Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
Lk. 14:17-9 (ESV): “And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses. . . .  And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.”
1 Cor. 7:29-30, 35 (NIV): “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on . . .  those who mourn, [live] as if they did not; . . . those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. . . .  I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
When we have a lot on our mind, it’s difficult to think about serving God, much less pray or read the Bible. Thus, the Bible exhorts us to avoid circumstances that sap the desire to grow in our spiritual life. Peter says that husbands should treat their wives with respect (thereby avoiding marital conflicts) “so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Pet. 3:7). On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter, John and James failed to stay up to pray along with Jesus because they were “exhausted from sorrow” (Lk. 22:45).
In addition, Paul declared, “Do not be anxious about anything” so as to “present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Adding to the list of things that produce anxiety, it is buying things and then using them. Once, I counseled a newly-wed couple who, despite making over $100,000 a year (in the 1990s), still racked up a debt of $40,000. In contrast, I was making one-third of that amount, with two kids, but without any debt. The source of their problem? They were part of the average American who spend 110% of their income each year, thanks to credit cards and easy loans.
While the person in the parable may have used cash to purchase the oxen, he shares one thing in common with today’s consumers: making impulsive purchases. He bought the animals, ostensibly to till the land, without first examining them (ESV). That’s like buying a used car without test-driving it, which is very impulsive. The problem with modern consumers is buying things with money they don’t have, not thinking about how the ever-increasing debt will make their lives more anxious—that’s very impulsive. Of course, once you buy new toys, gadgets and places, you need to devote time and effort to enjoy them. A typical outcome of this lifestyle is less time spent getting to know and serving God.
If apostle Paul were alive today, besides saying, “Don’t get too attached to the things you buy” (the nutshell of 1 Cor. 7:30), the Holy Spirit would lead him to say: “Don’t buy things you cannot afford; buy things you need instead of trying to impress people”; and avoid debt anxiety so you can pray.”
Father, I acknowledge that You are the sovereign King who has lordship over my life. As your vassal, I ought to be totally devoted to You in every aspect. Lord, give me wisdom so that I won’t let my buying habits get in the way of getting to know and serve You. May the Spirit fill me continuously. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 24
Lunch Break Study
Jn. 14:1 (ESV): “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
Matt. 26:38, 39 (NIV): “[Jesus] began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. . . . Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”
Phil. 4:19, 6-7 (ESV): “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”. . . .  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Question to Consider
- Some preachers equate worries and anxiety as not having faith. How would you respond to that?
- How can we better manage our worries and anxieties? What do these verses suggest?
- What worries or anxieties are you experiencing right now? How should you manage them?
- It depends on what is behind our worries. The admission by Jesus, fully human and divine, before facing the cross indicates distress and anxiety; what human wouldn’t be? How to pay for children’s college or being able to make the car payment (bought at a reasonable price to meet a need) can be stressful, but it doesn’t mean we do not have faith. But there are types of worries that show lack of faith: it is when, despite God’s assuring words about our secure position in Christ, we constantly worry about what people think about us to the point of always exaggerating, making purchases to impress, etc.
- I use the word “manage” here. It is not like worries and anxieties are going to leave us for good. They are going to be around and unless we don’t manage them well, they will stick to us like glue. Through our daily time with God, we need to be reminded that we can trust Jesus, his promise to meet all our needs, and to ultimately say to God, “Not my wishes or will but your will be done in my life.” That’s how we can decrease the size of anxiety that aims to bring us down.
- Right now, what causes me distress is where my last child (senior) will go to college, and whether we can pay for it. This is ironic because God has already shown us through our first two children that He is ready, able, and willing to help us: I need to be reminded of that daily.
Things (more bad than good, it seems) happen every day, right? So what happened today that increased your anxiety level? How did you manage it? Go to God now; let go of your anxiety through Christ.