Rebuke the Wise

“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.” (Proverbs 9:7-9, NIV)

One of the most difficult things for me, personally, is bringing a challenge to a person. I don’t find it terribly hard to challenge a congregation through a sermon to come into alignment with God’s Word, to turn from sin, or to change the way they think or believe. But when it comes to meeting with someone personally, bringing a rebuke is not easy!

Yet, that is something we are called to do as brothers and sisters in Christ. We should love each other enough to bring correction when needed. And, we should be humble when we receive a rebuke. When I read these verses in Proverbs 9, I found myself asking, Am I more like the mocker or the wise person? When someone brings you a challenge, do you respond with defensiveness? Do you go into self-preservation mode? Or do you humble yourself, hear the rebuke, and grow wiser as a result?

I will confess that defensiveness is often my default reaction, but I am learning to put my self-preservation aside and hear the rebuke. Usually, there is something in it I can grow from. Of course, occasionally a challenge is brought that is entirely worthless, and not offered in an “I want to help you grow” spirit, but in an “I want to tear you down” attitude. When that happens, it’s best to turn the other cheek and forget the rebuke altogether as I remember whose I am–I am His, and nothing will change that!

I have found over the years that to avoid bringing a challenge rarely helps a person. As difficult as it can be to give a rebuke, sometimes that’s precisely what’s needed to help them mature and grow. But when you do offer a word of constructive criticism, it’s best to do it with an attitude of grace, in a spirit of humility and encouragement. The goal is never to merely challenge a person and walk away; it’s to bring both challenge and support, both rebuke and encouragement, both correction and accountability. Because at the end of the day, our goal should be to see the other person grow closer to the Lord.

One of the best and simplest tools out there to help think through challenge and support is The Support-Challenge Matrix from GiANT World Wide Leadership.

My prayer for this week is that you will have the courage to bring a challenge if it’s needed in the next seven days. Or, the humility to receive a rebuke and allow the Holy Spirit to use it as a catalyst for growth in your life.

 

How You Use Your Mouth

“You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit.” (Psalm 50:19, NIV).

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

Words are powerful. They can be used to bless or curse. They can be used to worship or blaspheme. We can speak truth or lies. We can use words to build someone up or entirely destroy their lives. They can express love or hate. There’s almost no limit to what words can accomplish.

Yet, how often do we think before we speak? How often do we pause to consider the power of our words and the impact of what we’re about to say? Or do we let our words flow unfiltered, heedless of the devasting effect they often have? Are we quick to throw our opinions around without reflecting on whether it’s beneficial or discouraging to the person with whom we’re sharing? Do we stop and think about that joke we’re getting ready to tell, whether it’s appropriate for a mouth that belongs to Jesus? I’ve found that when I’m not intentional with my speech, I sometimes end up using my mouth for evil, rather than good. Even when our motives are good, careless words can turn constructive criticism into scathing rebuke because our tongues are deceitful–even to our own selves!

Ephesians 4:29 is a good reminder to use our words to build others up, to say what is needed (which isn’t always what is nicest) so that another can grow as a person and as a follower of Jesus. Let’s use our words to benefit those who listen, rather than to our own good, our own glory, or our own advantage. What if we used the power of our words to serve another this week? What if we used our mouths to ask or grant forgiveness, to tell our spouses how much we love them, or to say to our kids how proud of them we are? What if we asked ourselves, “What does this person need to hear from me to be encouraged today?” How could that change a relationship or mend broken fences?

My prayer this week is that we will use our words for what is helpful in building another up to the glory of God and the benefit of that person.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Down But Not Out

So the first Sunday of March (the 6th), I tried something new with preaching… I had been scheduled to preach from Acts 15:36-16:5.  As I studied the passage, I felt like God was telling me to do something a little different.  Normally I would preach an exegetical-expository sermon, but this time I decided to try a first-person narrative.  In my passage, Barnabas and Paul, the great missionary team, argue and split over whether or not to take John Mark along with them on their second missionary journey.  Barnabas takes Mark and goes one way; Paul takes Silas and goes another.

No doubt Mark was pretty upset that they parted company over him.  But, God had other plans for Mark.  He brought Mark and Peter together, and they ended up in Rome, where many scholars believe Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.  He and Paul reconciled in Rome while Paul was imprisoned there, and according to the testimony of some early church fathers, Peter sent Mark to plant a church in Alexandria, Egypt.  Mark was likely with both Peter and Paul when they were martyred, and eventually would himself be martyred for preaching the gospel.

What may have seemed like a failure in Mark’s life became an opportunity for God to move people around where He needed them to be so that Mark would be mentored by Peter and eventually write his Gospel.  God took a mess and painted an amazing picture with it!  In this first-person narrative of Mark’s life, I explore what Mark may have felt in the middle of the controversy, and how God’s resolution of the problem actually turned into a great victory for the Kingdom.  I hope it’s helpful to you!

This message was delivered at Pontiac Bible Church.