Working on Your People Skills

  (Please read Colossians 4:2-6.)

MESSAGE: Aim at infusing life in your conversations with God and others.

A husband and wife were chatting with some friends when the subject of marriage counseling came up.             “Oh, we’ll never need that. My husband and I have a great relationship,” the wife explained. “He was a communications major in college and I majored in theater. He communicates real well and I act like I’m listening.”

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/jokes/read/322825

That, by the way, was a joke.  Some people believe that a sense of humor is to be hung up by the door of a church just like their coat.

When this is based on the notion that God does not have a sense of humor or that spiritual folk are supposed to be more serious, that’s just plain wrong.  God’s sense of humor can be plainly seen in the duckbill platypus and the person in the mirror!

http://www.humorpower.com/blog/2006/07/humor-skills-what-people-find-offensive/

One excuse for being excessively somber is that you run the risk of offending someone by telling a joke.  This sounds legitimate, so I did a little research and found an expert to shed some light on this.  Mr. John Kindle is a humor specialist (a great job if you can find it!) in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He has a blog called “Humor Power,” and thus is a very reliable source…

He listed 12 reasons people give for finding a joke offensive.  One thing stood out in the article.  It’s widely accepted as fact that 2% of people will take offense at anything you say and do.  I say, why let the crabby minority ruin the fun for the 98% of us?!!

But if you’ll permit me to be serious for a moment, we all can work on our people skills.  We can all intend to get along better.  That kind of improvement must obviously start with having the love of God in our hearts.  That’s why our passage for this morning concerns both our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.

CONTEXT: Paul wrote this letter while in prison, directing the church to avoid falling for the traps of false teachers and choose life instead.  J. Vernon McGee titled this chapter: “Fellowship of Christians is hearty.”

COMMENT:

  1. Have life-giving conversations with God (2-4).

Paul uses 3 words to describe a lively prayer ministry.

“Devoted” = DEVOTE YOURSELVES TO PRAYER. In the Greek, the root of this word means “to be strong.”  It refers to a strong attachment to the person or thing indicated in the sentence.

How are we to be devoted to prayer?  Devotion can be demonstrated in the QUANTITY of time we give to prayer.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 urges us to PRAY CONTINUALLY.  Devotion can be demonstrated in the QUALITY of our prayers.  This is not a matter of choosing the right words or having the right feelings; it means to enter deeply into fellowship with God.  We learn that by quietness and listening, and by repeating God’s words back to Him – use the Bible as a guide for deep prayer.  Devotion can be demonstrated in CONSISTENCY.  When times are hard, God’s people pray harder and they pray more: they don’t give up on prayer.

WATCHFUL.  For what are we watching?  We’re to be watching for opportunities!

– Opportunities to pray.  Not just when people are sick or have other needs, but to express joy and praise as well.

– Opportunities to serve.  Helping others is a gateway to bringing God into their lives.

– Opportunities to witness.  Telling others about Jesus is one of the most exciting things a Christian can do.

Watch your words and deeds.  We must safeguard the purity God’s forgiveness imparts.  We need to help others see that God’s way is the best way.  Watch for the in-breaking of heaven, especially in the form of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Ordinary moments of life can be occasions for spiritual insight, visions, and revelations of the joy we’ll have in heaven.  We have a future, a new life, an eternal home with God.  In this life, He grants us glimpses of that life, to encourage us.  We don’t want to miss out on these experiences.  The Bible says we are visited by angels occasionally and we have the Holy Spirit always.  How can we hope to hear God’s messages if we don’t watch and listen?

Don’t confuse watching with waiting (inactivity, passivity).  As the old preacher said, “If you’re going to pray for a good crop, you’d better have a hoe in your hand!”

THANKFUL.  For what are we thankful?  Don’t wait until November to be thankful – practice it all year ‘round!  You may be surprised to see the transformative effect it has on your life and others.  More importantly, thankfulness directs our attention to God.  That is the most redemptive direction in which we can look.  Prayer should be like breathing; inhale with your asking & exhale w/ thanksgiving for God’s answer.

Lively prayer also focuses on God’s will for your situation.  The example in this situation is Paul requesting prayer for his ministry.  He asked for things he could be confident were in line with the will of God.

– OPEN A DOOR FOR OUR MESSAGE is asking God to provide opportunities for ministry.

– THAT WE MAY PROCLAIM THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST.  For Paul, this MYSTERY was something that was previously unknown being revealed by God; fulfillment of prophecy.

– FOR WHICH I AM IN CHAINS.  His CHAINS represented Paul’s commitment to the Gospel and it

spotlighted one of Paul’s needs: freedom.

– THAT I MAY PROCLAIM IT EASILY.  God-given opportunities are precious; we need to act on them as effectively as possible.  This requires speaking the truth in love with grace.

2. Have life-giving conversations with others (5-6).

BE WISE IN THE WAY YOU ACT = A wise person knows actions speak louder than words.

