HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 14, 2017)

How to handle toxic people - Abidan ShahMy last article, “How To Handle Toxic People,” drew more responses than any of my pervious articles! Evidently, it touched a nerve and God used it to meet a real need. Thank you for all the words of appreciation! Some of you raised a question that I feel the answer may benefit others as well – “Daily we go through minor toxic encounters that leave us feeling upset to one degree or another. Does that mean that for each of those incidents we have to go through the same process of praying for 20 days until we are free of the toxin?” Of course not. Toxic people and minor toxic encounters are two different things. The first are individuals who perpetually cause us to feel miserable and the second are chance happenings that inject just enough toxin in us to ruin our spirit. Although the latter are not as harmful as the former, don’t assume that they are completely harmless. If left untreated, those emotional fender-benders can cause us to ruin others’ spirits as well. Let me explain below.

Imagine several scenarios: a kid at the drive-thru messes up your order; someone cuts you off on the freeway; someone fails to thank you for your hard work on some project; and you wave at a friend who doesn’t wave back with the same energy. Or, how about the big one: You put a post on Facebook that you think should go viral and only 3 people like it…What do you do next? Each of those encounters have the potential to initiate an unhealthy conversation within you. For the kid at the drive-thru: “Kids these days are so disrespectful.” For the person who cut you off: “I hope he/she gets caught.” For the friend who didn’t seem that excited to see you: “I’m looking the other way next time.” For those who failed to appreciate your hard work: “I am not appreciated.” And yes, for Facebook, one of those: “If you are my true friend, you’ll comment below and repost.” Such negative self-talk will surely ruin your attitude and keep you from living up to your potential. Unfortunately, such unhealthy conversations don’t stay locked inside for long. Sooner or later they spill over on to the unsuspecting individuals in your lives. In other words, your quest for justice will not rest until someone is convicted, sentenced, or punished. Since you cannot prosecute the original perpetrators, you will substitute those innocent, weak, and docile individuals in your life. Your kids, your husband, your wife, your church family, your neighbor, and your best friend will pay for a crime they did not commit.

What is the solution? First, recognize when your spiritual equilibrium has been disturbed. In other words, acknowledge the gnawing feeling that some wrong may have been committed against you. Second, immediately take charge of your internal conversation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that we should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” A runaway thought is like a runaway train. There will be casualties. Third, refrain from judging the motives of others. 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” Ultimately, only God knows the true intents of each human heart. Fourth, pray for that individual. Nothing will neutralize hate and anger faster than sincere prayer. Follow the example of our Savior: Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Don’t misunderstand. There may be situations where more than prayer is called for but there’s a big difference between restitution and retaliation. Fifth, practice the lost art of the unsent angry letter. Abraham Lincoln would often write his “hot letter” but postpone sending it until he had cooled down. He never sent most of them.

 

Pure Motives, Clear Life

PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

CLEAR MOTIVES PURE LIFE (1)Introduction: Today we are in part 3 of our series on worry and anxiety from the Sermon on the Mount called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and today’s message is titled – “PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE.”

Matthew 6   22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Overall Background: On first reading, the passage we just read seems to be out of context. It’s as if Jesus lost his train of thought and instead of talking about worry and anxiety, He got distracted and went off on some tangent about the lamp and the eye. But, when we study this passage carefully, we realize that Jesus did not lose His train of thought. He did not go off on some rabbit chase. In fact, He was very much on the subject of worry and anxiety. Here’s what Jesus was saying: Daily we are bombarded with messages and stimulus. If our eye is good, which means our focus is on God and on the right priorities and our motives are pure, then we will let only light go inside of us. If our eye is evil, which means our focus is on the things of this world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, then we will allow darkness to enter in. What does this have to do with worry and anxiety? Worry and anxiety are simply symptoms of the darkness down below. (Keep in mind – I’m not referring to anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Go back and listen to the first sermon.) But common worry and anxiety are a manifestation of what’s happening deep below. To cure what is in here, you have to purify your eyes, your focus, and your motives. To do that you need the Holy Spirit of God to apply the Word of God and give you the same focus and the same motives as the Son of God, who was always full of light. He was never worried and never anxious at any point in His life on earth.

Question: Do you struggle with worry and anxiety? How is your eye, your focus? How are your motives? How do you handle the stimulus that comes your way each moment? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Without the Holy Spirit in your life, your motives will remain questionable. There can be no divine light in your life. By the way, even Christians, unless you are submitting daily to the Word of God and the Spirit of God, you will also be full of darkness.

There are 3 questions that we will answer in order to understand this passage:

I. WHAT IS THE LAMP OF THE BODY?

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”

Background: “The lamp of the body” is a very strange statement. The only way we can make any sense of it is by looking for other places where Jesus talked about the lamp. We don’t have to go very far because he talks about it in this very Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5   14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Also, the parallel passage in Luke 11 clarifies it some more – 33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye.

The light that is in us is the presence of God. It is the holiness of God. It is the nature of God. It is the only good that is there in this dark sinful world. When our lights are bright, they radiate out and impact those around us. Jesus tells us not to hide this light. It results in good works. It leads lost people to glorify the Father in heaven. It is not hidden by circumstances.

