Great Writers Series: Provoke

~~ Ephesians 4:29 (NIV84) ~~  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  

by Carley Cooper

We’re working on habit number twelve in the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge.  Just to recap for those new to this series, so far the habits we’ve talked about are: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly, Build, Connect, Share Others Work and Declutter

The twelfth habit of great writers our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to Provoke.  He tells us that “Writing is an art.  And all good art pushes buttons.  It pokes and prods, makes people uncomfortable.”   He continues on to say “Listen: You need to quit screwing around.  Stop playing it safe and provoke us, already.”  His challenge is to “Take a risk.  Write something provocative and stand by it.  Yes, you may make a few people mad, but you’ll also liberate those locked in self-doubt and fear.

I wanted to write this post yesterday, when it was first presented.  As read it, I thought to myself ‘the only one whose going to be shaken up is me.’  It bothered me that the challenge appeared to be that I was to let out all my ugly feelings about something and just lash out at the world saying “Here take that.  Like it or lump it, that’s the ugly truth!”   I have a whole list of things that I could write about to attempt to ruffle some feathers.  The temptation to go with it was overwhelming.  Worship Melodies is about encouraging people to realize God loves them and there is hope no matter what.  I know as a child of God I am to follow the rules He’s laid out for us.  Shooting off at the mouth saying what I think people should hear is not included in God’s laws. 

I also know, most of the time, the message we want to “teach” people by lashing out, doesn’t get taught.  It’s rare actually.  I know people with a need say “They will learn... [this or that]... and then they will ‘know’... [something].”  It’s a power struggle.  This kind of logic is... well, in a word, hogwash (I could have used a more colorful term here to ‘provoke’, but would it enhance the message any?).  When you really tick off people, they either argue back or look at you as though you are something to be pitied.  Not cool options.  People see things differently, and God is the One who does any real teaching.  We all need to learn.   

I stared feeling depressed over this challenge.  Fulfilling this task verses sticking with what I know God would want me to say.  Temptations are always plentiful supply, and I certainly didn’t need another.  I even considered skipping the assignment.  It reminded me of when the idea first came up for me to write a book.  I prayed and cried about it.  I told a loved one about my book dilemma, saying “If I write my story from my own point of view, as I see it now, the only thing I will accomplish is to hurt and push away everyone that I love.”  Thankfully, how God has lead me through that obstacle into a manuscript that, I believe, will not do that could be a book in itself.  This morning, He also led me to an answer to this challenge quandary.  In my morning devotional I was reminded by Pastor David Zandstra in an article called Helpful Words, that he wrote for This is Today, what truly is God’s intent for how we are to use our words.  Ephesians 4:29 (NIV84) says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Zandstra explains that our words should speak of “...encouragement... sincere compliments... thanksgiving...”; language that will help bring love, joy, and peace.

So, the biggest test is not really to provoke, but to get the message across without hindering progress by doing too much damage along the way.  The challenge is to avoid temptations and always stay on track with how God wants us to react.  God loves us.  There is no offence that can make Him stop loving you, as long as we believe in Jesus, follow Him, and keep faith.

Yet, even if I could possibly give the perfect message, there will be ruffled feathers.  There are still those who will insist that they don’t need God or Jesus to have a fulfilled life, or as long as they believe in a God they will be saved.  Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me(John 14:6 (NIV84)).  Others will insist that as long as they do good works and are nice to people, God will let them into Heaven.  His Word says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast(Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV84)) .  Yet others will insist that believing in Jesus is enough; that repentance isn’t necessary.  They believe they can follow the world, and still depend on Jesus to bail them out on Judgement Day.  He told us “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.  He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him(John 14:21 (NIV1984)).  Well, I apologize for ruffling feathers of those who think these things, but the truth is sometimes a shock.  Believe in Jesus, focus on Him, keep faith, confess your sins, and repent; then you will go to Heaven for eternity.  Without that formula, it’s not going to happen, and you will spend eternity in Hell!  That is a message I will stand by!  

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You for giving us a solution to every sticky situation.  Please let me be open to hearing Your voice always, so that I will stay on the path leading me closer to You ever day.  If those with ruffled feathers, please lift the veil and let them see just how wonderful Your love really is.  Show them the wonderful Gift that You gave us when You sacrificed Your Son, to save us.  Let this be the reality for every person on earth.    In Jesus name, AMEN

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