14 October 2013

12 October 2013


I’d have never thought myself an envious person. But recently, after hearing a sermon on the famous passage on love in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (the 13th chapter), I discovered that I suffered from an acute problem of envy.

It turned out that mine was at quite an advanced stage. I was really envious of a lot of people who had things better than me by any measure. For some reason I never realized it was a problem in my life.

The thing that has stuck with me most from Haddon Robinson’s words on love not being envious (though it was more of an aside point) was how unreasonable envy is. The unreasonableness of envy is that it will not likely be willing to 'swap clean'. Haddon said in his sermon that the envious person must be ready to ‘swap clean’. If I’m envious of a friend who has a certain car, isn’t it unreasonable to want the good he has in his life without having to contend with the bad? I mustn’t get the car only, I must get everything else; his asthma, his broken family, his loneliness, his undetected cancer, his few remaining years on the earth etc. When you think about it that way, you stop and think twice before envying. It is unreasonable to envy; you can’t want the good only. If you envy, you must swap clean. It should be all or nothing.

Unfortunately, in my depravation, I used this to make myself feel better. I opted to dwell, therefore, on the negative aspects of the lives of those I envied which of course wasn’t Haddon’s point.

I think the most sinful thing about envy is that it is an affront to God. To be envious is to tell God that he isn’t doing his job right and that you know better. It is to tell him that he should have given you kids like that family has, a car like that person has, a wife who cooks as good as that other guy’s wife, etc. It is to basically tell God that he made a bad call. What can be more offensive? Wasn't that God's point in those several chapters in Job where he responds to Jobs complaints for the terrible circumstances he had found himself in, going from hero to zero. God was saying in all those chapters, are you sure? Are you sure you can sit on my throne and do a better job? Of course, all Job could do was repent. There is a delicate balance we must find where we do our best and not be lazy while simultaneously accepting the place God puts us, with the things and people that he gives us. We must work hard so that we avail ourselves the best things of this life while being ready to live with the things God causes us to end up with.

The heinous thing I’ve found with envy, especially in my life on a social level, is its paralyzing effect. I have found myself failing miserably and literally unable to genuinely rejoice with those around me when they are blessed in some way or other. When you envy the progress of others, it is not possible to truly be happy for them and with them. This invariably results in a failure to mourn with them in their sorrow as well since you’re happy to see them go down and lose out. It is a terrible place to be. I've also found myself crippled; too focused on what I don't have that I fail to enjoy what I do have. How sad! Worse off, I end up robbing God of the thanks he deserves for what he has actually given me all because I'm so consumed by what he hasn't.

The trickery of envy is in its perpetuity. When does it end? When will you ever have a life that is so great, no one else has anything better than you? Sure, you’ll end up with a lot of money, but you’re not likely to have the best spouse or kids as well. You can never envy enough. I remember a song that used to be played a lot when I was in high school which had a line, “Remember when you’re feeling blue, there’s always someone who has it worse than you…” Well, they’ll always be someone who has it better than you in one area or other. So envying won’t get you anywhere. Contentment really is the better alternative.

Finally, the folly of envy is that it works on assumptions. It assumes that having that thing that the other person has will finally make you happy. It assumes that you deserve better than the person you’re envious of. It assumes that the thing(s) you envy about the other person is/are the aspect(s) of their lives that complete them. These assumptions are all faulty. That thing you envy won’t make you happy; true happiness is not found in the things we envy. No sir, no ma’am, you don’t deserve better than the person you’re envious of; on your best day, you deserve nothing from God at the very least. And finally, nothing temporal can complete a person; the people we perceive to be happy and complete are often not and if they truly are, it has everything to do with something permanent that cannot be corrupted or taken from them, something which comes only from above.

Envy is a disease of the heart, and every time I find myself with a wrong attitude i.e. a heart problem, I pray this little prayer I heard sang as a child:

Change my heart, Oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart, Oh God
May I be like You

You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

I am yet to be let down after praying this prayer sincerely!

04 October 2013

Faith – A Must for Any Relationship


Here’s the thing about faith. The bible says without it, it is impossible to please God. The truth of the matter is that without faith, it is impossible to please anyone.

