Day: April 13, 2013
Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering.
Have you ever heard of anyone being greatly used by Christ who did not experience a special time of waiting, or a complete upset of his plans at first? From the apostle Paul’s being sent into the Arabian wilderness for three years–during which time he must have been overflowing with the Good News–down to the present day, it seems those who will be used will have a time of waiting.
Have you been looking forward to telling about trusting Jesus, but instead He is asking you to show what trust is, by waiting? My own experience is far less severe than Paul’s but reveals the same principle. Once when I thought the door was being thrown open for me to enter the Ministry field with a great opportunity, it was just as quickly shut. My demons stepped in and simply said, “Never! You must choose between pastoring and living, for you cannot do both.” The year was 1999, and I did not come out of my shell of isolation and torment until 2001 that was my first attempt to serve God in that facet. The calling was received in 1989 and all that time in between was when I saw the distinct wisdom of having been kept waiting for 10 years in the shade.
God’s love is unchangeable, and He is just as loving even when we do not see or feel it. And His love and HIs sovereignty are equal and universal. Therefore He often withholds our enjoyment and awareness of our progress, because He knows best what will actually ripen and further His work in us.
I laid it down in silence,
This work of mine,
And took what had been sent me–
A resting time.
The Master's voice had called me
To rest apart;
"Apart with Jesus only,"
Echoed my heart.
I took the rest and stillness
From His own hand,
And felt this present illness
Was what He planned.
How often we choose labor,
When He says "Rest"–
Our ways are blind and crooked;
His way is best.
Work He Himself has given,
He will complete.
There may be other duties
For tired hands,
The present, is obedience
To His commands.
Having been delivered by God from every attempt to break fellowship, I speak from experience and real encounters of Him in my God given life. Confused at times because I don't understand or can't see Him in a current or particular circumstance makes waiting very difficult. I realize we walk by faith and not by sight, so when you don't know what to do, "Wait."
There is a blessed resting
In lying still,
In letting His hand mold us,
Just as He will.
His work must be completed.
His work must be completed.
His lesson set;
He is the Master Workman:
Do not forget!
It is not "working."
We must be trained;
And Jesus "Learned" obedience,
Through suffering gained.
For us, His yoke is easy,
His burden light.
His discipline most needful,
And all is right.
We are to be His servants;
We never choose
If this tool or if that one
Our hands will use.
In working or in waiting
May we fulfill
Not ours at all, but only
The Master's will.
New International Version (NIV)
22 The hand of the Lord was on me there, and he said to me, “Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.”
Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself.
Luke 12: 13-24
Every day of our lives we are being pulled in a number of different directions on one hand we have family responsibilities pulling us one way; our obligations to the church pulling us another and friends pulling us in yet another. We are left wondering, “What is really important in life?”
The passage that we are going to examine today in Luke forces us to make a decision about what kind of life do we want? Do we want a life dependent on things of this world or a life with no guarantee of any of the world’s goods but close to God?
This passage is very relevant to us today because most people in America the main priority in life is to attain enough money to live the good life. We are bombarded on television with shows like, Lives of the Rich and Famous, Fabulous Wealthy Hideways. Etc. Today no matter what one possesses, someone else has something bigger, better or different. Especially in
American society the distance between comfortable and covetous may not be that great.
Jesus is in the middle of a sermon teaching his disciples to fear God alone, when he is suddenly interrupted by a man who is dissatisfied over what he considers to be an unfair division of his father’s estate between himself and his brother. I find it oddly comforting that even the Lord Jesus Christ could not keep everyone’s attention. One such man says in verse thirteen, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Down through history there have been a innumerable families that have been destroyed over a thing as simple as the distribution of assets. In my own family my grandfather became angry over the way his mother’s estate was divided and he did not speak to his brothers again for years.
This man really didn’t ask Jesus for a decision on what would be a fair division of the estate, he just demanded, “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me!”
Jesus did not answer as he was expected to do. In verse fourteen he says to the man, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” Jesus refuses to be sidetracked from his mission of seeking and saving the lost.
