Day 225

Enjoy Life in the Present

Wisdom Proverbs 19:23
New Testament 1 Corinthians 7:17-35
Old Testament Ecclesiastes 4:6-12


Some people see life today as the Three Witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth put it, ‘Double, double toil and trouble.’ My own perspective on life changed when a friend wisely pointed out to me that, in a sense, this life is a series of problem-solving exercises. We will never be without problems in this life. If, in the midst of all the challenges, you cannot learn to thrive in the situation in which you find yourself, you will never find contentment.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says, ‘We should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now’ (Ecclesiastes 5:19, MSG). Learn to enjoy this wonderful gift of life in the present. If you do not, life will pass you by and you will never enjoy where you are right now.


Proverbs 19:23

23 The fear of the LORD leads to life;
   then one rests content, untouched by trouble.


Trust, respect and honour God

The answer to unnecessary trouble, according to the writer of Proverbs is, ‘The fear of the Lord’ (19:23a) – that is, living in a relationship with God, trusting in him, respecting and honouring him. He writes, ‘The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble’ (v.23).

He goes on to speak of some of the causes of unecessary trouble:

  1. Laziness
    Laziness is highlighted in this passage as a cause of future trouble: ‘A farmer too lazy to plant in the spring has nothing to harvest in the fall’ (20:4, MSG; see also 19:24).

  2. Cynicism
    Mocking (19:25,29) is a form of cynicism. It is very common in our culture today. It can even infect the church, but it is not a good thing. It leads to trouble.

  3. Malice
    Dishonesty is another cause of trouble. Robbery leads to ‘shame and disgrace’ (v.26). ‘An unprincipled witness desecrates justice; the mouths of the wicked spew malice’ (v.28, MSG).

  4. Substance abuse
    ‘Wine makes you mean, beer makes you troublesome – a staggering drunk is not much fun’ (20:1, MSG). So much trouble is caused by people getting drunk. Many of the crimes that occur in society are committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  5. Quarrelling (v.3)
    'It is the mark of good character to avert quarrels, but fools love to pick fights’ (v.3, MSG).


Lord, thank you that it is a relationship with you that leads to life and contentment. Help me to avoid the causes of unnecessary trouble.

New Testament

1 Corinthians 7:17-35

17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you – although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. 31 … For this world in its present form is passing away.

32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs —how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.


Be totally devoted to the Lord

One of the key issues these days is the anxiety and listlessness which comes from constant comparison and FOMO (fear of missing out).

The answer to FOMO is found in the words with which Paul starts the passage for today: ‘Don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you’ (v.17, MSG). Paul gives the principle from which all his application flows (vv.17–24). A new Christian should stay as they were when they were converted.

He gives three examples: marriage, circumcision and slavery. (Historically, the first Christians were a small minority and in no position to abolish slavery.)

However, this has a wider application. Unless their occupation is illegal or immoral, those who become Christians should not simply leave their job without receiving a clear call into some new occupation. God calls you in to things, not simply out of them.

Paul wants to spare people the ‘many troubles in this life’ (v.28). ‘Don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily’ (v.29, MSG). His overriding concern, as he looks at the questions of marriage and singleness, is ‘undivided devotion to the Lord’ (v.35) – the supreme aim of your life.

Paul writes of the advantages of singleness. Of course, Jesus himself was single and he spoke about the fact that, for some, singleness is involuntary, whereas for others it is a choice for the sake of the kingdom (Matthew 19:12). Involuntary singleness is a difficult and painful subject, but it is not what Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 19, nor is it what Paul is speaking about here. Paul is speaking about singleness for the sake of the kingdom. This can be either permanent or temporary.

The disadvantages of singleness are obvious. Perhaps the three hardest things for single Christians can be, first, missing the companionship of marriage and the loneliness that can result; second, a lack of sexual fulfilment; third, not having children.

However, the apostle Paul here also gives two reasons why it can be an advantage:

  1. The brevity of life
    He writes that ‘there is no time to waste’ (1 Corinthians 7:29, MSG), therefore ‘don't complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple – in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things – your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you’ (vv.29–31, MSG).

He is not forbidding marriage any more than he is forbidding laughter, mourning or shopping. Rather he is saying that everything pales into insignificance besides the glory of serving the Lord. We need a detachment from the things of this world. This may be easier if a person is single.

  1. Freedom from distraction
    This applies especially in times of persecution, which provides the context for this passage, ‘because of the present crisis’ (v.26).

Paul writes, ‘I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you are unmarried, you are free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master… The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend on becoming whole and holy instruments of God… All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions’ (vv.32–35, MSG).

We have a limited amount of time, energy and money. There is no doubt that there are many demands in marriage. Paul calls for a positive view of singleness – whether permanent or temporary. He is saying it can be fulfilling and liberating – as it was for Jesus.

Elsewhere he writes that marriage itself is only a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5). The reality is found in Christ. Both marriage and singleness are gifts. What really matters is ‘undivided devotion to the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 7:35). We often assume that marriage is the best and most obvious way of life to follow. This passage reminds us not to overlook the benefits of singleness. Singleness is equally valid, and can be very fruitful and fulfilling.


Lord, help me to find life and contentment in whatever situation I find myself – leading a life to ‘please the Lord’. ‘May I live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord’ (v.35).

Old Testament

Ecclesiastes 4:6-12

6 Better one handful with tranquillity
   than two handfuls with toil
   and chasing after the wind.

7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:

8 There was a man all alone;
   he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
   yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
   “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
   a miserable business!

9 Two are better than one,
   because they have a good return for their labour:
10 If either of them falls down,
   one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
   and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
   But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
   two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.


Enjoy the blessings of work and relationships

The writer continues his theme of the emptiness of life and its meaninglessness. He sees life as full of trouble, ‘oppression’ and ‘toil’ (4:1–6).

He speaks of the emptiness experienced by those in high positions (vv.13–16). He also speaks of the emptiness of an acquisitive life (5:16–17) and the elusive quality of desire (6:9). In the midst of this rather pessimistic and depressing view of life, he gives keys to thriving amid toil and trouble.

  1. Work
    A lack of work is a bad thing: ‘Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves’ (4:5). On the other hand, don’t work too hard: ‘Working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, “Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun?”’ (v.8, MSG).

The optimum is moderate work: ‘Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind’ (v.6). He goes on to say, ‘The sleep of labourers is sweet, whether they eat little or much’ (5:12).

  1. Relationships
    He goes on to speak of the vital importance of relationships: marriage, friendship and teams (4:9–12). First there is synergy. ‘It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth’ (v.9, MSG). Working as a team can be more efficient.

Second, there is the advantage of mutual support. ‘If they fall down, one can help the other up. But pity those who fall and have no friend to help them up!’ (v.10).

Third, there is the advantage of physical and spiritual support: ‘A cord of three strands is not quickly broken’ (v.12).

The key to a strong friendship or a strong marriage is the third cord – what the other passages for today speak of as ‘undivided devotion to the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 7:35) and ‘the fear of the Lord’ (Proverbs 19:23a).


Lord, help me to avoid unnecessary ‘toil and trouble’ and in undivided devotion to the Lord, not just to survive, but to thrive and enjoy life in all its fullness.

Pippa adds

Ecclesiastes 4:4

‘And I saw that all labour and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another.’

This seems rather a cynical way of looking at things. Envy can be so destructive, but sometimes a little healthy competition is quite motivating!

Thought for the Day

God calls you in to things, not simply out of them.



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William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV Scene I, first published 1623.

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 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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