As I sat this morning in my study, I was reminded by the Lord of a helpful truth for all believers. This truth is the concept of spiritual avoidance. Often times, unspiritual minds will accuse someone of being a coward when they purposefully avoid certain situations and conversations that have a Biblically predictable outcome. There is a big difference between standing for “sound doctrine,” and meddling in strife that doesn’t belong to you. (Proverbs 26:17) Jesus Christ modeled this concept perfectly in his ministry when he refused to be the judge between two offended parties. (Luke 12:14) If Christ decided that the best course of action for situations like these was to avoid them…shouldn’t we?
So, what does the Bible say about spiritual avoidance? We have seen the precedent that the Lord Jesus Christ gave in avoiding judgment that doesn’t belong to us. Are there any Biblical principles that validate this action?
Romans 16:17 - “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
2 Timothy 2:23 - “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.”
Titus 3:9 - “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”
1 Timothy 6:20 - “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:”
Proverbs 26:4 - “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.”
Certainly there are more references that could be used here to illustrate this principle of spiritual avoidance. Not every matter is one that we should give ourselves to enter into. Most times, we are better served to avoid these conversations and situations that gender more strife, confusion, and questions than they do answers. Some men are wiser in their own conceit than seven men who can render a reason. Most of the time, it does not matter if you have Biblical reasoning and scripture to back up your position. These divisive brethren are just looking for a fight, and they will happily drag you through the mud, if you choose to entertain them in a conversation or debate. Some things are better left alone. Some things are meant to be avoided. This not a sign of cowardliness, but rather a tenant of Biblical wisdom.
Proverbs 17:14 - “The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.”
"Tune my heart to sing Thy grace"
1 Corinthians 15:10 - “But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain;…”
Arguably my favorite hymn in the hymnbook we use is Come Thou Fount. Over and over I have sung this song and it has blessed my soul. As I was thinking today about the words of the song, I was struck with one of the lyrics: “tune my heart to sing thy grace.”
While I am no master musician, I do from time to time fiddle around with a guitar. I enjoy the relaxation of playing and singing along to some of the songs that have spoken to me over the years. As much as I like the play and hear the guitar, I equally despise the sound of a guitar that is out of tune.
When I think of this lyric from the hymn, I can’t help but wonder how much the Lord disdains a heart and life that is out of tune. Just as it pains me to hear or play that guitar when it is out of tune, so it must pain the Lord when my life is not at all in tune with his grace. A poorly-tuned heart will create dissonance with the Father, and the harmony is lost.
There are a few steps that are necessary from time to time if a guitar will be tuned properly. Some similarities exist between ourselves and the guitar. Let’s look briefly at a few…
1. Renew the strings. - You can always tell when stings will need to be replaced because they quit holding a tune. Just about the time you think that you have it dialed in, they are out of tune again. Such is the case for a believer who is out of tune with the Lord. What is needed is a renewal of our hearts. In Psalm 51:10, the psalmist talks of the need for a clean and renewed inward man. Our hearts, if not willingly given to Christ, will gladly play a tune that goes against the very nature of Christ. Just as that guitar may just need some new strings, so our hearts may just need a good renewal.
2. Tighten down the screws. - Once the string is in place, it’s time to put that string under some tension. In order for the sound of grace to come flowing from our lives, God will have to tighten down the screws and stretch us beyond what we think we are capable of. The testing of the Lord can be a painful and a trying process, but every time the string gets stretched, we get a little closer to being what Christ wants us to be.
3. Match pitch. - An out of tune instrument is one that doesn’t get used. If we want to be usable in the master’s hand, we will have to allow him to stretch us until our lives match the sound of his grace. I cannot produce that sound in my life…only the Lord can. He knows what the melody of his amazing grace sounds like, and when I am renewed, tested and tried, the theme of God’s grace will be abundantly clear, just as it was in the life of Paul.
In a time of economic ups and downs, managing our finances can be a real challenge. There is much uncertainty right now given the current interest rates and rising inflation rate. For the child of God, we must make a critical decision about the manner in which we live out our days. We will either live by faith and trust God…or we will live by sight and rely on ourselves.
