I Said Nothing
Robert Benchley once remarked, “Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.” No matter how great your vocabulary may be. Sometimes, the right thing to say is to say nothing.
First, if you cannot speak with purity, the best thing that you can say, no matter how large your vocabulary may be, is nothing. We read, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29).
Second, if you cannot speak with sweetness, the best thing that you can say, no matter how rich your vocabulary may be, is nothing. We read, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: Be be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:29, 31-32).
Third, if you cannot speak with grace, the best thing that you can say, no matter how extensive your vocabulary may be, is nothing. Paul wrote, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6).
Fourth, if you cannot speak with self-control, the best thing that you can say, no matter how full your vocabulary may be, is nothing. We read, “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8).
Fifth, if you cannot speak with truthfulness, the best thing that you can say, no matter how huge your vocabulary may be, is nothing. We read, “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9).
Sixth, if you cannot speak with love, the best thing to say, not matter how big your vocabulary may be, is nothing. Paul wrote, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15).
Obviously, I could go on and on. However, I believe that you get my point. Let’s make sure that what we say is what it needs to be. If it isn’t, the best thing that we can do is to say nothing.
Redeeming the Time
To the saints at Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). Redeeming means to buy up or to buy back. Paul knew that time was precious. Like James, he knew that life was a vapor that appeared for a little time before vanishing away (Jam. 4:13-14). He knew that we could be so busy here and there that we lose focus on what really matters (1 Kings 20:39-40). Paul wanted the saints to focus on eternal things and to make the most of their time.
Paul Meyer observed that “time is usually wasted in the same way every day.”[i] No doubt, all of us could streamline our days a little. How could redeeming this time change our lives?
Leadership expert John Maxwell illustrated what impact a few minutes saved each day could have over the course of a year. If you were able to save:
- Five minutes by trimming your morning routine (taking less time to shower, shave, put on make-up, drink coffee, etc.)
- Ten minutes by cutting out the things you do each morning to stall starting your work or school day?
- Five minutes by avoid vain talk or distractions?
- Ten minutes by taking a shorter lunch or break time?
If you did those things every day, five days a week, for fifty weeks a year, you would gain an additional 125 hours of time every year. That would be the equivalent of three forty hour weeks to use for anything you want.[ii] Imagine how much more of the Bible you would know in a year’s time if you used that time for Bible study (John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15; Rev. 1:3). Imagine how many more people you could help in a year if you used that time for service (Gal. 5:13; 6:2). Imagine how many more doors you could knock and how many more people you could teach in personal Bible studies (Acts 8:4; 20:20; 1 Pet. 3:150. Imagine how much the stress of your home would subside if you spent that time at home (1 Pet. 3:7; Tit. 2:4-5; Deut. 6:4-9). Our prayer should be that of that of Moses, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). Our attitude must be that of Jesus: “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no man can work” (John 9:4).
[i] Maxwell, John C. Success: One Day At A Time.
[ii] Ibid., 99
Things To Do At Midnight
Many cities in our country are described as places that never sleep because individuals come and go all hours of the night. Although Bible times were different, many events still took place in the middle of the night. For example, consider the following:
- God smote the firstborn of Egypt at midnight (Ex. 12:29).
- Boaz awoke at midnight to find his future wife Ruth resting at his feet (Ruth 3:8).
- Samson carried off the gates of a city (Judg. 16:3).
- An unnamed woman who had accidentally smothered her own son in her sleep awoke at midnight and stole another woman's son (1 Kings 3:20).
- Sailors that were with Paul on a doomed voyage to Rome thought that they spotted land (Acts 27:27).
Although these inspired stories are worthy of study, I want us to focus on a few other midnight events. The things that we are going to study were so pressing that individuals didn't wait unto the next day to get them done.
David Gave Thanks To God
In the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm, we find these words, "At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments" (Psa. 119:62). If you are familiar with the Psalms, then you know that David wrote many psalms of thanksgiving (Psa. 103:2; 116:12). In spite of the many times that He had given God thanks, David felt the need to arise at midnight and do so again. If you have ever tried to get up during the night to do something, you know how hard it is to do so. Clearly, you can see David's devotion. Perhaps, he wanted a time when his mind was fresh and when the hustle and bustle of the palace wouldn't interrupt him.
