Walking with God is a spiral. He teaches us a lesson about, say, His faithfulness. Five years down the road, we come across the topic again in a new, more in-depth way. A few years later, He teaches even more about His faithfulness.
He does this when He teaches us about our character as well. Many years ago, in Bible college, I had a class devoted to the book of James. It is a wonderfully practical book. My project group created a skit to illustrate its teachings. It was actually a series of interconnected skits. For each chapter, two or three people acted out what we always do -- complain about trials and tribulations, show favoritism, criticize others, etc. One of the group then pointed a remote control and "paused" the action. The players froze. Then the remote control player explained what James taught, hit "rewind" -- and the actors moved backwards and invariably got a laugh from the class -- and hit "play". The actors went through the act a second time, showing the godly way to act in each situation. I learned a lot from that class, even if I don't quite remember the details of the skit.
Now my church is spending the summer studying the book of James. This week's sermon was about chapter 3: 13-18, dealing with conflict.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
God helped me to look into my own heart. Usually that is something I avoid when I can help it. No one likes to look into a pit as dark as that. (I told Joan that sometimes I look at my life -- having been saved nearly 20 years ago -- and I wonder how much I have actually changed.)
Pastor's main memory stick -- what I call that snappy little phrase that gives you an easy way to remember the teaching as a whole -- was "A wise person is a peacemaker, not just a point-maker". Looking into that dark pit I had to acknowledge that too often I am a point-maker. I want my own way. I know I am right and expect you to act accordingly.
And then I wonder why I have conflict.
But, James says, wisdom that comes from heaven is sincere, impartial, merciful, submissive, considerate, peaceable, and pure. You can be right, but the way you assert that isn't always. A friend of mine in college put it this way: "Do you want to be right or righteous?" Meaning, of course, that I can be right but if I pound you over the head with it, I'm not acting righteously.
So, God and I are on another level of the spiral. I guess as long as I am moving up instead of down, I'm moving in the right direction. God has promised that He will finish the work he has begun.