Having a Sabbath?

Most Christians look at the Bible as a sort of “rule book” by which to guide their lives. They see a command in the Bible and assume it is for them to obey. Never mind who the command was originally spoken to, when it was spoken, or why it was spoken (the circumstances). If it is a command then it needs to be obeyed. Right?

But, as odd as it may seem, most biblical laws really are not clear. They may work as general guiding principles, sure, but when God says, “Thou shalt not,” you are really hoping for some specifics.

But readers from ancient time have always understood that keeping a law means more than “doing what it says”; it means deliberating over what the command actually requires in the here and now in which we live.

Discerning how a law is to be obeyed, in other words, is something each generation of believers and every individual believer needs to determine. The Bible is for thinking people who are not afraid to question what is written and why and if it is still applicable today.

Pick any law out of a hat — maybe something from the Ten Commandments. The 4th commandment say, Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). Remembering the sabbath means to observe it, which means, as the following verses explain, to cease from all work (sabbath means “rest” or “cease” in Hebrew). This goes for all who live in the household, from the head on down to children and servants. Even the animals take a day off.

I suppose at first glance this seems clear enough. Just knock off work one day a week as God said. How complicated could that be? Plenty complicated. For one thing, what exactly constitutes “work”?

In the average Christian culture (is there really such a thing these days?) not working might mean not going in on Sunday to that place that gives you a pay cheque. But is work only what we get paid for or is it any task that requires some exertion? Ancient Israelites didn’t collect a pay cheque, and yet they had this command to follow. What about cutting the grass, painting the trim, washing the car? And does it make any difference whether I might actually find cutting the grass relaxing? Is it all relative? How do we know? Will God smite me for emptying the dishwasher or organizing my underwear drawer on a Sunday afternoon?

And what if your Sunday leisure causes others to work? If you go to a movie or eat out, are you contributing to someone else’s sin? It’s easy to get paranoid. To be on the safe side you might just want to try standing still and practice shallow-breathing for twenty-four hours.

And what about those who don’t “go to work” in the conventional sense with clearly defined work hours? What if you are, say a collage professor, who only teaches four hours a day, two days a week, but has to prepare whenever they get a chance, which usually involves reading.

To make my point, as a teacher of the Word and an author, reading is part of my job. Should I therefore not read on Sunday? Should I just play it safe and watch television? Although someone has to find the remote and press the button. Is that work? And what do I do when the news ticker crosses my screen and I’m tempted to read it? Do I avert my eyes?

I’m getting silly, I know. But more seriously we are not even getting into whether police, firefighters, surgeons, disaster-relief workers, or Apple customer service should have Sunday off — not to mention whether single mothers who need to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads can afford the luxury of “keeping the sabbath.”

To complicate matters further, although some Christians believe that observing the sabbath is still binding (because it’s a “clear” biblical command), others argue that it’s not, taking their cue from “clear” New Testament passages like Colossians 2:16-17 (sabbaths are a thing of the past) and Matthew 12:1-8 (Jesus Himself “works” on the sabbath by plucking grain). So maybe for Christians sabbath keeping isn’t a thing at all. It’s really not clear either way, though that hardly keeps some Christians from almost coming to blows over it.

I’m not belittling sabbath keeping. I actually think the practice is spiritually and emotionally healthy, and I try to keep at least a different pace on the day I choose to celebrate sabbath. I do respect those who are more intense about it than I am. I’m only pointing out that how (or whether) to keep the sabbath isn’t clear. 

There’s a lot at stake here, but rather than clarity we get ambiguity. The law as written leads its reader to ponder what it means and how to obey it here and now. In other words, we need to be practical and apply the passage to the here and now bringing it into our current culture and circumstance applying it with wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is hard to be black and white when it comes to many of the “laws” in the Bible. They were meant to be interpreted and applied and not just read as hard and fast rules and applied.

