The ‘rules’ practiced in today’s business world aren’t always the same as God’s rules, are they? Are you getting caught up in the game, trying to get as much as you can’are you tempted to cheat others or not give them their fair share? God will hold his men’you and I’accountable for this. We must take responsibility if we’ve sinned this way.
Take for example a man in the Bible named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus’s hunger for riches drove him to take more than his fair share while he was collecting taxes from the Jews for the Roman government. He was hated by his own people as an extortioner and a traitor. But when Jesus reached out to him he changed dramatically. The book of Luke says, ‘Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘I will give half of my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to his home today” (Luke 19:8-9).
When you honestly reflect on your life, you should be careful to consider whether you have taken more than your fair share in your dealings’business or personal. If so, it’s your responsibility to face the greed, the fear, the anger, and the pride that led you to behave dishonestly. Like Zacchaeus, true spiritual growth will be evidenced in practical ways. I hope you’ll take those courageous steps today.
Americans have traditionally valued a strong work ethic. We believe the harder we work, the greater our chances for success. But if unchecked, you can get carried away and you’ll end up devoting all your time to work and lose the balance that allows you to grow spiritually. Are you sacrificing healthy, family relationships, connections, friendships, and your walk with God so you can achieve more and advance in your profession? Perhaps you can relate to Solomon. When he became king of Israel, he asked God to grant him wisdom. Pleased at this request, God gave this young king honor, wealth, and a long life, in addition to wisdom.
Then Solomon started building the Temple. He built his palace and fortified his country against intruders. All of these projects were done on an enormous scale, even by today’s standards. In order to accomplish these tasks, Solomon sacrificed important relationships with his people, with his family, and with his God. He taxed his people heavily and required them to work hard on his building projects. He failed to teach his son how to use wisdom to rule the people. He also stopped listening to God and disobeyed him by marrying numerous pagan women and by worshipping their so-called gods.
It’s easy to lose yourself in work and achievements and to forget the source of your strength and success. Whenever anything in your priorities of life is placed above God, it’s time to stop and rethink just what your priorities need to be.
At times in our lives we all have wilderness experiences’times when we face despair and feel alone in the world. Elijah was a prophet in the Bible who had a literal wilderness experience. His time in the wilderness forced him to practice three spiritual disciplines that freed him from his dependence on the world and encouraged him instead to depend on God. We might learn from his example.
The first discipline Elijah practiced was solitude: and it served at least two purposes. It protected him from King Ahab who wanted to kill him. And it provided an opportunity for him to deepen his faith, to draw closer to God. Next, Elijah’s wilderness experience gave him a time to practice silence, which allowed him to listen for God’s voice. And finally, Elijah practiced a form of fasting. Strictly speaking he didn’t abstain from food, but his food was controlled by God’s special provision. Periodically, God would send ravens carrying food for Elijah to eat. In this way, Elijah learned to trust God to provide for his daily needs.
A wilderness experience can play an important role in our spiritual growth. Are you going through one now? Don’t miss what it might be offering you. Like Elijah, withdrawing from your normal routine will remove you from distraction and lead to an intimacy with God. Silence allows you to listen to God. And fasting teaches you to depend on God to provide for you.