Text: Genesis 31:24 (NIV) "Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
Do you know that many times, we are not aware of the destructive and harmful words that we say to people close to us?
We thought that we are just expressing our feelings and what we think about the issue but we have no idea of the harm that we have done to people when we release those unfavorable words.
It is time to be watchful and attentive to the words we speak to them.
It is time to improve our Christian testimony and godly character.
Let us learn together.
We are now in chapter 31 of the Book of Genesis.
It has been an exciting journey for Jacob.
He has been abundantly blessed in a foreign land and those who are close to him noticed it.
But not everyone has a positive outlook about it.
Laban himself and his sons have developed envy and jealousy over Jacob.
"Why is Jacob blessed so much but we are not?
What is in him that we don't have?
We eat the same food and we stay at the same house."
They could not understand the reasons for Jacob's abundant blessings.
They have not realized that it was God Himself who gave Jacob special favor.
And so, they have changed their attitudes towards Jacob.
It was not what it used to be.
And so, Jacob was forced to flee with his entire family.
This chapter is about how the Lord was constantly guiding him as he fled from Laban.
God was constantly blessing him along the way.
There are three things in this chapter we can learn:
1. With regards to Laban and his sons, their attitudes towards Jacob has changed drastically.
It has created some relationship problems in the family.
Jacob had to flee because of this.
We must be WATCHFUL with our ATTITUDES towards one another.
2. With regards to Laban pursuing Jacob, God gave him a personal warning in a dream.
He must be careful with the words he releases to Jacob.
At the same time, we must be WATCHFUL with the WORDS we speak to people.
Because God will always protect his servants from harm even from verbal abuse.
3. With regards to the covenant between Laban and Jacob.
They placed several stones as a reminder of God's presence between them.
God will always WATCH over us even though we are far away from each other.
Therefore, we have to be watchful and consistent with our godly characters.
The prominent word in our study is watchfulness.
It is a good word.
It means being vigilant.
It means being alert or being closely observant with regards to the surroundings you are in.
It also means you are cautious or attentive with regards to a person's inward feelings or emotional state.
You are not only aware of your own personal feeling, but you are also mindful of other people's pain or perception.
You are not only protective of your own feelings but you are also guarding other people's feelings.
That is the kind of character that we should have.
We are knowledgeable on what is going on with other people's emotion.
You don't want to hurt them but you want to respect and understand them.
This is what we call sympathy.
This is what compassion, sensitivity, tenderness and understanding is all about.
Not too many people have that kind of attitudes.
We have been used to a rough and difficult life.
The people that we have been in contact with are not tender and cautious.
We have been hurt many times.
Words can hurt deep.
And so, we have built as defense mechanism in our system that tends to fight back and destroy our opponents.
Our words have been harsh, sharp and bitter.
And these have severely affected our attitudes towards people.
We have not been careful with our words to people.
And so, instead of building friends, unknowingly, we have created enemies.
But this Genesis chapter 31 in the life of Jacob have some inspiring lessons for us to learn.
And so we must be watchful.
THREE THINGS TO LEARN FROM THIS CHAPTER:
1. WATCH YOUR ATTITUDES. Genesis 31:1-2"Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2 And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been."
Jacob has been in Haran for a long time.
When he first arrived there, he was well received by the family of Laban.
But after sometime, the attitudes of Laban and his sons towards him changed.
It was not what it used to be.
The brotherly love and family unity were gone.
He could sense the change in their attitudes and their gestures towards him.
They now treated him differently.
This, in spite of the fact that he has been married to Laban's daughters: Leah and Rachel.
He should have been treated fairly as a new family member.
But it doesn't seem like it.
He could feel the envy and the jealousy that we talked about last week.
Why? Because Jacob was so blessed that others around him were envious of his success in life.
As we said last week, envy and jealousy can destroy family unity and relationships.
Envy can change our attitudes towards our loved ones.
We must flush out all forms of envy from our lives.
We must be watchful with our attitudes.
