The Need of God-Fearing Men
In Pasadena Texas there used to be a huge Baptist Church on Vista Blvd. This is the church that I made my public confession of faith in. The attendance there was probably close to 200 on a Sunday morning, and at least half of that on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services. Later I moved to the state of Washington and attended a Baptist church in Roy. This little country church was packed every service, and even had a radio tower that they used to broadcast their services our over the radio station. A few year later I moved back to Texas and wound up briefly attending several churches that also had high attendance and great outreaches and ties into the surrounding communities. In between these churches, I attended several other churches, as I tended to move quite a bit. I have also had the opportunity to preach at several different churches of various sizes. In looking back over these churches I could see something that seems insignificant to most, but stands out to me. There was a difference in the churches that were growing and involved in the community and those who were dying, or at least in peaceful slumber. The churches that had a fervent men’s ministry were the ones that were growing.
When we look at what makes a church not only survive, but to thrive in an area, we can look at a lot of different factors. Many studies go into looking at the local demographics of the area. What is the income level? What is the major ethnic population? What is the major health or poverty driven issue? What is the current and projected economic climate? Are jobs on the increase or the decrease? How many children per home? How many single mother homes are in the populace? All of these are good questions, and can help to develop outreach opportunities and meet the needs of the people surrounding the church. However; this information does little to spur the motivation of the church to do anything. We often look at aging churches and try to find ways to get youth programs off the ground. The idea is that without youth in the church, the church will silently die of old age. This is true in more than one way. But what I am speaking of is something more fundamental. We need men in the church to have a heart for, and to be, active in sharing the Gospel of Christ.
I heard a story one time concerning Charles Spurgeon and his boiler room. The story goes that some college students came to see Charles Spurgeon preach. They had arrived early and as they waited, a man from the church offered to give them a tour. The guide took them into one room, referred to as the “heating plant”. In this room were an estimated 700 saints praying. The guide, who turned out to be Charles Spurgeon himself, explained that the secret to his success is not him at all. Mr. Spurgeon explained that the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in answering the prayers of these saints that desire another soul would be saved. The secret to these successful churches was the presence of an active, praying Men’s Ministry.
I want to make something clear. Men’s Ministry is not an event driven service. It is great to have the Men’s Ministry around to do all of the heavy lifting at an events like VBS or at a Kid’s Festival or a Fall Festival, however; that is not the only way the men should be of value in the church ministry. They should be intimately involved in every aspect of the ministry of the local church and their families.
Each of these churches I attended that were growing had an active men’s ministry that prayed before, during, and after every service. They arrived hours ahead of time, and remained as long as needed. They painted, moved furniture, worked the plumbing, cut the grass and did many other things. In fact, in the church in Roy, Washington we all met one Saturday morning and worked all day spreading truckloads of rocks around to make a new parking lot and did other landscaping items. We were there from before the sun came up, until the sun went down. The ladies brought us food and water as we worked. In all of these churched, men were subject to the Spirit of God and had a desire to see one more soul saved. Men are the leaders in the church. When I was in the Army, I learned that Leaders lead by example, and from the front, not the rear. A leader does not sit in an office and dictate to others what needs to be done. A leader teaches, demonstrates, and then supervises what needs to be accomplished. A leader takes personal responsibility in the accomplishment of the mission. This is what an effective Men’s Ministry does.
These men, of the Men’s Ministry, lead by active service. John 13:12-15 says, “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” This shows us how important this principle of leadership in the church is to Christ. He himself made a point to ensure the disciples understood that in order to be a leader in the kingdom they must lead in service of the kingdom. We forget that Jesus actively disciple all of these men. I know what you’re saying, “Of course he did, that’s why we call them ’the disciples’”. However, when we get a young man in the church we do not grow them into elders. Instead we just hope that they will eventually figure it out, stay long enough, or the Lord will instruct them himself. We forget that we, as men have been given a ministry towards other men. Men need to be disciple in the church. Men need to be held to a standard and accountability. These effective Men’s Ministries that I witness did not wait for some young or new male church member to approach them. These men actively recruited all men in attendance at the church. To be honest, most did not even care if you were a member of the church, they just wanted to get you active in spiritual growth.
I showed up at one of these churches early one morning. While waiting for the rest of my family to arrive, an elder from the church came up and asked me my name. I told him, and he smiled and said, “Well, Mr. Harvey, you’re just in time for the prayer meeting.” Then he conducted me to an upstairs room where 12 other men were already praying. The Pastor ducked his head in right before the door closed and told them some names to add to the list and disappeared. Just like that I was in the Men’s Ministry. I joined the church that service. That was all it took.
