I once read a short book entitled If the World Fits, You're the Wrong Size. That book was written to encourage those who profess to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ to be distinctive members of society that do not fit the mold of the ungodly world in which we live. Since those persons who belong to Christ now make up the church, the title presupposes that the church is to be distinctive from the world.
     Paul wrote to the church at Rome and implicitly encouraged them to not conform any longer to the world. "And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (12:2, KJV). This admonishment was not merely for the Roman church members, it was written for all the saints of the ages. I want to apply this principle of being different from the world to how we go about choosing leaders in the church and church related organizations; i.e., district associations and state and national conventions.
     This is the season of elections in the United States of America. This process is characterized by the inundation of news media with advertisements. Most of them are negative in nature while some of them are positive. The majority of the ads smeared the character and conduct of the candidates in the race. The entire process is one that is divisive and contrary to the principles of oneness. No unifying principle was touted by any of the candidates engaged in the process.
     The recent election of the president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Incorporated was conducted in a fashion very similar to that of the secular society in which we live. However, I found it to be more fracturing. There were five brothers vying for the office of president of the convention. When the voting was over, not one candidate had a majority of the votes cast in the election. The choice of our new president was rooted in who was most popular, and the winner had more than 50% of the people in opposition to his being elected. What shall be the end of our convention if we continue to do such important business in the same manner as the world?
     It is incumbent upon the Regular Arkansas Baptist Convention, Incorporated to do things in a fashion that will be pleasing to God. Our upcoming election of a new president has started out as a popularity contest. At least one candidate for the office has published and distributed literature in pursuit of the office. Why are we utilizing such divisive tactics when we are supposed to be one body? The world's political maneuvering should not be a part of our leadership selection process. What role will prayer play in our selection?
     I am not a proponent of the divisive tactics of political candidates. The method stinks in the nostrils of God who said that he is responsible for the provision of leaders for his people. Remember when Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint the new king of Israel. God said that the way man chooses is not the same as how God picks leaders. "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
    While Samuel gazed upon the sons of Jesse, he formulated in his mind who the anointed one of God was. However, the Spirit of God working in Samuel revealed that neither of the sons of Jesse standing before him was the one chosen by God. Even Jesse missed the fact that God had not chosen any of those sons who were at the initial gathering. God's choice is oftentimes not our choice because we are not as prayerful as we should be and as sensitive to God's leading as we must be.
    Even when the apostles sought to select another man to replace the fallen Judas, it was during a time when the people had gathered together in prayer. Despite the fact that the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon all of them, the group had to chose between only two persons out of the 120 that were gathered in the room for prayer. And even after the two had been announced as possible replacements, they prayed and asked, "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which of these two thou hast chosen" (Acts 1:24). The people then cast their votes, and one was chosen. The role of Matthias (the one chosen to replace Judas) as the church moved forward is summarized in these words: "And he was numbered with the eleven apostles" (1:26).
     We have no record of the works of many of the twelve men that were chosen by Jesus to become the foundational members of His church. However, there was one who had been an opponent to the ministry of Jesus and His disciples whom God chose to be the messenger of God's grace among the people of the world. Saul, better known as Paul, became a Christian zealot after having been a persecutor of Christians. Early in his new life in Christ, most members of the Christian community rejected Saul despite the fact that he was chosen by God to be the leader of the missionary effort of God to restore the repentant to a right standing with Him. Almost half of the New Testament is attributed to this former persecutor of Christians. I dare say, he would not have been the people's choice.
     As we move toward our selection of a new president, I challenge you to pray as the early church did. "Lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).

How Do You Spell Relief?

Most of us experience anxiety  on a daily basis. It is important for us to realize that life never goes the way we want it to go. So, it doesn't make sense to try to make it be exactly what we want it to be. I'm sort of like the Preacher (Teacher) in the book of Ecclesiastes in this respect. His conclusion was that despite all that we do the one thing that matters most is for us to fulfill our duty: "Fear God and keep his commandments. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
No matter how much we study life, it never remains the same. Just as time is inconsistent in all things except change, so are the people who make up our world. Can we make up our minds? Yes, but the decision that we make today may not be the same decision that we make tomorroww. In fact, it will not be the same nor can it be the same because time has changed.
If God expects change, why do we anticipate things being the same? The best thing to happen to us is the transformation or renewal of our minds so that we can function better as people of God. Our ways are not the ways of God, and our thoughts are not the thoughts of God. There is a vast difference between the two. Therefore, God instructs to not trust our own understanding, but to let him direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
So, my question is, "When will we learn that God's way is the best way?" Even if we don't like God's way, it is still best for us to go with the flow than to try to swim upstream. Life hits hard, but God can condition us to take every blow. With the shield of faith, we can put out every fiery dart that life throws our way (Galatians 6:16).
Muhammad Ali, the great heavyweight boxer, testified that George Foreman was the hardest hitting fighter that he ever fought. Yet, Ali was able to wrest the title from Foreman and even by a knockout. How was he able to do that? He devised a strategy called the "rope-a-dope." While Foreman was punching with all of his might, Ali was leaning back on the ropes and rolling with the barrage of punches that Foreman threw. Eventually, Foreman was too tired to fight back, and Ali still had enough energy to knock him down. Foreman wasn't knocked out, he just didn't have the strength left to rise from the canvas before being counted out.
We should face life more like Ali rather than Foreman. When we try to fight the flow of life, we only get more weary as time goes by. Our failures make it more difficult to find peace with our growth process. Our faith is put to the test, and we are admonished to be happy about it all. In the end, we will be better off when we roll with the punches. Life hits hard, but our faith in God can keep us from being knocked out.