Category Archives: Attitude

God is With You in The Midst of Trials

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezra 1-5

The setting of the Book of Ezra, a contemporary of Haggai, is the end of the 70-year Babylonian captivity.  Remembering, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1), the opening verses of Ezra serve as notice the God of Israel is the Sovereign God of heaven and earth (Ezra 1:1-2).

Having conquered Babylon, the Persian king Cyrus, declared the God of heaven moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).  Fulfilling the LORD’S promise to restore Israel as a nation, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return to their land (Ezra 1:3).

The hardships that laid before the remnant that returned to Judah would be formidable.  The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, its walls reduced to rubble, and the Temple destroyed.  After seventy years in captivity, many of God’s people had embraced the Babylonian culture and only a small minority were willing to accept the challenge of returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 2).

Under Ezra’s leadership, the people rebuilt the altar (3:1-6), laid the Temple foundation (3:7-9), and paused to celebrate and praise the LORD as a free people (3:10-11).

Consider three qualities God’s people share when they set aside personal agendas in favor of the will and purpose of the LORD (Ezra 3).

The first shared quality is a mutual purpose; “they gathered…as one man to Jerusalem (3:1).  The second, they shared a spirit of mutual sacrifice as they “gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters”, meat from their livestock, wine from their vineyards, and oil refined from their olive groves (3:7).  The third is a satisfaction of mutual joy; when the foundation was laid, “all the people shouted with a great shout” (3:11).

Unfortunately, in the midst of those celebrating the newly laid Temple foundation, were some who did not share the joy of those rebuilding the Temple (3:12-13).  A discordant sound arose from the “ancient men”, the elderly who were living in the past instead of celebrating in the moment (3:12-13).

Ezra 3:12-13 – “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:  13  So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.”

The “ancient men” remembered Solomon’s Temple, the one destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and comparing the glory of that Temple to the foundation of the new one, became critical and scoffed at the work being done.  Through Zechariah, the LORD confronted the ancients asking, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10).  The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s question asking, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

Friend, the second Temple would not match the physical splendor and beauty of Solomon’s Temple; however, it would be greater than the first for the LORD Jesus Christ, would grace it with His physical presence as the incarnate Son of God.  Of the new Temple, Haggai prophesied:

Haggai 2:9 – The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

I close on a personal note drawing upon my experiences as the Senior Pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church these past 22 years.

Today’s scripture reading brings back memories of a series I preached in the Book of Ezra in the spring of 2004.  At the time, Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of a relocation and building program that commenced with the purchase of land at our current location in 1999, followed by the design and preparation of architectural blueprints, and the sale of our old facilities February 2003.  From groundbreaking to completion, the timeline for our new facility was to be ten months.

Hillsdale’s pastoral leaders and deacons prepared the church for what was supposed to be a temporary inconvenience of renting a public school auditorium for Sunday worship services while our new home was under construction.  Unforeseen by any of our leadership was an adversarial spirit evidenced by the contractor soon after groundbreaking.

A lack of performance forced the church to terminate the contractor and subcontractors, and embroiled the church in a prolonged legal battle with the surety bond company that, using various legal maneuvers, attempted to exhaust the will of the church and its leaders.  A ten month construction project ended up taking thirty months to complete, followed by legal battles that continued another five years costing Hillsdale hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Late July 2005, Hillsdale Baptist Church experienced the joy of holding our first services in our new home; a joy tempered by a sorrow for some who did not persevere with us to the dedication of our new home.  In the fall of 2010, the surety company and contractors were forced to settle with the church.

The toll on the church was great; however, those who persevered have been richly blessed and God glorified.  Being reminded God is Sovereign, Hillsdale’s adversaries paid a far greater price.  The contractor died in a tragic accident the very day the financial settlement for the church was under deliberation; the construction firm and the majority of subcontractors were either forced into bankruptcy or dissolved.

I close with a verse that carried me through much adversity.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [test or trials] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tested or tried] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [provide you the strength and means to pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 128-130

Today’s scripture reading consists of three brief songs of worship in the Book of Psalms, chapters 128, 129 and 130.  As noted in previous devotions, we are in the midst of a set of Psalms known as, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134) and believed to have been psalms pilgrims sang as they approached Jerusalem and the Temple for feasts days celebrated by the Hebrews.  My focus for today’s commentary is Psalm 128.

Psalm 128 is a song of rejoicing in the LORD for His many blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears and walks in the ways of the LORD (128:1).

What does it mean to fear the LORD?

The fear of the LORD is not a fear that, like Adam, flees or cowers in God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-9).  It is a reverential fear; a fear that moves a man to conduct himself in a manner that is upright, honest and just.  Such a man is “blessed” (i.e. happy; joyful; satisfied) because he “walketh in His ways” (the ways of the LORD’S commandments).

