Sunday, October 12, 2014

Icy Hot

(This article is a repeat of an earlier post, and many of you have read it before. But it is a good follow-up to the previous post just below it. It continues our study on "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth."  -Billy Long)

“The Lord has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.”     Isaiah 50: 4
Icy Hot or Preparation-H
Years ago a lady in my hometown was suffering from that “burning and itching sensation” that we hear about in TV commercials. She sent one of her children to the drugstore to purchase a tube of Preparation-H Ointment, which was placed in the tiny medicine cabinet above her bathroom sink along with other medicines which promise relief from various physical ailments.

Soon afterwards, her hemorrhoids began to “flare up,” and the pain drove her back to the medicine cabinet for the relief she so desperately needed. Reaching for the Prep-H Ointment she inadvertently took the Icy Hot instead. Icy Hot is a wonderful medication for muscular pain and various aches that need penetrating heat, but it was never intended for hemorrhoids. You can imagine what happened as she applied a very generous portion to the afflicted area.

Job’s Comforters
Truth, like medicine, is meant to be applied appropriately, especially when we are dealing with people’s lives. “Job’s Comforters” are people who are quick to give an opinion based on a superficial observation and without any revelation or true insight into the realities of the person to whom they speak. The first two chapters in the book of Job portray Job as a godly man bearing up under unbearably severe infirmities. Then his friends came and sat with him a few days. Job probably sensed what they were thinking and knew they were about to open a jar of “Icy Hot” to rub into his hurting wounds. As a result he cursed the day he was born. They had come to comfort him, but proceeded to add to his distress with their insensitivity, condemning words, and misapplication of truth. How often does this happen in our own lives!

Not in the Same Boat
It is not wise to make rash judgments against people based on outward circumstances. We need wisdom when we reach out to people in their moments of trial, so that our words are in season. We cannot tell what season a person is in just by looking at the “color of the leaves on his tree.” It is possible for two people to be in similar circumstances for opposite reasons, and it takes revelation to know why a person is where he is. Jonah was in his distress because of his disobedience. Job, in contrast, suffered because he was perfect, and God was pleased with him. Jesus was hanging on a cross among thieves and criminals, but he was there for a vastly different reason. “Job’s Comforters” cannot tell the difference; they swing the sword of truth without discerning the people to whom they speak.

What counsel would you give the two men I am about to describe? What would you say to the people who are with them? These two men are in two different boats. The boats are being tossed in a terrible storm at sea. Both men are asleep in his boat while everyone else on board in both situations are terrified that everyone is about to perish. What do you say to these men whose circumstances, in terms of outward description, are almost exactly the same? Well, one of these men is Jonah. He is there because of disobedience and must be thrown overboard. The other is Jesus. He is God and is about to teach His disciples a lesson in faith. A Job’s Comforter most likely would have taken his lesson from Jonah, looked at the outward similarities, and would have proceeded to throw Jesus overboard.

Truth and Love
Knowledge alone does not make a person spiritual, wise, or mature. Knowledge alone can produce arrogance and be used to inflict pain. With our knowledge we need wisdom and insight. And if you feel you are short on these, then just fall back on love. In many cases compassion, mercy, and love will prevent you from speaking foolishly and behaving unwisely when it comes to giving words and advice that might hurt people. Obviously there is a time for “open rebuke” and the “wounds of a faithful friend” (Prov.27:6). But too often people suffer from the insensitivity of a “Job’s Comforter” who brings in the Icy Hot for a pain it was not meant for.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Balanced Spiritual Diet

His word was good, but it seems to be his only word.
I was listening to a very well-known TV preacher who was, in his usual way, giving a wonderful message about how God wants to bless His children, help them to succeed, and “be all they can be.” His message was good, but something troubled me about it.  Then I realized what bothered me. It was not that his word was bad, but rather that it was his only word. He seems to feed his flock one philosophical principle while omitting other important facets of God’s word.

No one truth can be our foundation.
The whole Bible must be our foundation. We must not take one truth and lay it as the foundational principle upon which we set the Bible and all our philosophy. We err and open ourselves to distortion and even potential deception when we make any one doctrine or truth to be THE foundation, and then try to interpret all other truths and doctrines through that filter. The whole Bible must be the foundation for our belief system. Making one particular truth to be our foundation will “black-out” all verses and legitimate truth that might seem to contradict or be other than our “pet” doctrine.
Your “pet truth” may be good and have its place in nourishing the Christian to balanced growth. But when you try to make it THE foundation by itself and the standard by which you accept or reject all other Biblical truth, you will automatically end up ignoring, rejecting, or discarding other necessary and genuine facets of Biblical truth. You will find yourself avoiding necessary and good Bible verses that convey truth necessary for balanced growth and proper understanding of the complex and often perplexing and paradoxical experiences of life.

Don’t Leave out the “others.”
For example, Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter and lists many heroes of faith. Verses 32-38 describes two groups of believers whose faith carried them through vastly different and contrasting categories of experience. The first group (verses 32-35) by faith subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, out of weakness were made strong, turned to flight the armies of aliens, and received their dead raised to life again. The second group (verses 35-38), referred to as “others,” were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection, had trials of cruel mocking, and scourging, chains, and imprisonment. They were stoned, slain with the sword, and afflicted. This chapter makes it clear that everyone in both categories obtained a good testimony before God in that they all acted in faith.
So, therefore, I cannot make my foundation to be only the faith that gives me what I want and always makes me comfortable. I have to set the whole Bible as my foundation which presents to me the faith that moves mountains, heals the sick, and raises the dead, but also which gives me strength to face and endure various trials, persecution for Jesus’ sake, and the tribulations that come with the spiritual warfare in proclaiming the kingdom of God on this earth.
“Therefore, I will remember you from the land of the Jordon (valley) and from the heights of Hermon.”  Psalm 42:6
To be fully trained we must have an obedient heart and be faithful from the valley pit to the mountain peak and everywhere in between.  
We are encouraged by those who have lived the full range of experience, who have known the glory of the miraculous presence of Jesus, and who also have been tempered and seasoned by the fires, testing, and disciplines of obedience over time.
 I am encouraged and strengthened by those who can speak eloquently of the mountaintop and yet richly of the valley, by those who can encourage me in my valley without despising me for being there, and who can rejoice with me on my mountain without envying my experience.

The Bible speaks of faith for success, healing, and answered prayer. It also speaks of faith for endurance and tribulation. The truths don’t contradict each other; they speak to different aspects of reality. They don’t balance each other, but rather together they balance you. There are a number of other Biblical examples I could give that illustrate the fact that the whole Bible must be the foundation. Every truth and principle must have its place. God has designed it so we cannot divorce the truth from HIM who is the truth and who spoke it. We need the Holy Spirit to help us “rightly divide the word of truth” that we may apply it properly. While we are blessed by our favorite and current revelation we must not neglect or deny the rest of the Bible.

“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20: 27