Working Diligently

By Jim Odens

Jim Odens is a pastor in Minnesota, and the below post is an excerpt from a recent sermon in a series from Ecclesiastes. The entire recording is available online, as well.

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. Ecclesiastes 11:6

The uncertainty about which ventures we pursue will prosper and which ventures will fail should lead us to diligently apply ourselves to every venture and every opportunity God gives us.

There is no place for paralysis from fear of circumstances and possibilities in the life of a person who truly fears the Lord. There is also no place for inactivity because of laziness and sloth.

Rather, in the fear of the Lord there is great motivation to be persistently, actively abounding in our stewardship of the time, energy, money and other resources He has given us to use for His glory. It may be that some of our efforts will succeed more than others, but that is good reason to give ourselves to sowing both morning & evening! If what we sow in the morning does not bear much fruit, perhaps what we sow in the evening will. Or vice versa. Or perhaps both will succeed!

When we have acted patiently, prudently, yieldedly & diligently, we can leave the outcome in the Lord’s hands & be content with what He does.

Therefore, take advantage of every moment of every day the Lord gives you to trust Him, love Him, serve Him, worship Him, proclaim Him, obey Him in every aspect of your life (home, church, work, school, neighborhood, etc.) . . .

Don’t be hindered by concern about how it will turn out (for like the growth of the seeds sown in the ground, how things turn out is in the Lord’s hands). Instead do all you can in the Lord’s name, trusting that whatever He wants to do with your work is His will for His all-wise purposes.

Created to Serve

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

God has set His children free! Glorious truth that is!

But that freedom is not the freedom of an unsupervised toddler, free to touch and play and wander at will. We as Christians are called to use our liberty for love. Our life’s purpose of loving God and loving our neighbor will involve serving each other — not just doing whatever we want.

We can serve in so many ways. It will take wisdom to know how to serve each day, since the opportunities are endless.

  • Serve your husband by running the two errands he asked, instead of getting all your tasks for the day done before saying, “Oops, I just didn’t get to that. Maybe another day.”
  • Serve your neighbor by taking the time to stop and touch base for a few minutes, even though your coffee got cold.
  • Serve your cousin’s grandmother by popping by the nursing home for cheery visits.
  • Serve your neighbor by attending the fundraising banquet at the end of a long day to encourage the staff and financially support a good cause, if you are able.
  • Serve the body of Christ by teaching children and young people the precious truths of Scripture.
  • Serve your children by encouraging their walk with the Lord and growth in godliness, rather than only harping on the obvious failures.
  • Serve a young mother by doing her laundry or cleaning her kitchen one day.
  • Serve a missionary through regular notes of encouragement.
  • Serve your pastor by listening to and carefully considering his counsel.

May God strengthen us to fulfill our purpose as we walk in freedom today.

Looking to Jesus

So how do we “look unto Jesus” in our daily lives?

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.   — Psalm 119:147

The most obvious example that comes to mind is: to whom do I look first thing every morning? Whether it is first before anything or the first activity requiring thought, am I looking to the Word for sustenance? It is tempting to look to our family members and their needs, or even to social media to check on what happened in the world, but then we are distracting ourselves from the “one thing.” When we look to the Word, we will let Him set the tone for our minds, our hearts and our days.

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.   — Psalm 5:3

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.   — Psalm 119:97

Building on that, as we move through the day, are we basing our actions on a desire for Christ-likeness? Are we feeding our own selfish pride or seeking to reflect the humility of Christ?

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  — Philippians 2:1-7

Scripture is also full of wisdom for life, which guides us through countless small daily decisions and also tough decisions. When we come to a crossroad and don’t know which way to go, we do have a Guide and can trust Him to provide what we need to make good choices. When we need to respond to a situation, having already saturated ourselves with who Christ is and the truth in His word as discussed above, we will be able to respond well.

For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding — Proverbs 2:6

As we feel weak, where do we look for help? Do we make everything work ourselves? Or do we acknowledge our weakness and His strength, deepening our trust in Him?

The Lordis my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.  — Psalm 28:7

What do we do when fear takes hold on occasion? Our sovereign God is our Rock, and trusting in Him is the best answer to our fear.

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?  — Psalm 56:3-4

These are just a few examples, and I’d love to see others share encouragement. Please comment below with how you have turned your eyes to Christ in your life.

Eyes on the Prize

One morning this summer we thoroughly enjoyed heading out to the country and shooting clays. It is one of my hobbies, and this particular morning was a real winner. The sun was shining. There was a nice breeze. Clays were shattering. It was beautiful!

As I have been learning and improving, some expert advice was given that was helpful in the process: Keep your eye on the clay. Get your stance correct and solid. If you are in the right position, your body will naturally follow your eye.

It is true. When I was focused where I should be, I was successful. The shots I missed were most often because I wasn’t paying attention or got distracted by a bug or didn’t move past a comment from the peanut gallery.

As we left the field after shooting that morning, I thought about how the principle works for more than just shotguns.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Our lives tend to follow our focus. When our eyes are on Christ, we can follow Him much more easily. Our lives will naturally follow our attention. (Speaking for myself, I NEED that aid.) We will not be drawn off the racetrack by distractions. Sin will have a harder time trapping us. We will not be confused about where we are heading. We will be motivated by the glory we view ahead. We will see our Savior and know the path to joy.

Committed Love

 

But Ruth said:
“Entreat me not to leave you,

Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

These words are a beautiful expression of the committed love Ruth showed Naomi, a reflective flicker of the incredible covenantal love of God for His people.

In our premarital counseling, our pastor reminded us that sometimes marriage will require love that will stay in the car and ride even into the ditch. You can see the danger ahead and calmly share your concern, but sometimes the decision is still to continue. You then buckle up and ride out the crash (and pay the repair bill and allow the bruises to heal) together. Note: this is not referring to life-or-death or sin situations.

Yes, commitment is that committed. Committed love goes all the way to the end. The idea is beautiful and we love being loved that way, but how often are we committed?

How often will we go out to eat IF we like the restaurant? If it’s not a menu we like, it doesn’t matter with whom we are eating (never mind Proverbs 15:17).

How much have we been willing to be friends AS LONG as we share interests and think alike? It’s more efficient and comfortable. No need to stretch (Proverbs 27:17).

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, I’ll love AS LONG as they love me? Fair is fair, and I have my rights.

I have fallen in all these traps. That’s not love; it’s an even exchange of goods.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” — John 15:12-14

We often think of the Ruth passage related to weddings. I find it interesting that neither of these Scriptures are referring to marriage. Ruth loved her mother-in-law. Christ commanded His disciples, and by extension the church.

Who are we loving today?

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