Drawing upon a picture that is rural and agricultural (128:2-3); the man who fears the LORD is promised he will enjoy success in his labor, be happy in his pursuits, and fare well in life (128:2).

Wow; what a picture of a rewarding, satisfying life!  However, it gets even better!  It is one thing to be well-off, have money in savings and enjoy material success; however, it is quite another to have family in whom you take pleasure.

The world might say such a man lives a “charmed life”; however, nothing could be further from the truth!  He is not lucky; he is blessed because he fears the LORD and walks in His ways!

Unlike the wicked whose lives are cursed with the ways of sin that never satisfy, the life of a man who fears the LORD and walks in His ways is not choked with the weeds of ungodliness.  God blesses his labor (128:2) and his household enjoys the fruit of God’s blessings upon his life (128:3).

His wife is “a fruitful vine” and finds her strength in him and his children are “like olive plants”, a source of joy to his soul.  Leaving us no doubt the way of the LORD is blessed, the psalmist repeats his assertion, the man be blessed that feareth the LORD (128:4).

The closing verses of Psalm 128 serve as a benediction for those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways (128:5-6).

Psalm 128:5-6 – “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6  Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

We have seen the family portraits of three generations in this psalmThe first is a portrait of a young man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), is like “a fruitful vine” …a source of joy and blessing to her household.

The second portrait is that of the man’s children who, sitting around his table, are trained and cultivated to grow up “like olive plants” and prosper (128:3).

The third portrait is one of contentment (128:5-6) and was taken in the latter years of the godly man’s life.  He is old, his back stooped in age; however, his heart aspires to see God bless his nation (128:5).  He rejoices in seeing his “children’s children”, and prays for peace (128:6).

Many reading this devotional aspire to the same.  We long for success and to be a blessing to our spouse and children.  We pray for God to pour out His blessings on our nation and, when we are old, to grant us the joy of seeing and loving our grandchildren.

My friend, those are admirable goals; however, they are the blessings of those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

You Need to Be Needed!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 3-4

Our reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues today with Ecclesiastes 3-4.   Rather than a book of happy reflections, Solomon bares his heart in Ecclesiastes and gives us an opportunity to ponder the empty soul of an elderly man whose lusts have taken him far from the LORD.  In a statement of the obvious, Solomon writes, To every thing there is a season [a time appointed], and a time to every purpose [matter; purpose; pleasure] under the heaven [sky] (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I did not appreciate the passing of time and the seasons when I was young; however, I sometimes catch myself reflecting on the past as I grow older.  Whether physically or in my thoughts, I go home and visit places that hold meaning from my youth.  Familiar places; unmarked landmarks hold precious, childhood memories.  When I visit cemeteries and see familiar names inscribed on tombstones, voices long silenced by death resonate in my thoughts…Ricky Flynn, Mazzie Plyler, Leola Sapp, Parnell Threatt, Roland and Sadie Whitley, Dena Plyler remind me… “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (3:2).

Consider with me some truths we can glean from Solomon’s ponderings.  The first, apart from God man’s life is aimless, purposeless.  Solomon asks, “What profit [gain; advantage] hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” (3:9).  In other words, what does a man have to show for his toil in this earthly life?

Another truth, God has placed in the heart of man the reality of eternity and a longing He alone can satisfy.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 3:11 – He hath made every thing beautiful in his time [season]: also he hath set [put] the world [lit. eternity] in their heart [mind; thoughts], so that no man can find out [suffice or satisfy] the work [deeds; activity] that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”

Men and women turn to drugs, alcohol and amusements attempting to fill the void in their souls only God can satisfy.  The successful, beautiful and powerful of the world learn too late that wealth, material possessions, fame and popularity are fleeting and temporal.

Eccles. 3:19-20 – “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

We can take many lessons from today’s scripture; however, I will focus on only one: You Need to Be Needed!  Consider three principles of truth from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

The first, working with others is satisfying and more rewarding than working alone (4:9-10). Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Like oxen who are stronger and more productive when they share the same yoke, people working together are more satisfied in their work (4:9).  Working together discourages selfishness and self-centeredness (4:10) and provides an opportunity of encouraging others.

A second truth concerning the Need to Be Needed is, working with others encourages perseverance and protects (4:11-12).

Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 – “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone12  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken”

Investing your life and time in others gives you the privilege and comfort of the “huddle” in hard times.  Like a husband and wife who find warmth together on a cold night, we encourage and are encouraged when we “huddle”… laughing together, crying together, working together makes us stronger!  When an enemy threatens and difficult times come, a sincere friend will do all they can to huddle with you and keep you from falling or failing (4:12).

