Words of Spiritual Benefit | 171-180
171. PEACE OF THE HEART
: The spiritual person is supposed to have a heart full of peace and quietness. He is not to get disturbed on the inside or the outside, but to live in peace with himself, with people and with God.
: Peace is one of the main fruits of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace." (Gal. 5:22).
: What makes us lose our peace? How to win?
: Sometimes we lose our peace and become annoyed when things happen different from what we want. We want to impose our will on people, events and the will of God Himself. If things happen in a different way, we lose our peace. We have to know that not all what we want could be fulfilled. May be it is for our own good that it is not.
: We may lose our peace because we follow the faults of people! Even if these faults were not directed to us! We want people to act according to what we want, otherwise we get annoyed! It is better for us and for them, in order to keep our peace and theirs, to avoid interfering in other people's affairs and not to make ourselves observers of their deeds.
: Losing our peace could also happen when we feel injustice and that we have been victimised. With some endurance, one can tolerate injustice without losing his peace. He may consider it a crown, believing that God "executes justice for the oppressed." (Ps. 146:7).
On the other hand, we should examine ourselves; may be we are wrong and there has been no injustice to make us lose our peace.
: We may lose our peace because of certain desires that have not been fulfilled or may be fulfilled but not according to our expectations. But happy is the one who is pleased with what he has and does not get disturbed thinking about what he lacks. Contentment is a way to peace.
: We may lose our peace because of sin or because we fear the result of sin, "There is no peace," says the Lord, "for the wicked." (Is. 48:22).
: Sometimes we lose our peace because of our weak nerves; being very sensitive.
We need to solve our problems with our faith, our minds and our hearts, but not with our nerves. Agitated nerves never solve problems but complicate them and make us lose our peace.
Sometimes we think of the sharpness, depth and pain of the problem, so we lose our peace, get tired while it would have been better to think of a solution. If we reach one, we will be comforted.
: We may lose our peace because of our wish to reach a quick solution. If it took long, we get disturbed. There are matters that need patience, long suffering and a period of time, to be solved without any worry.
: Sometimes fear, tired nerves and expecting evil, exaggerate the problem so we get disturbed. The matter could be much easier than what we fear. But fear is an outstanding factor in losing patience. A frightened person imagines troubles and dangers that do not exist.
: We may lose our peace because of external matters, if we are easily affected. Let us be strong in faith and in endurance, like the rock that storms strike without harming it. We should not become agitated by any word or action.
: One may lose his peace because of his thoughts or his lack of intelligence. It is the type that thinks much, doubts quickly and is short of device, unable to take the right action, lacks faith in God's help and solutions.
172. SINNING AGAINST GOD
One thinks that when he sins, he is sinning against others such as the person who steals, murders or acts unjustly or that he sins against himself as in neglecting his studies, his health or wasting his future either on earth or in eternity.
But the danger in sin is that one sins against God! Therefore, David says to the Lord, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done this evil in your sight." (Ps. 51:4).
David did not say that he sinned against, against Uriah the Hittite or against his personal chastity.
The same with Joseph, the righteous.
When he was tempted to sin, he refused saying, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9). Joseph did not say that he would sin against Potiphar and his wife. That was how deep the understanding of Joseph the righteous.
Sin is disobeying God, defying Him and breaking His Commandments.
Therefore, the Bible said, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness and sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4). It was also said, "You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonour God through breaking the law? For "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (Rom. 2:23- 24). For that reason,"...... sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful." (Rom. 7:13).
Sin is a separation from God, getting out of His fellowship, love and kingdom, because, "What communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial?" (2 Cor. 6:14-15). The one who sins becomes separated from God like the prodigal son who separated himself from his father's house and left him.
Sin is even enmity with God because it is the love of the world. The Apostle says, ".....friendship with the world is enmity with God." (James 4:4). It is despising God's commandment. Therefore, it was said to David the prophet, "Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? .....because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife." (2 Sam.l 12:9-10).
Even when you sin against yourself, you are sinning against God's image. When you sin against your body, you are sinning against God's temple which is within you. Therefore, the Apostle says, "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." (1 Cor. 3:17).
Therefore, the sin is unlimited because it is against God, the unlimited.
173. METHODS OF REBUKE
Some would turn to rebuke others, acting according to the words of St. Paul the Apostle, to his disciple Timothy the bishop, "Convince, rebuke, exhort." (2 Tim. 4:2). Put the following points before that rebuke:
1. Does the one who rebuke have the authority to do so, as the case with St. Timothy who was a bishop? Does the rebuke come under his spiritual responsibility? Is the other person younger or older than him?
