Walking in Wisdom
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Walking in Wisdom

From Series: Love, Light, Wisdom

Ephesians 5:15-17  (ID: 3256)

Does God care what we do with our time? In this message from Ephesians 5, Alistair Begg explains that the wise use of time should distinguish those who are in Christ from the world around us. Instead of making foolish decisions based on our feelings, impulses, or instincts, Christians should pay attention to God's Word, think carefully, and make wise decisions that bring glory to God.


Sermon Transcript: Print

And I invite you to turn with me to the New Testament and to Ephesians chapter 5. And we’ll read just three verses—15, 16, and 17—as we continue our study in the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 5:15:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Father, as we turn to the Bible, we pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to illumine to us the printed page, to quicken my understanding as I speak, to enable us as we all listen and bow underneath the truth of your Word, that the voice of Jesus Christ may be heard today. And in his name we ask it. Amen.

There’s a part in Pilgrim’s Progress which readers of Pilgrim’s Progress will immediately recognize—and perhaps if you’ve never read it, this will be an occasion for you to decide you would like to. But there is a point along the journey where Christian and Hopeful are talking with one another, and Christian becomes aware of the fact that the path is just too rough for his liking and his feet are beginning to become sore. And as a result of this, he has become somewhat discouraged, and he begins to think that perhaps there may be a smoother path on which they might be able to walk. And soon enough they find a pleasant little field, and it’s called By-Path Meadow. And so, says Christian to Hopeful, “Let us step aside into it and walk there. Perhaps we will find that this smooth path, which follows to the right of the more difficult one, will actually be to our benefit.” To which Hopeful replies, “But what if this path should lead us out of the way?” Hopeful asked. “Well, that is not likely,” said Christian.

Well, little did he know. Because as they begin to make their way along this smoother path, they see somebody up ahead of them, and they call up to this individual, who is Vain-Confidence—Mr. Vain-Confidence. “Where are you going?” they ask him. “Oh,” he says, “I’m going to the Celestial City.” And thereupon he loses his way, falls into a deep pit, and is never heard from again.

Meanwhile, the weather deteriorates, they are overwhelmed in their journey, and they lie down to sleep, only to awaken and discover that they have fallen asleep on the property owned by Giant Despair. And Giant Despair then takes them into custody in his castle, which is called Doubting-Castle. And as a result of that, Christian and Hopeful found themselves in a dark, nasty, stinking dungeon, “far from friends and in a hopeless and pitiable condition.” And Christian observes, “Who would have thought that this path, so pleasant, would lead us astray?”[1]

Now, I begin there because it is an apt illustration of the necessary warning and guidance that is sounded out, particularly in Ephesians 5:15: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” Well, Christian and Hopeful made an unwise move. And as a result of that, they found themselves in difficulty.

Now, Paul has been writing to these Ephesian believers and encouraging them in light of who they are in Christ, in light of that, to make sure that, as he began at the beginning of chapter 4, to “walk in a manner” that is in keeping with, is worthy of their calling as the followers of the Lord Jesus.[2] He’s been telling them that it is important they understand that they are markedly different from the surrounding culture. In fact, they’re a lot different from what they once were. Previously they were dark, he says; now they “are light in the Lord.”[3] And he’s been encouraging them, first of all, to “walk in love,”[4] and then to walk in light, and now he’s telling them that if they’re going to do that, it is imperative that they walk wisely.

And you’ll see that 15 follows directly from verse 14, in this respect: the third word in, if you’re using the ESV, is the word “then.” “Look carefully then how you walk.” In other words, “in light of all that I’ve been saying.” “If you’re going to conduct yourselves in the way that I have encouraged you,” he says that “it is very, very important that you conduct yourselves like sensible people and not like simpletons.” That’s to quote the New English Bible. So, sensible, but not like simpletons. Paul, as we’ve seen throughout, is not suggesting that they try and become something they’re not, but rather, he is increasingly encouraging them to become the people they are: “You are no longer what you once were, and therefore, you must no longer live as you once lived, because you are now new, and your new lifestyle will testify to your new life. It will bear evidence of it.”

