En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘prophetic’

Be Godlike!

Posted by Scott on March 21, 2008

Ray C. Stedman

READ: Ephesians 5:1-2

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children… (Ephesians 5:1).

Paul puts it flatly, bluntly, openly: “Be imitators of God.” That is a great declaration. The word for imitators is the Greek word that means “to mimic.” Mimics are those who follow the pattern or the example of God. If you want to put it simply, you can say it this way: “Be godlike.” That is the goal of Christianity. It is to produce men and women, boys and girls, who are godlike in the midst of an ungodlike world. That is what it is all about.

Notice that it does not say, “Be gods.” That is the lie of the devil. He distorts the truth and makes it come out as a promise to us that if we follow our own desires, throw overboard all restrictions, cast aside the bonds of authority, and do what we want to do, we can be gods. For, after all, isn’t that what God does? He does what He wants; He is sovereign; He does what He likes. But that is a lie. This is not what the Christian faith says. It says rather, “be godlike,” meaning, “reflect the one true and holy God.” There is only one God. There can be only one God. By definition, God is a supreme being. How many supreme beings can you have? Only one.

Therefore, the Christian message is to be like the one true God. Reflect Him in your humanity. Be a godlike man. Be a godlike woman. From this we get our English word godly. After all, this word godly, which makes many of us cringe and feel uncomfortable, is simply a shortened from of the word godlike. It originally came from the word godlikeness. Godlikeness is godliness; godliness is godlikeness.

What will you be like if you are godlike? Will you be strong? Yes, of course. There is no strength like God’s strength. Will you be filled with power if you are godlike? Oh yes, but be careful. It is a different kind of power than the world desires. It is quieter, less apparent, but far mightier. Will you be happy if you are godlike? Oh yes, but a different kind of happiness than the world is seeking after. Will you be wise and kind? Of course, wiser and kinder than you have ever been before, because that is what God is.

We can sum all this up in two words. Despite all the works of God that are evident around us, both in the natural world and in the world of thought and ideas, there are really only two things that God ever does in human history: God creates and He redeems. Those are the two things. Everything in the whole universe gathers about these two. God creates and God redeems. God makes things live, and God heals that which is broken. It is because God is life and God is love. He is therefore our Maker and our Healer. And that is what you will be if you become godly. You will learn how to live to the fullest capacity of your humanity. And you will learn how to love and to heal, to restore and bring together instead of to scatter and fragment and break apart. For that is godlikeness. It is desirable, isn’t it? Who does not want to be like this?

Father, this is what I have always wanted to be like. Teach me to listen that there might break out in our lonely, bewildered, confused age the wonder of godlikeness.

This daily devotion was inspired by one of Ray’s sermons. Please read “The Call Of The Hour” (or listen to the audio file  Listen to Ray) for more on this portion of scripture.

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Out of the Darkness!

Posted by Scott on March 7, 2008

by Ray C. Stedman

READ: Ephesians 2:11-13

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13)

A South American Indian told the missionary who led him to Christ. “When I was living in the jungle, we never knew a day without fear. When we woke up in the morning, we were afraid. When we went out of our houses, we were afraid. When we walked along the river, we were afraid. We saw an evil spirit in every stone and tree and waterfall. And when night fell, fear came into our huts and slept with us all night long.” That is what paganism is. And this is what the world is returning to. All around us, as Christian truth begins to fade, this pagan darkness settles upon the land. How thankful it ought to make our hearts that God has called us out of such darkness!

Without the instruction of those who came to know God and then brought the message to us, we would have been nothing but pagans. Without any light in our darkness other than the natural light that came from our inner being, indicating that there is a God somewhere, we would be living like that still. But now, having once been far off, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

It isn’t merely the death of Christ. Paul says that it is the blood of Christ. It is significant that he uses that term. Death, of course, is not always bloody. You can die without losing your blood. The Scriptures sometimes speak of the death of Christ and more often of the cross of Christ. But still more often they speak of the blood of Christ. Many don’t like this today. They don’t like to think of the cross or of the death of Jesus as being bloody. But God emphasizes it because blood is always a sign of violence. You see, the death of Jesus was not just a simple passing away—dying of old age on a comfortable bed. No, it was a violent death, a bloody, gory, ugly, revolting scene—a man hanging torn and wretched upon a cross with blood streaming down His sides.