A third truth, God made us individuals; however, He never meant for us to be alone.

 Everything God created in the beginning was perfect and good (Genesis 1-2).  However, after creating Adam, “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:19).

We are happiest when needed!  We are more effective in our work and less likely to give up when we work with others striving for the same goals.  Someone has said, A friend is someone who comes in when the rest of the world has walked out.”

While breaking baseball’s “color barrier,” Baseball legend and Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, faced jeering crowds in every stadium.  While playing in his home stadium in Brooklyn, Robinson committed an error and his own fans began to ridicule him.

Standing at second base, alone and humiliated, shortstop “Pee Wee” Reese came over and stood next to Robinson.   Putting his arm around Robinson, “Pee Wee” faced the crowd until the fans grew silent.  Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

Investing your time and life in loving and helping others can help you overcome bouts of loneliness, discouragement and depression!

Friend, you Need to be Needed!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An Answer to the Irrelevancy of the 21st Century Church

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 125-127

Psalms 125-127 continues a section of songs in the Book of Psalms known as “A Song of Degrees”.  As a reminder, though there is some debate regarding the word “degrees”, many suggest pilgrims sang this collection of psalms as they ascended to Jerusalem and the Temple for a feast day.  The mention of Mount Zion in Psalms 125 and 126 support that theory.

We live in a sin-cursed, fallen world where the wicked often seem advantaged in the course of our journey; however, Psalm 125 exhorts us to put our faith in the LORD for our life and fate is in His hands.  Unlike the challenges of this vacillating, ever-changing world, the saints who “trust in the LORD” are stable (125:1), not moved by fear or given to flight.

Built upon the mountains of Zion, Jerusalem provided the people of that city a natural, fortified protection from their enemies.  Sitting upon the mount, Jerusalem was an impressive site from a distance and the deep ravines that cut through the mount were formidable.  As the mountains of Zion provided safety and security to Jerusalem, the LORD provides the same to His people whose trust is in Him.

Psalm 126 records the joy of the Jews as they returned from Babylonian captivity to Mount Zion.  For the Jews, it was a long-awaited prophecy fulfilled, a dream come true for the nation (126:1).   The people returned with their mouths “filled with laughter” and their tongues “with singing” (126:2a).

The heathen of the land marveled that Israel, after nearly seventy years in exile, was returning to her land (126:2) and testified, “The LORD hath done great things for them” (126:2b).  The Jews echoed the same saying, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (126:3).

Returning to the land after captivity was fraught with challenges for the Jews.  Jerusalem was in ruins; heathen people took possession of their lands and houses in their absence and, after seven decades, thorns and thistles had reclaimed the land.  The people faced the challenge of rebuilding their cities and walls and the hardship of clearing the land; however, the law of nature promised, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (126:5).

Having the privilege of growing up on a small farm, I remember well clearing the land of rocks, pulling up briars and weeds, and breaking the ground in anticipation of planting seed.  As a child, I did not appreciate the labor and hardships necessary to plant seed; however, I enjoyed the fruit (i.e. vegetables) of my labor…sweet corn, green beans, yellow squash, juicy tomatoes, and cucumbers!

The principle for “sowing and reaping” is applicable to our spiritual lives (126:6). 

While the farmer’s plow clears the land of briars and thorns, the toil of reading, studying and meditating in God’s Word pulls up briars of worldliness and clears thistles of lusts from our hearts, preparing our souls for precious truths and sowing in our hearts principles that strengthen our character, shape our thoughts and mature us.

Psalm 126:5-6 gives us a principle that is applicable to sharing the Gospel and the work of the Great Commission.   We are promised, tears precede joy (126:5) and sowing “precious seed” promises a harvest of fruit (126:6).

Were there more tears and toil on our part in sharing the Gospel, would there not be more reason for rejoicing?  Were we to show more compassion for lost souls and hurting hearts, would we not have greater cause for joy?

I am afraid the majority of believers are cocooned in selfish pursuits and content to toil away their time, talents and life isolated from hurting hearts and lost souls.  No wonder the 21st century church finds itself irrelevant; we are entertaining the masses or huddled in our Bible studies, to the neglect of going forth weeping for lost souls and “bearing precious seed” (126:6)!

Galatians 6:7-9 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Preachers who lack the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment will lead their ministries to ruin.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 29-32

Our study of the histories of Israel and Judah continues with 2 Chronicles 29.  As a reminder, Israel is a divided kingdom.  Following the reign of Solomon, the ten tribes in the north rebelled and became known as Israel or Ephraim; the two remaining tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, united as one kingdom, became known as Judah with Jerusalem serving as the capital city.

