VIII. Total Commitment
“How happy are those who have no doubts about me!”
What kind of “prisons” tend to bring out doubts for you regarding Jesus?
The moving words of Ruth to Naomi as she pledged her commitment, are reflective of the commitment we must make “Whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
When you doubt, don’t turn away from him, turn to him.
“So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell.”
What is Jesus’ point in using such exaggerated language?
I believe we have here a fairly strong statement of how important it is to obey God. Obedience is worth more than readiness to perform the outward obligations of religion as indicated in (1 Samuel 15:22-23). Examine your life for anything that causes you to sin, and take every necessary action to remove it.
“Remember this, my dear brothers! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. Man’s anger does not achieve God’s righteous conduct. Submit to God and accept the word that he plants in your hearts, which is able to save you.”
What from God’s Word here will you put into action this week?
Control of our will is vital to our progress. Turning from evil and to God’s control, is what is expected of us. If you truly wish to be obedient to God, it means turning your life totally over to God. Just as an athlete must turn control of his life to a coach, we must do the same, plus.
How important is God to me?
In Psalm 119 we find a most eloquent statement about our need to be committed to God, and our Father’s Laws of Guidance. This is must reading for anyone who has any doubts. Do you want peace? Keep your thoughts on and trust your God. With God we can know perfect peace even within the midst of turmoil.
This testimony exalted the Word of God – the complete and perfect standard of truth, values, reality, and behavior. God’s Word is wholly sufficient for godly living. By grasping its powerful message, God’s children can be pure.
We need sound doctrine. The Spirit of holiness is also the Spirit of truth. Truth and righteousness go together….
Why? Why is sound doctrine necessary for sanctification? For real sanctification to occur in the Christian life at least three absolute changes are necessary. There must be a change in our consciousness. There must be a change in our convictions. There must be a change in our conscience. Consciousness, conviction, and conscience – these three are all vital to our sanctification.
Consciousness involves knowledge. Before we can willfully do what God commands and what pleases Him, we must first understand what it is that God requires. From the law comes a knowledge of sin. Also from the law comes a knowledge of righteousness.
A person could “accidentally” obey the law without doing so consciously. But such an action would have no moral virtue to it. Suppose a man enjoys driving his car at fifty miles an hour in fifty-five-mile-per-hour zones and in fifteen-mile-per-hour zones. When he drives in the fifty-five-mile-per-hour zone, he is within the speed limit. He is obeying the law. But when he goes fifty in a fifteen-mile-per-hour zone, he is a menace to those around him.
Suppose our mythical driver systematically refuses to look at speed limit signs. He averts his gaze from any sign that even appears to mark a speed limit. He keeps himself purposely unconscious of speed limits. At times he “happens” to obey the law, but purely by coincidence. If the man wants to achieve moral virtue as a driver and always drive within the speed limit, he must first become aware, he must become conscious of the law.
But consciousness is not enough. We all have seen people who are quite conscious of the speed limits while they are violating them. We don’t have to look beyond ourselves to discover the culprits. For our behavior to change we must move beyond consciousness to conviction.
Conviction is a matter of depth and intensity. It is one thing to be aware that a certain action is right. It is another to have a conviction about it. It is a lot easier for us to compromise our knowledge than to act against convictions. A conviction is knowledge that is settled. It has a firm hold on us. It goes beyond our brains and penetrates the conscience.
Our conscience acts as a kind of governor upon our behavior. It is the inner voice that either accuses or excuses us. It monitors our behavior by way of approval or disapproval. The problem is that our conscience doesn’t always tell us the truth. We are adept at training it in the direction of self-approval….
For the conscience to function in a godly convictions. To gain godly consciences, our consciousness of what is right and what is wrong must be sharpened. This involves the mind. It is a matter of doctrine.
(From Pleasing God by R. C. Sproul)
God’s Word teaches us sound doctrine. When was the last time you memorized a verse? Memorize Psalm 119:105. Consider memorizing one verse a week.
“You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm.”
What makes the Lord worthy of trust?
We see in this statement that we must stay with the program and then we will gain peace. This also means trusting him to control our lives for us and provide for us; therefore it means truly becoming his child. When we are devoted to him, our whole attitude is steady and stable.