In 1 Kings 17:8-16, we find a familiar story about a prophet being cared for by God through difficult and even desperate economic times. We also see the story of a widow who was challenged to live a life of obedience to God’s Word. This gentile widow is found gathering sticks outside of her home city when Elijah the prophet shows up at her door. She hardly has enough oil and flour to make one more small cake for her and her son before they begin the slow and agonizing process of starvation. This would seem like a poor choice by the Lord to ordain this woman to be the one to provide for Elijah in a time of famine and drought, but the Lord’s ways are so much higher than our ways. We find in this story 3 laws about how God’s economy differs from our own earthly economics.
1. God demands before He supplies. The Lord did not begin this journey of faith by empathizing with the desperate condition of the widow and her son, but rather God demanded something of her right off the bat. Even when the widow recounted the facts of her situation to the man of God, there was no backtracking of the command. God had not mistaken her for a woman of great means. He knew every detail of her situation and yet God met her with a demand. Don’t let it shock you when God tests the limits of your obedience and commitment to him right out of the gate. This woman had great faith, but there were certainly reservations, doubts, and concerns. She needed food, but God gave her another mouth to feed.
2. God supplies what He demands. The very thing that the Lord was asking of the woman was what she had in short supply. It was not until she began to obey in faith that God met her at the place of her need and supplied the very thing that he had demanded of her. She had to be willing to give to God what she was reserving for herself before God would ever unlock the heavenly cupboard and increase her oil and meal reserves. Friend, whatever God is asking from you, if you will be willing to give him what He is asking for, He will begin to supply the very thing He asked for.
3. God supplies more than He demands. It is a true cliché that “you can’t out-give God.” However, this is often difficult to try on for size…especially when God is asking for what we do not have, and in a time where having anything is a miracle. Yet, we can learn from this famous passage that every time we obey God in faith, He gives back more. (Luke 6:38 "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.")
It might seem as though God is unaware of your needs, but I assure you, He is more aware of our needs than even we are. Do not become offended or appalled when God makes demands of us in a time of great need. This is a test of faith that, if passed, will result in a continued supply and surplus of what God demanded from us in the first place.
The Bridle - James 3:2
James 3:2b “…If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”
It is truly amazing how a small tool can have such dominance over raw power and strength. Although it does not come across as overly impressive when you first see one, the bridle is quite a remarkable piece of gear. Fashioned from pieces of leather and metal, the bridle is an equestrian tool used to control the direction a horse is running as well as the speed at which he moves. The bridle is comprised mainly of the headstall, which holds a metal bit that goes into the horse’s mouth, and the reins, which are held by the rider and used to control the animal.
Horses have an incredible amount of power. So much, that we measure the capability of a fuel-powered engine in “horsepower.” The difference is, fuel engines do not have a mind of their own as a horse does. That is why they need to be harnessed. A horse that has been made suitable to ride is given the term "broken" or “meeked.” This means that what was once unharnessed and unstable has been made calm and controlled. All horses must go through this process of submission if they are to be used of any significant consequence. Once a horse has been made ready for everyday use, the master will use a bridle each time he rides. This bridle ensures that whatever desire the master has while riding is transmitted accurately to the horse. How amazing it is that such a small piece of equipment can prevent something potentially harmful or deadly from happening!
So tis true in the life of a Christian. The Bible tells us in the New Testament book of James, that our tongue is a little member of the body that can cause great destruction and harm. We are often reminded again and again in Scripture of the devilish nature of our tongue and just how poisonous our words can be if not properly harnessed. The book of Proverbs in the Bible tells us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” How true this reality is! Just as an unbridled horse running out of control, so the tongue of man can run unchecked and untempered leaving destruction and hurt in its wake. The Bible refers to the man who is able to keep his words from offending other people as a “perfect” man. The understanding of this passage is that this man is a complete or matured Christian. He does not become sinless, nor will he ever be on this side of Heaven. I’m embarrassed to say how many times I have opened the barn doors of my mouth and let my tongue run unrestrained. The words that I said and the spirit in which they were said can never be retracted. Each and every day, I have a responsibility as a husband, a father, a leader, and as a Christian to consciously bridle and harness the power of my tongue. However, if I attempt to do this in the power of my own strength, I will surely fail. The only way our tongue can be controlled with any success is by submitting ourselves entirely to the Holy Spirit and allowing him to guide and control our lives each day. Don’t let your tongue run unchecked and out of control. Allow the Holy Spirit to use a small but mighty instrument called the bridle to help you control that small but mighty member of the body called the tongue.
Pastor Harris has been the pastor of Gulf Coast Baptist Church since 2020 and enjoys spending time with his family, studying the Bible, and ice cream.