The Exasperating Experiment
Tiffany glanced at herself in the mirror one last time. She had spent an hour putting on makeup and doing her hair. Her dress was the most expensive she had ever worn. Although she wished she could instantly lose fifteen pounds, she had done the best she could to make herself attractive. Being invited to Jewell's party meant instant membership into Central High's VIP club. It was her chance to shake off the "boring and born-again" label. Besides, Todd, the strikingly handsome captain of the basketball team, was sure to be there, and Tiffany wanted to prove to him that she was more on the ball than his present girlfriend.
Ignoring the small voice warning her against hypocrisy, jealousy, and compromise, she flitted out the door, starring in her own version of the perfect saturday night. By the time she arrived, she had cast herself into the role of a vivacious but slightly sophisticated "go-along-with-the-crowd" celebrity. She pretended not to notice that Jewell's parents weren't home and accepted the drinks she was offered. Downing one drink after another as if they were Coca-Cola, she became dizzy and sick to her stomach. The reflection she saw in the bathroom mirror bore no resemblance to the pretty girl who had left the house three hours before.
If Tiffany had listened to that still, small voice, she might have thought of this passage:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.
You don't have to learn this lesson the hard way, as Tiffany did. All you have to do is believe God's Word and live by it.
Unmasking the "Nobody's-Going-to-Tell-Me-What-to-Do" Thief
Rocky felt his muscles stiffen, and he mentally prepared his defensive strategy. He was nearly eighteen years old, and he didn't appreciate anyone else trying to run his life.
"Rocky," his mother said, "you're gifted intellectually, and there's no excuse for bringing home Cs on your report card. Your senior grades are important for getting into a good college. You're about to blow everything. And you show the same irresponsibility around the house."
"Besides," his father went on, "you could show your parents a little respect. I suppose that 'please' and 'thank you' and 'I'd be glad to help' are too old-fashioned to show up in your vocabulary."
Rocky's face flushed as he snapped back, "After seven more months I'll move out forever and the house will become a paradise! It's time you realized that I'm grown up and you can't treat me like a little kid anymore!" With that he left the house and drove away in his car.
Do you hate having someone boss you around? If so, you need to listen to something God says in His Word:
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Because true wisdom is submissive, there's no place in a Christian for the "nobody's-going-to-tell-me-what-to-do" attitude. The devil tempts all young people to destroy the personality Jesus planned for them by having an unteachable spirit. God didn't make us to be self-sufficient beings. He created us to depend on Him and on the body of Christ. One of the easiest ways to ruin your life is to refuse to take advice from your parents, teachers, pastors, and other Christians. Helping you maintain a bad attitude is one of the devil's most effective methods for robbing you of God's blessings and keeping you from seeing His fantastic design for your personality. Unmask the nobody's-going-to-tell-me-what-to-do thief, and don't let him take anything from you.
Dishonesty in the Limelight
Donna was on the youth planning team at her church. When Dave interrupted her idea with, "Only a dumb blonde could think that's a good idea," it was like a knife going through her. Later, when he asked if he had offended her, she said everything was okay. It was a lie, but she didn't know how to say, "Yes, your remark hurt me."
Months later, when Dave was giving orders to everyone, she came out with a snippy "Heil Hitler!"
Most of us suffer the consequences of dishonesty in some area of life. Lying to avoid hurting someone's feelings or to keep the peace is still breaking one of God's Ten Commandments. Saying, "No, nothing's bothering me," instead of "I really can't talk about it now," is just another lie.
Some people are so defensive they have an automatic reflex that blames the weather, the person in authority, the dog, or the traffic when anything might be their fault. Others live a lie either by exaggerating to get attention or telling some stories to make themselves look good.
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception.
