Don’t Talk Your Dreams To Death

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

“In all toil (labor) there is profit”
Diligent work always leads to some result or profit of benefit to the worker. Most work is neither easy nor fun but it does pay the bills and provides money for doing good and having fun. Even if you have a job you enjoy, there will be  unpleasant duties. People who love to garden still must get dirty, sweaty, and dig through the soil if they want to have the flowers or produce of the garden.

“Mere talk leads to poverty”
In contrast to diligent labor, talk without action leads to poverty. Idle talking does not pay and has gotten some people fired. Grandiose plans and slick presentations may impress others but it does not pay one cent if no labor is expended to make the dream a reality.

The first obvious application—indeed the natural application—of this verse is to the business world. In the early days of personal computers —before the average person could access the Internet—a man I knew had great plans to work with realtors to put pictures of houses for sale on videodisc (pre-DVD) with sale information for agents and customers. He had a prototype system, good marketing plan, and enthusiastic presentation. He talked with people in the office about his plans and the unlimited potential for profits. One problem: he did not have customers or profit from the work because he did not get out and talk to the customers who needed the system. In short, he planned and talked his way to poverty while other people, through hard work, were able to profit from similar ideas.

The world is made up of  poor creative geniuses and  rich people of average intelligence. The difference is not what they know but by what they do.

This principle is especially important for spiritual growth. Is your spiritual life the product of hard work or mere talk?

Some people talk about “getting their life right” or “straightening up” but still hang out with ungodly friends, feed their minds with filth, and do not change. Some say they want to pray or study more—and do so year after year. Some talk about doing more things with their brethren, helping the sick or needy, or getting involved with some work in the church but do not act.

Some people realize their life is displeasing to God, is yielding undesirable consequences, and is unsatisfying so they change their behavior. Some want a closer relationship with God and execute a plan to study and pray more frequently. Some take action to involve themselves with their brethren so they can have richer and deeper fellowship with other Christians.

If you want to have a rich and meaninful spiritual life, you’ll have to work for it.

  • Romans 13:11-14 – Awake and get busy
  • Thessalonians 5:4-8 – get busy with good things
  • Ephesians 5:14-17 – wake up and make good use of your time

 “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” Proverbs 28:19 (NIV)

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How sad it will be for those who dreamed of a close relationship with God and their brethren, a close loving family, and a meaningful life’s work to fail because they only dreamed and did not act.

All My Lame Excuses (and 5 ways to get rid of them)

Excuse. Sounds like a reasonable word. Acceptable. Perhaps even respectable. The word “excuse” describes a plea or request to be released from a promise or obligation or an appeal for forgiveness for failing to meet an agreement. So an excuse is something I offer when I’m not doing what I should be doing, failing to keep a promise, or as part of an apology for not doing what I said I would do. Excuses sound fine to a rationalizing mind but under the harsh light of the truth, they look pretty weak and ugly.

How many excuses do you generate in a day and for what?

  • Do you make excuses at school for why you didn’t have an assigment or do well on a test?
  • Do you make excuses to the coach or teacher for why you didn’t give 100% or perform well?
  • Do you make excuses to your parents for why you didn’t do your chores?
  • Do you make excuses to God for why you can’t study your Bible or spend time with Him in prayer?
  • Do you make excuses to yourself for why you didn’t stay on the exercise program, diet, or daily practice?

See, we even make excuses to ourselves…AND BELIEVE THEM! The better approach is just to admit that we gave up, didn’t give our best, got distracted, or whatever, then apologize and fulfill our commitment.

If we continue to offer excuses people will learn not to trust us. If we keep giving ourselves excuses, we limit and cripple ourselves and will eventually expect less of ourselves. As Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

5 Ways to Eliminate excuses

  1. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. You have a right to refuse anyone’s request for a favor and still be a good person. Recognize that the person might be disappointed but they would rather get an honest “no” from you and find someone else to fulfill their request than to get a “yes” then endure the frustration when you don’t keep your word. Jesus said to let your “yes” be “yes” and “no” be “no” and that anything beyond that was evil, Matthew 5:37.
  2. Keep your commitments and promises. It is good to make good promises and some commitments. If you have given your word, make haste to fulfill the obligation. You will preserve your integrity and the trust of others. Keeping your commitments strengthens the “no” that you must give for people learn that they can depend on your “yes” and “no”. As Elbert Hubbard, American writer, said, “Don’t make excuses–make good.”
  3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasguest/5061459807/sizes/s/in/photostream/
    By Thomas Guest via Flickr (Creative Commons)
  4. Eat the toad. Excuses often follow procrastination. You agree to something, put it off telling yourself that you will get around to the task (excuse to yourself), then finally abandon the task and generate an excuse. If you absolutely had to eat a live toad every day when should you do it? First thing in the morning of course! You do it, get it out of the way, and you don’t have to dread it, put it off, brood over it, or kick yourself for not doing it. Don’t make an excuse–eat the toad, get it over with, and go on with your life.
  5. Embrace a “no excuses” policy. I used to keep a sign with what I understand is the motto of the British Foreign Office: “Never excuse. Never explain. Never complain.” If you are doing what you supposed to be doing, you should not have to explain or excuse your actions. If you commit to not giving excuses you have to commit to keeping your word. Remember that excuses weakens, execution strengthens.
  6. Practice at home. Decide that you will not offer any more excuses to your parents or God. You will “obey them in the Lord for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). Strive for completion of your promises and obligations.If you fail, give them a straightforward apology and ask what you can do to correct the situation: no excuses or reasons for failure then strive to do better in the future. Don’t offer God lame excuses for not praying, studying, or doing other work in service to Him. Admit your failures, ask His forgiveness, then make specific plans for how you can fulfill these expectations (which ultimately are for your good anyway!)

