Day 228

No Sloppy Living

Wisdom Psalm 97:1-12
New Testament 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13
Old Testament 2 Chronicles 2:1-5:1


I love to play sport. I have never been particularly good at it, but I enjoy it enormously. Not many of the guys I played squash with played at a very high standard; it was all very friendly and relaxed and yet we were very competitive! Even the level we played at required ‘strict training’. I had to train and play regularly. It is one of the reasons I try to be careful about what I eat and how much sleep I get.

The apostle Paul writes, ‘You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally’ (1 Corinthians 9:24–25, MSG).

If those who compete at sport go into strict training in order to achieve something that ‘will not last’, how much more should we go into ‘strict training’ in our moral and spiritual life in order to ‘get a crown that will last for ever’ (v.25).

Paul writes, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition’ (v.26, MSG). Worshipping and serving God is Paul’s aim and ambition in life. He wants to do it to the very best of his ability. He wants to give it everything he’s got. He is going for gold.

Worship and service are very closely connected (the same Greek word latreuo is used for both). All human beings are worshippers. You either worship the one true God, or someone or something else. All human beings are servants – to God, to yourself or to someone or something else.

In the passages for today, we see the importance of worshipping and serving the one true God with all of our hearts and beings – giving everything we have got – no sloppy living.


Psalm 97:1-12

Psalm 97

1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
   let the distant shores rejoice.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him
   and consumes his foes on every side.
4 His lightning lights up the world;
   the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
   before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
   and all peoples see his glory.

7 All who worship images are put to shame,
   those who boast in idols —
   worship him, all you gods!

8 Zion hears and rejoices
   and the villages of Judah are glad
   because of your judgments, Lord.
9 For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;
   you are exalted far above all gods.
10 Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
   for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
   and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light shines on the righteous
   and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
   and praise his holy name.


Why do we worship and serve?

God is in charge of his universe. ‘The Lord reigns’ (v.1). If the Lord did not reign, there would be no point to life – but he does and there is cause for rejoicing (v.1).

The psalmist calls for all creation to worship, ‘On your knees... worship Him!’ (v.7, MSG).

He praises God – first, for who he is, and second, for what he has done. It is because of who God is that he acts to bring protection, deliverance, guidance and joy to his people (vv.10–12).

  • God is your protector

He guards your life: ‘Those who love him he keeps safe’ (v.10b, MSG).

  • God is your deliverer

He delivers you from the hand of the wicked (v.10c). He snatches you from their grip (v.10c, MSG).

  • God is your guide

He sheds light on you. He guides and convicts, opening your eyes (v.11a).

  • God is your joy

He gives joy so you can rejoice in him and praise his holy name (vv.11b,12) – ‘The irrepressible joy that comes from consciousness of His favour and protection’ (v.11, AMP).

‘So’, he concludes, ‘God’s people, shout praise to God, Give thanks to our Holy God!’ (v.12, MSG).


Lord, thank you that you are my protector, my deliverer, my guide and my joy.

New Testament

1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13

Paul’s Use of His Freedom

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Warnings From Israel’s History

10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did —and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.


Whom do you worship and serve?

Until the love of God changes our perspective, most of us are slaves to ourselves (and to our own bodily appetites). Paul is the opposite. Because of Jesus Christ, Paul made his own body his slave and made himself ‘a slave to everyone’ (9:19a).

Paul says, ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some’ (v.22b). This does not mean that he is hypocritical or uncomfortable in his own skin or not capable of being himself. Nor does it mean that he changes the message of the gospel to suit the audience. He was passionate about preaching the gospel and his purpose was ‘to win as many as possible’ (v.19b).

As Professor Gordon Fee writes, ‘Whereas \[Paul\] is intransigent on matters that affect the gospel itself, whether theological or behavioural, that same concern for the saving power of the gospel is what causes him to become all things to all people in matters that don’t count.’

Paul writes, ‘I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view’ (v.22, MSG). This has wide application, perhaps even beyond the areas that St Paul had in mind. To take a trivial example, it might even affect the clothes you wear, in order that the people you are speaking to should not be put off and should be able to identify with you.

Whereas Paul was willing to be a slave to everyone, he was not willing to be enslaved by his bodily appetites. He regarded life as a race (v.24), seeing himself as a runner who needs to go into ‘strict training’ (v.25). Like an athlete he had to be ruthless with his own body. To make it his slave so that, having preached to others, he didn’t himself become ‘disqualified for the prize’ (v.27). Self-discipline is essential. Bring your body, mind, mouth and emotions under control.

Paul knew that there were many temptations around. He could see this from the history of his own people – ‘most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased’ (10:5, MSG).

They set their hearts ‘on evil things’ (v.6). They were ‘sexually promiscuous’ (v.8, MSG). They put God to the test (v.9). They grumbled (v.10). ‘We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them’ (v.10, MSG).

‘These are all warning markers – danger! – in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel – they at the beginning, we at the end – and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence’ (vv.11–12, MSG).

You will be tempted just as they were. Yet he says, ‘No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it’ (v.13, MSG).

Ask yourself these two questions:

  • How can I ensure that I am not enslaved by my own desires?
  • How can I serve everyone I come into contact with today?


Lord, help me to go into strict training in order to win ‘a crown that will last for ever’. Help me to avoid falling into temptation. Help me to worship and serve you, and you alone.

Old Testament

2 Chronicles 2:1-5:1

Preparations for Building the Temple

2 Solomon gave orders to build a temple for the Name of the Lord and a royal palace for himself. 2 He conscripted 70,000 men as carriers and 80,000 as stonecutters in the hills and 3,600 as foremen over them.

3 Solomon sent this message to Hiram king of Tyre:

“Send me cedar logs as you did for my father David when you sent him cedar to build a palace to live in. 4 Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals of the Lord our God. This is a lasting ordinance for Israel.

5 “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?

7 “Send me, therefore, a man skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, and in purple, crimson and blue yarn, and experienced in the art of engraving, to work in Judah and Jerusalem with my skilled workers, whom my father David provided.

8 “Send me also cedar, juniper and algum logs from Lebanon, for I know that your servants are skilled in cutting timber there. My servants will work with yours 9 to provide me with plenty of lumber, because the temple I build must be large and magnificent. 10 I will give your servants, the woodsmen who cut the timber, twenty thousand cors of ground wheat, twenty thousand cors of barley, twenty thousand baths of wine and twenty thousand baths of olive oil. ”

11 Hiram king of Tyre replied by letter to Solomon:

“Because the Lord loves his people, he has made you their king.”

12 And Hiram added:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth! He has given King David a wise son, endowed with intelligence and discernment, who will build a temple for the Lord and a palace for himself.

13 “I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, 14 whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your skilled workers and with those of my lord, David your father.

15 “Now let my lord send his servants the wheat and barley and the olive oil and wine he promised, 16 and we will cut all the logs from Lebanon that you need and will float them as rafts by sea down to Joppa. You can then take them up to Jerusalem.”

17 Solomon took a census of all the foreigners residing in Israel, after the census his father David had taken; and they were found to be 153,600. 18 He assigned 70,000 of them to be carriers and 80,000 to be stonecutters in the hills, with 3,600 foremen over them to keep the people working.

Solomon Builds the Temple

3 Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David. 2 He began building on the second day of the second month in the fourth year of his reign.

3 The foundation Solomon laid for building the temple of God was sixty cubits long and twenty cubits wide (using the cubit of the old standard). 4 The portico at the front of the temple was twenty cubits long across the width of the building and twenty cubits high.

He overlaid the inside with pure gold. 5 He paneled the main hall with juniper and covered it with fine gold and decorated it with palm tree and chain designs. 6 He adorned the temple with precious stones. And the gold he used was gold of Parvaim. 7 He overlaid the ceiling beams, doorframes, walls and doors of the temple with gold, and he carved cherubim on the walls.

8 He built the Most Holy Place, its length corresponding to the width of the temple—twenty cubits long and twenty cubits wide. He overlaid the inside with six hundred talents of fine gold. 9 The gold nails weighed fifty shekels. He also overlaid the upper parts with gold.

10 For the Most Holy Place he made a pair of sculptured cherubim and overlaid them with gold. 11 The total wingspan of the cherubim was twenty cubits. One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long and touched the temple wall, while its other wing, also five cubits long, touched the wing of the other cherub. 12 Similarly one wing of the second cherub was five cubits long and touched the other temple wall, and its other wing, also five cubits long, touched the wing of the first cherub. 13 The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits. They stood on their feet, facing the main hall.