“It is the will of God that we surrender our wills. Even though St. Paul talked much with our Lord and our Lord with him, these conversations remained fruitless until St. Paul surrendered his will and said: ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”… The only true and perfect will is the one that has been merged with the will of God, so that the man has no will of his own. Indeed one step taken in surrender to God is better than a journey across the ocean without it… Perfectly to will what God wills, to want what he wants, is to have joy; but if one’s will is not quite in unison with God’s there is no joy” (Meister Eckhart – The Talks of Instruction).
What is my plan of commitment?
The twenty-eight chapter of Deuteronomy is a powerful statement of the basic order of the universe. It does not claim that the individual who observes the laws of God will always receive prosperity, but it does state that there are certain laws according to which the world is run and that these are basic required rules. Any people group which runs contrary to these rules comes to grief, and conversely the individuals that observes them is assured of a future relationship with God. Justice, charity/love and integrity – rear their own reward because that is the way the world is meant to be run. Behind the chances and changes of life there is a pattern which the Creator has laid down for the smooth running of the world he has made. We have a choice either to share our relationship with others in accordance with these guidelines or we should not expect a rewarding future after we pass over to our permanent home. The real test of value is how well something holds up under the wear, tear, and abuse of everyday life.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
In times of challenge, what can you expect from God?
We are very important to God. How important is God to us? Just as a young child or infant is totally dependent on his guardians or parents; a Child of God is totally dependent upon Him. Christ calls us to a higher mission than to find comfort and tranquility in this life.
“Whoever loves his father or mother more than me is not fit to be my disciple; whoever loves his son or daughter more than me is not fit to be my disciple. Whoever does not take up his cross and follow in my steps is not fit to be my disciple. Whoever tries to gain his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it.”
What kind of commitment does Jesus call for?
Turning your life over to God; may initially cause a individual to think that he/she is turning their freedom in and exchanging it for slavery. This cannot be farther from the truth. By turning “over your life” to God, you are releasing yourself from the slavery of evil (e.g. worries, fear, etc.) to the freedom of God’s children (e.g. peace, trust, etc.).
How can I avoid dropping this commitment?
Does not a child “turn over” control of his life to his parents in exchange for, care, protection, etc. Does not top professionals: sport, movie, music stars turn over control of part of their lives to agents, in order to be freed from work not directed to their goals of being successful. Do we not, as citizens of a government, turn over control of part of our lives, in order to be freeded from fear and to achieve peace in our lives. Our whole external earthly life is turning over par of the control of our life to gain something on earth.
What improvement will I make to my Father’s world?
And yet we cannot or will not turn over control of our lives to our God who created us, and the world. Our God who controls us and the world, whether we want to admit to this control or not. Our God who, for the exchange of just recognizing that control and stopping our feeble attempts to interfere with his control, will give us a future greater than any human can conceive of or acquire. And if we fail to “turnover” control will provide a future that wee do not desire.
Who am I going to get help from?
If we were offered an equivalent choice on earth, no one would refuse it. But because it is not of this earth we do not accept it. Is there any doubt that we have earthly preferences. And if you believe what has been stated and in God, how can you not want to learn how to change your earthly preferences to heavenly ones; by committing your life to God’s training plan.
Behind the laws of Deuteronomy lies the basic rules of the creator of this world, which start as the life of obedience on the part of his people. Our pattern of obedience must of necessity be different since we live in different times and in different places. But it still is the same God, we try to serve; therefore we can profit from the deep sense of love to God and neighbor which complete basic human needs; and we can learn that the obedience of God is something which involves every aspect of human activity. This reflects the complete submission of a life which desires to be joined with our God in heaven. Jesus is more concerned about our walk than our talk. He wants us to do right not just say the right words. What you do cannot be separated from what you believe.
“Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.”
How would you sum up the attitudes Jesus is encouraging?
Submission and obedience is required of us. But just as a young child we wish to control the world around us. And as a young child we become frustrated when we cannot. When a child trusts his parents he loses that frustration and becomes peaceful.
To obey God’s Laws will bring his help and support, to disobey will bring his curse (Deut. 11:26-32).