So, the verses fall out straightforwardly. I don’t think there’s any reason to create an elaborate outline. Let’s just look at what the text says.

First of all, “Look carefully then how you walk.” “Look carefully … how you walk.” The way in which a person walks reveals a tremendous amount about us. Somebody slouches along or walks very erect—it’s possible that they were in the forces. My father, although he was small, always stood very straight up, used to say to me, “Why don’t you stand up straight?” and so on. And so, you can often tell that the person in the distance is a friend simply because of the way in which he or she walks.

And those of you who are walkers—and some of you will be—know that there are some wonderful walks all around Ohio. There are wonderful walks all across the nation. And if you’ve made it to Great Britain and you are a hill walker, then you will at least have heard of, if you have not actually been in, the Lake District to walk up Helvellyn and to walk on what is known as Striding Edge. Striding Edge is a narrow edge, as you might expect. There are corries or gullies on either side of it, and it is imperative that the walkers will “look carefully” when they walk, because the danger abounds. The fact is that there are a number of people who do not look carefully when they walk. Many of them fall to be injured, and an increasing number, if you just check online, actually fall to their deaths.

So, the instruction that is given in the physical realm, which then translates to the spiritual realm, needs to be paid attention to. That’s why Paul writes as he does. The verb is “look,” the adverb is “carefully.” So, “Look where you’re going, and be careful about it.” In other words, “Be careful rather than careless, be thoughtful rather than thoughtless, pay attention rather than becoming proud and presumptuous. Don’t think for a moment you can simply say, ‘Oh, I’ve got this covered. I know I can do this.’” Paul has labored to make it clear that all of the divine impetus has been granted to them in Christ; the Holy Spirit has come to live within them; they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. We might be tempted to think, “Well, that’s it, then. Just go ahead and do whatever.” “No,” he says, “look carefully how you walk.”

There’s nothing new in this by Paul; it runs through the whole Bible. Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in a counsel of the ungodly, and instead he walks in the light of the law of the Lord.”[5] Proverbs is replete with this—the juxtaposition of wisdom and the way in which a person walks. “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.”[6] “Her ways”—that is, wisdom personified—“her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”[7] Pleasantness and peace.

We go back to Pilgrim’s Progress: they had decided, “This path is a little stony; it’s a little rocky; it’s a little difficult. This path actually is not marked by pleasantness and peace. Let’s go over the stile into By-Path Meadow, where it is apparently pleasant and peaceful.” And they end up in a dark, stinking dungeon. Point well made by Bunyan, the warning well sounded out. That’s why sometimes when we write, perhaps, in a birthday book of a child, we would put in there Proverbs 3:5–6. I know I often do.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
 and do not [rely] on your own [insight].
In all your ways acknowledge him,
 and he will [direct] your paths.

That’s a categorical promise.

Now, that careful walk will distinguish the walker as being someone who is “unwise” or “wise.” And you’ll notice the negative comes first: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise.” Why does he have to say that? Well, because he’s already pointed out that all of the material that is in the previous twelve or fourteen verses is there not as some extraneous piece of information, but it is there as a necessity for the church, to make sure they understand who and what they are in Jesus. They mustn’t begin to think wrongly about these things. That’s why he said earlier on—remember, we noticed it—“[Therefore, do not let anyone] deceive you with empty words”[8]—words that may sound particularly wise but are actually unwise.

Now, this distinction is a distinction, again, that runs through Scripture. From childhood, many of us have known Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 5, 6, 7—in there, 7 probably. I can’t remember. I don’t want to look it up. But there it is: “The foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the rain came tumbling down. And the wise man built his house upon the rock, and the house on the rock stood firm.”[9] Wisdom, foolishness. Wisdom, foolishness. Psalm 14 begins, “The fool [has said] in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”[10] “The fool [has said] in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” “Well,” somebody says, “well, I know a lot of people who are very, very intelligent, and they’re the ones who’ve said, ‘There is no God.’ What does that mean?”

