Sunday, April 3, 2016

Unflinching Faitfulness

When we think of faithfulness or being faithful to another, we often think about the marriage relationship. Husbands and wives take an oath or implied oath to be faithful to the one they have promised to love forever. Certainly, faithfulness is expected when one commits to another in marriage. Even though part of the marriage vows of long ago did not use the word faithful, faithfulness was implied within the most common words used in the marriage vows, such as the words to "love, honor and obey". Those were important words because of their implied meanings, even if the word “obey” is no longer used today. But those reciting their vows would need to understand the complete or true meanings of those words within the marriage vows, if we wanted to have the best chance at having a long, healthy, and loving relationship with our spouse. Unfortunately, the word “obey” is no longer used in most marriage vows, because the most common current usage and meaning of the word can be a negative one.
It is strange how our English words have many different meanings and nuances depending on how a particular word is used. It is also interesting how certain words in years past had particular meanings that are no longer used for that word today. Instead, the most common and current meaning of a word is usually the dominate one. Words also fall out of use, often because the word is no longer politically correct, or because teachers no longer promote an expanded vocabulary or the various meanings of words in teaching their students. At other times the most used or most common meaning of the word is the only one used, and then all the other meanings of the word fly out the window. Such is the case with the word “obey”, which now is used to connote obedience, submission, yielding, and deferring to another’s wishes or carrying out another’s orders. However, that was not the only way that the word “obey” was used long ago, especially in the marriage vows of 50 to 100 years ago. For, both the husband and the wife took the same vow to love, honor and obey. That would mean in the current and most common usage today of the word “obey” that both people would need to obey, submit or carry out the other’s orders. That would be a little hard to do. So, there must have been another meaning to the word “obey”.

One of my favorite books is the Thesaurus. It is a book that looks at all the different meanings of a particular word and puts the word within its common usage group. The Thesaurus then groups the words according to their ideas and not just as a group of words like a dictionary does. So, in looking up the word “obey” in the Thesaurus, I found that it is also used to imply respect, faithfulness and abiding. Now, the words, "love, honor and obey" within the marriage vows of long ago make more sense. In other words, the statement wherein I promise to "love, honor and obey" my spouse, actually means that I promise to love honor and respect you. It also means that I promise to be faithful and abide by or acknowledge you. Doesn’t that sound wonderful to be able to say that the one that you love.

Love, Honor and Obey God

Christians should love God first and foremost. Then we should love our spouses, our children, our families and friends. It is in this our first love for God that we should pledge our faithfulness, obedience and respect for Who He is. But, our love for God is not just a one sided love. For, God loves us too. Indeed, He loves us so much that He sent His Only Son to die for our sins so that we could someday through Christ’s resurrection and the repentance of our sins spend eternity with Him in Heaven. (See John 3: 16-17).

Loving God means that we are loyal, faithful and trustworthy. It also means that we are to be obedient to His directions in our lives. For, God always has our best interest at heart. In fact, God wants to reward us and bless us for our faithfulness and obedience. The psalmist, David, wrote: “O love the Lord, all you His godly ones! The Lord preserves the faithful.” – (Psalm 31: 23. NASB). This means that God will never forsake those who love the Lord and who are committed to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. Then in the book of Proverbs we are told that “A faithful man will abound with blessings.– (Proverbs 28: 20. NASB). In other words, God will bestow blessings upon those who are faithful to Him and His Son. But, to show us that He follows through on blessing those who are faithful, God gives us examples throughout the Bible of those whom He has blessed for their faithfulness and obedience. One such example is that of Caleb who expressed unflinching faithfulness to God.

The Faithfulness and Obedience of Caleb

I don’t know if you remember the biblical story about the men who went in to spy out the Promised Land when the Israelites finally got to its border. So here is a quick synopsis of the story. Following God's orders and with God's help, Moses rescued the Israelites from Egypt. Then he led the Israelites across the wilderness to the take the Promised Land that God was giving to them. But all along the way in traveling to the Promised Land, they had been unfaithful and disobedient to God. However, God patiently and with Moses’ help had tried to teach the Israelites to have faith and trust in God, as God met each of their needs with miracles that only He could provide. But, even after many miracles, with their needs always being met, the Israelites would either disobey or became faithless. Moreover, they failed to trust in God, so at the least little perceived problem or trial they would begin to wail against God. Moses, too, took a great deal of verbal abuse from the Israelites against God, because Moses was the intermediary between them and God. 

