Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 25 April 2023:
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
“The beauty in the way God designed the four seasons is that, though each one is distinct, they all work together to bring life and growth. Spring is a period of freshness and new life. Summer sees growth and productivity. Autumn is a time for harvesting the rewards of past labors. Winter is the season of dormancy and closure. Each season has its own unique beauty and makes a significant contribution to life. Just as God planned seasons in nature, He planned seasons in life as well. Life has its springtime, when we begin new things and look excitedly toward the future. Summer comes and we work diligently in the heat of the day at all that God has assigned to us. With autumn comes the fruition of things begun at an earlier time in our lives. Winter brings an end to a particular period in our lives. Sometimes winter brings hardship, but we remain hopeful, for another spring is just around the corner! In God’s perfect design for our lives, He has planned for times of fruitfulness and activity. He will also build in times of quiet and rest. There will be times when He asks us to remain faithful doing the same work day after day. But there will also be periods of excitement and new beginnings. By God’s grace, we will enjoy seasons of harvesting the fruit of our faithfulness. By God’s grace we will also overcome the cold winters of heartache and grief, for without winter there would be no spring. Just as it is with the seasons of nature, these seasons in our lives work together to bring about God’s perfect will for each one of us.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Negative things aren’t necessarily evil things. Many things we consider negative, undesirable, or even tragic are an important part of life and may actually be what God desires for His glory and your life in ways you cannot understand. Even when people do things with evil intent, God brings about a greater good according to His perfect plan, with His promise that nothing can separate us from His love. Romans 8:28 tells you that when you are called according to God’s purpose, ALL things will result in good. Wasn’t this Moses’ and Joseph’s story? Without an explanation from God, Moses had to wander the desert alone as a fugitive for forty years before he could be ready to lead millions of people in the desert for forty years. Remember what Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into a life of slavery – “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20) Wasn’t Jesus glorified through crucifixion and resurrection? The most awful event in history, the crucifixion of The Father’s Son, was used by God for the salvation of many. Trust God with both the “good” and the “bad,” and wait to see what good He will ultimately bring about. Also, look to see what He might be teaching you about what you need to change in order to avoid pointless, self-induced suffering caused by sin.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 — Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
God has created us to desire Him, and we will never be totally satisfied on this earth without being in His presence.
Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13 — I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
Be joyful, do good, and learn to enjoy work, after all, you were created to do all these things. Many wrongfully think work is the result of original sin. Quite the contrary – God works and created people to work for Him. God gave Adam a job before He gave him a help-mate. Sin caused needless, unproductive toil as men sought to work for themselves rather than for God and with God. God made you to work for Him alone, in partnership with Him, and in His power. Joy is found in working diligently for the Kingdom, in fellowship with God, experiencing ever-increasing revelation of Him through the process.
Work hard, but enjoy life, and have fun in the process. Life does not last forever; make the most of it. (Ecclesiastes 3:22) Don’t let emotions such as pride, fear, vanity, guilt, or jealousy cause you to turn work into a life crushing, joy killing idol. (Ecclesiastes 4:4) Even ministry done for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way can become an unintended burden in life. Do not let work get in the way of your relationships — “’For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?’ This also is vanity and an unhappy business.” (Ecclesiastes 4:8) “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.” (Proverbs 23:4) The wise person lives a balanced life with all four seasons — a ‘summer season’ of hard work, growth and productivity; an ‘autumn season’ of harvesting the rewards of labor; a ‘winter season’ of dormancy and rest; and a ‘spring season’ of new beginnings.
Key to balance is obedience, faith, and contentment. First, we should walk in obedience, doing only what God desires us to do, not adding our own burdens to life from sin. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3) To the hurried person who says, “There is just not enough time in the day to do everything I need to do,” the old Pastor reminds him, “There is just enough time in the day to do exactly what God wants you to do.” What are you busy doing God never asked you to do?
Second, work in faith — “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow.” (Matthew 6:33) Third, learn to be content with what God has given you – “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)
Finally, do not be troubled by a sense of injustice, inequality, unfairness, or a feeling that you are not getting due credit for your efforts or a proper return on investment. When you labor for God, you never labor in vain.
