Living in the Hive (9/23/2018)

Honey bees are fascinating insects. According to benefitsofhoney.com, a colony of honey bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work. During its lifetime, one bee will produce about 1/12 teaspoon of honey.
The queen bee can live up to 5 years and its role is to fill the hive with eggs. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength. She lays up to 2500 eggs per day. The queen bee has control over whether she lays male or female eggs.

Larger than the worker bees, the male honey bees (also called drones), have no stinger and do no work at all. All they do is mating. In fact, before winter or when food becomes scarce, female honeybees usually force surviving males out of the nest.

They typically build their hives in trees, rock crevices or under eaves so they have a place to live and store the honey they make. They use the honey as food during the winter when they can’t go out and forage for food.

As these bees perform the tasks they’re created to do, they have exceptional communication and work as a highly developed, highly relational society.
While there are many things that can kill honey bees, such as pesticides and other bees, one thing that can destroy a hive within a few minutes is a hungry bear. When this happens, the bees band together like an army to attack the bear.

If we stop and think about it, we realize that in some ways, God created us to be like honey bees. Colossians 3:1-17 tells us how. It says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
     5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
     12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

There are a lot of commands for us to follow in this passage. Since we live in the United States where individuality is worshipped, we often read this passage and think, “I have to do these things.” However, these commands aren’t written to a group of individuals. They’re written to individuals who are in a relational community with each other. The proper way to apply these teachings is to say, “We have to do these things together.”

This passage shows us that God created us to be relational creatures who have a common objective. We work together as one group to serve God. As we do this, we are called to let go of anything that hinders us from carrying out our purpose. This means the health and strength of our marriages, families, friendships, careers and even our ministries is affected by the health and strength of our relationships with one another.

There are a lot of things that can weaken our relationships. I mentioned a big one earlier. We live in a very individualistic society where being “Number 1” is more important than anything else, even if we have to step on others to get to the top. Some people have been hurt by others in the past so they close themselves off to close relationships now. Arrogance can creep into us. When it does, our attitude becomes, “I, and I alone, know what’s best for you.” These obstacles, as well as others, are fueled by our desire to be right and get what we want.

There’s one more thing that keeps us from being the relational community God calls us to be. It’s a big one that Christians often overlook. It’s the same enemy that tried to stop Jesus. His name is Satan. Sometimes he may send an outside person to attack us like a bear attacks a bee hive. He doesn’t do that often because he knows that, just like honey bees, we’ll band together and fight the outsider together.

According to the Bible, he uses other tactics. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” How do lions attack? They look for a weak animal, separate it from the herd and then they strike.

The first thing he does is look for any weaknesses he can exploit. Since we’re all unique individuals, we have different areas he can attack. But there is one common area we all have. Since we’re relational people, he attacks our relationships. He knows that one stressed relationship can then bleed into every other area of life and cause problems. For example, if I’m mad at my wife when I leave the house in the morning, I might be hateful to a co-worker. Then she gets upset and passes the anger along to someone else.

I’ve noticed that over the past few months, the devil is attacking our relationships. I believe he does it for several reasons. Obviously, he wants to destroy us. He doesn’t want us to have strong relationships with each other or with Jesus. But he also wants to slow down or even reverse the progress we’ve made moving forward as a congregation during the last few years. The devil doesn’t want to see people growing closer to Jesus, stepping out in faith and loving each other.

So, to try and stop us, he’s attacking us in several areas with a spirit of criticism and discouragement.

If you’re married, let me ask you a question. If you ask you spouse to do five things while you’re gone for the day and she or he only has four of them completed when you get home, are you thankful for the four that were taken care of or do you have a critical attitude because one was left undone?
Are you constantly telling your children they need to do better even though they’re doing the best they can? When you try to encourage others to do better, do you focus on their strengths…or their weaknesses?

When you’re at work, does your boss spend more time praising you for the things you do right…or spend more time focusing on the areas where you need to do better? If you’re the boss, what do you emphasize when you talk with your workers?

What’s the result of being on the receiving end of a lot of criticism? Discouragement and self-doubt creep in. It eventually leads to asking the question, “Why even try if what I do is never good enough?” This causes us to just want to quit.

As members of this hive that we call the Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren, we see the spirit of criticism, discouragement and self-doubt has attacked our congregation. It’s putting tremendous pressure on many of the relationships we have and proving that Proverbs 15:4 is true. It says, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”

Many of you are now thinking one of two things. Either you’re thinking, “Wow. I didn’t know this was going on.” Or you’re thinking, “I’d never thought about it like this but now it makes sense. I understand what’s happening in my life right now.” This is how satanic attacks typically work. They are subtle. Sometimes so subtle that we don’t recognize what they are. Nonetheless, they are destructive.

If we don’t stand against this, our relationships will weaken, our congregation will lose momentum and we’ll start going backwards because not enough people will have the desire to move forwards.

I’ve just presented the bad news. Now let’s look at the good news. Not only can we fight off the attack, we can have victory. Since we’re fighting a spiritual battle, we can’t fight it with human weapons. A laser guided bomb won’t help. We have to start in the spiritual realm.

The first thing we have to do is Focus on Jesus. James 4:1-10 tells us how. It says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures………
     7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
     11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

If Satan’s attacks are causing us to fight, quarrel, be discouraged and doubt ourselves, he’ll keep attacking. But the opposite is also true. That’s why we have to submit ourselves to Jesus. Praying. Listening. Obeying. When Satan sees that his attack is actually driving us closer to Jesus, he’ll quit attacking.

The next thing we have to do is – Don’t be silent about the good things. The Apostle Paul tell us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” Modern psychology reveals why we need to obey this verse. Research shows it takes 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction for us to maintain positive attitudes.

Often when we’re pleased or indifferent to something, we don’t say anything. We just assume others know everything is OK. The problem is sometimes the critical comments don’t stop. This means many people never come close to receiving 5 positive comments for every negative one they hear. As a matter-of-fact, some people are receiving two or three negative comments for every positive one they hear. Eventually this leads to broken spirits and feelings of discouragement.

So, encourage your spouse, children, parents and other family members. Let the people around you know what they’re doing right. In the church, encourage your leaders. Leaders, encourage the people you lead. Deacons, encourage those on your shepherding list. Folks, encourage your deacons. Let the musicians and song leaders know you appreciate their talents. Encourage your secretary, treasurer, custodian and teachers. Encourage each other. Make an effort to give 5 encouraging comments for every negative one you speak.

The last thing we must do is – Choose not to be a victim. First of all, don’t let the spirit of criticism make you a critical person. Don’t let the criticisms and negative attitudes of others lead you to quit. Remember that we’re in a spiritual battle and Jesus is looking for people who will engage in the fight against darkness.

Don’t pass onto others the critical attitudes that come at you. Remember that we all represent Jesus so we have to fight the urge to sink to the level of others when they attack us. Most of all, we have to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ to help us win the victory.

Don’t get discouraged because this is happening. It’s actually a good thing. Satan wouldn’t be doing this if we were on the wrong track. Nonetheless, we have to wrestle with one more question. Will we allow the critical spirit that’s attacking our hive to weaken and eventually destroy our relationships and congregation?

The choice is ours. God has given us the weapons we need to fight this battle but it’s up to us whether or not we’ll use them. I’m ready to fight the spirit of criticism and discouragement. Are you?

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