|Volume 19 Number 12 December 2017||
The years quickly fade away, and another one will soon be complete. As each one looks back on the year past, he or she must determine whether it was a good or a bad one.
Because of the many distractions and temptations around us, it’s difficult to always keep God uppermost in our minds. Day-to-day living is not easy. It has always been this way. Look at what Jacob told Pharaoh in Genesis 47:9. “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are l30 years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been and I have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” Did Jacob think he had been given a “raw deal”? That’s what “few and evil” days sounds like. Too often, we probably feel the same way that Jacob did.
We rush here to get something done, and we can hurry there to get something else done. It is not an easy thing to keep God and Christianity at the forefront of our thoughts. The evils that we witness are the same as observed by our parents, grandparents and even back to Jacob’s time. However, if you can, imagine how far we’ve come since Jacob’s time! The more people there are, the greater propensity for more and varied evil. Jacob’s world was literally small compared to our world today. Yes, the earth was the same size, but it was not inhabited with billions of people as it is today.
Consider how easily we travel today: vehicles, monstrous ships, trains (which are almost obsolete now for passenger service and jet airplanes). We even have space stations. Jacob had to walk or to ride an animal. Consider how we communicate today. The media is greatly varied and reaches to all places on the earth. There is no way Jacob could visualize a world like this. He had to communicate by word of mouth. Yet, even in his comparatively small world, he described his days as few and evil.
“God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). God’s creation included “days and years” for as long as His creation exists. It’s not what kind of world one lives in that matters; it’s what one does with his days and years that matters.
Paul had a difficult time trying to make the Roman brethren understand this. He said, “The good that I would, I do not but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19). Every one of us has to fight this battle every time sin rears its head. Paul confirmed this in verse 20 when he wrote, “Now if I do that which I would not, it is no more I who does it but sin that dwells in me.” Satan is a powerful force and influences men to sin, which brings spiritual death. We all know that sin is what separates us from God and brings eternal death. Sin is what makes our days seem “few and evil” just as Jacob said.
Since creation, sin has plagued mankind. So, if sin is always present, what can we do about it? Jacob awoke from a dream that he had and declared, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16). We must be aware that God is always everywhere, and we must give our lives to Him just as Jacob did when he vowed that “The Lord will be my God!” (v. 21). Solomon said that there is a simple solution to man’s problems. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
As you look back on the past year, determine what could have been better. Then, strive to make the new year a better year to the glory of God!
but Mine and God’s
T. Pierce Brown
In the congregation where I did my first full-time preaching many years ago, I tried to encourage the members to give as they prospered. On one occasion when we needed to make an organized and concerted effort to raise a specific amount to do a job that we all agreed needed to be done, I suggested that we share with each other the information about how much we felt able and willing to contribute toward the job. One precious lady whom I continued to love dearly criticized the idea vehemently, saying, “What I give is nobody’s business but mine and God’s.”
That idea I have heard expressed and have seen practiced in many ways since that time. In connection with that, I should like to raise a few questions.
In the last year or so, we have seen a spate of articles (whatever that is) on the eldership, raising all sorts of questions from “Who Calls the Shots?” to “What Do They Do?” However, I believe, in spite of all of the varied opinions about what kind of leadership we should have, there is practically unanimous agreement in all sections of our brotherhood (which includes the “sisterhood”) that the elders are to shepherd the flock, watching after its spiritual welfare.
Surely no one would deny that whether or not a person attends the services is the elders’ business! Why? Because that relates to one’s spiritual welfare. It is true that a person can bring a warm body (or a cool one) to each service, and still have very little spiritual growth. Yet, that is not our subject today. Surely, no one would deny that it is the business of the elders if a person does not take the Lord’s Supper or come to Bible class. Why? Same reason. Surely, the elders need to know if a man is cheating on his wife, on a business associate, getting drunk or doing any other ungodly act. Why? Same reason.
Now, would some loving soul be kind enough to inform me what process of reasoning (if any) leads to the conclusion that it is not the elders’ business if some members are practicing idolatry or covetousness (Galatians 5:5)? The same passage that teaches that the fornicator, the unclean person, “hath no inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ” teaches the same thing about the covetous one!
Although I am not the judge of men’s motives, I have an idea that one reason why some do not want anyone to know what they give is that they are ashamed of it—and properly so. On the other hand, I think it possible that one reason some might want it known is that they might want to compare the amount with others and brag about it. However, I have known only two persons in my life that gave 70% to 90% of their income to the work of the Lord. One was relatively rich, and the other relatively poor, but I never heard either of them brag about it. Every person I know who seemed to have a sacrificial spirit in giving was too humble to want to brag about it, but did not care if someone knew and was encouraged to do likewise.
If some astute scholar who knows the answers, or even some humble student who does not even know all the questions, would help me to understand why anything that has a significant bearing on the spiritual attitude or welfare of the church member is not the proper concern of the elders, I would appreciate hearing from you.
[Editor’s Note: I have not personally checked on the accuracy of such a statement, but I have heard it said that more verses of Scripture appear in the Bible regulating material prosperity than on any other single topic. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if that were a fact. Of course, God only has to say something once for it to be so as well as for it to be important. Yet, when God caused the Holy Spirit to mention something repeatedly, such topics (e.g., wealth, baptism, etc.) indicate areas in which man is particularly vulnerable and needs reinforcement. I remember an occasion when merely announcing the intention to study a class book on giving led to one brother in Christ’s face turning blood-red to complement his distasteful demeanor. Giving remains a sore spot for even Christians, and it will remain so until Christians first give themselves fully to God (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]