And so, what is attitude and why is it important for us to have good attitudes in every relationship?
Attitude means your manner, your disposition or your feelings with regards to a person or thing.
For instance, you could have a negative attitude, a threatening attitude or a relaxed attitude towards a person or a thing.
Your attitude is your mental outlook or mindset to a person.
Why should we watch our attitudes closely?
Because attitudes do change over time.
Just like Laban and his sons, our attitudes to people can change dramatically.
One day, we feel good about a person.
The next day, we hate or distrust that person.
It can happen in the family, in the church, at the work place, in school or in any organization or groups you are in.
Attitudes can change.
It can alter.
It can switch.
It can transition easily upon every person.
There was this story of a man who saw his long lost friend.
"How are you? It has been along time since we last seen each other. Are you already married?"
"No. Not yet. My Mom is so picky. Every time I introduce her to a girl that I like, she opposes them and she does lot like anyone of them. So, how can I get married. I am getting old already. What do you suggest?"
"Well, I know what you can do. Find someone that looks like and acts like your Mom. I am sure she will be very happy."
A month past and they see each other again.
"So, how is your wife hunting? Were you able to find one to marry?"
"Oh, I found the girl that looks exactly and acts exactly like Mom. I introduced her to my mother and she love sher sop much. But I have a problem."
"You found a girl that looks like your Mom and your Mom love sher. So. What is the problem?"
"My dad does not like her."
Attitudes can change easily.
We have no problem if we maintain a consistent good attitude towards people.
But sometimes, we are overcome with some bad attitudes that we need to change.
What are some example of these?
-when you compare yourself with people, you project a competitive attitude.
-when you don't try hard enough over a project or a work you are assigned with, you project a lazy attitude towards work.
-when you don't have a desire to make friends at church or in school, you project a "don't mind attitude".
-when you do not take care of your proper grooming, you project a haggard attitude.
-when you do not communicate your needs to people, you project a silent mode attitude.
-when you allow the opinion of other people to drag you down in life, you project a sensitive attitude.
-when you don't smile enough as you relate with people, you project a frowning attitude.
These are probably some of the negative attitudes that we have acquired in life over time.
There are many more that I have not identified but you get the picture.
Bad attitudes can become a bad habit and the can become part of your character that is hard to change.
And when you always manifest those bad attitudes, people close to you can get hurt easily.
They will misinterpret your gestures.
They will turn away from you and will distance themselves from you.
These can adversely affect your relationships toward your friends and loved ones.
It is time to change your attitudes for the better.
It is time to change your perspective over life.
How do you do that?
By looking at the good of other people.
By rejoicing with their success.
By striving to make everyday a joyful experience with yourself and with other people close to you.
By focusing more on the good than the bad side of life.
By remembering that happiness is a daily choice we need to make.
You could choose to be happy or you could choose to be sad.
Your attitudes depends upon you.
You can control your happiness level and I assure you that no one can take that away from you.
Philippians 2:5-6 (NIV) "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset (or attitude) as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage."
That means, our mind set should be like Jesus - full of humility and care for other people.
Therefore, get rid of all negativity in your life.
Don't allow yourself to be surrounded by negative people who are not encouraging your happiness.
As you rid yourself of all the negative people, you must rid of negative things as well.
Stop doing negative things that are causing your negative thoughts.
Look for the positive things in life.
Everything - good or bad is a learning experience.
Take time to look for something positive or something good towards another person.
When you do that, start reinforcing those positive thoughts in yourself.
Practice being positive always.
Love and accept yourself completely.
You are the child of the King.
You must have great attitude towards life and towards other people.
Tell yourself you did an awesome job in raising your children.
Be honest with yourself.
Whatever you do, don't focus on the negative.
Remind yourself of the good in you.
Most of all, share your happiness with others.
Tell them about your wealth of godly wisdom.
When someone is feeling down, you must cheer them up.
Don't be critical with people.
Be kind to all people.
Treat them as you would like them to treat you.
