Thursday, January 17, 2013

NOT EASILY PROVOKED

The clearest evidence that Christ resides in you is if you possess this fruit: "Charity . . . is not easily provoked" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

The Greek word for provoked is "paraxuno," which comes from a root word meaning "acid" and "quick or sudden." It also has an additional root meaning of "one close by." Put together, these meanings become very significant: To be provoked is to fly off the handle with acid remarks, to have a temper tantrum—and to aim it at someone who is close to you.

In short, the Bible is saying, "If you are in Christ, loving unconditionally, you will no longer be easily provoked. And your greatest tests will come from those closest to you: your spouse, your children, your friends."

I ask you: Do you have a short fuse? How easily does your temper flare? If you are in Christ, a voice will rise up in you when you're angry, crying out, "Lord, help me! Holy Spirit, calm me down!"

Just a few days before I wrote this message, I had to practice what I am preaching. My wife, Gwen, said something that unwittingly pushed a button inside me. She didn't mean it as a putdown but I took it that way, and it set me off. I quickly got hot under the collar and out of my mouth spewed a stream of acid remarks, heated, angry words, each one a putdown.

Gwen tried to apologize (for something she hadn't even done) but I turned my back on her and went to my study. I sat for an hour in the dark, complaining to the Lord: "God, she hit me where I'm sensitive and it hurt. I had to respond!"

Yet as I tried to pray, the heavens were as brass. The next morning, as I took out my Bible to begin my daily study, the pages fell open to 1 Corinthians and my eyes fell on this verse: "Charity . . . is not easily provoked”

Suddenly, I was looking into the mirror of God's Word and I saw the face of a preacher who was easily provoked! My heart was smitten, and I cried out, "Oh, Lord, that's me. God, forgive me!"

Immediately I called out to Gwen to come into my office. When she entered, somewhat bewildered, I could only point to the passage and say, "Honey, read this. It describes me, doesn't it? I'm too easily provoked. Gwen, please forgive me!"