No Free Meals

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. – 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 ESV

The body of Christ is an organism, not just an organization. While it’s made up of individuals, they are expected to exist together in a state of mutual love and submission, displaying selfless acts of compassion and a shared concern for the well-being of one another. Paul used the metaphor of the human body as a way of describing the symbiotic relationship between believers.

We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. – Romans 12:5 NLT

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 12:12 NLT

So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:24-27 NLT

Paul viewed the body of Christ as a living organism in which the interdependence between its various members was essential to the overall spiritual health of the whole. And he expressed his desire that they act as a cohesive, mutually caring community in his first letter.

Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. – 1 Thessalonians  5:13-14 ESV

Paul was well aware of the fact that, inevitably, the body of Christ would be made up of all kinds of people who exhibited every conceivable level of spiritual maturity. In the verses above, he mentions the idle, the fainthearted, and the weak. And he spoke of the weak on more than one occasion, revealing his awareness that the spiritual immature would always be a part of any local body of believers.

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. – Romans 14:1 ESV

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. – Romans 15:1-2 ESV

But in this second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul is addressing something quite different than spiritual immaturity. He specifically calls out those who are “walking in idleness.” Paul uses two Greek words to describe these individuals. The first is peripateō, and it can be translated “to walk,” but can also mean “to conduct one’s self” or “to pass one’s life.” These people were conducting their daily lives in a way that Paul deemed unacceptable. That’s where the second Greek word comes in: ataktōs. It describes a soldier marching out of step with his peers. They were “deviating from the prescribed order or rule” (Outline of Biblical Usage). These individuals weren’t just marching to the beat of their own drum, they were stubbornly refusing to line up with the teaching of Paul and the other apostles. Their actions were blatantly disorderly and disruptive to the local body of Christ. These were not weak or immature believers in need of instruction and encouragement. They were men and women whose undisciplined conduct and stubborn resistance to discipline were damaging the entire faith community. They were like rogue cancer cells in the body of Christ and Paul recommended radical steps to prevent their further contamination.

Based on Paul’s admonitions, we can piece together a picture of what these people were guilty of doing. Their disorderly conduct included a refusal to work. We’re not told why they held this view, but it could be that they had been impacted by false teaching that had led them to believe that Jesus was coming back any day. In light of that expectation, it’s likely that they viewed work as unnecessary and a waste of time. But their undisciplined lifestyles were wreaking havoc on the local body of Christ. Rather than work, they expected the church to support them. And Paul reminds the faithful that he and the apostles didn’t model that kind of lifestyle.

…we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. – 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8 ESV

These people were out of line, having broken ranks with the faith community and having placed an undue burden on the church. So, Paul gives a bold and unapologetic opinion regarding these people.

If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV

And this was not the first time Paul had addressed this problem in the church. He had warned Timothy:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8 ESV

And he had expressed similar advice to Titus.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. – Titus 3:14 ESV

Paul and his ministry partners had demonstrated through their own lives what he was demanding of the Thessalonians. There was no place for disorderly conduct within the body of Christ. Laziness and idleness have no place in the church. The faith community, while an interdependent organism, is not intended to be a place where non-contributors thrive. Each believer has been gifted by the Spirit and is expected to play their God-ordained part in contributing to the overall well-being of the body. Yet, Paul states, “we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business” (2 Thessalonians 3:11 NLT). This was unacceptable, and Paul addresses these individuals directly and bluntly:

Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. – 2 Thessalonians 3:12 ESV

Paul labels these people as busybodies (periergazomai), a term used to describe those who occupy themselves with trivial and useless matters that don’t concern themselves. Rather than working, they had all kinds of time to worry about the affairs of others. So, Paul tells them to work quietly, a “description of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others” (Outline of Biblical Usage).

It was well into the 12th-Century that Chaucer labeled “idle hands the devil’s tools.” But Paul knew that to be true as early as the 1st-Century. And he warned the believers in Thessalonica to be wary of the idleness in their midst. It was dangerous and potentially deadly, because it emanated from an attitude of disobedience and disorderliness. So, it was sin. And, like cancer, sin spreads. Left untreated, in time it infects and impacts the entire body. That’s why Paul is so emphatic, providing the Thessalonians not just with advice, but with a command.

