Day 56

How to Make the Most of Your Life

Wisdom Proverbs 6:1-11
New Testament Mark 8:14-9:1
Old Testament Exodus 37:1-38:31

Introduction

‘People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like,’ writes Shane Claiborne in his book The Irresistible Revolution. ‘Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery, like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget – her feet. Her feet were deformed.

Each morning I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. One day a Sister explained, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbour as herself deformed her feet.’

When people are asked about the person whose life they most admire, so often the answer is ‘Mother Teresa’. She made the most of her life. It is a paradox, because her life was a life of self-denial, taking up her cross and following Jesus.

Life is an extraordinary and wonderful gift. In the Bible we are constantly urged not to waste this gift, but instead to make the most of our lives.

Wisdom

Proverbs 6:1-11

Warnings Against Folly

6My son, if you have put up security for your neighbour,
  if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
2 you have been trapped by what you said,
  ensnared by the words of your mouth.
3 So do this, my son, to free yourself,
  since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go—to the point of exhaustion—
  and give your neighbor no rest!
4 Allow no sleep to your eyes,
  no slumber to your eyelids.
5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
  like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
  consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
  no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
  and gathers its food at harvest.

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
  When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
  a little folding of the hands to rest —
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
  and scarcity like an armed man.

Commentary

Master self-discipline

The book of Proverbs gives you practical wisdom on how to make the most of your life and how to avoid wasting it by falling into various traps. In the passage for today we see two examples:

  1. Master your finances

One of the areas of life that requires self-discipline is our finances. There are always plenty of financial traps and snares – such as unmanageable debt, unwise investment and foolish pledges. The writer urges you that, if you have got yourself into a financial muddle (vv.2–5), you should do everything in your power to get out of it as soon as possible: ‘Don’t waste a minute’ (v.3, MSG).

You may have to humble yourself (v.3b). You may have to plead your case (v.3c). Do everything in your power to free yourself from these snares (v.5). If we don’t get our finances sorted out it can have a very detrimental effect on our lives and on our families.

  1. Master your time

We can waste our lives through a lack of self-discipline. Without accountability we can easily become lazy, and this can have disastrous consequences (vv.9–11). We can learn self-leadership from the ant; nobody tells it what to do. ‘It has no commander, no overseer or ruler’ (v.7), yet it works extremely hard: ‘It stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest’ (v.8).

Of course, it is important to get enough sleep. Our bodies need rest. But we need to be careful not to waste our time in unproductive activity.

Prayer

Lord, give me wisdom in the handling of my finances and my time.

New Testament

Mark 8:14-9:1

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod

14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus Predicts His Death

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

The Way of the Cross

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

9And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Commentary

Give your life away

Jesus warns his disciples against the ‘yeast’ (8:15) of the Pharisees and of Herod. ‘Yeast’ was a common metaphor for the evil tendency in human beings, which, although it might seem only a small thing, nevertheless corrupts the whole person. The disciples still did not understand because they were so caught up with the physical that they could not see the spiritual.

Not that there is anything wrong with physical things in themselves. The blind man wanted to touch Jesus (v.22). Jesus did something very physical – he spat on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him twice (vv.23–25). He prayed twice before the man was totally healed. This encourages us to keep on praying more than once for those who are sick.

Finally, the disciples understand who Jesus is: ‘You are the Christ’ (v.29). ‘Christos’ means ‘the Anointed One, the Messiah’. In the time of Jesus, the term was particularly associated with the expectation of a new Davidic King. In the Old Testament, however, kings, priests and prophets were all anointed. Jesus is the fulfilment of them all. He is the King, the Great High Priest, the Prophet.

Yet this title, ‘Messiah’, was not adequate. Jesus preferred to use the title ‘Son of Man’ (v.31). ‘Son of Man’ was an even more majestic, and therefore more suitable, title. It contained the idea of suffering (Daniel 7:21). The ‘Son of Man’ was also a representative figure identifying himself with human beings.

