I’ll just cut to the chase: Another person’s story is not yours or mine to tell. That’s gossip, and it is sin. Truth be told, we’ve all been both offended and offenders when it comes to gossiping. Although it may not be the character of some, there are those who just can’t seem to resist the temptation to share the latest “prayer request” they’ve heard, or an juicy story that may or may not be true. Regardless, gossip dishonors, defames, and hurts the character of the one gossiped about. Ironically, those who sow the seeds of gossip reap a character and reputation that exposes the woundedness and brokenness they seek to mask by speaking hurtfully about others. Know this: your candle doesn’t burn brighter just because you blow someone else’s out.
Within the church, gossip becomes the demonic weed that chokes out unity within the body of Christ. As believers in Christ, we should seek to pull the weeds in our own garden rather than pointing out the weeds in someone else’s garden.
I’ve heard it said, “gossip attacks the image of God in another person.” Whether they are believers in Christ or not, they are still created in the image of God. That kind of assault God does not take lightly. As a matter of fact, God’s word is not unclear about those who gossip, and the damaging words that often flow freely from their lips.
“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.” Psalm 101:5
“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Proverbs 20:19
Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
And those are just a few verses, among many, where God’s word addresses how seriously He takes the damage caused by gossip. It reminds me of a story that speaks to the heart of the issue.
Once upon a time a man said something about his neighbor that was untrue. The word spread around town as one person told another. But soon the truth came out—what could the man do? He went to see his pastor and his pastor gave him some odd counsel. “Take a bag full of feathers and place one feather on the doorstep of each person who heard the untrue story you told. Then tomorrow, go and collect all the feathers you placed, and bring the bag back to me.” So the man did as the priest said. But when he went back to pick up the feathers nearly all of them were gone. When he went back to his pastor he said, “I did as you said, but when I went back the wind had blown the feathers away and I couldn’t get them back.” And the pastor replied, “So it is with careless words. Once they are spoken, they can’t be taken back. You may ask forgiveness for what you said, but you can’t take your words back. The damage has already been done.”
Because we know how God views gossip, as a follower of Christ our desire should be to not allow, initiate, or participate in gossiping. A couple of questions that we need to ask ourselves might be:
1. Am I the kind of person that people would feel comfortable gossiping to, or am I one with whom it is known that gossiping is not permitted?
2. Do I honor the one spoken about, regardless if I know them or not, by reminding those who gossip that it is not their story to tell? In other words, are you willing to have the courage to put a stop to it, or walk away from those who persist?
Let God’s word remind you of how you should speak: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
And finally, keep your feathers in your bag.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, not sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
I love Psalm 1. There’s no particular reason other than the fact that it is wise counsel for how to live life well, and a great reminder that how we live life, and who we do life with, shapes our character. You’ve probably heard the saying that is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson (who preferred to be called Waldo), “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” It brings to mind what Scripture says, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 16:25
Ironically, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s life, was one like many who have found themselves disillusioned by trials, and walked, stood, and sat with those whose counsel was unwise and ways were ungodly. I say ironically because Mr. Emerson was a pastor at the Old Second Church in his native city of Boston, until just after his 19-year-old wife’s death from tuberculosis. He had found it impossible to participate in and serve the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper following her passing. In 1831, at the young age of 28, he resigned. The following year he traveled to Europe and met Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish-born writer who attacked materialism, had a distrust of democracy, and a high view of the power of the individual. Carlyle had a significant impact on Emerson, and as a result shaped Emerson’s thinking as a transcendentalist to the point that his motto became, “Trust thyself.” As a matter of fact, his address “The Divinity School Address,” which he delivered before the graduates of the Harvard Divinity School, shocked Boston’s conservative clergymen, elevating man’s divinity, and the humanity of Jesus.