Instead Jesus does not make a legal judgment but a moral one. Jesus knew that this family feud over inheritance was only a symptom of a greater problem greed. In fact the “you” in verse fourteen is plural indicating that both brothers have a problem with greed. As long as both brothers are suffering from greed no settlement would be satisfactory.
Jesus tells him that the most important thing is not for him to solve his problem but that his heart be changed. But if we are honest, “How often have we gone to God asking him to change our situation rather than asking him to change our heart?” I would dare say that most of our prayers are that God would solve a problem in our lives. Perhaps our prayer should be, “God here is my problem, please change my heart?”
Then in verse fifteen Jesus. “And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetous-ness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
When he says, “take heed and beware” he is literally saying “be on guard against all kinds of greed.” The area of danger for this man was “greed or covetousness” (pleonexia) and it means “the lust to have more than one’s fair share, a grasping for more that is never satisfied” or to put it another way covetousness is “wanting more of what you already have enough of!”
Proverbs 21:26 speaks to this very problem when
it says, “They are always greedy for more, while
the godly love to give.” (NLT) The writer of
Ecclesiastes says about the greedy (5:10), “Those
who love money will never have enough. How
absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness.”
(NLT) But is that not exactly what we think? How
many of us think if we could just win the
Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes we could
we could live the good life.
Charles Swindoll has pictured it this way, “Picture a shipwrecked sailor on a life raft in the middle of the ocean. His terrible thirst impels him to drink the salt water, but it only make him thirstier. This causes him to drink even more, which males him thirstier still. He consumes more and more of the salty water … until, paradoxically, he becomes dehydrated and dies.” [Charles Swindoll & Ken Gire. Study Guide. “Living Above the Level of Mediocrity.” (Anaheim, CA; Insight for Living, 1994). p. 83]
Jesus now addresses what we can term, “The Folly of Seeking the Comfortable Life” by his admonition, “Ones life does not consist in the abundance of His possessions.” But Greed tries to convince of just the opposite, “that life does consist in what we own.” Malcolm Forbes merely reflected our society when he said, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” Mr. Forbes has since passed away and he now knows that this is not true.
Beginning in verse sixteen is what is referred to as “The parable of the Rich Fool” in which the Lord gives us five principles of what happens when our hearts are focused exclusively on ourselves.
1. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Do Not Give God The Credit For Things He Has Done. (v. 16)
“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.”
This parable is addressed to the multitude, for it says that Jesus spoke this parable to them (plural), underline that word in your text. I think that it is important to note that this parable does not condemn this man for being rich. And to his credit it would appear that this man had come by his wealth honestly.
The rich man of this parable was farmer but he represents all human beings who are seduced by “all kinds of greed.” As this farmer looked at his amazing harvest he did not see the hand of God – he saw only his own effort. Yet he is a perfect example of greed because he has much and he expects to get more.
2. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Make Plans But Leave God Out. (vv. 17-18)
“And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ (18) “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.”
There was nothing wrong with his desire to build more barns, it was both wise and prudent. The problem lays in the fact that there is no thought of sharing. In the original Greek the personal pronoun “my” occurs four times and “I” eight times. Even in the English we see the pronoun “I” five times and “my” four times. Notice he how he says my crops, my barns, my goods. He is confused between ownership and stewardship. It is not ours to own it is ours on loan.
3. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Consider Spending Our Resources Only On Ourselves. (v. 19)
“ ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘
In this verse although he addresses himself as “soul” it is the physical life that he is really concerned about.
This man thought that when he put his plan into being that he would he would have it made for years to come. But all of this is based on the fact that this man expected to control the fate of future crops. He envisioned the future as continually expanding and under his control. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The book of James speaks to just such an attitude (4:13-16) when he says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; (14) whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. (15) Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”(16) But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” The Bible does not discourage us from looking to the future with great expectation. However as we make our plans, whether in business, in relationship or in our personal lives, we are to do so from the perspective that ultimately God is in charge. In other words, we need to plan with humility.
