“Stop the glorification of busy!”
That’s what I heard this week as I was listening to a podcast on being grateful. Then as I’m reading through 2 Chronicles and the same message hits me again. This is an area I need to revisit on a regular basis.
The book of 2 Chronicles ends with this reference to Jeremiah. As you’ve read the previous chapters, the last vestige of honor in the Kingdom of Judah was killed in battle and everything spins out of control quickly. The writer quickly summarizes the last several years before these people were taken into captivity. Remember, the point of Chronicles is to help the people refocus on what should have been central in their life—the Temple of God and healthy worship in their lives. When he says, “To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years,” you must realize there is a big deal (2 Chronicles 36:21).
God commissioned Jeremiah to this final plea: “Thus said the Lord unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people…And say unto them…Thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day…but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction” (Jeremiah 17:19–23).
Don’t get hung up thinking, “We don’t observe the Old Testament sabbath any longer.” The principle is still the same. The people no longer had time for God. The disregarded a life oriented by their devotion to God. They were so busy with their other pursuits and pressing needs, God was ignored.
The same symptom is crippling our families, church, and nation. We have glorified our busyness to the point there’s no time for God! The chronicler wanted to underscore the main cause for their seventy years of suffering in exile so they would not repeat the mistake.
This is a timely reminder as we are about to plunge into the holiday season. We want to emphasize gratitude and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. However, we can run to and fro without any attention to a systems check: Are we actually directing our life to worship God? Or have we glorified busy?
Israel learned, God will get what’s His, but it’s your choice to give it to him intentionally.
America is a land of options. Statistics tell us that there are over 600,000 restaurants in the United States. If we don’t like one, we have 599,999 other restaurants to choose from. People like options. We have options when it comes to food, vehicles, houses, phones, clothing, pets, etc. If you don’t like your mechanic, you can find another one down the street. If you don’t like your toothpaste, you can try another kind from the store. Because we have so many options, we have many choices to make.
In Deut. 11, God gave the children of Israel two choices. God was very specific as to what the choices were. God said, “Behold, I set before you a blessing and a curse” (v. 26). The Israelites had a choice to make between the blessing of God or the curse of God. God was clear in His directions as to what would bring the blessing. He said, “A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day” (v. 27). Obedience was the condition to receive blessing. The second choice was a “curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known” (v. 28). Disobedience was the condition to receive God’s curse. God would not force them to obey Him. Rather, God wanted them to make a willful choice to obey His commandments. God gave them a choice to bring out what was truly in their heart.
God offers choices to mankind. To the unsaved, God sets before them blessing and a curse. Because we all have broken God’s law, we are born under the curse and sentence of death. Because of God’s intervention in the sending of Jesus Christ as a substitutionary sacrifice, the gospel once again places the blessing and curse before the lost man. The blessing comes when a man obeys the call to repentance and faith in Christ. The curse remains if “so great salvation” is neglected. The unsaved man must choose between life and death, righteousness and sin, Christ and Satan, blessing and a curse. On the other hand, those who have been declared righteous before God and are walking in newness of life still have a daily choice to make between blessing and a curse. The route of blessing is the route of obedience. 1 John 2:5 says, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected…” The route of chastening is the route of disobedience. You cannot expect the blessings of God if you do not obey His commands. Before the Christian are two choices that must be made daily. He must choose between obedience and disobedience, humility and pride, God’s will and self-will, holiness and sin, blessing and a curse. May we always choose the route of blessing.
As we looked last week, we certainly know that life goes by fast and is essentially “a vapor, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) Knowing this truth, the next logical thought is to see that we make the most of the time we have here on earth. I’m sure we all have heard phrases like, “he/she lived a good long life”, or “he/she really loved life” in reference to an older person passing away. Besides knowing that the person was saved, these kinds of phrases are indeed a very high tribute to a person’s life.
With that idea in mind, our reading today offers us pointed instruction on how to make the most of our time here on earth. 1 Peter 3:10-11 says, “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil and do good; let him see peace and ensue it.” Here we see some very basic instruction on how to enjoy and make the most of our time here on earth. It has nothing to do with our hobbies, careers or bank accounts. Instead it refers to the inner person being free from turmoil, heartache and bitterness. It speaks to the ability to lay one’s head on their pillow at night with a free and clean conscience.
