Every great once in a while I have these "great ideas" that come back to bite me in the rear end. A few weeks ago I came up with a teaching series entitled, "Buried Alive". It centered around reaching friends for Christ, speaking boldly, living consistently, etc. I thought it would be extra impactful if we could bring in a coffin (which I was promptly discouraged from doing so by my wife) to drive home the point that while our friends may be upright, walking around and smiling, in reality they are being buried alive in sin, hopelessness and confusion. When my coffin idea fell through, I settled for the next best thing, a large wooden shipping crate that was somewhat "coffin-esque". My crate combined with 5 or 6 bags of top soil allowed me to drive home the point that while we blabber on about sports, memes and Netflix series, in reality we're helping to bury our friends. Imagine a wooden crate that's eight or nine feet long, four to five feet wide and four to five feet high covered in dirt with a wheel barrel and shovel positioned next to it.
I felt like it was a win. As I talked during week #1, I would shovel more loads of dirt onto the crate illustrating my point. Needless to say, by the end of the first week, we had a bit of a mess. So as not to make my life any easier, during my teaching in week #2, I proceeded to use a sledge hammer to bust apart the sides of my mock coffin to illustrate how we are called to help break our friends free from their self-imposed graves. Wood splinters flew far and wide (a student in the front row may or may not have taken some wood scraps to the neck). Nevertheless, the point had been made. While dirt and wood scraps lay strewn all around, I sat in the student center the day after the final talk in that series satisfied by what had been accomplished.
Fast forward to today. While I'm still convinced that my object lesson was impactful, I was reminded of yet another spiritual lesson. "Lots of things that seem like great ideas end up creating a mess in the end."
As I shoveled my dirt pile into a bin, made multiple trips outside to dump it , busted apart my wooden crate with a crowbar, cut it into smaller pieces, transferred each piece into the dumpster at the back of the building, swept up my mess with a broom and then with a vacuum, I was reminded of those things in our lives that we become convinced our "great ideas".
Those words we spew out in anger or revenge.
Those thoughts we entertain that we know to be impure.
Those lies we tell in the name of protecting someone.
Those actions we commit that we think have no long term ramifications.
All of those things in life that we convince ourselves are "good ideas" that in the end turn out to cause us more headache then we could have ever dreamed. On a much larger scale than my wooden crate and pile of dirt, we fail to think through the end result of our choices. We've become good at thinking through A and B, but we come up short when we don't stop to think about C, D and E.
We create "messes" in our lives that are avoidable if we would only stop and think.
When it comes to the words we speak, James in the Bible says it like this: "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires."
When it comes to our thoughts, Paul says, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
The writer of Proverbs clearly maps out the long term effect of dishonesty when he says,
"Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed."
And for those things we do that we assume have no lasting result in our lives, Paul says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."
What's interesting is that in each of these cases, we can quickly convince ourselves that there is no other way and that what lies before us is indeed a "great idea". As I clean up my mess today I pray that I would continue to develop the ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit to rightly discern a seemingly great idea from an actual great idea. I pray that each of us would receive wisdom beyond our years, beyond our experience and beyond our limited human sight. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
A few weeks ago, my older son landed his first real job. He's had a small side gig in the past but this is his first "real job". He only works about 8-10 hours a week but as a sophmore in high school who's involved in church, track, student council and of course the coveted social time with friends, those 8-10 hours fill out his schedule pretty well.
The other day he went in to work for a typical 4 hour shift but was asked to stay until the close of day which ended up being just over 6 hours. Now to the average adult, a six hour shift is a cake walk but to a "new to the workforce" sophmore in high school, a six hour shift of being on your feet, doing dishes, bussing tables, mopping bathrooms, etc. just about completely wiped him out.
The other night around 3:00 a.m. as I was in route to the bathroom (I know, that's more information than you needed) I walked past his bedroom to hear him "soundly sleeping". I smiled with the knowledge that he was realizing the value of a hard day's work.
As I headed back to bed and dozed back off into my slumber my mind danced with the thought of, "This is what God calls each of us to". I think God smiles when His children are "soundly sleeping" at the end of a really long day. I don't think God is interested in just tiring people out but when we spend the day or the week or the season pouring ourselves out into His Kingdom work and we find ourselves worn out, exhausted and emotionally spent, I believe God rewards His children with well deserved rest.
As I dozed off, I wondered how often people find themselves in a restless state? Figuratively speaking, we toss and turn, we seek rest, we search for peace, we long for a season of refreshment and an opportunity to be re-energized and yet perhaps we've skipped the first step in that process: pouring ourselves out.
You see when we pour ourselves out for God's purposes, God rewards us with rest.
"For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do." Hebrews 6:10 (NLT)
I love the clarity of this verse, "God will not forget how hard you have worked for Him..."
"Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 (NLT)
We usually equate this passage with all things financial but let's think about this verse from the standpoint of time served. God is more than able to give back abundantly more than we have poured out in service to His Kingdom. When we pour ourselves out, He brings rest. When we pour ourselves out, He brings refreshment. When we pour ourselves out, He brings a restful nights sleep.
Perhaps we sometimes shy away from pouring ourselves out for fear that we'll not be able to find the needed rest? Perhaps we shy away because we've convinced ourselves that we're already too tired?
Living a lifestyle of service to others is tiring but when you pillow your head at night you can rest in the comfort that only God can bring to those who have poured themselves out for Him. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.