Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Whetstone (part 1)

To make a sharp edge on a knife, you wouldn’t use a soft piece of silk.  Instead, you would get a whetstone – a hard, abrasive stone designed specifically to put a razor-sharp edge on a blank piece of metal.  In the hands of an amateur, a knife will just be ground into a blunt chunk of useless metal. But in the hands of an expert, he will gently work both sides of the blade until it is honed into a keen tool, effective for its intended purpose.  Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at how God uses two kinds of abrasives to sharpen our faith and character – Relationships and Circumstances.

Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Things to think about:
·      The genesis of this study is somebody at work who annoys me – a lot. After stewing on it too much, God intervened and helped me to start realizing that rather than focusing on the other person, I should be focusing on Him.  And in fact, He could actually use this other person to draw me nearer to Himself.  Rather than lean into my anger, I could pivot and use the situation to lean into Him. That’s when the idea of something or someone abrasive could be used to sharpen me and my relationship with the Lord.
·      The current coronavirus pandemic is certainly a circumstance we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves.  Moreover, with the “shelter in place” restrictions we are living under, we are in constant and close proximity with our families.  That’s a recipe for anxiety, frustration, short tempers, and a host of other undesirable things.  Even if you’re handling it pretty well so far, odds are someone in your family isn’t.
·      Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
o   We are instruments of God, designed by Him to do His work.
o   But to be effective, we need to be fashioned to be like Christ
·      Back to the reference to silk, I sure would rather things be easy and comfortable.  In fact, I spend a lot of my time and effort trying to create that situation for myself.  But God knows what I need, not just what I want.
·      Relationships
o   Wouldn’t your life be a lot easier if it wasn’t for all of the annoying people around you??? 
§  Spoiler alert – you’re one of those people to somebody else!
o   But seriously, God uses other people who are hard to love to teach us His love
§  Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
§  Rhetorical question - How is it within our rights to withhold grace from others when God lavished His grace on us BEFORE we accepted Him?
§  Actual question – do you have someone in your life now who is trying your patience?
o   He uses relationships to teach us Humility
§  James 4:1-2 – “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”
·      If you read a history book or the news, this is certainly true.
·      But even if were not actually plotting violence, we do get angry which Jesus said was tantamount to murder.
·      Do you have situations now where the real source of conflict is your pride, desires, or selfishness?
o   So, what does He expect from us?
§  Matthew 22:39 - ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
§  If you need a playbook for what that looks like, Paul has it right here:
·      Romans 12:14-21 – “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
·      How are your relationships faring in the current environment?
o   Are there ones that have improved?  Ones that have maybe deteriorated?
o   Is God using anyone to sharpen you? Or perhaps, do you need to let Him?
·      Do you need to turn from your natural desire to lash out and defend yourself and instead, through faith, cut through the animosity with humility, goodness, gentleness, and truth?

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