A Grumbly Spirit

For several weeks recently, I had been allowing myself to think negative thoughts. The result was that I hadn’t felt happy, had forced myself to do what I needed to do, and had been generally unpleasant. This had been a continual burden on my heart as I prayed each day. One morning I brought up my struggles to Steve while we were talking on our daily walk. He encouraged me. That discussion also began quite a thinking process as I did my cleaning later that morning. The Lord and I have some of our best “discussions” during Friday morning cleaning.

The Lord showed me the root of my problem. I had been complaining in my heart—complaining about my day being full of things I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to grade schoolwork. I didn’t want to write Mom’s Corners or books. I didn’t want to write Christmas letters or figure out what to get people for Christmas. I didn’t want to pick up after people. I didn’t want to be careful of what I ate. There was more, but I think you get the idea.

These were all things I either was doing or was going to have to do soon that I didn’t want to do but were my responsibility. Looking at that list, I see that there is nothing at all awful, bad, or even that difficult about those tasks. As a matter of fact, they are activities that I can enjoy if the circumstances are right—although I am not sure I ever enjoy checking schoolwork. It is likely some of you reading this article would think the jobs I was complaining about are wonderful jobs. For me, though, they had become burdensome to the point of a grumbling, negative overall spirit.

The Lord caused me to realize that my problem is not what I have to do but my attitude toward it. What an ungrateful attitude I had! If I were living in prison for my faith in Christ, wouldn’t I be delighted to have the opportunity to be free once again and check my children’s schoolwork each day? Wouldn’t I be rejoicing each time I sat down with those school papers? I thought about the stories I have read of Christians being separated from their families, put into sparse living conditions in a prison, forced to hard labor for endless hours, and even physically abused. What would they think of the most distasteful task I had set before me? Wouldn’t they love to be in my circumstances?

My focus on the Lord and serving had been lost in the midst of what I want to do and what I like to do. I had come to think only of myself. The more I thought about not enjoying certain tasks, the more tedious they became. It was draining—not the job, but my emotional response to it—causing me to feel tired. My thoughts discouraged me. Eleven more years of checking schoolwork! Those kinds of feelings caused me to procrastinate and let things slide to which I should have attended. This was not the kind of wife, mother, and homeschool teacher I wanted to be.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). My thoughts were not being brought into the obedience of Christ. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite was happening. Those thoughts were self-centered rather than God-centered and other-centered. On top of that, my selfish direction didn’t make me happy. I kept feeling more unhappy as I dwelt on what I didn’t want to do.

Here is the starting place for change. I have to confess my wrong thoughts, discontentment, grumbling, and unhappiness to the Lord as sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is such a simple step to take. It is very painless except for hurting my pride—which is a good thing to be hurt.

Next comes the truth of Jesus Christ to which my thoughts need to be obedient. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Rejoicing—not grumbling, not complaining, not disliking, but rejoicing. The starting place for moving away from my rut of negativism was to take those thoughts captive. Instead I needed to think truth—rejoicing.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When I am murmuring about what I don’t want to have to do, I am not giving thanks. This verse tells me clearly that I am no longer in God’s will when I choose to be discontent rather than to give thanks. That is a heavy statement worthy of consideration. Sometimes we allow and excuse our bad attitudes when instead we should see them as sin and deal with them as such.

As I pray each day asking the Lord to strengthen me to keep my mind on His truth and not allow me to complain or focus on self, I know that is the Lord’s will for me. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Steve often encourages me that I can make the choice to be obedient. Then, the Lord is the One Who does the work. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). It all starts with that choice I make.

If you have been struggling with a negative attitude, a complaining spirit, or a self focus, may I encourage you to begin by recognizing that is not God’s will for you. See it as sin and ask forgiveness. Make the choice to be obedient by rejoicing, being thankful, and taking your thoughts captive. Go to the Lord, asking Him to help because His grace is sufficient, and we can do all things through Him.

Pride – Part 2

I wonder if pride isn’t the number-one accepted sin in Christian circles. A church may discipline men for using alcohol or being immoral, but I have never heard of a man being disciplined because of his pride. Pride is an abomination to God. Pride is what cast Satan from heaven and brought hell to earth. We will tolerate it in our lives but react to it in others. It is at the root of all contention and an abomination to God. It often destroys marriages and can be a tremendous factor in losing the hearts of our children. Yet, if God hates it, why don’t we? I wonder if one reason we don’t hate pride is because we feel so helpless to kill it in our lives.

