SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 5:15-17
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: October 13th, 2015
"15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is." (Ephesians 5:15-17)
KEY THOUGHT: Gospel-Led living is not just for a small part of our lives. It is for ALL of our lives.
Busy. Not enough time. Too much to do. Familiar?
It is all too familiar. Whether one is working at a Full-time job or otherwise, being busy makes a typical adult person maintains feelings of fulfillment. As long as I make the money for the family, I fulfill my financial obligation. As long as I spend time with my children, I fulfill my parental obligation. As long as I keep my hours in my office, I fulfill my employment obligations. As long as I serve in some capacity in Church, I fulfill my spiritual obligations.
What if something's gotta give? What if we spend more time in one at the expense of another? What if we totally miss out on an important obligation? Will our lives become less fulfilling?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: "Every Christian must be fully Christian by bringing God into his whole life, not merely into some spiritual realm." This speaks into some people who separate the sacred from the secular, believing that they are only serving God when they are in churches or doing Bible related stuff.
This week, I like to share about productivity and how we can let the gospel drive our living. It is not about using the gospel to be better at our jobs. It is letting the gospel motivate us in our work. Christians do not just do good in the world. They do good in such a way that people notice God working in their lives. They serve faithfully not because they are obligated to. They serve because they loved to. We don't simply try to do our best to love our families. We love our families and are grateful every time we get to love our families. We serve in churches not because there is a desperate need for volunteers. We serve because it is an opportunity to exercise the gifts God has given us.
A) "Be very careful, then, how you live"
A gospel-led life begins with an awareness of our surroundings, where we are, the environment we are living in, and who we are with. If it is with lots of non-Christians around, be careful about the language we use. It is not appropriate to use "Christianese" which they don't understand. Avoid using words that only Church-people understand. Talk in everyday language but refrain from profanities we often hear in the office. If possible, show your displeasure when colleagues spout out vulgarities. At the same time, maintain a careful leash on the tongue, not to slander, not to spread rumours, and not to gossip about rumours. Even when one has the facts, do not be too quick to let loose. Be careful about how the words impact others. Speak the truth in love. A gospel-led life is not about reviving our prosperities but resetting our priorities.
B) "not as unwise, but as wise"
What do we do when we have too much things to do and not enough time to do all of them? Remember the wisdom from the Bible:
"1There is a time for everything,If God has given us a time for everything, obviously, when cannot come around and accuse God of not giving us enough time! Stephanie Vozza in a popular tech publication recently points out that the problem is not about the lack of time but the presence of anxiety. She shows us four things that we can do:
and a season for every activity under the heavens:"
- Reducing stress by practicing slow breathing
- Reframing our anxiety as some positive emotion for productive use
- Stop idolizing Busyness
C) "Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil"
We do not know how many more years we have. I have friends who work in hospice ministries telling me that people who know that they are dying actually make a better use of their remaining days. One of them told me this profound piece of wisdom: "One doesn't know how to live until he has learned how to die." In other words, he is teaching me that people who have learned how to die do the best living.
Sometimes I wonder. People who are so brilliant at earning money, gaining degrees, and rising up the ladders of the corporate world, after what's done, can they take their cash and degree scrolls with them to their graves? Will their corporate titles be valid on Judgment Day? Will God be pleased when their lives have not touched a single soul for Christ?
We must double up on our spiritual senses. For I believe that most of us do not need to frantically comb the neighbourhoods for opportunities to serve. All we need is to RESPOND to the callings and needs that come knocking at our doors.
- When a friend calls for help, do we shoo that person away with polite sounding: "Sorry, I'm busy?"
- When a Church member asks if you can help out at Sunday School, will you simply say: "Sorry, I'm not trained" or some excuse that frees you to say no?
- When a family member asks for your time, will you pause your busyness and reset your priorities?
- What if you die tomorrow? Will you live a life of regret or fulfillment?
The English Puritan, Richard Baxter reminds us:
"Christians, if your souls were sound and right, they would perceive incomparably more delight and sweetness in knowing, thinking, believing, loving, and rejoicing in your future blessedness in the fruition of God . . . than the strongest senses find in the enjoyment of their objects." (Richard Baxter, The Saints' Everlasting Rest, Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2004, p108)A gospel-led life will let our wisdom prioritize our activities on earth.
D) "Understand What the Lord's Will is"
Paul exhorts us to live as wise people, not unwise; as spiritual people, not unspiritual; as fruitful persons, not unfruitful; as productive people, not wasteful. For these are all within God's will for us to do our best and to multiply the goodness of God wherever we go. As the Spirit leads us, let us go. As the opportunities open up, let us take. As the days approach, let us be ready. In the meantime, continue to stay awake to the calling of God. Who knows, God is always calling us. The question is: Are we listening?
All of life is for the Lord. All our work is in the Name of the Lord. All of us belongs to God, for we are his, the sheep of His Pasture. In all of our doing, our thinking, our working, and our living, may we always remember this fundamental truth: Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches. Only in Him can we bear much fruit.
In summary, Gospel-Led living is about living carefully in the world God has created. It is about living with spiritual wisdom. It is about making the full use of opportunities given us to shine for Christ. It is about keeping in step with the will of God that calls us to lift up the Name of Jesus, not just with our mouths, but with our hands, our feet, and all of our lives.
Next time, when you are tempted to say you're too busy, or have no time, perhaps, it is a good time to ask: "What's my gospel priority?"
THOUGHT: "The gospel gives us different priorities from those of the popular culture and offers us a different agenda from that of the political economy." (Jim Wallis)
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