Men’s ministry assists the church, as the men in the church are disciple to mature faith and understanding of the scriptures, their roles in the family, local church, the Kingdom of God, and community. The Men’s Ministry is the place where this close discipleship can occur through fellowship, study, accountability, counsel. Most of all the Men’s Ministry servers through men fervently praying for their families, the church, community, and one another in the unity of group prayer meetings. There is nothing the devil can defeat a church with that has a group of righteous men praying in earnest for the spreading of the gospel.
Men, the apostle James tell us in his epistle that we should confess our sins to one another. We should also pray for one another. Then James tell us that the powerful passionate prayer of a righteous man is very advantageous to the plea being made. (James 5:16) Wow! Now imagine how powerful a whole group of such men praying together in agreement before the Almighty God would be, especially with the Spirit of God praying right along beside them, in perfect communion with the God, the Creator of the universe. Prayer then is the foundation of the men’s ministry. However, it also includes mentorship in Christ. Group study of the Word, and proper fellowship.
Fellowship in scripture is not just having coffee before services, or having a lunch after Sunday morning services. I includes, but is not limited to Men’s Breakfasts, prayer groups, and bible studies. The word for fellowship in the Greek has a deeper meaning. It means to share on one’s self. This means that we should be living in fellowship. We should be involved in one another’s lives. We should be giving towards one another. We should be living with one another on a daily basis. Giving time, money, food, encouragement, advice, and emotional and spiritual support to one another. This is what happened in the early church, they gave sacrificially to one another, even to other churches. Another thing to consider is spiritual leadership.
The man is to be a spiritual leader in the church and in the home. 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”. This means that we should be like men of wisdom who have understanding. We should act like mature men, not like children. We should be strong in doctrine, not carried away by every spirit. We should search the scriptures to test what we have been told and what we interpret concerning scripture. We should be proficient and able to identify truth from error. We, men, should be able to instruct others on the meaning of the scriptures. We should have the backbone to stand up for what is good and right before God. In this age of effeminized men we need men who can show themselves as men. Men who set the example of righteousness, no matter what the cost. Men who lead. If a woman goes to church, she will undoubtable drag her children with her. The husband may not go. She has no authority to make him. The children, especially the boys will have a divided desire.
The boys will develop a resentment with one parent or the other, and the church. This is because, boys want to be like their fathers. The hidden message in their heart will be on of, “If dad doesn’t have to go, why should I?” In all honesty, that is a very good question. If the father does not put any emphasis on church attendance then their children will fail to realize the importance of the church, Sunday school, or even Christ himself. However; if the father goes to church then everyone goes to church. He has that authority. The wife who wishes to please her husband will go. The children who see that both parents are in attendance will desire to go, because the importance of the church is recognized by both parents. More so if the father is actively involved in the church. Then the children see that a relationship with Christ is of most importance. The child who understands the importance of a relationship with Christ will tell their friends, and invite them to church to meet Christ. A family who worships Christ together, grows in love towards one another, the church, and in Christ Jesus.
The Church does not need to change its culture to make themselves more attractive to society. To much of that nonsense has already happened. We don’t need men that are effeminate, unsure of scripture, afraid to confront evil, or not daring enough to step on a few toes for Christ. What the church needs is a culture where men are righteous, caring, and active in their families, the church and community. Men that are bold in their profession of faith. Men that stand up for what is right. Men who confront evil no matter what the personal cost. Men who would rather step on a toe or two in love, rather than see someone waist their life and die and go to hell.
When God made mankind, he first made a male and put him to have dominion over all of his creation. When Jesus selected his apostles, out of thousands of men, women, and children; he chose men. When the disciples gathered together to replace Judas Iscariot, out of over a hundred men and women gathered together, the Holy Spirit chose a man. When the first deacons for the church were chosen, the Holy Spirit of God chose men. The first recorded martyr was also a man. The Holy Spirit moves through righteous men. I am not saying that the Holy Spirit does not use women also, however; there seems to be no shortage of active women in the church today. That being said, this is why scripture encourages men saying, “if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) You see the Lord wants men to desire to be of service. He says that it is a good thing to have a desire to be of service; teaching, preaching, caring for the flock. Then he gives some criteria.