An Unnamed Man Helped A Friend
Jesus, the master teacher, in explaining the kinds of gifts that God gives His children, told of a friend who was awakened during the night by a friend in need. We read, "And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth" (Lk. 11:5-8). Although no one likes to be awakened by a knock on the door in the middle of the night, if it were truly an emergency, a friend would arise to help his friend. After all, a friend "loveth at all times’ (Prov. 17:17; cf. 18:24).
The Five Wise Virgins Met The Bridegroom
No doubt, you recall the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt. 25:1-13). In the parable, five of the virgins were wise and five were foolish. The wise had extra oil with them and the foolish did not. All ten of the virgins slumbered and slept while the bridegroom tarried until the call went out "at midnight" that the bridegroom was coming. The wise virgins awoke and trimmed their lamps but the foolish virgins did not have any oil to do so. As you recall, while the foolish virgins were gone to buy more oil, the bridegroom came and the door was shut. Only those who were ready, the wise virgins, were able to enter in (Mt. 25:10-12).
Paul & Silas Prayed & Sang Praises
In the sixteenth chapter of Acts, Luke, the inspired historian of the early years of the church, recorded the imprisonment of Paul and Silas at Philippi. He records that "at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25). These two great missionaries weren't having a pity party, they were having a prayer meeting. Furthermore, they weren't singing the blues, they were singing praises. What a great attitude they possessed. Even though they had been wrongfully beaten and imprisoned, they hadn't turned against God. They continued to trust Him and to praise Him. Even at midnight, when others were in bed, they were still up praying and singing.
The Saints At Troas Studied God's Word
As Paul made his way toward Jerusalem, he tarried in Troas so that he could be with the early Christians in Troas on the Lord's day. Luke records, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight" (Acts 20:7). We don't know exactly when Paul started, but we do know how long he continued - until midnight. At midnight Paul drew his sermon to a close. It is safe to say that if Paul was concluding at midnight, that the brethren, maybe with the exception of Eutychus who went to sleep and fell from a window, were still studying God's word.
The Philippian Jailor Was Baptized
As we have already noticed, Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God at midnight as they sat in stocks in a Philippian jail. As they were praying and singing, Luke records that "there was a great earthquake" that shook the foundations of the prison, opened the doors, and loosed everyone's bands. As you recall, the jailor believing that the prisoners had escaped was about to kill himself when Paul and Silas cried out for him to do himself no harm. The jailor then fell at their feet requesting that they tell him what to do in order to be saved. After they told him to believe, he washed their stripes showing his repentance, and was baptized the same hour of the night (Acts 16:33). Clearly, the jailor had been convicted of his sins and felt the need to immediately have his sins washed away.
As you can see, there are a number of worthy things that you can do at midnight. I believe that you will agree that the things that we have noticed in this lesson are so pressing that they should not be put off until tomorrow.
A New Year Prayer
In the long ago, Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). As we begin a new year, I want us to take a closer look at these wonderful words. I believe that pondering this prayer will help us to have a better year.
A Spiritual Education – “So Teach Us…”
Throughout the Psalms, we find individuals crying out for God to teach them (Psa. 25:4-5, 8-9, 12; 32:8; 27:11; 71:17; 86:11; 119:12, 26, 33, 64, 66, 68, 102, 108, 124, 135; 143:10). Teach means “to instruct” (3045; cf. Prov. 9:9-11). In Deuteronomy, Moses used the word to refer to parental teaching. We read, “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons: Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children” (Deut. 4:9-10). Notice the emphasis upon time. Moses was asking for God, as His Father, to teach Him how to rightly use his time. As you know, children need much instruction when it comes to using the time that they have been given. How many times, have you as a parent told your children to be getting ready to go, only to return some time later to find them unchanged and watching television, or playing a video game? Like our children, we also need much teaching from our Father on how to use our time. Likely, when he comes, some of us won’t be on task.
