Prayer

The Infection of Overreaction

Drive out a mocker, and conflict will leave.

Quarreling and abuse will stop.

Do not be a friend of one who has a bad temper, and never keep company with a hothead,

or you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself. (Proverbs 22:10, 24-25 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 22:1-29 GW)


We live in a world of overreaction. Overreacting is not a new phenomenon. It’s ancient. But social media and the internet provide an environment that superheats overreaction.

The volatility and vitriol spewed out in public view is shocking. Well, it used to be but now it seems to be the norm. I find myself wanting to say, “Ok, everybody…take a deep breath and let’s calm down.” But there would be reactions and overreactions to that too.

Unfortunately, social media provides a platform for expressing opinions and overreaction. It encourages it. It is an outlet for people who might be too timid to say things in other settings. This isn’t an indictment of social media, just an observation.

At first glance, these two verses seem to be admonitions to take action to exclude those who mock and have anger issues. The immediate solution is to eliminate the problem and that is one way to resolve things. But I see something deeper to consider.

What drives the mocker to mock and causes the anger to boil in a person? Why is the influence of the mocker and the person with anger issues so infectious?

These are two different concerns.

First, the influence of those who mock and those with anger issues is infectious. It either pulls us along with its force of emotion or stirs us to react.

The longer we’re exposed to such influences, the more likely we are to be infected by them. This is the warning given—…you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself.

Sometimes, the only solution is to exclude the one who stirs up strife, arguments, and abuse. When one person influences a group in a destructive way and refuses to change their ways—the good of the whole becomes more important.

This is true for a sports team, a work environment, and within a church community or small group. It can be a drastic step to take but a necessity.

When it’s us

But what if you and I are the mocker or the one who has habitual anger issues? What can we do about it? Especially when we see our influence corrupting others and we are excluded because of it.

This goes back to the question of what drives the mocker or what stirs up the boiling cauldron of rage? The possible reasons are myriad but the means to resolve it are pretty basic.

It requires some honest soul searching. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions like—Why am I so angry about this? Why do I feel compelled to blurt things out?

Honest questions such as these should lead us to search our heart with the Lord’s help. This requires honest prayer, reflection, and a willingness to change.

As we begin to understand the core issue—we need to commit to pursuing change.

When I realize what needs to change, I know I need help to do so. My go-to’s are honest prayer, positive and corrective truth to build on, and God’s help.

At the heart of it all—at least my heart—is the need for self-control. I’m intrigued and thankful that self-control is a fruit of God’s Spirit living in me (Gal 5:23). I’m also glad both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding (praying) on my behalf (Rom 8:27, 34).

This is how I can avoid the infection of overreaction—self-control with the help of God.

Reflection—

Honest questions can lead us to search our heart with the Lord’s help. Honest prayer and reflection can lead to a willingness to change. When we begin to understand what needs to change and consciously move towards making it, we need to rely on the Lords help.

Prayer Focus—

When you pursue significant change in your life, be honest with God in prayer and be open to God’s Spirit working in your life—He’s already praying for you.

©Word-Strong_2019


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

Lifting the Weight of an Anxious Heart

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

A person’s anxiety will weigh him down,

but an encouraging word makes him joyful. (Proverbs 12:25 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 12:15-28 GW)


It's an epidemic. Opioid addiction has become a national epidemic in America. But it's not only opioid-based medications that are a problem. A myriad of disorders ranging from depression to behavioral problems has brought a plague of prescription drugs on our nation.

We may be a rich and powerful nation but we're weighed down with worry and can't seem to get out from under this burden without a prescription.

But there is another way to deal with this problem. A surprisingly simple way. It doesn't require a doctor appointment nor a prescription, nor any specialized training.

Anxiety may weigh a person down—

...but an encouraging word makes him joyful.

It may seem too simplistic. Indeed, some psychological disorders may still require treatment and medications but genuine and meaningful encouragement is still helpful in severe cases. I've seen this firsthand.

Words are powerful. They can tear down or build someone up. They're rarely neutral. What we hear is played back in our minds over and over, like a never-ending recording. It's called self-talk.

Destructive words go deep. They penetrate our hearts and embed themselves in our minds.

Careless words stab like a sword... (Prov 12:18a GW)

It doesn't matter who utters these piercing words. When spoken by those we're closest to—parents, a spouse, siblings, children, significant others, friends, people at work or school—their wounding words go deep.

So, how can this be countered?

How can you and I deal with worries and wounding words?

We all need to hear encouraging words of truth often and from people we trust. People who are trustworthy and those whom we know genuinely care about us. Likewise, we need to speak encouraging words and be genuine and trustworthy for others.

