The phrase, “In God We Trust”, is found on the United States’ currency. I fear it will not be there for very much longer. Why? As a nation, the majority seems to have lost their trust in God. The polls suggest a majority of Americans still believe in God, but how can anyone have faith in someone or something they no longer trust. We know the biblical definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”(NASB). Thus, we have the difference in belief and faith; trust! Do we really trust God? When we receive a promise and feel assured the promise will be delivered, we must necessarily trust the promise giver.
In Joshua 1, God spoke to Joshua encouraging him to be strong and courageous in the face of the daunting task of taking the promised land. In His encouragement, He promised Joshua something that would bolster his courage; in verse 5 He tells him – “I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” What it came down to; did Joshua merely believe in God or did he believe God. Did he trust God when He said to enter the land which He was giving the people; the land of promise? The question we all have to ask ourselves is, do we just acknowledge God or do we really believe Him and trust Him?
When we read about the examples of faith listed in Hebrews 11, we read about people who really trusted God. God had made each of them promises. Each acted boldly based on their trust that God would keep His promises. Verse 13 tells us they trusted in God and His promises though they died without seeing the promises fulfilled. God has made us promises. Do we trust Him so as to act boldly based on those promises even if we do not see them fulfilled in this physical life?
This is a time in my life when I see the world not knowing who to trust anymore. Marriages fail due to a violation of the trust spouses place in each other. We see our current financial crisis because individuals with great power have violated the trust placed in them. Many see our government in what appears to be a complete shambles, so they have lost their trust in its ability to govern effectively anymore. When all else fails and when our trusted companions let us down, we can still trust in our God. We may not see the results we long for while on this earth, but do not construe this to mean that the results will not come. I often ask myself, do I want what I want now because I have placed too much emphasis on the here and now, or do I trust God to keep His most precious promise in the judgment? I strive to have a faith like Paul’s when he said in 2 Timothy 1:12 – “… for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (NASB).
I take great comfort in the words of Jesus when He spoke to Thomas about you and me in John 20:29 – “…Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed”(NASB). As a part of that faith, we must truly trust in God and Jesus to fulfill the promises made to us all. True faith and trust comes from knowledge of God and the history of His promise keeping. This knowledge is not found in philosophy or secular education; it is found in the Bible according to Romans 10:17. God has revealed Himself to us through His Word. But even beyond that, He has revealed Himself to us through His creation. Romans 1:18-22 tells us that God’s creation reveals His power, and by its very existence, man knows God. Verse 20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Verse 21 tells us that some did not acknowledge God because of their futile speculations and their hearts became darkened. Verse 22 says “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” I am reminded of the Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, who while in space said he did not see God up there. Yet, astronauts Borman, Lovell and Anders of Apollo 8, chose to read from Genesis 1 about God’s creation. As Romans 1 tells us, some may come to distrust God to the point they no longer acknowledge God. Their hearts have become darkened.
Let’s all be guided by the wisdom found in Proverbs 3:5-8 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body, And refreshment to your bones.” Do I possess all knowledge and all understanding? No! But I do know God and am determined to obey His will whether I understand it completely or not. It’s a matter of trust.
In God we must trust!
In our country, we seem to be in the grasp of a culture of negativity. We are discontented about nearly everything. We have two major political parties who seem to be more interested in opposing the other’s agenda than doing what is right for the country. If they are for it, I have to be against it. In the sports world, if a team has one bad season, the boosters begin to complain and seek a quick dismissal of the coach. They do this by grumbling among themselves then to the management or school administrators until the negativity grows, and the program has no choice but to make a change. We feel we must find and expose all the errors a person has made before we examine if there has been any correction of those errors. We must be right on every issue. The media seems to delight in tearing down the image of anyone in the public eye.
