The principle of selective neglect

alarm-161067_640Nehemiah 10:39: For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”

We need to practice the principle of selective neglect; neglecting things that don’t add to us, neglecting associations that don’t add to us, but constitute a drain on us.

Paul said that we should be children in malice while in understanding we should be men (matured) (1Corinthians 14:20). That is the principle of selective neglect in operation. Paul was saying we should focus on gaining the right understanding, so that we are strong in it, but when it comes to malice, we should weak, not having the stomach for it, not being able to hold on to it; you must deliberately neglect being malicious while vigorously pursuing understanding.

The principle of selective neglect is about PRIORITY and the effective expenditure of ENERGY and commitment of TIME. It is not everything you should have time for, not every event you should attend, not every company you should keep, but the man or woman focused on human opinion is tied up in all manner of commitments, profitable or unprofitable, dissipating energy without result.

Priority

You define your priority by the result you want to see. You cannot do every course in the university nor know everything there is to know (on this side of eternity). You have to zero in on a few things and follow them to the logical conclusion (preferably one thing).

You need to have expertise in at least one thing, by choosing a path earlier in life and sticking to it. You don’t want to grow up and be an aimless old man. Make up your mind on time. Stick to something. By deciding what your priority is, you have chosen to selectively neglect other things.

You cannot be everywhere; you should listen to the Holy Spirit for what your priority should be. Paul told Timothy to first let intercession be made for all men (1Timothy 2:1-4). In another lace the apostles said they’ll selectively neglect the matter concerning serving table but they will give attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-4).

When you cannot define your priority, then you will not amount to much and you give room for all manner of people to define priority for you, you will not be your own man.  Paul said that his priority was to preach the gospel in places where the name of Jesus has not been heard so that he would not be building on another man’s foundation (Romans 15:19-23). He believes his calling is more expressed in such contexts and in that way he better fulfils the will of God, and derives a higher sense of satisfaction.

He wrote to Timothy to make full proof of his ministry (2Timothy 4:5) and sent a message to Archippus: make sure you fulfil the assignment that God gave you (Colossians 4:17).

Energy

You do not have unlimited energy and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin that you could not achieve much. You don’t want to waste your energy doing the wrong things and at the end of it, there is no desired return on investment. Joab had two people running for an errand, expending energy but the final point only one was effective in his assignment, the one who was sent not the one who sent himself (2Samuel 18:14-33).

If you do what God ask you to do then you will be expending your energy effective, for the highest possible result. Energy used in the pursuit of God is used rightly. Money is also a reflection of energy; you need to be circumspect in how you deplore it, with all sense of responsibility.

Time

You have a limited time for a day: 24 hours, and the least you can do is to be selective in what you allow to occupy your time. There are both temporary and eternal aims for which we can use our time.

Time used in God’s service is like seed sown; time used in prioritising the things of God and working for the benefit of others in the context of the kingdom of God is good. Jesus used his time to reach others for the course of God. Peter said that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power and went about doing good and healing those who are oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). If your time is not being used for the right things then it will be used to do the wrong things. There can be no neutrality about it. When David did not occupy his time with fighting against the enemy of Israel on the battlefield, he became occupied with sinful practices of adultery and murder (2Samuel 11).

When God put man in the Garden of Eden he did not give them 24hours a day of idleness. Jesus even said: as my father is at work even till now so I also work (John 5:17). So God made the Garden of Eden not just that man should enjoy his life but also have things to do. He had an assignment from God, which should occupy his time with that, while neglecting other things, though legitimate. Paul said that it is not everything that is permissible that is profitable (1Corinthians 6:12, 10:23).

 

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were supposed to have commitment to the word of God. Adam was supposed to be committed to Eve because the word of God said that Eve was the help meet for him, that he can fellowship with on equal footing and not be alone (Genesis 2:15-25). You should be thereby be committed (pay attention) to your spouse and neglect others. Man was meant to be committed to the tending of the Garden of Eden because God said so. Their use of time was based on what God said.