How would you explain to a new Christian the goodness that comes from obeying God?
What if we do not obey? How do we reject our earthly family? Well we could simply state that we reject that relationship, or we could willing performs some action that would cause us to be rejected by the family (e.g. murder, steal, etc.). These actions would usually be a serious intentional act. A earthly father would take action to remove a member of a family that bring serious harm to the family.
“But if a righteous man stops doing good and starts doing all the evil disgusting things that evil men do, will he go on living? No! None of the good he did will be remembered. He will die because of his unfaithfulness and his sins.
Is repentance (change) hard or easy for you? Why? What should you repent?
God gives us the same options; we can reject, the family through direct or indirect (through our actions) means. But just as in a truly loving family relationship; if we change our mind and should desire to return to the family of God, we have that option. We can reject the actions we took that separated us from the family; and request the right to come back. We can avoid this by doing what is “right and fair.” Sacrifices and offerings are not bribes to make God overlook our character faults.
(Proverbs 21: 2-3)
“You may think that everything you do is right, but remember that the Lord judges your motives.
“Do what is right and fair; that pleases the Lord more than bringing him sacrifices.”
What does the Lord regard “sacrifice” as unacceptable, even detestable? What does he want instead? What does this say about mere religious ritual or orthodox belief?
I would like to take this opportunity to further discuss the area of whether you can loose the family relationship you have with God. I will ask you, would you like a family relationship where once you where in it, You could not leave it. Wouldn’t that be somewhat the same as a convict or a slave. Since we are free to be a child of Good or not be. Would it not make sense that this same freedom be given to us, to reject that relationship. Also since God provided us with a period of time to make the decision whether to become a child in his heavenly family, would it not make sense that he would give us time to Re-consider our decision and possibly reject it, or change our mind.
“The Lord gave us mind and conscience; we cannot hide from our selves.”
What are you holding back from him? Why?
The very nature of humanity call’s out, for the ability to receive forgiveness. Some people may question to need to acquire this forgiveness from our father. But we must realize that we were created to provide honor, glory, and most important love of our creator. Just as a earthly father creates his children for his honor and glory. But if he is truly a loving father, he has a strong need to express his love and to receive in return love. In order for any love to be shared, there must be a level of trust, respect, and submission. If these qualities are not present the dark side will take over (i.e. hate, etc.). Therefore any truly loving father must set forth the proper relationships at various levels. And he must enforcement must have penalties. This area is covered in more depth in another lesson. The final outcome of the plans we make is in God’s hands.
“We may make our plans but God has the last word. You may think everything you do is right, but the Lord judges your motives.”
What role should feelings, circumstances, play in knowing and doing God’s will?
When children are truly submissive, they realize when they have acted in some may that is not according to, the desires of their father. These improper actions can take many forms.
- Improper relationship to other children (i.e. stealing, fighting, etc.).
- Improper relationship to the father (i.e. lack of honor, dishonor, etc.).
- Improper relationship to the fathers world (i.e. waste, damage, etc.).
God calls us to be active in our obedience.
“The ax is ready to cut down the trees at the roots; every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.”
To be productive for God, we must obey his teachings, resist temptation, actively serve. God will take action against us if we fail in our commitment to him. But as any loving earthly father would do; God will accept a child’s improper actions, if the child is truly sorry and interested in refraining from this action again, and correcting the improper action.
The Child of God who desires to join His Family in Heaven – who turns his life over to God – has now a new motive for existence, and indeed only one motive, namely to identify himself more and more with the will and purpose of God as opposed to his own private desires. So the desires of earth should take second place (Matt. 6: 19-21).
God has provided us His own Son to be our perfect example. As the ultimate example of our commitment and submission we have the acceptance (by God and His Son) of the denial by His People (Israel) their God’s Son; and the agonizing death they imposed on the Son. God provided His Son, knowing what would happen and being a Father, yet he watched His Son being put through such agony. He stood back and let this happen, He did not help His Son and He did not take action of retribution. God being God OUR Father, as well as Christ’s Father. did all this to help us to join him in Heaven. Can We do less, Can we not submit to what he asks us to.
