So continuing my journey through Proverbs at the moment, I came across this:
Proverbs 21:5 Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity,
but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty
For me January is a month of planning. But planning is not enough. Planning has to be combined with the hard work, with execution.
What I have also noticed is that Proverbs contains many references to prosperity and poverty. Does that mean it is the ‘prosperity gospel’ book of the Bible? No. It is however perhaps the most practical. Yes, life can surprise us but more often than not, a diligent person is going to succeed in the real world more than a lazy one. I’ll take diligence over intelligence every day of the week. Often however, they tend to be one and the same person.
Because Proverbs is so practical, it is inviting us to apply the Word of God. Why? Because in its application, the Word of God is proved true. Ie; the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I believe there are times when we are reluctant to apply Scripture in everyday life because it may just reveal that it is true and we may just have to repent of something!
Proverbs is not there to make you rich, Proverbs is there to make you realise.
Getting pack to the ‘riches and poverty’ thingo; what if part of God’s allowance and design of money and finances is to reveal in real time and material ways an eternal, spiritual principal? What might that principal be?
You reap what you sow.
Try and take ‘creative shortcuts’ with cash, you’ll end up a slave to debtors. Try to take ‘creative shortcuts’ spiritually and you end up with a debt that can never be replayed having missed out on grace.
Financial shortcuts end in financial poverty. Spiritual shortcuts end in spiritual poverty.
Now it’s usually at about this point where someone will say something like “ugh, another person using the word ‘grace’ in the midst of a ‘works’ theology.” Well…..no.
All ‘hard work’ in the Bible is motivated by faith. Faith in a God that promises a reward that we will not be able to wrap our heads around. It is anticipatory in nature; looking forward in expectation, up in exultation, down in humility and behind in gratitude. Effort in response to promise is completely different from in response to threat.
God revealed this to me last year via a little mantra that he put in my head and I have since been driving certain people nuts with: “Hard work is heart work.” In other words, when you consistently and diligently invest in something, your affection grows for it. You begin to put ‘you heart and soul into it.’ It might be a cheesy saying but it’s not far from the truth.
This of course also implies the Satan wants us to be lazy. I believe that laziness is one of the most un-diagnosed increase(ers) of distraction in our lives. It’s a long-term thief of joy because we lose the ability to concentrate and therefore execute on any plan. Anything worthwhile will require us to repent of any laziness.
Where is all this going you ask?
Getting to know God better.
Lots of Christians around this time of the year will have some sort of resolution to ‘get to know God better this year.’ I am one of them.
I am really aiming to know God deeper this year than ever before. I have a plan structured around three things I aim to let go and three I aim to take up (Thanks Steve Wickham) and do you know what? Straight away I have run into such massive temptation to take shortcuts and slack off.
But thanks be to God, he has in his grace allowed me to ‘perceive’ the excuses I make in order to justify my shortcuts and although it is a little embarrassing, I’m going to let you in on one of the biggest because I feel it’s so important.
It is so much easier to do ‘ministry work’ than pursue a deeper level of prayer.
Yeah that’s right, I said it.
It is so much easier to look holy than pursue holiness. Ministry work can be a type of ‘easy way out’ of having to concentrate for long periods of time. It’s even more tempting because when you’re in paid ministry you want to be ‘seen doing something constructive’. Maybe because Henri Nouwen’s comment in relation to churches: “so often the productive person is preferred to the wise person,” so often rings true in our culture.
I feel that pressure.
I also think that in some way we all do.
So we do what I call the ‘busyness whinge-boast‘. You know what I’m saying; that time when you talk about how busy you are in an exasperated tone whilst really hoping the person you’re talking to is actually really impressed.
We’re just trying to justify the fact that we’re getting no-where in all our busyness.
So anyway, for me; one of my big resolutions is to drop the ministry version of the ‘busyness whinge-boast’ and simply crack on with getting to know God in an even deeper way.
Relying on the promise that “in all things God works together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Rom 8:28