Over the past several weeks now we have been looking at the Prophet Hosea and his relationship with his wife Gomer whom God told him to marry. Gomer was a prostitute and was unfaithful to Hosea time and time again. Of course God’s plan here was to use this relationship between His prophet and his wife to illustrate how His people, the Israelites, had been unfaithful to Him over and over again as well. In
Hosea 2:2-13 (NLT) God says to His people:
"But now, call Israel to account, for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to take off her garish makeup and suggestive clothing and to stop playing the prostitute. 3 If she doesn't, I will strip her as naked as she was on the day she was born. I will leave her to die of thirst, as in a desert or a dry and barren wilderness. 4 And I will not love her children as I would my own because they are not my children! They were conceived in adultery. 5 For their mother is a shameless prostitute and became pregnant in a shameful way. She said, 'I'll run after other lovers and sell myself to them for food and drink, for clothing of wool and linen, and for olive oil.' 6 "But I will fence her in with thorn bushes. I will block the road to make her lose her way. 7 When she runs after her lovers, she won't be able to catch up with them. She will search for them but not find them. Then she will think, 'I might as well return to my husband because I was better off with him than I am now.' 8 She doesn't realize that it was I who gave her everything she has -- the grain, the wine, the olive oil. Even the gold and silver she used in worshiping the god Baal were gifts from me! 9 "But now I will take back the wine and ripened grain I generously provided each harvest season. I will take away the linen and wool clothing I gave her to cover her nakedness. 10 I will strip her naked in public, while all her lovers look on. No one will be able to rescue her from my hands. 11 I will put an end to her annual festivals, her new moon celebrations, and her Sabbath days -- all her appointed festivals. 12 I will destroy her vineyards and orchards, things she claims her lovers gave her. I will let them grow into tangled thickets, where only wild animals will eat the fruit. 13 I will punish her for all the times she deserted me, when she burned incense to her images of Baal, put on her earrings and jewels, and went out looking for her lovers," says the LORD.”
Here in these verses we have a synopsis about how both Israel and Gomer have betrayed the one that they were supposed to faithful to and God’s judgment towards the Israelites for that unfaithfulness.
Over the past couple of months we have been looking at some of the issues that this story brings to us today. We have examined God’s call for our Repentance and Re-Direction. We have looked at how God is the giver of the good gifts in our lives. How God seeks out those of us (that’s everyone) who are disobedient and then calls us to repentance so that we can fulfill His higher purpose in our lives. That brings us to today and the idea of setting the priority in our lives so that we are Giving Our Best to Our Best. This was certainly an area where the Children of Israel and Gomer had failed miserably in. I’m so glad that we do not have this problem in our lives!
Today we are going to look into three areas that will help us as we endeavor to give our best to our best.
Those areas are:
1) What is God’s best version of you?
2) What is it that God values and honors?
3) Being intentional and wise about who gets your time, talent and treasure.
Let’s dig in!
I. What Is God’s Best Version of You?
If we want to be able to give our best then we need to discover what it is about us that is the best. In
Psalm 139:13 (NLT) we read,
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.”
This of course is a very familiar portion of Scripture to us. But it is important for us to remember that it was God who formed us in our mother’s womb. He was the one that put us together. He is the one who gave us the personalities, talents and gifts that we posses and exhibit every day. Likewise in
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) we read,
“For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope…”
Just as God had plans for the Israelites, He has a plan for our lives as well. One of the things that we discovered about this verse when we looking into the 5-2-1 during the Wednesday night series is that God’s plan was not just for us when things were going great in our lives or if our life was panning out just like we thought it would, but God has a plan for our lives no matter what the circumstances may be. We may be on the mountaintop of our lives or we may be in the valley of the shadow of death, God still has a plan for us and He will be right there with us to help us accomplish that plan. Another verse that gives us some insight into what is God’s best version of us is
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
“For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
This is what we were created for! We are created anew in Jesus so that we can do good things that He has already planned for us to do! The purpose of our lives is to experience God and discover what He has created us to do for Him and then go about doing that thing. This is the best version of ourselves. Living out this life is what will give us inner peace, a sense of purpose and a joy that cannot be explained or taken away! The last verse that we are going to look at here is also one that we looked at during our 5-2-1 series and that is
“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. 7 If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
So what is it that God has given you? Are you going about and doing that thing? Uh-oh! It just got pretty real. This is both for us and about us! This is relevant for our lives today and we need to stop sometimes and take a little inventory. What is the gift that God has given you? If you don’t know, He will help you discover it. But whatever it may be and it does not matter what it is, the best version of you is when you are walking with Him and fulfilling your God given destiny!