This Nike commercial might inspire you to give up your excuses today.

Where Are The Gauges?

 On my way to the building today, a little yellow light in the shape of a gas pump caught my eye.  I had not looked at the gas gauge in a while and was very low on gas.  Because of this bit of intervention by my car, I was able to immediately stop for fuel and avoid the embarrassment and hassle of running out of gas.

It would be great if we had spiritual gauges to warn us of dangerous behaviors or conditions so we could make timely and necessary adjustments.  If our frustration and anger were growing, a red light warning us to calm down would be nice.  If we are about to say anything unkind, gossip, or lie, a warning alarm could bring us to our senses and cause us to reign in our speech.

by chego101 via Flickr
by chego101 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

In fact, we do have some gauges.  Our conscience and our Bible will help us detect things that are wrong in our lives or things that we should add so we can make adjustments.  A conscience trained in the word of God will detect when we are not doing as we ought or urge us to do something God has commanded.

Sometimes we ignore the warning signal.  Cindie and I used to have a van in which the “Check Engine” light would say on.  Usually this is an ominous warning but a mechanic, after checking the codes, assured us that the warning light was the only problem.  It would cause some concern with those who rode with us, but we assured them that things were ok.  Of course, if some real danger developed, how would we know?  I was only concerned when one day, the light <em>stopped</em> coming on (the light bulb finally died).

We can ignore the appeal of our conscience to change our behavior.  We may be troubled when we do (or fail to do) some action.  Our conscience tugs at us and reminds us to conform our will to God’s law.  If ignored, the message of the conscience, like our warning light, will not have much impact and will finally turn off.

One day, Cindie and I visited the Motorsports Hall of Fame at the Talladega Superspeedway.  In the museum, there were cars from all eras of stock car racing.  In the modern stock cars there was a plaque saying that the gauges are usually positioned in such a way that at the optimal speed and performance, all of the gauges would point up.  When traveling at speeds nearing 200 MPH one does not want to take his eyes off the road for long.  Among the gauges I noticed three that are important to our cars that were missing from the race cars:  the speedometer, odometer, and gas gauge.

It quickly dawned on me why the speedometer was unnecessary.  If there are more cars passing you than you are passing, you are going too slowly.  If you are leading the cars, you are going fast enough.  As Christians, we do not need a speedometer.  We gauge our progress by honestly asking, “Am I really doing all that I need to do and what God expects of me?”  In our language and actions, we should be doing better than the ungodly world.  If are lives are constantly shamed by those who are not Christians, we need to improve quickly.  Jesus preached that “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Christ set a pace for us by living a perfect life.  We will not be able to run as perfect a race as He did but we can run better every day and improve over yesterday.  We can look at His example, surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses, and run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  We do not need an odometer, because we must run full strength until we die and cross the finish line.

We do not have a gas gauge.  We do not know when our time will run out therefore we must run with diligence today and not plan our best efforts for some tomorrow; tomorrow may never come.  We must account for how we have used the time we have been given.  Unlike the racecar drivers, we do not know when the race will be over.

Think on THESE Things

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

My mother used to quote this to me when I was watching a music video or movie that had material that was not appropriate to remind me that I was poisoning, not nourishing, my mind. Do not let your mind wallow in filthiness. Let your thoughts soar above to heavenly things.

True: Manifest, fact, conforming to reality Opposite: False

Noble: Honest, grave, venerable, serious Foolish: Foolish

Just: Right conduct; state of being right judged by a divine standard Opposite: Unjust

Pure: Clean, free of impurities Opposite: Polluted

Lovely: Pleasing, agreeable Opposite: Unpleasant

Good Report: Well spoken of, reputable Opposite: Worthless

Do the songs you listen to, books you read, or things you watch pass this test?
Think on these things!

A Mind Like Christ

Action follows thought. If we want to act like Christ we must think like Christ. Consider these verses:

2 Corinthians 10:5 – We must bring every thought under control
Mark 7:20-23 – The heart of a man is the source of his actions
Romans 1:21-22 – Terrible abominations are rooted in evil and futile thoughts
Colossians 3:1-3 – Set your mind on things above
The worldly mind dwells on empty, meaningless, and demeaning thoughts. Abominations, evil inventions, and cruelty (even in the name of religion), or indifference to others is the common result. The worldly mind focuses on the present world and fulfilling lusts. This mind is trained by the philosophy of the world through television, movies, songs, books, and through popular opinion.

The mind of Christ is taught by the word of God. We consciously decide to think like Christ so that the natural state of the changed mind dwells on godly things and makes judgments in light of Christ’s doctrine. It is a mind that seeks to develop a relationship with the Father, live pure and holy, and esteem others better than self.

In contrast to the chaos of the mind, it is a mind at peace. Instead of being selfish it serves. It is not directed by the whims of passion but by purposeful direction and discipline. It takes a while to develop this mind but the effects on the attitude and behavior of the transformed Christian are worth it.