Living Wisely

1 Corinthians 3:9-23, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Have you ever thought of your life as a building project? That’s how the apostle Paul describes it. Although He is specifically referring to the church as a whole, the principles in today’s passage also apply to our personal life. But unlike a physical structure that is visible, this one is spiritual, and as such, the quality of the building materials are not immediately discernible. However, there will come a day when the Lord will evaluate what we have built on the foundation of Christ. 

None of us want to get to heaven and find out we’ve used materials that have no value in eternity and will go up in a puff of smoke. Although in our sinful human condition we can’t know exactly how God will evaluate our life, there are some guidelines in Scripture to help us live in a manner worthy of Christ’s reward. 

If we use worldly wisdom to build our life, we will be disappointed. Paul says we are deceiving ourselves if we think that the wisdom, values, pursuits, and ambitions derived from a world ruled by Satan can be used to accomplish God’s will. Reliance on anything other than the Word and Spirit of God is wasted effort. Instead, we should make it our ambition to be faithful stewards of all God gives us and to live with a clear conscience. 

Are you living as God desires—turning from sin and progressing in holiness. Does His Word fill your mind and shape your thoughts, behavior, and attitudes? Are you yielding to the Holy Spirit so He can produce His fruit in you? Each day is an opportunity to build for eternity.



Symbol of Victory

AN AMAZING FACT:  During the mid-1960s, archeologists found Judean date palm seeds in the ruins of Herod the Great’s palace. They had been stored in a jar in a dry area. After 40 more years in storage, a few seeds were planted in the desert in southern Israel. One of the seeds sprouted, setting a record for the oldest known tree seed to successfully germinate. By 2010 it was about seven feet tall. The palm tree is named “Methuselah” after the longest-living human. Judean date palm trees had been extinct for 1,800 years.

 

Since ancient times, palm branches have been a symbol of victory and triumph. In Roman times, game champions were awarded palm branches and armies used them to celebrate successful battles. The Jews often carried palm branches during festive times. 

When the crowd saw Jesus riding on the young donkey, they got excited and began breaking off palm fronds to wave in celebration. They believed He was about to take the throne as king. Wouldn’t it have been thrilling to be part of that throng, to shout the ‘Hosannas’ and the blessings? 

Yet Jesus’ kingdom was not earthly but spiritual. Although the people didn’t fully comprehend that, their response was appropriate. There were good reasons for shouting and praise. Jesus was the Messiah. He had already lived a victorious, sinless life. And He would very soon attain the ultimate triumph with His sacrifice on the cross—the crowning achievement in His mission to save us.

 

KEY BIBLE TEXTS

And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. Matthew 21:8And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. Matthew 21:9S



The Prayer of Faith

1 Kings 18:41-46

A committed and consistent prayer life is essential for every believer who wants to grow in his or her relationship with Christ. Yet so many Christians struggle in this area. What is hindering us? 

No Burden: Being diligent in prayer is easy when we feel passionate about our request. We will storm the gates of heaven when a loved one is sick, but once the urgency is past, so is the prayer. We drift back into apathy. 

No Time: We’re busy and can see no way to squeeze in regular prayer time without a drastic rearrangement of our schedule. 

No Apparent Answer: We’ve tried praying, but God just doesn’t seem to answer. Thinking, It’s a waste of time, we give up. 

James 5:16-18 tells us about someone whose prayer accomplished much: Elijah was passionate and persistent in his petitions because he knew God intimately and believed He would answer. Past answers to prayer and time spent in God’s presence had solidified the prophet’s trust. 

When Elijah first began to pray on the mountain, there was no apparent answer, and yet he continued to seek the Lord. God is always working around us whether we perceive it or not. Eyes of faith can see His presence and involvement even when there’s no tangible evidence. 

God did not design prayer as simply an avenue for requests; spending time in conversation with our heavenly Father is meant to help us know and love Him. Then, as we grow in passion for the Lord, spending time with Him will be a delight, and life turns into an adventure of faith.