I know what you are most likely thinking. This is the criteria that he gives for pastors and deacons, however; shouldn’t all Christian men strive for these? He says that a man of God should be blameless. There should be no cause for accusation in his life. He should have a clean witness both in and out of the church. He should be the husband of one wife. This man should have no eyes for any other woman than his wife. He should have no mistresses, or practice polygamy. He should be vigilant. This means he should be aware of his surroundings. Attentive to the needs of others. Aware of the dangers of the enemy about him. He should be sober. He should be of a good nature and not into mischief. He is temperate, not into brawling, or striking others. He does not boast or throw his weight around trying to impress himself. The list goes on, and then includes some very specific things for the bishop. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-9)
These are the things that we should be shepherding and disciplining young men in the way. This is the culture that we should seek to have in the men of our churches. Real men who stand up for God and that do not let anything stop them from seeking the will of the Lord. Men like this who pray together have a great effect on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a church. In Ezekiel 34 we can read that there are dire consequences for Israel because the shepherds of Israel failed their duties. Israel became scattered having no leadership. The people became the victims of wolves and beasts of prey. They were weak and sickly. This sounds like some churches you may know, does it not?
Something else to be aware of in Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord says, “I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock”. Now let us move to Revelation chapter 3. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Revelation 3:15-17) Remember the Lord is talking to the members of the church. He says that they have become self-sufficient and think that they have everything and that they have lost their zeal. They are not doing the things of the Lord. Because of this they are worthless to him, and he will spew them out. Ever wonder if a church closed because God wished them to close? They had become slipshod and non-responsive to the Spirit and the Lord simply pulled their charter.
Men of God you must understand that you are important to the ministry of your local Church. In fact, you are an invaluable asset to your church. Your skills and craftsmanship are a great asset to the church, but your leadership and compassion for others has a far more reaching effect. You have knowledge and understanding that some young man needs to tap into to see the working of Christ in his life. We need men of God engaged in the fight for what is good, and right, and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8) These are the things that we should be doing. We should learn to do well, seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, and protect the orphans and widows. (Isaiah 1:17) This is the work that God has for men.
When you speak with people about the Book of the Revelation they almost always have a dark, mystic view. They see the events described in the text as worrisome events that haunt their minds and cause dread and fear to lurk in their hearts. Revelation however is meant as an encouragement to the believer.
How many times have we sat and asked the Lord. “Why do the bad guys always seem to win?”, or “Do you even care what is going on down here?” Even David wrote. “Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves? They break in pieces thy people, O Lord, and afflict thine heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.” (Psalm 94:3-7)
Revelation is an answer to these questions, you see God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). The Lord has had a plan of redemption from the very beginning of time. You see when man fell, God was not surprised by the Adam’s choice to rebel against him. He instituted his plan of salvation (Genesis 3:15). Revelation is God’s message of love to those who have been faithful. Those who have suffered for Christ. Those who have been obedient. In fact throughout Revelation you find seven blessings that are given to the faithful. They are referred to as the Seven Beatitudes of Revelation.
The Seven Beatitudes of Revelation
- Revelation 1:3 – Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
- Revelation 14:13 – And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
- Revelation 16:15 – Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
- Revelation 19:9 – And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
- Revelation 20:6 – Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
- Revelation 22:7 – Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
- Revelation 22:14 – Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates in to the city.
You see my fellow believer you have nothing to fear in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This is the Lord revealing the end game. He is giving this as a means of encouragement to the persecuted. Yes there are warnings to the unfaithful, and to the enemies of Christ. However, to the believer there are strong words of encouragement. We get to see how the Lord, does in fact, have a plan to conquer the enemy. So then read Revelation with joy and thanksgiving in your hearts!
The Christian Post reported on a study that was released by Gordon-Conwell’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity; which said,that over 900,000 Christians were Martyred for their faith in the last 10 years. This plays out to an average of one Christian being martyred every 4-6 minutes. In America we would like to think that the martyrdom of the saints is a thing of ancient past.
We have books in our bookshelf that give descriptions of the early church and other time periods where Christians were martyred, sometimes by other christian sects. We pull the book down and haphazardly read an account and say, wow, I would have stood up just like that Christian. We then pat ourselves on the back, because we are such a good christian and then put the book back on the shelf, and sit into our lazy chair to watch some comedian on TV made fun of Christians or God. In truth, persecution of Christians world wide is higher than it has ever been.
In the 20th and 21st Centuries, more Christians were martyred than any other time in history. That means that more Christians have died, for their faith, in the last 118 years than in the preceding 19 Centuries. The numbers are growing, while we sit and grow fat. We bury our heads in the sand and tell ourselves it does not concern us. Yet this relentless murder of Christians is pandemic of the entire world, including in America, where violent and legal attacks are carried out on a routine basis against Christians. NE News Now reported that across the globe there are more than 200 million Christians that are threatened because of their faith. This is a consensus revealed in 105 of the 190 nations in the world.
