I have to admit that I am not quite prepared for this sermon. It’s not my fault though you see. I had great difficulty starting this sermon. There were so many other things to do. So many other more urgent things to do. So I put it off later and later until I guess I just started to run out of time.
You see it wasn’t really my fault at all, after all when I was very young I had a very bad experience with giving talks and standing up in front of people.
I remember also that when my mom was pregnant with me she once had a dream of wild horses speaking in front of a group of people, and didn’t Sigmund Freud point out that the dreams your mom has before you are born can create in you a sort of phobia which leaves you helpless to change it. I was born that way. It’s just what I am.
Besides, what if I’d done a really bad job and you all laughed at me or said that I was the worst speaker you’d ever heard. I couldn’t live with that. I’d just hate that. I didn’t want to be a loser. I’m afraid of losing. I never want to lose.
Now it’s true that Dave tried to help me get ready for this talk, but Dave doesn’t understand what it takes for me to write a sermon. After all I know what I need best, not Dave. Right?
This all just frustrates me. I’m not ready and you know it’s just not fair. It’s just not fair. Life is unfair. Everything is against me. Everybody else gets all these talents and stuff and I don’t get nothing. Life is unfair.
Oh, I guess I should tell you that today’s topic is from the book of Proverbs and is called The Sluggard.
Now the Bible tells us that there are 7 things that typify a sluggard.
1. He will not begin things and his opportunity slips away.
2. He will not finish things.
3. He will not face things. He comes to believe his own excuses, and to rationalize his laziness.
4. He is fearful of failure.
5. He thinks he’s wiser than all the wise men and ignores their advice.
6. His life is made tougher because of his actions
7. As a result of his habits, he is restless, frustrated and feels the world is against him.
The last few weeks we have been going through the book of Proverbs. Peter and Dave have already dealt with various topics in Proverbs. And today as we continue in the book of Proverbs, we are going to talk about how Solomon the wisest and richest King of Israel tells us about what a sluggard is.
Having said all that, I’d like to say ahead of time that I have no intention to call anyone a sluggard today. However, if I could ask you to consider today to evaluate your life and your goals as I have and as I continually need to do, and see if perhaps there are parts of your life that you have allowed to sink into what the Bible terms sluggardishness (if that is even a word). I pray that God would use this time to lift us up out of that, so that we may be an effective soldiers in his kingdom. For His glory, for His work, for our joy.
As we begin, let me first ask you:
Are you frustrated?
Do you feel your life is passing you by?
Do you feel that life is unfair?
Do you feel that others are luckier, luckier to be born with more talents, more opportunities, more blessings?
It could be that what has happened to you is that you have started sinking every so slowly into the mire and maze of habits that make up a Sluggard. The word translated “sluggard” means slothful, lazy. But there is a lot more to it than just that as the Bible shows us.
As I mentioned earlier there are 7 traits that we can identify in a sluggard.
How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?
A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.
The first trait of the sluggard is that he will not begin things. He does not commit himself, He is a procrastinator. and deceives himself by saying “later.” So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.
So we must ask ourselves: Am I the kind of person who doesn’t do the things that need to be done. Or: do I have good and necessary ideas, but I never start them. For instance, have you ever noticed in yourself that you really ought to get involved in ministry? But you never have, you keep coming up with excuses to avoid it. You keep putting it off?
Have you ever been in this position? I have.
Do you constantly complain that you hate your job, but never do anything about it? How about that class that you should take or degree you should get that would allow you to change jobs? How about that entire career change that perhaps would allow you to actually work at something you really enjoy.
What is it in your life that you should plan today rather than put off? What is that heart’s desire that you CAN start planning and working towards?
Is that you? Are you there? What’s that thing in your life today?
You know what one of your greatest fears should be? One of your greatest fears should be that one day you will wake up and YOUR ENTIRE LIFE has passed you by, wasted. I live in that fear. I want to make sure that every second of every day I am using my time to the best of my efforts for what? For something worthwhile. So that when I turn 40 or 50 or 60 I can look back at all my days and say. I tried. I may not have been successful, but I tried. Knowing what I knew at the time I did the best I could. I have no regrets. No regrets. I didn’t waste my time, I didn’t come up with excuses, I didn’t delay. That’s what I want my life to be, that’s what I want to be able to say. Is that what you want your life to be?
