During a recent morning family devotional, I asked the kids which of the following habits would better determine their long-range success in life: making good grades or doing their assigned chores (taking out the trash, making their beds, etc.). There was silence and shifting…then one of them, realizing there was probably a twist to the answer, spoke up and said, “Doing the daily chores?” They guessed that this was probably what I was after, and they were right.
Jesus referenced the importance of being faithful in the small things in building the kingdom of God. In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), Jesus acknowledged and praised the faithfulness of two of the stewards in verses 21 and 23: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”As I write this article, the national (and world) economy is not doing well. Much of the blame has been credited to unwise business decisions spread out over many different sectors of the economy. As I listen to the analysts try to unwind how we got into this mess, the word substance keeps coming to my spirit. More specifically, the lack of substance seems to be a recurring theme in the business practices that have snowballed into our current economic mess. In First Corinthians 3:9-14, the apostle Paul commented on the need for substance when building any entity (especially the kingdom of God):
For we are God’s fellow workers…you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it…Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.Paul knew that every building, every entity, every business, every person will be periodically tested. If the foundation and subsequent structure are not built on substance, the building will collapse (dot.com bubbles, real estate/sub-prime mortgage bubbles, etc.). “Fluff” will not hold up during times of testing. Cotton candy cannot adequately nourish a long-distance runner or a diseased body.
The true substance on which anything can be built is faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So, if God gives me a word and I receive it, faith rises in my heart. As I act on (build with) the true substance of faith, whatever I am building (business, relationships, people, etc.) will have substance. As I continue to be faithful with the daily things that the Lord has given me to do, the kingdom of God will advance forward. Kingdom substance may not always be flashy, but it is always solid. Substance will stand the tests of time.
Oh, by the way. As my kids learn to be faithful in the small things of substance, good grades are likely to follow.