All of this goes on while,in American church, we have watered down gospel. A gospel that actually is not the gospel is preached instead. We have become a nation of Christians who have ears that itch to have pleasing self-centered, even devilish doctrines entreated to us. World know preachers of mega churches go on interview after interview and openly proclaim that they do not teach the gospel, because there is no money in it. Instead, the church in America had been inundated with a “name it and claim it” gospel. Sin and consequences are not discussed in the pulpit. American churches have desecrated themselves before God and man, and no longer stand for the truth. Instead of confronting sexual immortality, and infant murder, they welcome it into their churches and in some- even ordain that which should be expelled.
Self-help and the way to financial happiness have become the mantra of the mainstream American church. We are so absorbed and praying for that new house, or new car, or other ways of pleasing our own covetous desires that we have left God out or our churches, schools, business, legislation, families, and our own hearts. We no longer care to reach the lost, instead we try not to offend them and try to act like them, to show how accepting we are. We have lost the love that gives us the need to be objective and warn the lost that they will die in their sin without accepting the truth of Jesus. We have become the ones that the Lord said, “In that day, I will say, depart from me for I never knew you.”
You know how I know this? Take a look at John 15:18-27.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.He that hateth me hateth my Father also.If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
Here Jesus says that the world will hate you. We can expect this because it hates Jesus. A young Pakistani Christian invited some friends and family to his home after he was converted from Islam to Christianity. He showed them the Jesus movie. They told him that if he didn’t stop showing that movie he would be killed. He continued his mission, and invited another small group to his home and showed them the Jesus movie. Two nights later, a group of men stole into his home and cut him to pieces. Stabbing this young Christian to death because of his love for Jesus.
Jesus said that if you were of the world the would would love it’s own. But because you are of the Kingdom of Heaven, the world doesn’t know you. Because they do not know you, they hate you. You are reminder to them of sin that they are guilty of. You are a reminder that there is a just and righteous God who will judge sin, and who will destroy all who live in sin. They hate you because you have spoken to them and revealed sin. This is the same reason they hated Jesus.
But Jesus said that he has sent us a comforter, the Holy Spirit. Who indwells all who believe. The Spirit of God in Christ is who gives us the ability and courage to speak the truth. We, who believe, are not concerned with these worldly issues. Who cares who said what? Who cares about that new car, or new house? We are not of this world. We are just passing through while on mission. We are missionaries of Jesus, each one of us. We are here to do exactly what Jesus did, bear witness to the truth. We are here to tell the whole truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are here to expose the lie of the false teachers and false prophets who teach that God will give you a new boat if you just pray hard enough or give enough money to their false religion. We are here to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. People are dying for Christ. However, allot more are dying without Christ. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). Maybe we need to stand up, before there are none of us left to bring the message.
The Book of Isaiah has always fascinated me. There is so much to discover in these pages. Isaiah among other things discusses the future tribulation and the millennial kingdom; the salvation of the Servant-Messiah and God’s plan for peace. There has been allot of debate over who authored the Isaiah scrolls and when they were made. The debate is very important because it either validates or lays to naught the prophetic aspects of the book of Isaiah. The prophetic nature of Isaiah is extremely important to Judaism and Christianity alike.
For Christianity the importance of Isaiah can be revealed in the number of times it is references. The prophet Isaiah is referred to approximately eighty-five times in the New Testament. While some of these are repeated references there are still at least sixty-one passages in Isaiah that are used as a single reference.
Jesus launched his ministry by reading from the school of Isaiah. This shows the necessity of the accuracy of the book of Isaiah. Jesus could not have said that he is fulfilling this scripture if it was not already accepted as scripture by the Jews of his time. Here is the portrayal recorded by Luke.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 10:416-21).
The New Testament the Book of Acts chapter 8 refers to a Eunuch that was converted to Christianity by the use of the scriptures recorded in Isaiah and how they related to prophecy fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The Lord sent Phillip to meet with this man to teach him from Isaiah all the things concerning Jesus. The man believe and was subsequently baptized.
