Tag Archives: Strength

To Be Truly Meek Is to Be Truly Strong

To be truly meek is to be truly strong.

The Bible says regarding one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known that the man Moses was the meekest of all the men on the earth. But in the Hall of Fame of Meekness (call it the Hall of Fame of Humility, if you wish), I’ve been privileged to know several individuals who deserve to be included. Among the greatest of the humble, in my opinion, was my father.

If you’ve been blessed to have such a father or grandfather or mentor, you’ll know firsthand how wrong our society is to equate meekness with weakness or sheepishness, a kind of “Mary’s little lamb” sort of thing. We know that Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” But that’s every bit as hard for our world to believe as “blessed are the poor.”

Can you imagine a large corporation giving classes in “meekness” training? No, it’s “assertiveness” training. We have, sadly enough, magazines named SELF; you’ll never find one on an adjoining shelf named, NO, YOU FIRST.

Meekness is a quality you can’t afford, our society screams.

Meek people get run over.

Meek people are doormats.

Meek people never make it to the top—and, of course, our society never stops to ask if the price paid to get to “the top” is a price worth paying.

But, as is so often the case, our society is near-sighted and wisdom-parched.

Real meekness, genuine humility, is quiet but filled with wisdom when it speaks. It thrives in a soul shaped by character, integrity, prudence, and civility. It is at the same time gentle and incredibly strong. Wherever it is found, it is a rare and beautiful blessing.

My father was a gentle man, strong in all the ways that matter and last. The Apostle Paul closes his letter to the Ephesians, “Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (6:10). And “in the Lord” is where Dad’s strength lay.

Dad was strong in Christ. And so he could be gentle. He had nothing to prove.

Dad was strong in Christ. And so he could quietly trust in God. He had no reason to be loud.

Dad’s strength was in the Lord. And so he had no reason to quarrel with those who opposed him.

Anyone who thinks he fully understands Christ’s Sermon on the Mount could well use more meekness, more humility. We probably see now only dim glimmers of the beautiful reality Christ has in mind when he says that the meek will “inherit the earth.”

But surely at least this much is true. When the loud and arrogant, the bullies and the braggarts of this world are putrefying in well-deserved decay, their fifteen minutes of fame over, God is promising that the strength and wisdom of the genuinely meek will endure and continue to be a blessing.

I would very much like to live in a world where God has put people like Moses and my father in charge, where the meek rule by God’s power and blessing.

Yes, indeed, that’s a world in which I’d love to live. It’s a world in which I plan to live.

 

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Sometimes the Main Event Is Not the Main Event

Sometimes the main event is not the main event.

A couple of times a year I usually receive article requests, three at a time, from a great little daily devotional magazine. As with all of their writers, the editors pick two Scripture passages for me and I get to pick the third.

So when I received the request letter a few weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised. I opened it, perused the assigned passages, and saw that one was 1 Samuel 17:16-28.

That’s a good one! Or, to be entirely accurate, it’s cut right from the middle of a really great one. First Samuel 17 is the well-known story of “David and Goliath.” Even in our largely biblically illiterate society (and one wonders how anyone in the world, and especially in western society, can claim to be educated at all and not have some familiarity with the Bible, believe it or not, that has so shaped our literature, history, culture, and life), almost everyone knows something about that “shepherd to giant killer” story.

But I was a bit surprised that the Scripture passage I was assigned didn’t encompass the end of the story. If you read this section, you’ll see that when it begins, David has just arrived on the scene, and when it ends, the giant is still alive and ranting. Hmm.

I was a bit befuddled until this truth hit me, and I now repeat it: sometimes the main event is not the main event.

Naturally enough, when we read the great story of David and Goliath, we tend to cut right to the chase or, in this case, the swing. The young son of Jesse swings his sling. The stone flies out, locks on, sinks in; a loud-mouthed giant shuts up and falls down. Cue to cheering! But the key event that actually sets up the sling swing victory comes earlier.

