Romans 4:17 NIV
When we dare to dream, God who ‘calls things that are not as though they were’ is at work within us. But there’s a third dream killer we must overcome: settling for average. God says that He has work for each of us to do. The Bible says: ‘ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). A God-given dream will stretch us; we can’t reach for it and remain safely in our comfort zone at the same time. It might be easier to avoid stress, fear, risks, and failure, but we won’t end up fulfilled in life. In Philippians, Paul says: ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength’ (4:13 NIV). And we can say the same too. The things outside of our comfort zone may seem impossible, but we can do them when we rely on God’s strength and His equipping. When our life becomes mundane and mediocre we need to be questioning why it’s ended up like that. We need to be asking ourselves whether we’ve avoided working towards our God-given dream. Or asking whether we have ever really asked God to give us a dream, because stepping out and doing something out of the ordinary for His kingdom seems like too big a task for us and we would rather just do our own thing. So if we feel that our lives are closer to average than we would like, we need to do more dreaming. Nothing will help us live a more adventurous, fulfilling, and purposeful life like a God-inspired dream.
Isa 26-29; Luke 2:1-7; Ps 46; Prov 1:32-33
1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT
Working with others can be tough. We have different ideas, different personalities and different ways of getting things done. But we are called to work together. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he said: ‘Some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels’ (v. 11 NLT). Then he went on to say, ‘Live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions…Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.’ And these words apply to us today. The Bible tells us that we’re all a part of the body of Christ. We all have different roles in that body, but when we all work together we can function (have a read of 1 Corinthians 12). So, to successfully work alongside others, we need to stop striving for our own individual goals. When a mistake is made, we need to refuse to start the blame game. We also need to be forgiving. And when someone hurts us, we shouldn’t let bitterness take root and start to grow in our lives. We can build others up with our words, offer praise rather than criticism and help when they’re struggling. The Bible says: ‘It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!’ (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 MSG). By working together, we can help bring God’s kingdom to Earth. We can help each other when we are struggling and use our gifts to work for something bigger than we could do on our own. When we learn to work together, we can achieve so much more.
Eph 1:1-4:16; Luke 6:17-26; Ps 137; Prov 17:22-23
John 17:4 NKJV
The ant literally dies working. Now let’s be clear, the Bible doesn’t promote a workaholic lifestyle that endangers your health and causes you to neglect your family. Too many marriages fall apart when a couple subscribes to that philosophy, and too many children grow up resenting the fact that their parents never had time for them. That being understood, the contemporary concept of retirement can’t be found in the Bible. Yes, you may retire from a job, but you never retire from work. As long as you’re alive, there’s always work God wants you to do. Harvard University commissioned a study of some of its graduates. One group of one hundred participants retired at age sixty-five, while those in the other group worked to age seventy-five. In the first group seven out of eight were dead by age seventy-five. In the second group, of those who continued to work – only one in eight had died by age seventy-five. Researchers consequently concluded that retiring too early can reduce longevity. Stop and consider the three-and-a-half-year ministry of Jesus. At the end of it, He said, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” Has it ever occurred to you that salvation is available because Jesus proved Himself a faithful laborer who stayed on the task until the job was done? Again, rest, relaxation, and retirement are worthy and well-deserved rewards for a life of hard work. But the truth is, as long as you’re alive God has something for you to do! And in doing it you’ll not only find joy and fulfillment, you’ll bless those around you too.
Soul food: 1 Sam 16-17; Luke 4:31-44; Ps 102:1-11; Prov 17:4-6
Proverbs 14:23 NKJV
The ant never sees work as menial or beneath his dignity. Whether it’s moving dirt or carrying bread crumbs, he merrily goes along doing his job. How unlike that are many people today! Someone has quipped, “If you want to keep your teenagers out of hot water, put some dirty dishes in it!” All work can and should be done for the glory of God (See 1 Corinthians 10:31). The sum of the matter is found in this simple Bible statement: “In all labor there is profit.” Teach your children the old-fashioned way of getting money – working for it! The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call.” So every job or vocation, regardless of what it is, is a calling from God. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rightly declared, “Not all men are called to specialized or professional jobs; even fewer to the heights of genius in the arts and sciences; many are called to be laborers in factories, fields, and streets. But no work is insignificant.” As a parent you are preparing your child for their work life, so prepare them well. If you don’t, they’ll have a life of grief, and create a life of grief for others. Plus, they may end up back on your doorstep! Bosses don’t pay workers who don’t work. So before you give your child an allowance, give them some chores like making their bed, cleaning their room, helping around the house, taking out the garbage, getting good grades in school, and doing their homework on time. Reward without responsibility is indulgence. And if you love your child you won’t do that!
Soul food: 1 Sam 11-13; Luke 4:1-13; Ps 95; Prov 16:31-33
Proverbs 6:6 NLT
Proverbs 6 says: ‘Take a lesson from the ants…Learn from their ways and become wise! (v. 6 NLT). It seems strange to be asking us to take ants as one of our role-models, but when we take some time to think about them, there are several things they can show us. We’ll be looking at them over the next few days. Proverbs 6 goes on to say: ‘Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labour hard all summer, gathering food for the winter’ (v. 7 NLT). An ant colony has a queen, who is the centre of attention, and who the other ants work hard to keep alive, But she doesn’t rule the ants. She doesn’t give them instructions. The colony’s survival is made certain by ‘soldier’ ants, who are both leaders and servants. They start off by carrying out the tasks that need doing, while the younger ants imitate them and join in, learning what needs to be done. The younger ants don’t need to be supervised or told to get working. They have a built-in desire to work and be useful, and help their colony to survive. When God created Adam, He set him to work in the Garden of Eden. Adam wasn’t constantly watched or supervised – he just wanted to play his God-given part in his world. And just like the ants and Adam, God designed us to work and carry out our unique God-given role in our family, community, church, world… God doesn’t force us to take our part, but He has placed different desires within each of us. At times, we may feel as insignificant as a tiny ant, but our part in God’s plan is important, and unique to us.
1 Sam 8-10; Luke 3:21-38; Ps 64; Prov 16:26-30