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SOMETHING FOR SLUGGARDS (AND THE REST OF US) TO CONSIDER

¶ Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Proverbs 6:6

It seems to me that when God wants something done, He calls a busy person to do it. There was a time, not that long ago, where most people were busy by default. All of their time and efforts from sun-up to sun-down were spent just trying to survive. But as our civilisation and its economy developed and we increasingly mechanised tasks done by people working manually. This advancement in an economy comes with many benefits. Rather than everyone simply trying to provide for the basics of life, they can now focus on those things that also advance and the well-being of a society. This includes education, the arts, leisure, health-care, and sport. It also allows for people to specialise and focus on, their trade, skill or profession so that they no longer have to grow their own crops or graze their own cattle for milk or meat. Theoretically, it therefore means that people have more time to do things other than work such as those just listed. Yet, rather than being less busy, many people are busier than ever and often these busier-than-ever people feel they are not necessarily getting much done. This general busy-ness has presented challenges for those of us who work in the not-for-profit volunteer sector who rely on the availability of volunteers to help run their organisations and think the Proverbial ant might have something for us to consider about this.

Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
Proverbs 6:7-8

 

TWO TYPES OF BUSY

I’m involved with a big project that involves leaders from other churches around our city. None of these people have time to spare and especially do not have time to waste. Each of them are busy people. They each bring a set of skills and a connection with a network of others that is enabling us to plan and manage one of the biggest city-wide Christian celebrations in the history of Launceston. In observing each of these leaders in this newly formed team, I notice that while they are each busy, and already involved in their own major projects, they are still able to manage to contribute their time into this joint effort. This has helped me to realise that there are two types of busy. We have already introduced the busy person who doesn’t seem to get much done, and now I have introduced a different type of busy person who does seem to be able to get done what needs to be done.

¶ Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;
Proverbs 30:24-25

 

PRODUCTIVE AND BUSY

Busy-yet-productive people are like ants in many ways. They have learned how to use their time efficiently and effectively. Like ants, they have learned how to work independently and with others. Like ants, in doing this they seem to be lift objects above their own body weight, and when they work with other similarly busy-yet-productive people, they can do so in ways that seem to defy the laws of physics. Nearly all (if not actually all) of these busy-yet-productive people are people who have been stretched and along that journey have come to realise two important things about being busy-yet-productive:

  1. Focus on the important rather than the urgent.

  2. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

Busy-frantic people get caught up in the urgent instead of focusing on the important. Busy-yet-productive people nearly always commence their weeks with a plan — they carry a diary which contains their weekly to do lists and they hold themselves accountable to it. They seem to make time for the important as a priority over the urgent. This is why #2 is actually a restating of #1 — they sabbath. They make the setting aside of time from their usual activity to sabbath. They recognise the importance of sabbathing and what it involves – worshiping God with God’s assembled people, prayerfully surrendering to God, allowing the preached Word to wash and renew their soul, and physically/mentally resting.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

 

CONSIDER ANTS

The Book of Proverbs warns against laziness and instructs readers to consider the ant (Prov. 6:6). In considering the ant we notice that they always live within a colony (a community). Within that colony they each have assigned roles (a purpose). Together they pool their efforts to achieve a common goal (a mission). They intuitively plan and prepare for the future so that they can leave a legacy. They go about their work methodically which seems to resemble good training (a work ethic). No wonder God tells us to consider the ant! Their example is a great benchmark for how a society, a community, and a church is to function. As we read through the New Testament instructions for Christian living we read some very “ant-like” directives for believers-

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16

When we yield to Christ our desires and priorities are transformed. Just as the ant is created by God to “know” what they are to do, the believer finds himself or herself having their will shaped by God resulting in a desire to work for the benefit of others.

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

The ant-like nature of a Spirit-filled believer is most evident in two ways: their attitude and their supernatural strength to serve. Note these two aspects of a busy-yet-productive believer-

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.
Colossians 3:23-24

 

GOD ALWAYS STRENGTHENS THOSE HE STRETCHES

There are those who look busy but are not very productive. There is a difference between riding a rocking-horse and riding a horse! There are those who are busy yet are highly productive because they’ve learned to work like an ant which involves managing that their time is focused on (i) maintaining their important relationships, (ii) taking regular sabbaths, (iii) prioritising the important over the urgent, and (iv) cooperating with others. These busy people have learned to recognise God’s open doors and have confidence that the Apostle Paul had – that it is God who gives them supernatural energy to toil, struggle and work to get things done when no-one else thought it possible. If you want to stop being busy and become busy-yet-productive, then learn these lessons from the ant!

For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.
Colossians 1:29

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. Marko Stepanovic

    Thank you Pastor Andrew,
    Great advice, sometimes I do feel very busy but not very productive.
    From this good message you have shared I will plan my week better.
    My wife always said make a list. God blesses those who listen to their wives!

    God Bless

    Reply
    • legana

      Well done Marko!

      Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.