Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 4 May 2023:
Ecclesiastes 12:1 — Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”
Solomon had sought to learn it all and do it all in his pursuit of wisdom, but he recognized too late that, in his pride and vanity, he misapplied his life chasing all the wrong things; the ripple effect of his poorly lived life would be pain and suffering for countless generations. Because he drifted from God’s commands, God’s kingdom was permanently divided under Solomon’s leadership. Life is cultivated one day at a time, and whatever one plants today grows over time. We all reap what we sow. On his chair of regrets, Solomon pens a warning to the generations to come: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Don’t chase after vanities, wearing yourself out attempting to build for yourself a meaningless kingdom on earth. Don’t exhaust yourself rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Enjoy life living for the Lord! Psalm 100 tells us to keep things in perspective: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27) Build your life on the Rock of Jesus! Remember, “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.” (Psalm 127:1)
Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” However, when we strive to create our own wealth, much sorrow is added. And after all that needless toil and sorrow, our worthless creations will ultimately be “burned up” like “wood, straw, and hay” in “the fire” on “The Day” – “Let each one take care how he builds”. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) Jesus also said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Jesus explained this analogy – “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…. any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33) Completing the house built on the Rock of Jesus requires a full-time, life-time commitment, investing all that you have. However, this is the blessed, joyful, fruitful life that is not lived in vain.
- Psalm 2:1 — Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
- Psalm 60:11 — Vain is the salvation of man!
- Psalm 127:2 — 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.
- Jonah 2:8 — Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
- Mark 7:7 — in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
- 1 Timothy 1:6 — Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
- Proverbs 31:30 — Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
- Isaiah 45:18, 19 — “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.
- Jeremiah 18:11, 12 — ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, everyone from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
- 1 Corinthians 15:58 — Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
- 3. Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 — A life not lived for God is meaningless and futile.
Ecclesiastes 12:11-13 — The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
The Good Shepherd, Jesus, said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (John 14:15) and after a lifetime of searching for the meaning of life and how best to live our short lives, the author of Ecclesiastes concludes that fearing God and keeping His commandments is the “end of the matter… the whole duty of man.” While the Bible is clear that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, not by our works, we are called to strive to grow in our love, faithfulness and obedience.
In today’s readings, God’s word is described as “goads,” which were spiked sticks used to get animals moving and to guide them along the proper course. Occasionally, animals would resist and kick angrily against the goads, only causing them more, needless pain along the way – “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” (Acts 26:14) In His Sovereignty and perfect love, God has given us His word for His glory and for our benefit. Resisting God’s word is not only an offense against Him, it is pointless and painful. Don’t suffer the needless pain of kicking against the goads.
“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh…. beware of anything beyond [God’s word].” According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) statistics, over 1.8 million new books are published worldwide each year, with a new book being added to the list approximately every 15 seconds. How many of these books reflect people’s vain pursuit of purpose, meaning, and wisdom apart from God? Or, how many authors seek to characterize God or His ways on their own terms or from their own extraordinarily limited perspective? How much of what is written reflects the pride and vanity of mankind? How much merely celebrates kicking against the goads? There are many great books out there, but be careful of anything that seeks to add to God’s word or which offers “Good News” that is really no Gospel at all. Also, always begin your daily reading with God’s word, and judge everything else from the standard of His truth.
- Proverbs 30:5-6 — Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
- Deuteronomy 4:2 — You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
- Deuteronomy 12:32 — Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.
- Galatians 1:6-9 — I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
- Colossians 2:8 — See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
- Acts 17:11 — Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
- 1 John 4:1 — Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
- 2 Timothy 4:3-4 — For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
- Ezekiel 34:18, 19 — Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
- John 17:17 — Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Finally, the author or Ecclesiastes says, fearing God and keeping His commands is “the whole duty of man,” which is true, but Jesus wants your motivation to move from duty to love — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) When you are doing what you really love with the One you love the most, it hardly feels like duty. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Commands (laws and rules) are boundaries intended for those who need them. When you are walking in genuine love for God and for others, you won’t need commands to keep you within the boundaries of God’s will, and you won’t feel constrained by them. The laws remain, but you have no need of them — “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
When thinking about the importance of God’s word in your life and your response to it, consider the experience of leash training a puppy: Without the leash, the puppy will wander, perhaps into traffic or some other threatening situation. When the master puts on a leash for the first time, the puppy naturally fights it but over time learns the benefits of walking with the master and no longer resists. Before long, the growing puppy gets excited about the leash because when the puppy sees it, it knows the master is going to take it on an exciting journey. If the puppy grows into a disciplined dog, a time will come when it no longer needs a leash to obey the master; the dog knows the master’s voice and responds, bringing great joy to both the dog and the master. Ironically though, the obedient dog which no longer needs the leash still appreciates the leash and might enthusiastically bring it to the master to express the desire to go for another walk with the master – and healthy dogs never get tired of walking with the master, even when they are old and struggle physically. The faithful dog loves to be with the master and eagerly desires to please him in every way and to experience life with him. Obedience comes naturally with love and appreciation. Where are you in your obedience training? How excited are you about God’s word and walking in it with your Master? Is it a burden or a wonderful joy you can’t get enough of?
