(January 19, 2023) A. Richard Samuel challenges ‘new year resolutions’…
Whenever we enter a New Year we think of resolutions. But, someone once jokingly said, ‘New Year resolutions are made to be broken.’ In effect, we must realise that we can do nothing without God’s help.
Jesus pointed out that ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). So as we travel further into 2023, let’s look to Him and seek His help! But note…
Many would have seen signboards like the one below in railway stations and in major bus stands.
In our life journey, this statement makes sense. Any unnecessary load is cumbersome and burdensome.
In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul detailed six pieces of unwanted luggage that hinders our travel… ‘Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.’
Paul also suggested that we carry only necessary luggage that will make our travel comfortable and pleasant – as well as our co-travellers… Kindness, compassion and a forgiving nature.
a) Unwanted luggage
An emotion which is difficult to get rid of, bitterness doesn’t allow us to reconcile with those who have hurt us. We liberally feed this emotion and always keep it warm by brooding over the insults and injuries received.
It is a cancer that spreads and kills our joy and peace of mind. This unnecessary luggage makes our travel very cumbersome.
‘Rage’ is wrath in the KJV… thumos – ‘passion (as if breathing hard), fierceness, indignation.’ William Barclay in his Daily Study Guide (Things Which Must Be Banished From Life) says ‘the Greeks defined thumos as the kind of anger which is like the flame which comes from straw; it quickly blazes up and just as quickly subsides.’
We come across the idiom ‘in a fit of rage’ quite often. This bad temper is often displayed by screaming a lot, an outburst when one feels that one has been wronged.
Christian believers are no exception to rage! Driving to church one Sunday morning a car following ‘John’ was constantly honking loudly wanting space to overtake. John couldn’t oblige since there was scarcely any space to let the follower overtake. Somehow the follower managed to overtake and while doing so slowed down and poured abusive words on John. John was hurt but withheld his temper.
Finding the same car parked at church, he was all the more shocked when he discovered the driver was none other than the new pastor! Imagine the predicament of that pastor as he met John after the church service.
All rage should be completely got rid of by Christians to uphold their Christian witnesses!
Anger can be –
Jesus vented His anger when He saw His Father’s temple converted into a ‘den of robbers’ (Matthew 21:13). He took a whip and drove all the traders out.
Psalm 4:4 says, ‘In your anger do not sin.’ Paul quotes this in Ephesians 4:26, and adds an admonition – ‘Do not give the devil a foothold’ (v27), and gives us three suggestions to get rid of this unwanted heavy baggage:
(i) Do not sin
John Stott in The Message of Ephesians writes: ‘We have to make sure that our anger is free from injured pride, spite, malice, animosity and the spirit of revenge.’
(ii) Get rid of our anger before sunset
This means that we shouldn’t nurse anger and keep it alive for days.
(iii) Give no room for the devil to gain a foothold
We should never allow Satan to take advantage of our anger, provoking it into hatred or violence or a breach of fellowship.
King Solomon suggests: ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger’ (Proverb 15:1). So we must dump this heavy weight for our journey to be smooth.
This is a fight or quarrel in a rough, noisy and in uncontrolled way.
Sadly, some of us have seen brawling inside the church, even police intervention to stop brawling during pastorate committee elections!
One of an overseer’s characteristics, which should be every Christian’s is: ‘. . . no brawler, no striker’ (1 Timothy 3:3ASV). Solomon even prefers gentle women, because it is better ‘to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house’ (Proverb 21:9 (KJV).
Speaking ill of others, especially behind their backs, destroys not only their reputation but also ours!
Miriam and Aaron slandered Moses for marrying a Cushite woman (Numbers 12:1) and ‘… the Lord heard this’ (v2), was angry and challenged Miriam and Aaron, ‘Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’ (v8). Immediately His wrath fell on them and they were struck with leprosy (v9-10)!
We are accountable for every word that comes out of our mouths. ‘What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roof,’ Jesus warned (Luke 12:3). No wonder James wrote about taming one’s tongue (James 3). Slander is a dangerous unwanted weight. Throw it off!
Malice is ill-will, wishing and probably plotting evil against people. Remember Joseph? His brothers plotted evil against him thinking ‘… let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him’ (Genesis 37:20), eventually selling him to Ishmaelite traders, who took him to Egypt.
But God willed differently and later elevated Joseph to the highest official level in Egypt and made his brothers come and bow down before him!
Out of malice, Haman plotted evil against Mordecai, building a seventy-five feet high gallows (Esther 5:14). Ironically, the plot turned against the plotter, and it was he who was hanged on those gallows (Esther.7:9)!
b) Three steps to throwing away hindering baggage
(i) Soul searching
Honest soul-searching leads to acknowledging the baggage we may be carrying. Then we bring such rubbish to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to help us dump this extra weight.