We need to not be afraid to question the truths we read in the pages of our Bibles. Christians need to be thinking people who are working hard at understanding and applying the principles and practices of the Scriptures applying them in real and practical ways to the world in which we find ourselves. 

Foundations of the Faith – Part Seven

One benefit of repentance is forgiveness. Another benefit – and a major part of the foundation of the faith – is the gift of the Holy Spirit. When Peter declared “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” he meant that the person of the Holy Spirit is the gift. Peter uses Korea, a general word for gift, and not charisma, the word used in 1 Corinthians 12 to refer to the nine gifts of the Spirit. 

Before the Day of Pentecost, John the Baptist’s ministry featured repentance and water baptism. The fullness of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives made the New Covenant inaugurated by Christ truly unique and powerful. The Holy Spirit would come to live in the believer who repented and received forgiveness. And, then the Holy Spirit could come upon them, empowering them to be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:5, 8). 

In Old Testament times, God had anointed certain individuals with miraculous powers of the Holy Sprit. The Holy Spirit came upon prophets, priests, and kings (1 Kings 19:15-16) or filled them temporarily to accomplish certain tasks. Moses thought the anointing of the Holy Spirit was such a blessing that he yearned for the day when all God’s people would receive it (Numbers 11:29). Through the prophets, God the Father promised to send the Holy Spirit to dwell permanently inside the people. 

The prophets declared:

Isaiah 4:4 (CSB) “when the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodguilt from the heart of Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning.” 

Isaiah 32:15 (CSB)  “until the Spirit from on high is poured out on us. Then the desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will seem like a forest.”

Isaiah 44:3 (CSB) “For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants and my blessing on your offspring.”

Ezekiel 36:26-27 (CSB) “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.”

Joel 2:28-29 (CSB) “After this I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days.”

Peter boldly declared to his audience on the Day of Pentecost that these prophecies were being fulfilled in their midst. Jesus had promised His disciples a new and living relationship with the Holy Spirit following His death and resurrection. Now the Messiah was introducing this new dimension of the Spirit, and it would include greater intimacy with the Father and the Son.

John 7:38-39 (CSB) “The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

John 14:16-17 (CSB) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you.”

Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with God’s power. He told them specifically that the power of the Holy Spirit would enable them to be His official witnesses to the ends of the earth. 

Luke 24:49 (CSB) “And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”

Before the disciples could fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), they had to be filled with the Spirit. It was the only way that they would be able to do what Jesus commanded. They had doubted, and at times the Lord had rebuked them for their lack of faith (Luke 8:22-25). They were ready to call the fire down from heaven on all who rejected them (Luke 9:54). Peter had been used as an instrument or mouthpiece for Satan (Matthew 16:22-23).They had fled when Jesus was taken captive (Mark 14:50). Was this the group that Christ was commissioning to go into al the world? Were these the pillars (Galatians 2:9) of the New Testament Church? For them to influence the world in their generation, the disciples needed to experience the Holy Spirit living in them and working through them. 

But more than this they needed to be empowered by the Spirit which comes with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which we will look at next time. 

Growing Through Criticism – Part Four

Continuing to look at how we are to handle criticism …

9> Surround yourself with positive people.

When you have optional time, spend it with people who will build you up. Enough quality time with positive people will minimize the effect of negative criticism in your life. It will also discourage you from being critical. When a hawk is attacked by crows, he does not counterattack. Instead, he soars higher and higher in ever widening circles until the pests leave him alone. Circle above your adversaries rather than battle with them. If your positive attitude has any effect on negative people, it will be because of your example, not your defensiveness. So rise above them. It really is hard to soar like an eagle if you identify with the turkeys!

10> Concentrate on your task or mission — change your mistakes.

Most people do exactly the opposite — they change their mission and concentrate on their mistakes. If you run from your task each time you make a mistake, you will never accomplish anything. You will always be in a state of frustration and defeat. The only real mistakes in life are the mistakes from which we learn nothing. So instead of dwelling on them, count on making them, learning from them, and moving on to finish the job. There’s an Arabian proverb they says if you stop every time a dog barks, your road will never end. Don’t let your mistakes become roadblocks; make them building blocks.

