Taking Action

take-actionIn an email communication with a friend this morning who was trying to make a decision whether or not to “speak truth to power” or just remain civil, I mentioned to him that I felt that sometimes speaking truth to power is about as effective as beating a dead horse. That is not to say that we shouldn’t ever speak truth to power, but mostly not to expect for it to change anyone (or to be pleasantly surprised if it does even in the tiniest of ways). In my case (and I have absolutely no power), I related his query to my experience being unemployed for over five years now and vacillating (still, after all of this time) between the two opposites of anger and forgiveness. However, since moving back to Orlando just under one month ago, I have felt the anger part of it just getting way too old to hang onto besides the fact that I never had a chance to speak truth to power back when I was fired anyway.

However, with that being said, you have no idea how very tired I am of being in limbo for over five years now, no matter how hard I’ve been trying to get out of limbo. There are some things in this life we can’t totally do on our own (probably most things if we stop to think about it), and I can’t force anyone to hire or help me. But I am very tired of being angry about it (e.g., the situation that caused all of this to happen in the first place).

I did tell my friend that I was tired of wishing I had never heard of that job or applied for it or–the worst part–accepting it. Yet I know that God knows why it all happened, but He hasn’t clued me in yet (but I am always hopeful in a Hebrews 11 sort of way). And then I added, “So maybe being civil is best. Who knows anyway?”

One thing I mentioned to him that I had noticed in the past five years is just how much genuine compassion for others seems to be missing in this world of ours. “Being nice” (which is often more times than not just a cover-up and not genuine hospitality) has often replaced genuine kindness and showing authentic compassion to others in less fortunate situations or circumstances. I told him that I could write a book (but won’t) on the stigma of being long-term unemployed for over five years now in one of the most prosperous countries in the world and how money trumps people 10-to-1 nowadays (that statistic is probably much higher on the money end of it). The love of money has produced a remarkable number of folks who lack compassion for others and whose bottom line is always about the almighty dollar, no matter what they say or what (or Who) they claim to believe in. And as the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words” . . .

 . . . Which brings me to the “action” part of that saying. As a Christian, I know that faith without deeds (or action) is dead (see James 2:14-26). In fact, in verse 17 James clearly stated, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” And he goes on to give the following examples in verses 21-26:

“. . . do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

One of the best things to come out of my return to Orlando (and there are several) is that I am back attending the church I attended when I lived in Orlando previously (from 1997-2004) before leaving Orlando for a job in another city in Florida. In two of the messages over the past four weeks that were given by the senior pastor, who has been there for 29 years now and is one of my all time favorite pastors, he mentioned in the context of the message the ability to move on from the past (in the first one) and letting go of anger (in the second). While the concepts are not new to me as I’ve been struggling with both since that day in Houston when I lost my job five years ago, the fact that the two were brought home to me in rapid succession during my first month back in Orlando has not been lost on me. In other words, they were “points well taken.” Unfortunately between the first message and the second I experienced the 5th anniversary of the day I got fired five years ago which wasn’t altogether pleasant and brought back the anger all over again not to mention the sheer frustration of living in limbo for all this time. However, the second message that referenced the “letting go of the anger” was just delivered this past Sunday after the anniversary date had passed.

Take-action-now-As this week progressed, a sobering “quiet” has filled the place where the anger and frustration had been. I still haven’t got a clue how to get out of this limbo-land I’ve been living in for far too long now, but I am tired of the anger that really only affects me and it doesn’t change my circumstances. Also, I never took my anger at my situation out on others but rather in the confines of my own apartment when no one else was present and the frustration got to be too much. And that anger usually presented itself in the use of rather colorful language (unfortunately, those words are in common use in America nowadays in many settings and prolifically in our Hollywood-type movie producing culture). I was also reminded this week about what James had to say in his first chapter of the book named for him (James 1:2-27):

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not product the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (vv. 19-20). While I never took out my anger on others but only in the confines of my apartment when I was alone, that anger does not produce in me what God desires for me, and it just kept the entire situation festering within me. And while this ongoing saga of living in limbo-land due to long-term unemployment has been one of the hardest trials of my life, many times I did not consider it “pure joy” as James starts out telling us in Chapter 1 regarding how to respond to the trials that come our way.

There have been many times over the past five plus years during this long term trial of mine where it has produced a number of miracles (which I have talked about in previous blog posts), but the underlying frustration never seemed to disappear as I waited for the end of this trial to come (and I’m still waiting). And every time I thought I had a handle on the whole anger/forgiveness issue something would happen to let me know how deep that anger still ran. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I found over time that unresolved anger can wear me out at times, and I had reached that point by the time I landed in Orlando almost four weeks ago.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (v. 22). Those are some serious words. Who among us wants to be deceived? I know I sure don’t. And there is enough going on in this world that can deceive us without causing it ourselves. When I heard Pastor Joel talk about letting go of the anger, I knew it was time to really let it go, but I had tried so many times over the past five years that I just wasn’t sure how to let it go except to stop getting so upset periodically about the situation when I am alone (which is when it happens). And it’s been a quiet and sobering week as a result.

Taking action not only means actually doing something, but also means to actually stop doing something that is harmful to us and/or to others. James made it quite clear that trials and temptations come to all of us, and there isn’t any time limit on how long they will last or how many we will have to endure throughout our lifetime. And the purpose of those trials is to produce perseverance (see James 1:2-12). It’s our faith in action.

While I can’t change anyone else regardless of the situations or circumstances, I can change myself, with God’s help. And He’s made it quite clear that He will give us His help (His wisdom) without finding fault if we ask for it and not doubt (James 1:2-7). It’s there for the asking at any time. If you find yourself in a situation or circumstance right now that you don’t understand or know how to get through, take that first course of action right now . . .

Ask God for His wisdom and don’t doubt . . .

And He will generously give it to you . . .

Without finding fault . . . .

YouTube Video: “Not Alone” (2013) by Salvador:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here