Whoever boasts himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.
There are those who love to speak of their brave plans for what they hope to accomplish and how they will bless God’s people. Sometimes, church leaders set up in the minds of their people certain expectations of how they will shepherd the congregation and then fail to deliver on those expectations. Or some visionary father talks of how much he “plans to love” his children and how he hopes to run his household. He may even status the relationship with an occasional “I love you.” Yet he never quite delivers on “the vision.” Failure to deliver on expectations sets others up for cruel disappointments. Merely telling another person that they are loved does not mean that anything is being done for that person in love. Relationships require the sacrifice of time, money, spiritual leadership, and thoughtful consideration.
Expectations are communicated in different ways, and we ought to be aware of the sort of expectations we have cultivated in those around us. Sometimes when people get married, they sell themselves as somebody who they are not, thus creating bright expectations of a wonderful relationship. Once married, the spouse wakes up with a different person altogether. For this reason, biblical law requires a stiff penalty for the wife who marries a husband under false pretenses concerning her virginity (Deut. 22:17–20). In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira died because they acted disingenuously when they presented themselves as more generous than they really were. You can see that God is serious about this matter. Honesty is essential in human relationships. It would be best to speak far less about what you have done or what you plan to do and just be faithful in good works every single day.
By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone.
Persuasion does not come by loud and long arguments. Overwhelming a man with irrefutable logic, a hundred lines of reasoning, and sarcastic responses to his feeble thrusts will do little to convince him of the truth. How many times must we remind ourselves of this essential fact? The truth is, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still! In the old fable, the gentle sun persuaded the man to remove his coat while the east wind could not get it off in spite of how hard it blew.
Instead of winning the argument, we need to “win the person.” Our actions speak louder than our words. If there is any substance to our theological or political persuasions, then our lives should reflect that. Patience is the key, especially when you are dealing with fundamental issues. It is one thing to convince someone that it is raining outside. It might be a little more difficult to convince a friend that one flavor of ice cream is better than another. But it is quite another thing altogether to convince a legislator who aborted her child that abortion is evil and ought to be legislated against. Or it may be equally as difficult to convince somebody who believes in baptismal regeneration to see baptism as more of a means of grace. Only by the Spirit’s work will people come to truly face the real import of their sins and understand the fundamental truths of Scripture. Resorting to the force of anger, browbeating, and debates usually only destroy relationships. Instead, the man of God should always look for opportunity to answer straightforward and sincere questions. He is, of course, never ashamed to testify of his own faith in Christ and His resurrection, and he shows tender interest in those who are facing severe trials, serious disease, or the loss of a loved one. In the long run, this will bear more influence upon the unbeliever than dumping a thousand recorded tapes on him explaining the folly of evolution or the evils of communism.
Nevertheless, there is still a place for “hard words” and severe warnings. These are usually more effective when we speak to those who already agree with us. For example, the hard words of Christ against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 were spoken in the presence of Jesus’ disciples. He warned them concerning Pharisaical doctrines that bore the strongest sway on the minds of the people of the day. The scribes and Pharisees made up a political and theological powerhouse, and Christ opposed them in no uncertain terms.
To convince a prince or a governor of some political position can have great effect on the lives of numerous people! For example, when William Wilberforce persuaded the English Parliament to do away with the slave trade, he made an indelible mark on human history. But it took a full eighteen years before he made any substantial progress. The Slave Trade Act received full royal assent on March 25, 1807. But it wasn’t until 1833 that England abolished slavery altogether. By long forbearing is a prince persuaded.
1. How do you set expectations? Give several examples. Have we set any expectations that we have failed to meet?
2. What is the difference between “winning the argument” and “winning the person?”
3. How are people convinced of the most important theological matters?
4. Give historical examples of men who worked very hard in government to achieve good results.