My friend’s words stung. Trying to sleep, I battled to stop mulling over her pointed comments about my strong opinions. As I lay there, I asked for God’s wisdom and peace. Several weeks later, still concerned about the matter, I prayed, “I hurt, Lord, but show me where I need to change. Show me where she’s right.”
My friend had acted as God’s sandpaper in my life. My feelings felt rubbed raw, but I sensed that how I responded would lead to the building of my character—or not. My choice was to submit to the smoothing process, confessing my pride and stubborn stance. I sensed that my bumps and imperfections didn’t glorify the Lord.
King Solomon knew that life in community could be difficult, a theme he addressed in the book of Proverbs. In chapter 27, we see his wisdom applied to relationships. He likens the sharp words between friends as iron sharpening iron: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (v. 17), shaving off the rough edges in each other’s behavior. The process may bring about wounds, such as the hurt I felt from my friend’s words (see v. 6), but ultimately the Lord can use these words to help and encourage us to make needed changes in our attitude and behavior.
How might the Lord be smoothing out your rough edges for His glory?
When students from Southeast Asia met a teacher from North America, the visiting instructor learned a lesson. After giving his class their first multiple-choice test, he was surprised to find many questions left unanswered. While handing back the corrected papers, he suggested that, next time, instead of leaving answers blank they should take a guess. Surprised, one of the students raised their hand and asked, “What if I accidentally get the answer right? I would be implying that I knew the answer when I didn’t.” The student and teacher had a different perspective and practice.
In the days of the New Testament, Jewish and Gentile converts were coming to Christ with perspectives as different as East and West. Before long they were disagreeing over matters as diverse as worship days and what a Christ follower is free to eat or drink. The apostle Paul urged them to remember an important fact: None of us is in a position to know or judge the heart of another.
For the sake of harmony with fellow believers, God urges us to realize that we are all accountable to our Lord, to act according to His Word and our conscience. However, He alone is in a position to judge the attitudes of our heart (Rom. 14:4–7).
While attending Bible college, my friend Charlie and I worked for a furniture store. We often made deliveries accompanied by an interior decorator who talked with the people who had purchased the furniture while we brought it from the truck into the house. Sometimes we had to carry the furniture up several flights of stairs in an apartment building. Charlie and I often wished we had the decorator’s job instead of ours!
During Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, three clans from the priestly tribe of Levi—the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites—were assigned the job of transporting the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). They put it up, took it down, and carried it to the next place, then repeated the process again and again. Their job description was simple: “Carry the things assigned to you” (see Num. 4:32).
I wonder if these “custodians” ever envied the “clergymen” who offered sacrifices and incense using the holy articles in the sanctuary (vv. 4-5,15). That job must have looked much easier and more prestigious. But both assignments were important and came from the Lord.
Many times we don’t get to select the work we do. But all of us can choose our attitude toward the tasks we’re given. How we do the job God gives us is the measure of our service to Him.
Traffic was bad and everyone was cranky on that hot afternoon. I noticed a car with two young men waiting to enter traffic from a fast-food restaurant driveway. I thought it was nice when the driver ahead of me let them in.
Packing groceries into the trunk of my car, I glanced at the vehicle next to me. Through the back window, I could see baskets full of bright red tomatoes—shiny, plump, and better looking than any I had seen in the store. When the car’s owner appeared seconds later, I said, “What great looking tomatoes!” She replied, “I had a good crop this year. Would you like some?” Surprised by her willingness to share, I gladly accepted. She gave me several free tomatoes to take home—they tasted as good as they looked!
One problem with the English word meek is that it rhymes with weak, and people have linked the two words together for years. A popular dictionary offers a secondary definition of meek as “too submissive; easily imposed on; spineless; spiritless.” This causes some people to question why Jesus would say, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason,” the saying goes. The ability to listen is an essential life skill. Counselors tell us to listen to each other. Spiritual leaders tell us to listen to God. But hardly anyone says, “Listen to yourself.” I’m not suggesting that we have an inner voice that always knows the right thing to say. Nor am I saying we should listen to ourselves instead of to God and others. I’m suggesting that we need to listen to ourselves in order to learn how others might be receiving our words.
At the First Battle of the Marne during World War I, French lieutenant general Ferdinand Foch sent out this communiqué: “My center is giving way, my right is retreating. Situation excellent. I am attacking.” His willingness to see hope in a tough situation eventually led to victory for his troops.
Eunice McGarrahan gave an inspiring talk on Christian discipleship in which she said, “A costume is something you put on and pretend that you are what you are wearing. A uniform, on the other hand, reminds you that you are, in fact, what you wear.”