I fear this same culture of negativity has infected the church. It is not something new. God’s people, like most people throughout history, have fallen prey to this type thinking. The children of Israel had not been out of Egypt very long before they started murmuring. Moses was a target of the people, yet God told him that it was He they were murmuring against, not Moses. Of the twelve spies, only two had the confidence that God’s people would prevail in taking the Promised Land. The others only saw the negative.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warned the church not to participate in grumbling or murmuring, but seek the good of others and not merely look out for their own interests. Nothing can destroy the unity of a congregation quicker than discontented brethren who seek to find fault in everything done in a congregation. It can be the simplest things. The song leader is not very good, the preacher is too firm in his presentation or the prayers are too long. I have even heard people complain that there are too many prayers and too many songs. How can praising God through song and approaching Him in prayer be laborious? It seems to be a major catastrophe if the worship assembly goes five minutes too long. Some might say, “The elders actually made a decision without consulting me first.” So, if there is something we disagree with or dislike, we simply start talking to our closest friends in the congregation about our discontent. Then, the seeds of discontent are planted and the growth of disunity will surely bloom. If we have a complaint about someone, we will not go to them. We treat an eldership or the preacher as the congregation’s “complaint department.” We complain to the elders or preacher about someone else and are essentially saying, “I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so, I am telling you so you can hurt his feelings.”
Christ gave the principle regarding disunity in Matthew 12:25; a house divided will be brought to desolation. Paul wrote about brethren biting and devouring one another in Galatians 5:15. In the same context he goes on in verse 20, while listing the works of the flesh, to list rivalries, dissension and divisions as it is described in the English Standard Version. Those who sow discord among the brethren is listed in Proverbs 6 as an abomination to God along with pride, lying, shedding innocent blood, wicked planning, running to evil, and false witnessing. This is no small matter to our God. In dealing with the many problems facing the Corinthian church, Paul wrote first about their division in chapter one. Unless they were unified, they could not correct their other problems. He chastised them for their party spirit.
If there is someone in a congregation with whom we have a complaint, go to them and resolve the complaint. If there is a spiritual problem, go to them. In doing so, you may save a soul. Take no delight in their frailties. Do not adopt the attitude of being the sole source of truth. Even in dealing with an errant brother, we must do so with humility. Listen to the warning of I Corinthians 10:12 and not think too highly of ourselves, lest we fall. And, do not let your knowledge inflate your ego and cause you to sin as we are told in I Corinthians 8:1. If your complaint is he never polishes his shoes, either talk to him or keep it to yourself. If your complaint is based on your personal opinion, I suggest you remain quiet. Avoid discord and avoid something God hates.
The old Scouts motto of “be prepared” has stood the test of time. In whatever endeavor one undertakes, preparation is of the utmost importance. I think of two of the all-time greats in professional football: Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice. When anyone who is knowledgeable about the sport speaks of these men, their unsurpassed work ethic and relentless preparation in plying their craft is mentioned. Peyton Manning, according to the experts, spends more time in film study of his opponents and his own team than any other current quarterback. He understands the talents of his team and knows the tendencies of his foes. When he enters a game, he has a firm grasp on what plays he needs to call without being greatly surprised by what he sees on the field. Jerry Rice had a workout routine during the off-season that made him a superior physical specimen, which complimented his skill as a receiver. When others attempted to adopt his workout, they often felt it too tough, and quit. These men prepared themselves to be the best they could possibly be and the results prove their efforts were worth the work of preparation.
Most of the religious world is under the belief that getting to heaven requires little or no preparation or hard work on an individual’s part. God, they think, requires little or nothing on our part to be saved. God told Israel in Amos 4:12 to prepare to meet their God. It was not for the good but for evil they had done that they needed to be prepared. Are we prepared to meet God in victory or in defeat?
We are not in a battle with the Green Bay Packers. Satan is our opponent. He has proven throughout the history of man’s existence that he is a formidable opponent. In the beginning, Adam and Eve had not prepared themselves for the cunning of their opponent. They sinned. When we are poorly prepared, we sin. Paul wrote the Ephesians about our warfare that takes place with the prince of this world, Satan. In his encouragement to them about putting on the whole armor of God, he told them “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15, NASB). This phrase is in the past tense. We are to do battle with our feet already shod with the preparation of the gospel. When we prepare ourselves, there should be no real surprises when confronted by our vicious enemy; who is not only vicious, but also relentless. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us the devil is like a “roaring lion” prowling around to find someone to devour. Peter admonishes the reader to be sober (clear thinking) and alert (watchful). In other words, be prepared.
