March Madness began yesterday for men's college basketball teams. There are more winners and losers than the sixty-four teams that began the tournament, however.
If you're one of the forty million people who filled out a bracket, know that your odds of predicting the winner of every game are one in 9.2 quintillion. (Baylor's loss yesterday ended my chances.) But beer and pizza companies always win during March—beer consumption escalates nearly thirty percent, while pizza orders increase by nineteen percent.
Meanwhile, productivity in America loses. Experts estimate that lost wages paid to distracted and unproductive workers could reach as high as $1.9 billion. That amount of cash stacked in dollar bills would reach approximately 120 miles into the atmosphere. That's seventeen times higher than the altitude at which commercial jetliners fly.
Clearly, what we do in private affects what we accomplish in public.
This fact relates to our spiritual lives as well. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers claims that "my worth to God in public is what I am in private." Why is this true?
One: Private sin enslaves us to sin. Jesus was clear: "Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin" (John 8:34).
As Chambers explains, "The penalty of sin is confirmation in sin. It is not only God who punishes for sin; sin confirms itself in the sinner and gives back full pay. No struggling nor praying will enable you to stop doing some things, and the penalty of sin is that gradually you get used to it and do not know that it is sin. No power save the incoming of the Holy Ghost can alter the inherent consequences of sin." Sin always leads to more sin.
Two: Private sin leads to public shame. James warned us: "Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full grown brings forth death" (James 1:15).
C. S. Lewis observes: "Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself." What you choose determines who you are.
Three: You cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness. When we see Jesus, "whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6).
So choose personal obedience to God's word and will. You will avoid enslaving sin and public shame, and your faithfulness will be rewarded forever. Oswald Chambers asks, "Is my master ambition to please him and be acceptable to him, or is it something less, no matter how noble?"
What is your answer today?
Publication date: March 18, 2016
Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others?
Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.