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Friday, April 18, 2014

Principle 21: Know Your Advantage

Ever heard two kids square off in the play yard with words resembling, "My dad can beat your dad any day"?  What is going on when they announce this confident statement is a little bit of one child trying to prove something - that he or she has an advantage.  Advantage is something we have been trying to "get" ever since we breathed our first breath.  It is any opportunity or circumstance we can "work our way" to that will ensure success or a particular desired end.  Every time we took the little toy into our tiny clutches and proclaimed, "Mine!", we were taking or proclaiming the advantage.  Each time we postured so as to say, "Don't mess with me", we were posturing to declare we had some advantage.  I remember learning some hand-to-hand combat maneuvers in the military, somehow thinking knowing the maneuvers would give me some advantage over another if the situation arose.  Ummm...I doubt if I would have any advantage over a black belt in karate, though!  Why? What I was putting my faith in as "advantage" was pretty unreliable! Advantage is really not in what we possess or what we declare to be at our disposal - it is in what becomes an ingrained, worked-in, practiced part of our daily lives.

It’s better to be wise than strong; intelligence outranks muscle any day.

Strategic planning is the key to warfare; to win, you need a lot of good counsel.  (Proverbs 24:5-6 MSG)

Advantage is really determined by things other than military might or the size of your muscles.  If we take to heart the advice of Solomon today, we begin to realize the advantages we have in this life are entirely because of who and what we know.  We have the wise counsel of scripture - giving us an advantage over those who rely upon their own devices to get through in this life.  We have the determined tutelage of the Holy Spirit in our lives - giving us the advantage of receiving immediate feedback before any decision is made.  We also have the excellent advice of wise counselors - those in the faith who have walked where we walk today and have learned a thing or two along the way.  Advantage is in who and what we know - and the way knowledge is a powerful tool in our hands is when we put it into practice enough to know it is tested and true.

To win, you need a lot of good counsel - not just one word you will hang your hat on.  I cannot tell you the times I have just listened to the first voice that came along and found myself "burned" in the end.  Either thins turned out miserably for me, or they just kept getting worse as time went on for all of us who bought into that voice.  This tendency to get "burned" with the over-reliance upon that "first voice" without the advantage of putting that "voice" to the test with the things we know really give us the advantage simply gets repeated time and time again if we don't learn to step back and seek the wisdom of the counselors we have been given.

There is much wisdom in not just listening to the first voice we hear.  I even ask God if it is him I am hearing!  I don't think he is affronted by me asking, though, because he knows I am really saying I don't want to just go into something blind - I want him with me!  In time, I begin to recognize the voice of my Lord, but at first, I may question if it is him.  Why does time make a difference?  In time, I learn how he speaks, when he speaks, what things he values and directs my life toward, etc.  It comes by spending time with him and listening to the counsel he gives through is Word, sound biblical teaching, etc.  It develops a set of trusted principles in my life which I can refer to when considering the next step I should take in life.  In other words, I have a set of "counsel" principles which I know to be wise and trusted - foundational to my life.

We can go a long way in this life with "true advantage" when we are determined to allow the counsel of the Lord be the guiding influence of our lives.  Just sayin!