On this Memorial Day, I offer the quote below from my second favorite fiction writer -- George Orwell. (I'm citing this quote from memory. Hopefully it's true to the original; and hopefully it is from Orwell, to whom it is attributed but for which I have yet to see any proof. Oh well. . .)
"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
It has been said that discipline, and not desire, determine a person's destiny. I can't imagine that proverb is impregnable. But there is something critical in it that we should take to heart. I believe it's good to regularly ask ourselves what it is that we are doing that requires discipline. Much of what we do is often done out of simple necessity. We do some hard things because we have to do them and that's OK. But what hard things do we do simply because they're good for us, and others? We don't have to do them, but because we value what we gain from them, we practice them. These are the things, according to the proverb stated earlier, that have power to transform our lives. Also, doing hard and good things teaches us perseverance and develops toughness, which are both needed qualities.
I'm into week 10 of the famed P90X workout. One of the statements made in one of the videos is that a simple rule, if followed, can change your life. That's true. I've also heard someone say that if you want to change your life, change something and do it everyday. Good transformation is to be found in the daily routine. So when I pray, I regularly ask the Lord to help me and my wife with the "dailies", that is, with the routine. And when the routine needs changing, we should change it, so that we can change for the better. (This way of thinking must also be applied to our children. How do we shape their routines?) God has given us the rhythm called the 7 day week, and told us how to spend those days (work, rest, etc). Some practices are daily practices. Others only weekly. That's the design. Walk in that rhythm.
What has gotten me to think about this today is that my wife ran a road race yesterday, her first. As we prayed over dinner last night I thanked God for her successful race, but more so for all the runs that came before it that made that race run a good one. It is not so hard to go out with lots of other runners and traverse a beautiful race course. It is hard to go out by yourself day after day to put in the work that readies you for the race. But Marian incorporated those kind of runs into her routine. This is discipline. And I'm proud of her for doing it.
So what must change in my routine so that I can give myself in greater discipline to getting to know God? Because the desire alone, though strong, will get me no closer to Him. I must enter into the process He employs. This requires discipline. We should ask: What does the Holy Spirit use to make me more like Jesus? And how can I change the daily routine so that He has more with which to work? (Including the weekend. Too many Christians ignore God on Saturdays.) He sanctifies us by His Word (Jn 17), and strengthens our faith by the same (Ro 10). So how will I regularly put myself under that Word's influence? And please, do not neglect the influence of Bible preaching and teaching. It is hearing a biblically qualified Bible teacher/preacher that God likes to use. This is His method all through the Bible and the last 2000 years of the the history of the church. While it's wonderful that we live in a time and place where we can have our own copy of the Bible and read it ourselves, this is not what God has typically used to sanctify His people. It's typically been the Word preached and taught. Let's not forget this, or abandon it, claiming that since we have Bible access ourselves, we're as well off to learn it on our own. That is not how God has set up the process. We learn best through His teachers which the Apostle Paul calls gifts to the church (Ep 4).
Remember that the Proverbs are not given as Law, or Promises, but as Truisms. In other words, as their human authors observed the workings of God in His world, and the outcomes of those who occupy it, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, they saw how it all tends to go. Then, under the inspiration of that same Spirit, they wrote of it all. With that in mind, let us take to heart the following ever so brief instructions of God.
"I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and
the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor
wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and
chance overtake them all." -- Ec 9:11
There are people in the world who exist to teach me the wisdom above. These are the people that God blesses in spite of their efforts (that's all of us I know, but some give greater effort than others). They are the somewhat lazy in both mind and body who nevertheless fall ass-backward into a plethora of good. The point here is not that we should stop striving in all the ways the Bible teaches us to strive. The point is that the striving doesn't earn us anything from God. Though we see from Scripture that He often blesses some behaviors and not others, He will be put into no person's debt. He may or may not choose to bless our efforts, but will give us what He knows is good for us (For a similar idea, see Mt 20:1-15).
I confess that this beautiful reality sometimes, like now, looks ugly to me. However, considering the other option -- that God simply give us what we deserve -- I bow my knee to His inscrutable wisdom and grace. Now, Proverbs 9:
Proverbs -- Chapter 9
Wisdom is here, if we will have her. She invites us into her company to be transformed, blessed, and saved. And her first lesson for us is the fear of God -- that filial reverence for Father, her Source. That's where getting wisdom begins (vv1-6, 10).
Folly is also here. She is ignorant, but alluring. Our weapon against her is wisdom. For her greatest appeal is to the simpleton and the senseless (vv13-18).
Verses 7-12 show us both types -- the wise and the foolish. There are temporal and eternal consequences rolled up in either path we walk.
1 - Wisdom, which is the ability to live a God-pleasing life, is learned (v5) and received (v22ff). Wisdom naturally belongs to God (He has always been wise) and supernaturally belongs to us (we are made wise by Him).
2 - There isright and wrong and it is God's character, not ours, that determines these things (v6-9; cf Mt 10).
3 - In learning wisdom, the condition of our hearts is determinative (v9; cf Mt 13). If I am not teachable and diligent then I will not learn.
4 - Wisdom (the ability to please God) is precious (v10-11, 19).
5 - There are many valuable fruits of wisdom (v12-16, 32-36).
6 - God promises wisdom to those who seek it on His terms (v17). This promise runs throughout the Proverbs.
PS -- In regard to the post from 3/22 of this year, God did not give us the house.