by Dr. Millicent Thomas
Life challenges can bring many days of emotional upheaval. Even everyday situations can bring about discomfort. According to some people, we are either going into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of a storm. For many, life is a wilderness experience. Trials we experience can be heart-wrenching and at times overwhelming. I believe that there is a direct correlation between how a person comes through trouble times and their relationship with Jesus Christ. Psalm 23:4 clearly states that we go through shadows of death. In many cases, the death is not physical, but emotional. The question I often ask is what lesson did I learn during those times?
The work environment, church, social gatherings and the like are places where storms can brew. One type of storm is the assassination of a person’s character. You know the signs: An employee or administrator is afraid that someone with better skills and/or potential to promote is after his or her job. They operate from a position of fear. When fear takes the stage in a person’s life, it brings about insecurity, which leads to envy and jealously. When these emotions are prevalent, hate runs rampage and respect takes a backseat.
When a person is disrespected, there are no boundaries or limits as to what the adversary will say or do to edge them on. In the workplace, I have personally observed an employer who was so fearful of his position that he went to extreme lengths to literally destroy the character of his female employee. The employee could not be fired because she had done her job exceptionally well and was respected by his board of directors. Discovering that she was unmarried and residing in the home of her parents, he consistently attacked her character. Rather than being a social butterfly, she was dedicated to her work. The employer traveled across the country (New York to California) defaming the employee’s character to his colleagues. I watched her behavior, and with poise, she never said a word about his attacks. I am sure she had an inkling of what was happening. Psalm 55:21 states, “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” I truly believe that she survived during those years because of her relationship with Jesus Christ, her worship and her prayers. When he learned that she was not and had never had an interest in his position, he humbly came to her and apologized. I am sure she accepted his apology. However, so much damage had been done to this lady’s character that many of her career moves became an uphill battle.
Damage to a person’s character can be catastrophic. In far too many cases, “who you know takes precedence over what you know” is more than a cliché.
Recently, I observed individuals being unconditionally friendly to others. They showed respect and kindness. I also witnessed a person come into that environment with malice in their heart and go from person to person defaming the character of the friendly person. It was pure wickedness. It is disturbing to watch people who had been shown respect and kindness, submit to, accept and share the lies of a character assassinator. This type of behavior is not uncommon as employees jockey for positions and promotions or have a fear of losing their job. However, the church environment, where this type of behavior takes center stage, is a totally different matter.
Character assassinators will roam through a church, seeking to turn a young or even seasoned Christian into an ineffective worshiper. Their goal is to make a person’s worship of ill-effect. The Book of James, 5:16 states. “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” There is no question that a person needs to be in prayer before entering the church doors. You need to be prayed up! The six chapter of Ephesians has to become real – almost tangible. When I see this, I realize it is a demonic spirit that is working in that person. That individual has become Satan’s instrument because Satan knows that there is power in prayer, praise and calling on the name of Jesus! When this type of behavior is seen by non-Christians or those who may be contemplating becoming a member of a church, they stop and ask, “Seeing that there is no difference between a saint and a sinner, why bother? I can have church at home. Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Joseph Prince and others have outstanding televised services. And, I can pay my tithes to them.” However, the Bible states that we are to fellowship one with another. It does not matter how beautiful the edifice; the church is a building. It is big business.
If I understand my Bible, according to the book of Acts, the church’s purpose is to save lost souls, to bring others to the knowledge of Christ and to make disciples. Can you imagine if that mandate was really executed by churches? Years ago, I heard a pastor say, “If every soul could save a soul, there would be no more souls to be saved.” The reality is, the church is a hospital. People come with fears, insecurities, feeling of loneliness (wanting to belong), physical and emotion pain, suffering and the like. Many come to hear and feel the song service, as it opens the hearts and minds of people to usher in the words that are about to be preached. God’s preached words are the bread of life.
I am sure that many of you have heard where there is smoke, there must be fire. Or, everybody says it, so it must be true. I would argue that 99% of the time those are rumors, lies. Like “sin is sin,” “a lie is lie.” Time will never make a lie true. It does not matter whose mouth the lie is coming from – saint or sinner, president or preacher, administrator and adversary. This is also a lie: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
What damage this does! When you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, when you don’t pray or take time to read and meditate on God’s Word, when you don’t give God praise, you open the door for retaliation, which leads to sin. The Bible says to be angry, but sin not. Do your best by putting liars and character assassinators in the hands of the One Who can give you total victory over Satan’s instruments. Lives have been physically lost as a result of taking matters into their own hands.
There are many, many scriptures in the Bible that shows us that character assassinators and liars and the like will appear. The Bible also says they will not prevail. Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:18, “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter knew who Jesus was (is)! Jesus continued in verse 19, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whosoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whosoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” I strongly believe that those who believe in and abide in Jesus can execute that same power. Know that longsuffering is more than a notion, but the Book of James says to count it all joy. And, you can….when you pray!
Dr. Millicent Thomas is a Christian, university professor and active member of her local church in Houston, Texas. Similar to many educated African-Americans, the climb to a middle-class socioeconomic status was, in the words of Langston Hughes, “no crystal staircase.” Her beginnings were humble, but always God-centered. Educated by the State University of New York at Buffalo, she has worked in community service and education for many years. Dr. Thomas believes that environment contributes to one’s success; however, it is not the determining factor. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all things shall be added unto you.” Every trial, emotional storm and barrier in one’s life is to be understood as a springboard to move forward. Dr. Thomas is also the author of “Move Mountain: The lived experiences of African-American, middle-class, female, single parents,” which can be purchased on demand at Amazon.com.