2. What is the method of rebuking? Is it with cruelty and harshness? Does it hurt feelings and humiliates? Or is it in a dislikeable way? Paul the Apostle, said to the priests of Ephesus: "Therefore, watch and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:31).
3. Therefore, if you rebuke anyone, let it be with humility and love. Do not rebuke with authority and haughtiness and pride. Let your rebuke take the form of quiet advice, without hurting feelings.
4. Do not reprimand those under your authority over every mistake. David the prophet says to the Lord, "If you, Lord, shall mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you." (Ps. 130:3-4). To rebuke over every mistake could cause others into littleness and you'll appear before them as one who is waiting for a mistake.
5. Do not rebuke in the presence of others. That causes embarrassment. The only exception, as in the Bible, is what relates to sins known by all. The reckless who carelessly sins before all should be dealt with as the Apostle says, " ....rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear." (1 Tim. 5:20). As for the sins that occur in private, rebuke over it in private.
6. Let your rebuke be by conviction and love: Convince the one you rebuke that you love him and fear for him and that your words are meant for his own good. Make him feel that your rebuke is not the result of enmity or despise!
7. Your rebuke could be done in an indirect way: Use the method of hinting more than being open. Or let it be in a positive way by explaining the benefits of the spiritual way which is the opposite of what happened.
8. Rebuke could be preceded by praise and followed by encouragement. The Lord followed this way with the Samaritan woman, without hurting her feelings. (John 3:17- 18).
174. REVEALS HIS ORIGIN
Man continues in hiding with unknown ins and outs and his reality remains unknown till he starts dealing in the practical experience, then it reveals him.
We do not mean the experience of many years but in one incident he could be uncovered, such as what happened with Adam and Eve.
Or maybe something new enters his life and his inside starts showing.
1. For example, becoming rich. His wealth reveals him and shows qualities that were not obvious before, as the poet says: "When my friend became a man of wealth I became sure that I lost my friend". Money could show that this person has stinginess, extravagancy or desires. It also could show if he has generosity, charity or compassion. Money could also show if he has the tendency to use his wealth as means of control.
2. This person could also be revealed by holding a position or authority. It shows if he has pride, self-conceit, predominance, self-assertion, cruelty or violence, bias or injustice. All these are revealed by high position and authority.
It also shows if he is capable, gifted or uses authority for what is good, beneficial and for the love of people.
It could also show if this person has incapability, misbehaviour or mismanagement.
3. Talking also reveals one's mentality and knowledge: You don't know the reality of a taciturn person. Once he speaks, his talk reveals him. His language shows him. Therefore, the Bible says, "If the ignorant does not talk, he will be considered wise."
4. Tribulations also reveal the nature of the one facing them: One problem a person faces could reveal his reality if he is strong and endures, intelligent and acts well or gets disturbed and troubled, fears, worries, despairs quickly or collapses.
5. Another person is revealed by marriage or general dealings with others: Before that, nobody knew his reality. They knew him after he dealt with others, his wife, his mother-in- law or his family life.
6. One may talk theoretically about principles and ideals. But when given the chance to apply what he believes in, his reality will be revealed.
175. AIMS AND MEANS
In all man's acts, it is not enough that the aim has to be holy, but also the means must be sound. Very often, man errs and fails because his means are wrong.
For example, a father wishes to raise and keep his daughter in good manners. Undoubtedly, this is a very good case, but, this father might be at fault if he resorts to revolting means to achieve his aim, ie. cruelty, detention, supervision and close watch of movements. This would make the daughter feel as if in prison and her father is the jailer.
The same applies to those who keep discipline at the churches: Surely it is a good thing, but the fault comes from the means itself; if it includes domination, harshness, rebuke, loud voice, unnecessary force or pressure, which is definitely not required to keep discipline.
Under this topic, comes mistakes in preaching: To call people to virtue and good behaviour is an undebatable sound cause and to take interest in this by preaching is a kind of a holy zeal, but the fault comes from the means, especially if it includes sarcasm, abuse, biting remark or exaggeration. If the teaching was based on unacceptable literalism and non-consideration of people's circumstances and activities or bind them with heavy burdens, hard to bear, as the Pharisees used to do. (Matt 23:4).
