Monday, March 21, 2016

When Silence is Just

"And Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly." -Matthew 1:19

Joseph: the earthly father of Jesus Christ and husband of Mary, is one of the tragically least talked about men in the Bible. He was a just man and did everything he could to serve God. He was not perfect, but out of all the men on earth, it is no coincidence that God chose him to raise Jesus.

If you recall, which I am sure you do, Joseph was not aware of what was happening at first when Mary was pregnant with Jesus. He did not understand that his wife was pregnant with the coming Messiah, he did not know that she was still a virgin, he genuinely thought that she had been with someone else. And it is not what Joseph did in this situation that speaks volumes about his character, but what he didn't do. 

As we see in Matthew 1:19, Joseph was unwilling to put Mary to shame. This is something that we often overlook, but is important to notice. Joseph was still unwilling to put Mary to shame, even though she was thought to have been pregnant with another man's child! Can you even imagine how much pain that must have put him in? And yet he was willing to stay quiet. He was not willing to shame her, despite the fact that she had shamed him.

We are told all the time to stand up for ourselves. We are told that we cannot bring justice unless we use our voices and are strong, and if we stay silent we are weak. And yes, of course, there is a time to stand out and speak the truth. We are told to be bold and to not be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) and to speak the truth (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Eph. 4:15; etc). However, there is also a time to stay silent, and that time often gets overlooked.

I am, admittedly, someone who does not often stay silent. It is by no means my strong suit. If someone wrongs me, I am more than likely to tell someone else about it. It is what we have all been taught. If someone hurts you, you tell someone. And, of course, there is a time and place for telling others. But above all, we must never forget that it is out of love that we serve God. We must remember that love is patient and kind. We must remember that love does not insist on its own way. Love bears all things and endures all things, and if we do not love our brothers, we cannot love God (1 John 4:20-21).

Joseph was showing true love. Yes, he was deeply hurt by the women he was going to marry, thinking that she had been with someone else. But he had absolutely no intention of hurting her reputation. We see this also in Matthew 18:15, which says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone." This is exactly what Joseph had done. He was settling this with his betrothed, and with her alone.

But imagine what would have happened if Joseph had not remained silent. Not a single person he had told would have believed that Jesus was the Christ. He would have been that child that Mary had with some mystery man. He would have been just an earthly child born because of his mother's sin, in the eyes of those around him. And while some people may have thought that anyway, imagine if Joseph had told everyone that? 

Could you imagine his embarrassment when he later found out that Jesus was the Messiah? Could you imagine how horrible he would have felt? How much damage he would have done? Could you imagine the shame of knowing that he may have made those people lose their souls because now they would never believe Jesus is the Messiah?

When was the last time someone did something hurtful to you and you stayed silent? How many people know about your last breakup? How many people did you tell about how awful your last boss was? How many people have you brought to shame because you didn't remain quiet?

I believe that this is an issue we often justify and don't really like to touch. How many times do we
mistake going to our brothers and sisters for help, with gossiping? How often have you done this just within the past day? Week? Month? Year? While it is hard to hear, this is a very big issue, and it must come to a stop.

What if you bring someone else to shame that's not a Christian? What would that person then think of Christians? What if you gossiped about someone and then later found out that you were wrong? Well now you have put that person to shame, you have made yourself look like a fool, and you have made two people enemies because now the person who you gossiped to has a low opinion of the person you gossiped about. No good can ever come from speaking poorly of others.

Today I would like to encourage you to think before you speak. I would like to encourage you to take a second to think about any problems you have with someone, and think about what you did to make amends. Did you try? Did you pray? Did you go to them? Today I would like to encourage you to be more like Joseph, and be silent when it's hard. You never know how your words can affect others.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Should I be Thankful?

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." -1 Thessalonians 5:17

Life is full of surprises. Some good, some less good. You never know what will come next, and you never know how you will handle those things that do come. Sometimes you will go through incredibly difficult times, and sometimes you will go through incredibly wonderful times. But no matter what lies before you, you must always remember to give thanks to Him who created you.

"Why should I be thankful when everything in my life is falling apart?" some will ask. And while to some this seems like a very unthoughtful and rude question to ask, to others it is a genuine question that cannot be taken lightly. Why should you be thankful?

I am not going to say that you should be thankful because others have it worse. The tragedies of others do not lessen the sincerity of your own. However, you should be thankful because even in your hardships, you are blessed. You are so blessed.

No matter what your hardship is, you have the opportunity to serve a God who is perfect and loves us all (1 John 4:19). You have fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who love you and want the best for you (Galatians 6:10). And you have a Savior who loved you enough to die for you that you may spend an eternity in Paradise (Romans 4:24-25).

As a Christian, you cannot allow your hardships to cloud your blessings. You cannot lose sight of your blessings. How can you be a light to all the World, how can you show others that you love God if every time something goes wrong, no matter how painful, you forget everything He has done for you?

When you stop being thankful, you forget everything that has been done for you. While you may be upset, you must remember that you cannot allow sadness become a loss of faith in God. Being thankful will keep that from happening.

Another question that is often asked is "How can I stay thankful? How can I remember to be thankful when everything around me is falling apart?" This can be difficult, I admit. But Paul is a very good example of this. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 we can read of the hardships of Paul. We read of all the physical torment he went through. From being shipwrecked to being imprisoned, to be being beaten. Paul certainly went through a lot while he was here on earth.

But if you read in Philippians 4:11, a little while later Paul wrote, "I have learned in whatever
situation I am to be content." Paul, the apostle that was always getting hurt, that was always in trouble, that was always in prison, had learned to be content? How? Because in verse 13, a couple sentences later, he simply says "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."

What encouraging words these are! We hear them all the time, and yet when we hear them from a man who has been beaten, who has been on the run for his life, who has been shiprecked, hungry, thirsty, just about everything a human can go through, it makes the message that much more powerful. He was able to be content because he knew that God was and is always in control.

          How much more does that mean knowing that it came from such a man as Paul? In order to remain thankful, you must remember that you can always persevere through Christ, and without Him, you could do nothing.

          This world that we live in tells us that we should alway be getting more. If our lives are not ideal then it must mean that God is dead. But just because your life is not ideal, just because you may be having a difficult time, God is still there. If you hold fast you faith, if you continue to serve God, your trials may not end until death, but life on earth is a mere breath compared to eternity.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) If we have faith, no matter how hard our lives are, we can know that we will have eternal life.