Bearer of Bad News
Have you ever had a message to deliver that you knew would not be welcomed – and could result in adverse consequences to you?
I have. And I agonized over conveying it.
As a former tax manager, I arrived at that intersection with signposts in opposite directions. Unknown to me, my employer sought outside advice and took an aggressive tax position in structuring the acquisition of another company. While the transaction may have been binding, I knew, based on my experience, that its substance went beyond the intent of tax law. The position would increase the company’s tax deductions at the public’s expense.
Back then, my responsibility was to file accurate tax returns that complied with the law but also maintained the company’s reputation as a responsible corporation. Due to the complexities of tax code, the legality of tax positions was not always apparent. I routinely dealt with examiners and wasn’t opposed to arguing an aggressive position if it had merit. I knew what would pique an agent’s interest and sharpen his weapons. While cordially sipping on the company’s coffee, examiners could sometimes wield heavy swords disguised as No. 2 pencils.
I faced a dilemma. The government would likely recharacterize the transaction – assuming it was audited – and assess not only tax and interest but also penalties. Yet the deal was already done. And those responsible for it had the power to knock my knees out from under me. I liked my job. I also wanted some rent money coming in. Pushing back on the structure of the agreement after the documents were signed was bound to raise some ire or embarrassment.
Shoot the Messenger?
In my little world, I could relate to Jeremiah, the prophet who delivered more sobering news to someone with a much sharper sword than a tax agent. The poor guy always had unfavorable reports to share. And, even though he had a hotline to heaven, the people never listened to him (Jeremiah 37:2).
How would you like to send a message like the one below to your head honcho? Already in prison, Jeremiah said to the King of Judah:
“You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon!” (Jeremiah 37:17b NKJV)
What courage! Yet for conveying God’s message, Jeremiah was thrown into an empty cistern, where, without food and water, he would die but for a merciful intervention (Jeremiah 38:6).
But there’s a happy ending to this story, at least for the one who obeyed the Lord. Jeremiah was freed (Jeremiah 39:14). The king, however, had to watch his sons be executed before his eyes were gouged out (Jeremiah 39:6-7), results consistent with the prophecy he ignored.
In the spirit of Hebrews 3, one who belongs to God must be faithful. My decision was merely a foregone conclusion. Instead of grappling with whether to speak up, I focused on how to convey the message. Knowing God was on my side and preparing for the aftermath gave me the fortitude to avoid compromise.
To my employer’s credit, it too did the right thing and, at considerable cost, made the government whole. Upon audit, I had the joy of watching the revenue agent gape when he discovered what had happened. Correcting that position sent him packing, ending a series of consecutive audits spanning a dozen years. While I had feared the worst, I was promoted instead. To God, be the glory.
If you’re in a similar bind in which speaking the truth seems to lead to self-destruction, remember that God already knows the outcome. He is trustworthy. Furthermore, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). You may only be facing a test to see if you will honor Him. Do the right thing, and leave the results to Him.
No Matter What, God Is Still on the Throne
By Debbie McDaniel, author, crosswalk.com
“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 103:19
He came home from school wearing his “I voted” sticker and slumped into the chair.
My 6-year-old son, lover of all things sports-related, had just “voted” for the first time in his elementary school’s mock election – vote for your favorite team sport. Apparently, his choice was not the most popular.
“Hey Noah, did you get to vote today?” I asked.
“Yeah, I but didn’t win,” he answered with a defeated voice.
“Well, did you vote for what you believed in?”
Quietly and slowly, still thinking it through, he responded, “Yes.”
“Were you willing to take a risk to stand up for what mattered most to you?”
He pulled off the round sticker from his shirt and examined it from all sides, “Yes. (long, dramatic sigh) But, I still don’t like losing.”
And today, close to half of our nation may relate to those feelings. It’s never easy to lose. It’s discouraging. Disappointing. You may feel defeated and wonder why it all didn’t go your way. Or why others didn’t see things the way you did.
Many will celebrate election results this evening. And, many others will not. Yet no matter which side of the race you’ve been on over these long months, this truth remains… every time we’re willing to have a voice, to take a stand for what we believe in, we “Win.” And we can trust God with the results.
The enemy is at work more than ever during these times. He will seek to divide believers and stir up strife and hate.
Don’t fall for that trap.
Whether it’s in election season or just daily life, we win when we do what God asks us to do. We win when we’re willing to live wisely. We win every time we choose to obey His word to the very best of our ability.
There’s great freedom there. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from defeat. Freedom from anger and hate.
Nothing has taken God by surprise. Not ever. He’s on the throne and Sovereign over all. He has a plan and is at work on behalf of His people, “for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14
Our prayers matter, our voice matters. We can choose to move forward from here with grace. We can choose to stay involved, to have a voice, to be engaged, and maybe more than ever before, to make a difference in our nation.
May we be ever faithful to pray for all those in authority, for the leaders of this land. May we be brave to speak with wisdom and discernment, and to live these days with hearts of compassion and love. May we be strong to follow God’s voice, even when it’s not the most popular choice in our culture.
I was reminded this morning, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.” Proverbs 21:1
God’s got this. He’s got us. He is powerful and able to do far more than we could ever imagine.
Grace and peace.
“The Lord called Samuel a third time … Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy … The Lord came and stood there … ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’” – 1 Samuel 3:8-10 NIV
In the silence and darkness of the night, we can feel so alone. In the stillness, we can feel isolated and crave human companionship. We long for the voice and touch of another person – just their presence. We listen for other noises, anything to escape the quiet.
What the boy Samuel discovered was that these moments are when we realize that we are not really alone. In a general sense, we may believe that God is with us, but a life time of experience encourages us to focus on other people – parents and siblings, neighbors and spouses, colleagues and media. We tend to focus on the noises around us.
But in our isolation, we can be driven deeper in the silence when there are minimal distractions. That’s when we can discover that God is with us. We can sense His presence with greater clarity, and He can speak to us.
But we must listen. Relish the quiet. Appreciate that we are not alone. We shouldn’t feel isolated but realize that God really is with us. It is not an accident that Jesus was called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Samuel learned these insights as a little boy. He learned to embrace the silence and listen. He made himself available for God to speak. These were insights that changed his life. He no longer felt alone or isolated but conscious of the presence of God and ready to listen.
Scripture says to pray about everything (Phil. 4:6), but in bringing our petitions, it’s also important to maintain a divine perspective. Paul, for example, kept God’s character in the forefront of his thinking and aligned his requests with the Lord’s desires. In today’s passage, the apostle prayed that we would know God in three specific areas.
- The hope of His calling (Eph. 1:18). Salvation gives us eternal hope based not on external conditions but on the promise of eternal life. Since this world will always disappoint us, we must fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at Christ’s return (1 Peter 1:13).
- The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18). We have an imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance reserved for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). Nothing this world offers can compare to what we already have waiting for us.
- The surpassing greatness of His power for believers (Eph. 1:19). God has not left us to do the best we can. His power is always working to transform us into Christ’s image and empower our obedience.
Keep praying for your physical and emotional needs, but don’t forget to add these spiritual requests as well.