God wants us to remember that violent death, because violence is the ultimate result of paganism. It is the final expression of a godless society. Cruelty arises immediately when love and truth disappear from society. And God is reminding us that when humanity had done its worst, had sunk to its lowest, had vented its anger in the utter wretchedness and violence and blood of the cross, His love reached down to that very place and, utilizing that violent act, began to redeem, to call back those who were far off and bring them near—in the blood of Christ.

And in the blood of Jesus, all the advantages the Jews had were conferred upon the Gentiles. Ignorant, pagan, darkened, foolish, struggling, hopeless—nevertheless, they had just as much access to God in the blood of Christ as any Jew ever had with his temple, his law, his priesthood, and his sacrifice. By this the apostle is trying to emphasize to us the exceedingly amazing wonder of the grace of God, which laid all these liabilities aside and reached out to us and found us just as we were and brought us near by the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. What a gift to give thanks for!

Father, I thank You that I have been delivered from the darkness and brought near to You by the precious blood of Your Son.

This daily devotion was inspired by one of Ray’s sermons. Please read “Strangers In Darkness” (or listen to the audio file  Listen to Ray) for more on this portion of scripture.

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On Display!

Posted by Scott on March 6, 2008

Ray C. Stedman

READ: Ephesians 2:7-10

For we are Gods workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Notice how carefully he puts “works” in the right place. You don’t obtain anything from God by working for it. You never deserve anything but judgment at His hand. If He gave us what we deserve, we would all end up in hell. No, we receive His grace, His mercy, His love. But these result in good works. That is the point. They are designed to produce good works. It is a marvelous manifestation of God’s ability.

The word workmanship is really the word poem. “We are his poem.” Perhaps it would be better rendered, “We are his masterpiece.” God is working out in our lives a tremendous exhibition of His wisdom, His power, His love, His life, His character, His peace, and His joy. He is teaching us, training us, bringing us along, applying the paint in exactly the right places, producing a marvelous masterpiece to be put on display. This is to result in good works: kindness, love, mercy, compassion, help to one another, meeting one another’s needs.

Paul says that God has prepared these works beforehand. I experienced an interesting illustration of this. One of our interns flew to Albuquerque with me. We decided, as the plane was landing, that we would have some prayer together. I hadn’t talked to him about this passage at all, but I was struck by the way he prayed. He said, “Father, thank You for the good works already prepared for us in Albuquerque, for the fact that they are waiting for us to step into them and experience them.” Sure enough, after we got to Albuquerque these began to unfold.

There was a missionary there from the Amazon region of South America who was discouraged and terribly upset, ready to quit the ministry. Through the ministry we had there he came alive and began to see again what God could do. He came to us with a light on his face and said, “I’m going back to my field completely revolutionized in my approach. Now I’ve learned how God operates.”

A young pastor was facing dissension in his church. He wanted some counsel on how to handle it. God enabled the Scriptures to speak to that situation and give him wisdom and guidance for it. All these good works had been prepared beforehand. All we did was step into them.

Do you have any idea how many good works God has prepared for you? They are waiting for you to enter into as you walk in faith and trust and dependence upon Christ. The situations are there, ready and waiting for you to step into. This is what God has called you to. As you do so, you become a vivid display of the greatness and the glory of God.

Thank You, Father, that You have prepared beforehand good works for me to walk in. Grant that I might see these opportunities and take full advantage of them in the power of your Spirit.

This daily devotion was inspired by one of Ray’s sermons. Please read “The Human Dilemma” (or listen to the audio file  Listen to Ray) for more on this portion of scripture.