Each morning and evening, like clockwork for forty days, this nine-foot-plus giant with a glandular problem and a boatload of arrogance strides out from the Philistine camp to taunt the Israelites with what seems to be a four-foot-wide mouth. When David arrives, as young and unaccustomed to battle as he is, he sizes up the problem immediately. Not Goliath and his tree-sized spear, the crux of the matter is that as the giant taunts Israel, he is defying God.

The main event? It’s when a full-of-faith shepherd about to turn giant-killer asks who this taunter of God thinks he is. David’s answer? Compared to the living God, this giant is less than nobody at all.

Dealing with a giant of a problem? Don’t we all at times? When life’s frightening giants loom large and threaten to obscure our view, may God give us eyes of faith to recognize Satan’s strategy of misdirection. The real “main event” is the choice to fixate in fear on the giant or to ask God to help us focus in faith on him. And then to help us aim. He’s already promised a victory. And he does his best work when weak folks trust him for help in defeating giants.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Strong Faith: How Badly Do We Really Want It?

If God exists and is all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow suffering in the world he created?

Life’s biggest questions, the ones that truly matter, can be condensed into a few that can be counted on one hand. The question I’ve just asked is one of them. It, and the very few more in its league, are worth asking. I’m convinced that our God will help us face such questions in his strength if we really want his help.

But if we’re fat and sassy, dollar-blinded and bloated and quite comfy, swimming along in the warm stream of our society’s sea of selfishness . . . If, most of the time, pretty much our highest goal is to get through life with more and more stuff and not lose too many golf balls . . . Well, then we easily shove out of our consciousness the questions that matter.

Yes, but then one hope-withering medical test, one terribly sick child, one life-shaking tragedy is all it takes to toss us out of the hot tub and into very deep, cold, and turbulent waters indeed. Then the questions that really matter really matter, and easy answers and “throw-down,” “Facebook-faith,” TV-preacher platitudes will never weather the storm.

I hope you’re not in such a storm right now, but we don’t have to live long to know that we will all go through times that shake us to our core. Before the time of testing, it’s best to remember that strong faith cannot grow in a heartbeat. However badly I want a 50-year-old oak tree to shade me from oppressive heat, I won’t get it this afternoon by planting a seedling this morning. As G. K. Chesterton said, “No one ever grew a beard in moment of passion.” Some things just take time. Possessing faith that is strong and mature is one of those things.

Don’t misunderstand. You can sincerely give your life to the Lord in a heartbeat and your contrite heart will be accepted into the Father’s warm embrace. Even mustard-seed faith, Jesus said, can be real faith.

But if we think “baby faith” is all the faith God wants to build in us, and if we think genuinely trusting God is easy, we’re mistaken. For our faith to mature, we need to yield our wills to God and follow our Lord in practical ways. The Son worshiped the Father. He spent time in prayer. He was steeped in Scripture. He lay down his will, wrapped himself in a towel, washed the dirty feet of those who should have been washing his, and, because of his deep love for and trust in his Father, went to a cross.

If I want strong faith, I’ve got to walk the way of the cross. Can I carry a cross if I can’t even go to worship? How can I expect to grow in selfless, mature faith if I’m chafed by singing a song I don’t like in worship (but that might bless someone else)? More spiritual still, how strong is my faith if I won’t carry out the trash for my wife or switch off the TV to read our kids a Bible story?

God wants us to love him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. He’ll help us to grapple with hard questions and live through hard times. But for our hearts, minds, and souls to be strong and integrated, real relationship and growing faith is required—not to buy God’s favor; God’s people already have that. No, we need faith to help us through life’s storms. And the question is unavoidable: how badly do we really want it?

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Why Does Finding Real Rest Require So Much Discipline?

Why is resting so hard?

One definition, “freedom from activity or labor,” surely makes “rest” sound rather appealing, maybe even like something we should try on occasion.