Here is the counter to the words that "stab like a sword"—

...but the words of wise people bring healing. (Prov 12:18b GW)

Notice it says, "words." Not casual or trite statements like—"Oh, they didn't really mean that..." or, "just ignore what they say." Genuine and encouraging words are needed.

Words of encouragement need to come from people wise enough to know what is needed and what is appropriate for each person. They also need to be words of truth—

The word of truth lasts forever... (Prov 12:19a GW)

If your heart is anxious and if you're weighed down with many worries, you need to be around people you trust. People who can encourage you with the truth. 

Where? Church is good place to start but I know too many wounding words are spoken by people in churches.

We need to seek out a community of believers who are accepting and loving in a biblical but non-judgmental way. It could be a church or a small group connected to a church or ministry.

There are no quick fixes with prescriptive words and phrases. Bible quotes are nice but can easily be said in trite ways (see James 2:15-16).

A continuing flow of encouraging truth is the only way healing and restoration go deep enough in our hearts and minds. This will lighten the load of worries and wounds we encounter.

Reflection—

If your heart is anxious and if you're weighed down with many worries, you need to be around people you trust. People who can encourage you with the truth.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God to help you see encouraging words in His written word, the Bible. If you don't have encouraging people around you, ask the Lord to help you find people you can trust and who are encouraging and for His help to be the same way for them.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

The Joy of Integrity

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

When righteous people prosper, a city is glad.

When wicked people die, there are songs of joy.

With the blessing of decent people a city is raised up,

but by the words of wicked people, it is torn down.

A person who despises a neighbor has no sense,

but a person who has understanding keeps quiet.

Whoever gossips gives away secrets,

but whoever is trustworthy in spirit can keep a secret.

A nation will fall when there is no direction,

but with many advisers there is victory. (Proverbs 11:10-14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 11:1-19 GW)


When I hear people complain about the government, I think of the many places I've traveled to and when we lived overseas for 15 years. I know from experience these complaints are short-sighted with a narrow focus.

It doesn't matter where a person's convictions fall on the political spectrum—we all tend to judge things based on our personal view of things, through the lens of our biases and opinions.

No government is perfect because they're made of people and none of us are perfect. But some governments provide more safety and stability than others. A few afford freedoms and opportunities not commonly found elsewhere.

Living and traveling overseas will likely give a person a clearer perspective on all of this unless their eyes are shut—blinded by arrogance, indifference, and prejudice.

As an observer of history and people, I've gained some perspective over the years. Things aren't nearly as dire as some would have you believe nor as wonderful as others might say. I've learned to be thankful and prayerful.

I'm thankful for the Lord's kindness and provision, for the place and time in history I was born into and live, and thankful for the truth and wisdom God gave me that brings clarity and perspective.

I'm prayerful for my nation and for leaders to have integrity. When people of integrity lead a nation it opens the door for prosperity beyond economics—a prosperity not defined by wealth but more of a sense of favor and well-being.

That's what I think of when I read these verses in Proverbs. I know that people of integrity—people of character—who lead in various levels of government—local, regional, or national—are a blessing to their communities and spheres of influence.

I know there's a great need for people of integrity to be raised up in civic, business, and spiritual arenas. When people of integrity lead—that is, people of "understanding" who are "trustworthy in spirit"— there is joy, gladness, and a prosperity of well-being.

The next time you find yourself complaining about the government or leaders in any other sector of life, take some time to be thankful and pray for integrity instead. It will help adjust your perspective and help you to see God's blessings and help you to become a blessing.

I believe this is why the prophet Daniel had such great favor with the emperors he served under (Daniel 2:46-49; 6:28) and why the apostles Paul and Peter exhort us to pray for those in positions of authority (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

These men knew what it was like to live under tyranny and oppression. They had an eternal perspective and were thankful, prayerful men of God.

Reflection—

We're told that when the righteous—people of integrity—are leaders, it's a blessing to everyone and brings honor to a city, even a nation.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for leaders with integrity to be raised up in all spheres of government and influence—including local and national, civic, business, and spiritual leaders. And as you pray, be thankful!

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

Great, Compassionate and Good

Fame is fleeting. It does not last. Even notoriety fades quickly, especially in our day of instant media notifications—regardless if it's true or false.

As generations come and go, what was once great or sensational is forgotten. One of many reasons history repeats itself.

A Watched Mouth

Have you ever said things you wished never escaped your lips? Of course, we all have! You can edit or delete a tweet or an email, but you can't recapture words spoken in haste, nor pull them out of the air as if they were never said.

The key to being careful with what comes out of our mouths is to surrender our heart and life to the One who knows us best. This is what we see King David do in this psalm.