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He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 1 Corinthians 1:8 (New Living Translation)

I’m not an artist at all. Not an artistic bone in my body. I’m not even good at doing paint by number projects! But, in spite of my inadequacy in the performance aspect of art, I’m an admirer of the talents other people have.

Those who do chalk art, or pencil art particularly amaze me. They start with a piece of paper (or canvas) and begin making a few strokes here and a few strokes there. Nothing seems to be coming together. I can’t make out a shape or any semblance of order to their work. Then, almost like magic a few more strokes and you see the scene develop. Simply amazing.

I have no idea what the ‘trick’ is to making drawings like that. My stick figures are even pretty indistinguishable to be honest. But I have learned one thing about watching such demonstrations. While standing off to the side and watching it’s important to wait until the picture is done before judging the quality of the work.

The same is true in our lives here on earth. We are the drawing pad for the master creator. His goal is to make a masterpiece and we are the subject. Could he, in all his power and wisdom, snap his fingers and make us a complete work of art? Perhaps. But he doesn’t choose to do it that way. Jesus prefers to take his time in making us the perfect masterpiece he’s envisioned.

The downside to this is that from the day of our birth until the day of our death we are a work in progress. That’s where we run into trouble. We expect perfection in our first steps and if we don’t expect perfection there will certainly be others around us expecting us to be perfect. We struggle to get things right. We get discouraged when things go wrong. We let the opinions of others dictate who we are.

Take another look at today’s verse. Whose strength do we rely on? Religion? Physical stamina? Financial resources? Nope. Jesus. It’s all about him. Now take another look. When will perfection come? To be blunt, when we’re dead. Does that mean I don’t even try to be perfect? Of course not. What it does mean is that if I decide to rely on me I’ll only run into frustration. Relying on Jesus is the only sure way to success.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’ve been struggling under this load of frustration and guilt and sin long enough. No more trying in my own power. From this day forward I’m asking you to empower me with your Spirit so that I can allow you to keep me pure until the day you come for me. In your name, Amen.

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9

I had an uncle who lived the American Dream. After the sixth grade school seemed meaningless to him so he quit school to help on the family farm. When he was about 16 he headed west from the northern Minnesota farm he’d called home all his life. Back in that day, such an event wasn’t unheard of. He landed in Seattle and took work at a ship building yard. Slowly, over the years his hard work and leadership abilities were noticed. When he passed away at the age of 70 he was owner of that shipyard and a very wealthy man!

That’s the stuff we always dream of. We want to grow wealthy. We want to be rich. We want to attain to the top level of our area of expertise. While there is nothing at all wrong with wanting to succeed in life, our view of success: [richer, more powerful, and higher social standing] isn’t in God’s business plan.

When the Apostle Paul writes his letter to the Corinthians he is writing to a group of people who’d gotten caught up in the deadly game of comparison. Some followed this man. Others followed that man. They began compartmentalizing and grading the work of each person in the church. They weren’t comparing apples and oranges. They were making a decision about which apple was the biggest and best. Paul tells them, basically, to knock it off! In God’s kingdom business as usual isn’t business as usual.

Whether you are a ditch digger or pastor; whether you are a recovering addict or squeaky clean; whether you are a financial planning guru or deep in credit card debt; regardless of your past or where you are now in life, in God’s workplace you never work alone.

In God’s workplace there is: no seniority or tenure; no ‘right hand man’; no organizational chart or chain of command; no ‘working your way up the success ladder; no bonuses (in life, but the retirement benefits are out of this world); no ‘overtime’ and no performance reviews or quotas to reach.

Paul says we are co-workers with God. He’s not the boss. He’s the kind of guy who works right alongside you. And if God is our co-worker then who can be above us in importance?

Jesus said, “I don’t call you slaves. I call you friends. Friends let you vent. Friends don’t order you around or demand that you follow them. They are there to help, to comfort, to encourage and to guide when you need them the most. That’s the kind of God we have a relationship with. A God that wants to come along side you no matter where you are on the journey. That’s grace. That’s love. That’s our God!

PRAYER: Father God. Once again you have amazed me with your love for me. Why would the Creator God of the universe choose to be a co-worker with me? It can only be due to grace. Thank you for loving me so much. In Jesus name, Amen.

To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:26

History verifies that David’s son Solomon was not only the richest King in Israel’s history, but perhaps the richest King in the history of the world. There was nothing he wanted that he could not have. Money, fame, power, women, Solomon had it all.