—2 Corinthians 4:2
Jesus offers us freedom from our imagined need to hide the truth. But first we must realize that fear of rejection often springs the dishonesty trap. We are afraid that rejection will follow the revelation of weakness. Anxiety reasons, "Nobody will want to listen to me if I don't spice up my weekend a little bit." Insecurity screams, "You can't take the blame yourself or stop bragging, because you've got to prove yourself to be superior if anybody is going to respect you."
Bring your need for acceptance to Jesus. Receive His love and power. Your prayer should be something like this: "Dear God, help me to be able to say, 'I'm sorry; it's my fault,' when I'm guilty, instead of transferring the blame. I know you love me even if I'm not perfect. Put the spotlight on any dishonesty in my life. I don't want lack of integrity to keep me from being the person you created me to be."
Tracy felt like a slave working for many masters: teachers, parents, bosses, and peers. She worked for hours each week to write a paper that would get an A from Miss Johnson. Chemistry was worse. No matter what she did, she couldn't get above a B. And for Tracy, that big B on her otherwise straight-A report card said, "Tracy, you're not good enough."
For Tracy, being a member of the girls' volleyball team was anything but relaxing. If she made any mistakes it was a major disaster. Precise and demanding, Tracy's father often corrected her. Tracy's goal was to do everything right the first time so that her father would be pleased with her, but she seldom succeeded. As a scooper at the local ice-cream shop, she attempted to be accurate and efficient, but the manager noticed her only when she did something wrong.
Then one Sunday morning the pastor's words shocked her. "Do you really know what God expects of you? Or have you been making up your own standards? Well, God tells us what He wants from us. Micah 6:8 reads, 'And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.'
"Notice," the pastor continued, "that God says nothing about winning, being the best, or receiving high ratings from your supervisors. God asks you to 'act justly.' That means that you please God only—you work hard, you're fair, your motives are pure, and you don't permit false earthly standards to be the measure of your value. You show compassion, you think about others, and you keep the spotlight off yourself. And you 'walk humbly with your God.' You spend quality time with Jesus. Because you realize that He is all-powerful and all-knowing, you submit yourself totally to Him. This is the only way you can become the person God saved you to be."
That morning Tracy made a discovery: The Lord always noticed her good work. Tracy realized that she could stop trying so hard and relax in the presence of Jesus. Maybe you, like Tracy, have been trying to measure up to the wrong standard. If so, determine right now that prayerful study of the Scriptures will free you to live by God's yardstick.
The Rise and Fall of SuperChristian
Eric sat in the dugout with his teammates, unable to believe his ears. The coach was benching him for two weeks.
The guy must have rocks in his head! thought Eric. I have nearly as many RBIs as the rest of the team combined. I'm the star of the team. He tuned in to the coach's speech: "We all know that Eric is the most talented player to come through Park High in years. But this is a team—not a one-man show. Instead of staying in center field, he's all over the outfield and tries to make spectacular catches in the second baseman's territory. Learning that the world doesn't revolve around one person is an important lesson that I want to teach all of you. Eric, you're not playing until you learn that you're judged on teamwork, not on individual performance."
Have you ever tried to be the star on God's team? God created you with gifts and abilities to function in the body of Christ. He purposely made you unable to do everything so you'd have to work with other Christians and depend on them. The Bible says:
But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.... The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"
—1 Corinthians 12:18, 21
As a Christian, you depend on God for your sense of competence, and you're part of a team. There are many things God does not expect you to do. Eyes should not try to be hands, and feet should not feel discouraged because they're not heads. God will give you the power to be or do anything that is necessary to communicate the new life Jesus offers to the world—and that does not require bowling 250, getting straight A's, or being voted Personality Plus by the senior class.
Pray and ask God what He has called you to do. Believe that He will equip you for the work He wants you to do—but don't expect to excel in every area. Too many have already tried to be one-man shows and failed. Don't join the casualty list.
If God Loves Me, Why Can't I Get My Locker Open?, updated and expanded ed., by Lorraine Peterson
Copyright © 2006; ISBN 0764201891
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.