In order to build strong relationships you need to know how to take criticism graceful, but there are also times when you will have to be the critic. It is possible to confront without ruining a relationship, but use caution, because careless confrontation can be devastating. Before you confront and be critical, check yourself in the following areas.

TEN TIPS FOR GIVING CRITICISM

1> Check your motive.

The goal of confrontation should be to help, not to humiliate. Three key questions will help you expose your true motives. So ask yourself:

A> Would I criticize this is it were not a personal matter? Sometime we react differently when we are emotionally or personally involved. 

B> Will criticism make me look better? Cutting someone down to boost yourself up is the lowest form of ego gratification. It’s the sign of a very insecure person. Remember that it isn’t necessary to blow out another person’s light to let your own shine.

C> Does this criticism bring pain our pleasure to me? When it is painful for you to criticize others, you are probably safe in doing it. If you get the slightest bit of pleasure out of doing it, you should hold your tongue. 

2> Make sure the issue is worthy of criticism.

To whom does it really matter? Sometimes our pride causes us to engage in skirmishes that need never happen. Continual, petty criticism is the mark of a small mind; you have to be little to belittle. The secret to not letting yourself be distracted and needled by insignificant issues is to keep your head up and your eyes on the goal.

3> Be specific. 

When you confront you must be tactfully explicit. Say exactly what you mean and provide examples to back yourself up. If you can’t be specific, don’t confront. People can usually tell when you are skirting an issue and will not respect you for it.

4> Don’t undermine the person’s self-confidence.

Try to find at least one area in which you can praise the person before you expose the problem. Stay away from all-inclusive statements like, “You always…” or “You never…” Assure them that you have confidence in them and their ability to handle the situation correctly.

5> Don’t compare one person with another.

Deal with people on an individual basis. Comparisons always cause resentment and resentment causes hostility. There’s no need to create a bigger problem than the one you already have, so why arouse heated emotions? If you stick to the facts, you’ll be less likely to put the person on the defensive. 

Sometimes I have Stinking Thinking

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-have-stinking-thinking/

Here is what I know:

Wrong thinking leads to wrong living

Here is another thing I know:

Manure happens

And, a third thing that I know:

One of the greatest stumbling blocks to spiritual life and spiritual growth is getting stuck in our negative, untrue, and impure thoughts instead of believing and living what God says in His Word

Our natural or built-in language is negative Read more

Loving Difficult People – Part Three

Another person who is difficult to deal with is the THUMB SUCKER. Thumb Suckers tend to pout, are full of self-pity, and try to get people to cater to their own desires. This pouting is used as leverage to manipulate others. If things are not going their way, they can create a heavy atmosphere that is as oppressive as a rain cloud. They can do this very cleverly. Often they employ the silent treatment to get what they want.

Here is a strategy in dealing with this individual.

First, make the Thumb Sucker aware of the fact that moodiness is a choice. This is essential. People become moody to manipulate people and gain control. They are very seldom moody by themselves. Teach them that they are responsible for the atmosphere they create, especially if they are in a position of leadership in the team or the church. Everyone in the world has problems; the Thumb Sucker has no right to add his or her personal petty grievances to the load. They can choose to be even-tempered and no longer impact a situation or others by their pity party approach to life. 

Sometimes it is helpful to expose Thumb Suckers to people who have real problems. Perhaps it will cause them to see themselves in a different light and to have a more grateful heart and positive attitude. 

It is important to never reward or give attention to moody people. Giving them an opportunity to publicly exhibit their negative attitudes gives them a sense of recognition. The best method of attack is to praise this person’s positive ideas and actions and ignore him when he is sucking his thumb.

Thumb Suckers are subject to mood swings; they’re negative only part of the time. However, THE WET BLANKET, on the other hand, is constantly down and negative. He is the classic impossibility thinker who see a problem in every solution. He is afflicted with the dreaded disease of Excusitis — finding problems and making excuses.