Just a brief Internet search will result in scads of wise quotations on the benefits of rest. Some sound almost like a sop to Type-A hyperactives who won’t say “Good Morning” unless it fits into their business plan and the utterance is duly scheduled. Charles Spurgeon was not among that group, but he told the truth when he said, “In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”

Some quotes are simple and wise: “Rest is not idleness,” wrote John Lubbock, “and to lie sometimes in the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

Someone took a few of those words and, understanding our tendency to actually feel guilty if we ever rest (how incredibly dull, stupid, and full of ourselves we are!) wrote, “All rest is no more idleness than all sex is adultery.”

The research keeps stacking up. Sleep less than six hours a night for a couple of weeks and our performance scores will plummet, our blood sugar levels will rise, our waistline will expand, we will actually begin to show levels of psychosis, and (this one is my own observation) we might even begin to compulsively and irrationally tweet in the middle of the night. Run long enough without rest and someone in your family will be the “barometer” who first begins to reflect the stress and begin to be in “distress.” Count on it.

Oh, and by the way, the Creator of the universe thought rest important enough that he gave us a commandment along that line. Disregard the truth at the heart of any of those Ten and a price will be paid. The principle at the heart of this one, no matter what pseudo-Bible scholars may say as they quibble about Sabbath, is no different.

Because he loves us, God tells us to take time to rest. Really rest. The kind of rest that means significant time for praying, playing, sleeping, filling up, soul-growing, recreating, thanking, breathing, not producing, just being. Taking time to rest may be one of the most faith-filled God-honoring activities of all as we follow his loving command, believe his promises, stop, and trust him to spin the world for a few hours without our help.

Let’s be honest. More often than not, we have a very hard time finding the kind of discipline it takes to intentionally pursue this kind of rest. Obstacles abound, mostly between our ears, but also many things not bad but just incredibly unbalanced in our lives.

Jobs. Especially the more we confuse what we produce with our value; the way we make a living, with our life.

Phones. The more panic we feel when we’re away from them for five minutes, the more desperately our souls need to be away from them for much more than five minutes.

Electronic “balls and chains” in general. Unplug!

And, oh yes, balls. All shapes and sizes. We’re masters at making even our “fun” with them a grueling amount of stress-filled work.

And have you noticed? We’re so terrible at resting that we often make even our vacations utterly exhausting, about as relaxing as a forced march in wartime.

Unless we’re in complete denial (we may be; addicts always are), the problem is obvious. I can’t prove it, but I suspect it lurks near the heart of much of the soul-distress, the depression, the lack of joy, the loss of purpose, and the fractured relationships littering so many lives. As individuals, families, and a society, we pay a staggering price for our refusal to listen to the One who made us, to take time to truly rest, to let our souls breathe.

We need his grace and power in all things—even and maybe especially to have the real strength and uncommon wisdom it takes to find and fill up on regular times of genuine rest.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Christ’s Question to a Blind Man Is a Question to Us All

 

John 9 blind man

“Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus’ question in John 9 to a “man born blind” seems strange at first. The answer was, “Yes!” And it would, of course, be the sincere answer of many, then and now, should the Lord ask and the opportunity truly be offered.

But answering it might require much more honest, difficult soul-searching than we might expect. You see, the uncomfortable truth is that, for some of us at some times in our lives, we simply can’t afford to be healed. It may actually be the last thing we want.

Once this blind man was healed, good news! He no longer had to sit by the side of the road and beg. But more news: he no longer could, even if, for some reason, he wanted to.

In asking the question, Jesus is also asking this man to grapple with who he really is. The Healer is willing to heal him, if that is what he really wants. But Jesus is amazingly unwilling to force himself and his healing on anyone. The deep honesty Jesus asks this blind man to embrace is no easy thing.

Am I willing to be that honest myself? What if my blindness or disease is not so much physical as a “disabling” attitude—critical, grouchy, grinchy, selfish, hard, cynical, bitter, etc. Yes, it shrivels my soul, but maybe I’ve learned how to use it to control and manipulate the people around me—and they tiptoe around to let me and rarely call my hand. What if Jesus offered healing? Would I really want it?

