Wednesday, March 25, 2015

what to do with friends who aren't really friends?

A few years back, my husband and I were in need of much prayer. You see, for some time my family was subjected to abusive tactics, vindictiveness, and the manipulation of a self-proclaimed "Christian" acquaintance whose day-to-day actions greatly misrepresented anything that looked like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self control.

Sadly, we had been burdened recipients of many evil antics and schemes devised against us by this unhealthy person. Yep, we had been misguided knee deep into a friendship with a person who was later exposed to be clearly riddled with hatred, jealousy, sorrow, drama, irritability, anger, evil intention, mistrust, misrepresentation, rudeness and outright sinful disregard to God and His holy Way of living.  In short, we found ourselves close to a person who wore the name tag of Jesus on the outside of their heart, but clearly had no spiritual fruit to be seen anywhere in sight! Sure, from a distance they looked like the real deal; but once up close, the seams of their sheep's clothing were clearly splitting and the wolf underneath became more and more exposed. Yikes!

Sigh. It's so difficult when you realize that you have been friends with someone who isn't really a friend, isn't it? Yet still, in an effort to love as Christ loves, my husband and I continued to forgive and enable this person. We forgave and rescued them over and over. We forgave and endured more and more lies, schemes, abuse, and unnecessary drama drama drama! Mind you, there is nothing wrong with forgiving and loving others. We are all human beings cursed with sin on this earth and need God's love to save us. But thankfully, the Holy Spirit made it evident to both Chuck and I that we had become enablers to a person who consistently tried to tear us down, lead us astray, control us, and/or weaken our faith in God's sovereignty. Really, in retrospect I keep replaying past events and conversations and ask myself, "What kind of friendship was that?" Clearly not one that fostered the prosperity of holiness. No, this friendship was really no friendship at all. (Thankfully God finally removed the scales from our eyes, as well as removed us from the situation altogether. My wonderful Master continues to surprise me with His many, many, MANY blessings! How deeply I treasure my King Jesus! I love you, Lord!)

So, what do you do when you find yourself hip-deep in an impaired relationship with an impostor posing to be your friend? The simple answer is this: R-U-N! Run! Don't walk. RUN! Run as fast as you can to God's Word and start praying for the Lord to defend and protect you from the "little foxes that ruin the vineyards." Run directly into God's law and setup camp in His presence. Allow His safe boundaries of wisdom to protect you from foolishness and the sin that can easily hinder and entangle your life. Do not waver from what is right. Do not relinquish clinging to truth that God has proven as righteous. No, just run - run directly to Jesus! Flee... and if it helps you escape faster, leave your cloak in the hands of your fake friend as you dash into the safety of your Master's guardianship.

Read with me the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife:

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. (Genesis 39:1-12)

Although this example covers the act of an unfaithful, cheating wife's sexual advances, the lesson is still relevant to friends who aren't really friends. For here was a woman whom Joseph spoke to and served day after day after day. She was a person who should have been an ally to Joseph considering their mutual relationship and assumed respect for Potiphar (his Master, her husband , and both their head of household). Yet, no matter how loyal Potiphar's wife may have represented herself on the outside, inside her heart was clearly selfish, manipulative, and false. Read on in this chapter and you will see how she lies and disregards Joseph merely for the sake of being vindictive. She finds earthly satisfaction in building up her own position by lashing out with sinful pride, greed, arrogance, and abusive control over Joseph while acting as the victim rather than being repentant of her schemes or accountable for her actions. But loving?... joyful?... good?... honorable?... no, she is none of these things. No, Potiphar's wife is not the image she paints herself to be, now is she? She is not a true friend to anyone (not even herself) as she is riddled with hatred, jealousy, sorrow, drama, irritability, anger, evil intention, mistrust, misrepresentation, rudeness and outright sinful disregard to God and His holy law. How sad is Potiphar's wife? How desperately does she need Jesus? How greatly should we pray for the hearts of those we've encountered just like her?!! And yet, how crucial it is to still run away from such sinful influence in order to best honor our Master!

Joseph knew that it was more important to remain faithful to his God and to RUN rather than succumb one second longer to a friendship that redirected him away from a holy, righteous path. He knew that enabling this woman's advances to engage in sinful behavior was simply non-negotiable if he was to live close to God. Yes, Joseph ran away as fast as he could and trusted God to handle the rest of the details pertaining to his life. And even though Potiphar's wife later assaulted Joseph's character and integrity, doing all she could to further burden and imprison him, Joseph stayed ethical and true... and through it all God remained his faithful Friend. Praise God!