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Voice of the Martyrs Update!

Posted by Scott on February 28, 2008

VOM-USA News & Prayer Update Visit: Persecution.com

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.'” (Genesis 15:1)

Prayers for February 26, 2008
From The Voice of the Martyrs
Persecution.com
Pray for CHINA
CHINA 21 House Church Leaders Simultaneously Sentenced to Labor Camp – China Aid Association
China Aid Association (CAA) reports 21 senior house church leaders were recently simultaneously sentenced to a labor camp by the Linyi City Re-education Through Labor Commission. According to CAA, “The leaders were detained on December 7, 2007 when they gathered for leadership training with 249 other leaders in Hedong district, Linyi city, Shandong province. After paying fines and finishing detention ranging from a few days to a few weeks, 249 leaders were released. The 21 most senior leaders were sentenced to three years to one year and three months.” The Public Security Bureau has accused and labeled the house church leaders as “evil cult” members. Of the 21 leaders sent to the labor camp, 12 are men and four are women. Pray for these believers and their families during this difficult time. Ask God to protect and encourage them. Pray they will be a good witness of Christ’s love to other prisoners and their captors. Psalm 27:1

Pray for SRI LANKA
SRI LANKA Pastor Killed, Wife in Seriously Injured in Attack – National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka
On February 17, Pastor Neil Edirisinghe, of the House Church Foundation, was gunned down by two assailants outside his home in Ampara, Sri Lanka. According to a report by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), “Pastor Edirisinghe was engaged in the Lord’s ministry in Ampara for many years. The attackers also shot his wife in the stomach. At last report, she was in the hospital in critical condition. Their two-year-old son who received a minor injury in the attack is also suffering from trauma.” NCEASL added the motive for the attacks was believed to be in response to Pastor Edirisinghe’s ministry. The Voice of the Martyrs is assisting the family during this difficult time. Pray for peace and comfort for Pastor Edirisinghe’s family. Pray for a speedy recovery for his wife and child and for them to rely on the great Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 107:2

Pray for GAZA
GAZA YMCA Library Bombed – VOM Sources
On February 16, unidentified assailants bombed the library of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) compound in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza city. According to VOM sources, shortly after midnight, at least 12 gunmen entered the YMCA compound and kidnapped two guards at gunpoint after asking them why they worked for “infidels.” The men stormed the building and detonated two homemade explosive devices inside the library. All 8,000 books in the library were destroyed and the floor, walls and ceiling were damaged. The attackers stole computers and other equipment from other YMCA offices. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. . However, sources in Gaza reportedly believe that the perpetrators were Muslim militants acting in response to the reproduction of cartoons “ridiculing” Muhammad in a number of Danish newspapers last week. Praise God no one was injured in this attack. Ask God to protect and give wisdom to believers in Gaza. Pray the attackers will come into contact with the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Joshua 1:9

Pray for ETHIOPIA
ETHIOPIA Christian Couple Beaten and Chased From Mosque – VOM Sources
On February 10, Muslin Christian converts, Jemmal Abdo and his wife, were beaten and chased out from a mosque where they both worked in the capital city of Addis Ababa. According to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts, “Jemmal and his wife accepted Christ two months ago. Soon after their conversion Jemmal’s friend saw him talking with Christians and told the imam of the mosque. Jemmal and his wife were interrogated in the mosque during a meeting called by Muslim leaders in an attempt to persuade the couple to recant their faith. The couple refused to do so, even after the leaders offered them higher positions and salaries if they denied Christ. The couple was beaten and dragged out of the mosque.” Jemmal and his wife were able to flee to a new location for safety. Pray for the speedy recovery for Jemmal and his wife, who were injured in the attack. Ask God to strengthen them and provide for them as they stand strong in their new found faith in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 54:17

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The Need for the Truth!

Posted by Scott on February 28, 2008

by Ray C. Stedman

READ: Ecclesiastes 12:9-12

The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:11).