The Influence of Faith

1 Kings 18:36-40

In today’s Christian culture, faith is often seen as a possession that affects just its owner. Because of our love for independence and self-sufficiency, we’ve in many ways lost the sense of community and outreach that the church is meant to embody. We live like little islands in our own “personal relationship with Christ,” but God wants our faith to influence others, both within and outside the church. 

Elijah’s faith influenced the entire nation of Israel. By believing and delivering God’s message, he was an example to them in word and deed. When he asked the Lord to reveal Himself as almighty God, fire fell from heaven and the people believed. 

The prophet’s motive in the showdown at Mount Carmel was to draw the people back to the Lord. We usually think of “sharing our faith” with those who don’t know Christ, but our confidence in God can also encourage weak or wayward believers. Likewise, those strong in faith can strengthen us when we are struggling with doubt. 

The church is described as a body whose parts are all interconnected. (See 1 Cor. 12:12.) God never intended that we be autonomous, living in our own personal faith. We are not like a bag of marbles; rather, we’re to be like a bunch of grapes whose juices blend in times of pressure. 

Guard against living an isolated Christian life. Share your confidence in God’s faithfulness. Your testimony could help others’ faith to grow. If you’re troubled by doubt or fear, let go of any pride or shame, and seek help from a strong believer. Mutual blessing awaits when we reach out to one another.



Principle or Preference?

Daniel 1

Imagine driving down a gravel road on a dark, rainy night. Even the light from your headlights seems to be swallowed by the blackness as you struggle to avoid veering off the road. Now consider what a difference it would make if there were yellow lines down the middle and white ones along the sides. You’d know exactly where on the road you’re supposed to be.

These two scenarios represent the difference between a life based on preferences and one guided by scriptural principles. Preferences fluctuate with the circumstances. When this is the basis for our decision making, the result is confusion, stress, and possibly danger as we wander through life. In contrast, principles are God’s unchanging truths, which keep us on the path of His will and protect us from spiritual danger and deception.

Daniel is an example of a young man who lived by principles. When he realized there was a line he couldn’t cross without disobeying the Lord, he stood fast and trusted God instead of conforming to the pagan world around him. Daniel chose not to eat food that had been sacrificed to Babylonian idols, and he left the consequences of his obedience to the Lord.

There are two main reasons we sometimes rely on preference-based decision making: Either we want to fit in, or we want to avoid the negative consequences that could come as a result of obeying the Lord. Yet to go this route will leave us in darkness, swerving dangerously through life. Safety and security can be found only in obedience to God’s principles, which are like bright white lines on the road keeping us in the center of His will.



The Self-Directed Man

Luke 12:16-21

Surely you’ve heard the old stereotype about men never wanting to stop and ask for directions. That’s probably truer than we’d like to admit, but when it comes to asking for help, it isn’t just males who are guilty. There are many men and women—all driving full steam ahead—who don’t want to stop or slow down to ask for guidance.

If you were to look at this through spiritual lenses, you’d see a world of lost, hopeless souls trying to save themselves. They think they can somehow earn their way to heaven through good deeds and hard work. They assume it’s possible to accomplish this on their own. But they’re wrong.

As you read through Luke 12:16-21 today, count the number of times the “rich fool,” as he is known, says the words “I” and “my.” This parable is a picture of the self-directed man trying to make his own way and secure his own future without help from anyone—including God.

The Father does not mince words with this man. Entering the scene in verse 20, God immediately calls him a fool! Don’t miss the severity in the condemnation. By relying solely on his self-focused shortsightedness and pride, this man left nothing behind at the end of his life—except for a pile of crops.

The message for us today is that, when we strike off on our own and initiate actions with no thought of God, we behave like fools. The Lord has a plan for your life. He knows where you’ll succeed and where you’ll fail. Trust Him to provide the direction you need.



The Secret of Surrender

We have heard the modern expression, “Don’t fight it—it’s bigger than both of us.” Those who are meek do not fight back at life. They learn the secret of surrender, or yielding to God. He then fights for us! Instead of filling your mind with resentments, abusing your body by sinful diversion, and damaging your soul by willfulness, humbly give all over to God. Your conflicts will disappear and your inner tensions will vanish into thin air. Then your life will begin to count for something. You will have the feeling of belonging to life. Boredom will melt away, and you will become vibrant with hope and expectation. Because you are meekly yielded, you will begin to “inherit the earth” of good things, which God holds in store for all who trust Him with their all.