Illustration: On a mission trip to the Yucatan Jungle in Mexico we were invited to go by the home of an elderly couple by their son. The man was one time pastor of a church in the village but too sick and aged to do much now. We walked in and saw this couple lying in their bed. The son asked if we would sing and so we sang in English and our local partners sang in Spanish. Before the chorus was finished, they were sitting up in their bed and singing with us. The glow had returned!

Question: How is your glow this morning? Is it shining brightly? Is it shining dimly? Or is it out? Has the light ever been lit in your life? John talks about how to have this light all throughout his gospel:

John 1   4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 8:12   Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 12:46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

Have you ever received Jesus, the light of the world, in your life?

II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EYE?

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”

Background: This is one of the hardest verses in the Bible. Scholars have debated back and forth over the significance of the eye in this passage. We all know that the eye is more than the organ that enables us to see what is around us. Ever since ancient times it was believed that our eyes also reflect what is inside of us. As someone said, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Cicero (Roman philosopher and orator who lived 50 years before Christ) said, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” You can fake a smile and pretend all is well but your eyes will betray what’s really going on inside. Sometimes you can even tell if a person is friendly or mean, generous or greedy just by looking into their eyes. If you face a scary situation or an exciting situation, your pupils will begin to dilate involuntarily. Scientists have even discovered that the eyes can “reveal the presence of broader disorders like heart disease, stroke threats, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.” (The Economist, July 2015)

All that is true but that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Listen again to verse 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…” It’s not “the eye is the mirror of the soul.” The direction of light flow is outside in and not inside out. The eye sheds light inward and directs the decisions we make with our bodies. We may have trouble understanding this but Jewish people in the time of Jesus did not, especially when He said in verse 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Let me give you a couple of examples. In Deuteronomy 15 God had given explicit commands to His people to release their indebted brother in the seventh year, the Year of Release. God knew the human nature and so listen to verse 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.” Here the person sees his poor brother in bondage and instead of rejoicing that his year of release has come, he has a cruel and wicked thought in his heart. If I let him go, I’ll have to be out there sweating in the heat. I can’t do that. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and sin has entered in. Another example from Proverbs 28:22 “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”

Parable of the laborers in the Vineyard - Bernhard Keil

Parable of the laborers in the Vineyard by Bernhard Keil

Here a person sees riches and instead of praying, “God, what is your purpose? Guide me. Help me to keep you first,” he just chases after money. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and greed has set in. In Matthew 20 Jesus Himself uses the phrase “evil eye” in his parable of the landowner who hired laborers at different hours of the day and when time came to pay them, he paid 1 denarius to all of them. The ones who came early complained about not getting more than the ones who came at the eleventh hour. Listen to what the landowner said to them, 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ Here the early workers seeing that they didn’t get any more, instead of rejoicing over getting their due wage, they complained about those who came at the eleventh hour and call the landowner unfair. Now their eyes have become evil and the sin of ingratitude has set in.

Illustration: Many years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC annual meeting. We were having a wonderful time. Different people came to the stage and preached and gave reports. Then, this one man came to the stage. He wasn’t much older than me. He spoke and people clapped. Just then a small thought went through my mind – “Why him and not me?” The convention was over and we toured the state. As we were headed home, Nicole asked me – “Is something wrong?” I answered – “No” but I knew that wasn’t true. It took several days for me to finally listen to the Holy Spirit. I had allowed the sin of envy to enter in me and bring darkness. I had to repent and the light returned.

“Your focus and your motives direct what enters in you. If they are pure and sincere and set upon the things of God, you will allow God’s light to flow through you but if they are evil and wicked, you will be full of darkness and sin and despair.”

Question: What is your first response to the good and the evil around you? What have you allowed inside that has brought darkness in your life? What is blocking God’s light in your life? Have you ever asked God to purify your motives?

III. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY?

22 “…If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.

Background: Greek word that Jesus used for “good.” It’s actually the word a`plouj, which translates “single.” It has the idea of purity and sincerity. James uses it in its adverbial form in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all sincerely and without reproach…” Meaning: When God gives you wisdom, He doesn’t have any ulterior motives. Paul uses it in its noun form in Romans 12:8 where he tells the Christians in Rome to give but give with sincerity…” Meaning: Don’t have ulterior motives in your giving. So when Jesus says in verse 22 “…If therefore your eye is single,” what He’s really saying is “If your eye is pure or sincere, then your whole body will be full of light…” In other words, if your motives are pure, it will only bring light inside.

Illustration: It attacks the best of us. Billy Graham in his book on the Beatitudes talks about in his early days he would see two people having a great time or laughing and he would feel that it had to do with him or “why wasn’t he included?” He repented of that.

Here’s the point: Worry and Anxiety are a by-product of darkness. The only way to counteract is when the stimulus comes, let the Holy Spirit guide your response. He will make your motives pure and sincere. In turn, what goes in will be light and not darkness. Then what come out will be joy and gratitude not worry and anxiety.

23 “…If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” This can be taken in 2 different ways – Either, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful is that darkness inside of you? Or, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful must the darkness be in the lost world. Either way, turn on the light!

Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your motives and let the light of Christ flow through you. Are you saved? Invite Christ to be your light today.

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