Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Sluggard - Proverbs, part 3

What are your ambitions in life? Not necessarily your “dream” life, but when you look back at the end of your life, what would have been a good life, a life well lived?  Career, home, family, involvement in the Great Commission, etc…? We are surrounded by a culture that holds out a great many things but seems to be training us to pursue and value leisure rather than diligence.

We can probably all think of examples of how our culture worships leisure.  Consider these examples: the new movie Avatar grossed $2,467,962,011; The Dark Knight - $1,022,345,358; the video game Grand Theft Auto IV earned $500-million in its first week of release; Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was the first video game to exceed $1 billion in sales.  These numbers are staggering.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these things. Rest, relaxation, and entertainment are good things. But is rest, relaxation, and leisure what life is all about? Is it true that the best things in life are free?

We are going to consider the sluggard in the book of Proverbs. Let’s see if we can discern his characteristics and the outcomes from his/her life. I think our Lord has something to tell us about our pursuit of relaxation from the life of the sluggard.

"Sluggard" Proverbs:

Proverbs 6:6-11 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. 7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, 8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Proverbs 10:26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.

Proverbs 12:24 The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Proverbs 15:19 The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.

Proverbs 18:9 Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys

Proverbs 19:24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.

Proverbs 20:4 The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.

Proverbs 21:25-26 The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. 26 All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back

Proverbs 26:13-16 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” 14 As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. 15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. 16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.

So, what characteristics did you see?  Here are some I found:
Characteristics: lacks self control; has no initiative, not a self-motivated person; lacks long-range planning; focuses on the immediate; has great desires/cravings; foolish; lazy; no follow through, doesn’t finish what he starts (even when he’s gotten up the energy to actually start something); doesn’t do the work it takes to get the desired result; chooses to be this way, he refuses to work – it is a conscious choice; unrighteous; makes lame excuses; has an unhealthy love of sleep and rest, won’t get out of bed; arrogant; procrastinator; distracted/not diligent; wastes opportunity after opportunity; prefers laziness to labor; wants an easy life rather than one spent doing good.

What about results?  Did you see the outcome of the life of the sluggard?
Results: has a lack of resources ($, skills, opportunity, etc…); harms those around him – disastrous to an employer; brings ruin to whatever he’s involved in; poverty; does not get what he wants in life; has nothing to fill his great desires; has a painful, difficult life; is unable to help others since he can’t even help himself.

Lessons Learned from the sluggard

So, what can we learn from the life of the sluggard?  Many things, but consider these five:

1. Work is an appointed part of a godly life – Colossians 3:23-24, 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

2. Work is not a result of the fall of mankind into sin. Even before the fall man had work appointed to him – Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”; 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

3. Purposeful work is a good gift from God.

4. We should not adopt the view of our culture – despising our work and worshipping our leisure.

5. We reflect the character of God in work by caring for others, in producing things, and in being purposeful in our actions. Your work is to take what God has made and shape it and use it to make Him look great. You were created in God’s image to image Him forth in this world.

My Story

Let me close with a personal example from my life. I spent the first twenty years of my life, in many ways, exemplifying the sluggard. I lived for pleasure; I lived for myself. I squandered my education and did not learn the things that I could have. As a result I had a lower ACT score and did not get any scholarships to college. My freshman year in college was spent in partying and trying to avoid any responsibility and my grades greatly reflected this.

In short, I was wasting my life. I was no good for myself, and I was no good for anyone else. I had great aspirations for a full life but in reality the outlook was pretty bleak, and yet I couldn’t even see it. I just figured that it would eventually work itself out. I was a sluggard.

It was right around the time of my twentieth birthday, in January of 1992, that God took mercy on me and changed me. It was then that He called me to see the waste of my life and to see the treasure of His Son, Who had died and rose again for my salvation. With this my life had new meaning and direction. I knew that I was privileged to spend my life living to know Him and to make Him known. Although definitely not perfectly, I began to study and work to honor God with my education. By His grace I was able to not squander the rest of my education and went from almost failing to graduating with honors.  I don't say this to brag in any way but rather to highlight the great mercy and grace of our God.  He alone gets the glory; if left to myself my life would be in ruins.

The temptation to be slothful is always there for me and that is why I daily need Christ. He is my only hope before a holy God. I am immensely sinful and imperfect but He is my righteousness. He is the one who died to free me from sin’s penalty, to bring me new life, and set me free from sin’s mastery. As I look to Christ I see God’s calling for my life is infinitely better than my natural, sinful inclinations.

