Tag Archives: faith

Gideon

Gideon: How’d He Do It?

Gideon

There are many spectacular events in the Bible. There were the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and later the Jordan. The Blind and deaf were healed and people were raised from  the dead. In a separate category, there was the Creation, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection. But there is one miracle, actually a series of miracles, that has always fascinated me: Gideon’s victory over the Midianites in Judges 6 – 8.

Israel had returned to their wicked ways, and as punishment, God allowed Midian to enslave them. Gideon is an unremarkable man from an unremarkable family in an unremarkable tribe in an enslaved nation (6:15). Yet, he is told by an angel that he “shall strike the Midianites as one man” (6:16). After three different, convincing, miracles, Gideon attacks the army of Midian with 300 soldiers divided into three companies. The Midianite army numbered 135,000 swordsmen( 8:10)! That’s a ratio of 450:1! I don’t think the vaunted Navy Seal Team Six would take on such a battle. But one more thing: Gideon’s army carried no weapons (see 7:20 for their armaments). How could this unremarkable man command one of the greatest victories in Israelite history?

The answer is pretty straightforward: He didn’t.

The victory over Midian was God’s work. Gideon was just an obedient servant. He wasn’t a great tactician, and he was not a great warrior. He wasn’t much of a leader at all. He was just a servant.

But he and his countrymen were prone to taking undeserved credit. In Judges 7:2, the Lord said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” In verse 9, God tells Gideon, concerning the Midianite army, “I have given it into your hand.” This was no common victory; it was all the power of God.

While Gideon was not responsible for the victory, his faith and obedience were required. The three chapters in view record three moments when God helped build Gideon’s faith. In Judges 6:36 -40, Gideon asked for and received two miracles, which boosted his faith. He asked for a fleece to be laid on the ground and moistened with dew while the surrounding ground would be dry. The Lord’s angel caused that to happen. Next, Gideon reversed the request. This time, the ground would be wet and the fleece dry. Again, the miracle occurred, and Gideon was encouraged.

The third faith-builder came when Gideon and his servant were sent to infiltrate the Midianite camp. They overheard soldiers talking of a dream in which a cake of bread tumbled into their camp, struck the tent, and flipped it over. The soldier said, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel. God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp” (vs. 14).

With renewed faith, Gideon was prepared to obey God even in what seemed an odd battle strategy. The Israelite battalion was now a small company of soldiers. The 300 were further split into 100-man contingents. With no weapons in hand, Israel defeated the mighty Midianites.

The victory belonged to the Lord, but Gideon’s faith and obedience were necessary, too. Could God have won without Gideon? Of course. But he chose to use a mortal to accomplish his work.

You and I fight battles daily. Faith and obedience are required. It was hard for Gideon to see the outcome, especially given the odd tactics. But he believed and was obedient! Faith and obedience are simple tools for accomplishing great things for God. If we trust God’s lovingkindness and obey his simple commands, we will gain the greatest victory of all!

5 Excuses for Surrender

Except for surrendering to Jesus. It is bad to give up. We don’t quit in the middle of things. Whether it’s on a battlefield, in the workplace, or in a relationship, it is embarrassing to surrender. Yet, we see it every day; people giving up on their faith and buying into Satan’s lies. Why? I can think of at least five excuses we give when we surrender – not reasons; excuses.

Fear Causes Surrender

There’s plenty to be afraid of in life. If you live in a major American city, you may be afraid to go out at night. You would never think of going for a late-night walk because crime is rampant. Many are afraid of the terrible virus sweeping southeast Asia. They wear surgical masks to try and impede the spread of the germs. Fear is tiring and just makes you want to give up.

Some people give up on Jesus because they are afraid of what others think of them. No one wants to be a radical Bible-thumping Christian, right? Jesus tells us not to fear (Matthew 10:31). Luke has Jesus telling us not to fear the world because the Father has given us the kingdom (Luke 12:32)! We only fear the Lord for his might and glory is beyond comprehension.

Fatigue Causes Surrender

Do you ever get tired? Are the constant battles enough to make you want to give up?  Do you want to surrender? I do. We think that if we stop fighting all will suddenly get easier. Nope. No way. There is nothing special about our struggles and our wearied lives. Consider David’s words in Psalm 69:3, “I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” Have you been there? Me too.

