Proverbs 14:4 – An empty stable stays clean — but there is no income from an empty stable. (TLB)
Wouldn't life be easier if we didn't have all of the muss and fuss that comes as part of daily living? The Passion Translation expresses today's verse in a humorous way: "The only clean stable is an empty stable. So if you want the work of an ox and to enjoy an abundant harvest, you'll have a mess or two to clean up!" A clean, tidy stall would be wonderful, but the benefit of a strong ox's work comes with strings attached.
We can identify with circumstances in which a good end result comes at the cost of time and effort, to say nothing of disorder and messiness that may be entailed along the way. Here are some starters:
- Successful childrearing comes along with many dirty diapers and spilled milk.
- Entertaining friends requires grocery shopping, tidying up the house, cooking the meal, and cleaning up afterward.
- A house remodeling job leaves a trail of sawdust, bent nails, and disorder before it is completed.
- A sewing project can leave behind snippets of thread and fabric and overlooked pins and needles.
- A beautiful yard entails the clutter of assorted gardening tools, to say nothing of thorns, weeds, and dirt — and a sore back.
- Teaching that touches hearts and changes lives can take hours of sermon preparation or lesson planning.
- Car repair includes the mess of oil and grease as necessary components for a smoothly running vehicle.
Despite the disorder and mess that may be part of the process of a worthwhile endeavour, the end result is worth it all. We may wish that the job could be completed without strain and pain, but that is all part and parcel of the process and is necessary for satisfactory completion of the work.
Let's take this illustration of a clean stable a step further and apply it to some intangible things, in addition to the visible, tangible things that we've considered. Relationships can also be messy and can require time and thought — and flexibility and humility — to straighten out and to keep in order. Our hearts before God are often sinful and in need of cleansing. How thankful we can be that He has made the way for restoring order and peace as we confess our sin and turn to Him for strength to repent and to turn from that sin.
As we face life with all that is involved both inwardly and outwardly, let us willingly accept the difficult, dirty, unpleasant elements, for the sake of achieving the desired result of living a life that is pleasing to God.
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, forgive us when we try to take shortcuts to bypass the hard work and mess that is part of seeing work through to completion. Give us strength to persevere and the hope of seeing fruit that comes from our labours. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
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