Also known as Wisdom, Part 3: Choosing to do God’s Things.
Last time we looked at the difference between right and almost right – choosing to hear God’s voice. Today we’ll look more specifically at choosing to do what God has told you – doing what’s right.
I have long felt something for this quote, generally attributed to Stephen Grellet (Source):
“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
I wonder if he had been reading this scripture when he wrote that:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Galatians 6:9-10
We need to live ready to obey God, for often he speaks when we’re in the middle of doing things; when it’s inconvenient or when we have to make a quick decision. Choosing to listen to God’s wisdom means acting on it when you need to. It means doing what God has told you to. If we let an opportunity pass by, sometimes that’s it, we will not get another chance to do what God told us to. That means we or other people miss out on God’s goodness in that situation.
The growing season on our homestead is full of tasks to do in the edible gardens. Crops need to be maintained and looked after, successive batches of plants are being planted or seeds are being sown and vegetables and fruit need to be harvested. It’s easy to miss vegetables that need to be harvested amidst the mass of growth and activity that is going on.
I grow gherkins, or pickling cucumbers, which are just a small variety of cucumber suited to being sliced and pickled in jars. We like eating these pickled gherkins throughout the year. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve missed the opportunity to pick one at the right size. They ripen so fast in summer. Sometimes I see one and think, “I’ll pick that later.” Then I forget. By the time I see it again it’s gotten really fat and full of hard seeds, which is no use for pickling. We might still be able to use it for eating if we cut the crunchy seeds out, but it will not taste as good as one of our eating cucumbers. It will not be able to fulfill its intended purpose – its best use. Sometimes a vegetable will be too far gone to use for anything. When I worked on a cucumber farm we would occasionally find a cucumber that had been hidden and missed on every harvest until it finally caught someone’s eye because it was yellow. It had turned into a humongous, long, yellow beast that was deteriorating and had to be thrown out.
This is how it is with listening to God’s wisdom. When he tells us to do something “now”, it’s a harvest that’s ripe for the picking. If we don’t do it straight away or make a physical note to remind us of it, we end up putting it off. Meanwhile, the person or situation that is waiting for our God-given input might be starting to deteriorate. Sometimes it’s ourselves that we need to action something in, and we start to deteriorate in that area. By the grace of God, sometimes we can still do good in the situation later on, although perhaps with added consequences and not as well as if we did it when we were supposed to. If we choose not to do that thing at all, well, either God will tell someone else to do a harvest (and they also have a choice to make) or that situation or person might deteriorate, sometimes drastically. We are never to blame for someone else’s sin, but we sin if we choose not to do something God asked us to or if we do something God told us not to. There are times when God wants us to wait and do something in his later timing, but when we stay close to him, he’s good at telling us when ‘now’ is.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:13-17
While pondering on these things, I read what Jesus said in the following scripture:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38
This scripture is often taken to mean that there are lots of people who need to be saved and not many people who are willing to go out and preach the Gospel to them. This is very true, but I think it also has meaning in a wider sense: The opportunities for God to work in people are plentiful, but not many people are willing to do what God asks when he asks it. We can easily miss going out and getting a harvest, in whatever area it might be, if we dismiss God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom isn’t something far off or reserved only for those who have a special gifting in wisdom. Do you know why some people seem to be better at wisdom than others? Because they seek it and they practice it. God’s wisdom is meant to be shared, not kept to ourselves.
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. – Romans 2:13
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! – Psalm 111:10
God’s wisdom is attainable by and important to each one of us who follow him. God’s wisdom is inextricably linked to obedience. To be a follower of Jesus is to be obedient to God’s word, both in the Bible and in what he speaks to us on a daily basis. How much of what we’re doing is based on our own decision-making and how much is based on asking and seeking God’s wisdom?
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. – James 1:22-25
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” – Luke 6:46-49
If we choose not to seek God’s wisdom or choose to do what he told us not to do we may find ourselves on the receiving end of discipline from God. Discipline is not meant to be a dirty word. Good discipline refines us and teaches us healthy boundaries. God doesn’t want the things we build to fall to great ruin, he wants to teach us how to build on the rock – himself. We shouldn’t be riddled with guilt for times when we haven’t listened to God, we should do something about it that involves the ‘s’ word – sorry. If the house you’ve built is shoddy, call in the Master Builder to fix it. If you’ve turned down the wrong road and don’t know where you’re going, don’t keep driving, turn around and come back.
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. – Proverbs 15:31-33
Let’s get back to harvesting. Doing God’s harvesting will look different for different things. Sometimes it’s a small, easy harvest – like picking lettuce leaves or pulling up a carrot. Sometimes it’s a long, busy harvest – like picking feijoas or tomatoes day after day. Sometimes it’s a tricky harvest – like climbing an apple tree; straining to reach those fruit and get them contained without falling out of the tree, breaking branches or bruising the apples. Sometimes it’s a harvest that requires strength and determination – like digging up a very long parsnip that’s growing deep into the ground. Sometimes it’s a harvest that hurts us – like picking raspberries or blackberries and getting poked by thorns. Sometimes we get to eat of the harvest and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we harvest by ourselves and sometimes we harvest with others. Sometimes we harvest on sunny days and sometimes we have to harvest in the wind or rain. The important thing is that we harvest what God wants us to, when he wants us to.
Part of being obedient with our actions is learning to speak wisdom:
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. – 1 Samuel 2:3
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. – Psalm 37:30-31
And having an attitude of wisdom:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:13-18
I don’t know about you, but a harvest of righteousness and sowing seeds of peace sound pretty amazing to me. And good fruits? Who doesn’t want good fruits?
So, let us seek God’s wisdom, hear God’s wisdom, choose God’s wisdom and do God’s wisdom.
- How is your ‘harvest’ to-do list from God looking?
- Are there things piling up that you haven’t done yet?
- Is there a situation or person that’s deteriorating because you haven’t answered God’s call to go ‘harvest’ in it/them?
- How much of what you’re doing is based on your own decision-making and how much is based on asking and seeking God’s wisdom?
- How could you get better at speaking God’s wisdom instead of speaking from a place of pride or being too scared to speak?
- Have you got an attitude of wisdom in your heart at the moment? If not, what could you do to return to the “meekness of wisdom”? (James 3:13-18)
All Bible verses are from the ESV (English Standard Version), 2016.