His Son, also being God, and yet also being our Brother in the Family of God; submitted himself to such difficulties as being human and such agony as His death imposed on Him. And all of this because He also wished to submit to His Father and to help his Brothers and Sisters to join him in Heaven. (Mark 10:38). His plea that he might be spared the cup of bitterness is not granted. Instead he says: “Not my will but thy will be done.” Can we not try to take His example along with His Father’s and use these to assist us in acting on the submission and commitment we are required in order to join our Brother and Father in Heaven.
God the Father delivers his children from the shakles of their sins, when they commit themselves utterlyy to Himself. The right relationship to God, achieved in the obedience and self-dedication, becomes possible only through a complete commitment to his Son and the example he set for us as a goal to achiieve. One which we will never achieve, but must strive for. One which was made possible, by the Grace that is provided us through the perfect obedience and self-dedication of Christ; and through his suffering and agony on the Cross, for all who identify themselves with God his Father. In addition to the Grace he provides us, he established Churches that can provide additional support and guidance. This guidance and support is also in addition to that which both Christ and the Father provided through the “Spirit.” God has good, pleasing, and perfect plans for his children. He wants us to be transformed people.
“So then, my brothers, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you” Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
What does this add to your understanding of true worship?
This all makes sense! He wants us to have renewed minds, living to honor and obey him. Because he wants only what is best for us, and because he gave his Son to make our new lives possible, we should joyfully give ourselves as living sacrifices.
We also see that we cannot find happiness until we deal with our relationships with God. The concepts covered above also suggests that there is in man unlike any other creature, the possibility of relating to God as an important part of the equation of existence. He may do so or not, for he is free to choose. People need childlike attitudes of trust in God.
Jesus said, “let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
The receptiveness of little children and their simple faith are needed to believe in Jesus. We see in the above quote, that we need to become like little children. Therefore in this course we will be reviewing factors that have a impact on the above statements. In additions to the above, we will be reviewing in this course, some of the following areas. God wants us to join him in his home in heaven; after we have completed our period on Earth; where we are given time to make that decision. Also as part of this period, we are provided the ability to prepare ourself for the entry into God’s family by completing a training program and to reach a degree of maturity. This training is like earth’s children in that this schooling trains us in the discipline, relationship with others, and mental knowledge; we require in the worlds we must deal with. Once we move forward from this period of decision making we enter a new world. This new world is a spiritual world. Therefore the training to help us achieve the maturity necessary to make that decision and join God in heaven; concentrates in the spiritual area. “The fear of the Lord” is a key theme and means to have respect and reverence for God and to be in awe of his majesty and power.
How is wisdom apparent in your life?
God said to men, “To be wise, you must have reverence for the Lord. To understand you must turn from evil.”
With this in mind we see that we must make that decision, God or the evil’s of earth. As children of God, how should we proceed to make that decision? The age of majority on earth concentrates on the mental and physical. The age of majority for the heavenly world concentrates on the areas of love and other spiritual areas. Jesus used a child to help his self-centered disciples get the point. We are to be childlike, with humble and sincere hearts.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
So Jesus called a child, had him stand in front of them, and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child.”
What does it mean to humble oneself like a child? Why is this important?
Humility and Love can make us the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. So how do we achieve these qualities? God provides us with our earth based plan of growth to become mature members of the family of humans in order to give us a living parable of how we can become mature members of His family. We shall look at these parallel growth plans and look at how each relates to the other, and why God did this for us.
(1 Chronicles 17:19)
“It was your will and purpose to do this for me and to show me my future greatness.”
Take time to praise God, to count his blessings, and to affirm your commitment. God wants us to be great in heaven and he will show us how to get there. As part of the growth paths, we will be discussing how each individual must take an active part in planning his/her own growth. This in itself is part of growth. But an even more important part of growth is how well you are able to follow that plan. Therefore we see that this growth plan must affect our “heart.” God takes the initiative. When we turn our lives over to God, he, by his Holy Spirit, builds into us the desire to obey him.
(Jeremiah 31:31-34) are some of the greatest words in the book of Jeremiah and it points beyond Jeremiah’s own troubled time to the day when there would be a new covenant, one that God’s people would keep without a teacher to remind them; because it would be written on their hearts.
