Category Archives: 31 Days to Wisdom

Closer than a Brother

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Proverbs 18:24

Be committed to your friends.

We joke that my mother describes anyone she ever stood in line with at the grocery store as “my really close friend.” But there are legitimately close friends, people who have populated my mother’s life for decades. One of them is Opal. Now and again, I’ll hear Mom talk about Opal and comment on how her old friend can’t get out and about like she used to.

“Have you called her recently?” I’ll ask.

“Well, no,” she almost always answers. “I’ve been thinking that I should but . . .” Her voice trails off, leaving the sentence unfinished.

I’d fault my mother more for her lack of closeness to her friends if I were really good at the matter myself. But like her, I have a tendency to intend to call or visit someone, to recognize the “should,” but never to follow through and keep the connection close. I can think of two people, old friends from our church choir, who I knew were seriously ill and needing some human contact. I had good intentions to get with them, but somehow something always intervened. And then they were gone.

Some friends will stick closer than a brother. I’m afraid that I fail on that count far more often than I succeed. However, when we consider the example set by Jesus, the call to committed friendship should seem very important.

  • Who are your closest handful of friends? How do you ensure that you remain closely committed to them?
  • In what ways do you fall short of maintaining your friendships? In what ways do you excel?
  • How can you pray for your closest friends and for the other levels of friends in the coming week? Will you actually do it?

Standing before Kings–or Deans

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Proverbs 22:29

Understand that the cure for laziness is NOT worse than the disease.

A couple of weeks ago, my dean–that’s academic-speak for my boss–came to observe my class. There was a day when that event would have made me nervous. In those times, I would have invited him to come on a day when I knew the lesson plan would be especially excellent. Then I would fuss over it beforehand to be sure that every little detail was perfect.

These days, with nearly 30 years of teaching under my belt, I just told the dean to pick a day. He came in and watched my class. Although I was very much aware of his presence, I can’t say that it changed my behavior. If only all of my life were that well ordered.

It’s amazing how, when we do what we’re supposed to do, things usually turn out for the best. When I do my normal, appropriate level of preparation for class, I don’t have to worry about getting into trouble with the boss. When I pay my bills or change my oil or eat a healthy diet or do anything else that my laziness might tempt me not to do, and good things happen.

At its heart, I think, laziness is a matter of weak faith. When I give in to laziness, I’m essentially saying that I do not trust that God has control of my life. I’m not trusting Him to reward me; thus, I have to reward myself.

Name some examples when hard work and self-discipline have paid off for you. Can you name some opposite examples?

In what ways do your choices contribute to the big picture God has prescribed for your life? In what ways are you demonstrating a lack of trust in that picture?

What area of your life needs your most urgent prayer attention to defeat any stronghold of laziness?

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?