Scriptural Insights from Biblical Overlooks, Pt. 4
Study Guide, September 3, 2023
Pastor Clay Olsen
So, our ‘Overlook’ today starts off a little unusual. But here we go…There’s an old saying in connection with driving a car or a truck…it’s ‘First on, last off’. What do you think that’s all about? It’s about one of the least used features on a car or a truck…that’s right…the parking brake, or emergency brake. Oddly enough, it’s supposed to be one of the most used features, as it protects the transmission from unnecessary wear and tear, and it can protect your vehicle as well. What do we mean?
Well, especially when you park your car on an incline and only use the parking gear it puts the entire weight of the car on one little piece of metal, called a ‘Parking Pawl’. It is just one little piece of metal that’s holding your 2,000 lb. car or even more, your truck, from rolling down the hill. Also, you may have noticed that’s why it’s so hard to pull out of park, because all that weight is on that one little metal Parking pawl. Whereas, when you engage the Parking brake it clamps the brake shoes against the drum of the wheel and fully secures the weight of the vehicle.
Now, many new vehicles have automatic push button parking brakes, but for all other ones you have to manually apply them. But the issue is, you can save a lot of wear and tear on your transmission, and even a costly repair or accident if that little parking pawl gives way, by simply using the parking brake, especially on an incline. And as we said, ‘First on, last off’. The parking brake works best if when you stop, put your foot on the brake, apply the parking brake, then shift into park. And if you want to insure it even more, with your foot on the brake, then shift into neutral, and then apply the parking brake. Take your foot off the brake to make sure all the weight is on the parking brake, and then with your foot back on the brake shift into park. And when leaving, it’s the opposite…you press the brakes, shift out of park, and then release the parking brake. ‘First on, last off.’
So, why did we say all of this? Yes, we enjoy giving practical and helpful information for our everyday lives, but especially because if you will also apply this principle of ‘First on, last off’ to something else in your everyday life it will change your life every day. And that ‘something else’ is ‘Prayer’! For when it comes to ‘Prayer’, especially when it comes to personally connecting to God in prayer…our practice of prayer is to be ‘First on, last off.’ Connecting with our God, and communing with our God, is to be the ‘first’ thing we do and the ‘last’ thing we do each day.
The Psalmist even said: “I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just.” Ps 119:164 NLT Now, you don’t have to count them, but really, think about it: When you start your day in prayer, you are also determining the direction of your day…you are ordering your day to being a Christ-centered day. You are also setting yourself up with an RMA mindset: A ‘Right Mental Attitude’ mindset. If you don’t get your mind right, it’s going to be that much harder when things in your day don’t go right. And there are lots of days when lots of things don’t go right. And just how important is it to get your mind right? Prov 4:23- “Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.” ERV Now, sure, other things may control what we have to do about them, but still, our thoughts about doing it all will determine how we do what we do about all of it.
Also, by going to prayer first in your day you are declaring that, as for today, you are taking your rightful place as Christ’s servant, and you are setting up Jesus in His rightful place as Lord over your life. 1 Peter 3:15- “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…” NASU And this is not a one-time action, rather it is to be a daily declaration…when day by day you declare to the Lord Jesus, “I will serve You today, Jesus, as the Lord over my life.” It’s like that wonderful principle of: ‘Don’t give God instructions, just report for duty!’ It’s like saying, “Lord Jesus, lead me today in what I should do and say.”
But back to what the Psalmist said about praising the Lord seven times a day…Praise is not only a great way to honor the Holy Trinity, praising the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but it is also a strategic way to defeat the unholy Trinity, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Praise is part of the training and equipping in order to fight the good fight of faith. The Psalmist also said: “Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.” Ps 144:1 NLT Without the ‘practice of praise’ we limit our training for spiritual warfare. But with the ‘practice of praise’ we become further prepared to take on the world, the flesh, and the devil.
And even when we do get weary or down-hearted or confused in the battles of life, it is through praise that we get raised up…raised up to better deal with whatever we are facing, just like David said in Ps 42:5- “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” NASU And again in Ps 22:3- “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” KJV The presence of God accompanies the praises of God’s people. The presence of God is enhanced through the praises of God’s people. And it is the presence of God that then further empowers God’s people to both follow God more and to even flourish in His service.
Which brings us to the ‘Last off’ part of the ‘First on, last off’ parts of Prayer. One of the great concerns of conscientious Christians is to ‘finish well’ in their Christian walk, or in their life of discipleship. And rightly so, as we know that the devil is relentless in his quest to do whatever he can do to cause Christ’s followers to not finish well. And we know that we combat his plans by our commitment to God’s plans for our life. But that commitment requires some specifics to keep your hopes on track. And one way to greatly assist our hopes on finishing our life well is to simply finish each day well. For, after all, what is your life, but simply the combined collection of your days! Remember, we don’t have tomorrow, we only have today, and you can only live one day at a time. And one great help in that is to finish each day with Prayer…’First on, last off!’ And when you begin each day in Prayer and Praise and also end each day in Prayer and Praise, as well as also practice what the Psalmist practiced, in filling each day with Prayer and Praise, then your days of Praise will add up to a life of Peace and of Power…and your life will truly be a life well lived and a life well finished! You will have finished well for your Lord and Savior!
