If you’ve been in any form of the military, or defended your country in any capacity…I want to personally thank you for your service. For I know many of you have never been recognized and appreciated for what you did. It takes a certain character make-up to be a good soldier…a certain firm stand and persistence to face adversity day in and day out…a certain firm determination to get the mission done. By the time Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy he was well acquainted with the life of a soldier…for he wrote this letter from prison. So Paul couldn’t help but watch the Roman soldiers as they worked around him…drawing inspiration from their mindset and resolve. This is why he exhorted Timothy to be a good soldier…enduring hardship, fighting the good fight, and holding on to his faith until his mission was accomplished.
Daniel had made quite the impression on King Darius…not only for his exceptional qualities of trustworthiness and integrity…but in his worship of God. Daniel’s life was one unending devotion to God…whether he was at work or at home…whether he was with other Christians or co-workers…his focus didn’t change. Can we say the same thing about ourselves? Would your co-workers readily comment about you as King Darius had observed about Daniel? Has your walk made such an impact on the people around you that they truly know from where your faith comes? Let us pray then that God would give all of us boldness to live a life worthy of the Gospel.
Say someone you’re close to is going through a major health crisis…so as a good person off you go to their house. But soon this visit becomes very awkward, for the more you talk and ask questions, the more frustrated and angry the person becomes. Abruptly the visit ends with you walking out wondering why you feel discouraged and angry when all you wanted to do was to encourage and comfort that person. Aristotle referred to anger as desire with grief. And this verse in James should be a guide as we deal with those going through critical times. Listening should be the only goal we have…not preaching…not pumping the person for details…nor personalizing the visit with every awful thing we’ve gone through. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent.” I remember hearing a story about Mother Teresa, that when she visited the dying she rarely spoke…instead she just held them, stroking their face, and listening. When your only agenda is to listen…you are validating that person and giving consideration to what they’re going through without bias or opinion. They are then free to explore and verbalize their internal dialogue as they work through their emotions. Just listening can then become the greatest gift you can give that person.
What are you talented in? What do you have a natural, creative aptitude for? But more importantly, just how did you find out you had a flair or knack for this talent? You had to try your hand at it! We all have hidden talents just waiting to be discovered by us…we just need to be brave enough to try something new and different. Our life here on earth is fleeting, so while we have the opportunity, we need to strive for our ultimate purpose in life. God’s plan and purpose for us involves using our gifts, talents, and passions all rolled together for His glory. But you’ll never know what you’re talented in unless you try first.
Most of us don’t know what it means to be persecuted for the Gospel…to suffer for our beliefs…enduring hardship for the sake of His name. Most of us have never persevered under threat of bodily harm…or death, in order to reach others for Jesus. So why then do we lose heart and become offended so easily when we meet opposition? Suddenly it’s not fun anymore and we don’t like how we’re being treated…so we quit. Galatians 6:9 tells us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Not giving up means surrendering our life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and looking to Him as our example of righteous tenacity.
What does God hate? The short list is right here in this proverb. God tells us over and over again not to have a relationship with any kind of unethical or immoral activity. But our pride and arrogance makes us think we know more than Him, so off we go, dabbling in things that confuse and slowly draw us in. And before you know it, we’re snared by the grip of sin. But even then, our willful and obstinate nature refuses to accept responsibility and turn away from the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Our corrupt human nature is constantly pulling us away from what is right and good…when God is telling us to shun evil and put away all our wicked ways.
Jesus had called Lazarus from the grave, and out he stumbled. But he was still bound by the grave-clothes wound around his body and face. Others had placed these winding cloths on him, and now it took others to free him from them. When we become a Believer we are raised from the dead unto eternal life, but for many of us, we continue to wear the trappings of the tomb. These hindrances cling to us like grave-clothes, impeding our movement forward and blinding us from the truth. And just like Lazarus, it was someone else that placed them on us, binding us up in sin, addiction, and pain. So it takes others to free us from these grave clothes…to come along side to encourage, exhort, and unloose the sins that still bind us to the past.
In this prayer, King David was acknowledging that it was only from God – the source of everything – that he possessed abilities and achievements. David was also acknowledging the sovereignty and authorship of God as he viewed the world around him. Later, his son Solomon would write in Ecclesiastes 5:19-20, ” When God gives any man wealth and possessions,and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” Recognizing and thanking God for His benevolence in our lives gives rise to one of the greatest gifts we can ever receive…it’s peace and contentment.
Truth comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in you. We are to be firmly established in that truth, which is ultimate, absolute, and divinely revealed, but at the same time difficult to distinguish from all the world’s noise. That still small voice is a whisper against the clamber of everything around us. Oh how wonderful it would be if the Holy Spirit had a blow-horn poised by my ear to direct me! But instead I must listen…and listen acutely for His voice. Do you want to know the truth? Then you must train your ears to listen carefully, blocking out the din around you and disciplining your mind . As this verse says, the truth lives within you…you just need to listen.
Across the span of the Bible, God has always been very emphatic to mankind…”I will not yield My glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:11) So why do we continue to worship objects in place of God? When our love is focused on man-made idols rather than God, our devotion is deeply divided. We want to serve God…but our “things” are always getting in way. These “things” have a way of sucking time, passion, and energy from us until there’s nothing left for God. And in the end what do we have left? Just a never-ending need for more “things”.