Solomon describes the value of Scripture: it is like a “goad.” It makes you go where you would not ordinarily go; it delivers you by prodding you along.

I remember a man who was in the grip of a terrible depression for more than a year. But he was delivered by daily meditating on a simple statement he found in Scripture, the words of Jesus, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Meditating on that day after day goaded him and urged him to think about his life in those terms. He was brought out of his depression within a relatively short time and never returned to it again.

Scripture is also a “firmly embedded nail.” You can hang onto it in times of danger and temptation. Once in my own life when I was severely troubled of heart, one phrase from Jesus came into my mind again and again. It was where Jesus said to His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1a RSV). I was especially gripped by those two words, “Let not.” They said to me that a troubled heart in the believer is subject to the will of that believer. He can let his heart be troubled, or he can let it not be troubled. The ground for letting it not be troubled is in the words that immediately follow: Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:lb RSV). When the realization struck me that my living Lord was there, with wisdom and power to handle the situation, I felt the lifting of my heart’s load. That is the power of Scripture.

Why does it have this unique power? The reason, according to verse 11, is because “their collected sayings… [are] given by one Shepherd.” These are inspired, God-breathed words. The heart of God is the heart of a shepherd; He sees us as wandering sheep in need of a shepherd’s care. The fact that the Lord is our shepherd is probably the reason the shepherds of Bethlehem were chosen to be the first men to hear the wonderful words of the angels: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). But in the hope that was awakened on that Christmas morning, there was the realization that the One who was born in the manger was the One of whom it was said, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6b).

“Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to [the words of the wise],” the Searcher says (Ecclesiastes 12:11). This is the word of wisdom to searchers for knowledge: “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). It is right to read and search and know and learn. But beware of letting this take you beyond the simple fact that this book so clearly declares, that God is the answer to the reason for existence. Until we discover Him, study and books will never be of any continuing value to us.

Thank You for Your Word, dear Lord. May I allow it to function in my life as a goad that prods me towards You, as a firmly fixed nail I can hang onto, given by You, the Great Shepherd.

This daily devotion was inspired by one of Ray’s sermons. Please read “Before It’s Too Late” (or listen to the audio file  Listen to Ray) for more on this portion of scripture.

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The Dangers of Digging Pits!

Posted by Scott on February 23, 2008

by Ray C. Stedman

READ: Ecclesiastes 10:1-15

Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake. Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them (Ecclesiastes 10:8-9).

In the next section, the Searcher returns to wisdom to describe the kinds of insights that wisdom will embrace. First, there is a section on avoiding dangers, understanding that certain situations have inherent dangers.

Few of us are ever going to be involved extensively in digging pits, breaking down walls, quarrying stones, or splitting logs. But Solomon is not talking only about actual physical situations; these are also descriptive, symbolic of the things we do to each other. Did you ever dig a pit for somebody, laying a trap to embarrass, injure, or make that person look bad in some way, only to find that you yourself were trapped by the situation you had designed? Wisdom understands that when you dig a pit, you too are in danger; you may fall into it yourself.

Wisdom understands that when you try to break down some wall of obstruction that keeps you from getting at someone or something, you are in danger, for hidden in that wall is a serpent that will bite you. Many have discovered that in heavy-handedly trying to break down somebody’s resistance, they have triggered a serpent within themselves that flashes up in anger and leads to hurtful, dangerous things. They themselves have been bitten.

“Whoever quarries stones,” who attempts to remove something of value, to dig out something that will be of great personal use and profit, has to remember that he or she can be hurt by that. Those who “quarry” may get what they want, but it will be the worst thing that could happen to them. Psalm 106 says of the Israelites in the wilderness, “He gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them” (Psalm 106:15). “Whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.” Here is the same principle. The idea is that care must be exercised in all these attempts to do things that may endanger you as well.

