Unless The Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.Unless The Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep – Psalms 127:1-2 (ESV)
One of the most dangerous thoughts to ever enter the mind of a Christian is that of self-reliance. The idea that we can actually do something on our own. The idea that we alone can rise above issues, situations, and circumstances. The idea that if we can do things to our own level of satisfaction and by our own standards, we can somehow achieve a level of happiness that goes beyond what God can provide.
This attitude is often what shapes our prayers. It causes us to try and order God around as opposed to seeking His plan for our lives. We’re more concerned with our wishes and our desires than we are with the spiritual order of things. However, the scripture at the heading of this lesson tells us that a spirit of self-reliance is an exercise in futility. We know that God is there, but are we remembering why? In fact, it is the idea of self-reliance that will drive us crazy because we will inevitably come upon a situation that is beyond our control. If you’re only relying on self, what will you do in these moments?
Any act without prayer and acknowledgment of God is an act without real hope. For with everything WE attempt to put into place, we attempt to eliminate God. The reference “in vain” in our text speaks to something that is ineffective or improper. Therefore, to do anything without first seeking God’s guidance and blessings will be ineffective and improper. Where we often miss the mark is in falling in love with initial or temporary successes. Something works once, twice, or maybe even more without seeking God and we assume that it will work all the time. In our flesh, we seek that instant and immediate gratification, and not the long-term promises of God that those who are spiritual are seeking.
This particular text is stressing to us the importance of keeping God at the head of all that we do. It’s great that concerned citizens (the watchman) want to keep watch over their cities. But who are we counting on to cover the watchman? When we live in a society that has become not only anti-prayer, but anti-God, how can we expect things to remain peaceful and orderly? When we would rather rage than pray, what will the outcome be?
Your Christianity can’t only be skin deep and situational. You can’t look in the face of the evil in the world and say that you’re tired of praying and you’re now ready for revenge. Scripture tells us that we should never cease praying (Luke 18:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:17), but we only seem to believe that during times in which we’d like a blessing. But what about during times of death? What about during times of immorality? What about during times of destruction? What about praying to God just because He is God?
Look at our text today and look at how we’re conducting ourselves in society. There can be no real activism without first activating our faith in God. There can be no “grinding” for a better life without Godliness. There can be no peace without The Peacemaker. There can be no healing without The Healer. If God isn’t at the head of whatever it is that we’re doing, it will fail. Let me simplify: we will fail without God, but God Himself will never fail without us.
No matter what problems we may face in life, God is capable of delivering us from them all. If we face them alone, it is simply because we have chosen to. However, as this scripture tells us, to face them without God is to face them in vain. You can work all the days of your life, but if you haven’t placed God over your finances, your labor will be in vain. No matter how much you have, it will never seem to be enough. If you refuse to bless God with just a portion of what He has already blessed you with, you will find that what you have will disappear without explanation (Haggai 1:5-7). It is through God that we find the value of life, not the price of it. After all, Jesus has already paid the price for our lives (1 Corinthians 6:20). The cost was much too high for us.
This Scripture tells us that if God doesn’t build our house, we that do build it are doing so to no avail. This doesn’t just include your physical house, but also your spiritual house (1 Corinthians 6:19). What this says to me is that God must be at the foundation of what we do. If He’s not the foreman of the project that is our lives, the structure itself is for naught, constantly on the edge of implosion.
We must always remember that God is a provider to His children. Whatever we have need of, He will supply according to His will. If you’re hungry, He will feed you. If you’re struggling with a load, He’s there to help you carry it. If you’re grieving, He’s the best shoulder to lean on. And if you’re weary, He will give you peaceful rest. It makes no sense for us to stay up toiling day and night for material possessions or out of fear of what man can do to us. We mustn’t be weary in our well doing, so we must continue to stand and work for what is right. But we can never accomplish anything without acknowledging the God that owns it all.