…we command you…that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness. – 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ESV

In a sense, Paul is telling them to avoid these people like the plague. They weren’t the spiritually weak in need of strengthening. They were the rebellious in need of spiritual discipline. They were members of the body of Christ who were refusing to play their part in contributing to the overall health of the church. Like unwanted parasites, they were sucking the life out of the faith community by taking but never giving. They had given love of self precedence over Christ’s command to love others. And Paul, knowing the danger behind that mindset, warned that it was not to be tolerated.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) 64. All abbreviations of ancient literature in this essay are those used in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3d ed. (OCD).

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If You Believe It, Prove It.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  – 2 Peter 1:8-11 ESV

Virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Seven characteristics that should mark the life of each and every child of God. They reflect what Peter means when he says, “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15 ESV). These are character qualities found in the life of Jesus and, as the author of Hebrews puts it, “the Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT). To be holy as God is holy, is to reflect His nature, just as Jesus did. It is to live a life that is set apart and distinctly different from all those who don’t know Him, who don’t have His Spirit living within them. These seven qualities are Spirit-induced and empowered, not man-made and self-produced. But if someone has placed his faith in Christ, these qualities should be a part of his life. That is why Peter says, “if these qualities are yours and are increasing” (2 Peter 1:8 ESV). He is not suggesting that his readers do not have these qualities. He is simply separating those who do from those who don’t. Peter knew there were those in his audience who had failed to supplement their faith with these virtues. Some of them were not even believers. They had never placed their faith in Christ. Their lives would not be marked by these characteristics, because they are essentially spiritual in nature.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV

So, Peter is addressing believers, reminding them that these qualities are theirs and should be increasing. That is to be the norm. That is what God intended. And their very presence in a believer’s life, and that believer’s determination to see these constantly added and increased will result in an extremely positive outcome: “they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8 ESV). The Greek word Peter uses that is translated “ineffective” is argos, and it refers to someone who is lazy, shunning their responsibilities or assigned duties. The Greek word for “unfruitful” is akarpos, and it refers to a tree that is not yielding fruit as it should. Like a barren tree, the believer whose life lacks the “fruit” of these seven qualities, is abnormal and unnatural. His life is not as God intended. It doesn’t take a high IQ to figure out that the opposites of these two negative words would be diligence and fruitfulness. But notice what Peter states is to be our focus: the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The seven characteristics Peter has outlined are to be a means to an end, a very specific end. As the NET Bible puts it: “they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately” (2 Peter 1:8 NET). That is the end game, the final goal, an intimate knowledge of Christ. And we get there, Peter suggests, by diligently adding these seven virtues to our life. When we supplement our faith in Christ with the attitudes of Christ, we grow to know Him better. We grow in our understanding of who He was and how He has called us to live. Because we can add these seven virtues only with the help of the Holy Spirit, we become increasingly more dependent upon Him. And it is He who makes Christ known to us. Jesus told His disciples regarding the Holy Spirit, “he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26 ESV). He also told them, “he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13 ESV) and “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14 ESV).

So, as we diligently add these virtues to our lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we grow in our knowledge of Christ. We become more like Him. We begin to see life the way He does. And our lives begin to take on His very same character and truly become Christians, not just in name, but in action and attitude.

But Peter knows that there are believers in his audience whose lives are not marked by these seven attributes. Which is why he states, “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9 ESV). Think about it. A believer who lacks virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, is missing the whole point behind being a believer. He is living as if he was still enslaved to sin and incapable of exhibiting Christ-likeness. He is nearsighted, living with a stunted perspective on life, that never allows him to see his true identity as a child of God. He forgets that he has been chosen by God. He can’t see that he has been set apart for God’s glory and purposes. His ability to see that he is a new creation and has a new capacity to live out his faith in everyday life is cloudy and lacks focus. And he comes across as lazy and unfruitful. 