Here is a short video overview of 1 Corinthians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiHf8klCCc4
1 Corinthians 1:1 — Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.
Paul was called by God’s will, not by his will.
1 Corinthians 1:2 — To the church of God…, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….
You have been set apart and called to be a saint. How are you doing with your calling in life?
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13, “The Great Love Chapter,” is one of the most popular chapters in the Bible, and the above verses are familiar to many who have never read the Bible because they are often recited at weddings. However, theses verses should probably be read to ourselves every morning and then used as a nightly debrief to ourselves at the end of every day to assess how we did. Love is our Greatest Command from God and the chief virtue a Christian should embody. How important is love? Well, the Bible says, God is Love (1 John 4:8), and love is the fruit of our relationship with Him. To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to naturally love others as He loves. Love is not something we create but rather something we emanate or radiate from Him, and the closer we are to God in our love relationship with Him, the more brightly our love shines before others. Consider the below verses:
- John 15:4-7, 9 — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
- 1 John 3:14-15, 17, 24 — We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him…. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?… Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
- 1 John 4:7-8 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
- 1 John 4:10, 12, 16 — In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…. 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 4:19, 20 — We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
- 1 John 5:1 — Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
- Galatians 5:22 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness….
Love is the primary fruit of the Spirit which comes from God and is revealed by His children. Today Paul explains that real love is nothing less than miraculous and that to be a person who truly displays love is far more amazing and powerful than being a person who can speak in tongues, prophesy, preach, teach, heal, or anything else. Some may boast about their spiritual gifts or simply their natural gifts, but few can boast of this sort of love. Love like this is genuine evidence of a close relationship with Jesus.
Comments from Henry T. Blackaby — Love has no limits. Love never says, “You’ve gone too far. I can’t love you now.” “All things” means everything is included. Christlike love leaves no doubt in the mind of another that you will continue to love steadfastly. Do those close to you know that they can fail and do foolish things, yet you will not falter in your love for them? Are others assured that, even when they hurt you, you still love them, holding nothing against them? Love assumes the best about others. If someone inadvertently offends you, you choose to believe the offense was unintentional. If someone seeks to harm you, you “bear all things,” forgiving unconditionally. If a positive light can be shed on a difficult encounter, you grasp it. If someone continually provokes you, you “endure all things.” You never lose hope in the ones you love. You practice the same unconditional love toward others that Christ gives to you. Paul said that he was nothing if he had the faith to move mountains, the tongue of an angel, and the gift of prophecy to understand all mysteries, yet did not have God’s love. It is unacceptable to say, “Well, I just can’t love people that way!” When God loves people through you, this is the only kind of love He has! Read 1 Corinthians 13 with gratitude that God has already expressed this complete and selfless love to you. Pray and ask Him to express it through you now, to others.
Here is an audio study on The Priority of Love by R.C. Sproul which you might find helpful: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/love/the-priority-of-love/
1 Corinthians 1:7, 8 — Jesus Christ… will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus makes you guiltless, not your efforts.
1 Corinthians 1:10 — I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
Christ unifies. Where there are divisions there is a lack of godliness because there is not unity in Christ. When everyone has the mind of Christ, everyone has the same mind, unity. Read John 17.
1 Corinthians 1:17 — For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
We need not attempt to use wisdom to convince others that Jesus is The Lord and Savior. Disbelief is a spiritual issue, not an intellectual issue. The word of God is what the Holy Spirit uses to convict people of the need for repentance and Salvation. Proclaim God’s word, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest through the Power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:20 — Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
Don’t get wrapped up in pointless debates over the Gospel with unbelievers. No one comes to the Son but the Father draw Him.
1 Corinthians 1:22, 23 — For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.
Those who demand proof of Jesus have the same problem as those who demand miraculous signs: their hearts aren’t really seeking God. Jesus said that proof will never satisfy the unbeliever. Many people who trust in their own understanding negate what they cannot see. Therefore, they remain out of touch with the Spirit which is unseen but the source of all wisdom. How foolish is it for people to think that reality is defined by their perceptions and limited intellect?
1 Corinthians 1:29 — …so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
If it were possible to convince others to surrender to Jesus, we would take the credit. God intends to leave no doubt that it was His power that changed the heart.
1 Corinthians 1:31 — Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
We share no glory with Jesus; He does it all and gets all the credit. Paul was saved when He was not seeking Jesus; so were you.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 May 2023: Make genuine love your goal today. Display 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 somewhere prominently; memorize them; recite them to yourself throughout the day; practice them; pray about them; compare your thoughts, words, and deeds to them; and evaluate your behavior.