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attitude gratitude joy

IF YOU’RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT, YOUR FACE WILL SURELY SHOW IT!

Neal Pollard

Oh the stories that song leaders and preachers could tell!  Often, when we sing such standbys as “I Love To Tell The Story,” “Rejoice In The Lord,” or “When We All Get To Heaven,” we do so with little visible enthusiasm or apparent joy.  If we sing devotional songs like “Thank You, Lord,” “Shout To The Lord,” or “I’m Happy Today,” are we conveying what we are saying?  Occasionally, in our humanity, we come into the assemblies burdened down with cares and problems.  There may be a powerful distraction nearby that makes concentrating on what we’re doing in worship more difficult.  No one knows more than me how misleading facial expressions can be as a reflection of what is in the heart.  Yet, I’ve seen some serial sourpusses and perpetual pouters who claim to be Christians.  As James was known to say, “My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

It’s certainly not confined to when we’re engaged in worshipping in song or listening to the sermon.  It’s discovered in conversation.  Too many times, I’ve encountered Christians who are always disclosing the latest downer in their lives, the problems that pervade them, and the sadness surely saturates them!

Some of the most joyous Christians I’ve known have been more besieged by difficulties than anyone else.  They are even graceful enough to be able to talk about them—and, thus, not concealing their troubles—but with a perspective and positivity that reflects their abiding trust in the Great I Am.  Three times, Peter speaks to Christians who are distressed by various trials, enduring by faith, and sharing the sufferings of Christ and remarks on their remarkable rejoicing (1 Pet. 1:6,8; 4:13). Perhaps it was their “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3).

Maybe our long faces are not due to any particular problems, and of all people on earth we, especially in America, are spared many of the trials and difficulties of those in poorer countries. It could be that we have disconnected ourselves from the source of joy.  Or, it could be that we have forgotten to practice gratitude and count our blessings.  Perhaps, we’ve gotten spoiled or concluded that being happy is the goal of life, and when this occurs we live with an expectation that others and circumstances should be oriented to make us feel good, content, or satisfied.

Let’s challenge each other to wear a smile, to work more at expressing our joy, and to win the battles in the heart that keep us from being characterized by winsomeness and positivity.  By this, we’ll be a billboard for Christ and a blessing to everyone else.

unhappy

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attitude

Overcoming Bitterness

Neal Pollard

“Where was God when my child was killed by a drunk driver?” “I’ll never forgive brother Jones for that time he… He’s a big hypocrite!” “It’s not fair what they did to me. I hope they get theirs!” Persons raising clenched fists or pointed fingers and growling through gritting teeth epitomize that common, though unattractive, display of bitterness. Sadly, bitterness is not a disease confined to the alien sinner. Christians in crisis, dejected elders and preachers, and offended brethren are not immune to that sourness of spirit.

What, exactly, is BITTERNESS? Eadie says,

It is a figurative term denoting that fretted and irritable state of mind that keeps a man in perpetual animosity — that inclines him to harsh and uncharitable opinions of men and things — that makes him sour, crabby and repulsive in his general demeanor — that brings a scowl over his face and infuses venom into the words of his tongue (Rienecker, 534).

In motion, bitterness is a deadly snake. In result, it stings both predator and prey. In fruit, it is destructive. In category, it is sin! Ephesians 4:31, in part, reads, “Let all bitterness … be put away from you…” One source says of bitterness in this verse, “Bitterness is the opposite not only of sweetness but of kindness. It is the spite that harbors resentment and keeps a score of wrongs. Aristotle defined those who display it as ‘hard to be reconciled'” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 11:65).

Paul says such an attitude must be destroyed. It is to be replaced by the sweet, savory, Christian characteristics like kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32). If ever one had cause to be bitter, surely the crucified Lord did. But he offered a prayer asking for the Father to forgive the spike-driving and ridicule-hurling sinners who placed him in such an agonizing position (Luke 23:34).

How can we overcome bitterness? First, by obeying God’s Word. Explicitly, New Testament writers warn Christians against bitter thoughts and behavior (Col. 3:19; Heb. 12:15; Rom. 3:14). Second, by imitating the forgiving attitude of Jesus (Eph. 1:7). Third, by crowding out angry and festering thoughts, replacing them with praiseworthy and virtuous thoughts (cf. Phi. 4:8). Fourth, by praying for those against whom you feel bitter (cf. Mat. 5:44).

Christians must not willfully harbor feelings of anger and resentment. Such produces hearts easily offended and easily provoked (cf. 1 Cor. 13:5). Bitterness is defeated by a perpetually cheerful and thankful heart. Everyone has problems. Yet, as John Henry Miller once said, “Circumstances and situations do color life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be.” As Paul wrote, “Let all bitterness be put away from you.”

Categories
attitude friendliness kindness

Warming Up The Cold Shoulder

Neal Pollard

Occasionally, a Christian who has fallen away and is approached by a concerned elder, preacher, or other Christian will respond by saying the people at church were cold, unfriendly, or unwelcoming.  They complain that they get the “cold shoulder” from the folks in the congregation. Could most of us try harder to reach out to each other, as well as our visitors?  Undoubtedly!  Of course, all of us know that this is a pretty flimsy excuse for forsaking the One who suffered and agonized for each of us in order to make heaven a possibility for us or the One who provides us with such abundant blessings throughout every day.

However, the Bible does seem to show us a pretty clear case of a new Christian who dealt with the collective cold shoulder of the very first congregation of the Lord’s church.  In fact, he also knew that those from his former religion were trying to kill him.  Suffice it to say, he faced some enormous pressures and adversities as the result of his obeying the gospel of Christ.  As he lived out the rest of his life, he suffered a lot just for teaching and preaching Christ, like being stoned, shipwrecked, scourged, slandered, and scrutinized.  People questioned and doubted him.  He did jail time.  But in his early days while still a new convert, he felt the effects of the cold shoulder.  The Bible says, “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).   Imagine trying to place membership at a local church and having people avoid you, doubt your conversion, and rebuff your attempts to fellowship them.  That would be devastating.  Would you continue worshipping at a place like that?  Saul did.  How did he warm up the cold shoulder?

First, he had help (Acts 9:27).  Thank God for people like Barnabas, whom the Bible calls “the son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36).  He intervened.  He took the new Christian under his wings and brought him more into the fellowship of God’s people.  God always needs and makes use of willing Barnabases who will help those on the outside looking in to “come inside” more fully.

Second, he spent time with the leadership (Acts 9:27b).  Barnabas takes Saul to the apostles.  So far as we know, churches at this time were not yet organized with elders.  The apostles were the first leaders in that first church.  Saul got to know them, and they got to know him.  Luke, in Acts 9:28, simply says Saul “was with them.”  God’s leaders are a crucial part of integrating those feeling the chill of the cold shoulder.

Finally, he proved his worth as a Christian (Acts 9:28-29).  He was active.  He reached out.  He was involved.  For Saul, that meant speaking boldly in Jesus’ name and defending His word.  There is absolutely no proof that Saul ever lamented or complained about how the Jerusalem Christians were treating him.  He just got busy.  What was the effect of that?  The first time Saul has a need, “when the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out toTarsus” (Acts 9:30).  They reached out to him.

Ever think you see a spot of frost or icicle on the shoulder of a brother or sister in Christ?  Consider several things.  First, you may be “reading” him or her wrong.  Second, they may be carrying some huge burdens that effect both their countenance and their demeanor.  Further, even if you are right and are experiencing a Frigidaire moment from the faithful, remember the warmth of God’s love.  It’s His church, part of His eternal plan, to which you have been added.  He will never give you the cold shoulder.  Then, remember Saul.  Even if you don’t have a Barnabas, reach out to your elders.  No matter what, remember that you serve the Lord and for that reason must keep your shoulder warm!