Therefore, the word of God should define for us what our commitment should be. None of us should live for ourselves, we have been bought with a price (the blood of Jesus) and we should live unto God (1Corinthians 6:20, 7:23, Acts 20:28). We are meant to be messengers of God sent to this earth to perform his counsel. You don’t have to join all groups, go everywhere, and get to know everybody. Our first commitment is to know God.

Paul outlined his commitment saying this one thing I do, forgetting the past and laying hold of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:). This was a man empowered to change the world and he was committed to it, though the apostleship gift that he has (Roman 1:5).

God wants us to be commitment to using our gift. Our gift is descriptive of our uniqueness. Peter said those who speak should speak as the oracle of God, while those who serve with the energy God gives (1Peter 4:10-11). There is grace when we work in the area of the gift that we have from God (Romans 12:5-8). Paul said that he gives more commitment to the work of God than other apostles because of the operation of the grace of God in his life, which was not in vain (1Corinthians 15:9-11).

There are always opportunities to be distracted from the great possibilities that we have in the service of God to lesser pursuits; as far as Paul was concerned, Demas chose a lesser commitment when he decided to separate himself from the work of ministry as part of the ministry team of Paul (2Timothy 4:10). He had a change of commitment from God to the world and missed out on the higher calling in Christ Jesus. He chose temporary reward over eternal, natural gain over spiritual gain, earthly relevance over heavenly.

 

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Don’t waste time

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2Samuel 18:14: Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak.

Time is a perishable good. Moses prayed a prayer that all of us should pray: teach us to number our days that we may apply our time to wisdom (Psalm 90). Paul wrote that we should make use of every opportunity, in that way we would be walking as wise and not as fools (Ephesians 5:15-17).

In the focus verse, Joab would not want to have his time wasted. As a soldier, he knows that timeous action, especially the one that strikes at the heart of the force of the enemy at a crucial time in a battle. For a soldier it’s all about taking strategic action that will assure victory on time, taking the advantage from the enemy.

Jesus did not waste time. He had an unshakable sense of mission, saying: I must do the work of him who sent me while it is day, and the night comes when no man can work (John 9:4).

He went about doing “good” and healing those who are oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38), covering as many towns and villages as he can within his three and half years of ministry. He was like a typhoon. He positively ravaged Israel with healing power in such a short time. He brought about such radical change in such a short time that he rocked the very foundation of that place. We have the same mission to bring change to our world, but we have only a lifetime and every second counts.

That should not translate into being under so much pressure that we lose our peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), we need to realise that our first call is to fellowship with God, not to work for him (Mark 3:14). We are first his children before we are his servants.

We should however not remain as children but we should be son-servants. You cannot trust a child with responsibility that concerns the family estate a child needs to be taken care of, but a son is different, he can be trusted to take care of things. Whatever a son will do, it is in the context of the relationship he had developed over time with the father, the development he had been put through.

Paul was proud to announce that he is a bond servant of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1). Like Jesus, he also did not waste time.

He said he did what he did because of the grace of God. He however declared that he did not allow that grace to go to waste but he was a hard-worker (1Corinthians 15:9-10). He did not waste grace because he did not waste time. After Jesus gave him his life’s assignment, he said: I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). He took off like a rocket, as an unstoppable force for God, and his name is written in gold in the annals of the servants of God. As the grace worked him, he worked the grace, and soon it was recorded that he had turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Philip did not waste time when he got to Samaria (Acts 8). He turned the town to Christ. And in cooperation with the Holy Spirit after his spiritual escapades there, we went after a traveller and ministered Christ to him. Following the leading of the Holy Spirit, Philip was right on time, when he ministered to the Ethiopian Enoch   as he departing from Jerusalem and his soul was saved.

When Philip met with the Ethiopian eunuch, he was reading the book of Isaiah from which the Philip preached Christ to him. So it is not just about hard work, it is about smart work in cooperating with the Holy Spirit, to have the best result possible in a situation in a quickest time possible; the supernatural workings of the Holy serves to “compress” time by accelerating results.