Ladies, God's Word instructs us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. As such, I do believe Joseph loved and prayed for Potiphar and his unfaithful wife. But equally so, I'm certain that Joseph did not remain close friends with either of them. No, Joseph ran away from evil and trusted God to take over the reigns of his life. He waited on the Lord, and in the end God elevated him to an even grander position worthy of glorifying His Savior's holiness! What an honor! What an awesome God we serve! What a Friend we have in Jesus!

Although the personal trial that I briefly mentioned above was a difficult lesson for my family, I am so grateful to the Lord for giving us the example of Joseph regarding what to do with friends who aren't really friends. As followers of Christ, Chuck and I choose to continue to love and pray for those who curse us. But thankfully, we have also learned that we no longer need to enable fake, parasitic friendships simply because someone claims to be a Christian yet leads us away from truth. For clearly any friend that does not encourage God's eternal truth is someone that Satan is using to hinder our quest toward holiness. No, from these relations we will RUN... and, we will leave our cloaks behind us if we must! For nothing on this earth should ever attempt to overshadow the important treasure of God's companionship and unchanging Word! He alone is all that matters... not the drama drama drama of men.

So ladies, if you find that you are in a difficult friendship that does not foster the prosperity of holiness that God intends for your life, here is what I have to say on the matter... put one foot in front of the other and head yourself directly toward the Wisdom of the Ages. He will control all matters in your life. He will oversee that every day follows every night. He will provide oxygen for you to breathe, food for you to eat, shelter for your soul to rest, and words for your lips to speak in confidence. He will protect and defend you against those who disagree with His law. And He will ultimately save you from all sin if you trust in Him fully. Yes, God alone is always faithful and will provide for your every need. So always be faithful to Him in return! Run to Jesus and away from those who do not love Him. Run from those who are not His real friends. Run from anyone who fails to display the fruit of His Spirit. Yes, R-U-N... away from sin!... and do not hesitate to lay down your whole life for the sake of Jesus Christ, your truest, best Friend!

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. (John 15:9-21)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

at your service

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. (Philippians 2:19-23)

Today, I was reading about Paul and Timothy and the Philippian church. Paul was writing a letter to the church at Philippi and wanted to send someone personally to convey his concerns and witness church matters first hand. In my study, I realized that there were certainly hundreds of Christians in Rome at the time Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church... more than enough to help Paul deliver his message for the sake of the gospel and the cause of Christianity. (I noticed that Paul even greets twenty-six of these Roman Christian's by name in Romans 16.)

So, needless to say, it made me very sad when I read his discouraging words about sending a representative on his behalf to Philippi. (See Philippians 2:20-21... I've listed it in several translations for you to digest.)

"I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." (NIV)

"For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus." (NKJV)

"I have no one quite like Timothy. He is loyal, and genuinely concerned for you. Most people around here are looking out for themselves, with little concern for the things of Jesus." (The Message)

I couldn't believe it. Not one Christian from Rome was available or concerned to help out Paul??? Didn't anyone care about the church in Philippi? How embarrassing for Paul to have to write to this church and include the statement that there was no one like-minded or concerned for their well-being. If not for Timothy, what would Paul have done?

It made me wonder how many "Christians" are among us that take time or show real concern to live for Jesus. How many REALLY serve??? Sure, most can talk a great talk, but do they really offer up a sacrificial love toward others and show it in their actions?

I understand that we are not perfect. I freely admit that a submissive character does not come naturally to us because of our sinful nature. But if we are to grow and become more like Jesus (living in His Name), we must cultivate our likemindedness with Christ's and be available for Him to work through us - - when needed!

Where were all these Roman Christians when the need arose? Who really was willing to serve?

It is terrible to think that the believers in Rome were so engrossed in themselves and their own internal wranglings (Philippians 1:15-16) that they had no time for the important work of the Lord. The whole matter has caused me to ask myself some hard questions.... Am I truly concerned about what really matters most to Jesus? Am I available and ready for acting out whatever God needs me to do?  Or am I busying myself with selfish day-to-day trivialities?

Praise the Lord that Timothy was a man who actively sought to be closer to God and thus became the kind of servant that Paul could trust and rely upon. Timothy was interested in the spiritual condition of God's people. Because of this, God blessed Timothy and blessed the church at Philippi. Irrespective of other so-called "Christians" who showed no fruit to advance God's work, Timothy was there. Ready to serve. Available to be used.

In conclusion, please pray over these very important questions, "How would Paul describe ME in the letter to the Philippians? Would he liken me to Timothy or everybody else?" I pray that God will direct our paths and that we will respond as available and ready to serve so that we may be used for His holy, perfect purpose.

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

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