Try not to laugh, but I have been told by more than one person that I am spiritually gifted in encouragement. I ask you not to laugh because others have said that I am too argumentative. Is there a dividing line between the two though? Can the two coexist? Frankly, I say that you cannot have one without the other in this crooked world. The spiritual gift of encouragement is only available for those who are in a time of trial. You don’t need to encourage someone to continue a massage or a trip through the lazy river at the water park. Encouragement requires conflict. Disagreement is a prerequisite of encouragement.
I do like to think of myself as the kind of guy you would want to have as a friend. I have been through hard times and know when to offer a kind word and when to just shut up and listen. What I am learning more about, though, is when you need to place your foot in the dirt and refuse to budge. You see, this series was birthed after I was accused (for lack of a better term) of being hard to get along with. Now I did not lash out at my accuser. Partly because I was so surprised at what he said and partly because I understood that what he had been told came from one side of the discussion to the exclusion of the other side. Which, is a textbook definition of slander when it is false and gossip when it is true to one degree or another. In both cases, it is sin.
Proverbs 18:17 The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
Now to be clear, I do not accuse this man, this former elder, of sin. Not to the same degree that I accuse those who slandered me of sin. I do accuse him, though, of being susceptible to the idle words coming from others. As an elder in the church, he is to weigh the opinions of others, even those in the elder room. The Law of Moses forbids partiality when determining truth in a dispute unless it doesn’t. Perhaps it is for the best that this man was dismissed from his office so shortly after he assumed it. I don’t need to know the reasons for his dismissal. I am only responsible for the reasons of my self-removal. And to be honest, I left my role in order to remove the conflict.
You see, I had been accused, by a single witness, of sowing discord in the church. That was the biblical definition. The secular definition was that I was guilty of being in the vicinity of Donald Trump when he visited our metro area. That accusation was not enough to see me removed from a church office, but it was enough to expose a rift within the elder board that I didn’t realize was even there. Sure, I knew that the head of the elder board voted differently than I do. But I also had bought into the notion that you can vote one way and still worship together and I valued our partnership as a way to show that the gospel stood above politics.
Is voting for a supporter of evil the same thing as giving approval to those who practice such things? You might want to read Romans 1 before you answer that question.Just sayin’
So I was unprepared when I had that very short conversation with the man who briefly replaced me. He was someone I had gotten to know and I thought that he was one who I could confide in. I am desperately looking for allies who know that we are already at war. (Click the link before you accuse me of being unduly confrontational.) Because I understood after the last straw that I couldn’t serve with an elder board who was at war against the very truths laid out in the Bible. Men who had surrendered the biblical definition of sin for a definition defined by culture and by their wives. No, I am not kidding. There were men who were led along by their wives in that church and they were in high places of leadership. Not all of them, but enough of them to make it impossible for me to submit to these men who were merely proxies for their wives and their pet projects which equated to the spirit of the age.
I didn’t black out my Facebook profile picture during the 2020 riots. I didn’t attend the unsanctioned book study at church about white fragility. I objected to the continued closing of the church gathering for ministry. I pushed for those who do not fear death to be welcomed back into proximity with others. This all put me at odds with the rest of the board. But back to the top of the post, you cannot encourage anyone who isn’t in a place of conflict.
The spiritual gift of encouragement is not one that is without focus. It is one that seeks to point others toward that which God has clearly stated in a response to their difficulty. If I encourage you to do something your flesh had already suggested, that would be of no value to you. But if I encourage you to cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you, that would be valuable. And if I encourage you to stand fast when confronted by a false accuser, that would only be valuable if I were willing to stand beside you and even in front of you if you need it. That is what I have done in the years of my service to God.
More than one pastor has leaned on me during stressful times. And in these stresses, I have become quite good at diagnosing root causes from a biblical perspective. These tend to occur most readily in smaller congregations. You know, the churches more susceptible to the one or two families with the deepest pockets or the most charismatic wives or husbands with familial history in the congregation. Even so, I prefer smaller congregations over larger ones. Most pastors measure their impact based on the number of church members or baptisms. But God is not a respecter of persons, and I am convinced that we are not to be either. If you are a pastor and you meet another pastor, do not ask them how big their church is. Ask them if they can share any awesome stories about how God is moving among their people.
Now where was I?
There are many trials that we will find in this broken world. That has been true ever since Genesis 3. Read your Bible and you will find conflict. The serpent was in conflict with what God had said to Adam. Moses was in conflict with Pharoah. I could go on, but seriously the entire Bible is one story of conflict after another. To assume that your situation has no biblical principle is just wrong. Dangerously wrong.
Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
Your situation is not unique. That’s right. Whatever it is that has you wondering when the conflict will be over is not something that the Bible has been silent about. The Bible contains all of the answers that we need in order to live a life pleasing to God. It is up to us, though, to discern what that means in our current context. How does one approach an infectious disease? Look to the Bible. How do you handle the promises of transhumanism? Well, the Bible answers the same questions that the demonic transhumanist are asking. What about the current political scandal? If you familiarize yourself with the Bible, you will be able to recognize the matter for what it truly is.
Biblical wisdom is nothing more, or less, than understanding what God expects of us and being obedient to Him. Foolishness is rejecting biblical truth, which is a way to place yourself into the place of God, defining good and evil for yourself, which is also the definition of “antichrist.”Me
The role of discernment in the life of a Christian has come into ill repute in recent years. That may be because some discernment blogs have been quick to display the shortcomings of others. Or maybe it’s because certain agents of darkness want to keep the rays of light away from their ministries. I suspect a bit of both situations can be found here. But that doesn’t stop the fact that discernment is considered to be a bad word in a world where subjectivity reigns. Discernment divides things into “good” and “bad” categories. And that means that people are using a lens that they say is objective.
But there is no such thing as neutrality. There is good and there is evil. The two are in conflict. We are the prize because we are made in the image and likeness of God. If you do not put a line in the sand you will become the line in someone else’s sand. And that is why discernment is something that all Christians are called to. We must be familiar with the word of God. Familiar enough that we can escape the snares of the evil one. Otherwise, what do we have to offer to a world that needs to hear the truth?
Bottom line: If you never encounter any conflict, that is a “you” problem. It means that you have never stood for anything and are likely to fall for everything. I have boundaries in my life. I have places I am not willing to go. To the best of my ability, those boundaries are defined by my fidelity to the word of God. And that sometimes puts me at odds with others. With my employer. With others in my church. With those who would celebrate the butchery of babies in the murder of abortion. I do not have to seek out these conflicts. They are present and they reveal themselves. My responsibility is to make sure that the conflict is based on biblical truth and not on my being a jerk. And after that, when others see me as a troublemaker, I take heart. For I am in good company.