Day 226

The Night with a Mosquito

Wisdom Psalm 96:1-13
New Testament 1 Corinthians 9:1-18
Old Testament Ecclesiastes 9:13-12:14

Introduction

History is in many ways a story of influence. Leadership is about influence. Everyone influences someone. Therefore, in a sense, everyone is a leader. Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 other people during his or her lifetime. We all influence one another in all sorts of ways – from what to have for lunch and what films to watch, to more important matters of truth and ethics.

My life has been influenced by so many people – my parents, teachers, friends and family. Just as I have been influenced by others, inevitably what I do and say will influence others for good or ill.

As the African proverb puts it, ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’ The mosquito makes a difference in an annoying way, but the principle is the same. One person can stop a great injustice. One person can be a voice for truth. One person’s kindness can save a life. Each person matters.

How can you maximise your influence and use that influence for good?

Wisdom

Psalm 96:1-13

Psalm 96

1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
  sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
  proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
  his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
  he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
  but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
  strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
  ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
  bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
  tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns. ”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
  he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
  let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
  let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
  he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
  and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Commentary

For the good of everyone

God chose Israel. He blessed the people of Israel in a special way. His purpose was not that they should feel proud and superior to others. Rather, it was that they should be a blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12:3). They were blessed to be a blessing. They were called to use their influence for the good of all nations.

Now, God has chosen us, the church, to be a blessing to all people. You are blessed to be a blessing.

This psalm has a multi-national focus. It proclaims the wonders and blessings of God to everyone. You are called to bless through:

1. Worship

It is interesting to note in passing that worship should be creative and include innovation: They sang ‘a brand-new song’ (Psalm 96:1, MSG).

2. Witness

‘Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea,
Take the news of his glory to the lost,
News of his wonders to one and all!... Get the message out – God Rules!’ (vv.2–3,10a, MSG).

Prayer

Help us, Lord, never to become inward looking or self-indulgent. May everything we do as individuals and as a community be outward focused in order to bring blessing to the world – proclaiming your salvation day after day.

New Testament

1 Corinthians 9:1-18

Paul’s Rights as an Apostle

9Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

Commentary

To spread the good news

Paul is deeply conscious of his influence as a Christian and, in particular, as an apostle. He is absolutely determined to maximise his influence for good and to ‘put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ’ (v.12b).

It appears that he sees his calling to singleness as one of the ways he can maximise his influence. He is not suggesting that there is anything wrong with marriage. It appears that the other apostles, including ‘the Lord’s brothers and Cephas [Peter]’ were all married (v.5).

Another way he seeks to maximise his influence is by having a second job; working for a living. He is very keen to point out that he does not need to do this: ‘The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel’ (v.14). Or as Eugene Peterson translates, ‘… those who spread the Message be supported by those who believe the Message’ (v.14, MSG). In other words, as Christians we should support financially those who spread the gospel full time.

Paul’s point is that although he had this right, he did not make use of it: ‘Our decision all along has been to put up with anything rather than to get in the way or detract from the Message of Christ’ (v.12b, MSG).

Paul is absolutely passionate about the preaching of the gospel. He does not want anything to hinder its maximum impact. Hence, he does not make use of any of his rights – his mission is paramount (v.15a). He is ‘compelled to preach’ (v.16a). He writes, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (v.16b). He is simply discharging an obligation that he feels.

What he wants more than anything is that people should be able to hear the gospel ‘free of charge’ (v.18): ‘I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives’ (v.15, MSG).

This is one of the reasons why we are determined that no one should ever have to pay for doing Alpha. And, this is why we need to resist every attempt to persuade us to fundraise from guests as soon as they have finished Alpha. We do not want people to pay directly or indirectly for the privilege of hearing the gospel. Paul says, ‘I would rather die…’ (v.15b).

I remember when Billy Graham came to preach the gospel in London in 1989. It was suggested at one point that in order for the tickets (which were all free) not to be wasted, they should be sold for a nominal sum of £1 each. The suggestion was rejected out of hand. Billy Graham had determined that he would always preach the gospel free of charge.

Prayer

Lord, help us always to follow this example of the apostle Paul and to maximise the impact and influence of the preaching of the gospel by making it available free of charge and to put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ

Old Testament

Ecclesiastes 9:13-12:14

Wisdom Better Than Folly

13 I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: 14 There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15 Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.

17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
  than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
  but one sinner destroys much good.

10As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
  so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2 The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
  but the heart of the fool to the left.
3 Even as fools walk along the road,
  they lack sense
  and show everyone how stupid they are.
4 If a ruler’s anger rises against you,
  do not leave your post;
  calmness can lay great offenses to rest.

5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun,
  the sort of error that arises from a ruler:
6 Fools are put in many high positions,
  while the rich occupy the low ones.
7 I have seen slaves on horseback,
  while princes go on foot like slaves.