Well, it’s not talking about intellectual capacity; it’s talking about moral perversity. It’s talking about the fact that the fool is the person who says—and it’s a complete effrontery to God—“I know better than you.” The fool is the person who says, essentially, “We made God; he didn’t make us. We’re in charge of these things. We can make sense of all of this.” It is the fool who then says, “I have jurisdiction over this.” So says the psalmist. Psalm 32 makes the same point—which I can’t quote from memory, but I can turn to it. Psalm 32 and around verse 8 and 9, where “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you,” says God, “[but don’t be] like a horse or a mule, without understanding.” “Don’t be like a horse or a mule.”

Now, you say, “That’s not a very nice thing to say.” Well, some of you are horse people. Some of you may actually be horse whisperers, for all I know, and you can whisper and make them do certain things. But let me tell you that on average—and frankly, even if you can whisper to them—if you’re gonna ride them in the Kentucky Derby or in the Grand National in Liverpool, in Aintree, in England, you’d better make sure that you have a bit and a bridle on, and you’d better make sure you’ve got full control of that. Because the way in which you are going to stay on that horse and guide it around the track is not on accordance with how much you’re feeling predisposed to this creature or whether you had a little chat with him or her before you left but whether you’ve got control. The horse is moving as a result of that. And God says, “When I instruct you and teach you, I will do so in such a way that I will come down to you and make myself known to you. I have revealed myself to you. I’ve crossed the boundary into your world in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. But don’t be foolish. Don’t be like a horse or a mule, because then you are actually revealing the absence of wisdom.”

When the prophet Jeremiah speaks of it, he speaks not simply of the way in which we are like “sheep” who “have gone astray”[11]—Isaiah—but he actually describes us in terms of turning to our “own course” and “plunging headlong.”[12] That’s in Jeremiah chapter 8. We turn to our own course and we plunge headlong, so that it is, in fact, a more forceful waywardness than that simply of the proverbial sheep.

So, essentially, it is this: instead of being guided and governed by the principles of God’s Word, the fool operates on an entirely different platform. The fool does not go to the Bible. The fool does not pay any attention to the Bible. The fool will tell you that the Bible is just a collection of mythologies: it was made at a certain time, or it’s got some interesting pieces in it, or “I love it for literature,” or whatever it might be. But in terms of them actually going to it as a lamp to their feet and a light to their path,[13] the fool does not do so.

The person who is wise is paying attention to God’s Word.

So, how then does a foolish person navigate their way through life? Well, on all kinds of bases. One, on the basis of feelings. Feelings. “This is how I feel, and how I feel in myself is really the framework for me.” You get it in emotional terms, that old song, you know, “Feelings … feelings.” You know that thing? It’s really horrible. And… “Feelings…” Oh, it’s horrible! And it’s right up there with Barry Manilow, “I[’m just] tryin’ to get the feeling again,”[14] you know? It’s that: “So, what are you doing? How are you navigating through life?” “Well, this is how I feel.”

Or my instincts or my desires: “My desires are very strong; therefore, they determine where I’m going.” What if your desires are bad desires? What if your instincts are wrong instincts? “Well, they can’t possibly be wrong.” Why? “Well, I’m judging them only on the strength of how I feel about things.” That is foolishness.

By contrast, the person who is wise is paying attention to God’s Word. He is heeding God’s Word; she is focused on God’s Word. And she is making decisions in the now in relationship to the then.