Which, by the way, brings us to another ‘Overlook’ in our travels. And this is not just about the scenery in our travels, but this is actually about what we are carrying as we travel. What do we mean? Let’s look: Galatians chapter 6 is one of the most remarkable passages in the New Testament about our discipleship. And here’s why: As we travel through life there are two burdens or loads that we are to deal with, but they are very different. And if we don’t learn the difference, we will get them mixed up. And when we get them mixed up then we will find ourselves dismayed, distressed, distracted…well, let’s just say, discombobulated in many ways. Here’s what the instruction is all about: Gal 6:2- “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Then in verse 5 Paul instructs: “For each one will bear his own load.” NASU
What we have here are two separate burdens, or two separate loads, and the instructions reveal that they are to be kept separate, because if you get them mixed up in your head, you will get messed up in your life. Here’s what were talking about: There are two specific Greek words that Paul specifically uses that specifically speaks about two separate responsibilities of ours. When Paul says that we are to each bear our own load, the word he chose here for ‘load’ is ‘phortion’ (‘for tee on’). As Dr. Walvoord points out in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, this word was commonly used to refer to a pack, like a soldier’s pack. And each soldier was responsible for what was in his own pack. As soldiers of Christ, we could think of our pack as holding the responsibilities of our discipleship, like our worship and service to God, our fellowship with and our edification of God’s people, our growing in the knowledge of the Word and our Witnessing to the lost…basically the responsibility of our own obedience to Christ. And as for other loads, or for other burdens…Paul says we are to collectively bear those burdens, one another’s burdens. And here he chooses another word, the word ‘baros’. And now he’s talking about a great weight, a great load…we could think of it as being like a ‘wagon load’.
So now, as soldiers of Jesus Christ, this calls for us to be very discerning about what things are to go in our soldier’s pack, like our backpack, or our individual responsibility, and what things are to go in the wagon, which represents a shared responsibility. Again, like with this pack here…we recently talked about the fact that as disciples of Christ, we are to deny our self-will and to commit to living by God’s will, or we are to carry our cross. So our cross is in our pack, too. We are to keep our old self-willed life on our cross as we keep our focus on Jesus and doing His will and His word.
But here’s the problem: The problem is that believers often get their individual responsibilities mixed up with the world’s problems. And they start stuffing the world’s problems into their pack instead of putting them into the wagon where they are supposed to go…problems such as societal problems, family problems, other relationship problems, work related problems, health problems, and on and on…in other words, anything that is beyond their control. And soon, their pack is so heavy that they become both overwhelmed by these problems that don’t belong in their pack, as well as becoming discouraged or distracted from properly attending to both the responsibilities that belong in their pack as well as the problems that belong in the wagon.
Which brings up a principle for dealing with the problems of our world. When a problem arises, the first thing to do is not first to deal with it, but first to identify it…identify where it belongs. Does it belong in my soldier’s pack, or does it belong in the wagon? Here’s a clue: Matt 11:28-30- ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” NASU What is Jesus’ burden for your life…what are the burdens Jesus would have you carry? Here’s another clue: You can only carry what Jesus has given you to control…and that is your obedience to God; your’ seeking to do God’s will and to live by God’s word. That’s what belongs in your pack, your soldier’s pack. And God has made that weight just the right weight for you to carry. In fact, the Holy Spirit even grows the very fruit in you that enables you to carry out your responsibilities to God and to control your obedience to God as you live out your discipleship…it’s called ‘the fruit of Self-control’.
You can control your-self…but can you control anyone else? Can you obey God for anyone else? Can you live out anyone else’s responsibilities of discipleship? Can you control the world’s problems…societies problems, family problems, even church family problems, other relationship problems, work related problems, other’s or even your own health problems, and on and on? Certainly not! You can carry them to God in prayer, and you can do whatever you can to work on them and assist with them and help with them, but you surely cannot control them! And not only can you not control them, they also do not belong in your pack…they belong in the wagon. Now again, and remember, we are certainly to pray about those problems, and work on those problems, and do whatever God would have us do about those problems, but since they are beyond our control, we were never intended nor equipped to stuff them into our discipleship pack and try to carry them around.
Mark it down: Anything beyond your control belongs in the wagon. Again, God intends for many to share in the work of bearing those burdens in the wagon, but those heavy burdens are not to be stuffed into your pack of discipleship. You are responsible for carrying the weight of your obedience to Christ, not for carrying the weight of the problems of the world. Those can only be carried by God Himself and those whom He appoints for sharing the load in the bearing of those burdens.
Yes, God may want you involved in assisting in various burden-sharing ministries of course, like these problems we described, but just don’t try to stuff them into your pack, for they will weaken your spirit and they will confuse you in your discipleship. We were made to walk through life in such a way that we are yoked together with Christ. And in this ‘yoke’ we are to share one another’s burdens out of our obedience to Christ. We are to work on that wagon load of the world’s problems out of our obedience to Christ, but we are not to stuff any of them, nor let other’s stuff any of them into our pack of discipleship that God has already filled with His plans for us…our worship and service to Him, our fellowship and service with others, our growth in the knowledge of His will and His word, and our witness to a lost world. And He gives us and grows in us the fruit of ‘self-control’ in order to obey His will and to carry out His plans.
But as for the world around us, well, the world is a wagon. And this wagon is full of the world’s problems. You can’t control them, neither can you carry them, nor should you. But we can pray about them and then work on them alongside of God and others in seeking to do whatever we can to be a blessing in dealing with the problems and troubles of this world.
Remember: God’s pack for your back for following Him and doing His will is just the right weight for you. Let God carry the rest of the weight of the world.