II. What Is It That God Values and Honors?
The next thing that we need to look at when we are talking about giving our best to our best is to know what it is that God values and honors. We could spend a lot of time right here digging into hundreds of verses so I hope your comfortable because we are going to be here for about another 18 hours! Ok fine, how about 25 minutes. One of my favorite stories in the Bible that gives us clues into what it is that God values is the story of Samuel anointing David as King over Israel to replace Saul.
I Samuel 16:1-7 (NLT) says,
“The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king." 2 But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me." The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate." 4 Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?" 5 Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."”
Even the prophet Samuel was missing the boat here. He saw Eliab and thought ‘Wow!’ Look at this guy! He’s tall, strong and handsome, surely this is the one God has chosen to be the King over Israel. But God said, ‘Hold on a second there Sammy! You’re not looking at this the same way that I am. I look at the heart. I value the matters of the heart foremost.’ This brings us to the first and most import thing in knowing what it is that God values and that is that His value system will be very different than the value system of this world. The world is fallen, He is not. When we understand this as a starting point then it is easier to discover the things that He values. It also helps that He does spell it out for us is several passages of scripture too.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) tells us,
“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.”
God values these character traits. That is why He has given the Holy Spirit to us so that these characteristics can be produced in our lives. Also in
Matthew 5:3-12 (NLT) Jesus taught,
“"God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. 4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them. 6 God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for they will receive it in full. 7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. 9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. 10 God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 "God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.”
So here are some more character traits that God values. OK, let’s get real again, how are we doing with these? How is it going with us and being loving, patient, kind and long-suffering? How are we doing at exercising self-control? Don’t hate me now. Have you realized your need for God? Have you been gentle and meek and do you long for justice rather than pursue revenge? Are you merciful and do you have a pure-heart? These are the things that God values. These are the things that God desires to cultivate in our lives. These are the things that bring about the best version of ourselves. The next part of this is finding out what it is that God honors. Again we are going to look to book of 1 Samuel for a great story that illustrates this. In 1 Samuel chapters one and two we have the story of Hannah who desperately wanted to have a baby and she cried out to the Lord to end her bareness and give her a child. God answered her prayer and gave her Samuel. She had made a promise that if God would give her a child that she would in turn give the child back to the Lord and so when Samuel had been fully weaned she left Him at the Temple with the prophet Eli to serve in the Lord’s Temple. Samuel grew up and was faithful and was eventually called by God to become a prophet. So we have Hannah and Samuel who were faithful to the Lord and honored the Lord. Now Eli was the High Priest during that time and he had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas that served as priests in the Temple. Hophni and Phinehas were not faithful in their duties to the Lord in that they got into the habit of taking the best portion of the sacrifice for themselves to eat instead of making sure that piece was burned as an offering before God as they were supposed to do. So they would take the best for themselves and then just leave the scraps for God. After some time had passed God had enough of Hophni and Phenias’s ways and he was also upset with Eli for not stopping this behavior of his sons and God spoke to Eli and said,
(1 Sam. 2:29,30 NLT),
“So why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you honor your sons more than me -- for you and they have become fat from the best offerings of my people! 30 "Therefore, the LORD, the God of Israel, says: The terrible things you are doing cannot continue! I had promised that your branch of the tribe of Levi would always be my priests. But I will honor only those who honor me, and I will despise those who despise me.”
So here is our answer, what is it that God honors? God honors those men and women who honor him. So that begs the question, how do we honor God? In
John 14:15 Jesus taught,
“If you love me, obey my commandments.”