Peter starts by saying that one will see “good days” if they can control their tongue and “speak no guile”. This refers to a tongue that is free from backbiting, gossiping and lying. Certainly the book of James has much to say about this kind of tongue. Peter then says this godly person will “eschew” evil, which has the idea of running from or avoiding evil. Then this person will seek and pursue peace. He or she will do whatever is necessary to have peaceful relationships with everyone and anyone. Certainly we can’t control what others do or say to or about us but we can make sure our dealings with others are as peaceful as we can be. Living this kind of life will allow one to “love life, and see good days.” It brings to mind similar instruction in Proverbs 13:15, “Good understanding produces favor, but the way of transgressors is hard.”
“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it:…(Ps. 127:1). No matter what we do, corporately or personally, without God it is nothing. We could build beautiful homes, but eventually they will deteriorate. Or build a large ministry, but without God it will collapse and be seen for what it wasn’t. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows…”(vs. 2). Can we, by our actions, turn back the hand of time, calm a roaring ocean or stay the storm? In essence, it is fruitless. “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zec. 4:6).
Psalm 127 seems to take a different path at verse three. Who was speaking of children? Certainly children can cause us to ‘rise up early or sit up late’. God says our worthiest investment is in children’s lives. If we are to be parents, then we should consider it a reward (“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” vs. 3). If parenting is not in God’s plan for one’s life, then get involved in mentoring children in Christian faith and principle. They are the future of the church. Without them, who will tell others about Jesus in ages to come? We need to train them up…(Pr. 22:6).
The greatest focus of any successful ministry should be children. They are a wise investment in the future. Scripture states they are a reward from God; not just a burden to bear. We need to equip them for service in the Lord’s army. In case we haven’t noticed, it’s a jungle out there and Satan is on the prowl. How many children are being devoured by this evil miscreant? Let us as parents and ministry partners do our utmost to help them succeed.
An effective soldier is well supplied. We wouldn’t face an enemy with one arrow. Neither should we expect our children to. They need to be well supplied with godly wisdom to fight the spiritual battle. Yes the parent, or church, is blessed to have a quiver full of children (vs.5). “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth (vs. 4). Pastor, parent and co-laborer in the faith, each time we lend an ear, pray for, teach, or guide a child, we stuff more arrows in the quiver. Well-armed they will go into the world as effective witnesses for Jesus. They will not be intimidated, but will possess the ability to stand against the vilest of enemies, in Jesus’ name! Draw back your bows and prepare to fire! Satan and his cohorts the target.
Maybe you impulsively buy something you see online. Maybe you impulsively sneak a handful of M&Ms from the candy dish. Whatever your impulsive behavior may be, would it not be better if we impulsively did something good?
What if you impulsively bought your wife flowers? Or if you impulsively ate rice cakes? (My wife and I have a debate about these things. I say they’re flavored Styrofoam. She disagrees.) What if you impulsively wrote notes of encouragement? Oh, what a world we would live in!
You can get to place in your life where you can have good impulses, but notice the path Hezekiah had to take. Hezekiah was convicted personally and began following the ways of the Lord. He had to turn away from the ways of his wicked father. He encouraged the religious leaders to follow the Lord, too. He encouraged them to do something they hadn’t done in a very long time—sanctify the Temple and sacrifice to the Lord. Hezekiah takes the leaders of Judah to a special worship service. They are lost in their worship. Eventually, the contagion affects the people. They bring so many animals of sacrifice, the priests couldn’t keep up with the demand. People were coming to confess their sins and offer a sacrifice and you couldn’t help them fast enough! Hezekiah is thrilled! “And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly (impulsively!)” (2 Chronicles 29:36). Eventually, this local revival spread into the northern kingdom of Israel. Many came and were caught up in the preoccupation with God.
Many Christians live believing they will impulsively do good things. It’s a lie which cripples the believer and hinders the power of the gospel from influencing others. Consider how much work Hezekiah did to prepare the impulsive worship service. He had to get his life right, he had to encourage others, and he had to take others with him. Then, what began as a trickle, now is a torrent of worship.
You will not accidentally trip into a good impulse until you have prepared your heart to seek such things. Notice the summary of Hezekiah’s success: “And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21). Your life is a joke the devil laughs at as long as you think you will impulsively serve the Lord. Take time today to seek the Lord and orient every work in your life for his service. When you do that with all your heart, then you will begin to see the good impulses in your life and others around you.