Prayer for the day

Let me yield to You this day, Father, all my innermost thoughts. I cannot hide from You.



Relying on the Spirit in Our Work

Ezra 4:1-5

Israel’s enemies were clever in their efforts to block the temple’s reconstruction. First, they offered to help. What better way to cause things to go wrong than to get involved in the work? When their aid was rejected, they set out to discourage the workers and make them afraid. The opponents even hired counselors to thwart the Israelites and were successful in hindering the project.

God, however, wanted His people to reject self-reliance and instead carry out His work in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He offered them encouragement and protected their building project despite the mountain of opposition facing them. Sometimes this means He will remove the problem; at other times He walks us through it. In either case, we are to rely steadily on God’s Holy Spirit. Doing so will allow us to:

Patiently love our spouse when there is turmoil in the home.

Wisely guide our children toward godliness in our self-centered culture.

Follow scriptural principles about giving, saving, and spending in a society that urges us to get what we want now.

Experience contentment and God’s peace in our current circumstances—single or married, employed or out of a job, healthy or sick.

Do God’s work His way.

Being led by the Spirit characterizes how we work. While that mindset is countercultural and not pleasing to the flesh (Gal. 5:16), it’s the only way to live as a child of God. Seek out believers who are trying to practice dependence on the Spirit, and encourage one another not to give up.



Abusing God’s Patience

Romans 2:4-5

Have you ever ignored a nagging sense of conviction in your heart? Maybe you rationalized wrongdoing with the thought that if God were really upset, He’d put a stop to things by disciplining you. Psalm 50:21 reminds us that the silence of heaven does not mean approval. Remaining in sin is an abuse of the Lord’s patience. 

When God seems slow to react, we might hope He’s overlooking our transgressions—we’d like to continue in sin because the momentary pleasure is more appealing than obedience. But thankfully, the Father knows our weaknesses, our innate carnality, and the state of our spiritual growth, and He therefore measures His response. Motivated by love and a desire to gently restore His children to righteousness, God refrains from instantly doling out punishment. Instead, He waits for the Holy Spirit’s proddings to impact the believer’s heart. The weight of conviction is actually an invitation to turn from wrongdoing and return to godliness.

However, we’re a stubborn people. There are times when we persist in sin because the sentence against an evil deed isn’t executed quickly (Eccl. 8:11). In this dangerous situation, it’s possible to immerse ourselves in sin and harden our heart against the Lord. Then the Holy Spirit’s call to repentance falls on spiritual ears rapidly going deaf. 

As we learn and understand more about God and His ways, we are increasingly responsible to live righteously. Our heavenly Father is not slow; He’s patient. But don’t abuse that patience with callous disregard for His statutes. Repent and be holy in the sight of the Lord.



Grace in Sorrow

John 20:11-19

The famous hymn “How Firm a Foundation” describes God’s purpose for our trials: “For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.” The pain and hardship we endure is meant not to crush us but to refine and shape us into Christ’s image. God alone knows how to replace ashes with a crown, and mourning with the oil of gladness (Isa. 61:3).

This is what Mary Magdalene discovered on the morning of the Christ’s resurrection. She went to the garden tomb, overwhelmed by sorrow and loss. The darkness of despair was swallowing her when she turned around and saw Jesus. After He spoke her name, she immediately recognized the Lord and clung to Him, fearing that even now He might be taken away from her.

But Jesus assured her that He had not yet ascended to His Father. Although there would come a day when He would physically depart from her and all His followers, in reality nothing could separate them from Him. Because He had paid the penalty of their sins with His death, His Spirit would soon indwell them. And one day Jesus would come to take them back to His Father’s house to be with Him forever (John 14:3).

We can all relate to feelings of despair. Dashed hopes—even small ones—can lead to suffering. But when expectations are high or personal loss hangs in the balance, our hope can be crushed if disaster strikes. Then it’s important to remember that when we have Christ, weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5).