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Be a Thermostat, not a Thermometer!

These are the numbers of the men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the Lord had said:from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;” (1 Chronicles 12:23, 32, NIV)

Sometimes, you come across things in your life that just pop and cause you to take notice. Without getting into too many details, part of my regular scripture reading includes a daily listening plan. The other day, I was driving while Sir David Suchet read a list to me from 1 Chronicles. I’ll confess up front, I was only half-listening. Even with his smooth accent, Sir David couldn’t keep me engaged. Does it really matter how many thousands of warriors from Ephraim backed David as King of Israel? But then the above line grabbed my attention, jerking me back to reality.

men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”

I heard someone recently talk about the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer. Do you know the difference? Of course you do. Especially the dads out there. But allow me a little license here. A thermometer simply measures and displays the temperature. Typically, a thermostat also does that, but it has the added ability to produce a change in the temperature. Thermometers measure and display. Thermostats set.

Too often in life, you and I are like thermometers. We simply get a read on what’s going on and repeat that to everyone around us…measure and display. We are enraged by some piece of news, and pass that on to everyone else. We are upset by something at work and carry that emotional state through the rest of our day. We’re irritated by a difficult person in our lives and then pass that anger off to our kids or spouse.

The men of Issachar understood the times. They knew what was happening. They had a read and measure on the situation. If we’re honest, this is hard enough for most of us to grasp. But occasionally (and in certain circumstances, like the aforementioned), we can be quite good at it.

The problem is that it’s not enough to be able to measure the temperature. Thermometers are useful sometimes. But you don’t need a house, a church, a community, or a nation full of thermometers. Most of the time, that’s what we have though. We tend to rise to the level of anxiety or excitement of those around us regardless of whether or not that’s the emotional state called for in the moment.

We need more thermostats. Something that can measure the temperature and change it as needed. We need men and women who understand the times and know what to do. This is an opportunity for all of us today – be a positive agent of change in the places that you find yourself. At work, at home, with your family, in your church, at your school, on the team, in your neighborhood. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Change the temperature, don’t just measure and display.

Stephen is an Inspire Missioner and Methodist Minister in Kingsport, Tennessee, USA.

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