreatment from others, God's Word teaches us not to react in such a manner, but to "turn the other cheek," (Matthew 5:39) not to seek to retaliate, but to entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly, (1 Peter 2:23) not to repay evil for evil, but seek to live at peace with everyone, (Romans 12:17-18) and not to take revenge, but leave that completely with God (Romans 12:17-21). We are asked to not react in a worldly way against unbelievers --to keep from responding as the world responds to maltreatment, hassles, problems, inequities, and other problematic situations. Another example comes via anecdote:
A gentleman had a lovely Chinese plaque with curious raised figures upon it. One day it fell from the wall on which it was hung, and was cracked right across the middle. Soon after, the gentleman sent to China for six more of these valuable plates, and to ensure an exact match, sent his broken plate as a copy. To his intense astonishment, when six months later he received the six plates, and his injured one, he found the Chinese had so faithfully followed his copy, that each new one had a crack right across it. If we imitate even the best of men, we are apt to copy their imperfections, but if we follow Jesus and take Him as our example, we are sure of a perfect pattern.
Let us choose to respond to problems, setting our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). He is to be our example to follow as Christians, throughout life. He is the pattern that God provided, to show us the way acceptable to and, preparing us for, our citizenship in heaven. Paul describes our place: "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;" (Philippians 3:20) Please note that from heaven, we await our example, our Lord. May we have the mind of Christ dwelling within us. Jesus was the son of God, the same in substance with the Father. His equal in power and in glory. But He condescended to be God's "righteous servant," and His own words express the submission of His will to the Father's. If the divine Redeemer speaks and feels thus, how submissive to God ought we to be! Illness may prostrate us, death may bereave us, poverty may try us, the tears of the widowed or of the fatherless may flow from our eyes, but let us aim at having the same mind in us that was in Christ, and the divine Father will carry us through, and give us the victory at length. Christ, our example, "Never said a mumb'lin word--Not a word; not a word."
Pastor Zhu's wife chose wisely, in calling each of us to humbly consider others better than ourselves. Norman Vincent Peale was quoted as saying "Humble people don't think less of themselves... they just think about themselves less." ("Leadership" Magazine, Vol. 19, no. 1.) And an anonymous source once stated, "Here lies a man who knew how to enlist into his service people better than himself." To humbly consider others as better than we are--that is our challenge. Another account of this can be seen in the anecdote of Thurman Thomas:
In 1994 Thurman Thomas, head bowed with his hands covering his face, sat on the Buffalo bench following his team's fourth straight Super Bowl loss. His three fumbles had helped seal the awful fate of his Buffalo Bills. Suddenly, standing before him was the Dallas Cowboys' star running back, Emmitt Smith. Just named MVP for Super Bowl XXVIII, Smith was carrying his small goddaughter. Smith looked down at her and said, "I want you to meet the greatest running back in the NFL, Mr. Thurman Thomas." Paul tells us to "in humility to consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). (Reported by Allen Mann, Remington, Virginia. "Leadership" Magazine, Vol. 15, no. 4.)
So, Pastor Zhu's wife asserts that complaining and grumbling give the devil a chance to intervene, and lead to complete defeat--failure. How do we Christians in this respect achieve victory? How can we avoid failure, in responding to affrontery and problems? Let's look to God's Word, and testimony in letters to churches in Rome and Ephesus:
Victory--peace and humility among the body of believers:
Romans 12:10 (NKJV) Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Ephesians 4:1-2 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV) Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
1 Peter 5:5-7 (ESV) Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
We have a great opportunity to follow the example of Jesus Christ; when given the choice of complaining about someone else’s actions, take your hurt to the Lord, and seek to reconcile with that individual if possible. Otherwise, forgive in deference, and gain the victory!