Ironically, Solomon saw nothing good in his wealth. He saw wealth as more of a hindrance than a blessing. Rather than bringing him happiness and joy and contentment in his heart, he saw life as being a meaningless adventure tied to making more money and having more toys.

The book of Ecclesiastes is the story of Solomon’s heart. It tells the emotions of one who has lived, by the worlds standards, a rich, full, successful life, only to come to a point when all his labors and successes seem worthless. Why even try? You work hard. You get all you dream for (or thought you wanted) and there is still no happiness, no joy.

Solomon tells us in verse 26 what it takes to really find joy and happiness in life: God. He is the source of wisdom, knowledge and happiness. It isn’t money. It isn’t fame. It isn’t power. It isn’t being popular with friends, and especially the opposite sex! It’s about pleasing God.

To please someone you must know them well. The better you know a person the better you will know their likes and dislikes. You will know exactly how to surprise them creatively. The same is true with God. The better we get to know Him the more we will know what things He is pleased with and what displeases Him.

Beware though! There are plenty of people out there that will tell you ‘what God wants you to do’. There is pressure to follow the crowd, even in religious circles. Some of these pressures will keep you from being what you want to be; they will prevent you from practicing the skills, talents and abilities that God has given you; they will measure your success or failure by the size of your bank account, the way you dress, the activities you do.

God didn’t give us grace so we could follow the crowd. He gave us grace so we could be free to follow Him. To be free of the pressure to conform to social and religious pressure. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by a lifestyle that keeps you from being the unique, talented person God created you for. With His help, follow your dreams. Grow closer to Him so you can hear His voice of direction. You may not get rich in money, but you will be rich in joy and happiness!

PRAYER: Father God, There are so many voices in my life right now telling me what I’m doing wrong or what I’m doing right. I’m pulled in so many different directions that I feel like I’m being pulled apart. What I’m really supposed to do and be has become clouded by ‘human wisdom’. Please help me to listen to your voice and your voice only. Help me to remember that I can come directly to you to know your wisdom. I don’t need to rely on other people to learn how to be what you want me to be. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

One day, while Jesus was teaching the disciples a rich young man came to him. He was the kind of person any of us would want to be our friend. He was a moral man that could be trusted. He was most likely well liked for the Bible really doesn’t say anything negative about him. And, of course. He was rich!

But there was something missing in his life. On the outside he showed confidence, trustworthiness and strength. On the inside he was a lonely man filled with fear of the future. He was a poster child for the system he lived in but all of that was a façade. He’d done all the right things but they offered no joy, no happiness, no contentment.

Jesus gave the man a list of commands he must follow to gain peace for the future and eternal life. It was the one thing the man was lacking. The one gift he wanted more than anything…or so he thought. Jesus asked him to give up everything he had and follow him. The man went away more in despair than when he came. The cost was too high.

What Jesus asked the man to give up was more than money. It was power, it was prestige, it was status. What would others think of him? What would become of the many friends he had. Rich men always have plenty of friends because people enjoy associating with the talented, the rich and the famous. It wasn’t about money.

What Jesus wanted from the man was his heart. The commands Jesus didn’t question the man about all had to do with relationship. Relationship with others. Relationship with God. Relationship with himself. On other occasions Jesus summarized the commandments into three. Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor. All he really wants from us is complete, sold out, relationship.

After the man left the disciples discussed this with Jesus and one of them said in confusion, “Then who can be saved? If that is what God wants from us, what chance to any of us have? Is there any hope?”

Jesus answer to the question of who can be saved was quite simple. “No one. It’s impossible. There is no way man can be saved without God’s help.”

We can’t gain the peace and joy and contentment we seek through the things we see. Fulfillment in life comes from relationship. Success in life comes when we give ourselves completely to God and believe in ourselves because of His love for us. Don’t believe the lie that because you can’t do this or that, or don’t have the money for this project or that missions trip you aren’t important. God can do impossible things in your life because of His love for you. Not because of your strength, riches or ability.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess to you that I am much more like the rich young ruler than I’d care to admit. I follow all your rules. I do all the right things most of the time. But I have to admit that today if you asked me to give up everything I own, my money (what there is of it), my status, my reputation, my friends and my home, I’m not sure I could do it. Help me to give everything to you. To trust you with every aspect t of my life so that I can experience the peace you have for me. Amen.

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