Any father would want his son to have a reasoning mind, to think through actions before taking them and to decide whether an action is profitable or not and not just do things blindly. However, no father would want to have to explain the reasoning and benefit before issuing his every instruction or conveying his every request. Why? First of all, because his son must be obedient and seek to honour him but more so because he would like his son to have a level of reverence and TRUST so that he can carry out instructions and honour requests without first questioning them.

This is true of any relationship; parent-child, boss-employee, sibling-sibling, friend-friend, etc. We rarely ever have to explain the benefit or reasoning behind every request we make to people we relate with from day to day. This is because, for most of them, they love and care for us and/or simply TRUST us and we them and they carry out more of what we ask and believe more of what we say without questioning it, even if it doesn’t make sense, than they do while requiring proof and reasoning from us first.

This is especially so with a romantic relationship. A man’s chief puzzle is his woman and vice-versa. Women are always talking about how they can never understand men and men say the same. Why then is it that a man will carry out instructions and requests and do things for his wife/fiancĂ©e/girlfriend even if they do not make sense to him? In fact, ask any man who decided to have a “why” mentality towards his woman and find out how long he was able to go on with that! You’ll discover that he couldn’t keep it up because it displeased her, and rightly so.

Spending hours shopping for the house when it could really all be done in 30 minutes? Going back to the shop to get a particular kind of cheese when the one he brought home first works up to 99.9% as well? Celebrating the baby’s first birthday even if the child will neither understand nor have any recollection of it? These are things that an average man may not appreciate and yet goes ahead to do anyway. Why? Because would like it and he loves her. And if he only does things which make sense to him in his relationship then she will not be PLEASED with him. Faith is necessary to please those we love.

Why should it be any different with God?

How can God be pleased with us if we only accept him when everything he has said and everything about him makes sense to us? How is our trust in him demonstrated when we choose to believe him ONLY when all the evolutionist’s questions are answered? What underlying message must God receive when we refuse him until all questions are answered and everything makes perfect sense in our heads? A belief in God on our own terms is no belief at all.

I understand that God took away a person or people you loved from you, but must he explain himself before you follow him? I understand that so many of your questions remain unanswered, but must you require a file from God containing answers to all your questions and before you come to him? No. We do not hold those around us to such an insensible standard, why must we do it to God?

Just as we do not demand that everything we do for those we love make sense, if we are to love God, we must believe in him and exercise trust in him and do as he says even if it doesn’t all make sense.

This is where atheists get it wrong. They have good questions. They ask, among other things; If God exists, why does he allow evil? Why does he allow suffering? Why doesn’t he speak in an audible voice and show the world that he is real? Why am I unhappy and unfulfilled if God really loves me and cares for me and wants the best for me? And so on. What I find illogical from people these people who claim to be very logical is that they do not demand ALL the answers from those they love and care for, and yet they demand this from God, who loves and cares for them. Yes, God encourages us to bring our heads with us when enter into a relationship with him by believing and trusting in him but to demand all our questions and queries answered before we yield to him is unacceptable. He will not answer them all because he is pleased when we exercise faith in him. When we submit to him even if it hasn’t all made sense, he is well pleased with us. It is the ultimate sign of love for him when we surrender to him with our questions and queries still unanswered.

Thankfully, as we grow in our relationship with him, through the study of his word and prayer, our questions and queries get answered along the way. Hence the good old song we sing, "We will understand it better by and by." And thankfully, he promises us that when all is said and done and history is wrapped up, all will be made plain and clear. He doesn't owe it to us but because he loves us, he will. Why did you lose your loved one who meant so much to you? Put your faith in him, you will understand it better by and by. Why did you lose your job/health/wealth? Why did that unfortunate circumstance befall you? Put your faith in him, you will understand it better by and by. Why doesn't the bible make a 100% clear, beyond shadow-of-doubt argument for God's existence? Put your faith in him, you will understand it better by and by.

Matthew 10:26 ~ So have no fear for them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be made known.

Hebrews 11:6 ~ And without faith, it is impossible to please God.