Living Life Over Before It’s Over, Pt. 5
Study Guide, January 10, 2016 – Pastor Clay Olsen
We’re going to start with a little interactive exercise taken from a American Folktale called “That’s good…no, that’s bad”
When I do thumbs up you say “Oh, that’s good.”
When I do thumbs down you say “Oh that’s bad.”…
It was my friend Hank’s birthday just last week. (Up..Oh, that’s good)
Not really, you see everyone forgot. (Down…Oh, that’s bad)
Not so bad, everyone felt guilty and they decided to throw him a big party. (Up…Oh that’s good.)
Not really, you see, the party was supposed to be in New York, but Hank was in California. (Down…Oh that’s bad.)
Not so bad, luckily a friend insisted to fly Hank to the party. (Up…Oh that’s good!)
Not really, you see, the airplane ran out of gas halfway there. (Down…Oh that’s bad.)
Not so bad, there were two parachutes on the plane. (Up….Oh that’s good.)
Not really, you see, Hank’s parachute didn’t open. (Down….Oh that’s bad.)
Not so bad, there was a haystack right underneath him. (Up….Oh that’s good.)
Not really, you see, the biggest pitchfork you’d ever see was sticking out of the haystack.(Down….Oh that’s bad.)
Not- not so bad, he missed the pitchfork. (Up….Oh that’s good.)
Not really, you see, he also missed the haystack. (Down….Oh…That’s bad)
Not so bad, he landed in the swimming pool! (UP……Oh, that’s good!)1
(It actually ends with the missed haystack, but I just thought it should have a happy ending!)
But, why did we do that silly little exercise? We’ll, because we’re continuing our look into living our lives over before they’re over. And one of the points we left off with was learning to delight in the things in which God delights. And so, if we are going to learn to delight in the things in which God delights, we will have to learn to discern the difference between what seems good in life, but is actually bad instead. And we don’t have to go far in the Bible before we see just how crucial this is.
Gen 3:6- “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” NASU So one of the earliest lessons we are to learn is that ‘good’ is not determined just by what is good to your senses, but by what is also good for your soul. Regardless of how good this fruit was to the senses from this tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was deadly to the soul.
Our first parents were never intended to learn about good and evil through their experience. They were to learn about it through God’s revelation. And then through God’s revelation they could experience the good and avoid the evil. And it is the same for us. That is exactly what the Apostle Paul cautions us about in Rom 16:19- “For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” NASU God does not intend for any of us to learn about good and evil through our experience…rather, we are to learn of it through God’s revelation. We don’t have to experience the evils of idolatry to learn that idolatry is wrong. We already have the revelation on that: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”, says the Lord. Nor do I have to sip a cup of arsenic to know that it will do some really bad things inside of me. This we are to learn about through the medical revelation concerning arsenic.
Okay, we’ve pretty much got that down about things that are evil. But what still trips up many well meaning Christians is not so much about being foolish about what is evil, rather, what often trips them up is not being wise about what is good. Many get caught up in what ‘seems to be good’ when they’re supposed to be evaluating whether that which ‘seems to be good’ to their senses will also be ‘truly good for their souls’. It’s only when the ‘good for your senses’ is also ‘good for your soul’ that it then results in gain for you and blessings to God and others as well. For otherwise, what may seem to be good to your senses, but not good to your souls will result in loss for you and others, and thus, not be good after all.
One example from history about this involved a General in the Civil War named General Jeb Stuart. He served as the ‘eyes and ears’ of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. His purpose was reconnaissance for General Lee, keeping him as informed as possible of the movements and activities of the opposing forces. But during the crucial days of Gettysburg, General Stuart got sidetracked in capturing wagons and supplies. And by the time he got back to Lee’s camp with all these things he thought were really good, he learned that in his decision to go after all these so-called ‘goods’, that he had left the army in a really bad position. Lee was in the dark about crucial information he needed for deciding what his army next needed to do. Some historians believe that this failure in duty led to the defeat of Lee’s army at Gettysburg.