The bible says that time and chance happen to all men, and the race is not to the swift not promotion to the wise (Ecclesiastes 9:11), but God is the judge, who lifted one and put down the other. So it is not about the ability to pursue a plan or even make one, to make the best use of the time, even though that is important, but there is a God-factor we cannot ignore. The bible says that people may make plans in their minds but only the Lord can make them come to pass (Proverbs 16:1).

Paul once wrote that he had the plan to go and minister to a church but the devil hindered him (1Thessalonians 2:18). That was an unseen opposition to whatever Paul thought was the best way to occupy his time in furtherance of the work of the gospel. So it is not about making a plan but we need to deal with the opposition that may arise against it in prayer.

Just as there is opposition, we also have a grace of God that makes things work out beyond what we can plan for, so that all glory goes to God. James warned that we should not say something like this: by next year, I would do this and that, as if we are God and cannot be hindered. Rather we should say: if God permits, we would do this and that (James 4:13-17). We are to make plans but we should understand that the counsel of the Lord is what will come to pass (Proverbs 19:21, Isaiah 46:10). So the best plan is what is derived from the will and plan of God.

What you use your time for is like a seed, which will return its harvest in your life. If we spend our time sowing to the flesh we would in to reap corruption (Galatians 6:7-10), if we spend our time in the company of the ungodly, we should forget about flourishing (Psalm 1), but if we sow into the spirit, we would reap eternal life.

The time we spend on earth is for sowing into eternal life. Eternal life is more than getting to heaven or not, it is about being on the right side of the heavenly reward system. You want to have God say to you: “Well done good and faithful servant ” (if you love him, you’ll want to be the best you can be in him) because the talents you have been given, you have spend your life time, expressing them on the earth and bringing glory to God, and you are not like the man given one talent (Matthew 25:14-30), who decided to occupy himself not with the tasks of multiplying the talent, in the service of the king and his kingdom, but concerned himself with other things he thought were important, and he was negatively rewarded.

The only lasting value that our time has is how we use it towards the furtherance of the kingdom of God; that is wisdom, that maximising the time on earth for eternal reward. The bible says that everything will be shaken, but the kingdom of God cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:26-28).

 

The messenger and his message

2 Samuel 18 - Ahimaaz runs2Samuel 18:20: And Joab said unto him, Thou shalt not be the bearer of tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day; but this day thou shalt bear no tidings, because the king’s son is dead.

A certain man (Ahimaaz) is being told in the focus verse by Joab that he is not to take a message to the king. That message, was sad news mixed with good news (2Samuel 18:15-33). The message was not straight forward.

Absalom, King David’s son, had rebelled against him and chased his father from the throne. In the battle that ensued from that, Absalom was killed, even after David has specifically instructed his people not to harm him. So the news was not all sweet for David.

Two prophets in the bible had similar prophetic experiences: God told Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:8-3:4) and John (Revelation 10:9-11) to each eat a book. It was sweet in their mouth but for John it was also bitter in his stomach. The message that John was asked to deliver has a mixed content, it was bit on judgment on the world and also of the coming reign of Christ and the total defeat of the devil.

Habakkuk also had a similar experience with God. After seeking God about the sinfulness of the children of Israel, God showed him that he was going to totally judge the people through a foreign nation, but Habakkuk thought that was taking it too far.

He liked the fact that God wanted to do something about the rot in Israel but he does not like the fact that God was going to use Babylon as the tool to do that, those he believed were even worse than Israel to start with (Habakkuk 1). God’s response was definitely bitter-sweet for him.

When God sent Samuel with a message to the house of Jesse, so that he would anoint one of his sons as king; on the surface, it was a good message but there are some pains that go with it. The anointing on David was what made him a fugitive, being hunted down by Saul the king. His parents left their home town because of that (1Samuel 22:1-4), became strangers in a foreign land. The call of God on David was bitter-sweet.

