Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Principle of Being Rewarded

Everyone likes to be rewarded now and then. A pat on the back for a job well done, receiving a prize at the end of a long competition, or taking that extra day off because you just know you earned it through all the extra hours you put into a major project.

There are several people I know who enjoy running. They have participated in 5 K runs, 10 K runs, and even full on marathons. One of the things they look forward to is receiving that medal at the end of the race that says "Hey! You did it!"

It's true that being rewarded with a tangible, physical item is something to look forward to, but what about in the race of life?

Proverbs 31:31 says:
Give her the reward of her labor and let her works praise her at the city gates.
The woman of Proverbs 31 was receiving her reward day in and day out as she faithfully served her God and her family through her tireless efforts. But what exactly did that reward look like?

Defining Rewarded 

The basic definition "Rewarded" is compensation or something given for good works, service, or merit. The woman in this passage was compensated through her reputation at the 'city gates'

In short, when her husband went to work, everyone knew who he was married to and the quality of work that she provided for the community. He was affirming her to the people in the community who were of high importance.

The question here is this: Who are the people closest to you and what are they saying about you in the public?

What are some of the ways that living out the principles found in the Proverbs 31 passage can bring rewards? Lets take a look.

The Rewards

The woman described in Proverbs 31 was rewarded by integrating each of these principles into her live.

First of all she was rewarded through her pure life of virtue. Here is where her character is rooted completely. She draws close to the Lord and is given blessings from the Lord for it (Psalm 24:1-5) 

We, in the world today, have the opportunity to do the same thing. If we center ourselves on the Lord we will have the capabilities to understand spiritual truths in a way that many others can't. (Matthew 5:8)

We  see the rewards this woman had for being a trustworthy wife and mother through the reactions of her husband. His heart trusted in her completely. He was confident in the woman he had married and knew that she had his best interest.

This applies to us today even if we aren't married. This applies to the people who are closest to you. Can they trust you implicitly? Proverbs 31:25 reminds us that our actions are born out of our character. It is our job to walk in an upright manner so that we can be sure that God will provide his grace and thing things He deems are good. If I focus on the tasks I have been called to do and not worry about the things going on around me it is easy to life out this principle daily. (Psalm 84:11)

We learned when we talked about being energetic that this doesn't necessarily mean that we are a basket full of energy and excitement all this time. Here we see that being energetic simply means using the skills we excel at to benefit our homes and our families, (Proverbs 31:24)

The reward here can be great. If we are using the talents we have and coupling them with our spiritual gifts we have the opportunity to not only serve the family we are in charge of but we can also serve the Lord in wonderful ways. If we focus our energies into the areas that we excel in we can be sure to avoid eating the fruit of slothfulness (Proverbs 19:15)

Physically Fit
Being 'physically fit' is another area that is often misconstrued as being something that it's not. In this context, being physically fit is knowing your personal limitations and having the ability to work at your maximum potential. Of course, if you strive to keep you body as a holy dwelling place for the Lord, a clean vessel, the benefits will be far more than you can imagine. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The rewards of this principle are that you are able to enjoy the tasks placed before you because you know how to get things accomplished. And you are able to avoid the judgement of God because thing things you are doing are holy and pleasing to the Lord. (Isaiah 3:16-26)

Here we are able to see true, tangible rewards. We we learn to live within our budget and we see the appropriate place and value of our money we can benefit from it working FOR us rather than it working AGAINST us.  When we are able to embrace a spiritual attitude toward our finances it is easy to know where to store up our treasures. (1 Timothy 6:6-8) When we have a strong foundation for our economical principle to be rooted in we are able to provide for our family the best quality products, at the best price, with no reason for guilt, doubt, or shame at the end of the day (Proverbs 31:18)

We all want to be known as unselfish, but what are the rewards to living such a lifestyle? For starters when we learn to be generous and unselfish we can know that we are not only serving our fellow man but we are ultimately lending to the Lord. (Proverbs 19:17) And while we may not see the rewards on this side of heaven, we can be like Dorcas, who was deeply loved and missed at the time of her passing because of the generous, unselfish heart and spirit that she possessed. She made it her mission to provide for those in the community and her loss was felt deeply. (Acts 9:36-41)

To be prepared means we are ready and excited for the tasks God has placed before us. (Jeremiah 17:7-8) We are not easily frustrated or filled with regret. (Matthew 25:21,23) And our reward is to be a role model and an example for those who are also striving to live a life of this magnitude, which means that we can be patient as we teach and train others to fulfill their service to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11;1)

When we choose to live an honorable life we can be confident that we are walking in a life of fulfillment. (2 Corinthians 9:6) While the world may be telling us we will be lacking we can know that it is through these honorable actions that we are going to be reaping the true rewards in the form of blessings from heaven. And as we interact with others we will see the observable changes in the lives of those we have had the privilege to affirm. (Psalm 119:11)

 How we communicate is often more important than what we are actually communicating. It is easy to say the right thing the wrong way, or the wrong thing and even worse way. However, when we learn to be prudent with our tongue one of the rewards is that people will confide in your. This principle ties directly into the principle of being trustworthy. (Proverbs 15:1-2) People will also seek out your advice and be thankful for that advice once they receive it.