It doesn’t take much, or take long, for false doctrine to establish roots in the heart of a person who walks in the counsel of the ungodly. And from false doctrine, comes unwise decisions. What would have happened, I wonder, if Ralph Waldo Emerson had delighted in the Word of God in the midst of his sorrow and questioning? I wonder what would have happened if Waldo had surrounded himself with those who could care for his heart in a way that pointed him to Jesus? What if, during the most difficult moments of his life following his wife’s passing, he had walked with the godly through his valley of the shadow of death? What if he had followers of Jesus stand with him during his moments of struggle? And what if he had close, godly friends who took time to sit down with him to hear his doubts and point him to a Savior who is all-sufficient, and who offers gospel hope? It could very well be that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s story might have tracked in a different direction.
Where are you in the story of Psalm 1? Who are you walking with, and what is the counsel they are giving you? Who are you standing with, and do they stand on biblical truth? Who are you sitting down and doing life with? The truth is this: When you disregard God’s instruction and delight in the world’s ways and counsel, it wrongly influences how you think and feel about God, others, and life. But when you delight in God’s instruction, it rightly influences how you think and feel about God, others, and life.
Jeremiah was called and set apart by God even before he was born to be a prophet to the nations. It’s not easy being a proclaimer of God’s truth in a world hostile to God. How would you like the be the bearer of bad news to a kingdom that had set itself against God and His ways?
It would be discouraging and overwhelming if Jeremiah didn’t believe that God was sovereign over all things. God had told Jeremiah, “I am watching over My word to perform it.” In other words, whatever God says He will do. It will come to fruition. There is never a time when God says, “Well, that didn’t go as I planned.”
When you think about all that God told Jeremiah to tell a disobedient and obstinate people, it’s no wonder that God began with a promise that He would do what He said He would do. Jeremiah wasn’t going to be liked for what he would say. He would be despised, rejected, and fought against. That’s why God gave Him a second promise: “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”
They will fight against you, but they won’t win because I will rescue you. I will make sure that what I say comes true.
That truth isn’t just for Jeremiah, that’s for us as well. Everyday we face an enemy who fights against us, one who is not clothed in flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). But God’s promise is that we prevail because He has prevailed. We don’t fight for victory, we fight from victory. The enemy, however, tries to convince us otherwise. To often we tend to live defeated lives when God has declared that, in Christ, we have won. His Word is our reminder and strong promise. His Spirit in us is actively at work to perform His word in us.
So today, as you face an enemy who assaults you with thoughts that are not of God, take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and rest in His grace that reminds you that God is for you and will deliver you. When you stumble, remember that you don’t have to live in defeat but that God has prevailed and that as you confess to Him your sin you can rest in His forgiveness.
The thing I love about the psalms that David wrote is that we can relate to them. When I read what he’s written, I’m like, “I get you, bro.” For me, it’s refreshing and encouraging that this former shepherd boy turned King of Israel had real life struggles, and that he felt as though he could ask honest questions and have honest dialogue with God.
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.” (Psalm 13:1-4)
Maybe you’ve had questions and conversations like that with God; I know I have.
What’s even more encouraging, though, is David’s trust in God, even when life didn’t make sense. Even in his honest questioning, David would come back to the truth about God. His feelings didn’t inform his faith, but rather his faith was the guardrails for his feelings.
“But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)
Even in David’s difficult and raw moments of his life, he came back to this truth: God’s love is steadfast. Regardless of how long we have to wait, or endure suffering, or in the times we feel forgotten as though God has hidden His face from us, the truth is God is very near. His love is steadfast. That kind of love never leaves, because God never leaves. Rather than letting his emotions get the best of him, David rehearsed the gospel to himself. He could rejoice because no matter how he felt, he knew that God’s salvation was certain and that His grace was more than sufficient.
So here’s the takeaway for me: In those moments where I feel forgotten by God, or wonder how long I have to endure the difficulties of life that stir my emotions, I can trust and rest in the truth of knowing that His love for me is steadfast, and that His saving grace gives me reason to rejoice.
