Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I shared the following with my faith-based teams over a period of a couple weeks. Whether one believes the bible or not, its principles hold true. There is a lot of wisdom to be garnered for our lives from its lessons.
So if you are opposed to the bible, the little white X in the red box in the upper, right-hand corner is a handy tool you may want to consider using right now. I am very bold about my faith and make no excuses for it. I also cherish my friends, whether they are believers in God or not, and they are precious to me, so I give fair warning lest they take offense in some way.
For those who do put their faith in God and His word, this is rather lengthy, so you may want to take it in little bites. lol Thanks to those who have read along and left such awesome feedback in the threads where this was posted. I am posting it here for those who may not be part of those teams but who might be inspired, comforted, and challenged by its message. Love y'all.
Sometimes as we wander around God’s word, the Holy Spirit directs us in ways that are not at first apparent. After we stumble over the same theme five or six times, we get that AH-HAH! moment and it all seems to come together. That’s what happened to me as I meandered through some of Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes yesterday, and I wanted to share some of it with you because, if I didn’t know better, I’d say Solomon was a SparkPerson!
I will break down this lesson into a verse by verse post, lest I lose you by its sheer length or drive you to distraction with too many words. lol I pray that God will bring forth a bountiful harvest of wisdom in our lives through His mighty word.
Note: My daily readings for this year’s bible-in-a-year program are from The Message Version, so that’s what I’ll be posting unless otherwise indicated.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 “Endings are better than beginnings. Sticking to it is better than standing out.” Are you good at starting things? Quick to sign up for a challenge with absolutely good intentions? Do you make determined resolutions to implement healthier and holier habits into your everyday life, writing them down, praying over them, getting excited about them? I think many of us fit these descriptions. But something happens along the way and things fizzle out. God knew that would be the nature of man and He’s given us provision for this cycle in our lives with this bit of wisdom. God has a LOT to say about finishing things. We’re told that He calls the end from the very beginning. In His eyes, they’re one. In fact, He proclaims Himself the Alpha AND the Omega, the Beginning AND the End. We have the great blessing of being able to tap into that through Him, to FINISH what we start, to break the chains of “beginnings madness” that leave us frustrated and disappointed in ourselves, feeling defeated.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the world. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” See what I mean? Wouldn’t you bet good money that Solomon was on a SparkTeam or two?! Part of the SparkPeople wonder is the never-ending supply of friendship, understanding, encouragement, motivation, creativity, and wisdom we gain from one another. When we isolate because we feel we’ve failed, when we draw back from our SparkFriends and SparkTeams because we have made some unhealthy choices, when we avoid each other because we are at a low point and feel we’ll just drag others down with us, we set ourselves up for failure in a HUGE way. We’re taught to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and with good reason. By sticking together, we don’t fall. Oh, we may stumble, but we are drawn back up again by the hand or word of a friend, inspired to dust off our bottoms, rearrange a few things, and press on toward the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus in body, soul, and spirit. We absolutely can and MUST spend intimate time alone with our Beloved Jesus (much as we must spend time alone with our spouses). Fellowship, though, is vital, as well. Wherever two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, He is there among us. What a JOY it is to open our hearts and extend the hand of friendship to others! In so doing, I gain strength for myself, making that rope of rescue and stability all the stronger.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 “And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!” This verse goes hand in hand with verse 12. We fall. We ALL falter at some point, in some way. As the body is fitly joined together, though, it seems to work out in such a wondrous way so that when I fall in one area, you are excelling there. When you are fatigued and weak and deflated in one arena of life, I have the victory in that battle and am able to take your hand, pray you through in faith, and lead you to safer ground. Be watchful for those who are wilting or have fallen. Never belittle them. Don’t criticize them. For heaven’s sake, do NOT gossip about them! Simply extend mercy and grace to them and HELP them, whether here on SparkPeople, in your church home or place of work, or in your very own home, maybe even your very own bedroom.
