I can still remember the first time I read James 1:5,“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
I was a new Christian with much to learn as a wife, a mother and a daughter of God Most High. In my world before Christ, making mistakes or showing oneself as weak was a dangerous thing. Once exposed, the resulting fault-finding and blame-shifting were elements that tore at the soul of this wounded and confused kid. I had lived most of my life desperate to please and keep peace at just about any price. The thought of not having to guard against being ridiculed for showing weakness intrigued me and was downright revolutionary. In the thirty-plus years I have walked with Christ since reading James’ letter, I have tested this promise many times and in various scenarios:Crying out to God in fear. . . Turning to Him with deep regret . . . Seeking Him for the comfort and assurance I lacked– God has proved Himself faithful . . . EVERY . . . SINGLE . . . TIME . . . .
In my last post, I wrote to you about humility being the key to helping others as we rely on God for the wisdom and strength we need. We looked at a picture of relationships being lived as God designed them to be–“Two are better than one . . . “–in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12. We focused on what happens when we invite God into those relationships as the powerful “third strand.” We marveled at how God’s people are strengthened and how those relationships become cosmic because of His Presence.
As I concluded that post, I promised to write in my next post about a very practical tool/exercise that has been helpful to me and has benefited many others. I ask but one thing of you–I ask that you apply it personally before attempting to help someone else with it. I make this request because you will never appreciate the value of what is offered unless you have personally reaped its benefits. Also, by applying it first, Christ’s admonition that you, “take the plank out of our own eye” before going after the speck in the eye of a friend or neighbor (Luke 6:42) will have been honored.
The goal of the exercise is to discern (or expose) who or what the primary influence ruling your thinking and responding at various times is. It is based on the assumption that there is always a rule or authority that influences how you think and/or act. We start with the bare bones:
Draw a triangle on a piece of paper with a heart placed in the center of the triangle.
Write your name next to the right bottom tip; to the left of the triangle write either “Life’s Challenges and Joys” or a specific problem or concern that comes to your mind. (The point here is, that this illustration holds merit in both difficult (challenges) and easier (joyful) times.)
Draw an arrow from where you have written your name to the top of the triangle.
Draw another arrow from the top of the triangle to the bottom left where you have written, “Life’s Challenges and Joys” or have entered a specific problem or concern.
Now, put some flesh on those bones:
- The premise of the exercise: we rarely respond to the challenges and joys we encounter straight on–draw an arrow between your name and the other side underneath the triangle, then “X” the line out.
- Instead, we are influenced by whatever “rule or authority” we hold to at any given time. Identifying what is at the top of the triangle is the key to determining what rules the heart at any given time. (When working with a Client I ask them, “who or what” is influencing their thinking about their problem? The answers vary: pressure . . . fear . . . anger . . . hurt . . . anxiety . . . pride . . . money . . . confusion . . . guilt . . . resentment . . . and the list goes on!)
- The next step (remembering James’ encouragement)– ASK GOD for the wisdom you need to identify what is influencing your thinking toward what you wrote to left of the triangle. (Write those influences above the top of the triangle.)
- Now, take a deep breath and consider this: Anything written there that is influencing you (other than God) is probably an idol. Write “God or Idol?” above your reasons listed over the top of the triangle.
- Finally, ASK GOD for the help you need to clean out the excuses and keep Him in His rightful place–“God and . . . ” never works!
There are times when I know my attitude is not right or when I know what my problem is but I feel stuck. In both cases, when I ASK GOD for the wisdom and courage I lack, He has delivered without fail. I have learned through this simple exercise that when God exposes my sin He does so, not to ridicule me for my failures, but to free me by facing my sin to enjoy a deeper faith.
Proverbs 16:2 warns:
“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”To hold onto our “reasons” for what we do is to lose what we need most– the blessing of Christ’s Presence in our lives. Seek Him for the wisdom you lack to grow and mature spiritually through those difficulties. He is worthy of your trust!
All to His Glory!