One of this course’s purposes, is to provide you with an additional guide to assisting you through the required growth. We hope that this course will help clarify this period of preparation and decision making, and provide you with some guidelines on how to complete this period, the best way possible sharing a child’s joy.
“God does all this again and again; he saves a person’s life, and give him the joy of living.”
Another purpose of this course is to show how a loving God offers his people a rich and full heritage of life when we participate in a right relationship to him, and how when his people fail to achieve this relationship, their lives court disaster. This is a lesson we all have to learn, within the experience of spiritually growing, and where we also learn the true nature of the rich heritage that is offered, and that it does not depend on material success but on the life of the spirit.
My coping with difficulties will be improved by?
Our loyalty should be to God’s truth, his way of life, and his dedicated people.
(1 Peter 2:11)
“I appeal to you, my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world! Do not give in to bodily passions, which are always at war against the soul.”
In terms of time, effort and money spent, which comes first for you?
“Where do all the fights and quarrels among you come from? They come from your desires for pleasure, which are constantly fighting within you. You want things, but you cannot have them, so you are ready to kill; you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight.”
What are some outward signs of this inward submission to God?
In the two prior selections, we see that the quest for material success can cause many earthly problems. This quest also diverts our efforts away from our real purpose in existence. Could these be some of the reasons that God has problems with these actions. Having friendship with the world involves seeking pleasure at others’ expense or the expense of obeying God.
“unfaithful people! Don’t you know that to be the world’s friend means to be God’s enemy? Whoever wants to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.”
What is meant by “friendship with the world” and submission to God?
Material success encourages us to remain as earth’s child and reject being God’s child. Become moneys master not it’s slave. We will look at this area further.
Satan replied, “Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it? You have always protected him and his family and everything he owns. You bless everything he does, and you have given him enough cattle to fill the whole country. But now suppose you take away everything he has – he will curse you to your face!”
How would you have responded to similar circumstances?
Will Satan be asking questions about you?
Commitment determines our fate in God’s Kingdom.
“Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first will be last.”
There will be many surprises in God’s Kingdom. Some who are despised now will be greatly honored then; some influential people here will be left outside the gates. Many “great” people on this earth (in God’s eyes) are virtually ignored by the rest of the world. What matters to God is not a person’s earthly popularity, status, wealth, heritage, or power, but his or her commitment to Him. How do your values match what the Bible tells you to value? Put God in first place and you will join people from all over the world who will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.
How do you plan on getting in?
What it takes to follow Jesus.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
When Jesus used this picture of his followers taking up their crosses to follow him, the disciples knew what he meant. Crucifixion was a common Roman (government and society) method of execution, and condemned criminals had to carry their crosses through the streets to the execution site. Following Jesus therefore, meant a true commitment, even to laying down their lives and no turning back.
In what area does this strike home to you now?
Jesus demands it from us.
“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him.”
Christians follow their Lord by imitating his life and obeying his commands. To take up the cross meant to identify completely with Christ’s message, even if it means death. We must deny our selfish desires to use our time and money our own way and to choose our own direction in life without regard to God’s plan for us. Following Christ is costly now, but in the long run, it is well worth the pain and effort.
People are willing to pay a high price for something they value. Is it any surprise that Jesus would demand this much commitment from his followers? There are at least three conditions that must be met by people who want to follow Jesus. We must be willing to deny self, to take up our crosses, and to follow him. Anything less is superficial lip service.
If following Jesus is most important, you will find your self in unsafe, unhealthy, and uncomfortable places. You will risk death, but you will not fear it. Jesus’ disciples are not to use their lives on earth for their own pleasure – they should spend their lives serving God.
What does it mean specifically to you to: (a) deny yourself, (b) take up your cross daily, (c) follow Christ and (d) lose your life?
Our commitment to Christ must be Total
“Then a teacher of the law come to him and said, ‘Leader, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'”
Following jesus is not always easy or comfortable. Often it means great cost and sacriifice, with no earthly rewards or security. You may find that following Christ costs you popularity, friendships, leisure time, or treasured habits. But while the cost of following Christ is high, the value of being Christ’s disciple is even higher. Discipleship is an investment that lasts for eternity and yields incredible rewards.