Ecclesiastes 4:5 “The fool sits back and takes it easy. His sloth is slow suicide.” Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch! I hate exercise. I truly do. As most of you know, the only exercise I do not hate is water aerobics. Too bad. Right? I have to do it or I will die. “Sitting back” nearly extinguished my ability to move forever. My insistence upon gaining more and more weight made me less and less able to move. Slow suicide is absolutely where I lived. NO MORE! My progress may be slow at this point, but moving slowly is far, FAR better than committing suicide slowly!!
Note to self: Don’t tell me why you can’t exercise. Just EXERCISE. It’s NOT an option!!
Ecclesiastes 11:1 “Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns.” Again, I think Solomon foresaw SparkPeople! Investing in one another may not seem to bring in a quick return on your investment, but it is never, EVER wasted. We, as the New Testament church, are taught to pour ourselves into one another and to pour ourselves out for each other. Being authentic with those in our realm of influence, exposing our victories and defeats, our joys and fears, revealing what is working for us and what is not are just a few ways we give in this way, investing in acts of charity. Can you name some of the other many, many ways we can be charitable and invest into those who cross our paths on a daily basis? May we always be generous of heart as we sow mercy, grace, and grace into all of those God has hand placed into our lives and may we never be stone throwers or mote removers.
Ecclesiastes 10:2 “Wise thinking leads to right living; stupid thinking leads to wrong living.” Oh, boy. Could this BE more plain? Could God have expressed it in any more simple terms for us? I spent decades of my life making unwise decisions, stupidly choosing to try to eat myself into an early grave, making foolish choices to sit, sit, sit instead of getting up and moving. I’ve experienced stupid thinking in other areas of my life, too, which led to destruction and wrong living. The promise of God is: James 1:5 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. Whether in our journey toward healthier living, relationships, finances, child rearing, careers, spiritual ventures, no matter WHAT we are doing, we should ask of God, and He will give us the wisdom we need. Furthermore, He will give it to us liberally, without crushing us with condemnation by reminding us that we should have been wiser in the first place. Oh, how good He is!!
Ecclesiastes 7:18 “It’s best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it.” It is so easy to get tunnel vision, to get so focused on one thing that we lose sight of the big picture. We must keep our eyes trained on the prize at the end of our weight loss journey. We must never, however, forget from whence we came. Oh, we should never be condemned by it! Not ever!! We should not forget it, though. We’ve much to learn about our new, healthier lives from our former, destructive lives. Wishing, hoping, dreaming, proclaiming, claiming, all those things are good in their own right, but they cannot replace reality, and ALL of reality. If we look only at what our scale says, we will surely come to a place of despair at some point. If we look only at our inches lost or muscle gained, again we may become discouraged. If we only see the reality of healthy eating and do not exercise, we can get into trouble. If exercise is our only reality and we are not mindful of healthy nutrition, portion control, variety, we sabotage our efforts. If we become prisoner to certain routines or exiled from particular foods, we are no longer free, indeed. I heard this analogy before and it is fitting for this lesson: As we stand at a parade, we see only what is in front of us, that specific float or marching band or horses with their riders. If we take on the mind of Christ, we are able to see the entire route, from beginning to end, the full sequence of events and activities with eternal perspective and value: the big picture, the whole reality, not just a portion of it.
Ephesians 5:29 “No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That is how Christ treats us, the church.” Do we abuse our bodies by feeding and pampering them unwisely? Do we fail to feed and pamper our bodies as Jesus Himself wishes to do for us, by denying them adequate water, nutrition and exercise? This, of course, can be extended to our involvement with the family of God, our own households, our and community involvements, how we treat JESUS’ body (all who are born again), perhaps neglecting it, not cherishing it properly, not holding it tight or valuing it as we ought. Hopefully we are learning to be aware of how we treat our bodies, relationships, churches, our Lord, seeking to do a better job of it every single day.
These lessons were powerful to me and I hope they were a blessing to you, as well. Thank you for taking the time to follow along. I count it an honor to be able to share God’s word with you in all of its power and glory. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us into all truth so that we may aptly apply God’s directives and wisdom to every area of our lives.