How Can We Know How Far To Press On?
There is a delicate balance that is ever present in any church body, family situation, relationship or work environment. We all have preferences, and many even think their way is always the best way. Without being tempted to point fingers at others, let’s take a few moments to be introspective on the topic of which way is the best way. My way? Your way?
Or, what about the times when our ideas are being heard, but we don’t get the ‘green light’ to move on the project, idea or inspiration? Who takes priority? How can we know how far to push a personal agenda and when we need to back off?
Here are the three elements that I’ve found to be a useful sort of litmus test in discerning wisely:
1. Respect - Yep, it goes back to the ‘Golden Rule’ – which is actually of biblical origin. Luke 6:31 teaches us to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” That gracious strategy for life is just as valuable for a young child as it is for those with graying hairs. But, how can this become a daily part of our existence – especially when we face a disagreement or difference of opinion? That’s where the Fruit of Spirit comes into play. Paul teaches us in Galatians 5:22-23 about the character qualities that we each can develop as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives - kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience and love – to name a few. To respect others with no categories, boundaries or exceptions. That will take a lifetime of practice!
2. Unity - Jesus gave us one of the best examples of striving for unity when He prayed for His disciples and all believers in John 17. This one phrase in verse 23 sums up His strong desire for complete unity: “I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Jesus shares a deep desire for each of us to live in harmony with all those we interact with - each and every day. Then, in Romans 12:18, Paul’s words mirror Christ’s desires. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” By following this challenge, we can quickly realign our desires within God’s framework of unity. But, how do we live out unity in our daily life? By taking the first step, the proverbial higher road. It is a choice we each must face.
3. Authority – God has put individuals in positions of authority over us from our earliest day. Parents, Grandparents, Teachers, Pastors, Bosses and eventually for many, their children or grandchildren. God gives us very clear instruction on how we are to relate to those in authority over us. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 Being subject to authorities doesn’t mean that we necessarily agree with them. What it does mean is that we respect their office and that we can choose to submit to their authority – even if we don’t agree with them.
God has no limits. If He has genuinely spoken to my heart on a matter, and I get resistance from those in authority over me, I need to submit to that authority. Why? Because, if I truly believe that God is sovereign, then I must learn to rest in the fact that God is able to change hearts. I (we) don’t have to! Submitting to authority takes a lot of courage, strength and self-control. But, we have access to all that through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can trust God to make a way – in His timing – but we must wait on Him with a heart of humility, trust and obedience.
When God calls us to a certain activity or ministry, He is a big enough God to open the doors to make it possible. Our job is to be respectful of others, purpose to live in unity with others (as far as it depends on us) and submit to the will and timing of those in authority over us. We may not understand how a situation will play out, especially when we are excited to get going, but it is so important to wait on God to chart our course. And in the meantime, we are called to…
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Press on in the path God has laid before you...but don’t press too hard!