Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 3 May 2023:
Ecclesiastes 11:4-6 – He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Worry, fear, and pessimism are paralyzing, debilitating, and dispiriting. Often a fear of failure or a fear of the future will prevent people from trying or investing. So, they are left with nothing. Planning, planting, investing, experimenting, giving, forgiving, evangelism and so many other essential actions all rely on faith, hope, patience, and perseverance.
Many things won’t come out as you had hoped, but many things will turn out far better than expected. Don’t let hard times or uncertainty slow you down or keep you from trying. What would you do if the nation were invaded and you lost everything and were exiled to a harsh foreign land? Consider what Jeremiah told the Jews exiled to Babylon:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare…. I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.’” (Jeremiah 29:4-14)
Trust God with your future and continue to plan, invest, and work with great expectation, regardless the lack of apparent promise in the current situation. God is bigger than the apparent barriers and setbacks. As Winston Churchill said in a speech on October 29, 1941 (a perilous time) to Harrow school where he had failed out as a boy, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
No single day in history was more decisive for the creation of the United States than Christmas 1776 when Washington crossed the ice-choked Delaware River in a raging storm with a largely untrained army to attack a fortified professional Hessian army. In the previous months since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s army hadn’t won a single battle, and he had lost 90% of his strength. Those who crossed the Delaware River were exhausted, lacking resources, and near the end of their enlistments. A loss at Trenton would mean the end of the Cause. However, against all apparent odds, George Washington’s victories at Trenton and Princeton saved the American Revolution. Be strong and courageous, trusting in the LORD (Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:9; 1 Chronicles 22:13; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 31:24; Daniel 10:19)
- Proverbs 3:5, 6 — Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 – Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So, if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
It is important to live life joyfully, contently, but also sober-minded. Each day comes only once, and we don’t know how many we will have. The Bible tells us to plan for the future but concentrate on today, making the most of every opportunity. We are to be thankful, joyful, and content, not worrying but rather praying in faith all day. We are to work hard, but not too hard, quietly and with our hands so that we can be self-sufficient and can give to others in need. Our daily priority is relationships — loving others, considering them greater than ourselves. We are on a mission of reconciliation, bringer others closer to God and each other. You get one life – use it well, and make your last day on earth your best day. The Bible guides us on how to live life to its fullest. “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4) How is your joy today?
Romans 16:3-16 – Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
These verses are often overlooked, but they reveal how important relationships were to Paul. Paul’s heart was for his brothers and sisters in Christ. What united them as a family? Faith in Jesus Christ and shared challenges, hard work and various life trials. We build relationships by sharing Christ together and going through real life together in a mutually supportive way, putting our lives on the line for others as Prisca and Aquila did for Paul, and taking each other in as family as Rufus’ mother did for Paul. How many people in your church do you consider to be the closest, most trusted people in your life?
Romans 16:17 — I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles.
Paul considered divisive people to be a threat to the church and to the mission of reconciliation.
Romans 16:18 — For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.
Divisive people are self-serving, self-absorbed, selfish, and ungodly, though they often vocalize Christian intent in their self-righteousness.
Romans 16:19 — For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.
Are you known by everyone for your obedience to the Lord? Are you wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil? What a great way to live life.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 May 2023: Today, make a list of your closest Christian friendships, and take definitive steps to cultivate those relationships. Invest in your family members and in your church relationships to build up your Christian family. Romans 12:10 – “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Proverbs 27:10, Romans 16:3-16)