You’ve probably all heard the poem “Invictus” by William Earnest Henley, since it is often quoted at graduations.  I’m sure you will recognize the most famous lines from the poem: “I am the master of my fate; The captain of my soul.”  Of course many people use these lines and the poem to refer to “self reliance,” a concept that has been part of the American psyche for over a hundred years and has resulted in amazing accomplishments in science, technology, medicine, literature, and all culture across this vast land of ours.  The philosophy behind self reliance was famously addressed in an essay of the same name by American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the well-known writers in the Transcendental movement in the northeastern United States, which itself is a close cousin of the Romantic movement in our mother country, England.  Mind you, there is nothing wrong with relying on yourself rather than others, doing as St. Augustine admonished, “Pray as though everything depended on God and act as if everything depended on you.”  Or perhaps adhering to the ancient philosophy that Ben Franklin popularized: “God helps those that help themselves.” 

There is a time and place for self reliance, for having a good work ethic and being willing to do whatever needs to be done in the world around us.  Scripture even promises blessings to the diligent worker in so many verses, for example: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (Prov. 22:29).  God does not want us standing around doing nothing.  In fact, we are fore-warned, not only in scripture, but also in our own literature and popular culture that “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop,” an oft-quoted adaptation of the original quote from H.G. Bohn’s "Handbook of Proverbs,” published in 1855.  Bohn’s original, actual quote gets closer to the source of mischief, by noting that an “Idle brain” is the Devil’s workshop.  The mind that is cut free from burden and productive thoughts, that drifts anchorless, unfettered to God, is a playground for Satan.  It is tossed about by the rough seas of life, shifting with every ebb and flow of our own sinful urges and every vain, ungodly philosophy.  Sure enough, whether it is merely our brains or both our brains and our hands, if we are idle long enough, we can certainly play into Satan’s hands.  No one is totally impervious to Satan’s attacks, and the one who doesn’t even have his guard up is more likely to get sucker-punched by Satan by either him tricking us into doing and thinking something that is totally erroneous, or by pulling us into some scenario that ends with our own misery, or even by manipulating others whom we come in contact with.  We are not guaranteed to be free of Satan’s attacks if we are busy, but there is just less ground acceded to Satan for his mischief if we keep focused on our Lord and keep busy at doing what we are supposed to be doing in life on His behalf. 

But work should not be a drudgery.  It is because we allow it to be by our negative attitudes.  If we yield to seeing things through God’s eyes, then we realize that work is a necessity for us and others that brings value into this world and solves so many problems that constantly erupt in our normal daily lives.  Moreover, work gives us a process to develop our own character, to provide something of value to others, to feed ourselves and our families, and to learn about the world around us, especially the natural laws that God has stamped upon the universe which can be discovered in nature, science in general, cosmology, and human relationships.  Work is a tool to make our mark on the world, a fulfillment of the admonishment in Genesis 1:28 to “subdue the Earth.” Work allows us to give something back to the people around us in recognition and gratitude of the great blessings God has given us in this world that make life possible and even enjoyable.   So we should certainly have a good work ethic in order to enjoy life to the fullest as God intended, but we should also carry out our various endeavors or occupations with the right attitude, relying on God for the outcome, and even giving back to Him in gratitude through the tithe and by charitable giving as He burdens our hearts for the various needs around us. 


More on this tomorrow.
 


Comments

02/22/2017 2:21am

Through poems we can also get the important knowledge for life and this page is touch my soul. Because this article gives the lesson for patience and we should also control the desires of life. Because life is temporary and we need to guideline for living a life.

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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