Paul the apostle was appointed by God to be an apostle, which was great. But there is the “bitter” side, which include being burdened for the churches all the time (2Corinthians 11:23-27), not being married, and the various opposition and trial that he faced along the way. So much so that because of the magnificent of the revelation he was given by God, a messenger of Satan was allowed to buffet him (2Corinthians 12:7).

For Mary the woman who carried Jesus for nine months, the coming of Jesus through her was a bitter sweet experience. It was grand to bear the Son of God and to have the privilege of nurturing him but to see your Son hang on the cross dying from the most ignoble death was surely painful, and tallies with the word that one Simeon told her that though her son brings salvation, a sword will pierce her (Mary) soul. And it did because of the pain of seeing his son dying on the cross (Luke 2:34-35).

The word of God has been described as double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12); it cuts in two directions, two sharp sides facing opposite directions. It cuts both the messenger and the hearers of the message. Paul told Timothy to take heed to himself and the message so as to save himself and the people (1Timothy 4:16). James says that we should not all be teachers because they would experience stricter judgment (James 3:1). The message does not just have implication for the audience but also for the speaker, it judges the speaker in any area of hypocrisy, while it judges the audience in the area of obedience.

God sent a prophet with a message. But strangely, the first thing he did was to ask someone to hit him. the first person refused, but the second really hit him that a wound mark was on him. God wanted it like that so that the message will be impressed on the prophet, it would not just be words spoken but the life lived, from the marks the message makes on him (1Kings 20:28-43). The message must make a mark on the bearer of the message, before it can make a mark on the hearer. The message that passes through you is on the level of the change that you have experienced by that word. You cannot impress on people more than heaven has impressed on you.

From the focus verse we see that Joab thought that the message of the death of the king’s sons, and the quelling of the rebellion, together with that was what a man like Ahimaaz, was not suited for. It’s therefore wrong, to like the message committed to a particular messenger so much that you want to copy it. We should all strive to be original, to lay hold of the dimension of wisdom (Ephesians 3:10) that God wants to express through us.

Another issue the focus verse brings up is timing. Ahimaaz was told that his time will come. But he does not want to hear that, he wants to run and run now. And he could not wait. He had the message but it was not his time; so capability does not automatically translate to divine mission. Like Jesus, we should be able to say: my time has not yet come (John 2:4).

Peter as a messenger did not have a problem with the message, his message was Jesus, but he had a problem with audience in Acts 10. As a Jew, there was tradition and also pseudo-spiritual reasons that prevented him from going to the house of Cornelius without divine persuasion, he needed to be convinced by God.

Going there delivered a message to Peter, as much as Peter was delivered a message to people. He opened his speech in the house of Cornelius, saying that he perceives that God is no respected of persons. That was the message he got. In the process of delivering a message, he learned more of the ways of God. Something was wrought in Peter that day. He had to move away from his prejudices; before he can speak the word of God to the people he was assigned to.

There is need for the messenger to be in preparation to be able to deliver the message. You can’t bear all messages, and there is time for everything; and the intention of God is that the messenger and the message will be one.

Making requests of God

4201786_f2602Samuel 14:22: And Joab fell to the ground on his face, and did obeisance, and blessed the king: and Joab said, To-day thy servant knoweth that I have found favor in thy sight, my lord, O king, in that the king hath performed the request of his servant.

Here Joab in an indirect way had made a request from David, which he granted (2Samuel 14:1-23). But with God we can approach him directly as sons to make our request known to him. We are qualified by Christ to enter into the very presence of God any time of our choosing (Hebrews 4:14-16). There is no ritual involved, the only ritual demanded was the shedding of the blood of Jesus, and that has been done.

Jesus said that if we who are evil know how to give good things to our children, how much more will our heavenly father give good gifts to us, his children (Matthew 7:7-11)? Paul said that instead of worrying we should make our request known to God, with prayer, thanksgiving and supplication (Philippians 4:6).