The most difficult thing about working with a person like this is that he or she usually takes no responsibility for his or her negative attitude and behaviour. It’s either “the other guy’s fault” or it’s “Just the way I am,” — a way of blaming God. Again, don’t reinforce the Wet Blanket’s behaviour by providing a platform from which to make excuses. Kindly but firmly point out that you have confidence in this person, but his or her present attitude is hindering progress. He needs to choose whether or not he is going to  risk being positive and responsible. If he chooses to change his behaviour, he’ll have a cheering section. If he chooses to not change, though, your best move will be away from him.

THE GARBAGE COLLECTOR is locked even deeper into the mire of negativity than the Thumb Sucker and the Wet Blanket. Garbage Collectors have surrendered the leadership of their lives to negative emotions. Oh, how they love to rehearse and replay the injuries they have suffered at the hands of other people. They nurse their wounds and hold onto their wounded ill spirits. Briefly and concisely, they stink! The fact that there is garbage in life is depressing enough, but to collect it and haul it around town in a dump truck for public viewing is downright sick.

How do you deal with these people? First confront them about the way they try to represent other people. I never allow a person to tell me “there are many others who feel this way also.” I won’t hear them out unless they give me names. That single requirement takes a lot of the “stink” out of their garbage because it usually boils down to just one or two individuals who have an affinity for garbage too. I challenge their statements by pinning them down when they make generalizations and exaggerations. If they have created a serious enough situation, it may become necessary to destroy their credibility by exposing them to a decision-making group.

THE USER is the person who manipulates others for his or her own personal gain. Users avoid responsibility for themselves, while demanding time and energy from others to benefit their own situations. They often use guilt to get what they want. The put on a weak front in order to get people to feel sorry for them and help them out.

How do you work with USERS? First, set predetermined limits on how far you will go to help them. Otherwise, they will push your guilt button and you will weaken. Remember that these people will not only take you the second and third mile, they’ll take you to the cleaners if you allow them. Require responsibility from the User. Even if you feel disposed to help him, make sure he is responsible for some part of the job. Otherwise, you will wind up carrying the load while he goes on his merry way — more than likely looking for another gullible soul.

Last, don’t feel obligated to Users, and don’t feel guilty for not feeling obligated. Most of the time a simple, firm no is the best medicine.

More next time …

Loving Difficult People – Part One

Are you aware of the tremendous advantage frogs have over humans? They can eat anything that bugs them! Wouldn’t it be great of we could consume our relational problems rather than letting them consume us! What “bugs” you the most about people? Is it inconsistency? Inflexibility? Inability to give and take? Bad attitudes? Whatever it is that makes relationships difficult for you to build and maintain is something that needs to be looked at and dealt with. 

I personally can handle disagreements or differences of opinion, but people who refuse to engage in and embrace a relationship that they have chosen to become involved in really gets to me. It means that the relationship becomes very one-sided very quickly. All give and no take. You share feelings and thoughts and there is no response, no interaction. So, it is like talking into a void never knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling. 

I find that most Christian people suffer from very poor and even surface relationships. They truly are missing the relational skills needed to form and build healthy beneficial relationships with others believers and with non-believers. And, as a result they suffer from guilt in their relationships with others. 

Christians are often taught that we should be full of grace,. Sounds good. But, what does it mean? Does God expect us to get along peaceably with everybody? Are we suppose to simply overlook other people’s faults and idiosyncrasies? Right relationships with difficult people can seem like an impossible standard to reach. Just what are we suppose to do?

The Apostle Paul offers this practical advice, “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). You might paraphrase that verse to read: Do the best you can to get along with everyone. Yet realize that once in a while you are going to have a relationship with a difficult person that may fall short of the ideal. 

A personal inventory of the “Three P’s” will help you determine your part in a difficult relationship or association.

