When I Can't Be There
When I Can't Be There
Have you ever contemplated a date on the calendar in the future and then been struck by the thought that "I probably won't be around by then"? It is sobering thinking of a world in which we will no longer exist. The book of Proverbs is written to offer wisdom to all us, especially the young (1:4). It is also written by a father who realizes that his son will face many trials when dad is not around or no longer alive (1:10). As parents we realize that we cannot be with our kids all the time and there will be a time on this earth when they will continue to live on, even though we have moved on to the next life. So what do you tell your kids? This lesson is an attempt to pass on such instruction:
Every temptation is a lie (Hebrews 3:13). No temptation ever reveals the true cost. Sin will leave us empty. Sin is never the best that we could do, be, or experience. Sin never brings lasting happiness. When you sin, own up and confess it quickly (1 John 1:9). One does not have to spend a lot of time in sin to become hardened, in fact, one can become hardened rather quickly (Hebrews 3:13 "So that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin").
In your lifetime you will see countless fads, theories, opinions, values and so on come and go. You will see people around you quickly hop from one trend to another (Ephesians 4:14 "tossed here and there… carried about by every wind of doctrine"). Yet all the wisdom and help you need concerning how to live life is right at your fingertips (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Test absolutely everything by Scripture, even the views of your parents, teachers and your best friends (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). If you follow God, as you grow older you will not end up more and more uncertain or confused, rather, "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness" (Proverbs 4:18-19).
Admit that you don't know it all and that you need help, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him...Do not be wise in your own eyes" (Proverbs 3:5-7). "The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps" (Proverbs 14:15). Realize that is it tempting to see the shortcomings of another generation and to be at the same time oblivious to the blind spots of your own generation (Proverbs 30:12). You will be tested (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:12). You will run into challenging situations that will bring you to the end of your rope. You will encounter things that will shake your foundation and for which you have no answer from within. You will need the wisdom that God generously offers (James 1:5).
Pay Attention, Have Your Eyes Open
The world often comes to us with the offer of a life of rebellion to God that is free from any negative consequences (Proverbs 1:11-14). This section reminds me of how our current generation is being told that certain substances, which had been previously illegal are not addictive. Solomon then notes, "Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts up her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out" (Proverbs 1:20-21). In the past I had viewed this as meaning that God's wisdom is very accessible, which I think is true. Yet in addition, God's wisdom is also true to real life experience. What I mean by that is that when God warns us about the dangers of alcohol (Proverbs 20:1), laziness (Proverbs 6:10-11) or adultery (Proverbs 6:27-35), real life experience is in agreement with such warnings. Watch, pay attention, observe and you will see the consequences arrive to the person who is not motivated. You will see the absolute disaster that happens when people ignore God's law concerning sexuality. You will see the consequences coming upon people who said that they could "handle" various intoxicating substances. You don't have to wait until Judgment Day to see that God is right about His warnings, you will run into plenty of examples just in this life. God is right. You do reap what you have sown (Galatians 6:7). Thus wisdom says further, "How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?" (1:22). In other words, "When will you learn that departing from God only brings trouble and heartache? When will you stop telling yourself, 'but it won't happen to me'?" Wisdom further concludes, "I will mock when your dread comes" (1:27). Or, do not let anyone convince you that the path away from God is now free and clear of all the consequences that came upon very previous generation who took the same path. What Solomon said then is still true, "The way of the treacherous is hard" (Proverbs 13:15).
It Takes Effort
Sadly, too many people feel that personal growth, a good marriage, financial security, wisdom, skills, and so on just happen. That if you have such things you are just lucky. "Satan works best in the midst of passivity. If Satan can get you to do nothing, if he can get you to commit to nothing, he can neutralize your life. Satan's greatest work is done when he convinces us nothing needs to be done. If we listen to him, we'll begin to say things like this… "I'll do this tomorrow… I'll do it next week… It's not that important… It's really no big deal… No one will miss me if I'm not there" (Just In Case I Can't Be There, Ron Mehl, p. 58). Do not allow anyone to convince you that you can grow spiritually, please God and be ushered into heaven with very little effort on your part. Consider the following passages:
- "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).
- "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24).
Did you notice what this last verse said. The world is filled with many people who seek to walk on the narrow way, but will fail?
- "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:24).
- "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).
"If you want to be a person of the Word, then you will spend time in the Word. If you want to be a person of prayer, then you will spend time on your knees. If you want to be a compassionate helper, then you will roll up your sleeves and get after it… doing what you can" (Mehl, p. 105).
Be Obedient to God
I know that "obedience" isn't popular, but let's be honest, it has never been popular. Yet God values our obedience to Him, it is what He loves and desires (1 Samuel 15:22; John 14:15). Do not let anyone convince you that following Jesus' teachings is optional (Matthew 7:21). In addition, it is not enough just to be obedient or appear to be obedient when in public. "The most significant choices you make in life won't be made in the middle of a crowd, with lots of people standing around. They will be made in the private times when only God sees what you are doing" (Mehl, p. 68).
Choose the Right Filter
Everyone chooses a filter, perspective, lens, value system or world view for how to view the world. For some the filter might be, "How is this going to benefit me?" Instead, select the filter which says, "I will please God in all things" (2 Corinthians 5:9). "I have heard it said somewhere that discipline is giving up your today for God's tomorrow. I need to make decisions in my life today… even if they mean some discomfort and strain and self-denial… that I know will bring honor and glory to the Lord tomorrow" (Mehl, p. 63). "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017