A Sober Calculation – “To Number Our Days”
It is truly sobering to contemplate the number of “our days.” Do you realize that our days on earth will one day be noted by a small dash between two dates on our tombstone? Long ago, Job declared, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Earlier, he had described man’s days as those of a “hired servant” or day employee (Job 7:1; cf. 7:6; 9:25; Gen. 47:9; Psa. 144:4; Jam. 4:13-14). Number means “to weigh out…to allot or constitute officially…enumerate or enroll…appoint, count…prepare, set, tell” (Strong’s 4487). Earlier in the Psalms, we read, “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah” (Psa. 39:4-5; cf. 89:47; 103:14-15; 119:84).
A Sensible Application – “That We May Apply Our Hearts Unto Wisdom”
Apply means “to come, to go, to bring” (Zodhiates 935). As it is used here, it likely means “to understand” or “to attain.” Thus, Moses is asking for God to teach him that he might be wise in the use of his time. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon often talked about applying one’s heart to wisdom. For example, consider what he wrote in the second chapter: “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:2-6; cf. 22:17; 23:12; Eccl. 7:25; 8:9, 16). When we consider what God has taught us in His word about the number of our days, it will help us to better use our time. To the Colossian saints, Paul wrote, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5; cf. Eph. 5:15-16; Rom. 13:11; John 9:4; Eccl. 9:10).
I hope that this prayer is on our lips as we begin the New Year. Let’s do our best to make the most of this year.
Do you remember playing the game Go Fish when you were a child? Although it may have been a while since you played, you can probably still remember the basics of it. In this study, we want to use the game Go Fish to teach some essential lessons about evangelism. As you recall, when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be His disciples, He promised to make them fishers of men (John 4:18-19; Lk. 5:10-11). In the Great Commission, He was commanding them to go fish (Mt. 28:18-20).
You Have To Ask For What You Want
In Go Fish, you have to ask for what you want. The other player is not likely to volunteer much. In like manner, in evangelism, you have to ask for what you want. If you want someone to come to church with you, or to have a Bible study with you, you have to ask them. James wrote, “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not” (Jam. 4:2). James’ brethren were missing out on blessings because they failed to ask for them. In like manner, in evangelism, we miss out on many opportunities because we do not ask for them. We need to be the church that Isaiah pictured in prophecy. We read, “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3; cf. John 1:43-46; 4:28-29). Today, we seem to be waiting for others to approach us.
You Can Only Ask For What You Have
In Go Fish, you can only ask for a match to a card that you already have. In like manner, in evangelism, we must hold that for which we are asking. Peter wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). We can’t ask others to embrace a hope that we don’t have (cf. Col. 1:27).
You Must Ask Before Others Do
In Go Fish, other players are also looking for cards. In fact, they may be looking for some of the same cards that you are. In like manner, in evangelism, we must realize that others are also looking for converts. They are likely seeking some of the same people that we are. We must not let them ask first. On one occasion, Jesus declared, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Mt. 23:15). At the same time that saints are seeking to open men’s eyes, Satan is seeking to blind their eyes (2 Cor. 4:3-4; cf. 1 Pet. 5:8).
You Must Ask Different People
In Go Fish, there are generally 3-6 players. If you ask one person for a card and they don’t have it, you don’t give up the search. When it is your turn again, you ask someone else. In like manner, in evangelism, we must ask different people. What we may not find in one place, we may find in another. Luke records, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46; Mt. 22:2-3, 8-10). Today, I am convinced that we give up far too easily.
You May Have To Ask More Than Once
In Go Fish, you may have to ask a player for a certain card more than once. The fact that they don’t have a card at one point in the game doesn’t mean that they will not have it at another point. The cards in each player’s hand change throughout the game. In like manner, in evangelism, we may have to ask more than once to obtain what we are after. Jesus declared, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Mt. 7:7-8). Please note the “eth” suffix on the word “asketh.” This suffix suggests repeated action. Those who hope to receive must ask again and again. Over time, circumstances can change and those who once were not receptive can become receptive.
Today, the Master is calling us to Go Fish. Will we heed His call and launch out into the deep? Perhaps, a draught of fishes is awaiting us.