Healing can be hard! I can’t help but wonder if this former blind man was ever tempted during incredibly dark times (even for him) to renounce his healing and pick up his beggar’s bowl? Was he ever tempted to go back to the begging he’d known rather than embrace the health that required so much and was at times so frightening because it was unknown?

I don’t know about him, but I know about me. I’m picking up my own “beggar’s bowl” every time in attitude or action I act as if I have a right to be treated as some sort of victim. I do not.

I’m in awe of the truly courageous people I see each day dealing with great difficulty—physically, emotionally, and otherwise—who refuse to see themselves as victims. But I too often see in myself—with far less reason—a surprising unwillingness to accept genuine healing and the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t like what it says about me when I find myself expending great effort to be sure that nothing as demanding as something approaching wholeness and maturity is required of me.

For “healed” folks, the drama is over. Now the duties, tasks, activities required of healthy people are required of me. I can no longer center on my hard lot, playing for sympathy, controlling others by my supposed status as a perpetual “victim,” if that’s my temptation.

Not everyone truly physically or emotionally damaged has the opportunity for health the man in John 9 did. But do we see that in some ways Christ’s question comes to us all at a very deep level? “Do you want to be healed?”

The answer will shape our lives and the lives of those around us, some of whom are the innocents who pay a heavy price if we actually have a choice—and choose to remain perpetual “victims.”

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


A Rose Is a Rose, But a Man’s Flower Is a Pansy

 

If you don’t mind, let’s begin here with a little general vocabulary drill; specifically, some synonyms for “tough.”

How about . . . durable, hardened, hardy, resilient, robust, rugged, stalwart, steeled, stout, sturdy, strong, tenacious, unyielding, vigorous . . . for a few? And with just a little more time spent with my thesaurus, I could continue resolutely reciting a litany of toughness terms.

But here’s a noun you won’t find lurking among the flinty descriptors above: pansy.

Along this line, a couple of pansy-based adjectives are available. Pansified. Pansied. I even wondered about coining another term or two. Pansy-ish. Pansitious. Nope.

But I’m beginning to think that the word “pansy,” which has come to be associated with the weak and “sissified,” has been much maligned. The term may, in fact, deserve a place of honor right alongside the toughest toughness terms we might dredge up.

It’s my actual pansies, the little blue and yellow flowers occupying flowerpots strategically located in our yard, that have made me reconsider my position on the term.

I like flowers. I inherited my mother’s love for green and growing things, but not her green thumb. For years now, I’ve been torturing a pot of ivy in my study, my care evidently subjecting that poor plant to a long and lingering but inevitable death. Anyone who can kill ivy has no business attempting to grow more complicated plants, but I try.

Every year, just before our first freeze, or, more often, just after the first freeze coupled with my procrastination has wiped out my least hardy plants, I move the survivors into the shed/greenhouse I built in the back yard. And that’s when I set out some pansies.

When the weather’s getting colder. When most other flowers give up and die. When fancy bloomers frost up and melt away. When other plants go in, that’s when the pansies come out. A rose may be “a rose by any other name,” but a pansy? Tough as nails even by its misappropriated  name.

This year those little flowers have not only stood up to frost, they’ve endured what our local weather-folks call spring-like conditions. If that term conjures up in your mind birdies and butterflies, you don’t live here. Think instead about parching wind, choking dust, and nary a drop of rain. Couple “spring-like” with a few serious freezes, and still my pansies soldier on. Those cute little flowers are slandered by their very name.

One more time Heaven smiles as we’re confounded, our “wisdom” turned upside down. Little flowers out-last and out-perform far showier varieties. Little children become guides sent by God to lead stodgy adults back to what is truly precious in His kingdom. Little faith-filled ladies on walkers humble us with the power of their prayers. Over and over again, God uses “the weak to confound the strong.”

 

 

You’re invited to check out my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com

 

Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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