One of the unwise ways to go through life, or one of the indications of the fact that I am not wise, is where I’m constantly focused on the now; it’s all about now. And this is a great mantra of our age. You watch golf tournaments, they always say the same thing: “Well, I’m just concentrating on the now. It’s just this moment, and that’s it.” Well, that makes perfect sense, only insofar as it is within the framework of those four or five hours. But the now of existentialism, if you like, has to be set within the framework of eternity: that God “has … set eternity in the hearts of [a man],”[15] so that a man, inside, knows, “There is more than this.” So then, it is foolishness to say, “All that matters is now, and consequences? Forget them! There’s no consequences. It doesn’t matter.”

Again, in the moral realm, Kris Kristofferson: “Help me make it through the night … let the devil take tomorrow.” “Let the devil take tomorrow,” he says, defiantly—wayward, aggressive, anti-God sentiment—“[but] tonight [I’ll take your hand].”[16] That’s all that matters. No, you see, the Bible introduces the then to us so that we can make sense of the now. And without the then there is actually no particular sense in the now.

Jesus did the same thing. The man says… He tells a story of the man who had a very good business going, highly successful, and as a result of that, he had resources. He said to himself, “With my resources I think I can do a little bit more work, build a couple more barns, build up the property.”[17] Nothing wrong with that at all. There’s no condemnation in that, for those of you who are, you know—and I’m not going to say that. So, there’s no condemnation in that at all. (That was a spiritual gain just there.) But there’s no condemnation in that in the parable. Where does the issue lie? Jesus said, “And God said to him”—check the text—“God said to him, ‘Fool!’” “God said to him, ‘Fool! Tonight your soul will be required of you, and who will then get all that you have acquired for yourself?’”[18] In other words, he’s saying, “When you take the now and you set it in the context of then, it changes your mentality.” And the wise person recognizes that.

Some time ago, somebody sent me a book written by lady—I’ve forgotten who it was—but it was essentially helping one to navigate through life. And the suggestion was… I think it was called 10-10-10. And she said in the book, “When you’re about to make a decision, ask yourself: What will the implications be in ten minutes, ten months, and ten years?”[19] The fool says, “Who cares? I don’t even care what’s going to happen in ten seconds. All I care about is right now.”

“Look carefully … how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” The people who have made the greatest impact in the world are the people who have lived their now in relationship to the then. Take, for example, Murray M’Cheyne—dies at twenty-nine as a Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh. What was it that marked M’Cheyne out? It was the fact that eternity impinged upon him to such a degree that it radically affected the way in which he spent his time and preached his sermons and everything else. And so it’s no surprise that he’s the one who wrote the poem, which became the hymn,

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.[20]

So this wisdom, you see, is not merely knowledge. It’s not the possession of facts. It’s not SATs. It’s not postgraduate qualifications. It is possible to have all of that and not be wise. It’s a wonderful thing if you have that and you are wise. But if you had to choose, you go for simplified wisdom rather than complicated absence of wisdom.

No, the wisdom is the ability to process knowledge in light of the truth of God’s Word and then to be able to apply that knowledge to the practicalities of life. So it is a God-given wisdom. Because by nature we look at things upside down, inside out. It’s only when the light shines in that we see we’re dark. It’s only when the light shines on the Word that we say, “Oh, well, that does make sense.” Until then, we walk in darkness.

Now, he goes on then to say one of the ways in which this then will be revealed is in the matter of time. “Look carefully … how you walk,” and then “making the best use of … time.” How will we know that somebody is a wise person? Well, the use of time will be one of the indications.

Now, time, of course, in itself is a challenge, isn’t it? Philosophers and scientists have been wrestling with the question of time for all of time. And that sort of high-level contemplation eventually filters down to the man on the street like me, and usually in contemporary music. And so, for example, if you’re familiar with the song by James Taylor called “The Secret o’ Life,” it begins,

The secret of life
Is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it,
There ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got
To the top of the hill,
But since we’re on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride. …

Now, the thing about time
Is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view,
How does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never
Understand it at all.
Planets spinning through space,
The smile on your face,
Welcome to the human race.