It is Judah, during the reign of Hezekiah, that is the subject of 2 Chronicles 29-32.  Permit me to set the stage for the spiritual revival that takes place in today’s devotional. 

The reign of Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, had been a curse to Judah for “he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father” (2 Chronicles 28:1).  That a man born of David’s lineage could commit such wickedness is a testimony to the tragic nature of sin that indwells the heart of man apart from God.   Ahaz not only turned from the LORD, but also “burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen” (28:3).

We read, “For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD” (28:19).  Rather than repent, Ahaz did all he could to destroy the LORD’s Temple, cutting in pieces vessels used in the Temple and shutting up the doors (28:24).

When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah began to reign and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (29:2).  Rather than follow in his father’s sins, Hezekiah turned to the LORD and began repairing the Temple (29:3) and set his heart to “make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel” (29:10).

Hezekiah’s first command was to summon the Levites and direct them to cleanse the Temple (29:4-11).  Having cleansed the Temple (29:12-17), the priests reported to Hezekiah who “went up to the house of the LORD”, offered sacrifices (29:18-25) and commanded the Levites to lead the congregation in worship with musical instruments and song (29:26-30).

Restoring the observance of the Passover, Hezekiah invited all Israel and Judah to turn to the LORD and come to Jerusalem and worship (30:1-9).  While some in Israel heeded the king’s call to humble themselves and worship the LORD, there were many who “laughed them to scorn, and mocked them” (30:10-11).

Notice revival in Judah began with the king and the nation’s spiritual leadership.  Heeding the king’s invitation to return to the LORD, the people assembled in Jerusalem to observe the Passover and tore down altars of idolatry in the land.   When the Passover lamb was killed, those who ministered the Passover were pricked in their hearts and “were ashamed, and sanctified themselves” (30:15) because they “had not cleansed themselves” (30:17-18).

On a personal note, rather than bemoaning the backslidden state of our churches and schools, might it not be the crux of the problem, the reason our churches are spiritually dead and our schools, colleges and seminaries are carnal is best addressed to those who stand in the pulpits? 

In the manner of a pastor calling sinning saints to come home to the LORD, “Hezekiah prayed for them [the Levites], saying, The good LORD pardon every one” and “spake comfortably unto all the Levites” (30:18, 22).  The phrase, “spake comfortably”, might mislead some to think the king made the Levites comfortable; however, the word translated “comfortably” is the Hebrew word for the heart or mind.  In other words, the king did not appeal to their emotions, but to their hearts.

Judah’s revival continues in 2 Chronicles 31 as the places of idol worship are destroyed (31:1) and the sacrificial offerings brought by the people was so great there was a problem in how to dispose of the tithes and offerings (31:2-10).

An enemy of Judah, “Sennacherib king of Assyria” (32:1), invades Judah in chapter 32 and began to undermine the nation’s confidence in the king and the LORD (32:2-19).   Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory He alone was due (32:25) for Judah’s victory over Assyria.  The king’s illness was terminal, “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26) God restored his health.

Permit me to close with a personal observation.  King Solomon taught his son who would be king, When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime.   In contradiction to the assertion of some that a leader’s character doesn’t matter; I suggest the evidence is overwhelming… A leader’s character does matter!   Whether the leader of a nation, state, city, church or school…a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on a people.  Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin.

Don’t take my word.  Examine the devastating influence of past presidents or the destructive influence of pastors or administrators who, lacking the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment, lead their ministries to ruin.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Living a Purposeful Life

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 1-2

Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes might raise in some a spirit of hopelessness; however, such should not be the case for children of faith whose focus and trust is in the LORD.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the pondering of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (the one exception is Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God).  The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life and, apart from the LORD, its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Penned in the latter years of his life, his youth far spent and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, Solomon’s outlook was hardly an attitude of rejoicing.  Solomon wondered, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?  One generation dies and another takes its place (Eccl. 1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (Eccl. 1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (Eccl. 1:6-7) and, in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Eccles. 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give wealth unimaginable and wisdom incomprehensible (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  He gave his heart searching for purpose apart from God and, near the end of life summed up his search saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life was empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

His soul spiritually cold, his life viewed from a horizontal, human perspective, his heart turned from God; no wonder Solomon writes thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, all is vanity!”

What a tragic end for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!  When he was young, he loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God honored his request, imparting to him not only wisdom, but also riches and power.  Tragically, in his old age, Solomon turned from the LORD and His Word.  Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God.

Eccles. 2:11 – “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed, troubled individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.   Every morning the man awoke melancholy and in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist listened to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties and finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith