“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
This has been a convicting quotation for a couple centuries, yet the nemesis of apathy has existed for all time. Joshua valiantly led the Israelites into the Promised Land. He soundly crushed the enemies and silenced the opposition. The remaining nations were fragmented and disoriented. After some time, the children of Israel gathered and Joshua asked them, “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you” (Joshua 18:3)? Fast forward about fifteen hundred years, and the writer of Hebrews tells believers, “Give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:2). The words slack and slip convey the same problem.
Man tends to let things of value float on by because the price tag of struggle is too much. Thomas Eddison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” What is the cause for such a dangerous disposition?
First, we grow comfortable. The longer we tolerate sin and wretchedness around us, the duller our conscience becomes to it. What used to shock us and horrify us, now barely earns the rebuke of a glance. The psalmist lamented his dwelling when he mentions, “Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace” (Psalm 120:5-6). What he describes is the tension which exists between those fully aware of their identity in the Lord and the folly of the world. Those around him may be his neighbor, but they are miles apart in their life’s pursuit. How do you remedy such a plight? You must encounter the presence of the Lord. Isaiah was comfortable, but in the presence of the Lord he said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). The light of God’s righteousness illuminates the wretchedness of our situation and we are again aware of our living conditions.
Not only do we grow comfortable, but sadly many believers have been caudled. Worship, which is more than singing praises or attending church, but is a life actively lived for God’s glory—worship was something we have been lead to do so much so we cannot seem to lead ourselves in it. Evangelism is something we do when we are with someone who is a strong influence in our life. We fail to notice moral compromises unless someone is with us. So many believers never take the steps necessary to mature and direct others to worship the Lord. They rode the coattails of their parents or elders, but fail to make the faith their own.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat…Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.” (Hebrews 5:12; 6:1)
We are not given the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), but we are told to fear in Hebrews 4:1. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us…you should seem to come short of it.” The Fear of Missing Out on the full experience of God’s promises should spur us forward.
How long are ye slack to own what God has given you?
My wife worked for a correspondence school program and she handled the file for two kids whose names were Oranjello and Lemonjello. The parents must have confused the baby name book with their most recent grocery store shopping list!
When is the last time you met someone named Benedict? Not very likely you have although the name Benedict has a lovely meaning, “Blessed.” For a couple centuries, that name has been soiled by the reputation of one of America’s most infamous traitors, Benedict Arnold. His personality has modified the appreciation of a name; it has influenced the name. Names are important, but for God, His name is revelatory. Where the actions of a Benedict influence a name, with God it is the opposite. His name describes how He acts. We cannot understand God without His name.
God is a spirit; He does not have a body or form. You can recognize someone by their face and mannerisms. You can see children or grandchildren and recognize the traits they possess from their parents. You can also recognize one another through the quality of one’s voice. We have these visual and audible retainers through which we hang our understanding of people. God does not have form though. So on what do we hang our understanding of God? The only thing we can—His names.
Abram is in the Ur of Chaldees without any apparent concept of God, yet he is visited by God, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1). In order to fully appreciate God’s identity, we must strip away any of the world’s influence. The world has their own concept of God. They have descriptions and even epic myths about God. However, none of those will lead to a life of faith. Those fables actually destroy the fabric of faith in God because they are woven with the frailty of human weakness.
However, when we decide to honor and worship God on His terms, according to His revealed identity, then we will benefit. “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Later in Abram’s life, he fights to rescue Lot and ends up reclaiming massive riches. The king of Sodom says to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Genesis 14:21), but Abram would not do this. A few verses earlier, Abram was reminded by Melchizedek of God’s name, “The Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19). Abram recognized he didn’t need anything from the world which was a valuable lesson considering his escapade in Egypt during a famine a couple chapters earlier. He clings to the name of God and pledges His allegiance to depend upon Him alone.
Someone has said, “Our concern is more about going to heaven than loving the King.” Is this true in your life? If this is the case, then it’s no wonder people feel they can live however they choose because their ticket is punched for heaven. But if we are living because of our love for the King, this changes our motivation and improves our behavior.
It’s very easy as we go through this human existence called “life” to sometimes get our eyes focused on the here and now instead of seeing the big picture of what God is doing in our lives. Our reading today in Romans 8 should cause us to realize and appreciate what God is up to.
I want to look specifically at verses 29-30 which states:
“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.
In these verses, we see the “big picture” of what God has done and is doing in and through His children. We can’t help but notice a list of five action words; verbs that no doubt volumes could be written about but we’ll just briefly touch on what each of these mean.
