Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why the World Does Not Hate You

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature,
and in favor with God and man.”
Luke 2:52

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink,
but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
For he that in these things serves Christ is acceptable to God,
and approved of by men.”
Romans 14:17-18

The apostle Paul warned young Timothy that “all who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2Tim. 3:12). Every person who has ever done what is right in the sight of God knows the sadness of being misunderstood and even disliked for no legitimate reason. But that is the case only when “wicked and unreasonable men” are involved. Reasonable people, even if they are non-religious, value goodness and respect godly people. They value honesty, and decent people in every culture on earth respect such qualities as humility, generosity, and moral integrity.

Paul said that when we live according to the will of God, we “commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” It must be admitted that some sinful people do not like what their conscience tells them about the good people they know; at the same time, there are plenty of people who do not deny the testimony of their conscience and appreciate the godly lives that God’s obedient people live. They value decency and goodness, and they don’t mind saying so.

If you have lived a godly life, then you have been spoken evil of by some evil people. But by that same godly life, you have certainly earned the respect and praise of many others. That is how it has always been in this confused world, and that is one reason that “we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness dwells.” We want to live where nothing but truth exists, and where everyone loves it.

Friend or Foe

Meanwhile, while we are here in this life, the important thing is that we learn how to deal gracefully with everything, and not to judge ourselves by the way others speak of us, whether good or bad. My father taught that if our feelings are affected by either praise or calumny, then our heart is not yet established. You must know who you are, regardless of what anyone, friend or foe, says about you. If you do not know yourself and your place in life, then someone else, either a detractor or an admirer, may well convince you that you are someone that you are not. Friends can lift you up to occupy a place above your calling, and enemies can put you down and cause you not to follow your calling – if your heart is affected by the praise or slander or men.

It was a heathen philosopher, Socrates, who rendered the famous injunction, “Know thyself!” From a heathen or not, that warning should be heeded. To know yourself is essential to maintaining peace in the face of the spiritual winds that blow on you from every direction. However, as wise as that warning was, it was given in vain until the Son of God came and brought the knowledge of God to man, for only when man came to know the true and living God could he ever know anything else rightly, including himself.

How precious Jesus is to us! He suffered and died so that we might be filled with the Spirit and come to know our heavenly Father, so that we could at last truly understand ourselves rightly and, so, overcome the influence of anything that anyone says about us, whether friend or foe!

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