We must never grow tired of doing good. We must wage the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7)! Paul writes: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Remember, do good and await the “times of refreshing” from the Lord (Acts 3:20).

Isolation Causes Surrender

It may be that our problems seem unique. Because some battles are so intimate and private, we keep them secret. We will not seek help because we are ashamed. Then we are locked into a private narrative of secrecy and seclusion.   The old spiritual intoned, “Nobody knows the trouble I have seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.” That’s a fine sentiment but it’s not really true. Our challenges and temptations are all plucked from the same worldly garden.

Paul said:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Notice two keys. Your struggles are common, and God will make an escape. Of course, it’s up to us to take the escape but we are not alone.

Laziness Causes Surrender

I know this one well. It is hard to fight the world constantly. We want to take it easy and have a little fun. And, sin is fun (Hebrews 11:25).

Approach this from another angle: Have you ever known a real winner who is lazy? Victorious warriors are never lazy. Corner-office-executives are never lazy. Olympic tier athletes are never lazy. Faithful, serving Christians are never lazy either.

As Paul drew near to death, he said, For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6, 7). Paul was surely weary. Scars marked his abused body. But he could not declare that he had fought a good fight and finished the race if he had been lazy. There is no place for laziness in the Christian’s life.

Hopelessness Causes Surrender

Imagine you are in combat. Enemies surround you. No relief is possible. All hope is gone. Or is it? General Anthony McAuliffe faced that situation near Bastogne, Belgium in 1944. His men, surrounded by Germans, had received a 2-page letter demanding their surrender. McAuliffe famously replied “N U T S !” Three days later, reinforcements arrived and the siege of Bastogne was broken. Hopelessness turned to victory.

Paul said it this way:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).

Paul never surrendered, nor should we. Your brothers and sisters will walk with you through your struggles; just do not give up!

The Last State of the Apostate

The most pitiful man in the world is one who, having known and obeyed the truth, turns from it and resumes a worldly life. Here is a man without excuse. He has placed himself away from God. Like the prodigal of Luke 15:11 ff, he has traveled into a far country where trouble and strife await. This lost soul has not been separated from God by others or even by Satan, but by his deliberate choice. How sad.

Consider four examples of those who have apostatized.

Apostate: The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

This young man lived in comfort and plenty, yet he was unsatisfied. When he comes of age, he demands his share of the father’s estate. He sought freedom from his father not knowing that he would soon be bound to his own poverty and despair. Upon traveling to a far country, he finds himself befriended by unworthy scoundrels happy to spend his money. The money ran out, and so did the friends. Only then did the young man discover his own poor state.

It was at this moment he realized the error of his choices.

“How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger” (Luke 15:17)!

Despite his impoverished solitude, this young man enjoys the clarity of thought. He knew what he must do. He must go home! (Luke 15:18) He arose and found his father waiting for him. The father would not go with him into despair but waited for his return. When he returned, a joyous banquet awaited.

He chose to leave. It was up to him to choose to return.

Apostate: Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)

A married couple entangled in the world. They saw the commendation of Barnabas when he sold land and gave the money to the church (Acts 4:36-37). Desiring the praise of men yet unwilling to part with worldly gain, they hatched a scheme to lie. Their story was simple: Sell a plot of land and give part of the money to the church. But they would lie by claiming they had given all the money from the sale. Now they could profit and receive praise.

Oh, the errors we make when we seek the praise of men and not Jesus! Oh, the errors we make when greed rules our lives! Pause and consider the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 6:6-10.

Both Ananias and Sapphira died immediately when confronted with their lies. These were among the first Christians. They saw the works of the apostles and may have even seen the risen Christ. Yet, they fell back and were lost because of their greed.

Apostate: The Once Enlightened (Hebrews 6:4-8)

The Hebrews writer envisions a Christian who falls. Notice the description in Hebrews 6:4, 5.

  • Enlightened
  • Tasted the Heavenly Gift
  • Shared in the Holy Spirit
  • Tasted the goodness of the word of God
  • Tasted the powers of the age to come.

Can anyone truly believe these were not Christians? They were! But more to our point, they fell away. They became crucifiers of Christ (Hebrews 6:6)!

