#012: What to do When Facing Opposition

These days I feel like Christians are facing more and more opposition on a daily basis. There is opposition to our beliefs, our values, and even our way of life. Our workplaces are certainly no exception.

Assyrian Empire, Opposition

It seems many “alternative” religions are given a free pass while Christians who express their faith are viewed with disdain.

The Scripture records many instances of God’s children facing opposition, and no one understood opposition better than Hezekiah. The Assyrians had expanded their empire by conquering the northern kingdom of Israel, and now were turning their eye toward the southern kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah had already tried to buy off the Assyrian invaders, but eventually the Assyrians planned yet another campaign to conquer Judah. That’s where we pick up the story in 2 Kings 19:

2 Kings 19:14-19 (ESV)
14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”

Background. Hezekiah became king of Judah when he was 25 years old. 2 Kings 18 says “he did right in the eyes of the Lord.” He removed the high places and broke down the Asherah poles. He trusted in the Lord. When Hezekiah was 29 years old Shalmaneser king of Assyria invaded Samaria (Northern kingdom) and conquered it in three years. When Hezekiah was 39 years old Sennacherib came up against the fortified cities of Judah and took them. Hezekiah paid Sennacherib to withdraw stripping the silver and gold from the house of the Lord and the king’s treasuries. Sennacherib sent emissaries to threaten Hezekiah, saying the Lord will not protect Judah any more than He protected any of the other nations Assyria had conquered.

Response. Hezekiah receives the letter from the messengers and after reading it spreads it before the Lord and prays for God to save them. Through Isaiah, Hezekiah receives the prophecy that the Lord has heard his prayer and will save Judah. That night the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 Assyrians. The next morning Sennacherib departed, returning home to Nineveh.

Application

As a believer, it is not a matter of if you will face opposition. The Scripture clearly says we will! The question is, “How will you respond?” Hezekiah went to the Lord in prayer, laying out the situation and asking for God’s help. Prayer should be our first response to any and all opposition in our lives!

Join the Conversation!

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you experienced opposition to your faith in the workplace? How have you handled it?

Category: Skills | Conflict Management

 

#011: What is God’s Bigger Plan for You?

Planning is a big part of most business people’s life. That was certainly true of me.

Mamertine Prison, Plan

Planning didn’t stop when I left the office, though. I had plans for everything in my life. Vacations were planned in minute detail. Home remodeling project—I had a plan. My marriage—I had a plan. My children’s life—I had a plan. Some who know me might say my attempts at planning everything was a thinly guised attempt to control my surroundings. There may be some truth to that.

One of the things I learned along the way was that sometimes my best plans didn’t align with God’s plans. The Bible illustrates this issue in detail; man’s plans frequently do not align with God’s plans. We have one such example with the Apostle Paul.

Paul’s plan: After leaving the Philippians, Paul’s plan was to go to Jerusalem, from there to Rome, and eventually to Spain (Romans 15:15, 23-25).

What happened: On his way to Jerusalem, people warned him not to go there, but he went anyway. His own people betrayed him, beat him almost to death, and threw him in prison for some two years. At that point, Paul appeals to Caesar and is sent to Rome via ship. The ship is wrecked near Malta, where he was bitten by a poisonous snake. He finally makes it to Rome where he is again imprisoned, this time in chains attached to a pair of Roman soldiers. His appeal will be before Caesar Nero, the same guy who had been killing Christians in the most horrific ways.

Philippians 1:12-18 (ESV)
12  I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13  so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16  The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17  The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

God’s plan: The Gospel is advanced during his imprisonment two ways: 1) Paul tells the Romans guards his testimony (two guards at a time for 6-hour shifts, 24 hours a day). There are 9,000 soldiers in the Imperial guard and somehow the Word was spread throughout! (v13), and 2) Paul’s imprisonment and persecution emboldened others to spread the Gospel (v14).  God’s plan was to have the Gospel preached from prison among Roman guards. Men who would never be in a church. But that is exactly where God wanted Paul to be. Paul says He was put here for the defense of the Gospel (v16). In the midst of this, and facing execution, Paul says he rejoices (v18).

Application

God’s plan is a bigger plan, it is the best plan, because His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts…

8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

After several painful experiences I’ve learned that aligning my plan to God’s plan is always a good idea. Sometimes I have trouble discerning God’s plan, and that is when I tend to still get myself into trouble. I tend to want to get going and work my plan whether or not I’ve heard from God. Another thing I’ve learned is to wait for God to make His plan clear to me. This is the really hard part for me. The third thing I’ve learned is that the more time I spend in prayer seeking God’s plan—the quicker it usually comes!

Join the Conversation!

As always questions and comments are welcome. Do you have God-sized plans in your life?

Category: Skills | Long-Run Planning

 

#010: Spring Cleaning

My daughter and her husband flew cross-country to visit for a few days, and of course before they arrived my wife went into full-on cleaning mode. It was some intense combination of spring cleaning and “company coming” cleaning.

Dust, Cleaning

Her dedication to the task made me feel a bit guilty as I looked around my home office where there sits a box of papers from the recently filed taxes, some old computer parts, and other assorted junk. Then looking at my bookshelves, I noticed there was an accumulation of dust that was thick enough to support some sort of limited gardening. I decided to clean up the mess to be a good example to my daughter and her hubby. After a couple hours of cleaning and sneezing in a cloud of dust, I stood back to admire my work, and it felt oddly good to have the whole place clean and organized.

It’s good for our houses to get a thorough spring cleaning. But what about our spiritual houses? When was the last time you considered a spiritual spring cleaning? Do you suppose this is what the psalmist had in mind when he wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)?

Here are five steps you can take for your own spiritual spring cleaning….

Toss out the junk. There was a lot of junk in my office that needed to go into the garbage. Is there junk in your spiritual life that interferes with your relationship with God? Get rid of all the distractions and other junk that keeps you from God’s best in your life.

Make repairs. Two old computer monitors anchored to the wall left holes when the brackets were removed that needed to be repaired and repainted. Are there relationships in your life that need repair?

Scrub the floors. The tile floors had trapped every food snack ever eaten in my office. A lot of scrubbing was needed—especially in the grout—to get the floor looking new. Are there residues of dirt lurking in the crevices of your life that need to be scrubbed away? How about bad attitudes or habits, anger, fears, resentment of others? Pray that God will remove this dirt from your spiritual heart.

Polish. The wood of my desk and shelves always looks better when it is freshly polished. Look for ways that God can use you to shine into someone else’s life. Perhaps a word of encouragement, or some random act of kindness. You never know how much a kind word or a simple act will brighten someone’s life.

Organize. Once the junk is gone, repairs are made, and everything is clean and polished it’s time to get organized. Organize and prioritize the time in your life so you can live the life God has uniquely called and gifted you to live!

Join the Conversation!

As always questions and comments are welcome! Have you needed a spiritual house cleaning in your life?

Category: Personal Development | Character