Open Doors

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18, NIV)

These verses can be so hard to live out! When we are wronged, our fleshly response is to retaliate in some way. If not with our actions, then with our words, thoughts, or attitudes. We do not like to think of those responses as evil, but if our motive is not love, God says they are. When we give in to evil desires, we miss out on far more life. I made that mistake this week; I got caught up in defending a perceived wrong by pointing out the offender’s sin in front of others. But instead of feeling better afterwards, I felt worse! That made me realize I had chosen evil over far more life.

Fortunately God tells us how to find far more life in situations where we have been wronged or offended: do what we know is right. We know it is right to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We know it is right to treat others as we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). We know it is right to forgive (Colossians 3:13). In my situation this week, when I finally decided to do what was right, I first chose to forgive the person who offended me, which changed my heart toward them. Rather than trying to convince them of their wrong, I chose to accept that we had different perspectives and values. This changed my anger to sadness. Then I was able to admit my wrong thoughts and actions, first to myself, then to them. I could feel my heart getting lighter with each step of this process, each choice to pursue far more life.

God takes it a step further: the verse continues, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I appreciate His clear instruction that we are only responsible for our part, and sometimes peace is not possible. I think of it like adjoining hotel rooms; both doors must be open for you to pass freely back and forth. If only one person opens their door, you remain separated. We can open our door to peace by doing what is right, blessing the offender with our words and actions, praying for them, and showing them love. Whether or not they choose to open their door and live in peace with us, we can have a clear conscience about our actions and thoughts. It is sad and uncomfortable to be separated from others, but our open door serves as an ongoing invitation for them to join us in pursuing peace whenever they are ready. God says that is enough. In my situation, I have accepted that the other person and I are not on the same page in life, so the door to many deep conversations is closed right now. I plan to pray all I wish I could say to them in love and trust God with it. I will speak carefully in future conversations unless they directly ask for my input. That is the best way for me to show them love and experience far more life. For now, that is the level of peace we can share.

Why is it important to God that we live in peace with others, especially others who are following Christ?

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Peace brings unity, which is important to God. Merriam-Webster defines unity as oneness or a condition of harmony. God is perfectly united with Jesus and the Holy Spirit; they are one, they live in harmony. And He says this to us, who are created in His image and filled with His Spirit:

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.  (I Corinthians 1:10, GNT)

God wants His children to live in harmony with one another because that is the only way His purpose can be accomplished. If our purpose is to love God and bring Him glory, can we do that if we are divided and arguing? No. In fact, God makes it clear that our love — which grows as we grow in unity — reveals our purpose to everyone:

If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:35, GNT)

This verse always amazes me. It is not our Bible knowledge that shows we are disciples of Jesus. Or the number of Bible studies or church meetings we attend. It is not the good works we do or the causes we support. What communicates our devotion to Jesus is the love we show others, especially other followers of Jesus. Sometimes that love is most evident when we return evil or sin with a blessing. When we do what is right rather than retaliating. When we pursue peace with someone who has offended or sinned against us. When we share our lives and pursue a common purpose. When we choose far more life!

Sisters,
Do you tend to repay evil with evil or with a blessing?
When have you found far more life by choosing to do what is right?
Do you have a relationship that is not at peace? Is your door open and inviting the other person to peace?
How are you living in unity with other followers of Jesus?
Pray and look for opportunities to show love — and choose far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Yield

“The best part is being right on the edge of losing control.”

Hearing this statement from a friend clarified why I do not enjoy downhill skiing. Some personality types thrive at the brink of losing control, not just on the slopes but in other aspects of life. Others prefer the safety of the predictable. Many of us — including me — are somewhere in the middle. But we all desire a measure of control in our lives: control of our circumstances, our comfort, and our destiny. When it is threatened, we go into fight or flight mode to regain control.

But sometimes we must yield control. How we respond depends, in part, on our perception of the new controlling force. Do we perceive it as good? Trustworthy? Knowledgeable? Capable? This is not just true of yielding control to humans, it also impacts our willingness to surrender to God. We grow concerned when we read verses like this:

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:3, NIV)

While God is not accountable to humans or any other entity, He is not a tyrant. Understanding His heart, intentions, and character are all essential factors in our willingness to yield control. Does adding these verses to the discussion increase your willingness to yield control to God?

The Lord remembers us and will bless us… (Psalm 115:12, NIV)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11, NIV)

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. (Jeremiah 10:12, NIV)

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. (Psalm 145:13, NIV)

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. (Isaiah 46:10, NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (John 3:16, NIV)

It is easier to yield to God when we believe He is good, generous, all-seeing, powerful, wise, eternal, trustworthy, faithful, loving, self-sacrificing, and completely righteous. Despite our doubts, there is no risk in giving Him control. He is already in control of our existence, whether or not we acknowledge it. We can only experience far more life in areas where we yield control to God. I appreciate this reminder from Solomon:

I am confident it will go better for those who worship the one True God and stand in awe before Him. (Ecclesiastes 8:12, VOICE)

Yielding does not make us powerless puppets who cannot think or act on their own. It does not make us weak and helpless. Rather it frees us to focus on what is truly within our power to control: our own responses. Far more life recognizes what to take on and what to yield to God.

The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God. (Micah 6:8, NCV)

It is within our power to treat others right, to love showing kindness, to obey God humbly. We find far more life living out these three tasks! It produces peace rather than anxiety, instills hope rather than fear, and raises joy rather than weighing us down with heavy burdens. What does this look like in daily life?

  • Treating others right means treating them as we would like to be treated, in both big and small matters. Like taking only the supplies we need rather than hoarding them. Or standing up for those being treated wrong.
  • Being kind to others means forgiving them because we choose to, not because they ask for it or deserve it. And sacrificing our “rights” to protect those who are vulnerable.
  • Humbly obeying God means using our conscience and discernment to determine what is best but letting Him serve as judge over others’ hearts. And being genuinely thankful for what we have rather than complaining about what we do not.

This verse caught my attention:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:25-26, NIV)

God considers adding one hour to our lives a very little thing. But for us, that is impossible! What are we trying to do that is impossible? Where are we wasting our efforts? How are we missing far more life by trying to do God’s job instead of our own? A friend who thought she was dying says this about her experience:

I realized when it is our time, whether it is soon or yet distant, we will see the Face of God that we have longed for since we began our journey with Him on this earth. But if it is not our time we will live another day with the privilege of glorifying Jesus who gave everything for us. It is in His hands and His control. Either way it is a win-win, so we have absolutely nothing to fear, no matter what happens around us.

Yield control to God and experience the blessing of far more life. This is an on-going process throughout our days on earth. But as you yield, I guarantee you will find exactly what you need, whether that is excitement and thrill, safety and comfort, or a bit of both. And you will definitely find far more life!

Sisters,
In what areas is it hard for you to yield control to God?
What concerns do you have about giving God control?
How would you grade yourself on controlling your thoughts and actions?
Treat others right. Lovingly show kindness. Humbly obey God. Which is easiest? Hardest?
Choose an area today where you have been resisting and yield it to God. Experience the joy and freedom of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso