1 Corinthians 4

We’re reading 1 Corinthians 4 today, according to our NT17 schedule.

In today’s reading Paul continued speaking to the Corinthians about how they were dividing their church by championing one church leader over another. Instead of taking sides over whether Apollos was better than Paul, Paul urged them to “regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” Paul and Apollos were on the same team--the same team as each other and as the Corinthians. They were there--and each of us is here--to serve the Lord.

What standard, then, do we use when considering the Lord’s servants? Verse 2 says, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Was Paul faithful to do the work God commanded him to do? Was Apollos faithful? Are you faithful in performing the ministry God gave you to do? Only God really knows and his judgment day will reveal the truth about it (v. 5). So instead of evaluating God’s servants before that time (v. 5a), we should simply strive to serve the Lord faithfully today.

As always there are false teachers within the church who threaten it and there are biblical teachers who strengthen it. Whose your favorite teacher? John MacArthur? R.C. Sproul? Jay Adams? C. H. Spurgeon? Wayne Grudem? Paul Tripp? I have learned a great deal from each of these men and many others. Each of them has his strengths and weaknesses but the Lord does not want us to compare them and rank them against each other nor does he want them to battle it out between them. Instead, he wants them to be faithful and for us to be thankful for the work they do for him.

It is definitely a good thing to appreciate the ministry of others; Paul certainly felt that the Corinthians should have appreciated his ministry to them more than they did. As long as you don’t elevate any man to a level of infallibility or trust his word against the clear teaching of God’s word, there is nothing wrong with appreciating a man who is being used by God. Just don’t let your godly appreciation turn into an ungodly adulation that brings discord and strife into the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 3

Today we’re scheduled to read 1 Corinthians 3.

Back in 1 Corinthians 1, Paul expressed a great deal of confidence about the salvation of the Corinthian believers. He talked about all the ways in which God had enriched them (1:5) which confirmed their acceptance of the gospel (1:6) so that they had every spiritual gift (1:6). At the end of chapter 1 he explained that their salvation came from Christ crucified not from human wisdom and in chapter 2 he described how their faith was a spiritual work done by the Holy Spirit of God.

Here in chapter 3, he made a turn in his message to the Corinthians. Although they were saved by the Spirit, he could not speak to them as if they were spiritually mature; rather, they had to be addressed as if they were babies in Christ (vv. 1-3). This is quite a put down--not an insult but a needed adjustment to their self-assessment. The Corinthians were proud of how advanced they were spiritually--just look at all the spiritual gifts they had! But Paul told them that they were acting in a very spiritually immature manner, like babies in Christ. What caused him to say this? It was the fact that there was “jealousy and quarreling among you” (v. 3). That jealously and quarreling was about who was the best spiritual leader--Paul, Apollos, or someone else (v. 4). The truth is that Paul and Apollos were not competitors but servants of God who both made meaningful contributions to the church (vv. 5-9).

Verses 10-17 are often misunderstood in part because Paul will later in this same book talk about our human bodies as the temple of God. That’s what he meant in chapter 6, but here in chapter 3 he is not referring to the human bodies or their individual spiritual lives. Instead, the context of verses 10-17 refer to the church itself. The foundation Paul laid is the foundation of the church at Corinth, the Lord Jesus Christ himself (vv. 10-11). Apollos or anyone else who serves the church is building on that foundation but God will test the quality of everyone’s work (vv 12-14). The “temple” Paul is referring to here, then, is the church itself in Corinth (v. 16) and the warning against “destroying the temple” is a warning against tearing the church apart through “jealousy and quarreling” (v. 3) or any other way that creates disunity. What are some sins that tear churches apart? Sin of any kind that goes unconfessed and unaddressed and the Corinthian church was full of that: incest (1 Cor 5), lawsuits among believers (1 Cor 6:1-11), sexual immorality of all kinds (1 Cor 6:12-20), unbiblical divorce (1 Cor 7), abusing Christian liberty (1 Cor 8-10), disorderly worship (1 Cor 9:1-16), abusing the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 9:17-34), and more.

The warning in today’s passage is very serious: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple” (3:17). How many churches have been torn apart by sin--sin among leaders or sins within the body. How many congregations have been ripped apart by gossip? How many have been weakened or killed by failing to follow biblical leadership?

Understand, then, that as a church member, your choices affect far more people than just you. If your choices cause harm to the body of Christ, God promised to deal with you severely for the harm you’ve done to his work. This passage should sober us and cause us to realize the importance of making godly choices not only for our own walk with God but for the spiritual health and strength of his church.

1 Corinthians 2

Today we’re reading 1 Corinthians 2.

The gospel sounds like total nonsense to those who don’t know Jesus but that doesn’t mean it actually is nonsense. Instead, it is a message of great wisdom to those who are mature (v. 6) but not because we reasoned and thought our way to that wisdom. No, it is wisdom that was hidden from most people but now revealed to us by the grace of God (vv. 7-8). Though this revelation given to us in the gospel, we learned about all that God has done for us in Christ (vv. 9-10) but only after the Holy Spirit went to work on our minds and hearts (vv. 10-12). The focus of this chapter is the Holy Spirit and what he did to us in order to make us receptive to the gospel (vv. 10-16).

In churches like ours which are non-charismatic, we sometimes are skittish about the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that he is God but get concerned when believers pray to him or talk about him. Don’t be concerned. Your spiritual life is a gift from the Holy Spirit of God and you don’t need to do any miracles to see him working in your life. The discernment you have about good and evil, wisdom and foolishness, what is spiritual and what is sinful is because of the Holy Spirit. So, thank him for his work in your life and ask him to keep working on you, in you, and through you to draw you closer to Christ.

1 Corinthians 1

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 1.

During Paul’s two year stay in Ephesus, which we read about yesterday in Acts 19, he probably wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians so we will read those letters, then come back to Acts later.

The church at Corinth had a lot of problems and Paul started addressing them right away here in chapter 1 verse 10. Despite their many--and serious--problems, Paul took time to appreciate the evidence of their faith in God and express confidence in God’s power to make them holy in verses 4-9. The reason for this confidence was that they were “sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus” (v. 2) and that God was faithfully working in them (vv. 8-9). The Corinthians, it seems, had lost sight of the fact that God was the source of their faith and their salvation (vv. 28-30). Judging from Paul’s words in this chapter, it appears that the Corinthians began to think that they had some level of discernment on their own. They argued about who was the best teacher--Paul or Apollos (vv. 10-17) which suggests that they thought one or the other was more insightful. Those who argued for their guy may have thought, if you only had the spiritual insight I have, you’d see that Paul is the better teacher. Paul reminded them that it was not their clever insights that brought them to Christ, but Christ and his grace. Apart from his grace, we would consider Jesus and his atoning death for us to be foolishness (vv. 18-23); God, however, called us to trust in Jesus which is why we turned to him in faith (v. 24a). When we turned to Christ in faith, that’s when we learned that Jesus was God’s power and wisdom embodied (v. 24b). In fact, Christ is everything to us by the grace of God--“our wisdom... righteousness, holiness and redemption” (v. 30).

The pride that Paul addressed in the Corinthians is a present temptation to Christians at all times including us. Sometimes we may be tempted to pity or even despise the lost because of how deeply sin and unbelief has infected them. But it was not our keen insight that saved us from that life; it was God’s gracious work in our minds and hearts when we heard the gospel.

This should cause us to thank God for the gift of grace he gave to us. We’d be lost in our sins just life everyone else if it weren’t for his saving work. And, since God is the one who chooses and who saves, we should never write anyone off as being beyond the power of God. The gospel, by the grace of God, is a transformative message. You’ve witnessed its transforming power in your own life but don’t be proud of that fact. Instead, be proud of God (v. 31) and willing to share his message with others so that they may experience his grace as well.

Acts 19

Today, read [Acts 19](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts19&version=NIV).

Ephesus occupies an important place in the New Testament, and here in Acts 19 we read about Paul’s first contact with this city. You know about the letter we call “Ephesians” that Paul wrote to the church there. He also sent Timothy there in his place later on and sent 1 & 2 Timothy to him while Timothy was in Ephesus. Finally, Ephesus was one of the seven churches in Revelation that Jesus spoke to (Rev 2:1). So we read in this chapter the origin story of what would become an important church in the New Testament days.

Things began powerfully there. Paul arrived in Ephesus and found twelve men (v. 7) who were described as “disciples” (v. 1). They were disciples of John, however, because they had not yet heard of Jesus (v. 4). Still, they were faithful to the truth they did have which was the teaching and baptism of John. God sent Paul to them to complete their discipleship by bringing them to Jesus (v. 4) and, when he taught them the gospel they showed the same signs of faith that the original disciples showed (Acts 2:4) and the first Gentile believers also showed (Acts 10:44-48, 11:15-18).

After three months of teaching in the synagogue (v. 8), Paul faced opposition--first from the Jews who did not receive Jesus (v. 9), then from Jewish leaders who tried to claim Jesus’ power for their own reasons (vv. 13-16), then the idol worshipping Gentiles who saw their livelihood threatened (vv. 17-41). God used Paul powerfully both to do miracles delivering people from Satan’s power (vv. 11-12) and to spread the gospel to the region around Ephesus (vv. 9-10). But, God did all of that in the middle of strong opposition from many sides. This seems to be a pattern throughout church history; wherever God is working powerfully, Satan is always bringing strong opposition from as many fronts as possible. It makes sense--doesn’t it?--that Satan would push back as powerfully as he can where God is working powerfully. So don’t be discouraged if God is using you in the lives of others. There will be opposition and the enemy will seek to discourage you and derail your faithfulness. Just keep doing what God is blessing and keep praying for his power to overcome the opposition you face.

2 Thessalonians 3

Today we’re reading 2 Thessalonians 3.

When I was growing up my pastor used to frequently say, “Some people are so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthy good.” That might be an apt description of the Thessalonians. The things Paul wrote about in 1 & 2 Thessalonians indicate a church that was focused on end time events--the coming of Christ, the arrival of the man of lawlessness, and the final judgement on earth were all topics Paul discussed in these letters.

Here in chapter 3, however, he urged them to pray for the spread of the gospel through his work (vv. 1-2). While it is good to be looking for the Lord’s coming, Christ has charged us with work to do here until he comes--namely reaching people for Christ and discipling them to obey him. Paul was more than willing to teach about the end times, but he wanted the churches to remain faithful in prayer for the gospel to keep growing.

In the meantime, it is possible that some of the believers in Thessalonica had quit working and were living on charitable giving from other members of their church (vv. 11-12). This might be because they were so convinced that Christ would return any moment that they lost motivation to work. Or, perhaps that was unrelated to their interest in eschatology. Regardless of the reason, Paul must have heard that there were loafers in the congregation. He wrote this chapter, therefore, to remind them of his own example and teaching when he was in Thessalonica (vv. 7-10), to instruct the unproductive people to get to work (v. 12), and for the obedient people in the church to be wary of the disobedient and unproductive members (vv. 6, 14-15). These strong statements remind us that the Christian life is more than words; it is truth lived out in a holy and productive life. God created us to care for and make productive use of the earth. Now that, in Christ, we are seeking to be obedient to the Lord, we must realize that living a productive life is part of God’s will for us. These passages apply to those who are “unwilling to work” (v. 10), not those who are unable to work. Other passages of scripture show us that homemakers are living productively, so this doesn’t mean everyone must be in the secular workforce. Still, there are some believers today who could work or do something productive who instead are “idle” (v. 6) and even “busybodies” (v. 11). This chapter calls all of us to put our faith into practice by providing for ourselves and our families.

I think it goes further, too, and reminds us of our need to be good managers of what God allows us to produce. So many of us Americans are building mountains of debt and we’re one financial setback away from dependency. Are you working productively? Keep it up. Are you living below your means and preparing for the future? That’s what God wants us to do, too.

2 Thessalonians 2

Today the NT17 schedule calls for us to read 2 Thessalonians 2.

