Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Week Twenty Nine - Own

“If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth…”  Isaiah 58:13, 14
Psalm 122:1 says, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”  This was one of the first memory verses I learned as a child.  My grandmother was my teacher and she made going to church and Sunday school a precious and pleasant thing.  I looked forward every Sunday to being with my church family and being in her Sunday school class.  Sunday was a special day.  We dressed up.  We had family time.  We did not do work on the farm or go to “worldly entertainments”.  It was a day to rest and just be together.
When I came across this verse in Isaiah 58 I was challenged by the instruction.  Now, New Testament Christians do not observe the Sabbath as they do in Jewish culture, but the idea of keeping a day set apart for God and holy is not a bad one.  Look at the things the Lord challenged them to lie aside during this time – “…not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words…”
It got me thinking.  How many times do we go to church on Sunday all the while thinking about what we have planned for the remainder of the day?  How many times do we see Sunday as just another day, nothing special, just a time to do our thing as Christians?  Do we really see Sunday as a “…delight, holy and…honourable…?”  Are we really glad when we are told it is time to go to church?  Or are we caught up in our own ways and our own pleasures and our own ideas?
There is always a blessing attached for those who put the things of the Lord ahead of their own.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding….Be not wise in thine own eyes:  fear the LORD, and depart from evil.“  Proverbs 3:5
Pride is a vicious spiritual disease.  It leaves us thinking that we can solve our own problems, go our own way, and judge our own motives.  We might call it being self-sufficient or confident, but it is really a matter of our own pride trying to convince us that we have no need of humility or subservience to our Creator.  We go at life as if we have all the answers and nothing and no one is above us.
Another word for it is conceit.  A conceited person is convinced that his understanding is better than others.  He looks upon himself as wise and fully sufficient to judge not only his own motives, but also the motives of others.  His pride has him persuaded that superiority is key.  God tells us differently.  Romans 11:25 warns us to not be “wise in your own conceits” because that is akin to blindness.  Like the Laodicea church, the conceited man does not even see that he is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…”
I can’t count the times God has called me to “heal” when I allowed my own ideas and pride to lead.  That old song, “If I Ruled the World” resonates in my ears!  Oh, if I ruled the world what kind of place would it be?  We all think that our way is the best way and that our idea of right and wrong is valid.  All the while we are failing miserably in trusting the Lord and fearing the Lord.  We have set ourselves up as God – and we are NOT God.
If you take time to consider the last little phrase of the verse you will have to admit where following our pride and conceit will take us.  “…depart from evil.”  Pride is in direct opposition to the Christian life and will always lead the follower into sin.  Pride is the source of contention and at the root of nearly all sin.  Better for us to take a step back and get in line with God than to continue traveling down our own path to ruin.

 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.  Proverbs 12:15
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.  Proverbs 16:2
We have already talked about pride, but there is a way about us that can seek to excuse or even deny accusing ourselves of pride.  We can simply move over into stubbornness.  We are totally convinced that our own way is best.  We stubbornly believe God is a fool and those who waste their time trying to please Him or adjust their lives to His standards are fools as well.
Such a stance is self-destroying.  It will come to no good.  We can read story after story in the Bible about the outcome of people who were stubborn.  And, it doesn’t take much time to read history to see the downfall of many others - Adolf Hitler for example.  Whose downfall was the result of believing they were right to go at life their own way.  And, even Hollywood and an abundance of authors attest to the understanding that those who stubbornly refuse to yield wind up destroying themselves and those around them.  It makes for a good plot.
So, if even without a Godly admonition we can see that stubbornness yields bad fruit, why in the world are we so thickheaded?  I think it is because we want to be right.  We want to say that we have it all figured out.  We like to believe that God is on our side and if so, we have no need to change.  We can travel down our path unhindered and unbothered.
But everything around us tells us differently.  We run into conflict with our family, our church, and work mates.  We are bombarded with God’s Word and choose to ignore it.  We excuse our stubbornness calling it perseverance or steadfastness.  Yet, God calls it foolishness.
He admonishes us to come face to face with the truth of our spirit and instructs us to seek godly counsel.  You see - stubbornness is the pride of self.  To admit weakness and to yield to instruction is humility and wisdom.
If you want the type elevation and praise you think you will find by stubbornly holding onto your own ways, you are deceived.  Stubbornness is sin and God will not bless it.  Only by yielding will you ever find what you are searching for - before honour is humility!

 “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.”  Ecclesiastes 7:21-22
Learning how to handle hurtful words is a hard lesson.  No one likes to hear disparaging words about themselves.  Godly wisdom teaches us how to conduct ourselves in this matter and how to deal with others.  We are not angels, we are fallen people, and as such, we are liable to speak unkind words.  We should be ready to make amends and seek forgiveness when we are guilty and be ready to forgive and even overlook those who injure us, acting as if we did not even notice.
Being overly interested in what others say of you can be distracting.  Too much praise is not good for us, and too much criticism is also damaging.  If we pay too much attention to what others are saying we may hear something we don’t like.  It is easier to not seek to hear than to deal with what has been said.  Better that we to be more concerned with our own attitude and standing with the Lord.  “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7
Our own faults are sufficient to keep us humble and in prayer.  If we are honest, we must admit that we, too, have spoken out of turn concerning others.  Matthew Henry writes, “Be not enraged at those that speak ill of thee, for oftentimes, if thou retire into thyself, thy own conscience will tell thee that thou thyself hast cursed others, spoken ill of them, and thou art paid in thy own coin.  If we be truly angry with ourselves, as we ought to be, for backbiting and censuring others, we shall be the less angry with others for backbiting and censuring us.”
How do you deal with hurtful words?  Seek vengeance?  Spout more hurtful words?  Seek to set the record straight?  Better be checking your own heart and observe the words of Proverbs 16:3 – “It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.”

“Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”  Proverbs 31:31
This Proverbs 31 Woman is a challenge for all of us.  Seems she can cook, clean, sew, keep her husband, children and neighbours happy and cared for, and all the while run a business.  Amazing.  As we look at this last verse we can see the result of the sum of her work.  She produces fruit.  This isn’t just apples and pears; it is the produce of all of her ventures. 
The Bible says, “In all labour there is profit...” Proverbs 14:23   It’s that old law of sowing and reaping.  This woman has put her life into her family and community.  There will be a reward for her. Matthew:6:4 says “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”  God will not forget her work of love.  She has given faithfully and she will be rewarded.
Her reward will be open.  …in the gates.” means that the whole community will know of and speak of her good works.  What she has done by simply doing her own business and doing it well speaks for itself.  Others have only to look at the care she has given and they recognize her quality.
I heard someone say once that a woman should not work to be recognized.  She should serve in silence and quietness.  And that is true, however, God does not allow any servant to go without due recognition.  Someway, somehow, God will let the servant know that He approves of and recognizes a work done for Him.
The opposite is also true – a woman who goes about doing things and calling attention to what she is doing, or, who does things only to get recognition and praise, is going about it wrongly.  This is the odious woman spoken of in Proverbs – she is loud, in the streets, and not truly caring for her home. 

We will all be rewarded for our own work.  God will be the judge.  In the end our greatest reward will be to hear that, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”  Matthew 25:21

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