Choose to be happy.
Choose to have a great attitude.
Here are some Scriptures that will help you to have great attitudes:
1. Don't grumble. Phil. 2:14 (NIV) "Do everything without grumbling or arguing."
2. Don't be snobbish. Prov. 6:17 (NIV) "Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood."
3. Have a joyful attitude. Prov. 17:22 (NIV) "A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
4. Have a humble countenance. James 4:10 (NIV) "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
How do you know that you have developed some great Christian attitudes?
1. When you have an increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
2. When you have frequent attacks of smiling.
3. When you have feelings of being connected with others and nature.
4. When you have the tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fears based on past experience.
5. When you have unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
6. When you have lost the ability to worry.
7. When you have lost your interest in conflict.
8. When you have lost all interest in interpreting the actions of others.
9. When you have lost interest in judging others.
10. When you have lost interest in judging self.
11. When you have gained the ability to love without expecting anything.
When, you have all these things and more, then, you have considerably improved your attitudes.
2. WATCH YOUR WORDS. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
Laban was pursuing Jacob and his family who were running away from him.
A lot of negative thoughts came across his mind during this time.
Jacob was his servant for a long time.
He had been used to giving commands to Jacob who followed him without question especially when Jacob worked for 14 years to get Rachel as his wife.
And Laban has always been the master while Jacob was his servant.
So, he was probably thinking he would give Jacob a piece of his mind.
He would be harsh and condemning in his words.
But God prevented all these things from happening by appearing before Laban in a dream.
God had to warn Laban to watch his words.
Because God is always on the side of his children.
God told Laban, "Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad."
It is as if God was saying, "If you have nothing good to say to Jacob, you don't have to say anything.
Shut your mouth.
Hold your words.
Step on the break.
I hear everything you will tell him.
He might get hurt by your rough words.
I don't want that to happen."
Surely, this is a lesson for all of us.
We must remember that God hears every word we speak to people whether good or bad.
If we have nothing good to say to them or to say in behalf of another, then, we better shut our mouth.
We better hold our words.
We better step on the break.
Because words have power of life and death.
Proverbs 18:21 (NIV) "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."
It can bring encouragement or it can bring depression and sadness to a person.
It depends on the way you use your tongue.
And every word you speak is heard by God.
He is taking notes.
And you and I will be judged by God for every useless or idle words we speak.
We must watch our words.
Sometimes, our attitude is like that of Laban.
"Wait till I come face to face with you and I will give it all out!
No holds bar.
I will tell you what I think you are!"
And then you lash out.
You let him have it.
You have not even thought about what he feels and the consequences of your words.
You are only concerned about what you feel.
And the more you think about the situation, the more bitter words you have to release and the more brutal you want these to be.
You just want to hurt and hurt and hurt deep.
Brothers and sisters, that should not be the case with us.
Words can kill and words can bring life.
You must choose your words well.
You must be gentle with your words.
You must be compassionate with our words.
Once you have released those words, they would not be forgotten.
You could not take them back.
Remember that people have feelings too.
If you have nothing good to say, don't say it.
You can hurt them with your words.
Therefore, be careful with your words because God hears every word you speak.
If he is a child of the Lord, it is as if you ave released your words to God Himself.
Matthew 25:40 (NIV) "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Here are several verses that talks about being careful with our words:
1. We must not release any corrupt words from our mouth. Eph. 4:29 (NIV) "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."
2. We must put away malice, slander and any obscene talk. Col. 3:8 (NIV) "But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." .
3. We must only speak words that are acceptable before God. Psalms 19:14 (NIV) "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
4. We must speak words that are gracious to the hearers. Prov. 16:24 (NIV) "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
There was a story one day of a man polishing his new car making sure that it is shining brilliantly.
All of a sudden, his four year old son picked up stone and scratched lines on the side of the car.
In anger, the man took the child's hand and hit it many times.
He did not realized that he was holding a wrench.
At the hospital, the child lost all his fingers due to multiple fractures.