    • Perspective. How do I see myself? How do I see others? How do others see me? Our perspective determines how far our relationships will develop.
    • Process. Do I understand the stages of a relationship? Do I realize there are some stages in a relationship that are more critical than others?
    • Problems. When facing difficulties in a relationship, how do I handle them?

Show me a person who sees themselves in a negative light and I will show you a person who sees others in a negative way. The opposite is also true. A person who sees himself positively also looks for the good in others. It’s all in one’s perspective. 

Some people see a relationship as a series of isolated incidents, and one bad incident can break the relationship. People who think this way never develop deep relationships. Their friendships are precarious, on-again-off-again types of associations. These people run every time a difficult situation arises. They seldom, if ever, develop long-standing relationships.

Let’s take a look at perspective first. We act in a way that is consistent with the way we see ourselves. I act as I see myself. In fact, it is impossible to consistently behave in a manner that is inconsistent with the way we see ourselves. Understandably, this is the cause of many relationship problems. 

Only when we view ourselves with 20/20 vision will we be able to see other people clearly. Perspective is crucial. That’s why Jesus spoke about judging others: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5). He is telling us we need to deal with our own attitudes before we criticize another person.

In Matthew 22:39 we read Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour as yourself.” He knew that if we truly loved ourselves, we would also love our neighbour. He also knew that before we could really love our neighbour, we would need to love ourselves — not a selfish, self-serving type of love, but a deep appreciation of who we are in Christ. Most of the time our relational problems stem from the fact that we ourselves have problems or issues that have not been resolved. It is not possible to treat another person’s hurt until we have first discovered the cure and accepted the treatment ourselves.

The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37 illustrates this principle. The robbers who beat the the traveler used people. They stole from the traveler and saw him as a victim to exploit. The priest and the Levite were legalistic and withdrawn. They saw the beaten, robbed victim as a problem to be avoided, because they believed if they touched a dead man they would be unclean according to the Law. The Good Samaritan was a social outcast — despised, ignored, and rejected by society. He knew what it was like to be passed by and uncared for, but he also had experienced the cure. When he saw this victim, he was able to empathize with him. He looked upon him as a person who needed to be loved, identifying with the traveler’s problem and sharing in the solution. 

It is perspective that helps build relationships. 

When you realize that people treat you according to how they see themselves rather than how you really are, you are less likely to be affected by their behaviour. Your self-image will reflect who you are, not how you are treated by others. You will not be riding an emotional roller coaster. This type of stability will have a tremendous effect on how you feel toward and deal with others.

The key to successful relationships really gets down to responsibility. I am responsible for how I treat others. I may not be responsible for how they treat me; but I am responsible for my reaction to those who are difficult. I can’t choose how you’ll treat me, but I can choose how I will respond to you. 

More next time…

Sometimes I Live Without Hope

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-live-without-hope/

HOPE – A LIVING REALITY

In the last few weeks I have come to realize how many people – including believers – live without hope

They feel hopeless

They sense that they are hopeless

They live with this nagging feeling that no matter what they do nothing is going to change – hopeless

On my recent trip to Montreal I met with a man who is in his early forties … “without hope”

In his mind:

  • No future
  • No open door to a bright future
  • No way out
  • No potential for change
  • No possibility of overcoming “life”

In a recent visit with one of my sons: Read more

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Six

As you grow more self-confident you will find your confidence has a contagious quality. It will spread throughout your sphere of influence. The Bible provides some interesting examples of “confidence contagion.”

For instance, how many giant-killers are in Saul’s army? None. When Goliath defied the armies of God, they quaked in fear (1 Samuel 17:11). David, who came to bring food to his brothers, sized up the situation, went out in faith, and killed the giant. After David the giant-killer became king, how many giant-killers arose in Israel? Quite a few. They were almost a common commodity in the army under David’s leadership. 

