Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 4 September 18:
1. Song of Solomon 5:9 — “What is your beloved more than another beloved, O most beautiful among women?” Love causes you to see in someone what others might not see.
2. Proverbs 4:4 — “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.” We must live by God’s word rather than popular opinion or man’s ‘wisdom’. God’s word brings life as God’s word leads you to The Way, The Truth, and The Life, Jesus.
3. Proverbs 4:7 – “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” The first step to becoming wise is the make wisdom your top priority, seek wisdom as if seeking for treasure, never forgetting that all true wisdom comes from God and leads us naturally closer to Jesus. Wisdom is unity with God.
4. Proverbs 4:13 – “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” Keeping God’s word first and foremost in your heart takes great effort. You must guard against things that would tempt you to let it slip out of your thinking and away from your top priority.
5. Proverbs 4:14, 15 – “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.” We must intentionally avoid the path of evil on which the majority are walking. Narrow is the path of life which few take.
6. Proverbs 4:18, 19 – “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” Your dawn gets brighter and brighter the closer you get to Jesus as you walk in the word, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
7. Proverbs 4:23-27 – “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” Above all else, you must guard your heart by walking the word and avoiding evil. In perfect love, we would be compelled by love to obey all of God’s commands, and it would not be difficult for us – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3; see also 2 Corinthians 5:14) However, we aren’t yet perfected in love, rather we are being sanctified in love, growing over time as we continue our endeavor to walk in God’s word as disciples of Jesus. As toddlers, we stumble and fall quite a bit, but in adulthood we can run and leap, still with much room for increased agility; and without continuous practice, we can ‘get out of shape’ and lose our abilities. In our process of sanctification, the Bible commands us to do things we often really don’t want to do – the commands are burdensome. However, if we are willing to obey, the burden eventually becomes light and eventually no burden at all, rather a joy, the natural fruit of our character. It starts with duty (a willingness to do what we must) and is transformed into love (a passion to surrender self to God and to others). But we must remain vigilant in love, careful not to grow complacent and let our love diminish – “I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:3-5) We must be careful to guard our love, our hearts, and Proverbs gives some practical steps: “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” There are things we must do, and there are things we must ponder. Consider what Paul said, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16) Paul guarded his heart by pondering the love and grace he had received through Jesus. The greater we appreciate the love of Christ, the more we are compelled to love, no longer viewing others as we once did. If God’s commands are still burdensome, it is a proximity problem – you need to get closer to Jesus — “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
8. 2 Timothy 2:2 — “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” The Great Commission requires faithful followers who are able and willing to teach others. Teachers must first be faithful. God did not call us to make believers but rather disciples, people who are willing and able to follow s and the disciplines of faith.
9. 2 Timothy 2:3 — “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Are you willing to share in suffering? The disciplined life is a tough one, not for the weak willed.
10. 2 Timothy 2:4-7 — “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say.” Get serious and fully committed about serving the LORD. Don’t get entangled in worldly affairs; don’t be undisciplined or complacent in your obedience. Do the hard work required. Dedicated professionals pour their everything into their callings – it’s all or nothing. A half-hearted troop does not last very long, nor does an underprepared athlete or a slack farmer. All of these endeavors require daily hard work and sacrifice for a day that comes much later – the battle, the competition, or the harvest. On that day, the level of your preparation is ultimately revealed; there is no making up for what you didn’t do day after day beforehand. Paul encourages us to consider what great sacrifices people make for earthly gain as we reflect upon our calling as Ambassadors for Christ and as God’s priests on earth. How much more commitment should we place towards our Heavenly calling? “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) How much effort will you put into your eternal calling given to you by God Himself?
– 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
– Philippians 3:12-14 — Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
– Ephesians 6:11-16 — Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
11. 2 Timothy 2:15, 16 — “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble.” Know the word of God well, and protect yourself against false doctrines which appeal to many but are not taught in God’s word.
12. 2 Timothy 2:18, 19 — “They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’” False teachers will hurt the faith of some, but trust that God will protect His children, and let the genuine walk of your faith validate the truth you proclaim. False teachers don’t live out love consistently; the faithful do. Those God has called and who remain in God’s word will see the difference.
13. 2 Timothy 2:21 — “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” Your holiness validates your words. There are many preachers, but not many disciple makers, and reconcilers. The talented can give great messages, only the Spirit filled can love and lead in love.
14. 2 Timothy 2:22 — “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Followers of Christ are not led by emotions but by the Spirit; they pursue love with a pure heart.
15. 2 Timothy 2:23 — “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” Only the foolish and arrogant quarrel.
16. 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 — “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”
– Rather than quarreling, we are commanded to endure evil. Are you willing to do that?
– From Henry T. Blackaby — There should be no quarrelsome Christians. The truth of God is within us; we need never be intimidated or frustrated by those who do not accept God’s truth. At times people may disagree with you regarding God’s Word. Perhaps they question the way you say He is leading you, or they may challenge your faith in God. At times like these it is never helpful to argue. You will never debate anyone into the kingdom of God. You will never persuade someone that God has spoken to you by out-arguing them! Only God can convince others of the veracity of His word to you. If you will allow God to vindicate you in His time, and in His way, a time will come when the wisdom of your choice will be evident (Luke 7:35). If you find yourself often quarreling with others, you need to ask God to clearly reveal your motives and to forgive you for your disobedience to His clear command. If your motivation for arguing comes from your desire to be right, or to be exonerated, or to gain the esteem of those listening to you, you are acting selfishly, and God will not honor you. God is not interested in how right you are. He is interested in how obedient you are. God’s command is not that you win arguments, but that you are kind and forgiving when others mistreat you. You bring God no honor by winning a dispute in His name, but you reflect a Christlike character when you demonstrate patience to those who mistreat you or misunderstand your motives. Arguing may never win people to your view, but loving them as Christ does will win you many friends over time!
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 Sep 18: Today, quarrel with no one, but be kind to everyone, particularly to those who offend you. (2 Tim 2:24, 25)