The Essentials of the Art of Living
Psalms 90:9-10 “FOR ALL OUR DAYS ARE PASSED AWAY IN THY WRATH: WE SPEND OUR YEARS AS A TALE that is told. THE DAYS OF OUR YEARS are THREESCORE YEARS AND TEN; AND IF BY REASON OF STRENGTH they be FOURSCORE YEARS, YET is THEIR STRENGTH LABOUR AND SORROW; FOR IT IS SOON CUT OFF, AND WE FLY AWAY.”
Yes, we spend our lives as a tale that is told, a life story that has a beginning and an end; a life that is limited by the aging and failing of this house of clay in which our spirits dwell. It is this span of time we wish to address in our lesson this morning. We want to look at some things that are essential to our living, livelihood and ultimate destination when we have spent all of our years.
When Jesus address those listening to him during the sermon on the mount he tells them that
Matthew “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what he shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?”
Man has been created as a being that must worship something. It may be wealth, pleasure, material possessions, an idol god as much of the world does, or as in the Shinto religion our ancestors. But God’s inspired word doesn’t leave us without direction for our worship:
Matthew 6:31-34 “Therefore
take no thought [Be not therefore anxious], saying, what shall we eat? Or, what
shall we drink? Wherewithal shall we be
clothed? (For after all these things do
the gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth
that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the
Be not anxious about the material
things of this world, don’t make them your god or your
purpose in life. But, rather, seek first
God created and adapted man to work. Work with his hands, work with his mind, work in whatever fashion is available and appropriate for a child of God to engage in. This was true even before God removed our ancestors from their garden home:
Genesis “and the lord god took man, and put him into the garden of eden to dress it and to keep it.”
And of course we remember that as a result of the sin of man that caused God to remove him from this beautiful and bountiful garden work is more difficult for us.
Genesis “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Further we find in the doctrine of Christ this charge given by the Holy Spirit:
II Thessalonians “for even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
In addition we should be happy in our work or it will become a drudgery to us and a vexation to our souls. The wisdom given Solomon still speaks to us today:
Ecclesiastes “there is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.”
When we set ourselves a purpose or a goal we should have the same stick to it focus; with the same attitude that Jesus had for the work he came to earth to accomplish:
Matthew “even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Idleness exposes us to all kinds of temptations, imaginations, woes and fears, not least of all getting ourselves into something that could endanger our souls. This is the reason that Paul wrote to Timothy that the churches should take in only widows that were widows indeed, no longer able to look after themselves because the young widows would:
I Timothy “and withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”
Work, purpose for our lives, is an essential part of man’s makeup and needs.
The third essential to the art of living is love. Man has also been created to have a strong need for companionship; God saw and remedied that at the beginning:
Genesis “and the lord god said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
Not only are we to love those of our own immediate family but much of our spiritual well-being is based upon the need for us to love God and all of those around us, our neighbors, fellow-workers, brothers and sisters in Christ, etc.
Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the lord they god with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
An acceptance of Self
We must accept the fact that different people have different talents and capabilities. Not everyone can be a good cook, even among women; not everyone it cut out to be an accountant, merchant, carpenter, painter, and the list could go on forever. We even have different purposes even in God’s kingdom for:
Ephesians 4:11-12 “and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
We must accept what we have in terms of abilities, even though we might feel that our talents and capabilities are inferior or that we have severe handicaps. We spend our time and efforts developing, enhancing, strengthening and using what we have rather than complaining and making ourselves miserable over what we do not have or cannot obtain.
We should accept those things that limit us, should accept whatever level of achievement at we are capable of reaching. Paul tells us that he learned to a vital lesson during his lifetime:
Philippians “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith be content.”
While we should be content with what we have, with our station and situation in this life we should never be content with what we are because that kind of contentment would put our eternal life in jeopardy. Again a lesson from the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul:
Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren I cant not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Periodically we need to sit down and take inventory of our lives. We need to make sure that in pursuing our daily interests we haven’t let ourselves neglect an important part of our lives, that we haven’t become so focused on one or two things that we’re neglecting other things that are just as important. God again admonishes us through Paul:
II Corinthians13:5 “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
This kind of a self examination can be critical to our spiritual well being, about 40 years ago I went through one of these self examinations and changed my life entirely and sometimes folks need to do that.