I wonder what this says about our American concept of retirement. I am not against retirement, I would like to be able to do so one day. But perhaps God would have us to look at it differently; perhaps to see it as a time when we have more free income and greater time on our hands than ever before to do some for the kingdom of God.
4. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Store Our Treasure In The Wrong Places. (v. 20)
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”
This man is pronounced a “fool” (aphron) by God. A fool in biblical language was not a description of mental ability but of spiritual discernment. According to Scripture a fool is a man who leaves God out of any consideration. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” This man is a fool not because he has said this but because he has lived his life as if God did not exist. He is a fool in that he did not recognize that his material blessings came from God, nor did he recognize any obligation to God in the use of his possessions. Fools leave God out of their lives. “Greed is “the logical result of the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can while we can however we can and then hold on to it hard.” [Sir Fred Catherwood. Evangelicals Now, September, 1994 http://www.bible.org/illus/g/g-83.htm%5D
“Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything. One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.
Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost.
As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead.
Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was not much over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy’s story was: How Much Land Does a Man Need? [Bits and Pieces, November, 1991 – http://www.bible.org/illus/g/g-83.htm%5D
To be a fool is to have missed the point of life. The remarkable thing is that this person that God calls a fool, we would very often call a success.
Jesus says, “this very night your soul will be demanded of you.” The Greek verb translated required or demanded (apiteo) literally means “to demand back or require back” conveying the idea of life as a loan that must be repaid to God upon demand.
He goes on in the second half of verse twenty to say, “Then whose will those things be which you have provided” Long before the great philosopher Solomon made comment on this very problem in Eccles. 2:21-23. Write this reference in margin of your Bible. “For though I do my work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, I must leave everything I gain to people who haven’t worked to earn it. This is not only foolish but highly unfair. (22) So what do people get for all their hard work? (23) Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night they cannot rest. It is all utterly meaningless.” (New Living Translation)
Since you cannot take it with you, there is no need to wear ourselves out accumulating it. Everything you have will one day be left behind. It is yours now to use or to abuse, but one day it will be taken from you and you will stand before the Lord and give an account of how you used it.
It would do well to remember the words of missionary Jim Elliot at this point, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
5. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Will Find Ourselves In Conflict With God’s Plan For Our Lives. (v. 21)
“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Riches have one major weakness, they have no purchasing power after death. The “rich towards God” are those who use what God has given them for others. There are numerous examples in Scripture. People such as the centurion who build a synagogue for the people to worship in (Luke 7) and the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus where Jesus often found rest (LUKE 10) were rich toward God. The way we become rich towards God is to invest in His church and in the lives of His people. But don’t misunderstand me; it is not that the church needs your resources in order to survive, but that generosity will add an richness to your life that you would otherwise miss.
We began this study by noting that daily we are pulled in many different directions and are left wondering “What is really important in life?” The answer is found here in verse 21, life in spite of all its complexities can be reduced to the very simple decision “Are you going to live life for yourself or are toward God? “
The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.
New International Version (NIV)
5 An honest witness does not deceive,
but a false witness pours out lies.
When the elderly head of the trust department at a bank retired, four competent young men competed to fill the vacancy. After considering the merits of each applicant, the board of directors made its decision. They decided to notify the young man of his promotion, which included a substantial raise in salary, at a meeting scheduled for after lunch.
During the noon hour, the young man they had selected went to the cafeteria for lunch. One of the directors was a few spots behind him in the line. The director saw the young man select his food, including a small piece of butter. As soon as he flipped the butter onto his plate, he shuffled some food on top of it to hide it from the cashier. Thus, he avoided paying for it.
That afternoon the directors met to notify the young man of his promotion, but prior to bringing him into the room, the entire board was told of the incident. Rather than giving the young man the promotion, they called him in to discharge him from the bank. They had concluded that if he were to lie to a cashier about what was on his plate, he would be just as willing to lie about what was in the bank’s account.
Lying isn’t a matter of degrees. A lie is lie. And truth is truth. You can bank on it. Character is what you are in the dark. Knowing how to do wrong is a true way to put a wedge between the all knowing God. It’s just like drinking on the Sabbath and claiming to be a devout believer, its just like being at the basketball game on Sabbath but telling your job you are a Sabbath keeper, but you are on the telethron with a drink and shouting ” go boys- go!!!.