As relentless as the devil is in trying to devour our souls, we need to be that much more diligent in preparing ourselves to preserve our souls. If we are to attain the victory, our preparation is not going to come from any other source than the gospel. Not with self-help books, textbooks, or any other research books; only the gospel which God has graciously given us. It contains the game plan from God to gain the victory. If we will see victory, it will only come through our knowledge and obedience of the gospel. We cannot fight this battle alone. Jesus is the ultimate victor. According to Romans 1:16, He has given us the “power of the gospel” to guide us. He has given us prayer to call on Him “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NASB).
Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice did not read the game plan and automatically have success on the playing field. They studied it until they thoroughly understood it and were prepared to execute it without flinching at whatever the opponent threw at them. Paul told the Ephesians to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17, NASB). It can be understood! To not have the understanding of the gospel by diligent preparation, according to Paul, is “foolish.” Ephesians 5:15 tells us we have a choice to be wise (understand His will) or to be unwise (not understand). It is up to me and you; He allows us to choose. Joshua chose to follow God. God told him to be strong and courageous and He would give him the victory. Joshua and the Israelites were required to fight, but God gave the victory. The victory was attained only by following God’s plan and going to Him for consultation. When they did that, they were victorious; when they didn’t, they experienced defeat.
Let it not be said of us what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 78:8 (KJV) of Israel’s forefathers; “And not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Let us prepare our hearts with the gospel and have a spirit to be faithful to God. Let us be prepared and enjoy the victory that God promises us through His son Jesus.
-by Ron Adams
There’s a scene in the western movie Tombstone that takes place after a big gun fight. Wyatt Earp along with Doc Holliday and several other men were resting after the battle. Doc was a sick man, and one of the others asked why he would put himself through such an ordeal. He replied, “Wyatt Earp is my friend.” The questioner responded that he had lots of friends and still didn’t understand Doc’s loyalty. Doc answered the man’s statement about having lots of friends by saying “I don’t.” True friends are there in any and all circumstances, and they are few.
If you think about it, most people have a lot of friends. But, there are various types of friends. When I think of a real friend, I think of what most people would classify as a close friend. We, as Christians, have somehow gotten the notion that all Christians everywhere should be considered our close friends. That is just simply not the case. Do we love them? Yes! I hope to meet each of them in heaven.
Consider Christ. As He spent His time going about teaching, He developed a large following at times. But when tough times arose, there were only a handful that stayed close to Him. There were Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and, of course His disciples. Of the disciples, He had three that He was particularly close to; Peter, James and John. He would separate them and take them with Him on special occasions such as on the Mount of Transfiguration and in the garden. And then there was John. In John 13:23 and 21:20, he is referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Even our Lord had those, while on earth, He considered His closest friends and one who was even a dearer friend. The three weren’t a clique, they were His inner circle of close friends.
As Doc Holliday considered Wyatt Earp, these three disciples, and particularly John, looked to Christ as their “best” friend. When all were abandoning Him in John 6, Jesus looked to His disciples and asked if they would leave Him too. Peter responded in verse 68, “to whom shall we go?” In times of trouble, we should turn to our God. But, in His infinite wisdom, He gave us each other for comfort and consolation in times of trouble, and people to rejoice with in happier times. Each of us needs someone, on this earth, to whom we can turn. In Proverbs 17:17, we are told that friends love at all times and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 18:24 tells us having too many companions may not be good, but there can be a friend who sticks to us like a brother. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that a friend can sharpen us like iron on iron. Sparks may fly, but the friendship remains. A friend, not an enemy, will tell us the truth. In Galatians 4:16, Paul asked if telling them truth made him their enemy. If the answer was yes, they did not consider Paul their friend.
I moved all over the Southeast while growing up. It is difficult to make friends and move off and leave them. I didn’t make too many friends then. When I became an adult, I learned the true meaning of a friend. After that, I have made friends that I feel are closer than a brother and who are there in times of adversity. They are my friends, and they are small in number. I am thankful to God for each of them. I am thankful they are Christians. Though we may be separated by many miles, they are close at hand. I am thankful they sharpen me and tell me the truth. I am thankful they have never abandoned me in times of trouble. I pray that all have friends like mine. God has blessed me richly with a few really close friends and host of others, as well. May God bless you with dear Christian friends.
