I have been reflecting a lot lately on my life and ministry. I think as you get older, you go through more of these times of self evaluation. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that I am 47 and that I have been in active full time ministry for over 25 years. I remember when I was young and just getting started, I would hear people talk and say "back when I started in ministry, this is how we did things." Somehow I have now become "that person". You know that one that can look back and feel justified in giving unsolicited advise because I have time and experience on my side :)
A saying I have often heard is the "more things change, the more they stay the same". I often thought to myself what in the world does that even mean? Well to me it is this. Methods, fads and the culture of things will change, but the basic principles of life do not. People will always be people. They will do things that will shock you, disappoint you, surprise you and bless you. We will all have our good days and our bad. When the going gets tough, you will always see what people are really made of. What matters most is that you find out what works for you and you stick with it. You and you alone can decide what kind of person you are going to be. I had the privilege to be raised by awesome parents who instilled great faith and values in me. They spoke into my life often and were always encouraging me to go for what God had for me. There are 4 basic life principles that I was taught that I have held onto and used for my personal and ministry life. They have served me well, so I felt led to share them with you!
Rule #1 - Don't Seek Your Own Revenge. Vengeance is God's.
Romans 12:19 NLT says "Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the LORD." He is way better at it and He will always be just where we will not. Our human nature is prone to want to see people "get what they deserve!" The only problem with this thinking is if God truly gave those who wronged us what they deserved, then He would have no option but to give us what we deserve when we wrong another. God doesn't act impulsively, He acts righteously. He knows how to deliver judgment with grace and mercy to correct a person instead of destroying them.
Rule #2 - Judge NOT lest YE be judged.
Matthew 7:1 NIV says ""Do not judge, or you too will be judged." One thing that my dad used to always say when I would point my finger is "be careful about pointing your finger at someone. One is pointing to them, but three is pointing back to you." I used to get so aggravated because I thought that isn't fair! I am pointing because the attention should be on them. Look what they did! But as I have gotten older, I realize that when I want to point out the flaw or problem with another I need to look into myself and make sure that I am not guilty of the same thing or worse. Shining the spotlight on someone elses mistake never excuses your own.
Rule #3 - Touch NOT God's Anointed
I Chronicles 16:22 NASB says ""Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm."
How easy it is to sit from our spectator's seat and rate how we feel a pastor or a preacher is doing. How easy it is for us to exercise grace and mercy in our own lives, but fail to extend the same to the man or woman of God. We made the mistake a long time ago of putting God's Anointed on pedestals that they never asked to be put on. It's easy to sit in an audience and criticize the way a Pastor handles the church or the way a Preacher delivers a Word. Until we have walked even a half of a mile in their shoes, we have no right. And the more you criticize and less you become involved, the stronger the negativity builds in your heart and spirit. My parents emphasized this to me growing up. We don't have to like a style or a method, we just have to agree on the message! As a person in the ministry, I know that I will be held to a higher standard for what I say and do. God chose to put them where they are. He and He alone will deal with their words and actions.
Rule #4 - Bless Those Who Curse You
Luke 6:28 NLT "Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you."
Now this one is a tough one because it is so contrary to our human nature. Who wants to bless someone who is a cursing them?? :) I mean come on! God blessed me with a quick wit. Wasn't it so I could use it? hahahaha It is so hard to keep your mouth closed when ill is being spoken of you or those you love. But another valuable thing that I was taught was how to kill people with kindness. Yes arguing and having a quick retort makes you feel better temporarily, but you have to live with the words that you have spoken. When you let God fight your battles, chose to respond with a Christ like attitude, you can go to bed at night with peace in your heart and soul. Words can be thrown out, but they are so very hard to take back! And often by not responding to the "bait" that someone is throwing out to catch you and trip you up, they lose interest and move on.
These are just 4 of the many valuable lessons I have learned but they are the basics ones that have taken me through every phase of my journey so far. They have served me well and never steered me in the wrong direction. It is easy to write these down but not so easy to always practice them! But then again…another lesson my parents taught me was….anything worth having is worth "paying for" and if it was easy everyone would be doing it! :)
Now I am off to practice what I have just preached. Help me Jesus! :) Your friend in life…