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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 be able to 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

--Don't tell me that worry doesn't do any good. I know better. The things I worry about don't happen.

--Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?

--It takes less time to do things right than to explain why you did it wrong.

--There are two kinds of people: those who do the work, and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.

--Bad habits are like chains that are too light to feel until they are too heavy to carry.

--A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.

--To live in the presence of great truths and eternal laws, to be led by permanent ideals -- that is what keeps a man patient when the world ignores him, and calm and unspoiled when the world praises him.

--In the final analysis there is no solution to man's progress but the day's honest work, the day's honest decisions, the day's generous utterances and the day's good deeds.

 

Test Your Bible Knowledge of Beings in Perdition

1. For whom was the everlasting fire originally prepared? (Matt. 25:41) __________

2. What two things were cast into the lake of fire? (Rev. 20:14) __________

3. Who else was consigned to the fire? (Rev. 20:15) __________

4. What other beings will be tormented there? (Matt. 8:29) __________

5. Who was cast alive into the lake of fire and brimstone? (Rev. 19:20) __________

Upcoming Sermons

11/15/20 AM - Why Did I Obey the Gospel?; PM - Tertius of Iconium: Apostle Paul’s Secretary

11/22/20 AM - Four Great Salvation Questions; PM - Melchizedek: King and Priest of Salem (Requested)

11/29/20 AM - “Jesus Loves Me!”; PM - Guest Speaker, Doug Sanders, “Josephus”

 

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