How great a find was discovered in 1947 among the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this archeological find was located an intact and in “perfect” condition, 2nd Century BC scroll of the text of Isaiah. It has been compared to the oldest know text, about 980 AD and is astonishingly accurate. In fact, scholars have concluded that it is an exact copy. This lays waist to claims that the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the Servant-Messiah, the Millennial Kingdom, and God’s Plan of Peace were added later in time by editors of the text. You see if you believe in divine inspiration then you must also believe in divine preservation. If God cared enough to inspire the writers of the Bible then surely he would preserve that message also.
If he preserved it then we can trust what is written. We can trust the prophecies. We can trust the fulfillment of the prophecy. We can look forward to the restoration of Israel. We know that Jerusalem will be the capital of the world because we know the prophecy of our Lord establishing his kingdom here on earth in Jerusalem for 1000 years. Through the seed of Abraham the whole world, every nation, all of creation will be blessed. We know this because the scripture has been preserved by God himself.
We also know this. That Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53. When it says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). That means that Jesus did actually take our burdens of sin and he carried our sorrows and despairs to the cross. It also means that we witnessed the chastisement of God that he took for us. He was beaten, and mocked, and died for his love of mankind. Jesus took our punishment like a loving older brother takes the blame for his siblings. He died for us. We know this because scripture prophesied this. We know this because the New Testament recorded it for us. We can trust it because God himself preserved the witness in the accuracy of the text. This is the truth that sets you free. Jesus was sacrificed to pay the debt of sin for you and for me. We are indebted to Jesus for our very lives. By accepting this truth he promises to give us a life that we cannot comprehend. He said a more abundant life! More life than we know of. That is amazing love.
James talked about enduring trials, but what kinds of trials was James talking about? I found this in Hebrews and thought that it was applicable to what we are discussing. It is important for us to understand that faith results in actions. Sometimes these actions are quite sever. However, going through these trials build us up in Christ and gives us the endurance needed to run our race well. Below is a table that shows some people in the Old Testament who were tested.
Two things of note. First, in Hebrews 11:29 the author briefly mentions when Israel crossed the Red Sea. Now something that may be overlooked in the casual reading of this little verse… each individual had to make a decision to trust God and pass through the waters. Any one who would have stayed behind, even though they would be “elect” of God would have died at the hands of Egypt (the World system). Those who truly believed God and used that faith to move forward were spared death. Without faith in God they would have never moved.
Second is the entirety of Hebrews 11:35-40 shows the trials that others before us have had to go through. These things they endured not only demonstrated their faith, but; gave a benefit for us. Without these martyrs we would not have examples of what faith looks like in action. We would not have the benefit of being able to trust in the Lord without seeing the faithfulness of God in their sufferings. We could even go so far as to say that without the trials of the faithful who have gone before us, we would not know God. Why then do we go through trials.
|Abraham||Offered Isaac in obedience of faith and trust in God|
|Isaac||Blessed Jacob and Esau’s future trusting the promise of God|
|Jacob||When dying Blessed his sons future trusting the promise of God|
|Joseph||Commanded his bones be brought out of Egypt; believing God|
|Moses’ Parents||Hid him 3 months without fear|
|Moses||Refused to be a son of the Pharaoh’s daughter|
|Moses||Kept the Passover in obedience through faith|
|Moses and Israel||Passed through the Red Sea in obedience through faith|
|Joshua and Israel||Fell the Walls of Jericho by obedience to the Lord|
|Rehab||Received mercy salvation|
|Through Faith||Various Judges||Subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, etc… all through obedience in faith|
Take some time this week to search out these examples and see what these saints did because of their faith. If we believe that Jesus is the Lord and stand in that faith, then we will receive trials. Trials are a good thing. Trials help us to grow and mature in our faith. Trials help us to trust more on the Lord and his promises. Trials help others to trust in the Lord and give an opportunity for others to learn how to respond in trials, and to encourage their own faith and endurance.
Ref: Luke 15:11-32
I spoke with a friend a day or two ago. She was concerned because her son was getting old enough to leave the fold now. She was concerned with the usual things that we as parents get concerned about. If you have lived through this, or are currently going through this situation, then you know what I am talking about. This is a heart wrenching time for a parent. It has been 18 years where the mom and dad have been caring for the needs of their child. They have tried hard to prepare them for this inevitable day. All their hopes and aspirations are tied up in the fruition of the life of labor and love they have poured into their little baby, who is now a young adult. Have they been good parents?
What if their young one fails? How will they be able to help? Will their child ask for help? Did I prepare them enough for them to be successful? But probably the most heart wrenching question for a Christian parent is, “Will they continue in their faith?” Will they walk away from God and never return?