In September’s Dad’s Corner we discussed pride. This month we will finish with some further thoughts on it. Let’s briefly look over the verses that were listed in a previous Corner.

Proverbs 6:16-17, “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood.”

Proverbs 16:5, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.”

Proverbs 21:4, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.”

Proverbs 21:24, “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.”

For the man who despises pride in his own life, there is hope. For the man who tolerates it, there is a fall coming. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

As I shared previously in Part 1, one night in frustration I prayed, “Lord, if pride is so awful, then why don’t You plainly tell us how to put it away?” Since humility is the opposite of pride, why didn’t He tell us step-by-step how to be humble? Soon after that, as I was studying a section of Scripture, I was thrilled as I realized that He has told us. Frankly, it is about as close to step-by-step instructions as I could have hoped for.

I believe that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is key in overcoming pride. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

Looking at these verses, one can soon see that the focus is on the other person. Every aspect of each verse requires a choice on the part of the person who loves the other. We are not at the mercy of some emotional feeling that catches hold of us and propels us toward loving the person more. The love being shared here is a choice based on a rational decision to place value on the other, and then express it in a tangible way.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). Notice it isn’t by our humility that all men will know we are His disciples, but by our love. In time, humility will be a by-product of our love, but choosing to love is where it begins. Is that really it? Is it that simple? All we have to do is love others according to 1 Corinthians 13.

When pride brought sin into the world, what was God’s answer? His answer was Christ Jesus and His atoning work on the cross. Jesus said, “. . . as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). What was God’s motivation? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son . . .” (John 3:16).

Love is the answer to pride. Pride is focused on self, and love (agape) is focused on others. We can’t focus on ourselves and still be able to love others. We really can’t be proud and love others in accordance with 1 Corinthians 13. Look how simple it is to get rid of our pride!

Unfortunately, as soon as we begin in earnest to love as we are told to, we discover a problem. At least I have discovered a problem when I tried to love according to 1 Corinthians 13. It seems impossible!

Charity is patient. Charity is kind. Charity does not envy. Charity does not boast. Charity is not proud. Charity is not rude. Charity is not self-seeking. Charity is not easily angered. Charity keeps no record of wrong. Charity does not delight in evil. Charity delights in truth. Charity always protects. Charity always hopes. Charity always trusts. Charity always perseveres.

At the same time, pride is impatient. Pride is unkind. Pride envies. Pride boasts. Pride is rude. Pride is self-seeking. Pride is easily angered. Pride keeps record of wrongs. Pride delights in finding evil in others. Pride rejects truth about oneself. Pride only protects self. Pride can’t hope because it trusts in self. Pride quits when it gets too uncomfortable.

I think these next two verses present a further explanation of the relationship between love and pride. In Matthew 22:40 Jesus says, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” If we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourself, we fulfill all the law. Paul explains that “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

The law was meant to show the Jews they could not fulfill it themselves by their own goodness and efforts. I believe God is showing believers the same thing. We can’t fulfill the law of love in our own strength and character. Without His power and intervention, we are helpless to love as we are commanded. The more we try to love, the more we are humbled as we see we are unable to love others in our own strength. As hopeless as it is for any lost person to earn salvation by doing good or keeping the law, it is impossible for a Christian to love as we are commanded to love. (I’m not saying that if we fail to love others we will lose our salvation. Christ has purchased that fully for us.)

I believe that what we will find is that love for others will lead us down a path to the cross. It did for Christ, and it will for us as well. Brothers, pride dies on the cross. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). As Christ surrendered His will to the Father and only did and said what the Father showed Him and told Him, may we surrender to the Lord and let Him simply work through us. We become vehicles for Him to love through us.

I don’t believe focusing on pride is the answer. Killing pride is simple, just not easy. The Jews had to humble themselves because they couldn’t fulfill the law in their own strength. We will be humbled as we take up our cross of love. We need to make the choice to love, and God provides His grace if we will surrender our will. If we will surrender, our homes will be transformed. May we be committed to loving as God has called us to, all the while crying out to the Lord to use us as a channel for Him to love through us. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).