What a contrast. From the light of His love to the darkness of sin. Truly, the one who knows the Lord and leaves him is pitiable.

Apostate: The Vomiting Dog (2 Peter 2:20-22)

Peter writes plainly in 2 Peter. In our present text, 2 Peter 2:20-22, he uses a grotesque illustration to make his point that a Christian who falls back into the world is a nauseating spectacle. We need not amplify his illustration of a sickened dog. We note that this describes the state of a person who once knew the truth and, later, rejected it.  If the illustration parallels man and dog, we would also see the parallel of sin and vomit. What a horrid though true thought.

Two additional phrases are worthy of our consider.

“the last state has become worse for them than the first” (vs. 21)

“it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness” (vs. 22)

How sad to think that there is a state worse than that of the alien sinner. There is a condition more damning than the ignorant heathen who has never known salvation. What can be worse than being lost? Being lost after you knew the truth. Being lost with the knowledge of what you turned your back on. We beg the weak and failing Christian to come home. Find strength for your travails in Christ and do not fall back into the world.

To the errant soul who has already left his Lord, we likewise plead. While there is breath left in your body, there is hope. Like the father of the prodigal son, Jesus stands looking for your return.


Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @J_Bryant_Evans.

Day by Day

Braun_ABW41_(schwarz)Christianity is a way of life. Our faith is daily. It saturates every minute of every day. There is never a moment when a servant of Christ takes a vacation from the Lord’s work. We belong to Christ always. The original Christians constantly and consistently lived for Jesus. Their dedication guides us into a life of joyous service.

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46, 47).

Do we think of our faith only as an expression of worship given on Sunday and maybe again on Wednesday night? The life of the disciple is constant and knows no boundary.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Both verses speak to everyday life. We do not deny ourselves only on the Lord’s Day, nor do we take up our cross only at 10 AM on Sunday. We serve him Christ daily. Both verses, from the mouth of Jesus himself, call for personal denial. That is, we daily reject our own desires while replacing them with the desire for Jesus. The pre-Christian man no longer exists. He has been replaced by one who displays Christ in every moment of life.

The words of the apostle Paul speak plainly:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

It is common to create compartments in our lives. There is one compartment for family and home, one for work, one for play and recreation and probably one for faith. An observer could easily watch and list the differences between each compartment. For example, the words of love and kindness we express for our family in a worship setting may be replaced by harsh and unforgiving words in the home. The ethics that we extol to our children and that we praise in Bible class are suddenly missing in our business life. The compartmentalization of life is catastrophic to our faith.

How rare it is to find a man who reflects his faith constantly and in every situation. More often, we adjust our faith to fit the moment. Our beliefs are conformed to the moment instead of the other way around (Romans 12:2).

A respected man in the church once began to sell items contrary to the faith in a retail store he owned. Another man, also very respected, served a company that manufactured godless products that destroyed homes. In both cases, the men defended their dissociative lives by arguing that their decisions were for work, not church. How sad.

Let us break down the walls that define our lives. Let the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16), Christ who dwells in us (Ephesians 3:17) and the Father who dwells in us (Ephesians 2:22) permeate our lives until we are saturated with his love and with his way of life. Leave no corner of your life sealed from him. Open not only your heart but your day to Jesus. As he fills your life at work, at home and at play, he will be glorified through you. Day by day, let us serve him!

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.

Resistance is Futile…or Is It?

“You will be assimilated…Resistance is futile”

– Locutus of The Borg (Star Trek)

Picard_as_LocutusAssimilation is the process of absorbing one thing into another such that there is nothing left of the original item. Star Trek aficionados understand the term from “The Next Generation” when an alien race tries to eliminate all of humanity by assimilating them into their own collective consciousness. Sounds bizarre right? Not so much. In fact it is very common and happening to you right now.

Our own culture and society work hourly to assimilate Christians. Society seeks to remove any vestige of Christianity from the public square. All we are, hope for and desire are to be melded into the godless void of our present culture.

This assault, coming from different directions and seemingly very different people is all part of an effort to change our way of viewing the world. It assaults our very understanding of right and wrong. In his book Culture Wars, author James Davison Hunter observes:

Once again, what seems to be a myriad of self-contained cultural disputes actually amounts to a fairly comprehensive and momentous struggle to define the meaning of America—of how and on what terms will Americans live together, of what comprises the good society.”