When mankind sets out to discover the truths that the Bible holds, with what mindset do we enter into this journey of discovery? Do we begin it with an earnest and honest desire to find truth or do we hold some agenda other than an honest study of God’s word? Over the centuries, many have searched diligently to find untruths or inconsistencies to make some sort of scholarly debunking of the Scriptures. In this effort, there have been those who not only have seen the truths contained in them, but eagerly searched for answers to spiritual questions they have developed in their search. They have actively sought those who have read and come to similar conclusions; God does exist and His Scriptures contain the words that will put them in a relationship with the Creator they have discovered.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who maintain that there are truths that are not consistent with the Scriptures. These individuals confidently assert that their intelligence is superior to that of believers. And, their intelligence coupled with their education leads them to be superior in wisdom. Well, what is wisdom? First, let’s look at some definitions in which these individuals feel superior. Intelligence: the capacity for learning. Knowledge: the acquaintance with facts gained from study. Education: the process of acquiring knowledge. And, wisdom: knowledge coupled with good judgment. Where the difference lies between the wise of this world and the wisdom of believers is the source of knowledge and from whom it is obtained; in other words, secular wisdom versus heavenly wisdom. These two types of wisdom contain two types of judgment.
Fortunately for us, God anticipated that man would gain so much self confidence that he would eventually feel superior in judgment to God and His children, and finally dismiss Him altogether. He has given us insight into what true wisdom is. The writer of Ecclesiastes, who I believe was Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote much about his life’s pursuits using his great wisdom. He wrote about the futility of seeking answers to life through things like pleasure, riches and earthly wisdom. He said in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” If you seek wisdom, seek it from God not from the scholars of this world.
In the book of Job, God had some questions for Job and his counselors after they had expressed their views based on their own wisdom. Let’s read just a few verses containing God’s view of man’s knowledge and wisdom verses His own which is contained in chapters 38 through 41. Job 38:1-7: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said. ‘Who is this that darkens counsel, by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’” Get the message? When you start feeling arrogant in your intelligence, knowledge and wisdom, remember what is said here to Job, who are you to question God?
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 about the wisdom of the world versus the wisdom of God. He knew the message of God would be deemed foolishness by man. In verse 25, he states “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” This is hard to swallow for the intellectually elite of this world. Those who would call into question the great miracles of our God recorded throughout His word from Genesis to Revelation, God would ask: who are you to question Me? They rely on the very gifts God has given them to bring into question His very existence. They rely on science and all the measureable facts contained in it to question God. He gave us the very science we are abusing by creating doubt about our heavenly Father. We need to be careful! Paul said in verse 26 that those answering God’s call would not contain many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty and not many noble. Look at the apostles; not many wise, mighty or noble.
James tells us in chapter 3 that there is a wisdom that comes from above and one that is earthly. They are not the same. God has given us the source of knowledge that will save men’s souls, and it is His word. He has told us what he wants us to know and that’s all we can know. He has knowledge that He has not shared with us. He is God and it is His right to do so. In Deuteronomy 29:29, He tells us there are things He holds secret from us, but what He has revealed is for us and every generation. We must resign ourselves to the fact we don’t know everything, but we need to be about the business of learning what He has given us to know. We need to pray for wisdom from God to understand what we have learned. And, we need to pray that as we gain knowledge and get wisdom from the Father that the word will produce a faith in us to trust Him and leave the secret things to Him. When we can do that, we will truly become wise.
A little housekeeping before today’s post. I was on vacation last week and didn’t get to put up the weekly post from one of our shepherds. To help us stay on schedule and to avoid putting up two posts today, I’m just going to provide you with Ron Adams article on getting the right things out of our congregational worship experiences and get back to writing my weekly articles next week. Thanks, Ron, for your work on this post.
What are You Getting Out of Congregational Worship? What are You Putting In?
There is a great movement in the religious community to make public worship periods more meaningful and less boring. In an effort to make a broader appeal to potential worshippers and draw more members, some have resorted to all types of innovations to appeal to the masses.
When a congregation of God’s people examines means and methods to make our worship together more meaningful, the examination should start within the individuals who participate in those services. If a congregation practices only those things authorized in the scriptures, and we still don’t have the experience we think we should take away from our worship, I suggest we start looking inward for answers. We think the worship is boring. Have we become so overly entertained by the world that our worship seems lacking in comparison? We come away saying to ourselves that we got nothing out of the service. Please let me know what scripture teaches that the thrust of our worship is to please us and meet our needs. Oh, that should certainly be a byproduct. Have we become weary of worshipping God like the children of Israel as mentioned in Isaiah 43:21-24? When we do, we will bring tainted sacrifices like they did.