8 Whoever digs a pit may fall into it;
  whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
9 Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them;
  whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.

10 If the ax is dull
  and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed,
  but skill will bring success.

11 If a snake bites before it is charmed,
  the charmer receives no fee.

12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious,
  but fools are consumed by their own lips.
13 At the beginning their words are folly;
  at the end they are wicked madness—
14   and fools multiply words.

No one knows what is coming—
  who can tell someone else what will happen after them?

15 The toil of fools wearies them;
  they do not know the way to town.

16 Woe to the land whose king was a servant
  and whose princes feast in the morning.
17 Blessed is the land whose king is of noble birth
  and whose princes eat at a proper time—
  for strength and not for drunkenness.

18 Through laziness, the rafters sag;
  because of idle hands, the house leaks.

19 A feast is made for laughter,
  wine makes life merry,
  and money is the answer for everything.

20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts,
  or curse the rich in your bedroom,
because a bird in the sky may carry your words,
  and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

Invest in Many Ventures

11Ship your grain across the sea;
  after many days you may receive a return.
2 Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
  you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

3 If clouds are full of water,
  they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
  in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
  whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.

5 As you do not know the path of the wind,
  or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
  the Maker of all things.

6 Sow your seed in the morning,
  and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
  whether this or that,
  or whether both will do equally well.

Remember Your Creator While Young

7 Light is sweet,
  and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8 However many years anyone may live,
  let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
  for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.

9 You who are young, be happy while you are young,
  and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
  and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
  God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
  and cast off the troubles of your body,
  for youth and vigor are meaningless.

12Remember your Creator
  in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
  and the years approach when you will say,
  “I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
  and the moon and the stars grow dark,
  and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
  and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
  and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
  and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
  but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
  and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
  and the grasshopper drags itself along
  and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
  and mourners go about the streets.

6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
  and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
  and the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
  and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

8 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
  “Everything is meaningless! ”

The Conclusion of the Matter

9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.

11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails —given by one shepherd. 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

13 Now all has been heard;
  here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
  for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
  including every hidden thing,
  whether it is good or evil.

Commentary

To plant good seeds

Solomon is very aware of the power of influence. This influence can be for good or evil.

One wise person can save a city (9:13–18a). On the other hand, ‘one sinner destroys much good’ (v.18b). Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot are glaring examples of this principle. One human being can use their influence for evil and cause great harm.

But, the influence does not have to be as great as these tyrants in order to have a bad effect: ‘Dead flies in perfume make it stink, and a little foolishness decomposes much wisdom’ (10:1, MSG). If even a dead fly can have a bad influence, the least influential human being can have an influence for evil or good. We can all be the fly in the ointment!

The writer has much to say about how to be a good influence, rather than a bad one:

1. Watch your words

Solomon reminds us that ‘words from the mouth of the wise are gracious’ (v.12a). Respond to hot-tempered words with calmness (v.4).

Avoid gossiping and bad-mouthing your leaders. Be careful what you say or even think. Don’t revile people ‘even in your thoughts’ or curse them ‘in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say’ (v.20).

2. Take risks

To maximise your influence for good you need to take risks. ‘Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others’ (11:1–2, MSG). In other words, he says ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To try is to risk failure. But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

If we are too cautious we will never achieve anything. ‘Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap’ (v.4). We could apply this principle to church planting. It will require risk and determination. We must not be daunted by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We must not be put off due to ‘wind’ and ‘clouds’.

3. Spread your efforts

In order to maximise influence, you might have to juggle different opportunities in your life: ‘Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed’ (v.6).

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Press ahead on all fronts and make the most of every opportunity. This is why as a church we try to sow seeds in every direction – through worship, prayer, leadership, discipleship, theological training, social transformation, evangelisation, fighting injustice, work in the prisons and with the poor and the marginalised.

4. Take your opportunities

Life is short. Don’t waste time worrying. ‘… banish anxiety from your heart…’ (11:10). Your opportunities are limited: ‘Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour... You who are young, make the most of your youth’ (vv.8a,9, MSG).

The book finishes with a conclusion to all its searching and questioning. The meaning of life ultimately rests in your relationship with God. Revere him and keep his commandments. This is the whole duty for every person (12:13b).

Prayer

Lord, help me to revere you and keep your commandments. Help me to use my influence for good and not for evil. Help me to make the most of every opportunity that you have put before me.

Pippa adds

Ecclesiastes 12:12

‘Of the making of books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.’

What a prophetic statement! Had Solomon any idea how many books would be written on every subject over the years? There are so many beautiful, inspiring books, but plenty of others less so. I had some sympathy many years ago when helping one of our children with their reading homework. They complained, ‘I don't like books. They have words in them’!

Verse of the Day

Ecclesiastes 11:10

‘… banish anxiety from your heart…’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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