Finally, the Israelites arrived at the border of the Promised Land.
The Lord had told the people that He was giving them this great land flowing with milk and honey. But now that they were at the threshold of the land and before they entered the Promised Land, the Lord wanted to first give them a preview of the wonderful land that would become their home. So the Lord directed Moses to choose one man from each from the twelve tribes to go in and spy out the land for the people. This would give them a preview of the blessings that they would receive. Obviously, God wanted the people to see that He was indeed giving them a great inheritance, but also that they would still need to trust in and rely on God to collect their inheritance. Actually, the sending in of the ten spies to check out the land was a test from God. Had the Israelites really learned to lean on and to trust God with all their problems?

 Unfortunately, the people failed the test, which exposed their true faithlessness to God.
For, when the spies got back from their reconnaissance mission, they told the people that is was indeed a beautiful land flowing with milk and honey. Furthermore, the land was so rich that the fruit that grew there was enormous. But, then ten of the spies went on to say that they did not believe that they should go into the land, because they said that “… the people who live in the land where you sent us are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak (descendants of giants) there.” – (Numbers 13: 28. NASB). But two of the twelve spies, Joshua and Caleb, disagreed with the other ten spies. In fact, Caleb, who had also gone into the land to check it out, had something to say to the people: “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.’” – (Numbers 13: 30. NASB). But of the twelve spies, only Joshua agreed with Caleb.

Then the people rebelled, because the other ten spies had incited fear in the people, causing the people to refuse to trust in God and refuse to obey Him. The people said that they would not go into the Promised Land! In fact, the people became so fearful and angry that they were going to stone Moses and Aaron, their leaders, for bringing them to a land that had giants, and then stone Joshua and Caleb for trying to convince them to go into the land and take it for their own. But, just then “the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.– (Numbers 14: 10. NASB). This was the final straw, so to speak, for God. He was tired of their constant grumbling, disobedience and faithlessness, so God was going to kill all the disobedient faithless people, but here again Moses interceded on their behalf. So, instead of killing them, God sent the rebellious Israelite people back into the wilderness for forty-years of wandering.

Caleb and Joshua, though, had trusted in the Lord. In fact, Caleb kept His focus on God and on God’s promises the entire time. That is because Caleb knew that God could overcome any adversary for them and overcome any challenge that was placed before them. But even though Joshua and Caleb had stood up for God and His directions and commands, the people still refused to enter the land. 

God was not angry with Joshua and Caleb, for they had been faithful and obedient to God. However, God was very angry with the people for their refusal to trust in Him and obey Him even after He had helped them every step of the way. The people’s faithlessness and disobedience gave God reason to kill all the Israelite people whom He had rescued from Egypt. But, through Moses’ intercession God would not kill them. He would only punish the people, but their punishment would be severe. For not only did God tell them that they would wonder forty more years in the wilderness, He also told them that most of the people would die in the wilderness. Furthermore, only the people who were under the age of twenty at that time and those who had not yet born at the time of their rebellion would be allowed to enter the Promised Land. There was just two exceptions, though, and that was Joshua and Caleb. Joshua and Caleb would be allowed to enter the Promised Land, because they had been faithful and obedient to God in spite of peer pressure to do otherwise.

Immediate obedience and faithfulness to God is crucial to our receiving blessings and personal growth. For, no matter what kind of service that God asks us to do, or no matter where God asks us to go, we cannot forget that God has our best interest at heart. We must also remember that God is the Great I Am who requires our faithfulness and trust and obedience. So, neither can we allow fear, like the fear that the Israelite people had, to keep us from doing what God has asked us to do. It is the devil's incitement of fear as well as our own pridefulness and insincerity that keeps us from being obedient and faithful. But, when we submit to the Lord and obey His commands for our life, His perfect love destroys our fears and our faithfulness gives us better lives. Remember that God will never ask you to do something that He has not already prepared you to do.

Blessings Bestowed Upon Caleb.

After forty years in the wilderness, only the children of the original group of Israelites who had come out of Egypt were still alive, that is except Moses, Joshua and Caleb. Then, Moses died at the border of the Promised Land. That meant the people needed another leader, so God chose Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land. Joshua then led the people across the Jordan River to take the land. In the process they had to battle many of the ungodly tribes that were in the land, but God gave them victories when they followed God’s exact directions and commands. Most of those ungodly tribes were run out of the land. “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to the divisions by their tribes. …– (Joshua 11: 23. NASB). It was time for every tribe to finally settle down in the land. So, very tribe got a particular area of the Promised Land. Each of the different tribes were given a particular area of land to call their own and to work to provide food and income. God also blessed Joshua for his leadership.