- “Foreknew” — In God’s infinite knowledge He knew who would be saved and become a child of God.
- “Predestined” — God predetermined a course of action for those who would be saved; that is, that they would be conformed to the image of His Son.
- “Called” — This word indicates the call and wooing of God in our lives for salvation.
- “Justified” — Once we have responded to this call, God declares us justified and gives us the privilege of having a right standing with Him.
- “Glorified” — Because we have been justified, we have the opportunity to share in His glory.
What a powerful list of words indicating what God is doing behind the scenes in our lives. We are not here by accident nor did God create the world and let fate take over from there. Instead, He is actively involved in the affairs of men, and particularly those of His children. Knowing and appreciating the truth of these two verses allows u to claim the familiar promise in verse 28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose”.
“I hate you!”
You’ve seen it before in the movie or maybe even in real life. A child recoils in anger as a result of consequences of his actions. I remember reading the advice to never administer discipline with the bare hand because a child will disassociate the hand from the person and it will only be viewed as an implement of pain.
Job’s friend, Eliphaz, “encourages” Job with this nugget of wisdom: “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17). Isn’t it interesting, how we often separate God’s chastening from His character? Eliphaz’s statement was tactless, yet it is full of truth for the writer of Hebrews echoes this perspective, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:5-6).
First, we must remember when experiencing the chastening of the Lord to never divorce the tool of correction from the nature of God. When we isolate the painful instructor of rebuke from the moral anchor of God’s character, we villainize the encounter and in effect respond, “I hate you!” When the reprimand of earthly cares strikes pain in our hearts, God becomes the enemy. No. You must keep the chastening connected to His essence. In His holiness, He guides us into the paths of righteousness which lead to life. In His love, He delights in His best for our lives. In His justice, He is compelled to respond to our transgression with pain as much as He is compelled to respond to our worship with the pleasures at His right hand.
Not only remember the Lord’s nature, but also remember the Lord’s restraint in chastening. Reflect on the following sentiments:
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10)
And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve. (Ezra 9:13)
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Jeremiah actually provides the voice of reason when he says, “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” To receive chastening, correction, or even conviction is to remember you are alive. Chastening is a reality check. You’ve been extended the opportunity to try again. “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:39-40).
Can you be happy when you experience God’s correction? It still sounds almost absurd, but “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” If He didn’t care He wouldn’t correct and think where we would be without His unfailing compassion.
Depression is on the rise in our society. The Centers for Disease Control reports antidepressant use in the United States increased nearly 400 percent over the last two decades.
When faced with troubling emotions, most of us turn to modern medicine. In olden times, there was no Prozac! What are we to do? Take it to God! It seems our faith in God has diminished. We have difficulty believing in a God who is omnipotent; One who can cure all. We must remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).
Our society looks upon those with depression as weaker vessels. Yet, if we look through the annals of history we find many a great person who was afflicted with this dreaded illness. Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary were both sufferers of what amounts to clinical depression. One greater comes to mind—King David. You say the David of the Bible?
Listen to David as he cries out to God in Psalm 6. He uses words like weary, sore vexed, weak, groaning, grief, and weeping to describe his feelings. He cried so much that his bed and couch are soaked with tears. This is a chronic issue as David describes these feelings other places in the Bible (Ps. 39 & 40:2). Certainly, these symptoms meet the modern-day criteria for a diagnosis of depression.
God has given mankind wisdom to develop medicine for this disease, but David did not have antidepressants. It is what he did, that is so crucial to receive healing from God. If medication be our lot, let us do so looking to God with an earnest expectation of healing in His time.
David would be the first to admit that we think too highly of ourselves. When David was compassed about by life’s hardships, his first step was to seek the Lord (Psalm 6:1). He turned his attention toward the Great Physician. Forget about the musings of mankind, they are filled with false hope. Without God, the healing process is doomed. It is like a mathematical problem; leave something out and it cannot be solved. Two plus two equals four, but man without God is zero.
Secondly, David asks the Lord to search him and reveal any sin in his life (Psalm 7). David is laying it all before the Lord. If we humble ourselves and honestly ask Him, then be prepared. God will reveal and provide help to the sincere.
Although we are incapable of fully describing God’s majesty, due to the finite limits of our mind, David makes a great attempt in this third step in Psalm 8. In spite of his afflictions, he praises God! We, likewise, must praise Him if we want the victory we desperately seek. Will we be heard singing, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1, 9)? Peace can only be obtained by seeking, asking and praising God Almighty.