I love a good shortcut. Almost every day as I drive to work, I take a shortcut. Yet there are times in life when shortcuts are not best—when the easy way isn’t the best way.
When we dream about something we desire for the future, we want a shortcut to reach the dream. We want the money, but we do not want to do all the work. We want the title, but we don’t want to start from the bottom. We want the stuff, when we do not yet have the money to pay for it. We want the relationship, yet we do not want to make the investment.
In today’s passage, we read of the Israelites leaving Egypt, and of how God did not lead the people to take the shorter route. It’s true—sometimes shortcuts are great. Yet in life, we oftentimes have something to learn on the journey that we can only learn by travelling for a longer length of time. Suffering less is desirable, yet in suffering we often grow in our dependence on God, and our faith flourishes. Next time you have the opportunity to choose a path to take, instead of immediately jumping at the quick results, ask God what will bring you closer to Him.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” – Exodus 13:17 [NIV]
Planning is important. The Bible tells us that before we start building something, we would certainly want to count the cost (Luke 14:28). Even so, planning is not everything. If you can only think up great ideas, but can never see them to completion, what good comes from the ideas?
In Proverbs, we read that good planning and hard work lead to prosperity. This means before we set out to do something, we should plan it out and use good discernment. When we have our game plan in place, then we should work hard to see it through. If we live this out, we will be prosperous.
Today, consider how you can be a better planner or how you can best follow through. Ask God to reveal any shortcuts you are attempting to take in life. Thank God for the opportunities He has provided to plan and work to glorify Him in everything.
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5 [NLT]
“What you think about you care about
What you care about you chase”
“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” (v. 22-25 MSG)
- Do your best
- Work from the heart
- Remember Who you serve
“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” – Romans 12:11 [NLT]
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
– 1 Corinthians 10:31 [NASB]
Anything you do can be an ACT OF WORSHIP
“The Lord is pleased with those who worship Him and trust His love”
– Psalm 147:11 [CEV]
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” – Romans 12:1-2 [MSG]
Bible Study Questions:
1) The passage speaks about working from the heart. This phrase “from the heart” translates in the Greek as “the soul” or “life” or “self” – “the breath of life.” What does that mean for us?
2) What is the difference between working for men and working for God?
3) Romans 12:11 says we should not be lazy. Instead we should work enthusiastically. What should we do if we find ourselves not working with enthusiasm?
4) The Bible says we should serve with joy (Psalm 100:2). What can we do if we find ourselves serving but not with joy? If we are not serving with joy, with what are we serving?
5) What does it mean when Paul says “do your best”? What is your best? How do you know it is your best?
This is one part of a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on Colossians. The 12 weeks include:
Have you ever been called a “nobody”? In this world we spend many hours trying to show people that we are somebody, that we are important, that we mean something. There are books written about how to turn your life around and go from a nobody to a somebody. There are lectures and programs built around this idea of turning your life around from being nothing to being something.
God sees things differently. Yes, we all are nobodies traveling the earth, but we each have a purpose. We each are valuable. No one is more valuable than another. We are all important. We can all be somebodies. We simply need to find our way back to God and follow our purpose, God’s awesome plan. Trust me, it is an awesome plan, a plan we cannot even fathom.
Now being a somebody does not mean you will be a millionaire or a celebrity or even find great earthly success. But it is so much better. You are a child of the King. You will have eternity to enjoy. You are forgiven. You are redeemed. You are restored. These things make you a Somebody. Without Christ, we are all forever and always nobodies, no matter how hard you work and how much time and effort is put into changing your status. In Christ alone we are Somebody.
“But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people. They’ll choose a single leader. There’ll be no stopping them—a great day in Jezreel!” – Hosea 1:10-11 [MSG]
The Psalmist noted that “it’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.” Does that sound like someone you know? I remember a time when I was that person. I was all work work work. What happens then? You don’t enjoy life. You don’t have time to get done what God truly wants you to do in life. You busy yourself up so much with useless work. You end up not giving each area of your life the attention it requires because you keep piling on the work.
Even if what you do is important, it can be a problem if you are working your fingers to the bone. I was working in nursing. I was taking care of people. Hard work is important. Hard workers should be something we all strive to be; however, there is a difference between hard workers and over-workers. There is a difference between giving everything a hundred percent and shortchanging some areas of your life because you are pushing yourself too hard in another area.
God enjoys giving us rest. He loves us. He does not want us to be burdened to the bone. If you are in ministry and you are working too much, you are pushing too hard in an area where the Holy Spirit does the greatest work. At your job if you are overburdened, you need to consider where the problem lies. Are you not delegating tasks? Are you taking on too much? Do you understand your job requirements? Are you working too much for the overtime pay? Remember, whatever it may be, God wants you to work hard at everything you do, but He always wants you to rest.
“If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?”