Then there are two verses on how wisdom enlists help in time: “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). If you do not think through what you are going to do and sharpen the edge of your approaches, considering carefully how you are going to go about something, you will only expend a lot of effort and find yourself worn out in the process. But wise people, understanding the need for sharpness and clarity, will whet the edge of their thought before they attempt something, and thus succeed.

How many times, Father, have I tried to do something in my own strength and been injured in the process? In all my endeavors, may I rely on Your wisdom.

This daily devotion was inspired by one of Ray’s sermons. Please read “The Only Way To Go” (or listen to the audio file  Listen to Ray) for more on this portion of scripture.

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Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life!

Posted by Scott on February 21, 2008

by Ray Stedman!

READ: Ecclesiastes 8:16-9:6

No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it (Ecclesiastes 8:17b).

The Searcher’s claim is quite clear: life is too complicated, too vast, too filled with conflicting elements for any one of us to figure out all the answers. Though we stay up all night and day, trying to think through and understand the complicated events that bring to pass the circumstances of our lives, we will never fully understand.

The Bible attaches no stigma to trying to understand life. Rather, the pursuit of knowledge is everywhere encouraged in Scripture. We must never adopt the attitude of anti-intellectualism that characterizes some segments of Christianity today. We are to reason and think about what God is doing and what life gives us. But we must always remember that no matter how much we try to think about life, mysteries will still remain. We do not have enough data, nor do we have enough ability to see life in its totality to answer all the questions. We must be content with some degree of mystery.

Though the wisest man of the ancient world wrote these words, he admits that humans cannot know all the answers. He even says that diligence in labor will not unravel life’s mysteries: “Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning.” We will still be left knitting our brows, scratching our heads, asking the eternal “Why?”

Even when people claim to know the answers behind what happens to us, they are really only deceiving themselves. Many people are unwilling to accept the truth of Scripture until they can understand everything in it. But if you are waiting for that, you will never make it. Although this book was written almost 2,500 years ago, it is still true, even in our age of advanced knowledge, that no one can find all the answers.

When you think about your own life, about how many of the things that have happened to you have been determined by events over which you had no control—events that had to fall together in a certain pattern before they could ever come to pass—you can see how true these words are. No one can find out all the answers. Luis Palau has often remarked about the many events that had to come together for him and me ever to have met in a city in northern Argentina. We met in a rather simple way, yet that event changed both of our lives. That meeting eventually launched him into a worldwide evangelistic ministry, and thousands upon thousands have come to Christ as a result of it. How could that happen? As far as Luis was concerned, it all hung upon a simple decision to go or not to go to a meeting one evening. How can we understand that strange merging of simplicity and complexity? The Searcher argues that life is too complicated for us ever to answer all the questions.

Lord, teach me to cry out with the apostle Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing (Romans 11:33)!

This daily devotion was inspired by one of Ray’s sermons. Please read “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life” (or listen to the audio file  Listen to Ray) for more on this portion of scripture.

-Scott Bailey 2008

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Purity and Holiness Seen as Legalism!

Posted by Scott on February 21, 2008

In my quest to be sanctified and pure before my God is often looked upon as being legalistic.  I am far too serious about my Christian walk to be bothered by such snotty drivel.  This is such a tragic way of looking at the sanctification, holiness and purity of a believer.  We are to be a direct reflection of Christ who is a direct reflection of the heavenly Father.  So many of the church body today think that in order to “win” the lost they must look like the lost in order to attract them and their churches reflect that of a movie theater or entertainment center starring the latest worship leader and bebop worship singers on stage.  This is far from the biblical example as it should be and is a sham service.

I can say definitely that I will not put aside my faithful walk with Christ in order to resemble the world in order to believe I am “winning” the lost by living my life in that manner…we do not “win” the lost….the Holy Spirit does this work by drawing them to the Father by the word of God being proclaimed.  We are to deliver the message, period!  The Holy Spirit then does the work, period! 

