Trust

 

A story is told of a man who lost his footing while climbing a mountain trail.  He slid over the side of a steep precipice and would have certainly fallen to his death had he not caught hold of a tree root protruding from the side of the cliff.  Hanging there, he was literally suspended between heaven and earth.  He could not climb up to safety, and there was nothing beneath his feet but open air.  He began calling for help and suddenly a voice spoke to him from above.  The voice said, “I am God and I have heard your cries for help.  Do you trust in Me?”  The man replied, “Yes!”, to which God said, “Then let go of the tree root.”  At this point the man shouted, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Obviously, this story is hyperbole, but it illustrates the truth about trust.  We passionately affirm our trust in God, but our actions frequently belie our affirmation.  We read and quote Mt. 6:33, where the Lord told His disciples not to worry about their daily needs, but to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  Then we forsake the assembly of the saints while working day and night to provide for our family’s needs.  Like the man in the story, we’re not willing to demonstrate our trust in God.

One man who did not have this issue was King David of Israel.  His life is an example of trust in God, even in the times when he sinned against God.  In Psa. 25:1-3 David put his trust into the words of a song.  He said, “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in You I trust, do not let me be ashamed; do not let my enemies exult over me.  Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.”

When David took a census of the people in 2 Sam. 24, God sent the prophet Gad to David to declare His displeasure.  God offered David a choice from three alternatives as punishment for his sin.  These were: seven years of famine, three months of defeat at the hands of his enemies, or three days of pestilence from God (2 Sam. 24:11-13).  David demonstrated his trust in the Lord by choosing to fall into the hands of God.  He said, “I am in great distress.  Let us now fall into the hands of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”  David’s trust in God was rewarded when God stayed the angel’s hand as he was about to strike the city of Jerusalem (vs. 15-16).

David’s actions, as well as his psalm, demonstrated that he fully trusted in God.  He knew that if he waited for the Lord; that is, if he put God first, then God would bless him.  This is the crux of the matter regarding trust.  It must be shown.  Verbal affirmations mean nothing unless they are backed up by actions that prove their truth.  Anyone whose actions prove his trust will not be ashamed.  Those whose actions belie their affirmations will not be blessed.  This is a timeless message that sometimes gets lost when things are going well.

The real demonstration of our trust in God is our obedience.  Those who truly trust in God will turn to Him first, instead of as a last resort.  Having turned to Him, they will do all He commands of them without hesitation or reservation.  Trust begins with obedience to the gospel and continues with our ongoing obedience to “all that I commanded you” (Mt. 28:20).  It means putting God first in every aspect of our lives, so we need not worry about tomorrow (Mt. 6:34).  And sometimes, it means letting go of the tree root to which we are clinging, even though we cannot see how doing so will help us.  Do you trust God?  Then show it by obeying Him.

Memorial Day

 

The last Monday in the month of May has been designated by Congress as Memorial Day.  It is a day set aside to remember those throughout our nation’s history who paid the ultimate price in its defense.  Including the Revolutionary War and continuing to the present, more than 1.3 million Americans have lost their lives in the wars our nation has fought.  Compared to the losses suffered by other nations these numbers are small, but to the families and loved ones of those who perished, each life lost is a painful reminder of the cost of liberty.

The purpose of Memorial Day is for the living to remember and commemorate the sacrifice the dead made on their behalf.  Sadly, there are many today who apparently have no idea of this purpose.  For them this is just another opportunity for a three-day weekend, or a day off from work or school.  Others mistakenly view this day as a time to honor all who have served in our nation’s armed forces.  (Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, is the holiday for that purpose.)  The root of the misconceptions about Memorial Day is that we have generally failed to instruct each generation of its intended purpose.  Without proper instruction in this regard the observance of this day becomes distorted from its original intent and is thus profaned.

It is this point that has significance with respect to our faith as Christians.  The idea of a memorial is not a recent invention.  It has roots as far back as the call of Moses.  In Ex. 3:15, as God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He told Moses His name.  Then He said, “This is My memorial-name to all generations.”  In other words, this was how the people of Israel were to remember Him and all that He would do for them.  On another occasion God commanded Joshua to have Israel construct an altar of twelve stones taken from the Jordan river.  In Josh. 4:7 God said that this altar would be a memorial to the sons of Israel forever” to remind them that God had brought them safely across the Jordan river and into the promised land.  These memorials were intended to keep Israel from forgetting what God had done for them.