We can also share with our mentor or a praying-partner (someone we trust!). Such can help us identify obvious areas, even blindspots that we had missed.
(ii) Ridding ourselves
These emotions are very difficult to get rid of; we cannot use our strength and efforts alone because two opposing forces are always acting within us – ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ Remember Paul crying out: ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me…?’ (Romans 7:24). Finding the answer is in God, with great relief, he wrote: ‘Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (v25).
We need God’s power, a counsellor and comforter to help us get rid of unwanted luggage… and we have this threefold!
- Jesus the Son of God intercedes for us (1 John 2:1).
- God the Holy Spirit speaks for us (Romans 8:26).
- God the Father listens and answers our prayers (1 John 5:14-15).
With this confidence we can approach the throne of grace and receive help to get rid of these hindersome loads!
(iii) Using antidotes
For devilish poisons there are biblical antidotes!
Paul suggests three… supportive, useful and necessary luggage that we ought to carry: ‘Kindness… compassion… forgiveness’ (Ephesians 4:32).
- Kindness is an essential virtue we should possess! It shows that we care for others and as a result it takes away the pain others undergo. Being ‘kind’ means being benevolent to someone who needs our help.
- It’s the attitude of a person in a position of strength who does something good for somebody in a weak position.
- We deliberately choose to give! Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we have life, salvation, freedom and God’s grace in abundance. While we might feel weak in ourselves, we are strong in Christ and can be kind to others.
Compassion literally means ‘suffering together.’ It’s defined as the feeling that arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering and wish a speedy recovery for that person.
It’s when we relate to someone’s situation, and want to help, feel like pitching in. For example, when we’re travelling in a bus and see a pregnant woman standing. Immediately we get up and compassionately offer her our seat. This is one of the best antidotes for the luggage which weighs heavily on us on our life journey.
Mark 6:34-44 tells of Jesus seeing the crowd without a shepherd and compassion overwhelming His heart. He not only meets their hunger spiritually but also physically.
When Abraham realises God is about to destroy Sodom, he is filled with compassion for the righteous people there and starts pleading with God, asking for the city to be spared if there are but 50 righteous there. God agrees… but Abraham continues pleading and the number goes down – 45, right down to 10! This is compassion in action.
3. Forgiving spirit
Forgiveness is the bedrock of all our relationships. Not a display of weakness, it’s one of kindness and compassion and should be an indispensable aspect of the Christian believer. Because believers are forgiven people, we should forgive as God has forgiven us.
The above baggage are ways we react when people hurt us. Our reactions come out as destructive behaviour, destructive speech and we don’t realise that they can destroy relationships.
Forgiving people who have hurt us is the only way to restore broken or strained relationships.
Paul says that we should forgive as God forgave us (Ephesians 1:7). This forgiveness is the centre of our relationship with God. He has erased our sins, removed His wrath from us, and raised us from death to life!
God has been incredibly kind and compassionate to us. And we can face a secure and glorious future through Christ. Because God has forgiven us, we have a reason – and the strength– to forgive others. As God has erased our sins and sees us as holy and blameless through Christ, we too should seek to do the same to others: erase the sins of others from our ledger of wrongs.
Jesus taught us forgiveness – ‘And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven my forgive you your sins’ (Mark 11:25). Paul urges us to ‘be imitators of God’ and ‘to live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Learning how to forgive and forget is one of the secrets of happy Christian life.
c) Stay focused in 2023!
Hebrews 12:1-2NKJV encourages us to let us to ‘lay aside every weight’ and ‘run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.’
‘Weight’ is ong’-kos, a heavy hindrance and the writer urges us to get rid of such baggage! ‘Lay aside’ – apotithēmi – means to cast away!
If we do so, we’ll stay focused on Jesus, run and finish the race with ease.
May this be our 2023 New Year resolution – shedding away these crippling weights and triumphantly completing our Christian journey (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Dr A. Richard Samuel is editor of India’s National Spiritual Newspaper Echo of His Call, founded by Dr S Sam Selva Raj, Chennai and printed monthly in 16 languages. For over 54 years Dr Sam has established and overseen many community outreaches blessing thousands, including the Chennai church and its ministries such as Nehemiah Bible College, St Paul’s Matriculation School, postal and online Bible correspondence/theological courses. Dr Sam’s 2023 current challenge from God is daily broadcasting 5-minute messages in Hindi, Tamil and English on YouTube, trusting the Lord only to provide for the costs. Links: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com