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Wisdom for the New Year

by Ted Schroder
December 27, 2009

Let me give you two Scripture passages to inspire you for the New Year: Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 and Luke 9:57-62.

Charles Swindoll writes about Ecclesiastes 11:1-6, "Interestingly, the older we get the more cautious we become. With deliberate and careful concern, we study before we step, we ponder before we leap, we hesitate before we move out into the open. If we're not careful we replace the risks of faith with a methodical, almost tedious lifestyle that borders on boredom. But is that what God wants of us? Must growing old be synonymous with an overly cautious mentality? Not if we take these six verses to heart. You may be surprised to discover that the God of the Scriptures condones what would be called today a 'bullish' approach to living....a bold, aggressive investment of our lives. Perhaps the best way to paraphrase these verses would be the five-word command, 'Stop existing and start living.'

The older we get, the more advice we hear on how we ought to conduct our lives. Friends and family often tell us things which we never read in Scripture. Three common ones are:

1. Take it easy - don't exert yourself.
2. Be very careful - don't risk.
3. Hold on to what you've got - things are going to get worse. That's the pessimism that dogs our steps as we get older. It causes us to be greedy and tight with what we have."

In contrast to this advice to hunker down in our bunker, Ecclesiastes urges us to follow another line of thinking: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." (Eccl.11:1)

Be courageous in your plans. Be confident in your God-given abilities. It is a sin not to do what you are capable of doing. Be adventurous, like those who accept the risks and reap the benefits of seaborne trade. Do not always play it safe. "One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." (Proverbs 11:24, 25) The more you give of yourself the more likely you will be blessed, and be a blessing to others.

"Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land." (Eccl.11:2)

A financial adviser I know takes this verse to encourage diversifying your investments. Since you don't know what may happen to the future economy it seems good sense not to keep all your eggs in one basket. I have seen too many people rely upon their favorite company, bank or institution only to find that circumstances and management have changed and their shares have deteriorated in value. Prudence requires being sensible, and not gambling your future on one venture. But don't give in to the paralysis of analysis - being so careful that you end up doing nothing. Be courageous, be confident.

"If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth.

Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.

Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." (Eccl.11:3,4)

We can respect the laws of nature over which we have no control; but we cannot always forecast the future. We often have to act before we can foresee all we would like to know. The farmer who waits until he is completely certain of weather conditions will never reap anything. 'He who hesitates is lost.' Don't be intimidated by the atmosphere, the culture, the current conditions, the pundits and the stock market. If you aren't in to play, you cannot win the game. Be courageous, be confident. Commit yourself.

"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." (Eccl.11:5,6)

Our knowledge is so limited about the most important things of life, such as conception. We have little understanding of the source of life, and the course of life. We cannot read our destiny. Yet we are called upon to make our contribution, to act on the knowledge we have. We must accept calculated risks and believe that whatever happens, success will come to the courageous and the confident, rather than the faint-hearted and timid. Be committed to act.

Jesus made this quite clear to those who would follow him. Many had sincere intentions but were not willing to pay the price. Commitment to the kingdom of God - to the future claim of God and eternity on your life - required the willingness to get outside your comfort zone, to take some risks, to reorder your priorities, and to leave the past behind.

"As they were walking along someone said to Jesus, 'I will always follow you no matter where you go.' But Jesus replied, 'Remember, I don't even own a place to lay my head. Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Messiah, have no earthly home at all.'

[What is more important to you - your earthly possessions, your comfort, or the kingdom of God? How committed are you to the future?]

"Another time, when he invited a man to come with him and to be his disciple, the man agreed - but wanted to wait until his father's death. Jesus replied, 'Let those without eternal life concern themselves with things like that. Your duty is to come and preach the coming of the kingdom of God to all the world.'

[You should not be worried about the details of the end of mortal life, but the gift of eternal life to all who believe. This world passes away, but the Word of God endures forever. Invest in what will last and grow more valuable every day.]

"Another said, 'Yes, Lord, I will come, but first let me ask permission of those at home.' But Jesus told him, 'Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the kingdom of God.'" (Luke 9:57-62, The Living Bible)

The NIV translates v.62, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." If you look back when you are plowing you will lose your direction. You must keep looking forward if you are to keep on track. The Message paraphrases v.62 "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."

If you want to be fit for the kingdom of God, you must be courageous, confident, and committed to follow Jesus and do God's will. That will require some risks, getting out of your comfort zone. That is what we call the risk of faith. What do you need to do now?

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