1 Chronicles 20:4-8 “And after this there arose war with the Philistines at Gezer. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants, and the Philistines were subdued. And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants. And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, struck him down. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”

Why do you suppose there were no giant-killers in Saul’s army? Surely one reason is that Saul himself was not a giant-killer. However, under David’s leadership they were numerous, because David was a giant-killer. This illustrates a tremendous principle, a principle that runs throughout the Bible — it takes one to make one! When you develop confidence, those around you – friends, family, fellow church members – will increase in their own confidence levels. Confidence breeds confidence. 

Everyone needs to be affirmed both as a person and as a believer. Affirmation allows our self-confidence to grow. It is easy to give a generic compliment such as “You’re great to work with.” But a comment that really means something to a person is specific and mentions a certain quality: “I appreciate your efficiency in relational skills, and this is very important to the success of the group.” We don’t help others by passing on empty compliments or avoiding the necessary task of sharing needed constructive criticism. Unfortunately too often we are stingy with honest praise. Built up those you relate to and encourage them by verbalizing their worth and value in front of others. Remember, praise in public and criticize in private.

Confidence can provide the momentum you need to be the person God meant you to be. It cannot substitute for character, or skill, or knowledge, but it enhances these qualities so that you can be a person who makes a difference in the life of others. When you have people knowledge and skills and the momentum that confidence brings, then things begin to happen in your relationships.

The largest locomotive in the New York Central system, while standing still, can be prevented from moving by a single, one-inch block of wood placed in front of each of the eight drive wheels! The same locomotive, moving at 100 miles-per-hour can crash through a wall of steel-reinforced concrete five feet thick. The only difference is momentum. Confidence gives you the momentum that makes the difference.

You remember the childhood story about the train engine that did because he thought he could. Some of the larger engines were defeated when they saw the hill. Then came the little train hustling down the track repeating to himself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” and he began to pass al the other locomotives who were saying, “It can’t be done.” As he got closer to the top his speed got slower and slower, but as he reached the crest, he said, “I though I could, I thought I could, I thought I could….”

The little engine made it, but not because he had more power or more skills. The little engine made it because he thought he could; he had more confidence. Many times we feel like little insignificant engines. But if we hone our skills and talents, then add a good dose of confidence, we can climb hills and overcome obstacles and barriers that could have stopped us dead in our tracks. Why pull off the track and stop when we can conquer those mountains with the momentum of confidence in our engines? 

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Five

We have seen that to feel confident and appear confident in relationships and in life in general we need to:

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

4> Put a few wins under your belt

5> Quit comparing yourself with others

6> Find something you’re good at and then specialize until you are special.

It could be a sport, a task, a natural ability, or a personally developed talent and ability. Use that strength as much as you can to build your level of assurance and specialization. As you do a confidence will arise inside you. A successful person will play to their strengths and not focus on their weaknesses. And this is true when building solid, long-term relationships as well. Confidence comes from knowing what you are designed and wired to do and doing it to the best of your ability. 

6> Begin to develop a knowledge of people. 

Here is a humorous old story which points out the importance of knowing who you’re dealing with. A Baptist deacon had advertised a cow for sale. “How much are you asking for it?” Inquired a prospective purchaser.

“One hundred and fifty dollars,” said the advertiser.

“And how much milk does she give?”

“Four gallons a day,” the deacon replied.

“But how do I know that she will actually give that amount?” Asked the purchaser.

“Oh, you can trust me,” assured the advertiser. “I’m a Baptist deacon.”

“I’ll buy it,” replied the other. “I’ll take the cow home and bring you the money later. You can trust me. I’m a Presbyterian elder.”

When the deacon arrived home, he asked his wife, “What’s a Presbyterian elder?”

“Oh,” she explained, “ a Presbyterian elder is about the same as a Baptist deacon.”

“Oh, dear,,” groaned the deacon, “I have lost my cow.”

The deacon knew his product; he knew his cow. But his lack of people knowledge defeated him. To have confidence you will need to take the time to study people (be a people watcher), learn necessary relational skills, and develop a well-rounded personality so that you can confidently enter into any relationship within your season of life. 

