|Volume 18 Number 6 June 2016||
Mark T. Tonkery
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
A group of climbers set out to scale a large mountain in Europe. The view boasted a breathtaking peak of snowcapped rocks. On clear days the crested point reigned as king on the horizon. Its white tip jutted into the blue sky inviting admiration and offering inspiration.
On days like that the hikers made the greatest progress. The peak stood about them like a compelling goal. Eyes were called upward. The walk was brisk. The cooperation was unselfish. Though many, they climbed as one, all looking to the same summit. Yet on some days the peak of the mountain was hidden from view. The cloud covering would eclipse the crisp blueness with a drab, gray ceiling and block the vision of the mountaintop. On those days the climb became difficult. Eyes were downward and thoughts inward. The goal was forgotten. Tempers were short. Weariness was an uninvited companion. Complaints stung like thorns on the trail.
As I read this story I could not help but think how this compares to us as Christians. When we keep our eyes on the goal and everyone is doing his work, then things go more smoothly. However, when we take our eyes off of the goal, then we start fighting, arguing and complaining. As long as we can see our goal there is no mountain we can’t climb or summit we can’t scale.
Notice what happened to the climbers when they took their eyes off of the goal. They began to argue and complain. Can you blame them? Why continue if there is no relief, no goal in sight?
As Christians if we take our eyes off of Jesus, we begin to look inward at ourselves and complain about others. The result? Cabin fever. Quarreling families. Restless leaders. No trespassing signs are hung on our hearts and homes.
You know what I mean. If you have ever been cooped up in a house or snowed in, you know the feeling. This same thing happens to us when we as Christians do not keep our eyes on Jesus and imitate Him. We fight, grumble and complain.
Instead of becoming selfish, we need to focus on Jesus. Seeing Jesus is what Christianity is all about. Christian living is service, which is nothing more than imitating Jesus who we see in the Bible. That may mean this week that we may make cookies for someone who is homebound, teach a child to read the Bible, volunteer at a care center, become a friend to a person who is lonely, share a hug or offer kind words to someone. Then, when people ask, "Why are you doing these things?" you can say, "Because I am a Christian and I am imitating the One Who gives us salvation, love, meaning and grace." Think about it!
A Broken Spirit
Ronald D. Reeves
Words are often powerful (Romans 1:16). They bring to mind scenes that may lift one’s soul to wonderful heights or cast one down to depths of despair. “A broken spirit,” these words, perhaps in a measure unique, do both for me. These words remind me of the spirit that is joyfully broken as one penitently responds to the grace of our Lord. They also bring to mind the spirit that is wounded and sorrowful because of the weight of the burdens of life and the challenges entertained therein.
The Psalmist said, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18 KJV). Yes, the Lord establishes and strengthens His fellowship with those who allow the Word of His grace to break, ever so painfully, the bands and bonds that hold us apart from Him as we have been overcome by the power of sin. Similarly, the Psalmist added, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). I trust that our spirits are mutually lifted and encouraged as we contemplate the positive, divine response to our penitence and full obedience to His will.
The above cited passages speak of a broken spirit in a positive manner. They lead us to seek out such a spirit so that ultimately we would be spiritually healed and secure in Christ. They demand that we be broken in order to become whole. Yet, these words, “a broken spirit,” also describe the spirit of one who has been shattered by forces and circumstances beyond one’s power to control and to withstand. They thus describe a beleaguered child of God whose strength of faith has failed him in his hour of crisis. These words may come to describe you or me as we face personal, spiritual challenges.
The Psalmist, speaking of the Lord, said, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). The wise man of old said, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13). Our Lord Himself in His personal ministry affirmed that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives…” (Luke 4:18). Therefore, we confidently affirm that our Lord is ever aware of our condition of heart, and He tenderly cares for us as we endure the wounds that have the real potential of breaking our spirit of faith. This type of “broken spirit” is one that the Lord would not bring upon us. If our spirits be thus broken, it is because of the actions of misguided and unwise people who have had a profound impact upon us.
Children of God in every congregation of the Lord’s church face the real possibility and the clear danger of experiencing a broken spirit. Over forty years of observations suggest that such danger is ever present, potentially impacting even the strongest personal faith. The spirits of godly elders and of the newest babes in Christ may be so impacted. None of us are exempt from the forces that bring about such dire results. I personally know of specific cases that well illustrate the point at hand.
A broken spirit may be the result of external, evil influences from outside the body of Christ. On other occasions, a broken spirit may result from internal forces from within the fold of God. The latter may be more dangerous, if only because we are ill-prepared to be so impacted by those whom we esteem so highly as fellow children of God. Yes, we are sometimes hurt more by those that we love.
How may this come about? Without assuming to have a full understanding of such issues, I suggest a possible scenario. Members of the church are not always on the same spiritual page. Sometimes, our doctrinal and judgmental differences are pronounced. We may be growing at variant rates. Our level of tolerance and patience for those of lesser spiritual knowledge may be lacking substance. We may be reactive and fearful. Tradition may hold us in its grip. Our dream and vision for the work of God may vary significantly from that of others. Personality conflicts may be significant. Conflict resolution may not be our forte. Power struggles may surface openly. We may fail to work through our challenges. Instead of speaking softly, we may be carrying a big stick. We fail to consider the delicate spiritual state of other children of God. Things are said and done. Then, it happens. We inadvertently break another’s spirit. His or her dedication and faith are seriously damaged. He or she will never be the same again. Never. The marks left behind are indelible.
Brethren, each of us, from the least to the greatest, have a godly responsibility to nurture one another (Ephesians 4:11-16). There will be times when needed discipline should be administered through proper channels. May we be blessed with a measure of wisdom that allows each of us to pursue the good while protecting rather than breaking the spirit of brethren of like precious faith.