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Articles

Convincing Others To Change

Convincing Others to Change

By Paul R. Blake

            “Oh, how hard it is to get people to change! How much better this world would be if only other people would do what I think they should! If I could just make everyone around me change for the better, how happy my life would be!”

            It is certainly easy to fall into this kind of reasoning, especially when we are endeavoring to do well and others around us appear set on doing evil. Asaph the Psalmist wrote: “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men… Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. If I had said, I will speak thus, Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me, Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end” (Psalm 73:2-5, 13-17).

            Asaph looked around at sinners who prospered and it troubled him. He described his struggle with this as “too painful for me,” as something that “plagued” him throughout the day. In fact, he began every day fretting over the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. It seemed so unfair to him that he obsessed about it until he “almost slipped” and “nearly stumbled.” That is, he did so until he went into the house of God, and it came to him that the Lord will set matters right in the end.

            So what changed? Asaph could not correct the temporary inequities of life. He couldn’t make certain that the wicked suffered for their sins without engaging in sin himself. He could not change the world so that the burden of the righteous would be taken away. The only thing he could change was his own perspective. He changed his thinking, and that made all the difference. No, it did not cause the wicked to suffer for their evil words and deeds, and it did not take away the hardships imposed on the righteous by selfish, lazy, worldly people around them. It helped Asaph to lift his eyes from minor details to see the larger picture. It changed his reasoning enough to help him to bear with the temporary unfairness that characterizes life in a world populated by men who are given the choice to do good or evil.

            The righteous man generously makes a space for someone to merge into traffic and is rewarded by the selfish man who cuts in front of him a few minutes later. The hardworking righteous man labors through his weariness to make life easier for others around him and is repaid by the lazy man who is happy to take advantage of him by letting him do his share of the work, too. The conscientious man willingly shoulders his responsibility and is requited by the whiner who blames everyone else for his own shortcomings.

            That is the world in which we live. Those who struggle to do right are discouraged by those who do not. It is not fair! And there is nothing we can do about it. We cannot force others to change so that we can be happy with the world around us. However, we can change ourselves enough to bear with it.

            A Pennsylvania Deutch proverb states: “Change the world? Begin with yourself.” Not what many of us wanted to hear. Jesus said, “Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye.” (Luke 6:42).

            Perhaps my attitude needs to change. Maybe I need to deliberately cultivate humility and patience. It is a lesson we have to remind ourselves again and again. We can’t change others, but with God’s help and wisdom we can change our own attitude toward others. And when our attitude changes, it may seem as if the problem of unfairness has changed as well. Unfairness will not disappear, but it will not take away our peace of mind because we will not be obsessing about it. We will trust God to dispose of these inequities in His own time and according to His own wisdom.

            It is a scriptural fact that we can control and redirect our thoughts and feelings. Paul wrote: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:6-8). We can choose what we feel and how we think!

            What we think determines how we feel; how we feel determines our motivation; and, our motivation drives our actions. So, do I need to change everyone around me in order to be content? No, I need to change me. If the world around me changes for the better, wonderful! And if it changes for the worse? It won’t have the power to take away my peace of mind. God who sees all and knows all will take care of it.

A Moments Wisdom on Work

--Happiness depends chiefly on our cheerful acceptance of routine, on our refusal to assume, as many do, that daily work and daily duty are a kind of slavery.

--Blessed is the man who has some congenial work, some occupation in which he can put his heart, and which affords a complete outlet to all the forces there are in him.

--To find one's work is to find one's place in the world.

It is better to undertake a large task and get it half done than to undertake nothing and get it all done.

--It is not doing the thing which we like to do, but liking to do the thing which we have to do, that makes life blessed.

--The greatest composer does not sit down to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working.

--The only place where success comes before work is in a dictionary.

--There are two changeless sources of solid happiness: first, the belief in God, and second, the habit of hard work toward useful ends.

Test Your Bible Knowledge of the Writing Prophets (quite challenging)

1. I told Judah to finish building the temple __________.

2. My name means “angel” __________.

3. My unfaithful wife’s name was Gomer __________.

4. I was a herdsman when called to be a prophet __________.

5. I was the second prophet to Nineveh (after Jonah) __________.

6. I wrote a very short book of prophecy about Edom __________.

Upcoming Sermons

7/5/20   AM - “Behold, All Souls are Mine”

             PM - “Did You Think to Pray?” (Sermon in Song)

7/12/20 AM - “When for Deeper Faith I Seek”

             PM - God Will “Take Care” of the Wicked

7/19/20 AM - What to Do When God Says “No”

             PM - How Can a Loving God Allow Evil to Exist?

7/26/20 AM - Why Do We Love the Lost?

             PM - Living with Gomer

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    8/19/20 07:30pm
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