Reciprocation

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I think we would all agree that it is certainly easier to have a friendship or a relationship with another person when that person likes us. When they treat us with respect, we are more apt to want to spend time with them.  When they do kind things for us, we want to return the favor and do kind things for them.  I met a lady last week that moved about the same time we did last year and has a daughter the same age as our youngest high school daughter.  We moved from similar areas.  As we were parting ways she said, “It would be nice to get together and have coffee sometime.”  I emailed her later and her response was again very pleasant and encouraging, “I was serious about getting coffee together.”  It certainly makes us want to reach out to someone that wants to spend time with us.

Why is it when God said in I Samuel 12:24, “Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart, for consider what great things He has done for you,” the Israelites did not follow His commands?

As we were reminded in the last blog post, the Israelites were in a constant routine of disobedience, punishment, cry for help, then obedience.  It seems easy for me to look at them and think, “What on earth was their problem?”  God had saved them from their Egyptian slavery, divided the Red Sea so they could cross on solid, dry ground, defeated numerous enemies, provided food for 40 years, and gave them a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

As we have looked at this passage in I Samuel 12:20-24, God has been giving the Israelites instructions through Samuel.  These instructions are summarized again in verse 24, “fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully.”  Two instructions that must be followed and why should the people do this?  “Consider how great things God has done for you.” (I Samuel 12:24).

It is much easier for me to have a relationship with someone who reciprocates.  Here is God saying to the people, “I have done all these things for you and all I ask is for you to do two things: Fear Me and serve Me faithfully.”

So why was it so hard?  Selfishness.  Pride. Desire to be like the others.  Desire for instant gratification.  Greed.  Do we not grapple with these same issues?

Fearing the Lord is having a deep respect and awe for the Lord.  It is having no other gods before the One True God.  We may not worship idols, but there are many other things we do place before God in our priority list that God would consider an idol.

One of the things that God desires in this area of fearing Him is having a relationship with Him.  It is hard to have a relationship with someone we do not spend time with.  It is also not a very meaningful relationship if all we ever do is ask for things.  Is your time with God each day time with the most important person in your life?  Is your time with God guarded from any interruptions?  Is your time with God put above anything else that seems to be pressing in on your day?  I have used these examples before but many great men of the faith such as George Mueller spent more time with God each morning the busier they were rather than less time.  We would be wise to follow suit.

One of the main purposes God created us is to have a relationship with Him.  After all He has done for us, we would be wise to plan our days around our time with the Lord, rather than fitting Him into the time we have left over.

Serving God faithfully looks different for each person.  God has a different plan for each of our lives.  He created each of us with different abilities.  Yet, whatever we do should be done in faithful service to Him.

After all that God has done for us, we should desire to fear Him and serve Him.  This is not just any ‘ole someone that desires this.  This is the God of the universe. He created you.

Rather than go to coffee with a friend, pour yourself a cup of coffee (or in my case brew a cup of tea), sit down with God’s Word, and seek His face.  There will be no regrets.

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“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”

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I am reading a book called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller.  The premise of the book is what is the one thing each of us wants to accomplish in our lives and how do we go about accomplishing that.  There are no Scripture references in the book and yet the principles are Scriptural.  If we were to write down what the one thing is that we want to accomplish in life and then work backwards to accomplish it, we would have daily purpose.  Oftentimes, we start each day off without a particular purpose and end up “flying by the seat of our pants.”  Think about this thought, “what is the one thing we want to have accomplished in our lives.”  These are the big dreams.  Michael Jordan did not one day wake and say he was going to be a great basketball star and then try out for the Chicago Bulls.  Neither did Thomas Edison decide to make a light bulb, then it happened.  These men had a goal and then worked backwards and dedicated much time to the neglect of other things in order to accomplish this goal.  They had one thing.

As Christians we should want to hear at the end of our earthly journey, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23).

How each of us get to this “one thing” is going to look different, but the verses in I Samuel 12:20-24 help us to have a direction in order to work towards that one thing.  The old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” fits perfectly into this idea.  “Flying by the seat of our pants” may be easier but it is hard to accomplish anything this way.

 

…but serve the Lord with all your heart.  And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.  For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make a name for Himself.  Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way.  Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. (I Samuel 12:20-24).

These instructions given to the Israelites can help us to set a course towards being good and faithful servants.  Here is a condensed list of these things.