Some kind of lovely ride.
I’ll be sliding down,
I’ll be gliding down.
Try not to try too hard.
It’s just a lovely ride …
Sliding down, gliding down.[21]

What are you gonna do with that? Does that lift your spirits? Fuel your zeal? Say, “I want to seize every opportunity that is mine”? Uh-uh. No. You see, that’s man’s kind of assessment of things. And it takes the Word of God to assess things as they really are.

And the making of the use of our time is in the context of “days” that “are evil.” “Days” that “are evil.” There’s another one! Louis Armstrong says it’s a wonderful world,[22] and it is in many ways, but what a mess! What a mess! How could you say this place is wonderful? How long are we supposed to keep working at this and get it so unbelievably wrong? We can’t live with one another: husbands can’t live with wives, parents with children, races with one another, countries, states. What’s going on? “Well, of course, it’s to do with this, and with that, and, of course, with the next thing—the problem with the next thing.”

Well, how about the idea that the days in which we live are “evil”? How about the fact that Ross Douthat in the New York Times actually was brave enough to say it? I know nothing about Ross, but I was intrigued to see that after all the hoopla about the death of Mr. So-and-So from the Playboy Mansion, he had the guts to write a piece in the New York Times entitled “An Honest Obituary for a Wicked American.” All right? “An Honest Obituary for a Wicked American.” I can’t believe that he managed to get the adjective in. Where did he come up with that? On what basis is he wicked? Only on the basis of there being a moral standard of rectitude. Where is the basis of the moral standard? In God. How has God made it known? In his Word, summarized in the Ten Commandments, worked out throughout the whole of life—thereby able to say “This is good” and “This is bad.” “The days,” he says to the Ephesians, “are evil” days. That’s why he’s going to go on in chapter 6 and point out that the real issue that is involved is not against physical things, but it’s against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.[23]

It takes the Word of God to assess things as they really are.

Just last night, as I was thinking about going to sleep, I was reading the London Times for today, because by that time it was already today in London. And I shouldn’t have done it, because it just got me more ticked off before I went to sleep. Then it’s harder to sleep. But particularly when I went to the Scotland section, and there in the Scotland section, some well-meaning politician was explaining why Scotland is at the forefront, basically, of upturning everything that the Bible has to say about marriage, about family, about child-rearing, and so on. And in the course of the article the fellow says, “And, of course, we have wonderful precedent for this, because fifty-two other countries in the world have already done this. And we are happy to join them and, indeed, to lead the way.”

Oh, I said, can it be? Can it be that the land of John Knox is producing this kind of stuff? Can it be that Scotland, that has been known as the Land of the Book, can have people now declaring these things with such forcefulness? How does this happen? Well, the answer is in Genesis chapter 3, where we have the protoevangelion: “He will bruise your heel, and he will crush his head.”[24] In other words, the great dilemma of the world is because of the darkness that exists, into which the light comes, and the darkness cannot ultimately extinguish it. But whether you’re in Ephesus or whether you’re in Cleveland, Paul is saying, “You’re going to have to make the most of your time in a context that is dark and is evil.”

Well, what does it mean to make the most of your time, given that the heart of man is “deceitful” and “desperately wicked”?[25] What does it mean? What does it mean to redeem the time? Or how do you buy back time? Time may be money, but money can’t buy time. Time is our greatest commodity, not money. We can’t add… We can’t stretch it in any way. That’s what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. He says to his disciples, “Why are you anxious about these things?” He said, “Which of you could actually add a single hour to your span of life?”[26] The answer is nobody. Nobody could.

So how in the world are we to do what he says, to make the best use of the time? How do you make the best use of the time? What is the price that needs to be paid in order to do that? The answer is self-discipline. Self-discipline. To glorify God, deciding that everything I am and everything I have is ultimately to be sent in that direction, so that all of my time—not like Sunday time, religious time, and then secular time, but all of time (and time is the creation of God, don’t forget)—has been given to us in order that we might glorify God.

