Sabbath School Lesson for March 17-23, 2018

If this week’s lesson had been titled “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, it would be a best seller and people would flock to find out what those habits were. (Ask Stephen Covey.) So let’s not dismiss a very important Bible study that will reveal the five good habits of a faithful steward. Just because that old-fashioned, misunderstood word “steward” is in the title doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention.

These habits are worth, not only considering, but practicing. Without them, our likelihood for being a faithful steward is hindered drastically. In order to manage everything God has given us, we must incorporate every skill and effort we can into our service for God. These five habits are clearly spelled out for us in scripture, and we can’t afford to ignore them.

Remember this: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:9-11 NKJV

The psalmist recognized that the way to know God’s heart was to study His word, the Bible. In its pages we find the God we are looking for, the One we may have even wandered away from. His commandments are designed to guide us into having a closer walk with Him. Hiding His words in our heart, even memorizing them, provides us with a defense against sin, a way to become cleansed from all the worldly clutter and garbage with which we are so easily entangled.

A habit is merely an action based on an ingrained decision. We practice an action so much that we don’t even have to think about it. We just do it. This is not saying we shouldn’t put all our heart and thought into an activity, but when it is something we have already determined is right, the decision to do it should come automatically, without hesitation or a struggle of conscience.

Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to struggle with every moral decision and action. The time saved alone would enable us to be better stewards of our time, our talents, and our witness. Therefore, let’s see what some of these habits are, so we can get on the road to more effective stewardship, becoming more effective people in general as well. Stephen Covey, move over. God has something to say about this, and I think it’s important.

Sunday: Habit #1–Seek God First

It should be no surprise that this habit is mentioned first. The first of the ten commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, tells us the importance of this habit.

Without concerted effort, we can so easily put other things or people ahead of God. But without Him out in front leading us, we are at risk of failing anything we attempt to do.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “morning person”, you can’t afford to neglect prayer that would set your mind on God for the rest of the day. If you’re the type of person who can handle deep, reflective study in the morning, then by all means, do that then also.

But don’t start and end your day without focused attention on communication of some kind with God. When you do, you will more likely find your thoughts turning to Him throughout the day and your sleep will be much sweeter during the night, making your daily life in this world much smoother. (Mark 1:35 tells how Jesus woke up early in the morning and found a quiet place to pray, and Luke 6:12 shows Him praying to His Father at night.)

Discussion Questions:

Read Exodus 20:3 and Matthew 6:31-33. How are these verses saying the same thing? What kind of things will be added to our life, when we make God first?

Read Acts 17:28 and Ephesians 5:15-17. How does making God first help us understand His will, and how does that impact our way of life?

Read Luke 2:46-49 and Colossians 3:23. How does making God first help us to work harder?

Monday: Habit #2–Look for the Return of Jesus

We all tend to love that time of anticipation when loved ones come to visit, even though it may mean extra work to get ready for their arrival. I’ll never forget when my parents were a bit disappointed by a surprise visit from my sister. They explained that they missed that time of anticipation before the visit. She had to promise not to surprise them again. The experience of waiting for someone to come was just too precious for them to miss. In the same way, some of our best memories of Christmas and birthdays as a child consist of counting the days and hours before the event gets there. It made the event that much more precious because it had been anticipated with such eagerness.

This must be similar to how we are to look for Jesus’ Second Coming. Are we really longing for that event with eager anticipation, and are we preparing for it as we should? The depth of our preparations will depend on our enthusiastic attitude and intense desire to be with Him.

Getting in the habit of looking for the Lord to come will make us more diligent in managing the life we have left on this planet. Abraham and others in the Bible “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:10 NKJV In Titus 2:13, we hear about “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” NKJV How blessed is that hope to you?

Discussion Questions:

Read Luke 12:41-48. Why was the punishment greater for those who knew their master’s will than for those who did not?

Read Hebrews 10:25 and Philippians 3:20. What should we be doing and thinking as we wait for His Coming? Why is the assembling of ourselves so much more important as the end nears? And how will Satan try to prevent it from happening?

Read Mark 8:38 and 2 Timothy 1:8, 9. How do we show that we are not ashamed of Jesus?

Tuesday: Habit #3–Use Time Wisely

Of all the things we are given by God to manage, our time is undoubtedly our most precious commodity. If we lose our money or misuse a talent, there is usually a way to retrieve it and often recover our losses. But not so with time. Once our time is spent, there is no turning back of the clock. That moment is lost forever.

Perhaps this is why God made sure to include the fourth commandment in the tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai. The seventh day (the only one that’s been blessed by God) is our permanent reminder that all our time belongs to Him. We really have no time to waste on selfish pleasures.

The other six days are designated for pursuing our livelihoods. This is not to say that intermittent vacation times for renewal and refreshment, in addition to the weekly rest, are unnecessary. God recognized this need when He set up the yearly feast days for the Israelites. They needed additional time for social gatherings and remembrance of important events. This shows that God doesn’t deny us pleasures in life, just the selfish, self-destructive ones.

Using our time wisely by focusing on the things most important to our life, both temporal and eternal, will ensure that time is not spent on frivolous activities. When our time is managed well, better management of everything else will follow.

Discussion Questions:

Read James 4:14, Psalm 90:10, 12, and 39:4, 5. How is our life like a vapor? How should thinking about our death affect our stewardship? In what ways, however, could it hinder, instead of enhance, our performance of life’s duties?

Read Ecclesiastes 3:6-8. How much control do we really have over our time? How important is it that it is spent on appropriate activities?