 The kind of worship services I see today is heresy in the first degree.  To put it another very loving and delicate way, I do not have to have religion, the churches, life, or any other “thing” in this world, for I will not now nor ever water down the holy word of the living God and back away from calling “sin” what it is….”sin” in order to attract more people to a very entertaining message of feeling good about ourselves.  I am not perfect by a long shot and fall far too short of any marker within God’s word, but when it comes to the holy scriptures I must make my stand and expound on it as I see it…when I am wrong it will be admitted and corrected.  It is the perfect word of God that can and will direct each of Christ follower’s life if we will allow it.  God’s holy word does not need any help by making it more “relevant” to today’s life….guys, God’s word has never lost it relevancy….ever!!!!  It has always been relevant….what has not been relevant is the people trying to read it, interpret it, and live by it…..God’s word has and always will be relevant to the end.

Now, why is it that holiness or sanctification (set aside for God) today is looked upon by those within the church and outside the church as legalistic?  If we as parents choose to home-school our kids we get those arrogant looks from Christians and non-Christians alike.  If we are training our kids to remain pure in their sexuality until they are married we looked down upon as being naive.  If we stress the importance of not dating as our society today sees dating, but wait upon the Lord that is looked upon as stupid.  Spending time in God’s word on a daily basis, dressing conservatively, going to church more than once per week, serving our church and neighbors is all called being “to serious”. 

 People, back off and worry about that huge bulging log that is your own eye and my family and I will worry about ours.  You raise your kids as you see fit, but do not tell me how to raise mine.  You worship as you see fit, but do not tell me how to worship.  You send your kids to a godless public institution and we will educate our kids as we believe God has called us to do.  In this world that rotten to the core we need more people that call themselves “Christians” to live like it rather than just wearing a t-shirt saying it.  Authentic Christianity permeates the mind, heart and soul not just a shirt sleeve.  The old saying that many people are just “Sunday Morning Christians” is so true and is an absolute mockery to Christ death on the cross.  Do not call yourself a Christian any longer until you start living like one….better to be in the closet living in sin rather telling people you are one heading to heaven, but living like you have one foot in hell.  Make your testimony one that God can use and bring others to Himself with it.  I would dare say that most Christians testimonies are useless, because at the first sign of trouble we crawl under a rock, start acting as the world acts, or simply turn our backs on Christ.  The Christian life is lay-ed out for us within God’s word and I pray that each of you reading will find yourself in a church that has a pastor that expounds on God’s word each and every week. 

I pray you are not in a church that entertains you each week, rarely opens the word of God, or has a cooking show as your weekly message…..how sad it is to see and hear these types of services….this is a trampling of God within a church that claims His name.  Ministers, please, get back to expounding on God’s word from the pulpit!  Please, get back to biblical preaching and worship.  Stop this watered down lovely drivel that the likes of Joel Osteen spews from the stage each week.  The world is watching how the church handles the changes that are so quickly upon us today.  How we react to world events says volumes about who our God is and how big our God is.  Right now the emergent church has Him caged in a little bitty box.  The emergent church movement is creating a new god that does not exist because the God of the bible may be too harsh for the world to accept.  Stop this kind of drivel and sham Christianity.

-Scott Bailey (c) 2008

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Who Wins the Race?

Posted by Scott on February 21, 2008

by Ray Stedman

READ: Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

Many of us have had experiences that confirm the truth of this verse. All our carefully laid plans have fallen apart; all our dreams that we had what it took to succeed in some particular area of life crumbled, and we could not understand why. We had to learn, as this text says, “the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.” That is true, even in sports. In the early part of this century Jim Thorpe, the famous Native American athlete, won many gold medals at the Olympic games. He stood before the King of Sweden and was publicly acknowledged as the greatest athlete of his time. Yet all those medals and honors had to be given back when it was learned that as a boy he had played professional baseball for five dollars a season, which rendered him no longer an amateur.