-Psalm 127:1-2 [MSG]
We all have different images that come to mind when we hear the phrase “tragedy.” In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote that “a great tragedy” was that people who would “work wisely with knowledge and skill” would end up leaving the fruits of their labor to someone else, “someone who hasn’t worked for it.” Imagine your job. You invest your whole life excelling and doing great things for your area of business. Then one day, all the reward for that hard work goes to someone else who was not around for all those late nights you put in at the office. Imagine working hard since you were of age to work, but then having it all taken from you to get a bed at the county nursing home. To many people, these examples are to them “a great tragedy.”
What we need to always remember is that we are only here temporarily. We are not here building a huge dynasty for ourselves, but rather, we are here to fulfill the purpose our Lord has planned for our lives. We each have a purpose—we each are significant and have a great contribution to make to the world. It is a great tragedy to work so hard and for it to seem meaningless. But it’s a greater tragedy when we do not know our true purpose in life—when we do not have a relationship with Christ.
We have a choice. We can work hard to have this “great tragedy” or we can work hard serving the Lord with joy. We can work hard to build up something here on earth or we can work hard so that God gets the glory He alone deserves. We will all face this great tragedy and it is a great tragedy—but we will receive something so much better than anything we could have here on earth. Let us continue to serve the Lord with joy, awaiting this beautiful, “great tragedy.”
“Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy.” – Ecclesiastes 2:21 [NLT]
Vinegar is not good for your teeth. Because it is acidic, it can attack at the enamel of your teeth. Smoke in the eyes can distort your view. It can cause your eyes to burn and water. Today’s proverb compares these things to lazy people.
Vinegar damages the good part of the teeth. Smoke prevents good eye sight. Lazy people definitely irritate their employers. Lazy people damage the work moral of the entire group. Lazy people create tension among the other employees and management. Some of their work load may even fall upon the shoulders of others as a result of their laziness. Like smoke prevents the eyes from seeing perfectly, so do lazy people ruin any chances of the workplace running smoothly.
You might not think slacking at work is a big deal, but it does not only involve you. If you are paid to do something, you should be doing your part. Paul wrote that we were to do our best as if working for the Lord. No matter where we are working or what we are doing, we are to do everything for God’s glory. What image are you showing others when you are like vinegar to teeth?
“Lazy people irritate their employers, like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes.” – Proverbs 10:26
The best part of everything that was discussed in this Proverb is making reference to the first of the harvest. Yet we could actually look at all areas of our lives and consider this “best part of everything.” It can really put things in perspective for a person when reflecting upon things with this phrase. There is no better than the best. The best part of everything—that means every single thing.
So do you give God the best of your time? Do you give God the best of your talents? Do you give God the best of your work? Do you give God the best of your relationships? Do you give God the best of your finances? Every single thing. The best part.
Today evaluate how well you honor the Lord. Where are you giving your best? Where can there be improvements? How can you do more to honor the Lord?
“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” – Proverbs 3:9 [NLT]
As I was driving home from work, the sky looked scary. A storm was nearby and the sky was gray up ahead and promised a nasty storm. There was a rain shower that quickly passed. I drove toward the gray area after a long day at work. Third Day’s song “Lift Up Your Face” was playing on the radio. I was in pain and only wanted to get home and put my feet up.
I turned the corner and listened closely to the song lyrics: “Lift up your face / Salvation is calling.” I looked up and before me was this beautiful rainbow. I considered what the rainbow symbolized and remembered His promises. I thought of a day He promised where I would feel no pain—when things would be different. I considered His love- His salvation- His mercy – His forgiveness. I started to feel a lot better.
Today lift up your face. Focus on God. Remind yourself of His promises to you—His Word—His mercy—His love. Remind yourself that He makes all things new. Remind yourself that things will not always be like this—He has promised us restoration.
“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” – Proverbs 4:25 [ESV]
It is great to be passionate and focused on something. It is good to work hard at whatever you do as if working for the Lord (Colossians 3:17). But as Todd Adkins says, it “doesn’t matter how hard you work if you’re working on the wrong things.” The question is—are you working on the wrong things?
To answer that question, we need to have an understanding of God’s will. We need to understand our purpose in life. We also need to have a good understanding of God’s Word. So how do we understand God’s will and word and our purpose? We need to look to Him who has the answers. I cannot tell you your purpose—only God can direct your path. I cannot tell you God’s will for your life—only God through the Holy Spirit can provide the enlightenment you need. I can help you understand some Bible passages—only you can take them as your own and do something with it.
Sometimes working at the wrong things means SIN, that horrible three-letter word. It might sound bad that some people work so hard at sinning, but when you get caught lying to someone, you will find yourself lying to more and more people in an attempt to not let the first lie get uncovered. That is working hard at the wrong things. An affair, a lie, a theft—can all lead us down a road we should never travel. Today, examine your current situation. Focus on Him- His will, His word, and His purpose for your life. Keep the passion on working for the Lord, not working on the wrong things.
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” – Jeremiah 2:13 [NIV]