How often do we take time to consider how well we are doing at pleasing God? Not frequently enough, I suspect.
Human nature leads us to compete. Even as small children we developed rivalries. Our default model: I'm better than you. We measure success against someone else. We quantify by assessing strength, looks, possessions, position, power and so on. We think ourselves doing well if we are doing better than others -- especially our rivals of choice. Getting ahead often involves playing roles, telling fibs and diminishing others. Who needs to be good when one only needs to look good?
The science magazine "Focus" recently did a feature which portended to argue that ethical people are less successful than those who are not. Studies by major U.S. and European universities show that to be substantially true. Does that mean that we should all forget ethics (or at least make it no more than a fašade)?
Life is filled with choices. Usually we choose based on perceived gain or reward. What we often fail to realize is that our tendency is to opt for short-term gains rather than long-term gains. The sad fact is, short-term gains are most often short lived gains.
History is filled with stories of peoples who experienced heartbreaking penalties for clinging to short term visions. Israel is one example. God called Isaiah to speak to a nation who seemed to have everything going for it. Outwardly they had mastered the game of "looking good." God, however, looks at the inside. God commanded Isaiah to say to Israel, 16 wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, 17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. 18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:16-18 (NIV) God made it clear that He was not impressed with the veil religion. What God required was living faith. The people had a stunning fašade, but were inwardly filled with sin and selfishness. What God says through Isaiah that true faith looks like this -- do right, seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Not outward religiosity but Godly compassion that flows from a heart of true faith.
Instant gratification has a disastrous cost. Nations have ended, and people's lives have been destroyed by opting for short term goals. Even if pursuing short-term goals results in a lifetime of success, that is pretty insignificant compared to eternal reward. I 'm with Joshua who said, "As for me and my house, I will serve the Lord." God has for us that which is infinitely better. Coming to Him through Jesus the Christ we may be assured that though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Have you chosen the true long-term reward? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?