Paul continued to discuss end time events in this chapter, telling the Thessalonians (and us) that “the day of the Lord” will not come until the “man of lawlessness” comes first, proclaiming himself to be God (v. 4), displaying great powers that will deceive many people into following him (vv. 9-12). Those who believe him will face God’s judgment because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (v. 10). By contrast, those who trust in Christ do so because we have been set apart by the Holy Spirit and “through belief in the truth” (v. 13). These statements remind us again how important truth is to the Christian life. While faith in Christ is a supernatural gift of God’s grace given to us when we hear the gospel through the new birth, part of that conversion process is a desire to receive the truth. This means receiving the truth about ourselves--that we are sinners deserving God’s punishment and the truth about God--that he is just and will punish sinners but also loving so that he came in the person of Christ to take away our sins.

These truths were the means God used to save us; in addition to these truths, however, God gave us a love for all of his truth. That “love” breaks down our hostility toward believing in the supernatural or in doctrines that we find difficult to accept. Since God has removed our hostility to the truth, then, Paul commands believers to “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (v. 15). Doctrine is important and those who love Jesus love doctrine, too. While there are some disagreements among believers about how to interpret the scriptures in some areas, we should keep looking together at the scriptures and seeking to find the correct interpretation because we are people who love truth.

2 Thessalonians 1

Today’s reading is 2 Thessalonians 1.

In yesterday’s reading we contemplated the end of humanity as we know it. We learned there in 1 Thessalonians 5 that most of the human race will be caught utterly unprepared when the “day of the Lord” comes in judgment. Here in 2 Thessalonians 1 Paul continued that theme.

The passage begins with Paul’s usual greeting to the church (vv. 1-4) and a transitional statement that all the ways in which the faith of the Thessalonians was growing (vv. 3-4) was evidence that they would be included in God’s kingdom (v. 5). At the end of verse 5 Paul notes that it is this kingdom, the kingdom of God, “for which you are suffering.” This phrase both indicates us the circumstances the Thessalonians were facing and prepares us for the next few verses which tell us what God will do about it. According to verse 6, “He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.” Although all of us were once enemies of God and opponents to his kingdom, God in grace saved from the penalty that we deserved for our sins. That made us “worthy of the kingdom of God” (v. 5b) but also put us on the other side of the rest of humanity which is still at war with God and resisting Christ’s kingdom. That is why believers are persecuted--both back then in Thessalonica and around the world today.

Here, though, God promised that suffering would not be the fate of believers forever. Instead, God will execute justice someday in the future. That justice will give relief to his children who are suffering but judgment on those who reject him and oppose him. And when will this happen? “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” In other words, the “day of the Lord” which we read about yesterday will begin when Christ returns as described here in verses 7b-10.

Christians debate about the timing of these events and this is not the place to address that debate. What we should take away from 2 Thessalonians 1 is the promise that God’s judgment is coming when Jesus returns. On that day there will be justice--eternal punishment for those who are not in Christ (v. 9) but salvation for those of us who are in Christ. Our salvation is not based on our goodness but based on the fact that Christ died in our place, taking God’s punishment for sin for us.

But what do we do while we wait for that day of the Lord? Verses 11-12 tell us. Paul prayed for these believers that “God may make you worthy of his calling.” This means that God would form real righteousness in these believers to match the status of righteous that he declared them to be in Christ. That “real righteousness” was described in verse 11b as God bringing “to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” Like all believers, the Thessalonians wanted to grow in grace, they wanted to serve God and become like him. Paul prayed for them that, until Jesus comes, they would be growing in God’s grace to become godly men and women. The result of this growth is described in verse 12: “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What Paul described in this passage is what God is doing and wants to do in the lives of every believer. It is why I teach God’s word, shepherd his people, and write these devotionals. May God continue to change us and grow us until Christ returns to finally save us.

BTW: this is how we should pray for each other, too. Not that we would have health, happiness, and prosperity but that God would keep working in us to make us “worthy of his calling.”

1 Thessalonians 5

Today we’re reading 1 Thessalonians 5.

What will the end of humanity look like? Everyone agrees that this earth is doomed--eventually. Some people believe that space travel will offer escape for the human race to some other inhabitable planet when our sun dies out or the earth becomes uninhabitable, but realistically that’s the stuff of science fiction, not reality.