- John 16:33 — I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
- 1 Peter 5:7 — Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
- Ephesians 5:15 — Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
- Romans 12:2 — Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Colossians 3:17 — And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- Matthew 6:33 — But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
- Philippians 4:13 — I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
- Mark 6:31 — And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
- 2 Timothy 1:7 — For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
- Genesis 2:2-3 — And on the seventh day God finished his work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all his work that He had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.
- Isaiah 41:13 — For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
- John 5:30 — “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me.
- 1 John 2:15-17 — Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
- Luke 10:38-42 — Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
- Galatians 5:22 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
- Psalm 127:1-2 — A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Romans 10:1 — Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
I suspect most Christians would not say that their heart’s desire (their truly earnest desire), their impassioned prayer is for the salvation of those who have hurt them or are hurting them. Paul’s example is convicting.
Romans 10:2 — For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
Sincerity and conviction is not enough. Being devout and zealous is not enough either. Many people are devout in many religions, but there is no way to salvation but through faith in Jesus Christ. Many protest against the Gospel stating that if Jesus is the only Way to salvation, what about those who have no knowledge of Jesus. However, Paul turns that protest around – “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14) Rather than protesting against God’s plan for salvation, proclaim it to those who need to hear it.
Romans 10:3 — For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
There is absolutely nothing we can do to make ourselves righteous or “right” with God, though many, even many who claim Christianity, seek to establish their righteousness by virtue of their good deeds. Many become prideful in their behavior and look down on others who appear, in their eyes, to be more sinful than they are. However, righteousness can only come through faith in Jesus Christ and the free gift of salvation that comes through Him and Him alone as He imparts his righteousness upon us. It is by faith that we are saved and not by anything we do. None of our efforts contribute to our salvation. Will you “submit to God’s righteousness” rather than attempting to “establish [your] own?”
Romans 10:9 — If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
How is one saved? “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) However, calling upon His name is not merely a verbal act, it is a matter of the heart, and expression of deep felt, convicting belief. It is a matter of faith – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) This faith rests upon our hope (complete assurance) in His perfect, unending love for us (see Romans 8), ultimately demonstrated through His Son, Jesus Christ, and our confidence in His ‘amazing grace’ enables us to abide in His love as we fellowship with Him and glorify Him by sharing His love with others. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) To know Him is to love Him, trust Him, obey Him, enjoy Him, and share Him. However, how can one believe in Him if they don’t know Him?
Romans 10:14, 15 — How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Do you have beautiful feet? Does your love for God and your love for others (the Great Commandment) compel you uncontrollably to preach the Good News (The Great Commission; Matthew 28:19; 20)? Perhaps, the greatest evidence of your love for God and for others is how committed you are to sharing the Gospel.
- Mathew 28:19, 20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Sharing the Gospel is where your true love for God and your true love for others come together and manifest in the highest form of worship and compassion. God is love. He loves so much He gave His Son Jesus that the world may know Him, love Him, and be one with Him (see John 17). Knowing Him is eternal life. When we love God, we share His heart for others. When God abides in us, we naturally love others and want them to experience the love and blessings of God to the fullest and eternal life in Him – “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:16)
Many people express their love for others through giving, but the greatest gift of all is the gift of grace through faith in Jesus, and our love for others should compel us to share the Good News of that gift with others above all else. Conversely, “How much do you have to hate your co-worker or friend to never share the gospel with them?” (David Platt) “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” (1 John 3:14)
- Matthew 5:43-48 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
- Luke 6:27-36 — “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
God calls Christians to a radical, shocking love. In fact, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) This love should compel us to share the Gospel with those who would persecute us for doing it. Paul exemplified this sort of love by refusing to stop proclaiming the Gospel to those who beat him ruthlessly for it, even stoning Him, eventually beheading him. With whom have you neglected to share the Gospel? Why?
- Romans 1:16 — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
- 2 Timothy 1:12 — …which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 April 2023: Share the Gospel with someone today.