Those who are under the covenant of Christ also have a divinely-commanded memorial.  This memorial is the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord Himself instituted it on the night of His betrayal (Mt. 26:26-30).  The purpose of this memorial is for us to remember that the one and only Son of God sacrificed His life on the cross to pay the debt for our sins.  As we break the bread and drink the cup each Lord’s Day we are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26).  We are remembering that He died to set us free from the bondage of sin.

Unfortunately, some have forgotten, or have chosen to ignore, the simple purpose of this memorial.  The setting in which the Lord instituted this rite was a somber occasion because He would go to the cross within hours of the time He gave it to His apostles.  However, some today seek to turn the Lord’s Supper into a celebration, instead of a memorial service, as it was intended.  Some trivialize it by taking it on different days of the week, or at special occasions, like weddings or funerals.  Others trivialize it by only observing it on special religious holidays, like Easter or Christmas, or by combining it with a common meal.  All these actions profane the purpose of the Lord’s Supper.

Paul’s instructions to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:23-34) remind us that this is a solemn memorial that demands our utmost reverence.  If we mourn soldiers who die in defense of our country, we should also shed a tear for our Lord whose death on the cross set us free from sin.  We should do so even as we rejoice in the freedom we enjoy because of it.

Cafeteria Religion

 

At one time cafeterias were a popular dining option in the United States.  Large chains operated sites in many major cities from coast to coast.  The appeal of these restaurants was in the speed of service, and in the variety of choices afforded the customer.  Patrons passed along a serving counter and selected the components of their meal from multiple options.  Those items they did not prefer could be omitted from their meal.  Each person could construct his or her meal according to personal taste and never have to eat anything he didn’t want to eat.  The formal cafeterias of the 1940s and 1950s have mostly gone the way of the Dodo, primarily because of the fast-food boom of the 1960s.  Their closest descendant is the modern all-you-can-eat buffet, which carries on the time-honored tradition of picking one’s favorites from a large variety of offerings.

Although the cafeteria isn’t as prominent as it once was, the principle behind it continues to live, especially in religion.  Many people look at the scriptures in the same way they might peruse the food line of their favorite eatery.  Grace sounds good, so they take a double helping of it.  Justice, however, isn’t as palatable, so they leave it on the counter.  Faith is appealing, but obedience is too much like spiritual brussels sprouts.  Love, on the other hand, is like the dessert counter.  They heap it up on their spiritual tray because it tastes so sweet.  However, like physical desserts that are loaded with extra calories, they try to ignore the tough things biblical love requires of them.  Perhaps without even thinking about it some treat God’s word like a cafeteria, picking and choosing the things they like, while ignoring the things they don’t like.

As popular as this mentality might be, it is completely foreign to the scriptures.  From beginning to end the scriptures declare that we must conform to everything God has revealed in His word.  On multiple occasions Moses warned Israel to keep all of God’s commandments and not to turn aside from them to the right or to the left (Deut. 5:32; 28:14, et al).  When Paul spoke for the final time to the elders from Ephesus, he reminded them that he had not failed to declare to them “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).  Paul withheld nothing from them because God expects His people to obey all His commands, not just the ones they like.

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he encouraged the young preacher to continue to teach what he called “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6).  The Greek word that is translated “sound” literally means “healthy”.  In other words, for a Christian to be spiritual healthy, he must be fed everything that God has revealed in His word.  Our souls are just like our physical bodies in this respect.  If we only eat the “sweets” we will be unhealthy.  If, however, we feed on all of God’s word, we will grow and mature in the faith, and we will become the servants God expects us to be.

This is exactly what God requires of us.  The writer of Hebrews chastised his readers because they had failed in this regard.  In Heb. 5:13-14 he said, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”  He also said, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).  Therefore, if our goal is to please God, we must abandon cafeteria-style religion.  Instead, we must take delight in all of God’s word and, like the psalmist, meditate upon it day and night (Psa. 1:2).  By eating all of God’s word we will become spiritually healthy, and we will be faithful to Him in all we do.

Thanks Mom!

 

“The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”  Thus goes the well-known proverb.  It is a truth that is so powerful that it has become self-evident.  The influence of mothers is so important it cannot be overstated.  Conversely, the neglect of that influence is so powerful that it cannot go unchallenged.

We live in a world where certain basic values have been eroded by the influence of skeptics whose godless ways have made a mockery of motherhood and all God intended it to be.  Very often today, “the hand that rocks the cradle” is a stranger, the paid hireling at the child-care center.  Many children spend more time with these care givers than they do with their parents.  This ought not to be so.