Think about how close God is to us in our travels He yields us strength to perform. I beseech you and myself to take heead less we fall.
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21
INTRODUCTION: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” How many agree with that statement? How many disagree? How many are not voting? You may remember things that people said to you in the third grade that still bother you today–still intimidate you. When I was growing up we used to pick up some people for church. This woman had a little boy named Robert who was a little hellion. He would tease me, and I would hit him with my pocketbook. Also to this day he still tells me that I would yell at him, “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”
On the other hand you probably also remember compliments that people made that have stuck with you all these years. Words like, “You did a great job! You have artistic talent! You can do it!” These positive statements probably motivated you to continue to pursue other goals in your life.
Scripture says a lot about words and how we use them either for good or for negative consequences. Proverbs 6:2 says, “Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.” Proverbs 12:13 says, “An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble.” Proverbs 12:18 says, “the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
What people say can make the difference between success and failure–between good and bad consequences. In our text scripture Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” What does that mean? In researching this scripture I found that “it” means those who enjoy talking must bear the fruit of that talk whether good or bad. Productive words can bear a good fruitful harvest–fruit or harvest in scripture usually has a good connotation. For example verse 20 says, “From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied.”
I believe that today many Christians are living defeated lives because of their words. Have you become snared by what comes out of your mouth? Do you talk negatively about your health, your job, your finances, or your family and it just drags you down that much more? Sometimes I do. I think we all do sometime or other and the devil delights to get us on a downward spiral. We can retrain our mouth to speak better words. You have the choice of what words you live by. Romans 10:8 says the “word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is the word of faith we are proclaiming.” We have been given authority to speak God’s words in His name.
1. God’s Words: How did God use words to bring about good? In Genesis He said, “Let there be light and there was light (Genesis 1:3).
“Let the land produce vegetation…and it was so… (Gen. 1:11,12).
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures.. And it was so” (Gen 1:24).
How did Jesus use words productively in the New Testament? Especially in the healing miracles Jesus spoke words with authority:
To the man with leprosy he said, “Be clean!” (Mark 1:42).
To the man with an evil spirit, “Be quiet! Come out of Him” (Mark 1:25).
To the deaf man he said, “Be opened” and the man’s ears were opened and his tongue loosed. (Mark 7:33).
To the storm he said, “Be quiet! Be still!” and the wind died down and it was completely calm (Mark 4:39).
Jesus taught His disciples about the power of words one day while walking along the road when he cursed the fig tree. When they went back that same way the next morning, the tree had withered from the roots. He told them, “Have faith in God. If anyone SAYS to this mountain, “Go throw yourself into the sea and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he SAYS will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatsoever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:22-24).
This scripture shows that you don’t just glibly say things, but it has to be backed up by faith. Sometimes people will say, “I’m going to be a millionaire. Hah, hah, hah.
Or “I’m going to be President of the United States” or any other such statement.
Those statements lack: faith, hard work, discipline, and preparation.
But saying things IS ACTION ORIENTED.
ILLUSTRATION: One time I told Mom, “I’m going to college. I’m going to be a teacher.” That was followed up by taking the steps to enroll in college, to sign up for classes, to study and make it happen. We have to be consistent in what we say over a period of time. We can’t talk one way one day and talk the opposite the next day. I went to college, but not to be a teacher. I became a Chemical Engineer instead.
STORY: During the Civil War a soldier was sympathetic to both sides. He lived in a borderline state, and one day he would side with one and the other day the next. He decided on a compromise where he would wear a Confederate gray coat and the Union blue trousers. Things went well for awhile until the battle began fast and furious. The Federals shot him in the coat and the Confederates shot him in the seat of his pants.
Matthew 12:37 says, “for by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” We need to work on retraining our self-talk to speak words that will bring good fruit and a good harvest.
