Friday, July 24, 2015

"Life Is Bad"

Scott and I haven't been on vacation since -- well, never. We've done weekends away, and long weekends with the kids, but that was even long ago, longer than I care to remember. Between taking care of my mom, finding suitable care for two dogs, being self-employed (translation: very broke), we have found it's more stress trying to get away than actually staying home. But it's vacation season, and all my friends are out having fun in the sun, posting shots of beautiful sunsets, endless landscapes and contagious grins. They all looked so happy and relaxed. I just want to caption each pic with "Life is good!", but I think it's been taken.

1 Kings paints a picture of just how good life was for the Israelites under King Solomon:
"The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They were very contented, with plenty to eat and drink." (1 Kings 4:20) 
And it's no wonder, when we read exactly what it took to supply just a small portion of the populace, the king's palace:
"The daily food requirements for Solomon’s palace were 150 bushels of choice flour and 300 bushels of meal; also 10 oxen from the fattening pens, 20 pasture-fed cattle, 100 sheep or goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roe deer, and choice poultry." (v.22, 23) 
That was daily, Folks. Life was good! Verse 34:
"And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon."
What a ministry! Lots of family and friends. Plenty of food and drink. And a popular ruler whose wisdom came straight from God Almighty. What could be better than this?!

But -- and there's always a "but" when people get too big for their britches, as we often do -- seven chapters and who knows how much later, we see Solomon has developed a couple of chinks in his spiritual armor: extravagance, idolatry, and pride. Despite God's warning at a time when Solomon appeared most devoted and surrendered to his Master, Solomon went his own way, and his people with him. It's human nature: "The bigger they are, the harder they fall," we say; "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," the Bible says. Solomon had everything a man could want in this life, but he was most obedient when the only thing he really wanted was to love God. And if a king, the one God appointed to build His Holy Temple, the son of the "man after God's own heart", could fall into such a trap, who are we to think it can't happen to us? Well, we've all seen it; spiritual giants fall from their pulpits. It can happen. But how do we avoid it?

Whatever it is: vacation, new car, bigger house, job transfer, even taking on a leadership role at church; I think we need to faithfully lay all our goals, all our thoughts before the Lord. We need to constantly ask what His desire is for us in our current situations. We cannot decide that because God has blessed us in abundance, it is our right to use it to excess, or even use it for ourselves.

I know a guy who has it all: boats, cars, vacation homes. His phone is constantly blowing up with new clients. In fact, he's relaxing on a beach somewhere at this very moment. And it's been this way as long as I've known him. So what's wrong with someone working hard and enjoying the fruits of their labors? Nothing, at first glance, but best to make sure Satan isn't just dying to see you succeed. Satan? Yep. You see, as long as this guy has it all, as long as he thinks he's got this whole "life" thing under control, he will never see his need for Jesus. That seems to be the bottom line for us: it was hard for Solomon and the Israelites to humbly accept their need for God so long as the wine, women and song were in abundance; and it is no different for us today. The minute we decide for ourselves what our path should be, the minute we get comfortable enough to think we are in control, the minute we decide to sit back and pat ourselves on the back for the great work we've done is when things tend to take a turn from the holy, straight to the hell in a handbasket. That's when "Life is bad." I'm not sure I could sell any T-shirts with that, but I'm certain I could get an "Amen!"

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