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Don't think you can constrain me!

Have you ever done good and found out someone was talking behind your back about what you did in a not so positive way?  In fact, they are kind of making fun of you for being a goodie-two-shoes, or just "brown-nosing".  It is unfortunate, but people will be people - this is one thing we can count on!  Not everyone will understand why you do what you do when God moves you to do something out of the ordinary for someone else, nor will they always see it as done just because you wanted to bless someone.  In fact, they will likely see it as you trying to get ahead, or maybe as though you are trying to "one-up" them.  Either way, don't get all weird about their reaction to you - they don't understand your purpose and they drift into this criticism of your actions because they don't know your heart.  The important thing is that you are acting in a way which honors God and with the intent of being an extension of God's grace in the lives of the ones you touch today.  Your "blessing" doesn't come in someone else understanding the purpose of your actions of love - it comes in you being obedient to be a blessing in the lives of those around you!  The tendency of human nature is to offer criticism about things we don't understand - we cannot avoid criticism in life - it is just going to come.

Why would anyone harm you if you eagerly do good? Even if you should suffer for doing what is right, you will receive a blessing. Don’t let them frighten you. Don’t be intimidated, but exalt Him as Lord in your heart. Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope. Keep your conscience clear so that those who ridicule your good conduct in the Anointed and say bad things about you will be put to shame. (I Peter 3:13-16 VOICE)

As kids, we may have heard that little saying, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt me."  Anyone other than me ever think, "You're crazy man...words get to the core of who I am quicker than a few lashes from a stick"?  Words, especially those intended to show disapproval of one's actions, can eat away at us like acid on a fine paint job.  They just don't stop at being heard - they get at us because our minds have a tendency to rethink them time and time again.  One of the reasons people criticize another is this feeling of being "intimidated" by the actions of the other person.  They are made to "look bad" because another thought to do something they didn't, or they just couldn't find a way to show their "skill" like you did, so they are jealous of your talent.  One of the very skillful tools they will use is their attempt to intimidate you with their words and even their actions. In essence, they are working to "constrain" you - something pretty hard to do when God is directly behind all of your actions in life!

Intimidation is meant to disquiet you internally - it is something which works at the core of our thoughts and begins to affect our emotions.  This is the power of intimidation - it gets a foothold into our emotions and when our emotions get stirred up, there is no telling where the power of those emotions can take us if we don't get a grip on them.  The way our writer tells us to deal with intimidation is by keeping God in the center of our hearts - exalting him as Lord in your heart.  If we are to have a good defense against criticism and intimidation, we need to have a good offense - God at the center is probably about the best one I know! It is hard to dishearten someone who has God at the center of their hearts!  If we get God at the center of all we do, there really is nothing for anyone to criticize, is there?

Another component of being "strong against intimidation" is this concept of keeping a "clear conscience".  I think this has to do with us "staying current" with God as it comes to our actions which may not be entirely "spot on".  In other words, we don't allow our compromises and slip-ups to "pile up" until we find the need to make some huge "altar confession".  We simply ask God to forgive us, help us change our focus, and then move on in obedience to what he desires for us.  We don't allow compromises to "mount up" because when we do, we open the door to allowing those side-ward glances to become the path we will follow with greater and greater consistency.  In time, our conscience no longer responds to the prompt to stop.  So, the advice of our writer is to keep a clear conscience - stop when you feel the prompting to stop, confess you are tempted to give into something which is playing upon your heart-strings at that moment, and ask God to show you the way to turn away from that compromise.  

Even our own conscience can be a little intimidated at times - especially when it listens to the tugs of our heart-strings more than it listens to the truth we know somewhere deep down in the inner core of our being!  It is a fine balance to walk through this life in such a way that neither our own conscience, nor the criticisms of man can derail us or constrain us from doing right.  Just sayin!

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