Good- and bad-sounding advice

Benjamin Abbott - Contributing Columnist

Last month many young men and women around the Wilmington area experienced “graduation.”

Transitional times in life, such as graduations, are often punctuated with well-meaning advice meant to help folks cope with some present reality in life. When I was younger, people offered me advice like, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” or “Keep your opinions to yourself and let others think you are a fool instead of proving it.”

Now that I am a bit older, I feel confident to share my opinion and take the risk of sounding like a fool. I’m ready to pass along some of the best advice I have discovered.

1. “Don’t be a bully.”

There are people in the world who manipulate and abuse for no apparent reason. They just have the opportunity. Therefore, since bullies are a present part of reality, you can help us all cope by choosing not to participate in bullying if and when the opportunity arises.

2. “Say no to drugs.”

As hard as authorities try to regulate, legislate and eliminate illegal drugs from our streets, the present reality is illegal drugs are still around. You can help us all cope by choosing not to use, sell or distribute drugs.

3. “Don’t Drink and Drive.”

There is no denying that alcohol is a popular part of culture. Therefore, since the present reality is that alcohol is abundant and accessible, you can help us all cope, by choosing not to operate a motor-vehicle after drinking.

All of the preceding advice sounds good and wise, yet, upon closer examination this advice admits defeat, relegates people powerless to change, and accepts failure. How can anyone really call that “good” advice? Sadly, much of the advice offered in this world is nothing more than a coping-mechanism. It may sound wise, but it doesn’t really get to the root of the problem. The Bible warns about this saying, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God” (1 Corinthians 3:19).

So what kind of advice does God provide? God’s advice has stood the test of time, and always speaks the truth. They say the truth is often hard to hear, and may not always sound good to those who need to hear most.

For example, John 12:25 proclaims, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” This may not be easy to hear, but it speaks the truth. Simply put, those who put loving God and loving their neighbor before thinking of themselves will solve most of life’s problems and gain everlasting life. (There is no bullying, illegal drug use, drinking and driving or any of life’s countless other problems in heaven.) To gain access to heaven, however, folks need learn to follow God’s word and put it into practice. This is the Christ-life.

Folks who follow the Christ-life do not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protect, always trust, always hope and always persevere. The Christ-life never fails (1 Corinthians 13). God’s kind of advice is the best advice of all and leads to victorious living in the present day and on into eternal life as well. God’s advice provides the power to rise above and persevere over the unpleasant realities in this life.

The Bible says, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). That’s bad news; however, as long as we are still breathing we have the opportunity to die to self and choose to seek Jesus Christ. Jesus offers the good news solution, saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

To be part of the Christ-life, the Bible instructs, “Repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38) and the gift of “…eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

The best advice anyone can give is to seek Jesus Christ and make him the Lord of your life. Jesus said, “…don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers… Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and [God] will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33).

So far, in my experience, I have never found better advice than to “follow Jesus!” To some, my opinion may sound foolish. That’s fine. I stand with the Apostle Paul who once wrote, “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).”

Believe, follow and thrive or merely cope. Only you can decide who’s advice you will take.

Benjamin Abbott is Minister of Discipleship at Wilmington Church of Christ.

Benjamin Abbott

Contributing Columnist