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 Birds of the Air

Photo courtesy of Mark’s Outdoor Shots, © 2019 Mark Kephart Sr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” –Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

 It was literally the birds of the air that caught my attention one morning during my quiet time.

The morning temperatures were still warm enough to sit out on the back deck and absorb the peacefulness of the woods behind my house. I’d not slept well the night before, my mind whirring with worries.

I know—Christians aren’t supposed to worry, right? But life slams Christians, too. What makes it different for us is how we respond to it.

And I wasn’t responding very well. Not as well as I thought I would. It’s easy to spout Scripture when things are going relatively smoothly. But when the storms come, the winds tear at your faith, and the waves crash over your resolve to stand firm, it’s all you can do to hang on.

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and He’ll sustain us (Psalm 55:22). It’s one thing to read those words; it’s another story entirely to do them.

Now, I’m good at casting. The problem is I keep reeling the burden back in. And casting it out again. And reeling it back in.

That night I cast my burden on the Lord by presenting Him with the whole list of what was worrying me. I claimed Philippians 4:19—that God will supply all that I needed. And, in keeping with Luke 11:9, I asked. I sought. I knocked.

Now if only I could leave the response to Him.

But no. I awoke the next morning with the burden still heavy on my mind, heart, and spirit.

The little gray bird flitting from limb to limb caught my eye first. Then the robin, worm still in its beak.

“Look at the birds of the air,” I heard God say. “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  (Matthew 6:26)

I looked up the Scripture—Matthew 6:25–34. Three times Jesus said, “Do not worry.”

And I remembered Philippians 4:6—“Don’t be anxious or worried about anything.”

I did the second part of that verse—“pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” But peace still eluded me. Because I kept reeling those worries back in again and again.

“Worry is like a rocking chair,” motivational speaker Glenn Turner noted. “It gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.”

I’m not good at sitting and waiting for God to work. I have to be doing something—anything but be still.

“I have come, that they might have life,” Jesus said, “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). Abundant life.

And worry compromises that abundant life by siphoning your hope, your joy, and your energy, and replacing them with anxiety, insomnia, tension, and irritability. In other words, you’re no fun to live with.

So, how do we deal with worry?

First, recognize where it comes from: the enemy of our souls, a lack of trust in God, and a weak faith. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Second, respond to it by praying: cast your burdens on the Lord and leave them there!

Prioritize that worry list. Determine what’s most important and, with prayer, deal with that.

And finally, live in the present.

“Worry is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once,” said Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. “It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.”

Look at your calendar. See that square marked today? Focus on that. Live in one square at a time.

Do you dwell on the what if’s?

Do you focus on the worst-case scenario?

Do you lie awake at night because your worries are whirring through your mind and you just can’t put them to bed?

Maybe, like me, you need more practice with your casting—and learning not to reel them back in.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.  –Psalm 94:18–19 ESV

Read and reflect on Matthew 6:25–34.

 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Mark’s Outdoor Shots, © 2019, by Mark Kephart Sr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.  Click here to see more outdoor shots.