14 He made the curtain of blue, purple and crimson yarn and fine linen, with cherubim worked into it.

15 For the front of the temple he made two pillars, which together were thirty-five cubits long, each with a capital five cubits high. 16 He made interwoven chains and put them on top of the pillars. He also made a hundred pomegranates and attached them to the chains. 17 He erected the pillars in the front of the temple, one to the south and one to the north. The one to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz.

The Temple’s Furnishings

4 He made a bronze altar twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and ten cubits high. 2 He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. 3 Below the rim, figures of bulls encircled it—ten to a cubit. The bulls were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea.

4 The Sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the center. 5 It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held three thousand baths.

6 He then made ten basins for washing and placed five on the south side and five on the north. In them the things to be used for the burnt offerings were rinsed, but the Sea was to be used by the priests for washing.

7 He made ten gold lampstands according to the specifications for them and placed them in the temple, five on the south side and five on the north.

8 He made ten tables and placed them in the temple, five on the south side and five on the north. He also made a hundred gold sprinkling bowls.

9 He made the courtyard of the priests, and the large court and the doors for the court, and overlaid the doors with bronze. 10 He placed the Sea on the south side, at the southeast corner.

11 And Huram also made the pots and shovels and sprinkling bowls.

So Huram finished the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the temple of God:

12 the two pillars;

the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;

the two sets of network decorating the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;

13 the four hundred pomegranates for the two sets of network (two rows of pomegranates for each network, decorating the bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars);

14 the stands with their basins;

15 the Sea and the twelve bulls under it;

16 the pots, shovels, meat forks and all related articles.

All the objects that Huram-Abi made for King Solomon for the temple of the Lord were of polished bronze. 17 The king had them cast in clay molds in the plain of the Jordan between Sukkoth and Zarethan. 18 All these things that Solomon made amounted to so much that the weight of the bronze could not be calculated.

19 Solomon also made all the furnishings that were in God’s temple:

the golden altar;

the tables on which was the bread of the Presence;

20 the lampstands of pure gold with their lamps, to burn in front of the inner sanctuary as prescribed;

21 the gold floral work and lamps and tongs (they were solid gold);

22 the pure gold wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and censers; and the gold doors of the temple: the inner doors to the Most Holy Place and the doors of the main hall.

5 When all the work Solomon had done for the temple of the Lord was finished, he brought in the things his father David had dedicated —the silver and gold and all the furnishings—and he placed them in the treasuries of God’s temple.


How do you worship and serve?

One of the things I love and admire about many of the churches we have had the privilege of visiting, is the model they set in terms of excellence in their worship. We try to emulate the great attention to every detail of their music, welcome and recruiting and training of volunteers to ensure excellence in our worship.

I love the diversity of worship that is found in different parts of the church. Ultimately, style is not important. Our worship should be excellent. It should be a high priority in terms of the use of our resources because we do it in honour of God.

As Solomon began building ‘the house of worship in honor of God’ (2:1, MSG), he says, ‘The house I am building has to be the best, for our God is the best... this house I’m building is going to be absolutely stunning – a showcase temple!’ (vv.5,9, MSG).

Achieving excellence took a great deal of material, time and effort. It required extraordinary attention to detail (chapters 2–4). The smallest details must be of the highest quality in God’s service.

This is why they used so much gold (4:21–22). Winners at sporting competitions receive gold medals because gold represents the very best. So, when you are worshipping and serving God, give your very best.

As Paul writes to the Colossians, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters... It is the Lord Christ you are serving’ (Colossians 3:23–24).

The preacher, Charles Spurgeon, was once talking to a cleaner who had recently become a Christian. Spurgeon asked her what difference Jesus had made. Rather timidly she replied, ‘Well Sir, I now sweep under the doormats.’ She knew that in her job she was now ultimately serving and worshipping Jesus. No sloppy living.


Lord, help me in my worship and service of you to give attention to every detail and to ensure that everything I do is of the very highest quality.

Pippa adds

1 Corinthians 10:12

‘So, if you think you are standing firm be careful that you don’t fall!’

It’s usually just when things are going well that something goes wrong or I’m aware of some failure. We have to live 'careful' lives not in a fearful restrictive way, but by making the most of every opportunity, being rooted in faith and full of hope and courage.



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The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel Commentary is available as a book.


Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (William B Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1987) p.431

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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