The Games People Play

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay 

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . peace. Galatians 5:22 NIV

Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. –Romans 12:18 TEV

Make every effort to live in peace with all men. –Hebrews 12:14 NIV

 

Karen and Paula were fighting again. Our third grade class was split in two.

“Whose side are you on?” one classmate would ask the other.

Never mind that the two best friends would soon make up and put the spat behind them, leaving the rest of us in social turmoil, everyone mad at everyone who wasn’t on her side.

Everyone, that is, except Thomas.

“I’m on my own side,” he answered confidently when I asked him.

Good for Thomas for not choosing sides and staying out of it. He probably had—and kept—the most friends.

Why did I have to choose a side, anyway? Because it was the thing to do? Because I felt pressured by my peers? Because if I didn’t choose a side, I’d be left out? At least if I chose a side, I’d have some friends.

At that age, I thought the silliness of taking sides was a kid-thing, that we’d outgrow it and, as adults, be able to get along with one another.

Ha! It doesn’t get any better, does it? From office squabbles to church splits to road rage to family feuds, discord abounds in the world around us. Will it ever end?

A more important question, though, is, where does it start? (Once you can answer where it starts, you have the answer to how it can end.)

It starts, not with conflict between two people, but in the heart. When the twins of selfishness and pride reign, one-upmanship defines all your relationships. You have to tell the better story, own the nicer home, drive the more expensive car, have the last word, inflict the final blow.

It never ends, though, does it? It just goes on and on and on, until one person says, “I’ve had enough.”

It takes two to tangle. All it takes for peace is for one person to refuse to take part in these dangerous games people play.

Look at the story of King Saul and David, the shepherd boy anointed to be the next king. With all his kingly resources, Saul relentlessly pursued David to kill him, but David, even when he had an opportunity to gain the upper hand, refused to retaliate. It wasn’t David who suffered from a troubled spirit (1 Samuel 16:14).

How can we obtain the inner peace that spills over into outer peace?

First, make peace with God, the giver of peace (Romans 5:1), through His Son, Jesus Christ. Remember the peace that He gives is deep and lasting, unaffected by worldly troubles (John 14:27).

Second, learn to trust God with every aspect of your life, banishing anxiety by telling God about your needs (Philippians 4:6–7, 19; Matthew 6:8, 25–33), knowing that His way is always the best way (Isaiah 55:8–9).

Third, train your mind so that your thoughts are on God, for He will “keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on” Him (Isaiah 26:3).

Fourth, make a conscious effort to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15) by refusing to play the one-upmanship game, to retaliate when someone hurts you (Matthew 5:38–48). Don’t allow bitterness to take root in your heart and mind, where it will grow and poison you and your relationships with others (Hebrews 12:14).

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, and every kind of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Don’t play the payback game (Romans 12:14–21).

Instead, “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32), and overcoming bad with good.

Peace is a choice.

What’s yours?

Dear God, in a time when world peace is humanly impossible, remind me that true peace begins with me—and You. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Samuel 24 and Colossians 3:12–15.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey.

The Joy Stealers

Third in a series on The Fruit of the Spirit

“Grace,” photo by Eric Enstrom

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy. –Galatians 5:22 NIV

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. –Philippians 4:12 RSV

My grandson and I had an interesting conversation in church one Sunday. The pastor was preaching on the Ten Commandments, and Brent, as usual, was on the fidgety side. So I gave him a notebook and pencil to help burn up some of that nervous energy. He spent the next several minutes copying the Ten C’s in the notebook then showed it to me.

When I got to the last one, I noticed that “covet” looked like “cover.” I wonder if he knows what “covet” means? I thought. At eight, probably not. So I asked him. (Writing in the notebook, of course. It wouldn’t do to talk in church, and with my hearing loss, even with my hearing aids, I can’t hear whispers.)

He shook his head.

“It means to want something that you don’t have,” I wrote. “To want something that belongs to someone else. It’s a sin because it makes you feel jealous and envious of others—and ungrateful for what God has given you. It also leads to stealing, and it robs us of joy.”

I underlined joy twice.

I don’t know whether Brent understood what I was trying to teach him, but it sure gave me plenty to think about.

You see, the past couple of months had been lean as far as my freelance writing and editing go. It seemed as though everything had dried up. The outgo exceeded the income. And we needed both incomes—from my husband’s job and my freelance work. And focusing on the debt was sucking the joy out of life.

So we decided to streamline and simplify. I canceled the satellite TV and the newspaper subscription, and dropped my gym membership. Walking is cheaper and will give me the same results. I substituted skim milk for the expensive protein shakes I’d been drinking and warm skim milk at bedtime in place of ice cream.

I borrowed a relative’s unused bread machine and began baking bread from scratch.

My husband was okay with this.

“It’s what you get used to,” he told me with an I-really-don’t-want-to-do-this-but-I-will-if-you-say-we-have-to look on his face.

I was okay with it, too. After all, I’ve spent most of my life on the “have not” side of things. It’s taught me resourcefulness. And I love a challenge.

One day I pulled out my verse for the day—Philippians 4:12.

I’d always read that verse from the have-not perspective, but this time it hit me: I know how to be abased. I know how to face want and hunger. What I don’t know is how to abound. How to handle plenty and abundance.

I’ve had the chance, and I was unwise. I took the plenty for granted, felt a false security in it, and wanted more—so I could keep up with others whom I secretly envied.

But the abundance didn’t bring me the joy I thought it would. I worried I’d lose it, that someone would steal it, or it would be burned in a fire or otherwise destroyed.

It may be that not having enough steals joy. But the more dangerous joy stealers are covetousness and not knowing how to handle the blessings we’ve been given.

Deep, lasting joy comes from knowing that God will supply all my needs according to His glorious, abundant, limitless riches (Philippians 4:19).

And that’s a promise I can bank on!

Give me neither poverty nor riches, O Lord. Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may become content without You. And if I am too poor, I may steal, and thus insult Your holy name. Amen. (Proverbs 30:8–9)

MORE TEA: Read and reflect on James 4:1–8.

For more on joy and joy stealers, read Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 6; Philippians 4:4–7; Romans 12:12. And, when you’re feeling down, sing a verse or two of “Count Your Blessings.”

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey.