The Truth about Truth - Ecclesiastes 12:11

The Truth about Truth

The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. – Ecclesiastes 12:10-11 ESV

Ecclesiastes 12:11 talks about truth being a goad. Merriam-Webster defines a goad as, “provoke or annoy (someone) so as to stimulate some action or reaction.” Using that definition, Ecclesiastes is saying that knowing the truth bothers us until we respond to it. If God is truth and truth sets us free both of which seem like good things, then why does the Preacher say here that it’s an annoying goad, which sounds like a bad thing? What does knowing this change about listening to the Spirit?

In order to understand the goading better, let’s start by going back a few verses in chapter 12 to see more about what the Preacher is talking about. In verse 9, Ecclesiastes says, “Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care.” (Ecclesiastes 12:9 ESV) The Preacher didn’t just shout out an opinion, he studied carefully to find truth. In verse 10, it says the proverbs that the Preacher collected are given by one Shepherd, meaning God. The wise man, the Preacher, searched out diligently the wise and good ideas and then taught them and shared them, because he knew that all wisdom really comes from God.

This is important to know because it can be easy to dismiss wisdom or truth as something that’s simply someone else’s opinion. God is the giver of all wisdom and all truth, no matter who we think it’s from and no matter who tries to take the credit for it. Truth can come directly to us from God (John 14:26), or it can come through the wise teaching of men who are seeking the Lord.

This doesn’t mean that we listen to anyone who claims to know something we don’t know. Just because someone speaks confidently, doesn’t mean that they have the Spirit of the Lord leading them, no matter what they claim. So, how do we know the difference?

Sometimes, it can be very difficult if not impossible just by listening to someone’s words to determine if the Lord is leading them or not. Most of us know that we need to know the scriptures and compare what their saying to that. A teacher being led by God won’t contradict the truth of Himself that He’s already taught us. However, there’s an icky truth about false teachings that Apostle Paul warns us about in 1 Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” (ESV).

He’s warning us here that the reason that false teachings are appealing to us is because they are telling us what we already want to hear. We are seeking validation for ourselves or our emotions or maybe our life choices. Whatever the thing is, we want to be able to fulfill our passions guilt free, so we listen to people to are not sharing truth in order to feel good about it.

This is why the Preacher back in Ecclesiastes called truth a goad. It doesn’t only tell us what we want to hear, it tells us what’s going to make us like the Shepherd (Romans 8:29). Seeking comfort is a big deal to anyone who is human, so choosing to listen to a voice that tells you uncomfortable truths is not our first response. These goads are what keep us from settling in to a life of selfish pursuit of passions. The Spirit prompts us to move and not give in to apathy, prods us to keep us from settling for less than who God made us to be (hint: servant of all), and it reminds us that we are sinners who must always rely on grace.

The worst thing about uncomfortable truths isn’t just that they can be unpleasant. The worst thing about them is what makes them unpleasant. When God uses truth to change us, He starts by showing us who we really are. We’d like to think that He’s showing us difficult or challenging truths and the uncomfortable part is how hard we’re going to have to work to get there. That’s not it, though. God shows us who we are in the light of who He is. The uncomfortable part is that it’s dark, dark sin that separates us and nothing we can do will bridge the gap. Even after years of walking with Him, we must still be willing to acknowledge both current sins and our selfish temperament.

The next important thing about a goad, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is that it stimulates some action or response. A goad isn’t a goad if nothing changes after it’s been applies. Sometimes we have emotional moments where we feel like we’re never going to be the same. Or we have intellectual moments where we think we understand God on a whole new level now. In either case, it’s only a truth about God when we come away having been changed. There’s nothing wrong with either emotional moments or intellectual moments. In fact, sometimes we need to pile up several different moments over a long course of time in order to build up the momentum we need to change. However, if encounter after encounter happens and we always revert back, then we’re not really facing the real prod. We’re getting close enough to feel excited, but not close enough to see the truth about what needs to be different.

These aren’t pretty truths, but they are the wisdom of God who wants to spend eternity with us. He is reminding us of uncomfortable things so we can end up wrapped in His bliss for eternity. Let truth goad you. Let yourself be prodded by the Holy Spirit so that you can be more and more like Christ.

Searching Scriptures, Refusing Jesus - John 5:39-40

Come That You May Have Life

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. – John 5:39-40 ESV

The conviction in the words of Jesus can sometimes hit straight into your heart. Two verses in John are ready to stab piousness, no matter how little or how deeply it’s buried in our hearts. These verses are John 5:39-40 and they talk to us about living a life of theological understanding instead of life changing understanding.

In these verses in the fifth chapter of John, Jesus is responding to the complaints that he’s making himself equal with God and not keeping the Sabbath day holy (John 5:18). He is offering to the blind religious leaders a chance to hear Him and see Him as the Messiah. If they saw Him as God intended them to, they probably wouldn’t have condemned as a rule-breaker. If you meet God incarnate and He healed someone, would you quibble with what day of the week it was? The problem was that the beliefs of the religious that were based on scripture were blinding them to the Truth of God in front of them that was real and living.

The painful thing about this truth is that Christians today are doing the same thing. We search the scriptures, but instead of doing it to meet God, we do it to be right or to increase our own personal understanding. We forget the not only is God real, but Jesus is real and the Holy Spirit is real, and they are trying to be real part of our life.

Searching the scriptures apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit is walking with the risk of becoming spiritually dryer and dryer until we become nothing but dust on the inside. At that point, the only thing we know how to do is try to take the spiritual life and freedom out of others until they are as dusty and dry as we are. Remember, we became dusty and dry by studying the Word of God, so it’s easy to fall into putting down others who disagree with us.  We forget that the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ is given by Jesus alone, not by an intellectual understanding (Matthew 11:27).

How many battles have we waged with the words, “But the Bible says…”? How many times have we spoken condescendingly over a situation because we know what a “Christian should have done”? These words and judgmental attitudes are symptoms of a drying up Christian, of someone who’s using the Word of God without the power of a relationship with Christ.

This will destroy us and damage the testimony of all Christians if we don’t live in the truth of what Christ did and the knowledge of Him personally. Fight the temptation to be today’s Pharisees who use the Word to grow in piousness and selfishness. Instead, use the knowledge of Christ to study the Word to bring life and joy and fruit (John 15:8).

The God of Heaven Will Help Us Succeed - Nehemiah 2:20

You Have No Right Here!


But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king. They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work. But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked. I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.” – Nehemiah 2:17-20 (NLT)

We each have work that God had for us to do. In fact, he not only knew us and knew who we’d be (Psalm 139), but he even made good works for us to grow into (Ephesians 2:10). As we walk through life and we find our calling and learn to submit our heart and mind to the Lord in order to do this work, we will face opposition. People will scoff and laugh and tell us we can’t do it; sometimes, it will even be people we love and want support from. When we face this, we can learn from Nehemiah how to respond to this.

Nehemiah was in the time of the Babylonian captivity. He had a job (cup-bearer) very close to the King of Babylon. When he heard that Jerusalem had been destroyed and burned, he was heartsick. So much so that the king noticed how sad he was. When the king asked about it, Nehemiah not only was honest about what upset him, he also asked for permission to go fix it. In the day when kings were the ultimate law, taking it on yourself to ask for something when he didn’t start the conversation shows either a world of trust, a little insanity, or, I believe in Nehemiah’s case, faith in the Most High God.

In answers to Nehemiah’s prayers, the king responded positively to his request. The king even went so far as to give him letters to show he was working with the King’s permission and to pass through the lands as well as officers and men to accompany him. Even with all that, the enemies of the Israelites were upset that someone was coming back to try to build up the city.

This is a direct parallel to our own lives to many times. We think we have it all set and we’ve got all the blessings we need to keep walking. Then, before we’ve even really started, opposition comes at us. It can be so disheartening! We want to have the feelings of enthusiasm keep us moving, but it can seem so draining to feel like our best laid plans aren’t quite good enough or strong enough. But, like Nehemiah, we can stand up and renew our commitment to our God-given work.

Nehemiah said three things to the opponents that we can use in our fight.

  1. Know the Source – “The God of heaven will help us succeed.”
    We need to know who the source behind us is. If you don’t fully and completely believe that God is with you, growing you and changing you and causing you to succeed, you risk faltering when the road gets rough. It’s not about you, thank God. It’s about Him and He takes his job very seriously.
  2. Know the Task – “We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall.”
    Nehemiah was very clear on his task. He didn’t worry about any work that hadn’t been assigned to him. We must find this kind of clarity and choose to keep our focus. One quick way to fail is to start getting distracted or increasing the size of the task the Lord has given you. There will always work to be done, don’t worry about that. Instead, claim the work you have and focus on it and only it until you’ve completed it.
  3. Know the Boundaries – “You have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”
    Nehemiah knew that he was in the right place doing the right thing and that his enemies were in the wrong. He didn’t give them ground and he didn’t entertain their claims. So many times we let the words of the enemy into our hearts and our minds. We forget that we’re on a divinely appointed mission and we start listening to those voices. “Maybe I don’t have wat it takes. Maybe I’m wrong in what I believe. Maybe I should quit now and risk looking foolish.” On and on the voices go, trying to take back land that doesn’t belong to them. Throw those voices out! You have the right to be serving your God and no amount of doubt or nay-saying should throw you off course.

Always remember, God is with you and you can do what he’s called you to do. Not because of who you are, but because of who he is: the Great God and Creator of the universe. He is strong and He is moving and He will lift you up and cause you to walk in His light and His truth.


God Is Truth

God Is Truth

One of the aspects of God that brings me peace in times of debate or theological conflict is this: God is truth. God doesn’t just bring truth or want truth or teach truth; He IS truth. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “… I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” When I feel like my mind is being pulled in different directions by arguments or influencers, I can take a deep breath and say, “As I draw near to God, I draw near to the truth.”

What a relief! No more fear and insecurity about making the wrong choice. Even if I don’t get it right on the first try, as long as I keep humbly seeking the Lord’s face, I don’t have to fear. Deceivers come and, unfortunately, they aren’t going to stop coming. However, I don’t fear them and I don’t let them influence me. I trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit to show me that they are not working in His truth.

Psalm 43:3 says, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and your dwelling!” By stepping in to the light and the truth, by stepping into a relationship with Jesus Christ, I’m stepping into guidance that brings me to the dwelling place of God. This, of course, isn’t an earthly place, but a heart condition (John 4:32).

Is God doing this because of who I am? No, He does this because of who He is. All people have access to His truth and all people can be lead into His presence. God is not a respecter of persons (Romans 2:11), meaning He doesn’t play favorites. He is calling to all people, no matter your past choices, no matter your religious (or self-righteous) past. He loves you and He will lead you to see Him and know Him (John 17:3).