Which is why Peter so strongly admonishes his readers: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10 ESV). He encourages them to get busy, to make every effort to prove their new identity in Christ by purposefully and diligently adding these seven virtues to their faith. Their presence proves our calling. They give outward evidence of our new nature and our status as sons and daughters of God. Peter promises, “if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10 ESV). Peter is not suggesting that it is our practice of these seven virtues that keeps us saved. No, our eternal salvation has been secured by God’s grace through His Son’s death on the cross. We don’t save ourselves and we don’t keep ourselves saved by doing good works. Peter made this clear in his first letter.

…he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time – 1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV

What Peter is trying to say is that when you “make every effort to supplement your faith” (2 Peter 1:5 ESV) with these seven character qualities, you give evidence of your new life in Christ. This evidence is not for your benefit. In other words, it isn’t intended to prove to you that you are saved, but it does reveal to the lost world around you that faith in Christ is truly life-changing. It is marked by diligent, obedient effort and fruitfulness. Jesus spoke of this very thing.

“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 ESV

And He went on to say:

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” – John 15:8 ESV

Those who are believers in Christ are to live lives of fruitfulness. They are to be marked by these seven characteristics that emulate the very life of Christ. And their lives will have an impact on all those around them, both saved and unsaved. And we do so with the confident assurance that our eternity has bee permanently secured for us by Christ.

For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:11 ESV

Our reward is in the life to come We live in this life in order to obey and portray Christ to a lost and dying world. We will face rejection and persecution for our efforts, just as He did. But we are willing to endure the suffering because we anticipate the reward to come.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Proverbs 6e

Entomological Life Lessons.

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!” – Proverbs 6:6 NLT

Nature is full of lessons if we will just stop long enough to look and learn. It seems that God has wired into His creation some valuable and highly practical illustrations from which we can glean insights for living. In this verse, the lazy person or sluggard, is told to wake up long enough to examine the work ethic of the ant. They’re small, apparently leaderless and lacking anyone to make them work, yet they labor hard all summer gathering food for the winter. These tiny, insignificant creatures instinctively know how to diligently sustain not only themselves, but their entire colony, through hard work. Don’t don’t sleep in or shirk their responsibilities. Every one of them does their fair share of the work to help make the colony successful. But the lazy individual thinks only about himself, and prefers sleep over work. They just can’t seem to get out of bed in the morning. Elsewhere in the Proverbs they are described to be like a door on hinges, they just keep rolling right back into bed every time they attempt to get up.

It would seem to me that if God has wired the ant with a basic instinct for hard work and diligence, the same thing would be true of man. Man was created to work. Man was created to be creative. But what has gone wrong? In short, the fall. Sin entered the picture and muddied the water. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, work became drudgery. What used to be enjoyable became laborious and required sweat and effort. And because work became difficult, man began to look for shortcuts and workarounds. He began searching for a better way, an easier way. Because God had wired man to work and create, Satan began to tempt him with alternatives and distract him with easier options. Sleeping in seems so much more appealing than getting up and going to work. A few more hours of rest beats work hands down. But when we choose the Enemy’s options, we find ourselves in rebellion against God. Just as Eve listened to the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit, in direct violation of God’s command, every time we give in to the temptations of Satan and shirk our God-given responsibility to work, we are sinning against Him.

Laziness is sin. When we fail to work, we are refusing to obey God and do what He has created us to do. But wait, you say, “I get up early every morning and put in a full day at work. I never sleep in and I work long, hard hours.” But you may still be lazy. Because when all is said and done, the work we are called to by God is to do His will. Ants are created to work hard for the colony. They are communal creatures whose soul purpose in life is to minister and contribute to the good of the whole. You don’t see ants starting side businesses or taking a well-deserved two-week vacation to Barbados. From the minute they are born to the second they die, they are laboring, not for themselves, but for the community. And all they do, they do in conjunction with others. They labor together, not individually. There is a sense of shared responsibility and corporate cooperation. Too often, our hard work is self-centered and for our benefit only. We live in a society that has lost its corporate and communal sensibility. We have become Lone Rangers, doing what we do with diligence and determination, but with little sense of our responsibility to the body.

