Has it ever seemed to you that you are being punished for doing the right thing? Perhaps you tried to help someone only to have them question your motives. Perhaps you told the truth only to be rebuked for it. Perhaps your honesty resulted in monetary loss. Perhaps people laugh at you because you won’t take a bribe. Perhaps people cheat you and take advantage of your integrity and righteousness.
Many religions teach that it is a good thing to fast. In fact, some religions require it. They set aside certain days or certain months when people are supposed to not eat as they normally would. Many people think that abstaining from food for a long period of time is an act of merit which will make them more pleasing to God. In exchange for not eating, they receive righteousness. But how does God view fasting? What kind of fast is truly pleasing to Him?
Many people have the idea that advancement in life is like a child’s see-saw – if the person on one side of the see-saw goes up the person on the other end inevitably goes down. According to this way of thinking, a person can only get ahead at the expense of someone else. This is why people undermine their fellow workers and try to make them look bad – “If he stumbles, it will make me look better”. They think that their success depends on other people failing.
Whether it is in our homes, our place of business, our religious institutions, or our government, we expect those who are in authority over us to do what is best for us. We expect them to have the wisdom and understanding to lead us in such a way that our lives will become better than they were before. Whenever a leader puts his own agenda and his own self-interest ahead of the welfare of those in his care, those under him are sure to suffer. Even worse than a leader who allows his own selfish desires to interfere with his responsibility to lead, nurture and protect those under him is the leader who deliberately deceives, manipulates and misleads. It would be better for the people to have no leader at all than one who abuses, oppresses and takes advantage of them.
We like to think of Jesus as the ultimate model of perfection – even though He shared in our humanity and we humans are weak and imperfect. And Jesus truly is perfect! The Bible makes it clear that He never sinned – not even once! The Scriptures also say that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:2-3). In light of this, would it surprise you that at one point Jesus was not perfect? That there was something He had to learn?
All of us would like others to think well of us. All of us wish to be accepted. Unfortunately, we do not always understand what it is that wins the respect and acceptance of others. Some think that they can buy their way into popularity or acceptance. They set out to accumulate things, thinking that their possessions will give them an entrance to the society they desire. Possessions, money or wealth may generate envy in others, but they will not win you respect.
We like to think that we are in the right. Even when we think thoughts or entertain positions which are questionable we, more often than not, are able to convince ourselves that the position we take or the things we say really are true. When we take up a cause, we do so because we are convinced that it is the right thing to do. Since we are right it follows that other people should agree with us, they should share the same opinions and endorse the same things we do. If someone does not agree with us it means that he is wrong, is misinformed or, perhaps, is even our enemy.
There are a great many different kinds of terrain and landscapes in this earth in which we live. In one place are rolling grasslands. In another there are snow-capped mountains. Still other places boast forests or broad rivers. Lakes capture the deep blue of the sky. Still waters mirror the sunlight, moonlight and starlight. At times the skies are crystal-clear; at others they are filled with swirling clouds. Seashore or desert, hill or valley, there is something which all places on earth have in common. Each place, has a beauty all its own. Each type of terrain or sky is magnificent in its own way.
When God created the universe, He looked at all He had made and proclaimed that it was very good (Genesis 1:31). God’s pronouncement included mankind. Man lived in perfect harmony with nature. It was no struggle to raise food to eat. The earth produced bountifully without great effort. Man also had nothing to fear from the wild animals. There was no competition between them. They shared their environment in perfect harmony.
Have you ever been in a room that was totally dark? Perhaps you woke in the night when the electricity was off. No stars or moonlight showed through the window. Even though it was your own room and you were perfectly familiar with the arrangement of the furniture, you still were afraid to move about lest you trip and fall over something you could not see.
As frightening as it may be to not be able to see anything within your own home, at least you know where you are. You are in a familiar room. Your house has not moved. But suppose you were in a ship on a dark night. You do not know where you are except that you are close to the coast. You can only see a few feet and the howling wind is driving you along. For all you know, you may be moments from being dashed against a rock you cannot see.