If that is so, then what are you doing about it? Will you think about making that change today? Will you consider making those plans today? Will you consider executing those plans this week, this month, this day.
Another aspect of this is people who never lay the ground work for the things they really need. Are you looking to make friends in this group, to make this your family. Have you laid the ground work for it? The retreat is one way. Nothing in life comes for free? Have you gotten involved where you need to be? Are you cultivating compassion and outreach to others around you? Just like a farmer, there are no instant results.
Are you looking for a husband or a wife? Perhaps you need to work on becoming the right person rather than finding the right person. Are you laying the ground work for that? Are you cultivating and planning your future in the right places or are you just bumbling through life blinding expecting things to work for you?
Or you could be cultivating in the wrong place and expecting in the wrong place? For instance if you are putting in 80 hours a week at work but none in your spiritual or family life, you may get rewards in your career, but none in this family around you.
Remember you could be a workaholic in one area of your life but a sluggard in another.
Is this you? Could you look at your life and say “Yes, I have been putting off that which is important, avoiding it, not laying the groundwork, not planning, not doing.” Is that you?
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.
The second trait of a sluggard is that He will not finish things. The rare effort of beginning has been too much; the impulse dies.
This is a very tragic occurrence. How many of us have started great efforts and then stopped? What things have you started and never finished? Did you ever start reading the Bible from cover to cover and then not finish it? Did you then excuse it as unimportant or did you come up with other excuses, like you didn’t have time? Or did you just say “It was too confusing.”
Was it that Bible study that you said you’d go to and then just decided to flake on? Was it that friend you said you’d meet with regularly that you just started putting off?
We all have these things in our lives, don’t we? I know I do. Now I’m not saying this to imply that all these things that you start are important. Sometimes you want to stop doing something that you’ve been doing because it has no real long term value to you or anyone else. But you should sit down and evaluate what it is that you are doing and what it is that you should be doing? Do you have your priorities straight? Do you have only 3 credits left to finish that degree? Have you flaked on your ministry commitments? Are you putting that relationship last and putting your physical desires first?
Is this you? Is there something in your life that needs to be finished but you just never get around to it? Is this you today?
3. The 3rd Characteristic of a sluggard is that he will not face things. He comes to believe his own excuses, and to rationalize his laziness.
Proverbs 22:13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!”
The sluggard is afraid that he will look foolish in front of people, he’s afraid that he’ll try and try and try and then fail. He comes up with excuses that sound good to him but really are empty. In reality he’s afraid. He’s given up.
You know it’s sad when a person makes up excuses to convince someone else. But it is tragic when that person starts to believe his own excuses, isn’t it? Let me ask you today: Are there any excuses that you made up to protect yourself from something and you’ve now started believing it yourself? We all do have them, don’t we? I know I have them. Ask yourself now: What excuse have you created to justify your not striving greatly for something? It could be anything. It could be that new job, that new career, it could be that boldness to get involved in a ministry, it could be that person you know you should be witnessing to, it could be that sin in your life that you are avoiding dealing with? And you’ve come up with a great excuse. What is it? But you know, you aren’t fooling anybody but yourself. Because that excuse will bind you and hold you down and in the end you will reap it’s terrible rewards.
Using Proverbs 22:13 we also come up with point 4. The Sluggard is fearful of failure. The fear of failure is probably in my estimation one of the biggest problems with people today, who are not satisfied with where they are in life, but they don’t do anything about it. They are afraid to try, afraid to fail. Afraid to change. They prefer the status quo. They prefer the misery they live in now, to the unknown out there. Remember too, the fear of failure is often tied to the absence of planning.
Are you afraid of failure? Is that you? What have you not done, because you were afraid of failing at it?
The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.
The fifth characteristic of a sluggard is that he thinks he’s wiser than all the wise men and ignores their advice.
This is sad, because far too many times we are in a rut and we haven’t been able to get out ourselves. We’ve been trying for the last 5 or 10 or 20 years and we haven’t moved far from our original position and yet we insist that we can get ourselves out of the rut. Solomon in Proverbs is saying: Take advice from your elders, take advice from successful people. Remember one of the characteristics of a madman is that he tries the same thing over and over again and thinking that he’ll get a different result, despite the fact that he never does.