Knowing that this amazing God has set me free from sin and death, and now I want to invest my life in pleasing Him and being a blessing to others.

How will you live your life? What will be the sum total of your life’s value? Consider the ant, look to Christ, and then walk in the new life that He provides for your blessing and His glory.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Fool - Proverbs, part 2

The book of Proverbs is an amazing book.  In it we see practical knowledge for daily living.  Proverbs shows us how to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God and is profitable to us.  One of the main characters in Proverbs is the fool.  In essence he is wisdom's opposite.  Take some time to read several of these verses from Proverbs that discuss the fool; maybe get a pen and paper and jot down some of your findings.  Look for these things: results, actions, descriptions, and effects on others.

Proverbs 1:7 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." 1:22; 1:32 ; 3:35; 8:5 ; 10:1 ; 10:8; 10:18; 10:21; 10:23; 12:15; 12:16; 12:23; 13:16; 13:19; 13:20; 14:3; 14:7-8; 14:9; 14:24; 15:5; 15:7; 15:14; 15:20; 17:10; 17:12; 17:21; 17:24; 7:25; 17:28; 18:2; 18:6-7; 19:1; 19:29; 20:3; 21:20; 23:9; 24:7; 26:1; 26:3; 26:4; 26:5; 26:6; 26:7; 26:8; 26:9; 26:1; 26:11; 26:12; 27:22; 28:26; 29:9; 29:11; 29:20; 30:2; 30:32

What does the fool look like?:
The fool is wisdom’s opposite – one of the key ways you can identify a fool is by what he thinks about discipline. Does this person welcome correction or does he avoid it? The fool rejects and avoids discipline and this points to his disregard for wisdom (1:7; 15:5).

(Does this describe you? How do you respond to the rebuke of your parents, your teachers, your boss, your friends?)

We also see in Proverbs that a fool’s foolishness is willful. It is not merely a character defect or a mental flaw – the fool is willful in continuing in foolishness – openly rejecting wisdom’s call to change (1:20-32). He likes his foolish ways, and thinks he is right (12:15; 18:2; 28:26).

Proverbs also shows us the results of living as a fool - the fool brings misery and destruction on himself and others (1:32; 10:1; 13:20).

But where does it all come from.  Why is the fool a fool?  The root trouble for the fool is spiritual, not mental. In rejecting wisdom he is like a dog returning to eat his vomit (26:11). And at the bottom of it all is the fact that he is rejecting the fear of God (1:29; 9:10).  This is what makes him a fool. The fool trusts in himself; the wise person trusts in God.

What should I do:
There is a first step out of foolishness. It is in recognizing the foolishness of your own ways and turning to the wisdom of God’s way. And it is in seeing and believing that God has taken your rebellion toward Him and placed it all on His Son as He suffered and died on the cross. Jesus, the God-man, was and is the perfect wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:8-24). He lived, died and rose from the dead to save us from our sin of choosing what is right in our own eyes (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

You will either bear the curse of God for your own foolishness or you will flee to the One who took it for you (Galatians 3:10-14).

Choose life.  Choose the life that both pleases God and profits us.  See your foolishness and turn and trust in what God has provided. Don’t continue in your folly; listen to wisdom.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are Youth Wiser Than Adults?

I wonder how much of our culture has shaped how we view each other.  I'm sure it affects us more than we can possibly imagine and more than we would like to admit.  Below is an article from Albert Mohler as he considers the current trend of seeing youth as wiser than those with age and life experience.  I would encourage you to consider what he has to say.

NewsNote: Seen But Not Heard?
by Albert Mohler

Whatever happened to being seen but not heard? Diana West asks that question in a recent essay, noting that there has been a massive shift in Western culture away from adult authority and toward the "wise child." All around us are signs that authority and wisdom are now to be recognized in the young, rather than the old. This is nothing less than a reversal of what previous generations had believed and assumed.

As Diana West explains:

When your average doting adult today murmurs the expression, “Out of the mouths of babes,” it is less an expression of wonder than a validation of the widely held assumption that children — babes, tweens, and teens — are innately wiser than their elders. They know better (sexual and fashion choices). They are discerning (music). They feel, therefore they understand (politics). Or so we have come to think due to a stunning if under-appreciated cultural reversal. Once upon a time, we believed wisdom was an expression of experience and maturity. Today, we believe the exact opposite.

