The hardest thing for me about being a Christian is the mandate to represent God through my lifestyle,my words, my actions, my temperament, everything! But at the same time, it’s the most exciting thing because there are new challenges to overcome daily.
At the beginning of the week I had a meeting with a very senior member at the firm where I work and I was given some feedback on my attitude and some behaviours I had exhibited during a particularly stressful engagement and unbeknownst to me, I had offended some colleagues. None of his relayed comments felt like accusations, neither were they lies but I remember feeling a weird sense of betrayal because no one had pulled me aside to say anything before then.
The issue wasn’t so much about the content of the feedback but rather, the ultimate realisation that my conduct seemed to have spoken very little to nothing about Christ to people I worked with for three months. But I knew I couldn’t spend too long beating myself up over this because it was more important that I put my ego and feelings aside and seek to understand whatever God was trying to teach and/or show me from this occurrence.
The whole week my Spirit was pretty much in a funk but on Thursday evening, I finally fought all the emotions weighing me down and really dug into my Bible and asked God to show me the error of my ways from His perspective so that I can know how to avoid future chastisements on the same issue. Here’s what I found:
- Keep it amber: I am a reactive soul. If you upset me, you will know either by my words or actions and sometimes, I end up as the bad guy because my reactions often outweigh the cause. As much as I’d like to give you a list of all my flaws, the focus right now is on how quickly I react negatively to any instances where I feel questioned or criticised. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say that the root of this is pride. James, also known as the brother of Jesus (see Mark chapter 6 verse 3) tells us, “Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.” (James chapter 1 verse 19). Like for many other Christians, this isn’t an unfamiliar verse but reading it this time made me cower in shame a little because I am naturally the opposite of all those characteristics especially when I’m at work. It’s amazing how we hear and read the Scripture but when it comes to application, it completely skips our consciousness. In fact, as I was writing this particular paragraph, I was tempted to be quick to take offence because someone just ignored me (urgh!). But, hey, at least I caught myself in time. Let’s just say I won’t be forgetting this particular verse in a hurry. And by amber, I mean:
- Did you just forget what you look like?: Everyone I work with knows I’m a Christian and they know about this blog too. If my actions don’t add up in this light based on what I’ve meditated on in the Bible, I’ve clearly forgotten what I’m supposed to look like even if it was just for a split second. The Bible tells us “But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth]. For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like.” (James chapter 1 verses 22 to 24). A question I had to rhetorically ask myself during this time of self reflection is that if I can forget what I look like or at least what I’m supposed to look like in Christ, how can I set an example to others? If I told you I read my Bible unfailingly everyday but whenever you come around me you feel like I’d never opened a Bible, how can I expect to win you over?
- Me and My Big Mouth: I LOVE to talk. Talking is like breathing for me. I say I’m an open book but sometimes I feel like I threw away the book cover and the pages are hanging on to the bind (please tell me you found that funny 😀 !). Now, the problem with talking is that I don’t listen very much and this comes across as if I think what I have to say is more important than whatever they have to say. Now if you are like me, please get over yourself, you know nothing to warrant you talking that much, take it first hand from me. The Bible makes several references to how dangerous the tongue is but yet we are always so wreckless with it. It is so dangerous that it can cause God to discredit every good work of faith we think we have performed. You don’t believe me? “If anyone thinks himself to be religious (piously observant of the external duties of his faith) and does not bridle his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religious service is worthless (futile, barren)” (James chapter 1 verse 26). I don’t know about you but I’d hate to be a champion for God in the eyes of others but find that when I meet God, all of that would count for nothing because I just couldn’t shut up. So friends, now you know beforehand the reason for my quieter disposition 😡 . By the way, if you want to learn more about how harmless the tongue is read all eighteen verses of the book of James in chapter 3.
- Be less obvious about what you think you know: Have I mentioned that I can be a bit of a know-it-all? (Don’t answer that!) It’s funny because a know-it-all is only considered as such when he or she is constantly talking about what they know or think they know. I have a penchant for disbursing information, not necessarily to show that I know it all but mostly in sincerity to help someone else avoid unnecessary struggles. But I had to learn that, whether my intentions are to help or to massage my ego, people don’t really appreciate this. There’s something more appealing, inviting and influential about a calm confidence when dispelling wisdom. “Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom.” (James chapter 3 verse 13). Brother James goes further to give more context about what true wisdom is, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous (considerate, gentle). [It is willing to] yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity).” (James chapter 3 verse 17). So you see, no matter what you think you know or how wise you think you are, you must always make sure that it is not founded on your fleshly promptings which are more egotistical and have no resemblance to Christ.
- The road to conflict: I’m often told by my nearests and dearests that I like to have things done my way. In all honesty, I don’t always recognise it in myself but I know for me this is definitely a major cause of conflict between me and others (I’m much better now, promise!). “What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members?” (James chapter 4 verse 1). By sensual desires, we are talking about those feelings of pride, jealousy, the need to always have your way, quick to anger etc. If I take the focus off myself and what I want or feel and actively make an effort to focus more on God and the needs of others, I’ll be less attractive to conflict. Knowing that I’m growing to be more self-aware of this particular flaw has also led me to know that “…He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).” (James chapter 4 verse 6). Thank God for his abundant grace over us despite our numerous offences but it should inspire us to continually please Him not cause us to become lackadaisical in how we honour Him.
- Maintain a heart of repentance: One of the things that used to hold me from completely living in my Christian faith is the thought that I couldn’t repent knowing fully well I’m going to commit the same sin* again and again. This, my friends, is a lie from the pit of hell. Thank God for His grace and mercy and the knowledge that if I submit to Him He will begin to create a new spirit within me that increasingly repels sin. You can’t fix yourself and become perfect so you better just start building your relationship with God and He will help you become perfect in Him. You need to always come back to God with a humility and recognition of your wrongdoing to him no matter how bad you think your sin is. “Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery]. [As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins]. Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant].” (James chapter 4 verses 8 to 10).
*Side note: For some of us who often try to justify why certain things are sin or not sin, I want to bring this to our attention: “So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin” (James chapter 4 verse 17). We all know, irrespective of our religious beliefs, what is right and what is wrong by the promptings of our heart.
- What am I saying about others?: We all enjoy (some with less guilt than others :p ) a good session of talking about other people especially those we don’t particularly like, but to what end? Even though this is something I’m generally conscious of, I try to make myself feel better by murmuring “God forgive me” under my breath whenever I catch myself in the act. Unfortunately, God’s forgiveness is not an excuse. “[My] brethren, do not speak evil about or accuse one another. He that maligns a brother or judges his brother is maligning and criticizing the Law and judging the Law. But if you judge the Law, you are not a practicer of the Law but a censor and judge [of it].” (James chapter 4 verse 11). What Law, you ask? “…the royal Law in accordance with the Scripture, You shall love your neighbour as [you love] yourself, you do well.” (James chapter 2 verse 8). Always remember the power of the tongue and before you say anything, as a general guideline if you like, ask yourself whether it is going to fulfil the following criteria: “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.” (Ephesians chapter 4 verse 29).
I’m not sure if I sound like I’m being pretty harsh on myself but God really took me on an eye-opening journey this week and I had to honestly look inwards if I was going to fully absorb everything He was teaching me. Although, the feedback I was given didn’t actually touch on most of these areas, I allowed my mind to go into overdrive and I decided to call myself out before anyone else does or has the chance to.
Know your strengths and weaknesses and work them to your advantage. And most of all be a Champion for God EVERYWHERE through your words and actions.
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’cause it’s The Steph Way,