Is this you? Do you honestly think you can solve that one problem on your own, that you haven’t been able to overcome so far? Are you stuck in that rut? Is this you?
The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.
As a result of all this the sluggard’s life is made even more difficult. You see where are the thorns from? They are from full grown weeds. Weeds grow because we let them grow, because we don’t have the discipline to weed and clean the area. So the weeds grow and steal energy from everything else and block our way. Are there weeds in your life that are eating away at your energy, blocking your way whenever you want to turn over a new leaf & start anew. Blocking your way whenever you want to do something worthwhile, whenever you want to break from your chains of the past? Perhaps you need to start thinking about cleaning up the weeds and developing some discipline in your life in areas where you’ve never done so.
The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
As a result of all the things we’ve talked about the Sluggard is restless. He is full of unsatisfied desire, frustrated; he feels helpless. He feels the world is against him. He watches other people being successful, finding fulfillment and it frustrates him that he does not have that. You see all the previous points add up to give you this effect.
Galatians 6:7 says Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.
You will harvest what you have planted, whether it be blessings or pain.
Is this you? Are you frustrated? Feel that life is unfair? Are you at this point? Because it may be that you’ve been stuck in the habits and attitudes of a sluggard but never known it.
The Bible’s Answer
Now I’ve spent a while telling you what the problem is. I want to now turn to the Bible’s response to these issues. The Bible is quite clear as we’ve learned in the last few weeks, that solution to these problems is Wisdom. But how do we get wisdom? The Bible tells us that the fear and respect of God is the beginning of wisdom. Are we willing to consider God’s take on doing life? Or do we feel that we have the answers?
1. Do what we were designed for.
We need to realize that God made us for one primary purpose:
Is 43:6 I will say to the north, “Give them up!” and to the south, “Do not hold them back.” Bring my sons from afar and my daughter from the ends of the earth-everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for who? MY what? glory, MY GLORY whom I formed and made.
As the Westminster Confessional so aptly puts it: Man’s chief purpose for existence is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So first, if we are living for any other purpose than the glorification of God we will never feel fulfilled and we will never enjoy Him. We can try all you want, we can be successful all we want, but we will never feel true joy. We will always be searching for something that will always be just out of our reach. And like the great tragic heroes of the years gone by, like Elvis who could have had anything he ever wanted, we will live and die, unfulfilled, unsatisfied and maybe even unloved.
But once we have that straight, once we determine that we WILL live for the pleasure of the Almighty God, once we decide that we want our life to glorify Him. Then we can begin to approach further how to solve these problems.
Col 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
So item 1 is: Do everything for God.
2. Plan carefully
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
Last week Dave taught us that a fool has no plans or purpose. Remember the Bastille day example.
So plan carefully. Keep evaluating your plan to make sure you are doing it the right way. Stick to your plan, don’t get sidetracked.
Do you have goals? Make them if you don’t. Otherwise you will bumble through a life long Bastille day.
Now, having said all that, remember, God is Sovereign. And he rewards the diligent who work for His Glory. Remember the last point. Everything exists for the glory of God. So you really want God on your side. So in my personal life I decided that whatever I did or planned, it had better fit in with the glorification of God. And I pray for his guidance.
Secondly, one of my favorite sayings is: Never Sacrifice the Important on the Altar of the Urgent. Let me say that again: Never Sacrifice the Important on the Altar of the Urgent. Don’t get distracted by Urgent things that really aren’t important. I’ll leave you to ponder on that one, come talk to me later if it’s not clear.
3. Be diligent with your time and your money.
Read Eph 5. It talks about making the most of your time.
Never say: I don’t have enough time unless the rest of your time is really used up doing valuable things.
You know one of the saddest things in your life as I said before would be if one day you wake up and wonder where all your life has gone. Wasted without purpose, wasted without any legacy wasted without any value. You know one of the greatest wasters of that time is don’t you? Of course you do: It’s TV. I’d like you to do a quick little exercise here today. Can you remember how many hours of TV you watched this week? Was it about 10 or 15 hours?