As believers, we are called to labor for the cause of Christ within the context of the body of Christ. But many of us have become so distracted with other cares and concerns. We work hard, but we have lost sight of our mission. We spend countless hours earning a paycheck and accomplishing work that benefits primarily just ourselves. But when it comes to the work for which God created us and for which Christ redeemed us, we can become lazy, disinterested and distracted by other concerns and cares. God has work for us to do, but we are too busy doing what we want to do. We have become lazy about accomplishing the will and the work of God. And we make excuses, justifying our actions and attempting to make ourselves feel good about all we are accomplishing – for ourselves. “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!”

Father, it is sometimes so easy to be lazy about the things You would have me do. I can put off Your work and replace it with my own. I can delay doing Your will in order to accomplish my own. I can also become so self-centered that I lose sight of the Body of Christ and my responsibilities to it. Help me learn a lesson from the ant and diligently do the work You have created me for and called me to do. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 13d

Easy Money.

“Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.” – Proverbs 13:11 NLT

The Proverbs are all about inner character that reveals itself in the way we live our lives. These are not helpful tips on better parenting, improving your marriage, growing your business, or how to win friends and influence enemies. No, this entire book is about a relationship with God that manifests itself in changed hearts, a new perspective on life, and reformed behavior that is motivated from the inside out. The Proverbs expose the inherent weaknesses in mankind. It reveals us as we really are: lazy, foolish, stubborn, prone to selfishness, flattery, gossip, and self-promotion. It shows what man tends to become apart from God, and it is not a pretty picture. The amazing thing is how accurate it is in its portrayal of mankind. It lays open for all to see our painfully obvious shortcomings and encourages us to seek God’s way in place of our own. But the difficulty is that we usually prefer to do things our way. We choose outer circumstances over inner character virtually every time. Take today’s topic for instance. There is something built into us that makes us long for easy money. Rather than work hard to achieve financial success, we would prefer to dream about ways in which we could cash in quickly and easily. The success and popularity of the lottery system in this country is evidence of that. People purchase tickets with money they can’t afford to do without in the hopes of winning millions of dollars, but at million-to-one odds. Their chances of winning are next to nothing, but it doesn’t keep them from trying and hoping. They look for the easy way. They see the money as the goal, when God sees hard work as the real objective for our lives. Solomon tells us, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper” (Proverbs 13:4 NLT). This is not just an indictment of the poor. While we all know there are plenty or poor people who will spend their last ten dollars on a lottery ticket when they really need gas of food, there are just as many well-to-do people who waste their time and money dreaming of striking it rich with a scratch-off ticket. They rationalize their behavior thinking that they can afford to squander a few extra dollars on the lottery. But their actions reveal something about their heart. Their hopes of winning are motivated by a desire to gain without pain, to prosper without putting in any effort. It is always about the heart.

One of the interesting things about today’s verse is it reveals the reality about easy money. When it comes to wealth gained without effort, it’s almost always easy-come, easy-go. “Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears” (Proverbs 13:11a NLT). It’s here one day and gone the other. The stories of those who have won the lottery only to end up in bankruptcy are sad, but true. There is something to the idea that what we have to work hard for we will value. What comes easy, we treat with an air of flippancy and disdain. But “wealth from hard work grows over time” (Proverbs 13:11b NLT). God’s design is that we value hard work over easy money. He is much more interested in our inner motivation. Think about the Israelites. When God set them free from captivity in Egypt, He promised to bring them to the Promised Land. Now God could have miraculously transported the entire nation of Israel directly to their destination. After all, He’s God. But instead, He chose to have them WALK across the wilderness and put in the time, energy and effort required to reach their goal. And all along the way, God revealed Himself to them, guided them, protected and provided for them. And He attempted to transform their hearts and change their behavior.

The point of all this is not to ban the lottery, but to cause us to examine our motives. This Proverbs deals with a principle inherent in all of our lives. We tend toward taking the easy road. We forget that God is all about transforming our inner character and we focus far too much on external circumstances. We think that if we can change our circumstances (more money), we will be happy. But God knows that quick-fixes produce short-term results.