Do you remember this advertisement in an old, old newspaper under the lost and found column? Said, “Lost, yesterday, somewhere between Sunrise and Sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward … offered, for they are gone forever.”[27] Wisdom will be displayed in our understanding of time, set, again, within the context of eternity, and in the way in which we take the opportunities which time affords to live to the glory of God.

So, he comes back, almost full circle, in verse 17—back to the negative again: “Therefore do not be foolish.” “Do not be foolish.” Why do you have to say, “Do not be foolish”? You’ve written to these people. They’re believers in Jesus. They’re following Jesus. Because we’re foolish! We are absolutely foolish. The warnings are not there as some external concept. They’re there to say, “You know, you’ve got the great potential to be stupid, to act like a simpleton in this one. You’re not thinking! You’re not thinking!” He’s already said back in verse 10, “Try to discern what it is that pleases the Lord.”[28] He doesn’t say, “You’ll find what pleases the Lord by just, like, sitting and having a moment.” He says, “You’re going to have to try and discern it.” How do you discern it? By thinking. By thinking what? By thinking universal principles to be applied to individual questions in such a way that the principles then drive the thinking and, ultimately, the decision.

Simpletons don’t think. Simpletons do stuff, and they are still unprepared to acknowledge that there are consequences to them. Christian and Hopeful did the very thing in that moment: “This looks like a reasonable way to go. It’s easy. It’s attractive. Let’s go.”

Well, you need to understand—we need to understand—that when the Bible talks about making an understanding of what the will of the Lord is, it’s really very straightforward. Because ultimately, God’s will for his children is to make us like Jesus. If you want to stand way back from the picture and say, “What is God doing with us?” What is he doing with us that is true of every single one of us, whether you work in the bank, whether you work as a carpenter, whether you’re a mom, whether you’re a student, whether you’re a scientist, an artist, a poet, a musician, whatever it is, what is God doing? What is the will of God? To make you like Jesus. If you doubt that, read Romans 8: those he predestined he called “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”[29] So we know that all day, every day, he is committed to making us like his Son. That’s why in Ephesians 1 he’s already said that “God has come in eternity, into time, in order to make you holy.”[30] In 1 Thessalonians 4, the same thing: “[And] this is the will of God [for you], even your sanctification.”[31] And John looks to the day when we will see him and we will be like him.[32]

Now, that is the big picture, and that is the ultimate destination. Paul is not suggesting here that we can, as it were, finally, categorically figure out all the peculiarities of our personal discoveries of the will of God. So, for example, “Should I get married to him? Should I get a new job? Should I retire? Should I retire on November the twenty-fifth, or should I retire on the tenth of December? Should we move to Maine? Should we…” All of those questions, I guarantee you: you cannot find the answer in the Bible. It’s not in there. You heard it from me. Those particular things are not in the Bible.

Now, you say, “Well, what are we supposed to do?” Well, we’re supposed to do this: we are supposed to think. That’s the first thing. Don’t be foolish. Don’t be daft. “Understand what the will of the Lord is.” And so, then, I bring my personal decision-making under my careful thinking about the principles of God’s Word, which then constrain me in relationship to these other decisions. That’s the importance, incidentally, of knowing the Bible. That’s the importance of actually paying attention to the Bible. That’s the importance of Christian fellowship. That’s the importance of wise counsel. Because all of these things have been given to us in order to help us with those questions. Because we do care about whether we’re getting married or not, we do care about whether we’re retiring or not, and so on. But we can’t go and find the actual verse in there that says, “Alistair Begg, retire in November.” Okay? (Incidentally, I’m not planning on retiring in November. But maybe in December. So…) No, and eventually what we’re going to say is “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”[33]

Here’s the thing that… Let’s just finish in this way. The will of God is perfect. The will of God is perfect. “Understand the will of God.” All of the dark shadows, all of the deep paths, all of the difficulties, all of the great challenges in the dungeon experiences of our life—still the will of God is perfect. “As for God, his way is perfect.”[34] At the end of the journey, we will be able to look back and understand what now we cannot really fathom.