2. Change For Us: How can our words change things for us? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Things can change for us even if we feel that our “religion” doesn’t work for us in the 21st century or that our prayers don’t get any higher than the ceiling. We can do something about that.
STORY: An Army Sergeant who was caught on the beach by German Artillery managed to save himself by jumping into the water. While improving his position with a trench shovel he came upon an ornate crucifix–the kind that prosperous Italians often hung on their bedroom walls.
Two hours later, a United States Army Chaplain rolled into the water beside him. The Master Sergeant held up the muddy crucifix that he had been clutching for dear life since discovering it and turned to the startled Chaplain and said, “Man, am I glad to see you! How do you make this thing work?”
Christianity is not a magic formula where we punch this button or that button and make things happen. It is not saying superficial words that have no substance. It won’t hold up under the test of waiting for the answer. But scripture gives us principals to follow that will help us to develop our faith and our prayers will be answered. We will begin to see God’s blessing come into our life because we are planting and planning for a good harvest and good fruit.
Change is made with words. How did Abraham use words to bring things into existence? Romans 4:17 says that “he [called] things that are not as though they were.”
What does it mean to speak things into existence? How do you do it when you pray? How do you get your requests put into words?
Too many times people pray in the wrong way begging God to do this or that. Too many times people pray a weak prayer by saying, “If it be thy will.” when scripture already says, “It is God’s will.” These weak prayers are ineffective. We must redefine our requests and reframe our words. The power of speech puts a handle on things. We know that God has the answer to our needs, but we don’t know how to bring it from the spiritual realm into the material realm.
ILLUSTRATION: The other day I was making Bernaise Sauce in a Corning Ware dish and it was hot. It was not easy to lift it out of the microwave without getting burned or spilling it. I snapped the Corning Ware handle on the dish and lifted it right out.
Put a handle on your prayers. Speaking it out in faith starts to bring it out of the realm of the spiritual into the realm of the here and now. People say, “Oh, I just don’t have any faith.” That is not scriptural. We have been given the faith we need. Romans 12:3 says, “every [person] has been given THE MEASURE of faith.” NOT A MEASURE. But THE measure. He meets our needs with our words of faith. You don’t need a boatload of faith to get the job done. Luke 17:6 says, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea and it will obey you.”
How do you speak to your mountain in faith? How do you call those things that ARE NOT as though they were?
3. Identify Your Mountain: What is it? A health problem? Financial need? Relationships to be restored?
That is your mountain that has to be moved.
ILLUSTRATION: A woman had serious back pain and could hardly walk. She was begging God to heal her. She was not even sure if He wanted to heal her. She prayed “if it be thy will” and nothing happened. She just got worse. Then she learned to speak to the problem and take authority over it in the Name of Jesus. She knew the scripture that “by his stripes we were healed.”
She rephrased her prayer by saying, “Back pain go in the Name of Jesus. I take authority over you and command you to go.”
Do the believing right then–when you pray–that you HAVE received it. That indicates that you are speaking in faith whether or not the symptoms leave immediately or not.
If your mountain is a financial problem say, “Let there be money to pay my bills. Money come in the Name of Jesus to pay these bills.” If the checkbook is always in the red begin to say, “I command all of this red ink to leave and black to take its place in the Name of Jesus.”
For healing say, “Let wellness and healing come in the Name of Jesus.”
Begin to speak things out in faith.
“I have been redeemed from the curse of the law.”
“I declare that healing is mine in the Name of Jesus.”
“The power of God is working in me and I am getting better every day.”
“Pain be gone in the Name of Jesus.”
Direct your faith with your words. Begin to thank the Lord for the answer in advance. Use your words to speak life instead of death. It might seem awkward at first because we are not used to saying and speaking positive things. We have been used to saying, “I’m sick and tired, I’m broke, I’m poor, I’m a loser….or such things as this.” But no more. I am a Child of God. I am planting better seed for a good harvest and good fruit. I am a believer and not a doubter.
CONCLUSION: There is a little chorus we used to sing.
“Got any rivers you think are uncross able,
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through
God specializes in things thought impossible
He’ll do for you what no other one can do.”