Each of us has a special role to live out in God’s plan. As we talked last week about how short a time we actually have in life to live that out, what we have to stop and evaluate from time to time is this: Are we simply off capturing supply wagons that seem good to us, or are we actually living out God’s purposes for our lives? For remember, ‘good’ is only ‘truly good’ when it also results in gain; gain for the purposes of God, and gain for the blessing of others, as well as ourselves. Good is not just what ‘seems good’ to the senses.
We are so immersed in the world of the senses. We talk so much about the five senses of life; sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch, that we forget about the most important one: Discernment. Discernment is the sense that God wants us to develop and to use often, to use regularly, to use daily. Listen to Prov 2:1-5- “My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.” NASU
What’s the key to developing this sense of discernment? Well, here’s where it comes back to where we started. To develop our sense of discernment calls for a reorientation of our lives to ‘delighting in the things in which God delights’. God’s Words must become to us as silver and hidden treasures. And the more we treasure God’s commandments the more we develop our sense of discernment, and the better we will become at discerning not only the difference between good and evil, but the difference between good and truly good. For remember, good is truly good when it results in godly gain.
Does this sound complicated? It’s not. Learning to discern between good and evil and even between good and truly good is not complicated, but it is profound. And it will have a profound effect on how you think about what God delights in and in what you will then delight in as well. Case in point: Do you remember when God sent Saul on a mission to judge and deliver the Israelites from the evils of the Amalekites? In order for God’s complete justice to be carried out all possessions of the Amalekites were under a ban from the Israelites. However, Saul failed to discern between what seemed good to him and what was truly good according to the Words of God. And so as Saul reported to Samuel of his seemingly successful mission he said in1 Sam 15:13-23: “Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord. “But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!” Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” NASU
I’ve always thought that was one of the most amazing statements by Samuel; when Saul comes up and says to him, “I’ve carried out the command of the Lord.” And then Samuel says, “Well, then what’s that sound of the bleating of sheep in my ears?” Saul had neither learned to delight in doing God’s will nor learned to discern the difference between what seemed good and what was truly good. C.S. Lewis pointed out that discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong; it’s knowing the difference between right and what seems right. Or we could also say that discernment is not knowing the difference between good and bad; it’s knowing the difference between good and what seems good.
And did you notice that word ‘insubordination’? That’s a word we often associate with the military. Guess what, although we are children of God we are also His soldiers whom He depends upon to carry out His purposes and to advance His kingdom. In other words, it means that much of discipleship is just doing our duty. But since we are also God’s children, doing our duty is not just something we do out of sheer resolve, rather, we learn that doing our duty is not only that which brings delight to God, but that which will brings delight to us as well. In a testimony of the Psalmist which was also a prophecy about Jesus he said: Ps 40:8- “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” NASU I remember one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Warren Wiersbe is: “If you make duty your delight, and then you will be able to find joy in all things.”
That’s one of the overlooked abilities that God has implanted within us, that, because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have the power to choose those things in which we will find delight. And as we choose God’s Will and choose to do our duty in carrying out God’s Word we will find not only that it will become our delight, but it will also become our desire. It’s like our memory verse of the week of Ps 34:8- “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” NASU Now, granted, because of our old nature that lingers within us, which often craves for the pleasures of the senses over the blessings of the soul, the things of the Lord, like righteousness and justice and wisdom and knowledge and obedience and service are acquired tastes. But like the Psalmist says, the more you taste of the Words of God and the ways of God the more they will become a delight to you. And you will come to find that the things in which God your Father delights in will also be the things in which you delight in as well. And these are the things we are to learn about and to then live out in our lives…before our lives are over.
Remember: The key element of joy is learning to delight in the things in which God delights.
1. Dotsub.com Chandler telling “Oh, That’s good…no that’s bad” story, An American Folktale