Read Ephesians 5:15-17. What does it mean that “the days are evil”? Why is knowing God’s will important for knowing how to spend our time?

Wednesday: Habit #4–Keep a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul

Jesus spent His whole ministry on earth trying to improve the lives of the people around Him. He…

  • healed them of their diseases (their bodies),
  • challenged their thinking (their minds), and
  • preached to them about loving one another (their souls).

Even though a full, future restoration of this planet is in store for us, God is also interested in our well-being here and now.

He wants us to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, not just for our own enjoyment of life, but to make us better able to serve Him. Satan tries to derail God’s desires for us, but God promises that when trials do come, we will be given the grace to endure them, and even the opportunity to turn those barriers into blessings, either for ourselves or for someone else.

We must do our part though in…

  1. filling our minds with appropriate subject matter,
  2. training our bodies with proper diet, rest, and exercise, and
  3. doing all we can to improve our communication and relationship with God with ample Bible study and prayer.

Discussion Questions:

Read Acts 3:21 and Revelation 21:1-5. If a total restoration is going to happen at the end of this earth’s history, then why should we be concerned with being restored in this life?

Read Philippians 4:8 and Isaiah 26:3. How do our thoughts contribute to having the peace of God?

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:23. What part do body, mind, and spirit play in our sanctification?

Thursday: Habit #5–Self-Discipline

Keep in mind that self-discipline doesn’t mean it comes only from self. That is a scary thought to most of us, because having self-discipline does not come naturally for the human race. It’s a characteristic that must be developed, and it often takes a lifetime to accomplish.

That’s why God is willing to shore up our ability to have self-discipline. Making Him first, our first habit of good stewardship, assures that God will be our partner in this endeavor. With His power to rely on, we know that “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The reason why self-discipline is a helpful habit is because it involves using our senses to distinguish between good and evil and to follow through with a wise choice. The Bible provides us with numerous examples of those who had self-discipline and those who didn’t. The difference in their experience is pronounced. Take for example…

  • Daniel and Joseph (examples of well-disciplined men who withstood extreme pressures and distractions in life and remained faithful)
  • Samson and Solomon (examples of  less-disciplined men who, at least for a time, could not withstand the temptations of life)

Self-discipline is something to be desired in God’s stewards because it enables us to follow God with more ease and success. We should never give up on attaining it.

Discussion Questions:

Read 2 Timothy 1:7. Some versions refer to “a sound mind” as “self-discipline” or “self-control”. Why is self-discipline needed in this list of things that God desires for us?

Read 1 Timothy 4:7. How is training or exercising yourself in godliness the same as practicing self-discipline? What effect does self-discipline  have on our stewardship?

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. How are temperance and self-discipline related?


The habits of a faithful steward apply to all phases of our Christian walk. Without them, our discipleship and service to God is greatly hindered. Therefore, we should all strive to…

  1. put God first–the first of the Ten Commandments (Sunday)
  2. eagerly wait and prepare for Christ’s return–Abraham and others patiently waited for the Promise (Monday)
  3. use our time wisely–our time on earth is short (Tuesday)
  4. maintain a healthy lifestyle–the restoration begins NOW (Wednesday)
  5. partner with God to be more self-disciplined in serving Him–it may take a lifetime (Thursday)

Although these habits seem self-evident, they are illustrated time and again in the Bible, showing our need to take them seriously, as we seek to be God’s faithful stewards.

Final Words

Consider the words of this poem by Sarah Doudney. It touches on many of the good habits we learned about this week.

The Watermill

Listen to the water mill,

Through the livelong day;

How the clicking of the wheel

Wears the hours away.

Languidly the autumn wind

Stirs the withered leaves;

On the field the reapers sing,

Binding up the sheaves;

And a proverb haunts my mind,

And as a spell is cast,

” The mill will never grind

With the water that has passed. “

Autumn winds revive no more

Leaves strewn o’er earth and main.

The sickle never more shall reap

The yellow, garnered grain;

And the rippling stream flows on

Tranquil, deep and still,

Never gliding back again

To the water mill.

Truly speaks the proverb old,

With a meaning vast:

” The mill will never grind

With the water that has passed. ”

Take the lesson to thyself,

Loving heart and true;

Golden years are fleeting by,

Youth is passing, too.

Learn to make the most of life,

Lose no happy day!

Time will ne’er return again —

Sweet chances thrown away.

Leave no tender word unsaid,

But love while love shall last:

” The mill will never grind

With the water that has passed. “

Work, while yet the sun does shine,

Men of strength and will!

Never does the streamlet glide

Useless by the mill.

Wait not till tomorrow’s sun

Beams brightly on thy way;

All that thou canst call thine own

Lies in this word: ” Today! ”

Power, intellect and health

Will not always last:

” The mill will never grind

With the water that has passed. “

O, the wasted hours of life

That have swiftly drifted by!

O, the good we might have done!

Gone, lost without a sigh!

Love that we might once have saved

By a single kindly word;

Thoughts conceived, but ne’er expressed,

Perishing unpenned, unheard!

Take the proverb to thy soul!

Take, and clasp it fast:

” The mill will never grind

With the water that has passed. ”

O, love thy God and fellow man,

Thyself consider last;

For come it will when thou must scan

Dark errors of the past.

And when the fight of life is o’er

And earth recedes from view.

And heaven in all its glory shines.

‘Midst the good, the pure, the true,

Then you will see more clearly

The proverb, deep and vast:

” The mill will never grind

With the water that has passed. ”

Next Week’s Lesson: The Results of Stewardship

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