Children are a gift from the Lord.  They are a sacred trust.  They are precious souls who are entrusted to parents for spiritual as well as physical nurturing.  When we bring a child into the world we begin a life that will exist throughout eternity.  The eternal destiny of that soul is largely the responsibility of the parents.  The wise man said, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).  It is our God-given duty as parents to bring up our children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

No one is better at this than mothers.  This does not excuse fathers from their required participation in this responsibility, but it is the mother who has special power to accomplish God’s purpose in this regard.  The scriptures are full of examples of godly mothers who molded their offspring for God’s use.  From Jochebed, the mother of Moses, to Hannah, the mother of Samuel, to Eunice, the mother of Timothy, we see the positive influence of the hand that rocks the cradle.  We see this influence even in those cases in which the father was not as involved in the process as he should have been.

There are many in the family of God who are there in large measure because of the influence of their mothers.  I am one of them.  My mother made certain that I learned to love the Lord.  She did so even though my father was not a Christian until I was in my teens.  She taught me the importance of being in the assembly on the Lord’s Day.  She taught me that obedience to the Lord was the most important choice I would ever make.  She formed in me the basis attitudes toward God and His word that have led me to this point in my life.  She did this despite her own struggles as a Christian.  She was not perfect, but she was a child of God, and is now gone to her reward.

It is not enough to give life to a child.  Society is overrun with children who have been abandoned by their birth mothers.  It is not enough to physically nurture a child.  All around us are well-fed children who are morally bankrupt, or well on the way to becoming so.  We need mothers who will do whatever it takes to nurture the soul as well as the body.  We need mothers who have more concern for their children’s souls than for material things.  Those who act on this concern in accordance with God’s word will receive a great reward in eternity.

It is a challenge to be a godly mother.  No one denies this fact.  Therefore, to all those mothers who are meeting this challenge, we honor you today, and say, “Thanks Mom!”

A Few Good Men

 

For many years the U.S. Marine Corps used the recruiting slogan, “We’re looking for a few good men.”  Part of the reasoning behind this slogan was that the Marine Corps is the smallest of the four primary military services, and has always been so.  Another reason for this slogan is that not every man is cut out to be a Marine.  Therefore, they are looking for quality instead of quantity.  The idea of a few good men has biblical precedent, although the U.S. Marine Corps is likely unaware of it.

Early in the reign of King Saul Israel was a war with the Philistines.  Saul was camped at Gibeah with his pitifully small army of about 600 men.  The Philistines were encamped at Michmash with three companies of men who raided Israel with impunity.  In 1 Sam. 14:1 Saul’s son Jonathan called his armor-bearer to accompany him to the garrison of the Philistines which stood across a pass from them.  Jonathan had great faith in God and in v. 6 said to his armor-bearer, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.”  Jonathan’s faith in God was rewarded with a great victory over the Philistines that day.  This victory was precipitated by a few good men who trusted in God.

During the reign of King David Israel was again at war with the Philistines.  David and his army were in the cave of Adullam, while the Philistines were encamped in Bethlehem, David’s home town.  In 2 Sam. 23:15 David idly expressed his wish that he could drink from the well that was by the gate in Bethlehem.  V. 16 tells us that three mighty men fought their way into the city, drew water from the well, fought their way out again, and brought the water to David.  These men, Adino the Eznite, Eleazar the son of Dodo, and Shammah the son of Agee, were the greatest of David’s mighty men (cf. 2 Sam. 23:8-12).  David was so moved by their feat that he poured out the water as a drink offering to God.

The principle of God bringing about victory with a few good men is well attested in the Old Testament.  It is also evident in the New Testament.  Early in His ministry the Lord chose twelve ordinary men to be His apostles.  Except for Judas, these few good men became the vehicle by which the gospel was carried throughout the known world in the first century.  Compared to the masses of people at that time, these men were far too few to accomplish so great a mission, yet they were able to do so because they gave themselves in obedience to the Lord and served Him faithfully until death.

Today, the Lord is still not restrained to save by many or by few.  In most places around the world, His church survives and carries on His mission through the work of a few good men.  These men show the trust and confidence in God that Jonathan possessed.  They also show the resolve to do whatever their master requires, no matter the cost, like the three mighty men of David.  They also know their limitations, like the twelve apostles, but they do not allow these to deter their service.  They know that the victory belongs to the Lord.

The search for a few good men never ends, because as one generation of good men passes, another generation must arise to take their place.  Those who stand up for the Lord will always be few, but this fact must not discourage us.  Our Father in heaven has proven that He can save by a few.  Therefore, let us trust Him and choose to be one of the few good men whom He can use to accomplish His purposes.