Today we are starting a new series that will explore three types of kindness: a kind attitude, kind deeds and kind words. I think that kind deeds and kind words naturally flow from the right attitude; a humble attitude and a kind attitude.
Before I started travelling around the world on expenses working for ICI, there were two places that I really wanted to visit. One was Northern Ireland. I don’t know why, perhaps it was because I had seen it on the news on TV so often in the 70’s and 80’s? Anyway, I did get to go there in the early 1990’s.
The other place, I really wanted to visit was India. Again, I’m not sure why? Perhaps it was because of all those holiday programmes with Cliff Michelmore and John Carter; the Taj Mahal and all that…….? In fact, I first visited India in 1996 when I flew there for a business meeting in Calcutta.
Now, there was only one thing that I knew about Calcutta; Mother Teresa was based there. I knew of her work with the poor and destitute in that city, but not much else. I returned to India on a number of occasions after that, and when I was in Calcutta in 1999, my Indian business colleague drove past The Missionaries of Charity site where Mother Teresa had been based. Of course, she was not there then because she had died in 1997. I regretted that I didn’t ask to visit The Missionaries of Charity site when I was there in 1996.
I mentioned this to my boss, Param Bahgava, who told me that he had in fact met her. She had asked ICI if they would make a financial donation in support of the charity, and the ICI Chairman, Dennis Henderson invited her to come to the ICI Headquarters in London. Since my boss was then the head of the ICI business in India, he was asked if he would accompany Mother Teresa on the plane. With ICI paying, they flew business class of course! By this time she had become famous for her work and was recognised as soon as she got on the plane. Param told me that when the stewardess asked her if she would like anything, she giggled like a naughty schoolgirl and requested………… ice cream!
He also told me that although she was world famous, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, visitor to the White House and known personally by many heads of state, the two qualities that summed her up most were kindness and humility.
The help, support, love and compassion that she displayed personally and through her charity, clearly demonstrated her kind attitude, and it was so evident throughout her life.
Well, most of us try to help, at least occasionally, with kind words and deeds. We would like to speak and act kindly all the time but if we’re honest we don’t. We’re sometimes guilty of talking the talk but not walking the walk. Perhaps the reason is that we have not developed an automatic and habitually kind attitude. How do we do that?
James, the brother of Jesus and the leader of the early church in Jerusalem, tells us in his letter found in the New Testament that the right attitude comes from wisdom. If you read James’ letter, and I recommend that you do, it will not take you long to realise that wisdom means a lot to James. He informs us that it is both the key to steering a straight course through life’s varied experiences, and the key to developing the right attitude.
Wisdom begins by knowing God and his word, but James makes it clear that nothing is really known until it is applied and reshapes our life. For this reason, the way of wisdom is the way of obedience. You can read about this by clicking here
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
If you want the ability to make wise decisions in all circumstances, and who doesn’t, then ask God; pray. When making the right choice is complicated, ask God; pray, Simple! Well, it should be.
My wife Sallyann and I have recently returned from a 2-week holiday by the sea. Once again, I was stuck by the restlessness of the waves on a stormy day. All is flux and motion; no sooner is the surge of the sea set in one direction than a fresh gust of wind whips it round.
Doubt leaves a person with a doubtful mind, as unsettled as the restless waves tossed to and fro. What causes a doubtful mind? A mind that is not completely convinced that God’s way is best. It treats God’s word like any human advice, retaining the option of ignoring it. The doubtful mind dithers and wavers between feelings, human ideas and solutions, and God’s commands. And when this happens, the power of prayer is diminished.
If you want to stop being tossed about, believe that God knows what is best for you. Ask him for wisdom, and trust that he will give it to you.
I mentioned Mother Teresa earlier and I heard a true story about a man who went to visit her in search of wisdom and direction for his life. When she asked him what she could do for him he requested prayer. “What kind of prayer?” she asked. He requested that she pray for clarity for his future. She refused, telling him that this was the last thing that he was clinging to and that he must let go. He responded that she always seemed to have clarity. This was her reply, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
So, ask him for wisdom, and trust that he will give it to you.
However, I can’t just leave it there because James doesn’t. He gives a strong warning about wisdom that we find in chapter 3 verses 13-17
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 harbour 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.
This warning about wisdom is really important. He informs us that there are two alternative types of wisdom. We are told that the origin of one is not from above. It’s earthly, unspiritual and demonic; characterized by envy and selfish ambition, resulting in disorder and every evil practice. We can all fall in to this trap, especially as we get older with more and more experience, lots of “know-how” and contacts. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if this understanding produces an attitude of pride in us (which is the opposite of humility), an attitude of there’s my way and there’s the wrong way, then it can result in disorder. That’s one of the alternatives.
The origin of the other we are told is from above. It is described as pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
The life of wisdom is not a new thing, a new idea, or something different. It’s just another way of talking about being right with God. Having the right attitude, leads to kind acts and good deeds, and surely this shows what a desirable thing being right with God is
Are you guilty, like me, of sometimes talking the talk and not walking the walk? Would you describe your attitude as automatically and habitually kind? Have you asked God for wisdom? Did you believe that you would get it or was there some doubt? Do you have any doubt that God wants what is best for you? James writes, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” I don’t think that anyone will doubt that God wants what is best for him or her if they understand what God has already done for them.
When you read through the Old Testament, again and again and again, God’s will and his ways are rejected and his messengers are killed. The human response, the human attitude would be, “right, I’ve given you numerous opportunities to get right with me, but you’ve rejected them, so now you will have to suffer the consequences.” However, because of God’s love and God’s grace his attitude was different: he came to rescue you. Jesus paid your debt, due to sin, on the cross, the kindest act in all history. And he didn’t stop there because he empowered us and he equipped us with his Holy Spirit.
Given what God has already done for you, then surely you should trust him totally, and respond with an attitude that is like his, full of loving kindness.
Sometimes there are situations and circumstances we face that are beyond our human kindness to change whether by deeds and words. But those with faith can still offer kindness by asking God to intervene; by prayer – and as with wisdom we need to come to God in faith and not doubt. If we would like to be known as a kind people, a kind church, let’s show it by our faithful prayers – for wisdom, for humility, and for people who need God’s direct intervention. If we have faith, we will seek wisdom, which brings humility and a kind attitude – this in turn will show in our prayer life as well as in our words and deeds.
Can you imagine how our lives would change if we applied this truth? (Remember, nothing is really known until it is applied and reshapes our life) We would humbly receive heavenly wisdom, which would lead to a kind attitude, which in turn would lead to kind deeds and kind words, but more of that next week and the week after.