We can all look forward to an ultimate fate, and a eternal final destiny. The question is, which one will you choose? For the final decision is up to you where you will spend eternity. You can either shun the redemptive Story of the Cross, live for today, and allow pride to rule in your life…or set your mind on things above, forsaking earthly things and your sinful nature, and be clothed in Christ. The choice is yours.
God has always used wars, famines and plagues to draw His people back. And here Habakkuk surveys the devastation of the marauding Babylonian army in Judah. Both Jeremiah and Joel write of similar situations during their lifetimes. Joel spoke out against the Kingdom of Judah when locust had decimated the country…telling them that God controlled their economy not them, and that they had forgotten that their prosperity came from Him and no one else. (Joel 1:10-18) Likewise, Jeremiah also spoke out against Judah warning of foreign raiders invading and devouring crops, flocks, herds, vines, and fig trees if they did not turn back to God. (Jeremiah 5:17) All three prophets warned the people of things to come if they did not turn from their wicked ways and repent…and all three mourned at what they saw around them. But yet all three drew their eyes upward to God their Savior, taking solace in His mercy and grace.
It tells us in the first Chapter of Job that he was a patient, upright man whose trust in God couldn’t be shaken even when tremendous loss and physical suffering came into his life. The balance of the rest of this Book demonstrates how despite all these difficult trials, Job determined in his mind to hold on to his faith…though he really didn’t understand why this was happening to him. For us, it can help explain how God, in His benevolence and wisdom, allows all – both Believer and unbeliever to suffer. First, it exposes our frailties and shows us just how dependent we really are on Him…and secondly, it allows us to strengthen our devotion as we are forced to walk by faith and not by sight. Finally, like Job, it shows us if we persevere without growing weary, we will be blessed in the end.
The early Church was growing, but it was still just Jesus’ Disciples that were attempting to do everything. Yet it wasn’t until some complained that many widows were being overlooked in the daily food distribution, that they called a meeting and started delegating. The Disciples realized that they were trying to be all things to all people…and it wasn’t working! They also realized their role and purpose wasn’t wrapped up in the actual delivery of food but rather in the delegation and administration of the Compassionate Care Ministry for the needy within their Christian Community. Each of us has a role and purpose within our Church Body…for each one of us has gifts and talents, expertise and know-how that God can use.
The Hebrew word for blessed also means happy, but when we realize the magnitude of what the Lord has done in our life…happy is hardly the adequate word to explain how we feel. For when we’re far away from God, our life revolves around our selfish desires and rebellious acts of rejecting God’s authority. But when the Lord comes into our life and forgives all our sins and we finally come to a personal reckoning of this marvelous transformation… we’re more than just happy. There’s a profound feeling of freedom…a overwhelming sense of gratitude…and the emotion of utter joy as we marvel in our new life in Christ.
Soon I will celebrate my 37th year as a Believer in Christ. But this verse has just as much importance to me as it has on any brand-new Christian. For we all must pay attention to what we’re hearing. We need to be on guard of people who twist the Word ever so slightly as not to cause immediate negative response from those listening, but just indifference. For the longtime Believer it’s called apathy…and for the new Believer it’s their lack of knowledge of the Bible…but either way, it’s both our responsibility to pay attention, apply ourselves, and not be swayed. We both need to be actively searching the Scriptures for God’s Truth when we hear something that doesn’t seem to be right.
Mankind has always gotten in trouble when they start putting their trust and dependence in themselves rather than God. But God has never minced words when it came to this…”Woe to the obstinate children, declares the Lord, to those who carry out plans that are not Mine, forming an alliance, but not by My Spirit, heaping sin upon sin…” (Isaiah 30:1) These verses above warn of God’s impending disciplinary actions towards those who fear man over Him, and who are more afraid of man’s words than His.
The Apostle Paul wrote to both Timothy and Titus about maintaining sound doctrine. He warned them to be alert to the false teachers who were spreading religious fraud… an inaccurate interpretation of the Gospel Message. Not surprisingly, this continues today as a corrupted version of the Gospel can be heard from many a pulpit on Sunday mornings. So how can a Believer know that what their hearing is the true and pure Gospel and not a man-made account? I would urge you to become like the Bereans in Acts 17:11…for it tells us, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The only way you won’t buy into a lie is to check it out for yourself… and that means getting into the Bible and studying the Word and deciding for yourself if what you heard and what you read match.
You may think that when you share the Good News of the Gospel message with someone it’s you and your words out there alone…but these verses show us just how far from the truth that is. First we’re reminded in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel you’re sharing is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes. Next, the Holy Spirit is there with you teaching, enlightening, and guiding both of you during the conversation. For the Holy Spirit uses both definitions of conviction simultaneously. For the Believer, it’s the deep seated conviction (certainty & assurance) that comes from having the Holy Spirit dwell within them. But to the non-believer, the Holy Spirit uses conviction (decisive & persuasive) to expose their sin to the light of the truth being spoken.
Three times the young Samuel had run to the elderly Priest Eli thinking it was him who was calling. But it wasn’t until Eli realized that it was God who was summonsing the boy, that Samuel finally perceived God’s voice. So what did the old Priest have that the young man lacked? Simply, the ability to discern and distinguish God’s voice. Discernment and hearing God’s voice takes practice, prayer, prudence, and patience. It’s asking yourself, “Is this God, or just my own thoughts, ideas, and wishes…or is it merely what the crowd wants to hear at the moment?” As Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn theirs away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (II Timothy 4:3-4)