According to God’s word, human history will end here on this earth. And most of humanity will be utterly unprepared for it as we read today in verses 1-3. Verses 4-11 describe the contrast; while most of humanity will be unprepared for the end, believers “are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (v. 4). God’s word has described for us what will happen when the “day of the Lord” (v. 2) arrives. As students of his word, then, we should not be surprised when his judgment comes.

Still, although we are not in darkness, this passage urges us to “be awake and sober...since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (v. 6b, 8). The promise of salvation from God’s wrath in Christ (v. 10) calls us to be active and growing in our faith, not passive and complacent as if we are just passing the time until Christ comes.

This is always how the Bible applies end times promises to believers. The promise of deliverance through Christ should motivate us to become like Christ. We strive to become holy for many reasons--the new nature within, the Holy Spirit within, a desire to be like Christ--but one of the things that should motivate us to grow is the knowledge that Christ will return. Understanding that this world is temporary and that eternal things are, well..., eternal, lifts our thoughts from materialism, self-centeredness, pleasure-seeking, and other temptations. We lose our desire for these things when we realize all that God has promised to us eternally in Christ.

Have you lost your focus on eternity? Is your interest in the Lord, his word, and his character formed in your life cooling off? Let this reading remind you that the Lord is coming. So many things that seem important now will be completely irrelevant when Jesus returns; likewise, things that advance God’s work through evangelism and God’s holiness in people’s lives will be shown for the eternal value that they have. So let these words encourage you (v. 11a) but also refocus and re-energize you to know the Lord and participate in his work.

1 Thessalonians 4

Today we’re reading 1 Thessalonians 4.

In this chapter Paul moved from discussing his history with the Thessalonians to addressing how they should live as Christians (vv. 1-2). Sexual purity was first on his list, an evergreen topic in every age (vv. 3-8). Next was the issue of loving others and general living in light of our life in Christ (vv. 9-12). The Thessalonians had a God-given gift for Christian love, so much so that Paul said he didn’t really even need to write to them about it (vv. 9-10). When Paul wrote, “you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia” (v. 10a), he is referring to the generosity of the Thessalonian believers toward other believers and church in the wider region around them. This suggests that the Thessalonians had instinctively reached out to other churches and had been generous toward whatever needs they had.

Even though the Thessalonians had already demonstrated their love, Paul “urge[d] you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.” We all, from time to time, quit doing things that are good and productive just because they can be costly. Paul wasn’t chiding them for losing some of the loving ways they had developed; he was encouraging them not to stop doing the God-honoring things they had done by instinct.

As a parent and as a pastor, it is easy to take for granted the good things that our children and our church family members do. I might congratulate my kids when they get good grades--or improving grades--on their report cards, but I don’t usually pat them on the back when I see them he daily work of studying and doing homework. Similarly, in our church, many people show up and serve faithfully each week. I do try to thank people from time to time, but it’s easy just to expect it. Positive reinforcement, though, can mean a lot. It matters more to some people than others based on their personalities, but it means something to just about everyone. Like Paul, then, it would be helpful for us to notice the good things our spouse, our kids and our friends do--the areas where they are growing in their Christian lives, when they serve faithfully, when they make good choices--and encourage them to keep it up. That bit of encouragement might help others keep doing good and it might stimulate them to do more in that area.

By the way, thank you for reading these devotionals. I hear from some of you about how they have helped you build a Bible reading habit. I’m really grateful for that. Now, keep it up!

1 Thessalonians 3

Today’s reading is from 1 Thessalonians 3.

This chapter ends Paul’s review of his relationship with the Thessalonians. Starting tomorrow in chapter 4, we’ll read some more direct instructions to the church.

Persecution was a factor in Paul’s relationship to this church. First, they suffered persecution for their faith in Christ (vv. 3-4). We read a brief description of this in Acts 17:5-9 when a man named Jason and “some other believers” (v. 5) faced legal charges for letting Paul and his team stay in their home. Maybe there was more--possibly much more--trouble that the Thessalonian believers faced beyond what Luke described in Acts 17. Paul was concerned that this persecution would supplant the gospel and that those who had responded to Paul’s message would not endure (v. 5).