I think that it is this that shows true honor. Being obedient reveals that you have honor for God. That was God’s reason for removing Eli and his son’s from the priesthood, they were being disobedient to how God established the sacrifices. Remember, even Moses could not enter the Promised Land because of his disobedience. Because of Saul’s disobedience he lost the kingdom. Because of King David’s disobedience in that he took a census of his army, Israel suffered three days of pestilence that killed 70,000. Because of disobedience, sin and death entered into the world. The point here is that there will always be a consequence to disobedience because it dishonors God; likewise there will always be a reward for obedience because it honors God. God honors those who are obedient to Him. So now that brings us to the final thing for us to look at this morning as it relates to giving our best for our best:
III. Be Intentional and Wise About Who Gets Your Time Talent and Treasure.
Before we get started at looking at some verses I want to spend a minute on this idea of being intentional. This is very important because it is so easy to get caught-up in our day to day ebb and flow of life that we find our selves simply existing instead of living. God has made us with a purpose and if we don’t live purposely we can waste many opportunities to do great things. We must start to be intentional about what we do each day. We must begin to live our lives on purpose for a purpose. This is not easy but it is extremely rewarding. One of the things that I try to remember is, “Don’t Let Life Live You; Live Your Life!” In the morning when you get up try to think of one thing that you can do that will be about giving your time, talent and treasure to those who are the best in your life. That’s where we can start.
So, who is our best? Well, obviously the first one is God. How can we give God our best? I think a good place to start is in
Romans 12:1 (NLT),
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -- the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?”
This is our daily act before God, to present ourselves to His service. Today, I have decided to live for God. I am surrendering my will to His and I present my time, talent and treasure to His service today! This is our first step in giving our best to the best. Make it a daily proclamation, make it intentional. And remember the story of Eli and his sons, God doesn’t just want the scraps, He wants the good stuff. In
Malachi 1:8 (NLT) we read,
“When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn't that wrong? And isn't it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!" says the LORD Almighty.”
God did not withhold His best when He sent His Son Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins so we need to follow His example and give our best for Him. Remember what Jesus taught us in
Matthew 22:37 (NLT),
“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.'”
We talk a lot about this verse here are Reunion. So how are we doing with it today? Is He the desire of our hearts? Do we cut out time in our day so that our soul can commune with Him? Are we filling our mind with His word so that we can know Him better? All of these things are about giving our best to Him. This is where Gomer and the Children of Israel were failing. This is why God has given us the story of Hosea, to remind us that we ought to give our best to Him.
We also ought to give our best to those that God has given to us, our families and friends. In 1 Corinthians 13 we have the very famous portion of scripture teaching on what love is and what it is not.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) says,
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. 6 It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
To me, one of the easiest ways that I can think of to test ourselves to see if we have been giving our best to our loved ones is to replace the word “love” in these verses with the word “I” and then ask if this is really true about me when it comes to my family, so come on and say it with me:
“I am patient and kind. I am not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. I do not demand my own way. I am not irritable, and I keep no record of when I have been wronged. 6 I am never glad about injustice but I rejoice whenever the truth wins out. 7 I never give up, I never lose faith, I am always hopeful, and I endure through every circumstance.”
How often is this true about you with relation to your loved ones? And the ones in verse 7, are you kidding me? But this is a great barometer for ourselves to answer the question, Am I giving my best to my best? The good news is that God will help us with this. He longs to help us with this. He sent Jesus to die for us and the Holy Spirit to live in us so that we can show off His love like this. When we begin to love like 1 Corinthians 13, it will be the best version of ourselves, we will be honoring Him and we will be giving our best to the best!
God help us to discover what it is that You have created us to do. Help us to begin to peruse that destiny for our lives. Help us to then cultivate the characteristics of Matthew 5 in our lives as well as the Fruit of the Spirit. As we do these things I know that we will begin to honor you. Also help us to have the strength to give our best to you. Help us to be obedient to You and to give ourselves to your plan each day. Also help us to display the kind of love in 1 Corinthians 13 to our family and friends as this will be a powerful witness for You. Thank You Lord for this wonderful group of people here at Reunion. Amen.