It is assumed that the means to a holy objective must be faultless and holy, especially in the religious sphere, or if it proceeded from the clergy. The Bible said, "And he who wins souls is wise." (Prov. 11:30). Also, "If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness." (Gal. 6:1).
" ... done in the meekness of wisdom." (James 3:13).
"Let all that you do be done in love." (1 Cor. 16:14).
Love, gentleness and wisdom are of the sound and lovable means.
176. WHO IS THE GREATEST?
It is not merely the aged person.
Because God lifted this rule when He chose young people and put them in leading and important positions.
He chose little David, the youngest of his brothers, favoured him over the seven elders, anointed him King over his people and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him (1 Sam. 16:13).
He chose young Joseph and made him father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house (Gen. 45:8). All his brothers come to bow down to the earth before him. (Gen. 37:9-10).
The Lord chose Levi's tribe for priesthood and Judah's tribe for ruling and He did not choose Reuben the first born. (Gen. 49:3,4,8).
He chose Jacob - who is younger than Esau - to be told in the blessing, "Be master over your brethren and let your mother's sons bow down to you." (Gen. 27:29).
He chose John the Baptist, who came late after all the prophets of the Old Testament and said about him: "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11).
Then who is the greatest in relation to the Divine measures?
The greatest is the one whose heart is big and his love is great.
He is the one who - by the blessing working in him - can be bigger than sin, greater in his soul and ideals.
The greatest is also the brainy, who is great in his wisdom and selection.
In short, he is the greater in his personality not the older in his age.
St. Paul was not senior among the apostles and not the first in the missionaries. He was not among the twelve disciples or the chosen seventy, nevertheless, he was able to say, "... but I laboured more abundantly than they all.” (1 Cor. 15:10) and although he came last, yet he became an apostle to the Gentiles.
Therefore, do not be proud that you are senior because of advanced age or long service, but be great in the depth of your service and the effect of your personality on others. Be great in your sacrifice and giving; great in the harvest which the Lord gather from your land.
177. WHO HAS EARS
The Lord Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Matt. 13:43) because there are those who have ears but do not hear. For those, the Lord said, "... because seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." (Matt. 13:13) and in them the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled: "Make the heart of this people dull and their ears heavy." (Is. 6:10).
Then what are the reasons that they have ears but do not hear?
Firstly, because their hearts hardened and their love diminished. He who loves God, likes to hear about Him. If he loses such love, or his heart was filled with a contrary love, he would not like to hear about God or virtue listening becomes hard on his ears.
If something is said to him, it will not go through his ears, his mind or his heart. It is not to his liking like the rich young man (Matt. 19:22).
"Listening but do not hear" like the people of Sodom when they were warned by Lot. "But to his son-in-law he seemed to be joking.” (Gen. 19:14).
Or like the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers to whom Paul the Apostle spoke and they said "What does this babbler want to say?" (Acts 17:18).
This reminds us that pride blocks up the ear from listening.
The "Ego" stands against hearing the word of God. Likewise, the words of Christ disclose the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees and present teachings higher than theirs. Also, the words of the Lord had the spirit, while their talk had literalism and therefore they did not want to listen to it.
Stubbornness or arrogance stops the ear from hearing. Even if the view is strong and convincing, the ear will not hear it as long as the person is arrogant. Some of Christ's words, the scribes not only refused to listen to, but "they took up stones again to stone him." (John 10:31). They described Him as pervert, deceiver and blasphemer.
Fear also blocks the ear from hearing.
Pilate believed that Christ was innocent and righteous (Matt. 27:24), but his fear stopped him from benefiting from the advice of his wife, "Have nothing to do with this just man." (Matt. 27:19).
Fear also stopped many Roman rulers from converting to faith; fear blocked their ears.
How nice is the Lord's saying to His pure disciples, "But blessed are your ears for they hear." (Matt. 13:16). It is the ear which its hearing comes out of a heart filled with faith, submission, love and meekness and holds the desire to listen, like Mary, the sister of Martha. The adverse kind rejects every advice and every word!
They have ears but they are not for hearing!
178. SELF ESTEEM
A person who is filled with self-esteem might reach a stage which could be dangerous to himself and hard to those who work with him.
He could adhere to his views and accept no argument also he will not forfeit them even if the contra opinion is convincing! He will not accept the idea of another opinion and will consider it as a big insult that his pride would reject!
It has to be only his opinion and his opinion has its impeccability which is faultless!