Jesus was always direct with those who wanted to follow him. He made sure they counted the cost and set aside any conditions they might have for following him. As God’s Son, Jesus did not hesitate to demand complete loyalty. His direct challenge forces us to ask ourselves about our own priorities in following him. Nothing should be placed above a total commitment to living for him.
What does this teach about discipleship, and how is it costing you now?
What true commitment to Christ means
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
We must be so committed to living for Christ that we “hate” our lives by comparison. This does not mean that we long to die or that we are careless or destructive with the live God has given us, but that we are willing to die if doing so will glorify Christ. We must disown the tyrannical rule of our own self-centeredness. By laying aside our striving for advantage, security, and pleasure, we can serve God lovingly and freely. Releasing control of our lives and transferring control to Christ brings eternal life and genuine joy.
Where is Jesus calling you to die so that you might live?
What do you tend to hold on to rather than follow Jesus?
I trust God’s plan to bring about the perfect fulfillment.
Today I relax the tight grip if have on my thoughts and attitudes. I ease up, secure in the knowledge that no disasters will happen if I relax my vigilance. I release all matters to God’s Divine Plan for me.
At times I might find it difficult to know how to handle a particular situation, but right answers always come when I acknowledge that my Father is in control.
Today if offer up my fears, my doubts and my feelings of insecurity. I let them go in the sure realization that God’s plan is unfolding for me in Divine order and Divine timing.
Numerous examples could be taken from the Bible of how God develops leaders for his purposes. Few people receive the extensive treatment of Abraham. Abraham’s life provides a thorough example of how God chooses ordinary people and turns them into effective spiritual leaders.
Abraham Was an Ordinary Person
Abraham was born in Ur, among the moon-worshiping Chaldeans. Abraham’s plan for his life was probably not complicated. he likely planned to live out his days raising his herds and flocks. His wife Sarah was unable to bear children, so parenthood would not factor into Abraham and Sarah’s plans. God’s plan was radically different from Abraham’s. God’s plan for Abraham was not that he live a settled life without children, but that he become a nomadic patriarch. Abraham would become father to a holy nation. His life would be a spiritual example to God’s people for thousands of years. The Messiah would be Abraham’s descendant. Abraham’s life would prove to be a pivotal point inn history. Generations of believers would find inspiration and eternal salvation because of Abraham’s life. To say that God’s plans dwarfed Abraham’s plans would be an understatement! The key was not for God to bless Abraham’s plans but for Abraham to discard his plan in favor of God’s will.
It is not surprising that, since God had so much in store for Abraham, he took time to prepare him thoroughly. Quality of Life does not happen by accident. It develops as God matures people in their character as well as in their relationship with him. Character includes wisdom, integrity, honesty, and moral purity. Relationship involves trust in God, obedience to him, and love for him. Although God often used people who appeared to be the least likely candidates for true leadership, the common denominator was that these people were all upright in character and they walked closely with him (1 Sam. 16:7). The greater God’s assignment, the greater the character and the closer the relationship with God that is required (Matt. 25:23).
The Bible gives numerous examples showing how God chose and developed people to serve him. These men and women were as diverse as people can be from one another, and God’s call on each person’s life was unique. Abraham’s life is just one example of how God develops leaders, but its extensive biblical coverage clearly identifies the key aspects to God’s leadership-development process.
Abraham Built on His Heritage
When God first spoke to Abraham and told him to leave his homeland in Ur, God had already used Abraham’s father, Terah to begin the process (Acts 7:2-4; Gen. 11:31-32). What God began with Abraham’s father, he continued through Abraham’s life and eventually completed through Abraham’s descendants. Terah would only get as far as Haran. It would be his son Abraham who would complete the family’s journey to Canaan. Heritage can be a powerful factor in leadership. As Abraham’s case, God may begin a work in one generation that is brought to fruition in succeeding generations. God wanted Abraham to go to Canaan, so he also gave that desire to Abraham’s father. God called a son to be a nomad, so he initiated a restlessness in the father.