Father, there are so many things in this life that can distract me from what You are trying to do in my life. It is so easy to buy into the lies of this world and look for the easy way out. It is so tempting to take shortcuts to get where I think I want to go. Keep me on Your path and following Your ways. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 26b

A Pandemic of Spiritual Laziness.

“As a door swings back and forth on its hinges, so the lazy person turns over in bed.” – Proverbs 26:14 NLT

“I’m too tired.”

“I just don’t have enough time.”

“I had to get up early to go to work.”

“The baby was up all night.”

“I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Excuses. We all make them. And as Christians, we tend to make a lot of them when it comes to have our “quiet time” or daily devotionals. We inherently know we’re supposed to read our Bible and spend time in prayer, but we just keep putting it off. In those rare moments when we do set aside a few minutes for reading the Scriptures, we discover it’s tough going. We don’t know where to begin and aren’t sure what we’ve read when we’re done. And if we attempt to pray, we find our minds wandering all over the place and spend more time thinking about what we have to do that day than actually talking to God. The whole experience is less than enjoyable, so it makes it even harder to conjure up the will power to attempt it the next day. That’s when the excuses come in. And we can get very clever with them. But the excuses are simply a cover-up for our own spiritual lethargy and laziness. We don’t want to spend time with God, so we come up with all kinds of reasons to justify our inaction. And we justify our laziness with busyness.

The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about laziness, and while it doesn’t necessarily deal with it from the spiritual stand point, it most certainly applies. I am certain there are those of us who are lazy when it comes to work, chores, paying the bills, cleaning the house, maintaining our cars, doing our homework, and a myriad of other day-to-day responsibilities, far more of us struggle with spiritual laziness. Think about what Solomon records in this chapter.

“The lazy person claims, ‘There’s a lion on the road! Yes, I’m sure there’s a lion out there!'” (Proverbs 26:13 NLT).

This is a far-fetched, desperate kind of excuse that justifies inaction due to inherent danger. It seems ridiculous and hard to believe. But to the one making the excuse, it is all he or she needs to keep them from doing what they need to do. They conjure up all kinds of reasons for not meeting their obligations. We do the same thing with our spiritual lives. We can come up with all kinds of pathetic, unrealistic excuses for not spending time with God. And after a while, we can begin to convince ourselves they’re true.

“Lazy people take food in their hand but don’t even lift it to their mouth” (Proverbs 26:15 NLT).

This is really pathetic. This pictures a person so lazy they don’t even have the energy to feed themselves. But think about that image when it comes to our spiritual well-being. We have access to the Word of God, all kinds of spiritual tools and resources at our disposal, Bible studies galore, and yet we can’t muster up enough energy to feed ourselves spiritually. So we starve to death spiritually surrounded by everything we need to grow and mature.

“Lazy people consider themselves smarter than seven wise counselors” (Proverbs 26:16 NLT).

When someone is spiritually lazy, you can’t get them to listen to reason. They have bought into their own excuses and will refuse to listen to any counsel that suggests they’re wrong. You can tell them about the importance of spending time with God. You can give them helpful tips on how to study God’s Word more effectively. But they won’t listen. Because the reality is that they don’t want to study God’s Word. They find it difficult to do, so they rationalize away any responsibility on their part. They’re lazy and unteachable.

“As a door swing back and forth on its hinges, so the lazy person turns over in bed” (Proverbs 26:14 NLT).

We hit the snooze alarm. We grant ourselves a few more minutes of precious, well-deserved sleep. We roll over in bed and squander any time we might have spent in God’s Word. We’ll get up early to go on vacation, hit the gym, go for a run, head into the office, or a hundred other activities we WANT to do. But we can make up all kinds of excuses to avoid spending time with God. And our laziness results in spiritual lethargy and anemia. We find ourselves low on spiritual energy and our minds devoid of spiritual understanding. We operate on fumes and go through our days lacking the spiritual vitality to deal with the struggles of life. Back in chapter 24, Solomon warns us of the danger of spiritual apathy and laziness. It does have consequences.