Indeed, it is the exact opposite. Marketers target children because they know that the young drive many consumer choices. On the television screen, it is the kids on the sitcoms who are wise. The parents and other authority figures are routinely corrected by the wisdom of the young. The bumbling adults learn to laugh at their foolishness and follow the direction of the children and adolescents on screen.

Teachers and others who work with youth and children often receive the same message, not only from the kids but from their parents. "How dare you correct my child? His opinion is as valid as yours."

West traces the development of this trend through the 1950s and 1960s. As long ago as 1958, Dwight Macdonald had noted the rise of the adolescent, with a flood of books on parenting teens emerging from a host of "experts." As Macdonald saw, "The list goes on and on, and it includes many titles that would have been puzzling even in fairly recent times, because their subject matter is not the duty of children toward their parents, but precisely the opposite.”

The shift from the duty of children to parents to the duty of parents to children was not subtle. All of a sudden, the young became the instructors of the old, on everything from the morality of war and peace to the issues of sex and the meaning of life.

As West observes, "It is hard to overstate the significance of this change more than half a century ago. It is this fundamental rearrangement of life’s building blocks that put successive decades on an entirely new footing from all that had come before. To say the tide had turned is to imply a temporary, cyclical shift. What had occurred — replacing the child’s duty to his parent with the parent’s duty to his child — has so far turned out to be permanent."

A quick review of contemporary entertainment, educational philosophies, and cultural influences would suggest that this shift is not only thus far permanent, but may be virtually irreversible. Diana West underscores the fact that this great shift was only possible because adults forfeited their authority and responsibility. The kids did not seize power in a coup. They were handed authority on a silver platter.

West has referred to this phenomenon as "the death of the grown-up." Reaching adulthood ceased to be the great goal of the young. Instead, adults now attempt to present themselves as adolescents. The perpetual adolescent is the aspirational role model of today's youth -- and a tragic percentage of the nation's adults.

From a Christian perspective, Diana West's essay, as well as her book, The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization, serves to alert parents and others to the challenge of raising children in such a culture. The goal of Christian parents must be to raise children to adulthood -- a genuine adulthood. The Bible honors children, but the biblical worldview establishes parents as the authority figures and adults as the figures of wisdom.

"Seen but not heard" is not the best model for parenting children. On the other hand, it is infinitely superior to the abdication of adult authority that marks the current age. Once again, Christian parents are reminded that raising godly children in this age requires the courage of a counter-revolutionary.

How Connected Are Your Kids?!?

The Kaiser Family Foundation has recently done some research into the lives of our American Kids.  Their findings are startling.  Consider this quote here:
A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that with technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access as children and teens go about their daily lives, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically, especially among minority youth. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time 'media multitasking' (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.
Parents, notice that this is every single day.  This is not a week's total, but daily!  How are your kids doing?  This should be a wake up call for us as parents to think about what often goes on right beneath our noses.  We live in a vastly different world of technology than the one in which we grew up.  I would encourage you to read Albert Mohler's article on this topic:

As I am thinking of this study I am reminded of taking groups of kids on camping trips.  In the past I always thought it was a good idea to make them leave behind their walkman and their gameboy but in our current day the kids are so much more connected.  Many youth find it extremely difficult to spend more than a few minutes without either updating their friends as to their "status" or reading about what their friends are doing.  Where is the time for contemplation?  Where is the room for deep thought?  When can a youth find time to "be still and know that I am God?"  Media can be extremely distracting.  And without out strong self-discipline I fear that we will neglect one of our greatest spiritual disciplines: meditation on God's Word.

A few months ago we put together a hay ride for our teens and I was amazed and a bit dismayed by something that happened.  As I went out on one of the rides I found that the majority of the youth had their faces buried in their cell phones.  They were either sending each other messages, getting a hold of kids who were not there, or looking at other electronic media...ON A HAYRIDE.  The hay fights, the laughter, the singing, and the jumping-off-to-scare-the-girls were replaced by an electronic glow and bent necks.  I couldn't help but think that we were missing out on something.

I hope and pray that we as parents will have the courage and discipline to do what is unpopular and actually "parent" our children.  Youth are not the repository of wisdom and should not be left to make the final determination as to how they spend their time.  I need to remind myself that I have a great privilege and responsibility to train up my children.  Today is a day worth redeeming.