Are we making God weary of our sacrifices? Have we become so bored, we are going through the motions of worship? Worship was never intended to be boring. The very word, worship, should evoke powerful emotions within us. We should come before Him with thanksgiving, praise, humility, love, and reverence. We should be excited when we offer Him our grateful praise. All this can be lost in a mindless, unprepared period of routine with its shallow, self-centered worship. If this is our attitude, our worship together will certainly be boring.
Some try to create an artificial sense of excitement and energy by having a fast paced song service and high energy, feel good sermons. Some services dull our sense of real worship by tranquilizing us with quiet, muted colors, organ music, and a sermon delivered in a smooth, calming “preacher voice.” We try to replace a deep reverence for God, our creator, and the deep feelings elicited by the lessons we learn with hand clapping and arm waving.
How do we lose the real sense of excitement when we worship God? There may be a sense of boredom developed by entering into our worship unprepared. We spend our time preparing for our busy Saturday evenings, preparing for our recreation filled Sunday afternoons, and let things like preparing our minds and our Bible study lessons go undone. We let our minds wander during the worship because we have not put in the preparation and effort to actively participate in worship. Our lives are so busy we just don’t have the time to give to proper worship preparation and are, therefore, bored. We believe in preparation in all our worldly endeavors, yet, we make little or no preparation for our worship together. We try to cut corners and create artificial stimuli to draw out the emotions we desire. That is not the answer.
The answer is the humble heart of one with great needs and who is prepared for worship. This soul is one who has a great appreciation for God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and for all their gifts. A soul who follows God’s worship values will have meaningful and exciting worship experiences. ”Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:4). Only God is worthy of our worship; because of all His righteous acts. His willingness to provide salvation from our sins through Jesus’ sacrifice should excite us to the point we enthusiastically engage in worship to Him. Are you bored with our public worship? Do what is recorded in Lamentations 3:40, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD” (NASB). Ask yourself; is worship about me or about God?
Integrity is defined, in part, as being moral, ethical or honest. We watch the news everyday and find that people of influence and people on whom we depend such as our teachers, governmental leaders, and those in other positions of authority seem to have lost their moral compass. We see that our financial institutions have been led by people who have not had integrity as a character trait. We also see that our governmental leaders have not dealt with us in honesty. How do we, as Christians, react to the demoralizing news we see and hear each day?
First, we must understand that this is not a modern problem. From the beginning of time, man has participated in dishonest practices. Eve was deceived by Satan and then deceived Adam and sin was introduced into the world. Rebekah and Jacob conspired to defraud Esau of his birthright by duping Isaac.
Second, we must recognize that men of this world do not submit themselves to God’s plan for righteousness. Therefore, they will not act righteously, but will follow their own desires and do whatever it takes to satisfy them.
Lastly, since injustice and dishonesty are a part of the world we live in, we are taught again and again in the scriptures that God’s people may not be able to stop evil, but they cannot participate in it. God’s people are a people of integrity. We must deal with God honestly and must live with our fellow man in integrity.
When children of God realize we have succumbed to the ways of the world and engaged in deceitful and outrageous behavior, we repent and change. As in the case of Zacchaeus in Luke 19, we will make right the wrong we have done. We make retribution for our dishonesty. Once we have realized our error, we cannot wait to correct that error. The sins that David participated in could hardly be undone, but, as evidenced in some of his Psalms, he prayed earnestly to God for forgiveness. He had the worldly authority to sweep his actions under the rug, but, as a man after God’s own heart, he could not do that.
Often, Christians find themselves victims of man’s injustice and evil activity. How do children of God react to such wrongs? As hard as it seems, we are not a people of vengeance. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, we are told to admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with all men. And it tells us that no one is to repay others with evil for the evil done to them. But, we are to seek good for all men.
God has always taught his children to be honest and upright people. The Proverbs tell us we are to be honest in our own business dealings in 11:1 and 37:21 and also in Jeremiah 22:13. Romans 12:17-21 tells us how a Christian is to deal with all men, good or evil. We are to provide what is right in the sight of everyone. We are people who are to overcome evil by doing what is good. We are not ones to be drawn into the evil that is done to others or to ourselves.