“A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber” (Proverbs 24:33 NLT).

We need to wake up, get up, and get into God’s Word. We need to stop making excuses and start making time for God. Spiritual laziness is killing us. It’s leaving us spiritual impoverished and easy pickings for the enemy. We are too weak to defend ourselves against the assault of the enemy and too spiritually malnourished to survive the daily onslaught of the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves.

Father, wake us up. Help us get rid of all our excuses and get into Your Word on a daily basis. Forgive us of our spiritual laziness. Replace it with a zeal for You and a desire to spend time in Your Word so that we might learn Your ways and be equipped to fight Your battle as members of Your spiritual army. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 31

The Beauty of Character.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” – Proverbs 31:30 NLT

In a society obsessed with outer beauty, it pays to be reminded that God looks at the heart. He is not impressed with externals. He does not measure our value based on our good looks or how impressive we may appear. God is all about inner character. He sees what others too often fail to see and what most of us even fail to look for. In this famous Proverb, King Lemuel describes a most impressive woman. She is industrious, a successful businesswoman, a loving mother, a highly disciplined worker, a caring friend, and a dedicated wife. In fact, this woman is almost too good to be true. But I don’t think the point of this Proverb is to hold up this unnamed woman as a model for all women to follow. I think the point is to remind us that it is our character that counts. It is what’s inside that gives us our value. This woman’s industry and hard work are laudable, but they are not the point. Hard work can simply become another form of idol worship, leading to workaholism and self-sufficiency. While King Lemuel describes this woman as dressing in fine linen and purple gowns, he says, “She is clothed with dignity and strength” (Proverbs 31:25 NLT). Her inner character was outwardly visible in the manner in which she lived her life. She worked hard out of love for her family, not out of love for self. She was industrious because she cared for others more than she cared for herself. This woman feared God. She had a reverence for God that drove her actions and determined her attitude about everything. Verse 10 describes her as “virtuous.” That word really has to do with inner strength. She was trustworthy, good, hard-working, discerning, compassionate, giving, humble, wise, kind, loving, and worthy of praise from both her children and her husband. Why? Because she had inner beauty that was far more than skin deep. It was the byproduct of time spent with God. If some of us, both men and women, spent more time in the Word and less time in the gym or in front of the mirror, we would exhibit more of the character qualities this woman possessed. If we cared more about the condition of our souls than we did about our bodies, we would be far more attractive to the world around us. “Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman [or man] who lives in the Fear-of-GOD” (Proverbs 31:30 MSG).

Father, we obsess over the outside. We spend far too much time worrying about how we appear when we should be thinking about who we really are on the inside. Renew our perspective. Give us a greater desire to be transformed from the inside out. Help us to fear You more and desire what is important to You. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 24

A Dangerous Combination.

“I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense.” – Proverbs 24:30 NLT

One of the fallacies associated with the life of faith is that there is little we are responsible for in our Christian life. It is a life based solely upon grace and not merit. While it is true that we can’t earn our salvation through effort or works, it is NOT true that grace eliminates effort altogether. Grace is opposed to earning, not effort. We can’t earn favor with God. We can’t earn out way into heaven. We can’t earn godliness, but we are to strive for it. Paul said, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should” (1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT). Paul pursued the life of righteousness with a vengeance. While he knew that ultimately it is God’s responsibility to produce the life of godliness within us, Paul also knew that he had a responsibility to pursue the things of God. God makes the crops grow, but the farmer still has to till the ground and plant the seed.

