Reacting or Responding

At first glance these two words may seem to mean the same, and doubtless they can be used interchangeably; but each word has its own connotation, and I have chosen these to express two different approaches to the situations we face in life. When God’s Spirit controls a man, it enables him in every circumstance to respond in obedience to the voice of God rather than to react in the flesh. Much damage is done to our lives and to the testimony of God in the earth when we fail to respond in faith with a love for the truth in every circumstance.

reactThe Spirit-filled man is possessed by the One who has all wisdom and power. It is possible for him to walk through life with a calm confidence because he has faith in his God. In every situation his heart turns in quiet trust and dependence to the One who created and sustains him. God’s grace and glory are in his life as he responds to his God. Is there a blessing? He thanks God for it. Is there a fear? He commits his life to God. Is there success and victory? He glorifies God. Is there failure? He accepts the consequences, learns from the experience, and God turns even that into a testimony for His glory. His whole life becomes a process of growing in the knowledge of God, and responding to God’s provision for him.

At times Christ is presented as a zealot who reacted to the religious leaders of His day, but this is not really a true picture of Him (Matthew 23:1-3). He is God’s perfect example of a Spirit-filled life.

Psalm 1 describes this man so well. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not whither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

In contrast to that is the man who walks through life depending on his own wisdom and abilities. He has no anchor in God so the different situations in life invite the reactions of his flesh. He is “like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” He “shall not stand,” and his way “shall perish.”

The tragedy of this is the destruction it causes in the life of the individual. He sees excess or an imbalance in someone. Immediately he determines that he will not repeat the same mistake. But because his confidence is in his flesh rather than in God and the wisdom of His Word, he swings to the opposite extreme and ends up with a result that can be worse than the effects of the initial mistake. The history of humanity is filled with examples of such disastrous behavior, and too often we can relate to it in our own lives.

The issue may be how to train children, or the exercise of authority, or something more trivial. We may react to the faults of our parents, church leaders or other brothers and sisters. But the effects are not always desirable.

God wants to save us from this pendulum and establish in us a pattern of life that demonstrates a steady growth in His truth. He wants to bring us to the end of ourselves. He wants to establish our hearts in a thirst for His will, to a faith-filled dependency upon Him and a ready obedience to that which He shows us that He may be glorified as He works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. The end result of this life is far more beautiful, satisfying and enduring than a life that is lived according to our own foolish whims.

God has given to us fellow brothers and sisters to balance our lives. Not one of us is complete alone. Rather we are members one of another that makes up a body for God to dwell in and manifest His will to a fallen humanity. When we have an attitude of humble submission to God’s plan and open our lives to other believers allowing them to help us, we are saved from many tears of grief because of fleshly reactions or hasty decisions. May God be glorified as we respond to Him.

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Ezra 7:23

  • 23 Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
Friday 24-March, 2023