Impossible? Unless we sacrifice ourselves completely to God, it is. In Romans 12, we are told those who devote themselves wholly to God will not be conformed to this world. We will not think or act as the world does. We will not think too highly of ourselves. We will use sound judgment. We will love without hypocrisy. We will hate evil and cling to good. We will bless those who persecute us and not curse them. We will leave the vengeance for wrongs done to us in God’s hands.
We see the evil man does to others. We may even feel the pain of evil done to us. God’s people know full well that this world is not our home. There is a place prepared for us where such things do not happen. So, we do the hard things the world will not do. We will not return evil for evil, we pray for those who persecute us. And, as Romans 12:18 says, as far as it depends on us, we will be at peace with all men. The peace we are most interested in is the peace found in God. We are encouraged to find that peace and we are told how to do it in Philippians 4:6-8: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let you mind dwell on these things.” What consumes your mind? These things or dwelling on the bad things done to you, a way to get even, hate, or vengeance. Colossians 3:2 says “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
When I was a much younger man, thinking of servants conjured up a picture of someone like a butler or a maid; someone who is in the employ of a rich family. As I grew older, I realized there is a broad range of people whose occupations could fall under the heading of servant. We talk about public servants such as elected officials, those who work in governments or law enforcement or fire fighters. Simply put, we think of people who serve other people.
When we look in the scriptures, we see many examples of servants. The greatest example of a servant is Jesus Himself. He states in Matthew 20:28 that he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (NASB). He came to serve the will of His father and in the process served all mankind by humbling Himself and sacrificing His life to buy our freedom from sin.
If one thinks himself to be above the role of a servant, he has much to learn about what it means to be humble. In Matthew 20, the verses preceding Jesus’ declaration that He came to serve speak to what it takes to truly be a humble servant like Him. He states in verses 26-27, “…but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (NASB).
A true servant of God not only has to submit to God’s wishes, he must put the interests of others ahead of his own. This is a very difficult concept for man to grasp. I confess this is hard for me to put into practice. Sadly, we are ‘me first’ beings. In Philippians 2:2-11, it tells us to adopt the mind of Christ, the ultimate servant. God’s children will be united in Him if we are of the same mind, the same love, united in spirit and intent on one purpose. How? “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (NASB).
Through the years, I have been acquainted with a number of people I am confident tried to pattern their lives after Jesus and the words of Philippians 2. Some have been elders, deacons, preachers, class teachers and some have done none of these things in serving God and others. They have been servants nevertheless. They have been people who served God and silently served other Christians without being noticed and not wanting to be noticed. I have known women of various congregations who have done the work required of ‘widows indeed.’
I look around in the Franklin congregation and see many who are servants whether it is common knowledge or behind the scenes. They are people who are intent on serving God and their fellow saints.
I have observed examples of this attitude in a couple and their children who will be leaving this congregation shortly and moving. Mark and Kim Jones have faithfully served God and the saints at Franklin for a number of years. Mark has served as a deacon and Kim has worked diligently on the young people’s class curriculum in addition to many other works of service. They will be sorely missed. When servants like them have to leave a congregation, a big hole is left to fill. The Jones family is leaving us with an example of service like that mentioned of the children of Israel in Nehemiah 4:6 “…for the people had a mind to work” (NASB). Do we have a mind to work? Let’s all work the works God has given us to do.
In our modern society, we have become an impatient people. We are looking for instant gratification for our every whim. We see the crime shows and expect crimes to be solved in 60 minutes. We have war video games and expect wars to be concluded within days with no casualties on our side. We want it and we want it now! We have acted no differently with regard to God. We want our prayers answered and want them answered now. Plus, we want them answered the way we want them answered. God has not served us instant pudding. He has given us the words of life, and wants our trust and acceptance. As part of that trust, we must accept that He will do as He has always done; the right thing at the right time.
The Scriptures refer to the time in which God will act in a number of ways. The “right time,” the “proper time,” the “fullness of time,” and “due time.” We do not determine what is right or proper; God does. Whenever the fullness of time is accomplished, He will act. We are to continue trusting God and waiting on Him.