Paul himself also continued to experience persecution in some of the places he traveled and the good report Timothy brought about the faith of the Thessalonians encouraged him (vv. 6-7). This caused Paul to ask God to allow them to return to Thessalonica (vv. 10-11). In the meantime, he continued to pray for their spiritual growth and strength (vv. 12-13).

There are times in our lives when someone we love is physically separated from us. It might be a child away at college, a spouse away on a business trip, a brother or sister who lives in another state. We have phones and texting and other ways of communication that help keep those relationship bonds strong. But we don’t see the person we love, so we may wonder if they are dealing with temptations or giving into temptations we know they face. We may wonder if they are involved in a church and if they are continuing to grow in their faith by spending time in the word and prayer. These are all godly concerns but the best answer to them is to pray. Pray for God to protect the faith of those you love who are away. Pray that the Lord would keep them from temptation and strengthen them to do right if they are tempted. Ask God to give them a hunger for his word so that they keep growing in grace. This is the best way to exercise faith in a situation like this so let your concern for a believer you love lead you to pray for that person often and specifically for his or her spiritual life.

1 Thessalonians 2

Today’s reading is from 1 Thessalonians 2.

The Bible describes us Christians as “sheep” and he has provided “shepherds” to give us the spiritual guidance and leadership we need. Some men are attracted to ministry, however, because they like the power over people’s lives that being a pastor or elder brings. Power is important and necessary for leadership, but some men may be tempted to use that power to abuse the people who are under their authority.

Here in 1 Thessalonians 2 Paul continued describing his ministry and relationship with the Thessalonians. After reminding them about their salvation in chapter 1, here in chapter 2 he reminds them of what he was like when he served among them. Paul and his team were not manipulative (vv. 3-4), they did not “butter them up” with flattery in order to extract money from the Thessalonians (v. 5) and they did not serve for the praise of men (v. 6). Instead, Paul reminded the Thessalonian believers that they were innocent like children (v. 7a) and cared for them like a nursing mother cares for her child (v. 8). This kind of loving tenderness is the example to follow for any of us who serve the Lord in leadership. As a parent, an AWANA leader or teacher in one of our other children’s ministries, a Calvary Class teacher or small group leader, or as an elder in our church, what goes through your mind when you think about serving his people in our congregation? Are you looking for their respect? Do you want them to fear you or love you? In other words, is your service about you or is it about them? Let this passage cause you to examine your motives about how and why you do ministry, then ask the Lord for the kind of nurturing heart toward the people you’re serving that a mother has toward her nursing infant.

Psalms 57-59

Happy Mother’s Day! Today we’re scheduled to read Psalms 57-59.

In today’s Psalms we see clearly that David suffered from fear. Although he was a mighty warrior who bravely faced Israel’s enemies, he continually cried out to God for mercy and protection from them (for example, 57:1-2).

We don’t face physical enemies and armies as David did, but there are many times in life when we struggle with fear. Let these Psalms give you comfort when you are afraid; pray these words aloud to the Lord, telling him how much you need him and how you are trusting him through the trials and problems he allows into your life.

Also remember that David prayed and fought. He did not see his fighting as a contradiction to his praying. Instead, he trusted that God would use him as he fought the battles he faced and that his answers to prayer would come through his own sword and Israel’s armies. The lesson here is that wise human action is not incompatible with faith or with trusting God in prayer. So as you pray for God’s comfort and help with the problems in your life, be diligent about addressing those problems in how you act because you believe that the Lord will help you through them.

Proverbs 12:15-28

Today we’re reading Proverbs 12:15-28.

Two of the verses in today’s passage speak about laziness (vv. 24, 27). Verse 27 says that, “The lazy do not roast any game....” Picture the setting. A man goes out to hunt food for his family. He checks his bow, his arrows, his spear, his knife, and anything else he needs to be sure they are in good working order, sharpens all the blades and arrows, and repairs anything that needs to be repaired in his gear. He packs his clothes, blankets, and tent as well as plenty of bread and water. Then he sets out to hunt, walking out into the wilderness where he sets up camp. Each morning he rises early before the dawn to find a good place to hide and... he waits. Eventually he sees a nice large buck and, with a swift shot from his bow, takes it down. He then begins field dressing his kill, just like his father taught him to do. He drags the carcass home and then... it just rots. He never gets around to actually cooking the meat he worked so hard to get.