Being lovable and being loved begins with a strong vibrant relationship with the Lord. The closer you draw to Him the stronger the lovable characteristics come to the forefront. In turn the people in your life will come to grow in their love and respect for you. This then leads you to be an open and valuable mentor and example to younger women in your life. (Titus 2:3-5)

Living out the principle of being 'God-fearing'  will provide you with a bright, vibrant life with the Lord. It opens up the doors and pathways for you to become a positive role model for others on their walk with God. The true reward will come once we get to heaven and we are counted as the good and the faithful servant of the Lord. (Matthew 25:21) And through our relationships we are able to learn and grow when we come into them with the right mindset and heart-attitude.

A Final Thought

The Proverbs 31 Woman is not a laundry list of things that we as women are called to check off and if we don't ever get there we are failing at life. The truth of the matter is that, if you were to sit down and take an account of your daily life, many of these principles are already being lived out. The question that comes to mind then is, if you are already living out many of these principles, what is the heart and motive behind the actions. The ultimate reward will come when we reach heaven and stand before God and we can with confidence know that the Lord is proud to have us as His children.

How would you respond if God called you to accountability today? What would you say in your defense?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Principle of Being God-Fearing

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10
The book of Proverbs is 31 chapters of insightful words that the Christian man or woman can (and should) use as a guide post for daily living. Often times when we thing about having a 'fear' or something we have images of people running for the hills screaming at the thought of something. But when we are talking about having a 'Fear of the Lord' that isn't what we are meaning at all.

Defining God-Fearing

To have a healthy fear of the Lord in reality means to have a reverential trust in God. This means that you not only trust Him with your entire being but that you also seek and strive to to assimilate all your values and standards to those of the Lord. This comes with a realization that the standards of the world will constantly change and we will never be able to keep up. However, the standards of the Lord never change. They are a constant that we can strive to meet each and every day. Having a 'fear of the Lord' also means that we are true to the relationship that we have with God. This means we make a conscious decision to not live in a 'its better to ask forgiveness' frame of mine. We can't take advantage of the relationship or abuse it. 

Far to often I have come across people who live under the principle that because they have accepted the free gift of salvation from Christ they are now living with free reign to do anything and everything they would like to do with no regard for the consequences. This is the exact opposite of living a life by the principle of being God-Fearing.

Attributes of a God-Fearing Lifestyle

If living a life of doing whatever you would like to do without regard for the consequences is the opposite of God-fearing, then what characterized this type of life?

First of all you need to have a hunger and a thirst for the Lord. Think of it this way: Has there ever been a time in your life when you were so hungry or thirsty you were just sure you would not be able to carry on? That is the type of desire we should have for our relationship with the Lord. The craving to know God so much that we are sure if we don't have the opportunity to commune with God we will not be able to accomplish anything else the rest of our day.

The next thing that is necessary for living a God fearing life is to with an attitude of submission to the will of God. This type of submission moves far beyond the simple compliance and placing ourselves joyfully under the control of our Heavenly Father. This means that we submit ourselves to the authority of God even when things aren't going in a direction that we might think they shouldn't be going in. 

Another attribute of living a "God-Fearing" lifestyle is making all of the spiritual principles real in our lives each day. This also means that we have to work to put into practice the things that we are learning through out time in the Word each day. To make sure we are remaining in the Word each day we need to ensure that we don't find ourselves in a slump or a 'boring' routine when it comes to our daily quiet time. Through the action of mixing up the different methods and modes of studying the word of God then we can remain active and interested in our daily growth in the Lord. 

A Final Thought

There are so many other attributes that describe the principle of being 'God-Fearing' but ultimately it all boils down to ensuring that you are striving to maintain a strong, flourishing, and healthy relationship with the Lord on a daily basis. Proverbs 31:30 says,
Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.
This woman, whom we have been studying for the past several weeks, took the principles, commands, and desires of the Lord and she applied them to her life. Not only did she benefit from the actions but her husband, children, and the community did as well. This woman, though she was busy, was not distracted from the important things, ultimately her relationship with the Lord.

How do you ensure you maintain a vibrant relationship with the Lord? Do you keep your daily quiet time fresh and exciting? Are you willing to admit that you might need a kick-start to revitalizing your daily walk? If so, how will you get back to where you need to be. Join me next time when we wrap up this series with the principle of being rewarded.