Abraham Grew Through Failure
Every event in Abraham’s life contributed to his character development. Abraham did not begin his life as a paragon of faith, but gradually, over many yeaars, he developed a mature and deep relationship with God. God used Abraham’s failures to prepare him for leadership. For example, God specifically instructed Abraham to leave his family behind but instead Abraham took Lot with him to Canaan (Gen. 12:1, 4). This meant Abraham would have to separate from Lot later, taking the land Lot rejected (Gen. 13). Still later, Abraham would find himself interceding with God on Lot’s behalf, pleading for the wicked city of Sodom when God was about to destroy it (Gen 18:16-33). Lot’s descendents, the Moabites and the Ammonites, would cause tremendous grief to Abraham’s descendants (Gen. 36-38). With one act of seemingly minor disobedience, Abraham inadvertently endangered the inheritance God wanted to give him and his descendants. Through this failure, Abraham learned a valuable lesson regarding his modification of God’s will. Abraham’s mistake makes it clear that adding to God’s will is as devastating as rejecting God’s will.
Why is it so important to follow God’s will exactly as it is and not try to add to it so it makes more sense? God’s ways are not man’s ways. It seems ridiculous for God to call a seventy-five-year-old man to have a child and then to spend twenty-five years preparing him for the child-rearing task. Yet God had plans for Isaac far beyond what Abraham could ever have imagined. God intended for Isaac to be a patriarch for the people of God. For such an assignment, Isaac required a godly, faithful father.
Abraham Built Spiritual Landmarks
Abraham’s spiritual pilgrimage can be traced by examining the altars he built. Every time Abraham came to a milestone in his life, or when ever he learned something new about God, he built an altar. “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘ To your descendants I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 12:7-9).
Each altar provided a testimonial to Abraham’s growth in understanding God’s ways and to his trust in God. For today’s leaders, spiritual markers provide a backdrop by which they can see where God has helped them mature in their relationship with him. God’s current instructions are always best understood in light of the knowledge of all he has done in a leader’s life so far.
When a severe famine swept across Canaan, Abraham took matters into his own hands and moved to Egypt. Unfortunately, he did not consult the Lord, either when he left for Egypt or when he arrived. No mention is made of an altar being built while Abraham was in Egypt (Gen. 12;10-20). Whenever Abraham made decisions without consulting God, the results were disastrous.
Abraham Experienced God’s Redemption
It is significant to note from biblical examples that God seldom intervened when people wre about to make mistakes. Rather, he allowed them to fail, but stood ready to redeem them. Many individuals, through the process of failure and redemption, saw God’s character revealed in a deeper dimension than if God had simply stepped in to help them avoid failure. If there is anything leaders must carefully evaluate and process, it is their mistakes. By systematically reviewing mistakes and making the necessary adjustments to ensure that the same errors are not repeated , leaders can derive great benefit.
Abraham, fearing Pharaoh would kill him in order to marry his wife, had Sarah lie about their marriage. This lie would cost Abraham and his descendants dearly. It was one event that happened in the fear of the moment. However, the lie indicated a flaw in Abraham’s faaith and character. Abraham’s lie revealed that he had not yet learned to trust God fully. There was more work to be done in his life before he could be entrusted with raising another patriarch. This flaw in Abraham’s character would manifest itself again (Gen. 29). Interestingly, his son Isaac would also lie about his wife when faced with a similar situation (Gen. 26:7) and Isaac’s son Jacob would become a notorious deceiver. Character flaws, left unchecked in people’s lives, can tenaciously reappear in subsequent generations (Exod. 34:7; Deut. 5:9). Nevertheless, God continued to forgive Abraham and to work in his life until Abraham became the model of faith for generations of God’s people.
Abraham Learned by Experience
Abraham’s understanding of God was not theoretical. He didn’t learn it from books. He learned it through encounters with God. Each time God revealed a new facet of his character to Abraham; it was through experience. For example, God gave Abraham a brilliant victory over a superior army (Gen. 15:1). Thereafter, Abraham knew he could trust God as his shield. This was not just because God said he could protect Abraham, but because Abraham had experienced God’s protection firsthand. Christian leaders must make the connection between God’s activity in their lives and God’s character.
