Working Like a Dog

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James 4:17

Understand the cost of being a sluggard.

As I write these words, our Standard Poodle, Bo, is doing one of the more strenuous things he does on any given day. Just now, he moved from lying in his kennel, behind me and to the left, to lying in a recliner, behind me and to the right. It must have been exhausting. How Bo can remain so idle, so many hours of every day, and still be able to run with grace and energy amazes me.

What is the price of being a sluggard to a dog? Apparently, there is none. Bo isn’t gaining wait or watching his blood pressure climb. He gets fed well regardless of his productivity. Perhaps it is a dog’s life.

On the other hand, there is always a price to pay for any laziness we demonstrate. Obviously the person who refuses to work will not be able to keep a job, but what of the person who simply refuses to make the most of the time and resources and abilities and energies that God has provided. Is there a cost for the sluggard?

The reality is that we all miss opportunities of various sorts when we allow our laziness to overrule our tendency to work. Maybe those missed chances will be financial and maybe they will be spiritual. Perhaps they’ll be both. Regardless, there will always be a cost–unless you’re a dog, I suppose.

  • In what part of your life do you allow yourself to be a sluggard? How do you attempt to conceal that nature?
  • Can you identify the price that you’ve paid for past failure to work hard, whether it be at your job, at church, in your home, or elsewhere?
  • Is part of your sluggardly nature to be found in your prayer and Bible study? What can you do to set that matter to the right?

Raising the Water Level

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Proverbs 19:15

Understand your inner sluggard.

When we lived in the hinterlands, our house sat on top of a tall ridge, far from any water towers. The local water authority smiled when I asked them to run water to us. We could get a water meter, they assured me, but there would be no usable pressure for us.

For years, then, I trucked our water in, 425 gallons at a time, from a coin-operated location north of Oak Grove. Let’s just say that this experience has made me hyper-aware of wasted water.

Through those years, I noted that some people (or more accurately, just me) put more water in the cistern than they took out. Others were net consumers. I didn’t begrudge them this use, but I asked them to be aware of how much they took from our home and how much they added.

Sluggards come in a variety of shapes. Some of them sleep a great deal. Others watch Netflix or play video games. Some clever ones do a job so poorly that you don’t want them to do it. Some sluggards make a great show of useful activity but in the end produce nothing.

Although Proverbs focuses on the sleeping sluggard, laziness obviously involves anyone who avoids useful, helpful, contributing work, no matter whether the person is awake or asleep.

While I’m not a sleeping sluggard, I will confess my lack of industriousness at various times. Bought with a price, I really have no excuse for being unproductive.

  • What manner of sluggard are you? Can you honestly say that laziness does not have a foothold in your life?
  • If God could get better use of your time, what would He have you do?
  • Do you regularly pray that God will convict you of the unproductive time that you  waste, whether asleep or awake?

A Billion Dollars Short?

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Matthew 6:33

Make the best decision for God’s Kingdom.

Around twenty years ago, near the Sea of Galilee, God spoke to me. He said, clearly if not audibly, “I gave you a gift; why aren’t you using it?” I understood that gift to be my writing. Since that day, I’ve used my gift in a number of different manners, experiencing a number of different levels of success.

Did you know that J.K. Rowling has made over a $1 billion from her Harry Potter books? How much have I made from my efforts? Honestly, I’m not sure, but it’s certainly less than $100,000 over those twenty years. Where’s the justice in that? I’d settle for $100 million!

I won’t begrudge Rowling or Stephen King or John Grisham or any of those royalties-producing writers their millions. And I’m not about to suggest that I could have done better than Twilight or The Hunger Games had I not been writing children’s Bible study materials, but I do believe that I’ve made the choices God had in mind for me, the best choices for the Kingdom.

Our decisions should never be measured by the wisdom of this world. They shouldn’t be evaluated by fame or fortune. Instead, we should carefully try to make the best choice for God’s Kingdom. Doing that, we’ll achieve far more than a billion dollars of royalties could ever buy.

  • Do you measure your decisions by their impact on the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of you?
  • What decisions do you find it hardest to yield to your efforts to seek the Kingdom?
  • What decisions can you pray over this week to seek the best course that God has to offer?

Wait for Further Instructions

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Proverbs 18:13

Gather all the inputs for godly decisions.

A number of years ago, I sat on a hiring committee at my school. Whenever we do that, we sift through dozens of applications, weeding out the really terrible ones and then attempting to determine which of the strongest deserve to come to campus for an interview. On this particular time, we decided to bring “Laura,” who looked great on paper, for an interview.

When I first met “Laura,” her incredibly weak first impression left me thinking that we had totally blundered in bringing her in. I spent the first few minutes of her interview time, silently ranking the other, more likely candidates in my head. But as “Laura” dove into her teaching demonstration, I found myself captured. She taught in a way totally unlike me, but it was marvelous. In the ensuing question period, the depth of her answers was remarkable.

In the space of 90 minutes, “Laura” went from “don’t bother” to the top of my list of candidates. We wound up hiring her and being treated to a tremendous teacher and colleague for several years before she moved on.

Wouldn’t it have been a shame had we based our decision on that unfortunate first impression? Isn’t it even more of a shame when we fail to ask and obtain from God all of the wisdom He has to offer on our decisions. What if Paul had stuck with his first thoughts on Jesus? What if Moses had not listened to all that the God had to say at the burning bush?

Our calling is not to make snap judgments but to listen and to keep listening.

  • On what sort of decisions are you apt to make uninformed decisions? Are there others for which you tend to wait for God’s counsel?
  • What negative results have you seen by not waiting for God’s wisdom? Do you have positive examples that have come by waiting?
  • What results can you expect from prayerfully reading through the Proverbs on a regular basis? Have you already experienced insight?

100% of Everything

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Proverbs 3:5-6

Fully trust your decisions to the Lord.

The scripture listed above is one of the most profound in the entire Bible. Sure, John 3:16 is more important when it comes to the understanding of the gospel, but, when it comes to day-to-day life, this idea of trusting in the Lord is monumental. Failure to trust lies at the heart of many of our problems.

“Lord, I trust you about theology, but stay out of my finances (or sex life or job choices or music consumption or whatever).” Have you ever heard this person speaking, perhaps from within your head? When we fully trust decisions to the Lord, we have to fully trust all of our decisions to Him. He’s not impressed when you let Him decide where in the church you’ll sit or whether you ought to care for your children. He doesn’t just want the easy choices; He wants them all.

“Lord, I trust you with this important decision, but I’m going to keep some fall-back resources, just in case you let me down.” How about that voice? Imagine if the love of your life promised to stay with you forever but still sent romantic Valentines to old flames. You know, “just in case.” How would that play.

As hard as it is, God expects us  to and prospers us best when we yield every bit of every decision to His wisdom.

  • What decisions do you find it most difficult to turn over to God?
  • Are there decisions that you yield partially while still retaining some control for yourself?
  • Are you willing to pray, this week, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane: Not my will but yours be done?