  1. Serve the Lord with all your heart
  2. Empty things are empty for they do not profit or deliver
  3. Pray
  4. Instruct what is good and right
  5. Fear the Lord
  6. Serve Him faithfully with your whole heart

Let’s look at each of them seeking to apply them to our lives today.

“Serve the Lord faithfully with your whole heart.”  This is included twice in this list so it must be important.  Serving comes from an attitude of humility.  An attitude of humility comes from a proper view of ourselves.  God does not ask us to do something that He Himself was not willing to do.  This is seen as Jesus walked the earth: washing the disciples’ feet, eating with the down and out people, caring for the poor and destitute.  Jesus did not seek positions of leadership but rather positions of service.  In serving others, we can serve the Lord.  This is not something that is done inconsistently but rather it is to be done “faithfully with our whole heart.”

Ask yourself a few questions:

Do you serve with joy or grumbling?

Do you look for ways to serve or do you have to be told what to do?

Which jobs of service do you seek: the ones that will get noticed or the ones that go unnoticed?

As you are serving is your attitude one of serving for self-gratification/self-pleasure/self-recognition or to please the Lord?

When you perform an act of service are you sure to draw attention to yourself and what you did or do you seek to give others credit for what they did?

Some of these answers are seen by others and others are known only by you and the Lord.  Examine your heart.  Focus on serving faithfully with your whole heart.

We can all “fly by the seat of our pants” or we can have a purpose and determination in our days.  Think about the end of your life and work backwards.  As you do plan the course, be sure to keep the end in mind.

“Serve the Lord faithfully with your whole heart.”

(We will finish looking at these principles in future blogs.)

Faithful

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Faithful- loyal, steadfast, firm adherence to whatever one owes allegiance. An unswerving adherence to a person or thing or to the oath or promise by which a tie was contracted.

 

One of our favorite shows to watch on TV as a family is Survivor on CBS.  Sixteen people are dropped off in the middle of nowhere and have to survive 40 days with little food, little shelter, competitions, and remain in the game without getting voted off by fellow teammates.  We have been watching this show since its debut.  The irony of the whole thing in my mind is faithfulness and trustworthiness.  Alliances are made, bonds are made, and even friendships are made.  Many times a person is voted off because they broke their word.  Other times, people are voted off because they are such a big threat to win the game.  One of the favorite things for the players to do is blindside a fellow player.  So faithfulness plays a key role in the game and yet at times these players feel that a blindside, which in all honesty is stabbing a fellow player in the back, is the best policy.  Faithfulness is key at the right times.

 

God does not see faithfulness as situational.  God’s faithfulness is not situational.  When I go back and review the words we have studied that adorn my kitchen wall, I am frequently reminded that all of these words: respect, thankful, love, humility, compassion, joy, patience, sacrifice, and serve are not possible without faithfulness.  Respect only when we feel like it is not respect.  Any of these qualities fit this equation.  We must be faithful in displaying these qualities.

 

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3,4).  What does faithfulness do for us?  We find favor with God and man.  In Survivor, faithfulness is the quality that is endearing to the fellow players.  In any person we meet as we become acquainted with them and see their life, faithfulness is one of those endearing qualities.

 

What is the opposite of faithfulness?  Betrayal.  We have all been betrayed at some point in our lives.  This is one of those deep wounds that are hard to erase and hard to forgive.  When we are betrayed, we question our value as a person.  We wonder what is wrong with us that someone felt compelled to betray us.  We struggle with understanding the answer to why this betrayal took place.  Yet, in the midst of our questioning, we must remember that it was not us that betrayed it was another person.  In Survivor, the betrayal that takes place comes down to winning the game and the one million dollar prize.  In life, betrayal comes down to the sin of another person.  Unfortunately, we blame ourselves for another’s sin, and often this drags us into a tail spin of our own sin.

 

What must we do?  We are all sinners and betrayal will happen throughout our lifetime.  These are the facts.  I often remind myself that someday I will stand before God and give an account of what I have done (II Corinthians 5:10), not what others have done to me.  In Luke 16, Jesus tells the parable of the servant who was dishonest.  Jesus reminds us of our responsibility as he concludes this parable.  “One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Luke 16:10).  We will stand before God and give an account of our faithfulness, not any one else’s.  Be loyal and steadfast.  Keep your promises.  God keeps His to us!