In a study done by Lifeway Research, author Ed Stetzer, relays that 70 percent of high school students who attended church on a regular basis, for at least one year, will stop going to church during their years of higher education. There are allot of reasons for this, but most do not intentionally stop going to church. That is, it is not that they could not wait to get away from their oppressive Christian parents so that they could leave their archaic religion. Most just get caught up in their new busy life. Juggling of study, school, work, and the development of new friendships distract them from their previous priorities. Some will get distracted for a while, maybe some for several years, but most will eventually return. Probably when they start their own families. There are a few who will get distracted far beyond measure. Some will forsake their childhood upbringing in favor of some college professor’s views, or do the world views on life, sex, and politics that permeate the college campuses. We can find throughout scripture examples to prove that the Lord does not abandon his children.
In Luke chapter 15 we find the story of the prodigal son. In this story the youngest son makes a plea for his half of the inheritance and leaves home. This rebellious son then squanders his fortunes in a foreign land and winds up being homeless and penniless. After much soul searching he decides to return home and beg forgiveness in hopes that he can work on the family estate as a hired hand. When he returns his father is overjoyed. The father’s love overflows from deep in his heart and he rejoices over the return of his son with a great feast and a party. The oldest son, who remained obedient is put off with this forgiveness his younger sibling received. He is caught up in his own selfish interests to see the miracle that has happened.
This story has many different points at which we can tear it apart and find some universal truth or a great life application. I have many times used this parable as a part of my testimony, because I was also a wayward son who had returned. If you are not familiar with this story it can be found in Luke 15:11-32.
Here in this passage we see a man that did everything right. He raised his kids in a God-fearing home. He taught them the value of good hard work. He taught them about the Lord. He taught him the customs of their people, and how to be good men. He instructed them in the way of their faith. Yet one of his children fell away. This is the case for many of us parents.
We can teach, and discipline, and hold our breath till we are blue in the face, but some of our children will go away form their faith. We can do everything right. Still our loved one abandons the truth and rebels against God. I should also mention that we can do everything wrong, and yet our child finds God. The point here is that faith is a personal decision. Our job is to pray for them, teach them, and reinforce the instructions of life and hope in Christ. Teach them the wisdom of knowing God and the advantages of living a godly lifestyle. We are to give them an understanding of God that they can use in life’s decisions. But the decision is up to them. Each man (woman) is responsible to God for themselves. This is why the father rejoiced.
The father in Luke 15 knew when his son asked for his share of the inheritance and left that he was already lost before his feet his the road. He also knew that he could not stop him. He knew that while his son was in rebellion that he was already dead spiritually. I am sure that his heart was broken. Something that we cannot miss though. The father knew his son had to make the decisions.
When his youngest son asked for the money his father did not argue with him. His father could have told him, that money is not yours yet, you do not have a right to it. His father could have drilled him with all kinds of questions, he could told him how foolish he was, and what a bad son he is. He could have struck out in anger. The father had all of the authority and right to do any or all of these things. Instead he listened. He gave his son an opportunity to learn a life lesson that his son needed.
This father also trusted God to return his son to his faith. The father knew that the son in his heart did believe in God and that this little light of faith would be used by God to steer him home. I am sure he held onto Proverbs 22:6. The father had hope. He knew that God loved his son also, just as much as he did. He knew that God would not abandon his son.
This hope is evident in verse 20 of Luke 15. It says, “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him.” This father was looking for the return of his son. He expected the Lord to deliver his son. He rose up and looked for him every day! We don’t know how long the timeframe is of the story, but it was long enough for the son to lose his inheritance, take a slum job, deal with starvation, and finally repent. The son swallowed his pride and came with full intention of making things write with his father no matter what the consequences.
This story can tell us so much about the love of God. When the son returned the father did not care where he had been, or what he had done. He only say his son. His baby was coming home. I think about this and I think about my own son. He is a grown man, but every time I look at him, I still see the little infant that I held for the first time at his birth. I know the heart of God by this memory. With all that I love my son and no matter what he has done or where he has been, I still see this little baby in my hands. That I like to think is the way that God sees each of us. This father in our story just saw his baby, crying and beaten up by life, returning home. This father who loved his son, put his arms around him. Nothing else mattered.
This is what Jesus made possible. No matter how far we go. No matter what we have done. No matter how rebellious we have been. Jesus made a path home for us, for our children. Have hope in the Lord. Your heavenly Father has not abandoned you, and will not abandon your son or daughter. Yes there are some hard lessons in life to learn. No we cannot shelter our children from consequences of their own decisions. However; we can have confidence that the Lord will never leave or forsake them.