When the child saw his father, with painful eyes, he asked, "Dad, when will my fingers grow back?"
The man was so hurt and speechless.
He went back to his car and kicked it several times.
Devastated by his own actions, he sat in front of he car and looked at the scratches.
The child had written: "I Love you Dad."
Life and death is in the power of the tongue.
Choose your words carefully.
Someday, they will become your actions.
Watch your actions, someday, they will become your habits.
Watch your habits, someday, they will become your character.
Watch your character, someday, they will become your destiny.
3. BECAUSE GOD IS WATCHING OVER YOU. vs. 49 49 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other."
The last thing we can learn from this chapter is that God is watching over us.
After Laban has been pacified, he made a covenant with Jacob as a witness before them.
They placed several stones as a pillar of remembrance between them.
Then, Laban called that place Mizpah and said to Jacob, "May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other."
It is as if he was saying: "God is always watching over us.
Even though we are not together - you are in a different place and I am in a different place, God is there.
He is omnipresence.
God is everywhere.
And what we have agreed upon stand as it is.
God is there where you are and God is here where I am.
So, there is no need to change your attitude when I am away because God knows.
Be consistent with your life and character."
That is the same thing I would like to communicate with you.
God is everywhere.
May the Lord watch over you even if we are far away from each other.
After church, you go to different places.
May you be consistent with your life.
Why is Christian consistency important?
The word consistent means you are dependable, constant and steady.
You are not self-contradictory.
You adhere to the same basic principles you believe in.
You are coherent and firm.
Christians need to be consistent always in our words, life and conduct.
Because people are observing our every move.
They are aware of all our mistakes and failures in life.
And they judge us in accordance to what they have seen.
But most of all, God is watching our every action.
So, what is the secret of a consistent Christian life?
Ephesians 3:17 (NIV) "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love."
There are things that we need to be consistent.
1. We must ask Christ to DWELL in our hearts.
This is the most important thing to do.
Believe that He died for your sins and rose again from the grave.
Confess your sins to God.
Receive Him as Lord and savior.
Give your life to Christ.
Surrender everything to Him.
Let Him dwell, reside, live and abide in you for the rest of your life.
2. We must be ROOTED with God's Word.
That means, we must allow God's word to be implanted deep in our hearts.
Read, Study, Meditate, Memorize and Apply God's Word.
When God's Word is deeply rooted in us, we will never be shaken even if troubles come our way.
We can defend ourselves from false doctrines.
We will never be tossed to and from the wind of man's ideas.
Because we are entrenched and firmly fixed to God's principles.
3. We must be ESTABLISHED in love.
That means, we apply God's Word in our lives.
We are consistent in loving people wherever we are and whatever the situation.
We are consistent with our godly attitudes and words in church, at home or in the marketplace.
And so, let us be rooted and established in love.
Because God is watching over us.
Here are some Scriptures why God's is always watching over us:
1. So that God can instruct and teach us. Psalm 32:8 )NIV) "I will instruct you and teach you in he way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."
2. So that God can guard us carefully. Luke 4:10 (NIV) "For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully."
3. So that His promises upon us will be fulfilled. Genesis 28:15 (NIV) "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised to you."
4. So that we will not stumble or fall. Psalms 121:2-3 (NIV) "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber."
There is the story of the stressed-out woman who was tailgating a man as they drove on a busy boulevard.
When he slowed to a stop at a yellow light, the woman hit the horn, cussing and screaming in frustration and gesturing angrily.
As she was still in her anger, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a police officer who ordered her to exit the car with her hands up.
He took her to the police station and placed her in a holding cell.
An hour later, the officer returned and said, “I’m sorry, Ma’am.
This has been a big mistake.
When I pulled up behind you, I noticed your “What Would Jesus Do?” license plate holder and your “Follow Me to Sunday School” bumper sticker. I assumed the car was stolen!”
So, be consistent with your witness wherever you go not just for the sake of people around you but for the sake of God who always sees you..