It is not always the strong, the mighty, the able, and the gifted that win in politics. We have seen candidates whom everybody thought a cinch to win public office defeated, unable to fulfill their dreams. “The battle [is not always] to the strong,” and this principle rings true even for the awards and prizes of the world. The Nobel Prize was given to a little woman in India, Mother Teresa, who ministered fully to the needs of the poor around her. Even in Hollywood the “battle” is not always won by those with the “strength” of typical movie glitz and glamour; in 1982, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the movie Chariots of Fire, the story of Eric Liddell, a Christian Olympic runner who later became a missionary to China. The Searcher clearly tells us that natural gifts of speed, strength, and intellect are never enough to guarantee ultimate triumph.

Other factors really make the difference. “Time and chance happen to them all.” What does he mean by that? We often say, “You have to be the right person, at the right place, at the right time.” In other words, there are elements of circumstance that have to fall together even before someone with great abilities can accomplish his or her goals. What the Searcher is saying, of course, is that life is not in our control. The illusion that the secular media presses upon us all the time is that we can handle our life by our choices. “It’s your life! You can live it the way you please.” But the Searcher says it cannot be done that way. “Time and chance happen to them all.” Just when you think you have something under control, it can all fall apart. Disasters come when we least expect them: “As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare” (Ecclesiastes 9:12). Everything can fall apart. Every one of us has had some experience of that.

Lord, thank You for this reminder that I am not in control; that I do not control the outcome of events, but You do.

-Scott Bailey 2008

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The Gift of God’s Approval!

Posted by Scott on February 21, 2008

by Ray Stedman

READ: Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

Verse 7 is a most remarkable verse, because there is a statement in it of what we call in the New Testament the “New Covenant,” God’s new provision for living. It is clear from the New Testament that God has given us a gift of approval, of righteousness. Because we already have that by faith, we are freed, and no longer do we have to struggle vainly to try to please God; we live in a way that does please Him because we have already been accepted and approved by Him.

Notice how clearly that is stated here in verse 7: “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” This is recognition, even in the Old Testament, of a relationship of righteousness that has already been established. It is true that basis was laid in our Lord’s coming into this world and in His subsequent death and resurrection. Yet it is applied to all the people in the Old Testament, as well as in the New, who had faith in what God declared, who believed His Word and thus were given the gift of righteousness just as we are. Here the Searcher faces that as the real basis for life. If you want to find significance in your life, if you want to find deep meaning, peace, and contentment, this is the basis of it: Believe what God has given you already, and then, on that basis, live your life to the full. Fill it with all that is of value, reason, and worth.

White garments are a symbol in Scripture of practical righteousness, of good deeds being done that flow out of this new relationship that is already true. Oil is always the symbol of the Holy Spirit at work, so don’t let oil be lacking on your head. Thus, here is a life filled with the Spirit, full of good works, flowing out of the realization that God already accepts us. That is the new basis for living. That is what Paul is talking about in Romans: “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law [with its demand that you measure up before God will accept you], but under grace [with its marvelous provision of righteousness as a gift]” (Romans 6:14). It is yours for the taking though you do not deserve it, and by it you are rendered fully accepted and loved by God.

So right living follows that, and Solomon encourages us to live a normal life. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love all your days. God ordained marriage for that reason, and it is right to enjoy the fullness of marriage. And then enjoy your God-given work. Work is not something we are forced to do in order to keep alive. Work is a blessing. Do it with all your might. Do not just get through it the best you can so you can get home and start enjoying yourself. Many of us live that way, but that is not the biblical way. The biblical approach is that work is given to you as a gift of God, so enjoy it.

Do we live like this? We who are Christians, we who know the reality of the gift of righteousness and have discovered the secret of contentment, of being able to handle even difficult conditions because of the joy that God imparts to us by His presence within, have we begun to live this way?

Teach me to live this way, Lord, allowing You to fill all the empty places of my life and enjoying the many gifts that you give.

This daily devotion was inspired by one of Ray’s sermons. Please read “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life” (or listen to the audio file  Listen to Ray) for more on this portion of scripture.

-Scott Bailey 2008

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