So, you have developed confidence – what do you do with it now? Now that you have all this confidence, what should you do with it? Keep refuelling it! Confidence is not a constant; it fluctuates according to your success / failure ratio in life. We all have defeats and failures which occasionally and temporarily lower our level of confidence. If you accept the fact that you will not be outstanding in everything you attempt nor in every relationship you work to establish, you will not be devastated when your best is not good enough.

You will also find your confidence has a contagious quality. It will spread throughout your sphere of influence. The Bible provides some interesting examples of “confidence contagion” which we will look at next time. 

Feeling Confident In Life – Part One

Have you ever noticed that some people simply stand out in a crowd? What is it about them that sets them apart and that draws them to your attention? 

    • Their sense of direction — the assurance that they know where they are going?
    • Is it an awareness that they have certain abilities?
    • Maybe it’s because they have good people skills?
    • Is it their sincerity?
    • Their past successes?
    • Their ability to use eye contact and body language?

What do they have that draws people to them and that people appreciate, apparently feel comfortable around, and even want?

I believe it is “confidence!” Self-confidence carries a conviction, a strength, and it draws others to you. It allows you to stand out in a crowd. And, it helps people to feel comfortable around you. But most importantly, confidence allows you to feel comfortable and even relaxed around others. You know who you are. You understand your purpose at this stage in your life. You are good at what you do – having sharpened your talent and learned important skills. You feel strong and secure, self-confident. The result: you live with conviction and as a result others will feel comfortable around you. 

A story I read back in September, 1989 goes like this:

A five-year-old boy was intently working with his crayons at the kitchen table when his mother walked in and questioned what he was doing. Her son replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God.”

“But honey,” she responded, “no one knows what God looks like.”

With great confidence the boy boldly stated, “They will when I’m done.”

I like that sense of self-confidence, boldness, and positiveness. And, believe me, this confidence is powerful. And, confidence is also contagious. 

The writer of Hebrews recognized the value of confidence:

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:35)

The author of Hebrews is letting us know that confidence is not set in cement; it’s possible to lose it. And one of the key elements that removes confidence from the way we live life is those that we hang out with. Most people fall into two categories: confidence builders and confidence shakers. If you are unsure of yourself, a confidence shaker can do you in. 

The following story provides a great example of confidence breakdown.

A man lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs. He was hard of hearing, so he had no radio. He had trouble with his eyes, so he read no newspapers. But he sold good hot dogs.

This man put up signs on the highway advertising his wonderful hot dogs. He stood on the side of the road and cried, “Buy a hot dog, mister?” And people bought his hot dogs. He increased his meat and bun orders, and he bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade. He made enough money to put his son through college.

Unfortunately, the son came home from college an educated pessimist. He said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio? Haven’t you been reading the newspaper? There’s a big recession on. The European situation is terrible, and the domestic situation is worse.”

Whereupon the father thought, “Well, my son’s been to college. He reads papers and he listens to the radio; he ought to know.” So the father cut down his meat and bun orders, took down his signs and no longer bothered to stand out on the highways to sell his hot dogs.

Of course, his sales fell overnight. “You’re right, son,” the father said to the boy. “We certainly are in the middle of a big recession.”

Confidence shakers see the negative side of everything. When they get you to buy into it, the very thing that was helping you be successful becomes your downfall. 

Unfortunately, this negative process can and too often does happen in the lives of Christians. We all go through periods of testing, wondering if God really can meet our every need. With a little discouragement from a good confidence shaker, we begin to doubt His ability and our own. This can begin a downward spiral which ends in the pit of failure and frustration. Our confidence has not only been shaken but uprooted.

The positive message from Hebrews 10:35 is that our confidence has a great reward. If we keep and build on it, we will be more than recompensed. Confidence in oneself is the cornerstone to inter-personal success ad healthy relationships that last. It is difficult for those who do not believe in themselves to have much faith in anyone else. Self-confidence breeds confidence in others.