Especially TOWARD OUTSIDERS.  The unchurched, unsaved, unbelievers.  This is obviously not meant to make the church sound exclusivistic or stand-offish; it is a practical acknowledgement that MOST people are OUTSIDERS and we must act and speak WISELY to help them become INSIDERS.  Besides, if you know you’re headed to heaven, why wouldn’t you work to take as people as possible with you?

Notice it says BE WISE – what’s that?

– Be REAL.  Tell the truth in your own personal way.

– Be SENSITIVE.

— Be sensitive to the person; listening for their story so you can weave it with Jesus’ story.

— Be sensitive to the context; act and speak in ways appropriate to the situation you’re in.

— Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit; God will give you words and direct you toward effective means of ministry.

— Be sensitive to yourself.  The Holy Spirit will guide you with your intuition and feelings.  Respond appropriately to feelings that are clearly positive or negative and be wary of situations about which you have conflicted feelings.

– Be a FRIEND first; let God make converts.  We must not be driven to press for a decision in every conversation.

The purpose of this kind of wisdom should be obvious; to MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY. This is what I call “Opportunity Evangelism;” let the Spirit make you aware of an opportunity to witness and then follow through to do the deed and speak the words He gives you.  The meaning of the Greek word for OPPORTUNITY means to purchase something with the intent of making a profit on it.  Take a similar attitude to the encounters you have with OUTSIDERS.  Invest in others wisely so you can turn a “profit;” bring them to Jesus.

This approach recognizes the biblical truth that no one comes to the Father except as they have been lead by Him.  So – as He reveals to us persons whom He has already been leading, we will help folks whom God has prepared, not just buzzing around on our own.

The first part of this is about actions, but words are important too, so we must take care to choose good ones.  One aspect of self-control is choosing the right words.  In fact, James 3:1-12 identifies control of one’s tongue as the PRIMARY form of self-control!  The Bible identifies many different sins of the tongue; that’s a subject for another time.  On the other hand, there’s just one way to get it right and that is to guard our speech.

– The first place to guard it is at the source: the heart.  Jesus said, “OUT OF THE OVERFLOW OF THE HEART THE MOUTH SPEAKS.”  (See Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45.)

– The last place to guard it is at the lips.  Paul wrote, DO NOT LET ANY UNWHOLESOME TALK COME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH, BUT ONLY WHAT IS HELPFUL FOR BUILDING OTHERS UP ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS, THAT IT MAY BENEFIT THOSE WHO LISTEN.  (Ephesians 4:29)

Paul offers a three-fold definition of purposeful and wise conversation, the type that pleases God.

– FULL OF GRACE.  Wow!  Forgiving and forbearing; loving as God loved you.  The right words in the right way at the right time.

– SEASONED WITH SALT.  Conversation is a sensory experience, so don’t be tasteless.  Salt is also a preservative; it keeps conversations from becoming rotten.

– Knowing HOW TO ANSWER EVERYONE.  Obviously, we have to study the Bible before we can know what it says and use it to explain and defend the truth.  What’s not required is that we “win” every argument.  In fact, if you’re arguing with someone that may be proof you’re already on the “losing” side.  It’s enough that we stand firm in our faith.

Take a look at the “People Skills Test” in your bulletin.  Would you like to guess what the problem is?

* “We are doing our part.”

* “Can you make a little time in your busy schedule to take care of this?”

* “He won’t answer the phone.”

* “That division always goofs it up for everyone.”

* “I looked and you still haven’t done it.”

The problem is that all of those statements are, to one degree or another, accusations.  They all imply that the problem is the other person.  They could easily put the other person on the defensive, and communication problems will undoubtedly be the result.

Communicating in a civil and constructive manner is a problem in our society.  The internet and mobile ‘phones offer an illusion of anonymity and people feel uninhibited.  They put their worst thoughts into words and fling them into the public eye without any forethought.

Let’s be clear.  Saying, “At least I’m being honest” is not going to cut it.  God’s standard for speech is much higher than that!  In fact, let’s take notice of the fact that this passage addresses prayer (conversation with God) directly alongside conversation with one another.  This leads me to think of a simple rule of thumb: Think before you speak and think twice about saying something to someone else that you would never say before God!

Christians are called to be neither offensive nor invisible.  True wisdom is found in the middle of these extremes, responsive to context and the Spirit’s guidance.  Our words and deeds must reflect a Christ-like spirit which is loving and considerate.

And finally, a plea for balance.  I’ve seen too many church discussions end with, “We can’t do that.  So-and-so will be offended.”  I’ve also seen Christians censored in the public square with the excuse of not offending atheists or Muslims.  Well, no offense, but we all need to GROW UP!  Doing the right thing is almost always going to offend someone!   One way we can achieve balance/moderation is by asking, “Do they have a legitimate offense?”  If not, proceed and deal with the offense if it becomes a problem.  If yes, then reconsider – start over or let it go if necessary.

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