I don’t know how your Christian walk has been, but in mine I’ve found myself having to overthrow parts of my personality regularly.
Right now, I’ve having to overthrow the part of my personality that doesn’t want others to feel bad. The reason I’m such a lousy salesman—which I am—is because I don’t like talking people into what they don’t want to do. I don’t like to make people uncomfortable. In fact, I don’t like to even risk making people uncomfortable.
And I certainly don’t like to risk making them angry.
The problem is, a helpful person is always going to make people angry. A loving person is always going to make some people angry some time because people, in general, need help doing what’s right.
As the Scripture says:
Exhort one another daily … lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb. 3:13)
We need exhortation because even as Christians, obeying God does not always come naturally. Sometimes obeying God is painful. Sometimes obeying God goes against some deep, ingrained parts of our personality.
There’s another verse that applies here …
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works.
"Provoking" means that we’re going to have to say some things that are difficult for people to hear. We’re going to have to say things to one another that give strength to their good side, their spiritual side, and that cause their flesh to rise up and war against their soul.
If you’re the one who’s spoken whatever it is that is overthrowing their fleshly desires, then they are a lot more likely to be angry at you than angry at the good part of themselves that agrees with you.
For some people, such exhortation comes naturally. It’s not difficult for them. I think, however, that there are an awful lot of us who like the comfort of having people never be angry at us, so we are quiet when we ought to speak.
What I’ve found for myself is that when I choose what’s right and say what I ought to say, even though I want to be quiet, I don’t feel wonderful afterwards for helping by brother or sister. Instead, I feel awful because they’re angry at me. I question myself, and I wonder whether I was mean, whether the issue was too petty to comment on, or whether I had no room to speak because I’m no better than they are, even in the specific area I was admonishing them about.
So I tell myself all the time that feeling bad is not an important issue.
I have to speak when I ought to speak. It’s going to have to be okay that I feel bad afterward. It’s going to have to be okay that I question myself.
It’s even going to have to be okay that I really had no room to talk. Who cares if I’m no better than they are? Humility requires me to not even consider whether I’m better than anyone in any area, anyway. We don’t speak to one another out of a superior holiness. We speak to one another because it will help the brother or sister we are speaking to—even if we look like hypocrites in the process.
If I really am a hypocrite, then it would be great for them to speak back to me and provoke me to love and good works as well!
Admonishing One Another Isn’t the Only Issue
I picked the topic of admonishing one another because I tend to feel bad after I admonish a person.
When we’re talking about feeling bad, though, that’s not the only topic that applies.
If you’re a Christian you need to get used to making moral choices and being okay with feeling bad afterward.
Yesterday I read a story in Reader’s Digest about a guy who overcame his addiction to prescription drugs cold turkey and on his own, without getting help from anyone else.
Talk about feeling bad! I assure you that when he made the wise, moral decision to quit taking those pills, he did not suddenly feel good about it. In fact, he went through a real, physical withdrawal, which means he felt terrible about it.
Later, when the physical feelings went away, I’m sure he felt great about his decision.
Today, I watched an episode of Undercover Boss, and it addressed the Boss’ history. He had quit playing music with a band after he quit doing drugs and drinking in order to ensure that he didn’t go back to the drugs and drinking. I’m sure he hated not being able to play music; he did go back to it years later when he had the help he needed to stay clean.
Small Decisions and Feeling Bad
These people made really big decisions in their life that they stuck to despite feeling bad. We all look at them, and we think, "Wise decision."
But the fact is, as Christians we face such choices every day. They’re not as big, so we don’t pay much attention to them. We give in to our desire to avoid feeling bad, and we barely notice because the offense is so minor. It’s just "the way we are."
We read about missionaries whose life’s work happened because they made small but hard choices. Perhaps we read about someone who began to get up very early to read the Scriptures and to pray for an hour or more before they did anything else in their day.
But we don’t do the same because we’re not morning persons.
We read about, say, David Wilkerson, who put his TV up for sale for just half an hour in order to find out whether God wanted him to give up watching TV. After the TV sold in 29 minutes, he gave the time to other things, some spiritual, some not so spiritual.
One of those not so spiritual things was reading a magazine that gave him a heart for reaching youth in New York’s inner city.
Besides the result that youth in the inner city were reached, that decision also produced the book and movie The Cross and the Switchblade and the powerfully effective Teen Challenge ministry. Today, thousands of people read what David Wilkerson writes because he made the small but difficult and feel-bad decision to sell his TV.
That small decision led to the big decision to risk his life, out of faith in God, by talking to gang members in Harlem.
That big decision has effected and changed thousands of lives.
Jesus said that it is faithfulness in little things that leads to faithfulness in big things.
Let me make it one step simpler than that. Are you willing to feel bad today in order to make a choice you know is right in some little thing that you don’t generally notice?
And are you willing to do it again tomorrow?
Do the same things, and you will get the same results. Are the results you’re getting today the results you want for the rest of your life?
The difference may be as simple as getting used to feeling bad.