The Battle is far greater than politics and government. Government is only a tiny part of the issue and is more of a symptom than a cause. The real issues lie in the assimilated hearts and minds of our neighbors, co-workers and family.

The world wants to change us into something different. The world wants us to be more like them and less like Christ. That is a problem.

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were young nobles from Judah. They were God’s people who had been captured and taken as slaves to Nebuchadnezzar’s court in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar wanted them assimilated into Chaldean culture and society.

“Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility,  youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king” (Daniel 1:3-5).

Among  other things, the Chaldean literature would have included writings from the priests of Marduk, Nebuchadnezzar’s chosen idol. They might read them but they would not bow.

Daniel immediately stakes out his position. “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself…” Daniel might be compelled to live in the Babylonian world, much as we must live in our culture, but Daniel would not conform to it. At the first opportunity, Daniel, speaking for the other three, refused the king’s food and wine and insisted on water and vegetables (Daniel 1:8-12). At the end of 10 days it was clear to all that Daniel’s plan was best. God had blessed his resolute actions.

 Worldly Success

There is no question Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were successful in the world of the Babylonians. They were appointed as top administrators in the province and in the palace. From our perspective, we know their success came because of their faithfulness but it also teaches us that we can be successful in our careers even when we maintain our distinctive Christian nature.

But there is a line over which these good men would not step. Certain Babylonians brought malicious charges against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Perhaps motivated by jealousy these charges were nevertheless true. The men charged that  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were refusing to worship an idolatrous image Nebuchadnezzar had erected. Their refusal could cost them their careers and even their lives. The three are summoned before the king himself and offered a chance to live. All that was necessary was to worship the idol (c.f. Daniel 3:1-6; 14, 15).

They refused.

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

We see two important items. First, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were absolutely committed to Jehovah God. No matter the cost, they would not compromise their faith. Second, the three did not know how or if God would deliver them! But it still did not matter. They would not bow!

This should be instructive to us today. We face many challenges to our faith, rarely to death, but major challenges nonetheless. It is so easy to cave. It’s easy to assimilate. But if we learn from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego we will remain resolute even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We must trust God and remain wholly committed to him. No slacking. No compromise. No assimilation.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego resisted but they still were cast into an incredibly hot furnace. You probably know the rest of the story. They were delivered by God, Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and they were promoted. But this good ending is only because they remained faithful.

Likewise, Daniel refused to stop praying even when commanded to do so by the King Darius. Daniel faced a den of hungry lions for his devotion to God (Daniel 6:1 ff). In fact, as soon as the law was established, Daniel went to his bedroom, through open the windows and began praying. He was seen and brought before the king to answer for his “crime.” Although the king could not stop the execution, he hoped Daniel’s God would. And he did just that. The mouths of the lions were closed and Daniel walked out of the den. The malicious men were themselves thrown to the lions and God was glorified throughout the kingdom.

Why should we be any less fearless? Why should we hide our faith. Our strength will change others. It does matter how we live. He matters when we reject compromise. Daniel refused to meld his faith into that of the Medes. He would not assimilate and he was blessed.

The moral of this story…

Resistance is not futile!

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.

Farewell 2012

2012 change 2013We close the books on 2012 today. It’s over and I’m hoping for a better 2013. It has been a difficult year in so many ways. Hardly a month has passed without some horrifying event taking place which rattles us and makes stop to ask “why?” Let’s think about the big events of 2012 and see if we can find some answers:

  • 12 were slaughtered in Aurora, Colorado
  • 27 died at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut
  • 3 dead in a mall shooting in Oregon
  • 125 died in Hurricane Sandy and her aftermath
  • In fact, there were 16 mass shootings this year which, together, took 84 lives.
  • The great winter storm of 2012 claimed 6 lives
  • Lies, name calling and rancor marked our national political system
  • The economy still struggles and many are still without jobs.

I could go on and on and on some more but you get the point. This has been a tough year in many ways. 2013 holds promise for better times or at least that is what we tell ourselves. But the truth is that there will be bad things happening in 2013. We shouldn’t be surprised, Satan is the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31). Although the evil one is greatly restricted his influence is great and his arrogance unabated.

