Monday, August 13, 2007

Don't waste your time

Ray wasn't sure if he wanted to meet with these church people. He was a mentor to the pastor of our church in Japan and had come a long ways to see him, so when these others wanted to talk, Ray asked a few questions. Were they doing things while seeking improvements in the church, or did they just want to complain? Once he figured out that they were just complaining, he told them he was reserving his time for people actually doing things to advance the kingdom of God.

That all happened maybe ten years ago, but it came to mind when we heard a sermon a couple of weeks ago on Nehemiah -- particularly this passage:
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it -- though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates -- Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: "Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono."

But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.

Nehemiah 6.1-4
The point our pastor made from this passage was this: Don't waste time trying to placate people who will not be placated.

Recently I've talked with people who are unhappy about certain things at our church. Was I wasting my time? I don't think so, because:
  • they're doing things to advance the kingdom of God -- they are not whiners; and
  • they're seeking solutions, not looking for things to complain about.
So it occurs to me that there are two kinds of mistakes we can make in these situations. The first class of mistakes, which both Nehemiah and "Ray" avoided, is to treat whiners as though they're really seeking solutions. I think people with the "priest" personality might tend to err in this direction.
If I haven't mentioned this before, a priest talks about men to God; a prophet talks about God to men.
The second class of mistake would of course be to treat kingdom laborers having suggestions as though they were merely whiners. I suspect those with the more prophetic kind of personality would tend to err in this direction.

So my prayer for today is: Lord, help me to be like Nehemiah by working for you, by avoiding whiners and enemies, and by working together with laborers seeking solutions. And give me wisdom and humility to see the difference (between whiners and laborers).

posted 2006-08-15. Revised 2007-08-25 with some helpful hints from the lovely Carol

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