Psalm 28:14 tells us to be courageous and “wait for the Lord.” In verse 13, the psalmist says that he would have despaired if he had not believed he would see the goodness of the Lord. Do we truly believe we will see God’s goodness? What I must constantly tell myself is that God is in control, and to be truly a believer in Him, I must be patient and wait on Him. Do we worry ourselves sick during these difficult times that the evil doer seems to prosper while we suffer? It certainly bothers me. Do we wonder “where is God?” The psalmist tells us in Psalm 37 not to fret about the evil doer prospering and carrying out his wicked schemes. He tells us that this will lead to our sinning due to anger and wrath. Verse 7 tells us to “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” I must ask myself; am I relinquishing my inability to control things to His ability to be in control? Do I truly trust Him to handle things I cannot. And, I must ask myself if I am willing to be patient and accept His comfort in eternity or am I wanting my wants and wishes met in this life, in other words, right now.
God has His timetable and I must be willing to conform to it. Remember, He asked Job who he was to question Him, the creator of all things. Romans 5:6 tells us “at the right time” He sent Jesus to die for our sins. Luke 12:42 – 46 tells us the master will return to the servant “on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know.” James 5:7 tells us we must wait patiently for the coming of the Lord just as the farmer waits for his crops. Does a farmer expect instant gratification or does he have the patience to wait for the produce of his labor? Verse 8 says we must be patient and strengthen our hearts.
I have a tendency to become impatient with my circumstances. I want to have the same health I had 40 years ago. I want the same income I had 8 years ago. I want this country to be the country I want it to be. I want the economy to flourish again. I want God to give me what I want and I want it now. Wow! Look at my wish list. It has nothing of a spiritual nature on it. Could it be that I want things God does not want me to have and has no intention of giving me? Should that list include things like help in growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord, being more spiritually mature today than yesterday, a better servant to my brothers and sisters in Christ, being a better husband, father and grandfather, and fearing God and keeping His commandments?
Let us take encouragement from the inspired words of Peter in 1 Peter 5:6–11. Let these words lead us to be more patient and look to our true goal – heaven. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
God has always exhibited His care for his children. One of the greatest ways to show His concern for us is to warn us of impending danger. He knows Satan and He knows us; He made us after all. Satan is the master liar and a great manipulator. We first become acquainted with him doing his best work in evil in Genesis 3. With his cunning, he was able to convince Eve that he was not evil or a liar, but God was. By this deception, sin entered the world, and Satan has not stopped his war against God and mankind since. But God, through His great love for His creation, has not ceased to warn us of the great evil Satan can do to us.
God warned His children through Isaiah in Isaiah 5:20 that there would be those who would be so diluted by Satan as to call evil, good and good, evil. Nothing has changed since the woe was pronounced on those who did this. We are bombarded through every conceivable method with this same message. Movies, mass media and even our lawmakers and judges preach the word of Satan; evil is good and good is evil. The most deceptive part of this is the fact that this perversion is taught us by the seemingly wise of this world.
These are warnings given by Paul in Romans 1. In verse 18, Paul warns us about those on whom God’s wrath would be revealed; those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Verse 22 says, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” How do we know who they are? Just as Isaiah had warned, they called evil, good and good, evil, and Paul said in Romans 1:25, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” How often have we been shown by men’s actions that greed is good or homosexuality is acceptable? The sad part of Paul’s warning was that those who practiced these things were ones who knew the “ordinance of God” according to verse 32. But, Paul also said in verses 19 and 20 that no one is without excuse because God has made Himself evident within them and through His creation.
Paul explained to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 what the practices of men would be like so he could recognize them. They would be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. He further told Timothy to avoid such men. Look at this list and see if you recognize people in the news, those in Hollywood, and maybe your neighbor. May we never find these characteristics in ourselves. We need to be like the man Paul described in Timothy; followers of Paul’s teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions and sufferings. We must recognize and avoid the people Paul described in verses 2 through 7 and never forget the power of the Scriptures. Paul tells us in verses 16 and 17 that they are inspired of God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. As God’s children, we need to avoid the cunning of Satan and his servants and be transformed by the renewing of our minds as Romans 12:2 tells us. The power of renewing our minds and thus our lives lies in the work of God’s word in our lives as described in 2 Timothy 3:16,17. Live it, teach it to your children and to all who will listen. Do what Paul told us in Romans 12:9, “Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.”