When the areas of the land were being given out to the tribes, Caleb made a request to Joshua, their leader, for a particular area of land, saying: “‘…You know the word which the Lord spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless, my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the Lord my God fully. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God fully.’ Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today…. Now, then give me this hill country (mountain) about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that the Anakim were there…; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken.’ So, Joshua blessed him and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb …until this day, because he followed the Lord God of Israel fully.” – (Joshua 14: 6-10, 12-14. NASB).

Caleb was unflinchingly faithful to God. So, God fulfilled His promises to Caleb. God will fulfill His good promises to us, too, when we choose to follow the Lord faithfully and obediently without any reservations. As we just read, Caleb and Joshua were the only two men who had the courage to believe that God could and would give them the Promised Land. They believed that God would protect them from the Anakim, i.e. the giants, and that they would be able to drive these ungodly people out of the land. Then forty-five years later, Caleb reminded Joshua that the Lord through Moses had promised him whatever land that he wanted, which his foot had trod upon. Caleb also reminded Joshua that it was the Anakim that the people had originally feared. Now, though, Caleb believed that God would help him run them completely out of the hill country. Caleb truly had faith and trust in God.

Caleb loved Hebron and wanted that hilly or mountainous land and the surrounding land still occupied by the Anakim. Even though, Caleb was eighty-five years old, He trusted God to help him conquer the land that God had promised him. In fact, Caleb had been willing to obey God throughout those previous forty-five years, and he had been willing to wait on God’s timing to claim the land that had been given to him. He believed, too, that God would keep His Word to bless Him for His faithfulness and obedience. Do you faithfully obey God?  Do you listen to and wait on God’s timing? It is extremely important for us to faithfully do that which God has asked us to do, but it is also important to wait on the Lord like Caleb did.

Caleb had unflinching faithfulness and obedience to God. For when an entire nation wanted to give up when the spies incited fear, only he and Joshua stood against them, even though they could have been killed. Caleb and Joshua believed in God’s promise to give them the Promised Land. Thereafter, God gave Caleb a long life that had to be an inspiration to the younger men whom he led, for Caleb’s life was a reminder that God keeps His promises to those who are faithful and true. Certainly Caleb had lived his life for God, and he followed through on doing what he said he would do for God.

God is not a mean or cruel God. But, God is just and righteous, and He expects humans to live a good, pure, and morally upright life. Remember, that the Lord had told the Israelites to drive out the foreign people groups of the Promised Land who were evil and ungodly. This wasn't just a whimsical or unjust action that the God was requiring of the Israelites. For, God had already given these evil and pagan groups of people hundreds of years to come to Him. But, instead of turning away from evil and turning to God, they had refused to acknowledge the One and only God. They continued to worship false gods while enjoying killing other people. So, after the Israelites entered into the land, Joshua and Caleb obeyed God's instructions and led the Israelites in removing those groups of people. Then after Caleb's request for the mountain land was granted, Caleb, at age eighty-five, led his tribe in boldly driving out the Anakim or the last of the giants. Remember, too, that even though the Anakim were considered giants, Caleb did not show fear in leading his men against them and in driving out the Anakim. Why? Well, he had God on his side and he was doing this in obedience to God. Caleb was unflinchingly faithful!

Choosing a life of faithfulness and obedience

In writing to Timothy, the Apostle Paul said, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service.” – (I Timothy 1: 12. NASB). I, too, thank Christ Jesus for strengthening me to do Christian service for Him. For, there is nothing like being obedient and faithful to the Lord. What a wonderful feeling we get when we help others and shine the light of Christ through our actions out upon the world! Although, I am handicapped in some ways, God has given me the ability to write and to serve Him by teaching and sharing His Word. Throughout all my trials, God has strengthened me in order to do the things that He has asked me to do. I pray that you will listen to the Holy Spirit inside you and that you will serve the Lord in whatever way He encourages you to do so.

We should choose a life of faithfulness and obedience. Sometimes it is hard, though, to remain faithful when the world throws situations at us that can take our focus off God and what He has asked us to do. However, the Holy Spirit will direct true Christians in the best possible way, if we will just listen and obey. Remember that whatever God has asked us to do, even if it is painful or delightful, strange or simple, costly or gainful, that the Lord provides. God will give us the strength and the ability to be faithful and obedient, if we will just trust in Him and serve Him.