Abraham Was Not Allowed to Take Shortcuts
Abraham’s life shows that attaining Christian maturity is a lifelong process. Christian leaders don’t take shortcuts. Genesis 16 details a low point in Abraham’s life. Despite the incredible covenant God made with him to make him the father of countless descendents, the fact was that he remained childless. At this crucial time of testing, Abraham listened to the counsel of people instead of listening to God. His wife, Sarah, advised him to produce a child through her servant Hagar. This was a commonly accepted practice in Abraham’s day. It was worldly reasoning at its best, but it was not God’s way. After ten years of waiting on God, Abraham’s faith wavered and he opted for Sarah’s plan. Hagar did produce a son, Ismael, who would eventually become Israel’s fierce enemies. Thousands of years later, people continue to suffer and die because Abraham chose to take a shortcut rather than to trust God’s word.
Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born. He had waited twenty-five years for God to carry out his promise. Abraham learned a lesson about the difference between God’s timing and people’s timing. God sees things from an eternal perspective. people see things from a temporal view. Christian leaders court disaster when they panic and assume they must take matters in their own hands. When Christian leaders wait patiently on the Lord, regardless of how long it takes, God always proves himself absolutely true to his word. Sometimes the time it takes God’s promise to be realized can seem eternally long, but a promise fulfilled by God is always worth the wait. Many more leaders would see major accomplishments occur in their lives and in their organizations if only they were willing to wait as long as necessary to see God accomplish his will.
Abraham Demonstrated His Faith
By the time Abraham was a senior citizen, God had developed him into a godly husband and father. Still, God had even greater plans for him. God intended for Abraham to be more than a father to Isaac; he wanted him to be the father of the faithful, a model of faithfulness for the rest of time. For this, Abraham had to advance farther in his relationship with God than anyone had gone before. In order to develop a great faith in God, Abraham was asked to make the most difficult decision of his life. “Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Take now your son, your only sone, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you,’ So Abraham arose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (Gen. 22:1-3).
There was no mistaking what God was asking. The question was would Abraham obey? Most of the time, the problem with Christian leaders is not that they don’t know what God wants them to do. The problem is that they know only too well, but they are unwilling to do it.
To modern readers, God’s command seems unusually cruel. But to Abraham, it would not have seemed peculiar. Abraham lived in a land of fanatical idol worship. Idolaters, desperate to gain their god’s favor would sacrifice their first-born children on altars. In essence, God’s command would prove whether or not Abraham was as committed to his God as the people around him were to theirs. If Abraham was to be father of the faithful, it would require of him a deeper faith in God than the average man had. For Abraham to do extraordinary things, he would need an extraordinary relationship with God.
Abraham Obeyed God
Through obedience, people experience God working through their lives and they come to know more about God’s character. In response to Abraham’s obedience, God spared Isaac’s life. Abraham named the place “The Lord will provide,” for he learned that when people are willing to give everything they have to God, God will provide all they need. Abraham’s response reveals the kind of man he had become. Scripture testifies: “So Abraham rose early…” Abraham received the single most difficult assignment God had ever given to any man, and he obeyed without hesitation. in passing this test, Abraham not only went deeper in his relationship with God; he also demonstrated his readiness to be a great leader of God’s people. “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall posses the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:16-18).
Far more hinged on Abraham’s obedience than he first realized. Abraham came to understand that his actions did not affect him alone, but his obedience to God would impact generations to follow.
Abraham Became a Friend of God
What was the result of God’s work in Abraham’s life over the years? He became a godly man; he became the patriarch of a nation; he became father of the faithful. But God’s activity in Abraham’s life helped him to become something even more important than all of these things, Abraham became a friend of God (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8). It is one thing to call God your friend. It is quite another for God to call you his friend. Abraham is the only person to whom Scripture gives this distinction. “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
Abraham was far from perfect. He made many mistakes. Yet his heart was open before God, and God chose to develop him into a man of faith. God didn’t choose Abraham because of his leadership ability. He chose Abraham because of his heart. The key was not that Abraham attended all the best leadership seminars. The key was that he came to know God and he allowed God to transform him into a leader through his obedience. When people strive to have their hearts right before God, the God promises to “show himself strong” (2 Chron. 16:9).
Dear Father, I am faced by so many temptations. Help me to resist them. Grant that I might rely on your will and power. Be with me in every situation. Amen.