That is how he reaches, in his thoughts, a stage of obstinacy and stubbornness.
In such a way, those with their own ideas and all those who prefer to use their own minds will turn their back to him, leaving only a group of rebellious people who will blindly follow him in whatever he says.
The self-conceited also talks to people from above.
He thinks that he has reached a level higher than others, so he only talks to either advise, give orders, suggest or reproach them for their faults no matter who they were and what their age or positions would be!
By doing that, he could commit a mistake against others.
He might do that without paying any attention and without his conscience rebuking him, as in his self-centredness, he will never realise where he went wrong.
The self-conceited could also reach a stage of worshipping himself!!
Many are the "gods" who walk on earth!
Each of them considers himself always right. If anyone disagreed with him, the one who is wrong must be the other person.
What are the reasons for self-conceit? May be some gift granted by God but one misused and hurt himself.
Or it could be success on a specific occasion so his heart was inflated by this success and did not glorify God.
There could also be old pride in his heart and being conceited is one of its symptoms, or in his up-bringing, he was pampered in certain ways.
Whatever the reason is, humility is the only remedy for self- conceit. The fear of losing everyone also urges him to change.
179. YOU OR THE OTHERS?
God gave you your soul to be responsible for it before Him, like a steward who was entrusted with a stewardship. Are you busy with it or with others?
There is no objection if it is within the responsibility of your service, if you have a service. That also has to be done in a circle of love like that of God,"... who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4).
There is another condition, that you do not neglect yourself, forget your eternity and put your concern for others before your concern for the purity of your heart, deepening your relationship with God and His love.
You have also to beware of the devil of grandeur that might insinuate to you the desire of managing others as if you were appointed as their guardian!
We here remember what St. John Saba says, "If you were fought with that, consider your feelings, senses and thoughts and say that is what God has entrusted me with, to manage my household well."
God gave you a power of anger to direct it to your own faults so you correct yourself and revolt against your falls. By doing this, you carry out the Lord's commandment in the psalm, "Be angry and do not sin.” (Ps. 4:4).
As for directing your anger towards others, you will sin. And the Lord says, "Remove the plank that is in your own eye first, then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye.” (Luke 6:42).
Direct the ability to judge to yourself and not to others. If you find in yourself the tendency to criticise and look at black spots, say to yourself no objection. I have many black spots in myself that you can criticise. You would not have the time then to criticise other's faults.
I preach first in Jerusalem before I preach in Samaria and in the farther parts of the world. Look after yourself before you go very far, to others everywhere.
Be assured that by concerning yourself with your purity, spirituality and eternity, you will be then setting a good example for others and a good model. And when you are concerned with others, let it be in a spiritual manner that has no blemish in it.
Many take actions that they later on regret, either due to its bad results or because their conscience troubles them and turns against them. It could also be that they fail to put matters back to the way they were before taking these wrong actions.
The regret increases more as the person realises the horror of his sin and the greatness of his guilt, just like Judas, and as Cain said, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." (Gen. 4:13).
The regret also increases when one realises that it is of no use. For example, a word is said and nobody can get it back, or take it out of the ears of those who heard it, no matter how the person apologises.
Wrong deeds that one regrets could be the result of rashness, hastiness and lack of consideration. It could also be due to lack of consultation before taking such action. The terrible and wrong deed could also be the outcome of anger, inner revolution, loss of self-control, ignoring the results or not giving them a thought completely.
As one regrets what he does hastily and without consultation, he may also regret giving in to his desires and passions, without putting God before him and without considering his dignity as an image of God.
One may also regret not taking the future into account when he acted carelessly in a light, and lazy manner.
Nevertheless, regret has its benefit, as it leads one to repentance, correcting his life-style. It also has another benefit, as it leads one to a life of humility and contrition. That is what happened with the prophet David, who every night, drenched his couch with his tears. It also happened to St. Paul, the Apostle, who says, "... I am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” (1 Cor. 15:9).
Regret could be of benefit here, but in eternity it turns into torment. There wouldn't be repentance, as the time of repentance would be over, "... and the door was shut ..." as in the parable of the foolish virgins who heard the Lord saying, "I do not know you." (Matt. 25:10). The regret here turned into ".. weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 25:30).
Struggle then while you are on earth before it is too late when regret wouldn't be of benefit. That is the share of those who do not labour now, as the poet says:
If you did not sow and watched a reaper -
You shall regret for wasting the time of sowing.