Jesus said that if we ask and we would be given, if we seek and we would find and when we knock, the door will be opened to us. Jesus had said that whatever he asked in his name he will do it (John 14:14, 15:16, 16:23). There are piles and piles of references in the bible to conclude that making request of God is as easy as ABC except for sin.

God said through Isaiah that his hands are not too heavy that he cannot save but the sins of the people have made a separation between himself and them (Isaiah 59:1-9).

Another problem is doubt, with James saying that if any lacks wisdom, he should come to the father and ask him for it, and without fail such would be downloaded from God; but such a person must not doubt or else, he will receive nothing from God (James 1:5-8).

That was a lesson that Jesus taught a man who brought his son to him for healing (Mark 9:14-29). He said if Jesus can do anything he should help him. Jesus however told him that not expressing total faith means he will not get what he wants. If faith is not in place, delivering the miracle in doubtful; desires gets frustrated with lack of faith.

Request made to God must come with the envelope of faith unless it would not be attended to in the mail room of heaven. Trust must go forth, the recognition that God is true to his word. Faith shows that you have an ongoing relationship with God. And God focuses on those he has an ongoing relationship with.

Faith was what the devil attacked in the Garden of Eden. He set them (Adam and Eve) up to distrust the word of God, to act based on his own word (Genesis 3:1-10). The result was fear and they hid themselves from God.  But in Christ we have the right to draw near the throne of grace and find grace to help in times of needs.  We draw near in full assurance of faith and made our request. Like Jesus, we are assured that God always hears us (John 11:41-43), and that we have the request that we make of him (1John 5:13-15).

Jesus said that we should have the faith of God and when we pray for something, we should believe we have receive it and then we will have it indeed (Mark 11:22-24).

Jabez had been faced with negative experiences because of the circumstance of his birth (1Chronicles 4:9-10). His mother called him sorrow (she had a painful labour), and that shadowed his life ever since, no matter what he did. He sensed that something was wrong somewhere.

But he was not going to resign to that “fate”. He saw God as the one with the limitless reach, who can reach back to the time of his birth and take care of whatever issue that went wrong then. He asked that God will expand his coast, bless him indeed, and that he would no longer cause pain. And God gave him his requests. That act of making requests of God so marked his life that it was recorded in the bible.

Hannah made a request from God and she was given Samuel (1Samuel 1:1-17). All her cries prior to that did not move God. Her request backed with a vow did the “magic”. And David was in the habit of making request of God for the course of action to take.

Isaiah had a request. He said he wants God to rend the heavens and come down, so that the mountains might flow in his presence (Isaiah 64:1-4). He wants an extraordinary experience with God; not content with his mundane experience.

God sent the same Isaiah to King Hezekiah that he should put his house in order because he would soon die, but the king refused to accept that verdict even if it was from God; but he brought to God his strong reasons and God decided to extend his life by 15 years (Isaiah 38:1-9).

But it is not every request that God grants. After Abraham was told by God when Ishmael was well over 10 years of age, that Sarah, his ridiculously old wife, will be pregnant, the status quo will be broken, and she would give birth to a child. He said that God should not border doing that miracle (Genesis 17:15-21), but God was set to do it and he did.

After Moses sinned against God through disobedience and God said that he would not see the Promised Land, he wanted God to change his mind but He would not (Deuteronomy 3:23-26).

After David committed adultery with Bathsheba and she gave birth to child as a result of that affair, as punishment, God said that child will die, but David embarked on seven days of prayer and fasting, requesting that God would change his mind, but to no avail (2Samuel 12:14-23).

Jesus the Son of God also made a request from God that was not granted. God turned a blind eye to his request for your sake and mine (Mark 14:35-36). Jesus while nearing the cross was already feeling the pain of it in his “bones”, and he said he wants that the cup of punishment that he was to drink from the hand of God to pass from him. He went to the cross after his request was turned down; he went their bearing our sin, so that we will be able to receive salvation through his sacrifice.