Week of Sept. 25: Wisdom is standing firm in decisions of faith
By VICKY BRANTLEY
Scripture: Proverbs 25:1-10
Lord grant that I may always be right; for thou knowest I am hard to turn. Amen. (A Scotch-Irish petition)
Former president Ronald Reagan had an aunt who took him to a cobbler for a pair of new shoes. The cobbler asked young Reagan, "Do you want square toes or round toes?" Unable to decide, Reagan didn't answer. Several days later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked him again what kind of toes he wanted on his shoes. Reagan still couldn't decide, so the shoemaker replied, "Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready." When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! "This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you," the cobbler said to his indecisive customer. "I learned right then and there," Reagan said, "if you don't make your own decisions, someone else will." The criteria you use to make decisions are a key to your cardinal beliefs. They demonstrate what is most important to you and where your priorities lie. Discernment is a lifetime practice and not the prayer of desperation we utter just before we attempt something.
Take away the dross
We have to learn the difference between what is precious and what is waste or impurity. That is one of the fruits of wisdom. It is important not to rush into something without first removing what is impure. Like separating the chaff from the wheat in the harvest, we have to prioritize what is essential and necessary and let go of what is not needed.
Several years ago a head coach divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the NFL. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was unnecessary and a distraction to winning. He said winning was his number one priority and his two sons second. In contrast to this, Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, "The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me ... I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do ... whether coaching football or talking to the press, I'm always a Christian ... Christ is first, family second and football third." It makes a difference what we value. “For where our treasure is, there will our heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Greatness comes from the bottom up
A story is told of a man who loved old books. He met an acquaintance who had just thrown away a Bible that had been stored for generations in the attic of his ancestral home. "I couldn't read it," the friend explained. "Somebody named Guten-something had printed it." "Not Gutenberg!" the book lover exclaimed in horror. "That Bible was one of the first books ever printed. Why, a copy just sold for over two million dollars!" His friend was unimpressed. "Mine wouldn't have brought a dollar. Some fellow named Martin Luther had scribbled all over it in German."
Appreciation of something of great value comes from experiences and knowledge of what is not important. Looking at items in our lives: musical instruments, sports equipment, precious stones, by comparison and contrast the good stuff becomes obvious. So it is with relationships, responsibilities, and reverence for God.
We often fall into the trap of thinking the world revolves around us. In his book, It’s Not About Me, Max Lucado reminds the reader that God is the focus of all of life. We behold God’s glory because of God’s love, mercy and grace. We then have the responsibility to reflect that glory to others. He asks, “What would happen if we all took our place; if we started living like ‘Son’ reflectors rather than individual stars and suns; if every person’s priority became a divine pursuit, not a performance?” Jesus reminds us in Luke 14 “those who exalt themselves will be humbled.”
Argue with your neighbor directly
Most church, family or business conflicts are aggravated by the avoidance of talking directly with the persons in conflict. While gathering input, counsel from others is different from rallying ones own troops of support. For those who find it easy to be confrontational, the lesson is to communicate in such a way that you are able to hear the other party. For those who run from controversy, the task is to risk being heard. For example, when a habitual naysayer fires his trump card at church council meeting, “We just don’t have the money for something like that!” The voice that persistently asks, “Would you support this if we had the money?” presses them for alternative possibilities until consensus or even extravagance is found.
A wise person lives in the world by discerning what is important and what is nonessential. He or she seeks humility, choosing to glorify God rather than exalt self. A wise person is not afraid or shy about standing firm in the faith when he or she is challenged.
Take Action: In our membership vows we pledge to Witness. Demonstrate your method of making daily and ‘big’ life decisions. Choose someone with whom you hold a grudge or mistrust and take the first step, confessions, for the relationship is more important than the anger or hate.
"When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, my grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine”. The United Methodist Hymnal #529