Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Study in Proverbs: Proverbs 11:21

Growing up as a child I can remember my mother having high expectations of my siblings and me. When my mother laid down the rules, obedience was highly expected and disobedience was met with swift punishment. From one perspective, this was great because I always knew where I stood with mom. If I was obedient to her rules, all was good. If, however, I disobeyed those rules, I knew what to expect. From the opposite perspective, there were many times I could not stand those rules because many times I just wanted to do what I wanted to do and those rules and standards blocked my way. Simply, I was a young boy with strong will and determination that was not always applied appropriately and needed to be redirected. As a child, I did not always understand or agree with mom's rules. Mom's rules included, among other things: an expectation to use manners, to show respect for adults at all times, to put my best foot forward in the classroom (in my case mom expected high grades because she knew what I was capable of doing), to perform my best in sports and other extracurricular activities, and to well-represent our family values in public. All these years later I can honestly say I appreciate my mom being hard on me because her rules and expectations helped mold and shape me into the man I am today. However, during the time I was growing up I was well aware of the fact that other kids my age did not have the same kinds of rules from their parents; thus, my peers did not have the consequences nor did their parents have the teaching moments associated with those consequences.

When I was in late middle school and early high school, I went through an intense phase of rebellion and disrespect. What started out as private behavior and speech at school and with a select group of peers eventually spilled throughout every aspect of my life and became known to my mom to the point where I was completely disrespectful to her. I remember a vulgar conversation that I participated in at the lunch table in middle school and my parents were able to quote parts of that conversation back to me later that night at home. Yes, this instance was followed by some long-term consequences to teach me what was, and was not, appropriate conversation and language. However, my peers received no consequences for this matter; moreover, some of their parents never found out and some thought the conversation was humorous. A part of me was crushed to learn of the lack of punishment for my peers.

I tell this story to help illustrate a much larger point. On a spiritual level there are those who have surrendered their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ as Savior because He paid the penalty of sin on Calvary's cross and offers the individual right standing before God Almighty because of His sacrifice. Those who live in this righteousness possess the power and presence of God in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, among other things, comforts the believer, teaches the believer by God's Word, and convicts the believer when he/she behaves in some way that is not within God's standard—this conviction may come through a study of God's Word, a fellow believer, or maybe during a time of prayer. This conviction strikes to the spiritual core of the individual believer and he/she ideally responds to that conviction and correction by making a change of behavior so that God is honored in every part of life. However, in a spiritual sense there are also people who have no relationship with Jesus Christ, no understanding of His sacrifice for forgiveness and grace, and no presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct one in a way that is honoring to God. In opposition to those who come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, someone who is outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ behaves in a matter contrary to God Almighty with seemingly no consequences. Those in this category go about life pursuing his/her personal gain in a wicked and perverse manner, most of the time. Wicked and perverse business people continue to amass wealth and unparalleled fame, unrighteous political leaders lead our country into deeper moral depravity without consequences or second thoughts, our neighbors who have no regard for human life in the womb carry on with life without missing a beat of life. These are only a few examples where it seems as though those who do not have the bridle of the Holy Spirit through a relationship with Jesus Christ continue to carry on with life while the believer is a stick in the hands of God being whittled, albeit painfully at times, into a beautiful and useful tool for God Almighty.

 If you find yourself wondering why the wicked succeed while the child of God is overlooked by the world, then take heart and know that God is still on His throne. He is able to take care of those who are wicked and perverse in His timing while also making you into a creation that shines His glory in this cesspool of filth we call our everyday lives. Those who find themselves wondering about this matter, I refer you to Proverbs 11. Proverbs 11:21 (NIV) records, "Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free." This passage means: be aware, understand, take note of the fact that those who are wicked—those who are outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ and the atoning sacrifice He made to restore man to a rightful relationship with God Almighty—and pursue their own desires, while laughing in the face of anything representing the holiness of God, will ultimately come face-to-face with the consequences and punishment of their despicable actions and behaviors even though it may not seem likely at this moment in time. Moreover, you child of God, who is currently in the hands of God being shaved down to something beautiful and useful to God and His purposes, understand that you are covered by the righteous sacrifice of Jesus Christ and there is coming a time when you will experience the ultimate freedom from the concerns of this world; a freedom that can only be described by the presence of Holy God forever—heaven. Therefore, try not to become too concerned with those who seem to go unpunished or uncorrected in their sinfulness because God is still on His throne and He will make all things right. Moreover, continue to allow God the control to shape you into the witness He would have you to be for Him and His glory.

 

James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years. 
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014.

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