Faithfulness is not an option if you truly love someone, and obviously true “born-again” Christians love God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, our faithfulness and obedience to God should be a priority in our lives and not just when we feel like living for or doing something for the Lord. Indeed, it is through our continual faithfulness and obedience that we grow and become the person that God intended us to become.
God has also prepared blessings for those who are faithful and obedient in their servanthood to Him and others, just like He prepared blessings for Caleb. If you choose to be faithful to your first love, the Trinity of God, even when you don’t understand why God has asked you to do something, you will reap blessings. Some of those blessings will come from your faithfulness through servanthood to your fellow Christians and to those who need to hear the Gospel message. Other blessings will come as a result of your attitude and willingness to be obedient. Still other blessings will come as you bless others; like in blessing someone by sharing your knowledge, skills, resources, gifts, information, etc. with your mentees. Certainly, Active Relational Christian Mentoring heaps blessings on others and in return gives the mentor many blessings as well. So, do many other Christian services that one can perform.

Obedience in the Unusual

Sometimes we don’t understand why God has asked us to do a particular thing.  Why would God ask me to befriend a total stranger or why would He ask me to pursue a particular service like Active Relational Christian Mentoring? But as servants of the Most High, we are not to ask why. Instead, we are to obey and be faithful in our obedience. For example, in the book of Joshua we find that God asked the Israelite priests to go out and stand in the Jordan River. For the Lord said to Joshua: “command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.” – (Joshua 3: 8. NASB). Why would God ask them to do this particular thing?

Obviously, the priests could have refused to do such a seemingly strange thing, but they acted in faith and obeyed God’s directions. Then in obeying they found out why God had told them to stand in the middle of the Jordan River. For, once they stood in the center of the river, the waters stopped flowing and the Israelite people were then able to walk across the dry river bed to the other side of the river safely, easily entering into the Promised Land.

They entered the Promised Land by keeping their eyes on God and by faithfully obeying His command. Although we may not understand at the time why God asks us to do something, we still need to obey Him. For God would not ask us to do something wrong, nor would He ask us to do something that we could not do. So, no matter how silly or scary it may sound, we need to pray and then in faithfulness and obedience do what God asks us to do.

Remember those words of the marriage vow that we discussed at the beginning of this blog? Well, they were “love, honor, and obey”. Obey means to not only follow God’s commands, but to be faithful to God. Obey also means to show God respect and to abide by or acknowledge Who He is. Obviously, there are many ways that we can abide by or acknowledge Who God is and also show our respect and faithfulness to Him. But, it is in our Christian service to Him that we can not only obey God’s commands, but we can also show the world that we are faithful to God. In fact, it is through our service to God and His children, i.e. fellow Christians and those that are yet to be Christians, that we can honor and glorify God in our faithfulness.

One of the easiest godly services that all women can engage in for the Lord, is to engage in Active Relational Christian Mentoring to help and to empower another woman. So, whether you are mentoring your own daughter, a friend, or a neighbor down the street, rest assured that God has given you a godly service to perform. Through this service, you may be able to share your own Salvation story, or be able to guide someone through a problem or trial that before your help seemed insurmountable.

God created us for relationships. The first relationship we all should have is the relationship that we have with God and Christ as our Savior. Then, we are to be in relationships that can give God all the glory whether it is a spousal, friendship, parental, or work related relationship. I know that you can do it! You can be faithful and obedient to the Lord! You can lead a life that shines the light of Christ on others who desperately need Him. You can help those who just need someone to help them focus on God as their strength. You, too, can develop unflinching faithfulness and obedience to God! You can do it!

1 comment:

  1. “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.’” – (Numbers 13: 30. NASB). I just love this verse of Scripture, Vicky. Maybe because it does show Caleb's pure faith and trust in the Lord God. THANK YOU, dearheart, for this wonderful, wonderful posting. I am thankful that I read it and have others of yours to catch up. I miss you and love you dearly. We had all of those wonderful years at your house studying the Bible together- first with Carol then with Jan- singing hymns, especially studying prayer and praying for people. The fellowship, sharing and learning from the Lord and with one another as other women of God flowed in and out...well, you know how much I cherish all of that. Those times helped me be who I am in Christ today!!! We mentored one another, and we were obedient to focus on Jesus Christ and put Him first. I would not trade any of that for some other activity that we could have indulged. Anyway, bless you for your trust and faithfulness in the Almighty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are the most blessed people on the face of the Earth, and we want this same hope and promise of God's for all people. With love and blessings, always and forever.