Then Jesus begins to speak about the cross (Mark 8:31). We can’t understand the cross unless we understand who Jesus is. His teaching is so paradoxical, counterintuitive and surprising that Peter takes him aside to rebuke him (v.32).

There is a parallel here with the healing of the blind man, which acts as a visual parable of the gradual eye-opening of the disciples. First, Peter’s eyes are opened about Jesus’ identity (v.29). However, he only half-understood. He did not yet see Jesus’ mission (vv.31–32). Peter can ‘see’, but he can’t fully ‘see’.

Jesus has to explain to his disciples the extraordinary paradox involved in making the most of our lives – of which he is to show the supreme example. He says if you want to make the most of your life, you have to give it away. You have to abandon your life to his service and the gospel – ‘whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it’ (v.35).

In contrast, he then says that it is possible to ‘gain the whole world, yet forfeit [your] soul’ (v.36). The actor Jim Carrey said, ‘I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they dreamed of so they can see that it is not the answer.’

Even the biggest multi-billionaires only own a proportion of the world. Jesus warns us that if we are tempted to set out in that direction, even if we topped their success and gained the whole world, we could still totally waste our lives and forfeit our souls (v.36). He says the way to find life is to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him (v.34).

The words ‘deny yourself’ mean saying no to yourself. The Christian life involves the challenge of daily denial. The world thinks that the way to life is to deny yourself nothing. Jesus says that the opposite is true. The way to find life is to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him.

You are called to love. You are to live for God and for other people. And as you give yourself away, God will take care of your life.

The teaching of Jesus is radical and revolutionary. It is exactly the opposite of what we would expect, yet we see how it works out in practice. Those who seek their own satisfaction end up disillusioned and dissatisfied having wasted their lives; those who follow Jesus’ teaching find life in all its fullness.

Prayer

Lord, your words are so challenging. Help me each day to learn to deny myself in little things as well as big and to take up my cross and follow you. Thank you that as I give my life to you, I find life in all its fullness.

Old Testament

Exodus 37:1-38:31

The Ark

37Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. 2 He overlaid it with pure gold, both inside and out, and made a gold molding around it. 3 He cast four gold rings for it and fastened them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 4 Then he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. 5 And he inserted the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it.

6 He made the atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 7 Then he made two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 8 He made one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; at the two ends he made them of one piece with the cover. 9 The cherubim had their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim faced each other, looking toward the cover.

The Table

10 They made the table of acacia wood—two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. 11 Then they overlaid it with pure gold and made a gold molding around it. 12 They also made around it a rim a handbreadth wide and put a gold molding on the rim. 13 They cast four gold rings for the table and fastened them to the four corners, where the four legs were. 14 The rings were put close to the rim to hold the poles used in carrying the table. 15 The poles for carrying the table were made of acacia wood and were overlaid with gold. 16 And they made from pure gold the articles for the table—its plates and dishes and bowls and its pitchers for the pouring out of drink offerings.

The Lampstand

17 They made the lampstand of pure gold. They hammered out its base and shaft, and made its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. 18 Six branches extended from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. 19 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms were on one branch, three on the next branch and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. 20 And on the lampstand were four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. 21 One bud was under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all. 22 The buds and the branches were all of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.

23 They made its seven lamps, as well as its wick trimmers and trays, of pure gold. 24 They made the lampstand and all its accessories from one talent of pure gold.

The Altar of Incense

25 They made the altar of incense out of acacia wood. It was square, a cubit long and a cubit wide and two cubits high—its horns of one piece with it. 26 They overlaid the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and made a gold molding around it. 27 They made two gold rings below the molding—two on each of the opposite sides—to hold the poles used to carry it. 28 They made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold.

29 They also made the sacred anointing oil and the pure, fragrant incense —the work of a perfumer.

The Altar of Burnt Offering

38They built the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood, three cubits high; it was square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. 2 They made a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar were of one piece, and they overlaid the altar with bronze. 3 They made all its utensils of bronze—its pots, shovels, sprinkling bowls, meat forks and firepans. 4 They made a grating for the altar, a bronze network, to be under its ledge, halfway up the altar. 5 They cast bronze rings to hold the poles for the four corners of the bronze grating. 6 They made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze. 7 They inserted the poles into the rings so they would be on the sides of the altar for carrying it. They made it hollow, out of boards.

