The key difference between people who are making a difference in this world and those who are struggling through their every day can be summed up in this one admonition:
Pay Attention to Conviction.
Consider this passage from Isaiah 59:10-12,
“We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead. We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice, but it never comes, we look for rescue, but it is far away from us. For our sins are piled up before God and they testify against us.”
Have you ever ignored the thought of a good thing you could have done for another?
This is what Isaiah is describing.
I’ve experienced this. Where thoughts of the good I could do for another, once ignored, become a wall between me and that person and simultaneously between me and God.
Where good actions denied become reason for justification and defense and cover-up.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at this verse spoken three different ways,
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17 English Standard Translation
“In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.” James 4:17 The Message
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4:17 New Living Translation
James was a pretty wise man.
The book Leadership & Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute spells out this exact same thing but without any of the scripture (I love it how much of current wisdom is mirroring so exactly the word of God).
They simply explain it this way. When we have a compulsion and compelling towards a good something, be it word or deed, and we ignore that compelling we then put ourselves in a box.
In the box we then make the other bad and wrong in some way, thereby justifying our lack of action.
For instance. Consider you are walking down an inner-city street and you have the thought to give $20 to the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk.
Now imagine that you ignore this thought. What immediately happens is that you will make all sorts of reasons why you couldn’t or shouldn’t give the money,
“Well he would have probably just used it for drugs or something.”
“She just needs to get her act together, I’m not going to reward her poor choices.”
The transition from the compelling thought to give $20 to the justification of why you are not, happens so fast (in the blink of an eye) that we hardly understand the dynamic.
But once we see it, so much of our stuck lives begin to make sense.
As Isaiah put it, “our sins are piled up before God and testify against us.” (59:12)
Remember, sin is, “knowing what you ought to do and not doing it.” (james 4:17)
Those stuck are those ignoring the thoughts that compel us to action. When we ignore what we can do for others we enter into a space of hiding and cover-up. We are not in integrity with ourselves and therefore not in integrity with anyone else.
In regards to sin it is as we read farther into the Word of God that we come to see that God moves us from ought and should, and from the letter of the law which was, ‘designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised’ (galatians 3:19) to this inner core integrity from which we can all live.
Sin is so much more than the letter of the law. In fact, sins that pile between us and God are much more about the good ideas that we are ignoring, the conviction and compulsions and compelling of our hearts towards others that we are not doing.
If we want to live a free life, if we want to live an increasingly satisfying and substantially fulfilling life it is imperative that we stop ignoring conviction.
Getting out of the box is all about doing the things and speaking the words that we know are ours to do and say.
In this we have nothing to hide. Nothing is piled up against us. We simply go from strength to strength.
And our world, one compelling act at a time is transformed.
Lives are touched. None of us are the same.