Friday, April 7, 2017

The Principle of Being Loveable

"If you wish to be loved, be lovable"

What an interesting concept. But what does that really mean? So often we live our lives thinking that we all just deserve to be loved no matter what our actions might say. As a parent, I know that I do and will always love my children, however, there are times when their actions and attitudes make it seem challenging to do so.
The question then is, how do I go about 'being lovable' on a day to day basis? The woman in Proverbs 31 had it figured out!

Defining Lovable

Before we can talk about the HOW of being lovable we first have to understand what 'lovable' really is. Miriam-Webster defines 'lovable' as
Inspiring or deserving of love or affection
 That definition fits the bill pretty well but I would probably add in:
A benevolent (well meaning or kind) feeling of brotherly affection toward one another. 
The action of 'being lovable' goes deeper than those fluttery "butterfly" feelings that we get when we first begin to love another person, no matter what the context. When we first come to find that we have a true deep love for a friend or another individual in our lives we begin to realize those 'fluttery feelings' have gone away and now there is a deeper connection that is still there even when we find ourselves disagreeing with one another.

Where Does Being Lovable Begin

 How do we know where to begin if we want to cultivate a 'lovable' life? The first place to start is with our Heavenly Father. We read in 1 John 4:16 that
God is love, whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
In order to begin to know how to love and be loved we first have to know what love is. And the only true way to know what love is, is to cultivate a strong relationship with the Lord. God is love. God is also lovable. And He is loving. He is the total package. It is only through the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father that we can learn the action that is LOVE.

Once we have that foundation in place, and we continue to abide and grow in our love with the Lord we can then put our new found ability to love and be loved into practice with those in our immediate circles. The more we exercise a new muscle the stronger it will get. The same is with our attitude toward how we love those around us.

12 years ago I left my home and embarked on a new journey that was college. I moved to a new town, with new people, and was placed in a dorm room with an individual I had never met. (Fairly typical college experience). I had to make a decision to learn to love the person that I would be living with for several months or I could make the decision to not regard her at all. If I had chosen the latter decision I would not have spent time cultivating my heart for love and I would have really struggled when new people entered my living situation. Roommates came and went but I was always able to love those who were part of my immediate circle because I was deeply rooted in how to love through God.

Taking Love to the Next Level

As I was cultivating my heart to love those who were placed in my path I was given the blessing of meeting the man who would become my husband. As I put into practice my desire to love all those who God had directed me toward I was able to develop a deeper, more intimate type of love with this man. Now, almost 9 years later, I have the ability to cultivate a passionate, deep love for him that goes beyond that of what I would extend to my friends and my neighbors. This is a love and a passion that is beautiful due to it's confines and restrictions within the marriage relationship. And this is a love and a relationship that is unlike any other out there so there is no need to wonder or compare my passionate, intimate relationship that those of other people around me. 

Cultivating a life with my husband that is worthy of being lovable also comes with some action on my part to learn to work creatively within the leadership of my husband. In Genesis we learn that God created Adam a helper to work along side him tending and cultivating the garden. The woman was designed to be his helper and not his adversary. It is my job to be the helper that I was designed to be and not a detriment or a distraction. I can know my husband as I honor, respect, and help him just as I am told to do in 1 Peter 3:1-6. 

An Example for a Younger Generation

Train up a child in the way he should go;   even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6
Often times, in today's culture and society, the idea of discipline and corrections of children is frowned upon. Parents are releasing the duties of training and teaching their children over to schools, day care programs, and even church leaders. However, as a mother, if I am going to seek to cultivate a lovable life both for myself and for my children it is my job so train them in the proper manner. First and foremost I must ensure that my training is directly from the Scriptures. While it is my husband's responsibility to be the leader of the formal training of our children, it is my job to be in the trenches with them daily. I am to be the example. My actions should say to them:
Follow me as I follow Christ
This is not a responsibility to take lightly either. At some point, I will be accountable for the training of the young lives that God has entrusted into my care. The goal is to be able to stand tall in front of the Lord and be proud of the job that I did in the lives of my children.

A Final Thought

Family life comes in four stages:
  • The inception/beginning of a family
  • The expansion of a family
  • The child rearing years
  • The twilight/senior years.
As a parent the first half of our life is an investment and we reap the benefits of that investment in the
second half of our life. How we treat that investment will determine what harvest is reaped. The woman in Proverbs 31:28-29 took her role as a wife and a mother so seriously that the harvest she reaped was one for praise and encouragement. The woman in this passage was honored by her children and adored by her husband. She taught and trained her children with loving care and she brought good to her husband as we have already discussed in several other principles. This is the goal. To have our children rise up and call us blessed and to have our husbands shout that of all the wonderful women in the world we surpass them all.

How does your husband speak of you to those in the world? Does he sing your praises or does he wish that you could do more? What about your children? Are they thankful to have you as a mom or do they wish you had a little more love and care about your training? Join me next time as I talk about the principle of being God-Fearing.