Truth teaches that we will suffer in this world at the hands of the evil people. By inspiration Paul said,

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (1 Timothy 3:12, 13)

We are pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11) and just passing through this old world. As the song continues, “my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue.” Trouble comes but we are prepared.

What are we to do? If this world is bad and only going to get worse, what can we do? How to we survive? Paul answers immediately after his warning above:

” But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (1 Timothy 3:14-17).

There are three keys for continued life in this sinful world.

Continue and Do Not Give Up

Paul tells Timothy that he already knows and has been taught the truth. It came through the teaching of his mother and his grandmother and through his association with the “sacred writings.”  For Timothy, that would have been what we call the Old Testament. Timothy must not change because of the times. Instead he was to continue.

That’s good advice for us too. We know the sacred writings and we ought remain in them. We have firmly believed  and no matter what may happen in some place near or far we do not change. To surrender is beyond our comprehension.

Know the Book

Do you notice the very central place given to Scripture? We read of both sacred writings and Scripture. Both are the same and are first formed in the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:11) and then given to man through the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

The necessity of knowing the truth cannot be overstated. We must take it in (Psalm 119:11) and dwell upon it. I fear that most do not give adequate place in their lives to Bible reading. A horrible pestilence of biblical illiteracy has settled upon us. That ignorance allows and sustains false teaching which arises from the devil himself. If we are to stand against the troubles of this world, we must know the book.

Be Equipped

Any soldier knows that his equipment is vital to the success of his mission and even to his own survival. There is no difference with the disciple. We must equip ourselves for combat knowing that Satan will assault us at every turn (Ephesians 6:16, 1 Peter 5:8). There are many tools with which we must equip ourselves (Ephesians 6:10-18) but none so important as a knowledge of the truth of God’s word. Everything we know about God, about Jesus, about sin and salvation, comes from the word of God. We cannot live without it.

We make so many preparations in this life. We prepare for emergencies with insurance policies, we prepare for retirement with Roths and IRAs, we prepare for a high quality of life with gym memberships and well prepared meals. Do we also prepare for life and the spiritual troubles that are certain to come our way? We must be equipped.

We welcome 2013 with open arms and great hope. We seek more followers for the kingdom this year. We seek to spread the word further. But we know that troubles are on the horizon. Nevertheless we do not faint for out hope is in an unfailing Lord who gave us all!

 

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter  @jbevans.

John 3:16 and the Depth of Believing

Following a recent sermon I was questioned about John 3:16 by a very kind lady. She held that baptism was not necessary for salvation. Her reasoning was that John 3:16 said all who believed would be saved. Our discussion seemed to turn on the meaning of “believes” in the Golden Text.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

There are really only two options. “Believe” can mean nothing more than a simple mental assent or agreement; it can also speak to something broader and more inclusive. I hold to the latter. Biblical belief is far deeper. It is a faith which drives one to obey his Lord.

For example, in the very same chapter Jesus says this:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”  (John 3:36).

Notice in verse 36 a contrast between the one who believes and has eternal life and the one who does not obey and is lost. We do no damage to the text when we say that obedience is necessary to avoid eternal condemnation. Indeed, obedience is a necessary outcome of the one who loves Jesus:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

And again,

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21).

Then, in response to a question from Judas, Jesus answered:

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words…” (John 14:23-24)

I think we agree that the belief of John 3:16 involves more than simple mental agreement. If there remains any question we would ask for some clear, Biblical example of a person saved by simple assent or agreement. The kind of belief that saves in John 3:16 is an obedient belief or faith. As James wrote:

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

Indeed, the saving belief or faith of the Christian involves action. The only real question that remains is how much action. We will answer that question next.

What Christians Can Learn from Football

Football fans are teaching us a lesson about faith.

These early days of January are a football fan’s favorite time. This weekend saw NFL teams fighting it out in the playoffs and tomorrow night Alabama and LSU will face off in  the biggest game in recent memory. Fans are beside themselves. Their eyes are red from watching so many games and reading so many newspaper stories. They are fanatics.

Instead of bemoaning the fact that a football will get more attention this week than a Bible, I’d like to learn something. I’d like to know why football is more appealing than faith. I think I have found a few answers.

Football provides an escape from the daily grind of life.