In the book of Proverbs you will see repeated mention of the sluggard or the lazy person. Sometimes he is referred to as the sloth. He is slow moving, sleep loving and work despising. In verse 30, Solomon combines the attribute of laziness with the lack of common sense. It presents a toxic blend of two character traits that are each bad enough alone, but devastating when combined. In reality, the lazy person probably always lacks common sense or understanding, because they fail to recognize that their failure to act and desire to avoid work will always produce the wrong results. Solomon’s describes the visible outcome of the lifestyle of laziness and ignorance: “I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense. I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down” (Proverbs 24:30-31 NLT). This guy’s field or vineyard is overgrown with weeds and the walls designed to protect it are in a shambles. In other words, due to this person’s laziness and lack of common sense, his vineyard would fail to produce fruit. His ignorance and unwilling to work would result in fruitlessness. What a sad picture of the lives of so many Christians today. Due to spiritual apathy and laziness, their lives produce little in the way of fruit. They have neglected the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, and the study of God’s Word. As a result, their spiritual walls are broken down and their lives have become fruitless. The lesson Solomon learned from seeing the field of the lazy person apply to us today. “A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber” (Proverbs 24:33-34 NLT). Our choice to take the lazy way will result in spiritual poverty. The apostle Paul challenges us, “let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God” (2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT). The godly life requires diligent effort and common sense. We must pursue the things of God with a vengeance. We must make the things of God our highest priority. He has placed His Spirit within us, but the Holy Spirit will not force Himself on us. We must make a choice to tap into His power and take full advantage of His presence in our lives. “But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live” (Romans 8:13 NLT). Laziness and a lack of common sense are a dangerous combination in the life of the believer. God has called us to work hard and think wisely, which is why Paul encourages us to “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT).

Father, forgive me for my spiritual apathy and laziness. Forgive me for my lack of common sense when I have the wisdom of God available to me through the Word of God. I want to be “a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 6

Practical Piety.

“When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up, they will advise you.For their command is a lamp and their instruction a light; their corrective discipline is the way to life..” – Proverbs 6:22-23 NLT

The life of godliness or Christlikeness was never meant to be impossible or impractical. It is impossible only if we attempt to live it in our own strength or on our own terms. It is impractical is we fail to apply its lessons to our daily lives. We can become so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. Righteousness is highly practical. It is to be visible to those around us. It is to impact every area of our lives, changing the way we live, altering the way we think, and influencing our decisions. Righteous living is wise living. It is living according to God’s standards, and God is a highly practical God. Solomon took what he knew about God and applied it to everyday life. He warned his son against the dangers of co-signing on a loan for a friend. He is really warning against presumption, taking a risk based on a hope that all will turn out well. We don’t know the future. Only God does. So why risk the well-being of your family by putting your finances at risk. This could be applied to all kinds of investments, get-rich-quick schemes, business ventures, etc. And Solomon knows that pride plays a huge factor in so many of our decisions, so he warns, “Now swallow your pride; go and beg to have your name erased. Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do!” (Proverbs 6:3-4 NLT). Fear of man keeps us from living according to God’s terms. We make decisions out of pride and out of a fear of being rejected, judged, ridiculed, or thought less of by others.

Solomon also warns against laziness or the lack of discipline in our lives. Righteous people are hard-working, diligent people. They are good stewards of their time, talents and resources, including the hours given to them in each and every day by God. So they don’t waste and squander them. Laziness seems so innocent at first. What harm could there be in a few extra hours of sleep? But the life of laziness leads no where good. The godly are diligent, hard-working, and faithful to perform their daily responsibilities well.

Solomon goes on to give his son (and us) seven things the Lord hates. Once again, these are highly practical, everyday life things. He warns against pride, lying, murder, the intent to do harm and the desire to do wrong, false witnesses, and trouble making. Every one of these is a real life issue that each of us struggles with at some level. Even murder, or killing of the innocent, is something each of us is capable of. Solomon’s point seems to be that we need to know what God hates and learn to hate those things as well. We need to avoid them like the plague. We need to listen to wise counsel, from parents, peers, friends, and from the Word of God. Piety that is not practical is useless. It becomes hypocrisy. Our beliefs must impact our behavior. Our righteousness must result in right living. The way we live should reflect the God in whom we believe.

Father, You have called us to live different lives. We have been set apart and given a different agenda for our lives. We are Your children and are to reflect Your character to the world around us. Help us make our religion real and our beliefs practical. Don’t allow us to make them purely academic. Your Son died so that we might have life and life more abundantly. May our relationship with You radically alter the way we live on this earth. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org