What a waste! But this is one way in which laziness costs us. We make money in our jobs but are undisciplined in how it is spent, so it doesn’t grow and nourish us financially; instead, it just fades away in frivolous spending. Or we advertise and find new prospects for our business, but don’t follow up on them. Or we take a class or a seminar and learn a bunch of new things but never implement any of them. These are just a few ways in which laziness--an inability to do something we don’t want to do even though it would help us achieve a result we want to get--costs us bigly. By contrast, verse 27b says, “...but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.” Sometimes just a little extra work is the difference between success and failure.

Why do we get lazy? Sometimes it is just the lure of the immediate pleasure of a nap or entertainment. Sometimes it is fear of failure or not really knowing how to do what needs to be done next. Regardless, laziness is something we identify in others but justify in ourselves. Justified or not, there is a high price to paid for laziness. According to verse 24, “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.” If you can’t manage yourself and push through your lazy inclinations, you’ll end up working for someone else who won’t care about your excuses.

Look, we all suffer from laziness at times and it’s easy to beat yourself up when you see the waste and loss that comes from it. These passages are about the long-term affects of laziness, not isolated incidents of it. Still, it is helpful for us to remember that part of being Christians is learning to be diligent managers of all that God has given us and enabled us to do. So think about areas where laziness may be costing you and change the way you work.

1 Thessalonians 1

Today let’s read 1 Thessalonians 1.

We paused our reading in Acts at Acts 18 yesterday because it seems clear that Paul wrote this first letter to the Thessalonians while he was in Corinth during the time period covered by Acts 18 (see Acts 18:11). So we’re going to read that letter for the next few days before we return to Acts.

This passage overflows with thanksgiving for the Thessalonian believers because the evidence of their faith in God was so abundantly clear to Paul. Because he was thankful for them, Paul prayed for these believers. And what was it that Paul prayed about when he prayed for them? Verse 3 says it was “...your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, it was their walk with God that he prayed for. He thanked God for how their faith showed itself in real life ways and he prayed that God would continue to nurture and strengthen that faith.

I think that one reason why we find it hard to pray for other Christians is that we are not in tune with their spiritual lives. We pray for health and happiness when we do pray, but do we thank God for ways in which we see each other growing and ask God to keep that growth going?

As your devotional time comes to a close this morning, take some time to think of another believer, maybe someone you brought to Christ or whose faith you’ve contributed to as a discipler, teacher, or friend. Take a few minutes to think about what evidences of growth you’ve seen in that person’s life and what areas he or she may be challenged in now. Then pray--thanking God for what he’s done in his / her life and asking Him to keep doing that work.

Acts 18

Today we’re scheduled to read Acts 18.

In this chapter Paul met a couple, Aquila and Priscilla, who would become friends and ministry associates. Verse 3 tells us that, in addition to having Christ in common, they also made a living by making tents just as Paul did when he needed money. This work allowed Paul to travel and give the gospel anywhere without asking anyone for money. However, earning a living this way meant spending less time preaching the gospel.

In verse 5, Luke dropped this into the story: “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching....” Why would he do this? Why would he work part time with Priscilla and Aquila until Silas and Timothy showed up and then, with two other mouths to feed, stop making tents and start preaching the gospel exclusively? The answer is found in Philippians 4:15-16 which says, “Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.” Second Corinthians 11:9 conveys the same information. So here in Acts 18:5 Luke alludes to the financial support the Philippian church sent by saying that “Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching....” Their financial contributions made it possible for Paul and his team to concentrate on giving the gospel instead of splitting time between giving the gospel and earning a living.

Because of this passage, missionaries who work on the mission field are called “tentmakers.” There are some good reasons to do tentmaking, but in most cases the gospel advances better when God’s servants can give it our full attention. That happens when God’s people give faithfully and generously to his work.

So, let me close this meditation by saying thank you to everyone who tithes to Calvary! Your faithful giving allows me to make a living for my family and funds our other staff members and expenses. If you are not giving--or giving very little--please understand how important financial support is to our church and to our missionaries and consider re-prioritizing your finances to support God’s work.