When you sit down to watch a football game the cares of life seem to fade away. Whether it’s a Friday night high school game or an NFL game nothing else seems to matter for about three hours. For that brief time we escape.

Christians should be telling people that there is an escape from this world too. The word “church” literally means a group of people called together, out of the world, for a purpose. When we assemble together each week (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25) we leave the world behind. For a few hours we meet with God and focus on Him alone.

Football is a common topic throughout the rest of the week.

We are better prepared to discuss the ins-and-outs of the sport of we have watched the weekend games. People will talk to complete strangers about the game. Here in the South, football is so big that almost everyone will talk about it.

Christians also have a common topic: victory in Jesus. Every person alive can enjoy that victory. All can win against Satan. Whosoever will  may come to know the Lord and their sins can be forgiven (1 John 2:2). With good news like that, we should be shouting the victory to all people, family and strangers alike. It is odd that we can talk to strangers about a football game but not about their souls.

Football showcases those who give their all on a field of battle.

When we see people like Trent Richardson run headlong into massive linemen we cheer for his strength and talent. These warriors perform at their best week after week.

Like football, Christians also cheer for those who laid it on the line for Jesus Christ. A reading of Hebrews 11 reminds us of all those of whom “the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38); those who gave all they had. Unlike football, we are not simply spectators. We are now on the field and they are watching us (Hebrews 12:1).  Our competition lasts much longer than 60 minutes. We play for a lifetime. Our victory is not a crystal football trophy but a glorious crown which the Lord Himself will give us (2 Timothy 4:8).

There are similarities between football fans and Christians. But it is the differences that make our faith so rewarding. Let us worship like we have never worshipped before. Let us cheer for the spiritual victories like we have never cheered before. And let us live in victory forever as only God’s people can.

 

Just Leave It To God

I’m sitting in the middle of nowhere right now. I’m in the woods and a long way from the busy world. I’m sitting under an old water oak and just noticing God.
A few minutes ago a single orange butterfly came by. Soon it was joined by two more. Now the three are happily frolicking around a bush about 50 feet away.
Before that a squirrel popped his out just above me. He quickly scurried off but then three more came out just across the small glade from where I sit. Like the butterflies they are playing without concern. So too are the birds, insects, turtles and other unseen critters.
Their apparent lack of anxiety reminded me of something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not if more value than they?
Ok, Lord, enough said.

God the Remodeler

Have you ever remodeled a home or office? It’s a mess. We’re doing some remodeling at the Eastern Shore church at the moment. Before anything new can be built the old stuff has to be torn away. Old ceiling, cabinets, walls, flooring; it all has to be torn down before the new materials can be added.  It’s a messy process but needed.

The same happens to the Christian. The old ways have to be destroyed before the regeneration (remodeling) can begin. God’s prophet Hosea said it this way:

“Come let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).

We don’t normally think of God as one who destroys or tears down. We don’t think the Lord would strike us down. But Hosea says otherwise and other Scriptures support the idea.

In Romans 6:6 Paul says “our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing…” Our destruction comes before our reconstruction. In Ephesians 4:20-24 the apostle says we were taught to “put off your old self which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” Again, destroy the old so we can be renewed.

One more: “Do not lie to one another seeing you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10). Clean out the old before putting in the new. It seems clear that there must be some tearing down and trashing of the old man before he can be remodeled. No one lays a beautiful new Berber carpet over a 1970’s era orange shag carpet. The old must go!

Hosea recognized that God can and will bring us down before building us up. It is often in the depths of our despair that we come to know God. Only when there is nothing left do we really see his love for us. Even Paul had trouble understanding this idea until he had begged for deliverance from some unknown “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). His conclusion was:

“I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s greatest leaders have always been broken before they could be used. Noah spent 120 years laboring over a boat; Abraham wandered as a nomad; Moses fled luxury to tend cattle; even Jesus suffered in the wilderness. In fact the Bible says Jesus “emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:7) so that he could redeem mankind. Like these great men, let us surrender to God so that he might first break us and empty us before rebuilding and refilling our spirit.

When trouble comes, could it be the Lord working to tear us down so that he can rebuild us? It is a frightening thought but one that leaves behind the prospect of a God-built spirit. Remember the words of the psalmist: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain…” (Psalm 127:1).