These are some tidbits from yesterday’s sermon. (listen now)
In this political year, we see the drive for power taking the center stage. Power and influence are greater commodities than money. We have to be aware of how power works for those who wield it. And as we looked at Proverbs 23:1-8, we see that in the struggle for power and influence, we face some dangers that will complicate our lives. There are three sections to this passage.
Verses 1-3 warn us about the danger of compromise, when we seek the favor of the powerful. We think that we are able to use others to get what we want, but in reality, we become the victim. And our point of weakness is our appetite. When we want what others have, their promises and their favor become our pursuit. That’s when temptation comes.
Verses 4-5 warn us about the danger of pursuing the temporal. Wealth is one example of that kind of goal. We want it, we work for it and in the end, no matter who we are, we lose it. The world often associates power and influence with wealth. But wealth is temporary. It is fleeting. It is not worth making it our life goal.
Verses 6-8 warn us about trusting insincere people. These are the ones who pretend to like you, but they inwardly grumble about what you cost them in terms of time and resources. The warning is against putting our trust in people for our hope, security, belonging that are inwardly spiteful, angry and manipulating.
Dave Barry, the humorist and columnist has a list of 5 Life Lessons:
1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.”
3. There is a very fine line between a “hobby” and “mental illness.”
4. Never lick a steak knife.
5. A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
Number 5 reminds us that there is often something else happening beneath the surface.
In each of these scenarios described in the passage, what is on the surface doesn’t match reality. And that is exactly the reality of worldly influence and power. It is an illusion.
We have to wisely recognize that worldly power is dangerous. Here are some things to remember.
1. There are people in the world who want to use you and they will offer you a blessing or benefit, but their purpose is to pull you into their game.
2. The commodities of this world; wealth, influence and power are all temporary and fleeting.
3. There are people who will pretend to offer you affection and belonging, but you will find in the end that their love was empty and it will make you sick.
So, how do we combat this? How do we live our lives wisely and simply? How do we avoid the complications of dancing with this evil partner?
We live humbly!
1. Be humble in your desires. (Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.) Want God and like Him more than anything else. When you do, you desire Him, not what the world offers.
2. Be humble in your faith. (James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.) Trust that God loves you and that He will give you what He desires for you to have. If God doesn’t give it to you, don’t chase it, it’s not good.
3. Be humble in your thankfulness. (1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.) Thankfulness keeps us content in what God has given us and the world’s offers don’t hold the same power and attraction.
4. Be humble in your actions (Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.) This allows me to not strive for power in my relationships but to take the position of a servant. In doing that, I’m not as tempted to worry about what others can do for me.
Here is the one text question that was asked after the service.
Q1:: How do you prevent other people from pulling you into the arena of power and struggle?
A1:: That is a great question. It is at the essence of the message. There are a couple of reasons we can be pulled into these things. One, is our own ambition. We want to achieve or we want to have something that we’ve designed for ourselves. So, then we have to conjure up ways of obtaining this – – we get into the “power dance.” A second reason is that we become afraid. We are afraid that we can’t live without that thing. We can’t go on if we don’t win. The truth is, in Christian history, the greatest winners have looked like losers to the world. We need to check our motives. Live humbly. And trust that life according to the Kingdom of God offers a path and a destination that is far superior to anything the world can offer.
What thoughts about power and influence do you have?
When have you been tempted to get into that game?