Another kind of examination should be done on a regular basis, weekly on the first day of the week. Speaking of the Lord’s Supper God again gives us this admonition:
I Corinthians 11:26-29 “for as often as we eat this bread, and drink this cup, he do shew the lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the lord’s body.”
We need to be able to see ourselves as God and others see us. As we all know; if we have a weakness or a fault we must first recognize that weakness or fault exists before we will ever be in a position to do anything about it. Probably the most extreme example of right and wrong thinking in scripture is the parable Jesus told about the Pharisee and Publican going into the temple to pray in Luke 18:9-14. As we remember, of course, the Pharisee made a big to do about all the things that made him righteous in his own eyes as if he was bragging to God about how wonderful he was as his child. Meanwhile the publican simply cast down his eyes to the ground and begged God to be merciful to as a sinner. Jesus tells us:
Luke “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
We should focus any criticism that we find in that self-examination upon ourselves and correct whatever we find to criticize:
Matthew 7:3-5 “and why beholdest thou the mote that is in they brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Cultivate an interest in others
We can never convert others to the cause of Christ unless we are genuinely interested in their welfare and the welfare of their souls. There are four ways that we can work on this essential. First of all by following the teaching of Jesus that the world has paraphrased and calls the Golden Rule:
Matthew “therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
Next we need to
learn to show concern and compassion for others. This is the context of Paul’s writing to the
Philippians 2:3-4 “let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
And in his writing
to the church at
Galatians 6:2 “bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fufill the law of Christ.”
When we do genuinely feel the love, compassion and caring for our fellow man and particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ then will be ready to follow Paul’s instructions to the Roman brethren:
Romans 12:15-16 “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”
Those that are self-centered and wise in their own conceits many times are void of any real happiness.
Live Life One Day at a Time
telling us to seek first the
Matthew “take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
And really this is only way that life can be lived. Yesterday is gone, we can’t change it. We can learn from its lessons, perhaps correct its mistakes or make sure that we don’t repeat them and use that knowledge and experience to govern our lives today. We can perhaps savor its accomplishments; enjoy the fruit of its plans and preparations that provided for our means for today.
What about tomorrow? Tomorrow hasn’t come yet and may never come. Oh, yes we must prepare so that if tomorrow does come we can sustain ourselves and others that depend on us. We must always work today to prepare for that great tomorrow that is inevitable and will come for all men when they face God in judgment. But the writer of James records the following lesson for us:
James 4:13-15 “go to now, ye that say, to day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For what ye ought to say is that if the lord will, we shall live, and Do this, or that.”
Proverbs 27:1 “boast
not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring
Peter also reminds us of the shortness of our stay here on this earth:
I Peter “for all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:”
Many try to carry the weight of the future and all the burdens of the past; consequently they are so loaded down with these things they can’t function properly. We cannot change the history of yesterday, it’s gone, its spent and not recoverable. Oh, we can remove the effects of those things done yesterday from our souls. If we are not a child of God by virtue of having been added to the church that Christ promised to build in Matthew we need only follow the pattern that Jesus and His apostles prescribed:
Hear that word of God that we might have faith: Romans 10:17
Nurture that faith that it may become strong enough to lead us to determine to seek admittance into His kingdom through Jesus Christ as we’re told we must do in John 10:7ff
Repent of those past sins in our lives, wipe the slate clean, have God give us a new start as Jesus says we must in Luke 13:3
Confess that you do indeed believe that Jesus Christ if the Son of God the Saviour of the world before men as require in Matthew
Be baptized to be added to His church, His family, His kingdom, as those were on Pentecost Acts 2:38, 47
If you are already a child of his but have fallen away, denied Christ by your life or need to come to God in repentance for any reason as we’re instructed in James 5:16 that we might pray with you and for you. Won’t you come as we stand and sing.