If you love sports and like an action-packed and fast paced game then hockey is a sport you need to see live. When I lived in Dallas there was a sweet elderly lady who worked all the Dallas Mavericks and Stars games. She was responsible for verifying and directing season ticket holders to their exclusive seats, which just happened to be the best seats in the arena. She had told me, though, that when I came to a game, if I would check with her after the first period of the game she would allow me to sit where there was one available. In essence, she would upgrade my seat to one that was paid for by someone else. So, the next game I was able to attend, I took her up on her offer. Sure enough she upgraded my seat to the lower level, center ice. It was the best seat I had ever had. The second period had just started, the crowd was into the game, and I was set … until someone tapped me on the shoulder and nicely said to me, “Excuse me, but your sitting in my seat.” Somewhat embarrassed, I grabbed my souvenir cup and program and went back to my assigned seat which just happened to be just below the ceiling of the arena. I really didn’t have a right to be mad because it wasn’t my seat. I had not paid for it even though I was sitting in it as though I had.
Often I have found myself sitting in a seat that isn’t mine–the throne of my heart, and I’m sure you have found yourself doing the same with the throne of your heart. Our tendency is to want to have the best seat when it comes to our life. We want to sit on the throne. We want to wear the crown. We want to rule and reign over our lives. And we do so as though we have the right to that seat. But the truth is, we don’t. We were never meant to rule and reign over our lives. We were never meant to sit on the throne of our heart. And if that isn’t enough, we certainly didn’t pay the price for that seat.
When we make decisions without submitting to the lordship of Jesus, or live in disobedience to His ways, overruling Him as though we have the right and the authority to do so, we take a seat that isn’t ours.
Sometimes we give that seat to someone or something else that we really do have the authority to do either. We tell greed to take the seat; we tell possessions to take the throne; we allow our children, our career, our distorted passions, and so many other things to sit in a place that isn’t intended for them to be.
When we allow someone or something to sit on the throne of our life, chaos always follows. There is only One who was meant to reign and rule our lives and it’s not us, and it isn’t anything or anyone we place there. Jesus is the rightful ruler, and when He is on the throne there is peace.
Several years ago, Max Lucado wrote a book entitled HE STILL MOVES STONES. Within that book, he mentioned Matthew 12:20, “ … a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench …” In that text Matthew is quoting the prophet Isaiah who is speaking of the Messiah, Jesus. The essence of that verse is simple: Jesus redeems and restores those who are bruised, battered, and bewildered by the trials of life, and breathes fresh wind to fan the dimming flame of those whose hearts are barely ignited and on the verge of losing hope, passion, and the joy of life.
Max Lucado writes, “And the smoldering wick on the candle. Is there anything closer to death than a smoldering wick? Once aflame, now flickering and failing. Still warm from yesterday’s passion, but no fire. Not yet cold but far from hot. Was it that long ago you blazed with faith? Remember how you illuminated the path? Then came the wind … the cold wind, the harsh wind. They said your ideas were foolish. They told you your dreams were too lofty. The scolded you for challenging the time-tested. The constant wind wore down upon you. Oh, you stood strong for a moment (or maybe a lifetime), but the endless blast whipped your flickering flame, leaving you one pinch away from darkness.” (He Still Moves Stones, p.16-17)
Maybe you are reading this and you’re saying to yourself, perhaps even screaming inside, “That’s me! That’s exactly how I feel.” Yet you wonder how you don’t become the wick that no longer burns. You want the flickering light at the end of a smoldering wick to be fanned into a strong and vibrant flame again.
The great news is that God loves to breath new life into that which is fading. He is the one who gives dreams and ignites vision in the heart of one who trusts Him and is willing to be used by Him. One thing that I’ve learned is that a smoldering wick can either be the result of the “cold, harsh wind” that Max writes about, or it could be due to a lack of oxygen that feeds the flame. It may just be that you’ve not been allowing God to breath new life into your dying dreams, or passions, or vision. Only in His presence will your smoldering wick be fueled by the oxygen of His grace; the grace you need to dream again and believe that He has something more for you that will burn for His glory and your good.
So to those of you who feel as though you are a smoldering wick, God is not done with you. Quite the contrary. You are in the perfect place for God to breath new life into you because “a smoldering wick He will not quench.”