Did you know that after you subtract work hours, commute hours and sleep hours from the total hours in a week that leaves you with about 67 hours. That’s the time you have available to you to “live” your own life. Divide the hours you watch TV a week by that. And that’s the percentage of your life that you are spending. If you watched 15 hours of TV last week that’s a quarter of your life spent on TV. Do you think you could use that time more wisely? Taking classes? Spending time with a High School student? Being discipled? Doing something for other people? Something that will last far longer than you do? Something that is greater than you?
4. Be Diligent and Persevere. After you decided to do something, stick at it for at least 3 weeks. Don’t give up.
The Bible says of the diligent man:
Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slavery.
Meaning that you need to be diligent to be successful in any endeavor. To be diligent means you have to stick at it. But at first you won’t want to stick at it. But if you realize that it takes just 3 weeks to make a habit, you can change your life. Let me say that again. It takes 3 weeks to make something a habit. You see if you stick at it for 3 weeks it starts to become ingrained in your daily pattern of living. It becomes a habit. And once it is a habit then you’ll enjoy doing it. Once you enjoy doing it, you’ll hate to give it up.
Secondly realize that you really do enjoy discipline.
Vince Lombardi, Coach of the Packers said “I’ve never known a man worth his salt, who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something good in men that really yearns for discipline.”
5. Learn to fail, learn from your failures, learn from other people’s failures, but don’t learn to give up.
1 Cor 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Your labor is not in vain. If you are working for the Lord’s glory, even a failure for you can bring Glory to God. Learn to embrace your failures as friends, things you learn from. Learn from them grow from them. One thing I learned early in life, is that Winners lose more than losers. Let me say that again a winner will lose more times than a loser. For when a winner loses, he learns from it, tries again and he loses again, then he learns from that, tries again and he loses again. Then he learns from that tries again and he loses again… until finally he wins. But a loser…a loser loses only once, then he gives up. Don’t be a loser. Let losing be your teacher and not your tormentor.
6. Learn from successful people, fill your mind with the successes and the good and the powerful and the Word of God. Remember Proverbs 26:16 says
The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.
Ae you vainly trying to solve your own problems, when you’ve been unsuccessful so far?
If you want to be successful in whatever it is, watch a successful person and learn from them. Read Biographies and autobiographies. Learn from the great men and woman of the faith. Read about Jim Elliot, David Livingston, Helen Keller, William Wilberforce.
Ask to be discipled by a mentor, draw around you people who know how life works.
7. Point 7 is: Watch what you feed your mind.
Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Are we feeding our minds with the Word of God? Are we feeding our mind with useful intelligent knowledge and information? Are you growing in the career that you enjoy? Or do we feed our minds with sitcoms and movies? Do we feed our minds with stuff that is not edifying. Now I’m not talking about that occasional movie, I’m talking about a daily barrage of negative, unedifying stuff. We don’t need that to survive, in fact it will cause us to slip deeper and deeper into a slump. Let me ask you to change what you put into your mind for 3 weeks and see if there is a difference.
Finally as the band comes back up, the last point to allow us to get out of the rut of the Sluggard is to 8. Remember God is in Control.
This is the most critical issue. Most people are afraid of failing. Or they are afraid that they just can’t make a difference in the world. But they are forgetting. If God is sovereign and they are living their lives for him. Then His Will will come to pass. For the Bible says in Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
What does that mean: It means that if you are called to his purpose, that is if you are living and working for Him, well then God will work for your good. That is the good that you do for Him.
So whatever you try: Remember if you are doing it for the Lord, if it is His will He will bless you. Perhaps that’s why you have failed in the past. Perhaps what you have been working on was not for His Glory, nor for His will.
Today, will you commit your goals to paper. Where do you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, Financially? Spiritually? In Ministry? What will it take to achieve that? What do you have to do? Then do it.
Review your Goals every year. They should change and grow each year.You are not alone. God is in control. You be diligent. He will do the rest. It is all in his hands, but remember he will hold you responsible for what you don’t do.
Let me leave you now with my favorite quote.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by blood sweat and dust, … who knows the great enthusiasms – the great devotions, and who; if he wins, knows the triumphs of high achievement and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Teddy Roosevelt.
Go now live with passion, die with passion. Live for God.
San Jose 1999