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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Got any enemies?

Ever wonder how to get your enemies to settle down and live at peace with you?  I have and in fact, I have jumped through many a hoop I thought would "settle the pack", but in fact did nothing more than just entertain them - giving them more to poke fun at.  During a particularly challenging season in my life in my career, I learned something though.  In the darkness of that season, lasting about half a year, I was daily challenged as a leader, criticized for decisions made, and even received threatening and demeaning letters of accusation, some bordering on threats.  The times were challenging and I came close to throwing in the towel several times, almost thinking walking away was the best means to an end.  Yet, in the darkness of the hour, I learned something which I have held onto - my reputation may be criticized, torn apart, and even drug through the mud, but my "life" could not be challenged. Why?  Simply put - I chose to live my life in a manner pleasing to God - trusting my life would speak louder than any words in my defense.  The most profound defense I could muster would not compare with a life lived in alignment with God's Word, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, and continually worshipful in his presence.  

When people’s lives please the Lordeven their enemies are at peace with them.  (Proverbs 16:7 NLT)

What had I learned in that season of testing?  

First, and probably foremost, I learned to not "manage" my own reputation, but allow God to manage it for me.  A life lived in alignment with his principles and committed to modeling the behaviors of a child of God was all I could muster some days - it was challenging enough in the face of such opposition, but absolutely necessary in order to not give up.  As long as my life was managed by him, my reputation was also in his control - regardless of what others might be saying or how they might be trying to mar it. Remember this - live for ONE and all the other voices you hear will not really matter in the long run.  ONE voice is strongest - ONE hand holds you the closest.  You don't "manage" your life - HE does.  You don't "manage" your reputation - it is made when you allow HIS life to be lived through you.

Second, the toughest battle was with my mind.  What I chose to focus on the most became key to how I handled the hurled accusations and demeaning criticisms.  It wasn't that "I" was strong, it was that "HE" was strong through me - to filter out those things which were untrue and to embrace those which were.  Even our worst enemies speak words of truth sometimes in their accusations and criticisms - so when I focused on Christ first, those words filtered through him - pointing out the truths right along with the untruths. Those things I could "own up to" and allow God to correct, I did.  Those things which I could not, I let go.  In choosing to focus on God's Spirit within to filter through those thoughts before they took root in my mind, I was ensuring an accurate "picture" of how things really were.

Third, peace is a matter of perspective, not a result of the circumstances you are in at the moment.  Although the circumstances create havoc and seem to disturb what some may view as "peace", peace is a determination of heart, mind, will, and emotions - get those in right alignment and others have less opportunity to disturb your peace.  Outwardly all kinds of unkind things were happening.  Inwardly all kinds of peaceful things were occurring.  Why? The determination of heart, mind, will and emotions to allow God to maintain my perspective - not me!  We get things all "balled up" whenever we try to maintain perspective alone - because emotions get involved, playing on our mind, impacting our will, and driving our heart.

Last, enemies are not always "made" - sometimes they just "are".  That might sound a little silly to begin with, but hear me out.  We cannot "make" anyone act a certain way - they choose to on their own.  Our actions may influence their decisions to act a certain way, but it is entirely their choice to act!  All we control is our actions - theirs are simply not under our control.  When we keep our focus right, we are not responsible for the actions of another - our lives are not to be fluctuating to match the perspective of our enemies.  We are to remain consistent and allow God to deal with their perspective.  Only he can turn their heads and hearts - not us!  Just sayin!