And when I was thinking along these lines, it took me back again to my student days and to one of the girls who was a friend of us all, a Welsh girl, a good singer who graduated the year before us. She went to Rhodesia, as it was then. She went to work in a Pentecostal mission school called Emmanuel mission school. And I won’t forget the day when I took Newsweek magazine, and I looked in it, and I realized that the description of the terrorist attack over the border from Mozambique into Rhodesia had been a terrorist attack on the school at which Mary was teaching.

All of the dark shadows, all of the deep paths, all of the difficulties, all of the great challenges in the dungeon experiences of our life—still the will of God is perfect.

The article read along these lines: Twelve individuals were killed in the school on the afternoon of the twenty-third. Eight of them were adults; four of them were children; the youngest was only three months old. They were bayoneted to death and left to lie outside. The article said one girl managed, after this brutality, to drag herself away from this. Unfortunately, seven days later she also died. That was Mary: twenty-eight years old.

When they gathered up her belongings and sent them back to her mom and dad, cassette tapes were there of her singing—singing, because she was a children’s person; she was teaching the children. They were teaching her Shona, and she was teaching them Jesus. And as they played the material back, there her voice was singing, in Shona,

To me to live is Christ, to die is gain,
To hold his hand, to walk his narrow way.
There is no peace, no joy, no thrill
Like walking in his will.
To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

And Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. [He that] follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”[35] And perhaps you are here today, and you’ve never stepped out in obedience and in faith and trusting in Jesus to walk the path that he has set out for us. The promise of God’s Word is that whoever comes to him he will never turn away.[36] And we come to him as sinners in need of a Savior, as children in need of the wisdom that he alone provides. And so, “if you hear [God’s] voice, do not harden your [heart].”[37]

And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one who believes, today and forevermore. Amen.


[1] John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). Some dialogue paraphrased from the original.

[2] Ephesians 4:1 (ESV).

[3] Ephesians 5:8 (ESV).

[4] Ephesians 5:2 (ESV).

[5] Psalm 1:1–2 (paraphrased).

[6] Proverbs 3:13 (ESV).

[7] Proverbs 3:17 (ESV).

[8] Ephesians 5:6 (ESV).

[9] Matthew 7:24–27 (paraphrased).

[10] Psalm 14:1 (ESV).

[11] Isaiah 53:6 (ESV).

[12] Jeremiah 8:6 (ESV).

[13] See Psalm 119:105.

[14] David Pomeranz, “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again” (1975).

[15] Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV 1984).

[16] Kris Kristofferson, “Help Me Make It Through the Night” (1970).

[17] Luke 12:16–19 (paraphrased).

[18] Luke 12:20 (paraphrased).

[19] Suzy Welch, 10-10-10 (New York: Scribner, 2009). Paraphrased.

[20] Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “When This Passing World Is Done” (1837).

[21] James Taylor, “Secret o’ Life” (1977).

[22] George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, “What a Wonderful World” (1967).

[23] See Ephesians 6:12.

[24] Genesis 3:15 (paraphrased).

[25] Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV).

[26] Matthew 6:25, 27 (paraphrased).

[27] Horace Mann, “Lost, Two Golden Hours,” quoted in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, ed. Elizabeth Knowles, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 493.

[28] Ephesians 5:10 (paraphrased).

[29] Romans 8:29 (ESV).

[30] Ephesians 1:4 (paraphrased).

[31] 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (KJV).

[32] 1 John 3:2 (paraphrased).

[33] Luke 22:42 (KJV).

[34] Psalm 18:30 (NIV).

[35] John 8:12 (ESV).

[36] John 6:37 (paraphrased).

[37] Hebrews 3:15; 4:7 (ESV).

Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.