Lesson 11 -- first quarter 2006
February 12, 2006
© Copyright 2006
Approved by God
God had promised Israel a land flowing with milk and honey. Though they had been through a lot, they finally arrived at the border. Their spies testified of the land, "Surely it floweth with milk and honey." They had virtually arrived at the land of promise. The dreams and hopes of generations were on the threshold of fulfillment!
And then the unimaginable happened. With no interest in proving God or in being approved of Him, the majority chose to back away from the threshold! They refused to possess what they had earnestly desired for so long. Why? Rebellion. Yes, rebellion! The primary issue was not fear, although that certainly was a factor in the Israelites' response. The Israelites just outright refused to do God's bidding. They deliberately despised God's power, God's word, God's approval, and God's gift.
They could see only their apparent impotence, and refused to move ahead. As a result, that entire generation had to leave their bones in the wilderness and the hopes and dreams of Israel had to be extended through yet one more generation. What a waste -- a needless, tragic waste!
Two of them, though, wanted God's approval. Joshua and Caleb stood up to the desperate, despairing mob. They were vastly outnumbered. And they almost died under a barrage of stones for their obedience, faith, and courage. But they stood fast for God, and God stood for them. And when the time at last came, fourty years late, to conquer the land, they were the sole, surviving Patriarchs at the head of the mighty Jewish nation.
What were these amazing men made of? That is entirely the wrong question! What did these men have? Obedience, faith, courage -- they were unflinchingly committed to God and His plans. To them, God's promises were a done deal. They saw their duty as simply following through and accepting the inevitable: victory and possession. With all that in them, standing for God was the only natural thing to do. They would not consider backing down despite overwhelming opposition.
What do you have? The church is not in critical need of physical strength, intellectual brilliance or blind mule-headedness. And God isn't looking for these traits either. In the face of massive apostasy and end-time rebellion, God and His church need men and women (young or otherwise) who will plant their feet solidly and immovably on the Rock. This generation needs individuals who will live and carry forth God's message and plan without regard to the stones. Let us develop our commitment, obedience, faith and courage. Stand for the Truth; never sell out! We can live with or die by the stones so long as we are founded on the Rock.
I suspect you are not loving and serving (is there any difference?) God the way the Bible teaches--with your all. I know I allow too many things to keep me from wholehearted service to God. What might those things be which succeed in distracting us from the kind of service God wants from us?
Forgetfulness. Our lives have become so full and complex that it becomes easy, too often natural, to lose God in the shuffle. We have our things to do...and we utterly forget our debt to God.
Laziness. Serving God requires work, hard work. If God had a field or an office or a nursing home where I could go work in His visible presence and supervision, perhaps that would help. But He doesn't. Instead He expects my service to Him to be rendered to other people. So I become lazy because somehow "it just isn't the same."
Lack of commitment. This means I am not willing to deliver all I can, even when I soar over the previous two hurdles. Among other things, this lack of commitment is evidenced by comments like, "I have already done my share!" The committed servant keeps no ledger of his service for at least two reasons. First of all, he serves for the joy of obedience (which is dulled by a tallying spirit). Secondly, he knows that he can never balance the ledger -- he owes God too much.
Personal pursuits and ambition. I have so many things I want to accomplish for myself. I have a name to make for myself. I have some laudable projects I want to bring to fruition...for myself. There are certain things "I simply must have." I have so many of my own needs to meet. Basketball, chess, ham radio, reading, traveling, hiking, computer games, vehicle -- these and many more pursuits and enjoyments often reduce my availability to God's service. But there are some other less obvious things that vie with God -- they could contribute to God's kingdom but well may be pursued primarily to enhance my ego.
Materialism. I am most comfortable defining materialism in terms of those things which I do not have -- speed boat, motorhome, late model car, motorcycle, third car, house, MP3 player, new furniture, huge trampoline, non-obsolete compure, and so on. But materialism must have a narrower, more practical definition than that. Materialism is simply a set of this-world values, desires, and attachments. Materialism is having my attention set on "things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2). Thus materialism might be seen in "small" things like china cabinets, computer programs, clocks and watches, sewing machines, cold cereals, food dryers, knick knacks, collections, hobbies, farm implements, health foods, carpenter tools, bank accounts, freezers, kitchen devices, hope chests, tool boxes, books, and (oh, maybe you are tired of this by now!).
My friend, I cannot sit here and continue my shoot-in-the-dark guesswork. You are the one who must determine what or who is hindering your wholehearted service to God. You must be merciless to the flesh and what it wants. You must avoid being deceived by the subtilties and tricks of your own mind. In short, you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Him. Weigh your life now by what will matter when you are getting around with a walker, or when you are waiting for death's reprieve after a head-on collision, or when you are walking the golden streets.
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