The Basin for Washing

8 They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

The Courtyard

9 Next they made the courtyard. The south side was a hundred cubits long and had curtains of finely twisted linen, 10 with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases, and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. 11 The north side was also a hundred cubits long and had twenty posts and twenty bronze bases, with silver hooks and bands on the posts.

12 The west end was fifty cubits wide and had curtains, with ten posts and ten bases, with silver hooks and bands on the posts. 13 The east end, toward the sunrise, was also fifty cubits wide. 14 Curtains fifteen cubits long were on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, 15 and curtains fifteen cubits long were on the other side of the entrance to the courtyard, with three posts and three bases. 16 All the curtains around the courtyard were of finely twisted linen. 17 The bases for the posts were bronze. The hooks and bands on the posts were silver, and their tops were overlaid with silver; so all the posts of the courtyard had silver bands.

18 The curtain for the entrance to the courtyard was made of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen—the work of an embroiderer. It was twenty cubits long and, like the curtains of the courtyard, five cubits high, 19 with four posts and four bronze bases. Their hooks and bands were silver, and their tops were overlaid with silver. 20 All the tent pegs of the tabernacle and of the surrounding courtyard were bronze.

The Materials Used

21 These are the amounts of the materials used for the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the covenant law, which were recorded at Moses’ command by the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. 22 (Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made everything the Lord commanded Moses; 23 with him was Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan—an engraver and designer, and an embroiderer in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen.) 24 The total amount of the gold from the wave offering used for all the work on the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel.

25 The silver obtained from those of the community who were counted in the census was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel— 26 one beka per person, that is, half a shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, from everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more, a total of 603,550 men. 27 The 100 talents of silver were used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and for the curtain—100 bases from the 100 talents, one talent for each base. 28 They used the 1,775 shekels to make the hooks for the posts, to overlay the tops of the posts, and to make their bands.

29 The bronze from the wave offering was 70 talents and 2,400 shekels. 30 They used it to make the bases for the entrance to the tent of meeting, the bronze altar with its bronze grating and all its utensils, 31 the bases for the surrounding courtyard and those for its entrance and all the tent pegs for the tabernacle and those for the surrounding courtyard.

Commentary

Serve God at work

You do not need to leave your job in order to serve God wholeheartedly. In the life of Bezalel, we see an example of someone who made the most of his life by serving God in his place of work. His daily job was his primary ministry.

God fills his people with his Spirit for the workplace: ‘I’ve filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him skill and know-how and expertise in every kind of craft to create designs… he’s an all-around craftsman’ (31:3–5, MSG).

Bezalel was a sculptor. He was chosen by God to build the tabernacle (37:1; see also 31:1–5). He responded to God’s call and ‘made everything the Lord commanded Moses’ (38:22). He worked in a team, which included a designer called Oholiab (v.23) and accomplished great things for God. The key to his success was that he was a man filled ‘with the Spirit of God’ (31:3; 35:31).

It is possible to be a talented musician, writer, or artist without being filled with the Spirit. But when the Spirit of God fills people for these tasks their work often takes on a new dimension. It has a far greater spiritual impact. This can be true even where the natural ability of the musician or artist is not particularly outstanding. Hearts can be touched and lives changed. No doubt something like this happened through Bezalel.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for all those who serve you wholeheartedly – with their artistic abilities, in healthcare, education, business, retail, law, banking and every other area of the workplace. May we all be filled with the Spirit of God, like Bezalel, and do everything you command us. Help me to make the most of my life.

Pippa adds

Proverbs 6:10–11

‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…’

I think this sounds rather nice. But verse 11 comes as a nasty shock:

‘… and poverty will come on you like a thief.’

I don’t want to be caught napping, however tempting it is, and miss out on all that God has in store for me.

Verse of the Day

Mark 8:36

‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’
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References

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

Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, (Zondervan, 2006) p.121

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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