Status Accountability

If it’s true that encouragement can change people, then it must also be true that discouragement can as well, only not for the good.  Discouragement removes joy, causes doubt, questions abilities, and can make one want to give up.  No doubt we’ve all experienced it.  Certainly none of us want to be the cause of it.

Social media has increased our accountability.  Consider the words of Jesus:

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36, 37).

Our words impact others and we are being held accountable for each and every one.  With every posted status or comment, we must ask, “Will this bring sunshine or gloom to the reader?”  Of course I’m not talking about prayer requests.  It is blessing to be able to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  I’m talking about ways we might negatively impact others.  For instance:

  • If the very first time we contact someone is to object, criticize, or point out a perceived wrong, it probably won’t have the kind of effect we hope it will.  Relationship is necessary.  Just because we are “friends” or followers on social media doesn’t mean we’ve built the kind of rapport essential to any kind of admonishment being well received.
  • While venting may temporarily relieve our own frustration, it really doesn’t do much for the reader no matter how wittily we word it.  Everyone experiences bad customer service, careless drivers on the road, messed up orders, or any number of life’s daily annoyances.  What do we hope to gain by sharing it?  Sympathy?  The comments generally show that all we’re doing is reminding others how frustrating life can be.  Surely we want to accomplish something better than that with our words.  Complaining is just a bad habit (Phil. 2:14).
  • We’re not going to agree with everything written or posted, but let’s choose our battles wisely.  And let’s consider our influence as Christians with the tone we use.  No matter how “right” we may be, sarcasm still sounds obnoxious.
  • And finally, we really are not meant to be the Police of Social Media.  Let’s not be Facebook trollers out to catch others doing bad.  Let’s catch others doing good.  While there may be times when we can and should offer a gentle word (in private) of admonishment, more often than not we can and should offer grace.

We know that we should think before we speak.  Sometimes we need to be reminded to think before we post as well.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Prayer for Today:  Help me use my words, Lord, to draw others closer to You.

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Weary and Discouraged in Your Soul

I’m almost afraid to write this because I know I won’t do it justice.  This morning I felt like I needed to study the subject of faithfulness and landed in Hebrews 12.  The rich text spoke directly to my heart.  I became still as I absorbed some timely truths and reminders.  Truly, “the word of God is living and active…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Are you weary and discouraged in your soul?  Weariness and discouragement don’t claim us after minor incidents, brief trials, or single slip-ups.  They are the result of time–an extended period of time dealing with something weighing.

  • In your marriage.  Perhaps you’ve been working through some issues that seem to keep cropping up no matter what.  You are decades into your marriage but still face disappointment on a regular basis.  Your thoughts might run along the lines of, “You’d think after all these years we’d have this figured out by now.  I’m sick and tired of dealing with this.”
  • With your health.  You or your loved one might be dealing with chronic illness.  Perhaps you’re battling cancer or just trying to survive one painful day at a time.  You wonder when or if you’ll get better. You may be thinking, “What have I done to deserve this?  I just want one good day of strength and relief.  Is that too much to ask?
  • Trying to make a living.  Maybe you can’t seem to get a reliable job that will make enough to take care of your needs.  Or perhaps you’re trying to raise support to do mission work and can’t understand why many aren’t willing to contribute.  You think, “I’m a hard worker and believe in clean living.  Why do I struggle to make ends meet?”  Or, “I’m just trying to do the Lord’s work.  Doesn’t anyone believe in my efforts?”
  • In your spiritual walk.  Do the same temptations keep tripping you up?  Perhaps you find yourself praying for forgiveness again and again.  You look in the mirror and label yourself, “Weakling.”  You feel like a hypocrite.  You might wonder, “Why can’t I overcome this?  Is God fed up with me?”

In various areas of our lives, we can become weary and discouraged.  Some give up.  After decades of marriage, a spouse walks out.  After years of God’s faithfulness, a Christian turns away.  It’s heartbreaking.  A recurring theme in the book of Hebrews is “hold fast” (3:14; 10:23).  In chapter 12, it seems there are two different types of situations that can discourage us from doing just that.

1.  TRIALS (Heb. 12:1-3)

Do trials get any easier to bear when they’re longterm?  Does one become immune to weariness after months or years of struggle?  Just ask someone who’s living it.  Their battle is daily and as real as it was in the beginning, if not more so.  This is where “weary and discouraged in your soul” is used by the Hebrews writer, and he gives us ways to prevent it from happening.

Lay aside.  “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (v. 1).  Burdens and sins are sometimes companions.  Whatever is weighing on us can lead to anger, resentment, bitterness, and a waning of faith in God’s promises.  We must resist the temptation to think our prayers are useless and keep praying, keep asking God to lift the weight.  Each new day, try again to lay it all aside.

Run.  “Run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1).  Endurance is the key, isn’t it?  The question is, “What am I going to do?”  The answer is, “Keep going.”  We know where we’re going and that’s Heaven.  Even when feeling beat up on, we must just keep running, one foot in the front of the other.

Look.  Because God knows that endurance is easier said than done, He tells us where to keep our focus.  “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (v. 2).  Focus on Jesus.  Why?  Because He “endured the cross” (v. 2) and “endured such hostility from sinners against Himself” (v. 3).  Through no fault of His own, He suffered but He endured.  He put His faith into action and kept going.

2.  WEAKNESSES (12:5-13)

Children of God need the chastening of the Lord.  We have weaknesses.  After reminding us of the importance of God’s discipline, the Hebrews writer tells us how to endure when battling our own weaknesses (and this is the part of the chapter that caught my attention this morning).

Strengthen.  “Strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees” (v. 12).  What are hands which hang down?  The NASU reads “hands which are weak.”  To hang down or be weak comes from a word which means to release, to let go, to hurl.  What a visual!  This is when we just let go instead of holding fast.  The Hebrew Christians were returning to their old ways (Judaism) and don’t we do the same?  We give in to our weaknesses and old habits.  Feeble knees are those which have relaxed or loosened.  It’s the very opposite standing firm.  To strengthen means to make right again, to erect.  If we’ve let go, we need to strengthen our resolve to keep trying to do right.

Straighten.  “Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (v. 13).  I love this verse.  It’s encouraging to know that there are times when we’ll be broken but we can still be healed.  A broken spiritual life or even a broken marriage can be made whole.  To make straight paths for your feet means to create a way that is right, like wagon ruts that are safe to follow because they will lead to where you want to go.  “So that the lame may not be dislocated.”  The NASU reads “so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint.”  A more literal reading would be “that it be not turned out of the way.”  Giving in to our own weaknesses can cause us to go astray or be wayward.  Instead, we must make straight paths so we can heal, so we can keep going in the right direction, albeit a bit more slowly.

Whether through outside trials or our own weaknesses, there may be times when we feel weary and discouraged.  A very human response is to want to give up, but God tells us we can endure and we can be healed.  I trust that, don’t you?  Sometimes it’s just good to be reminded.

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