The Encourager

The Encourager

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Keeping a Commitment to God

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Keeping a Commitment to God

by Jeff Curtis

 

In the movie Back to the Future, the main character went into the past to change a series of events in order to create a better future for himself, his family, and his friend. In a sense, Jacob had to go back to the past in his mind and remember his first encounter with God at Bethel, while fleeing from Esau. He needed to fulfill the vow he had made to the Lord on that occasion (Gen. 28:20-22) if he and his family were ever going to experience the future God had promised to him as a descendant of Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 28:12-15).

 

Being Committed to God. God’s people need to be reminded of their spiritual commitments to Him. It is a human tendency to forget obligations, both in the natural realm of everyday life and in the spiritual realm of vows made to God. When Jacob fled from Esau, God appeared to him at Bethel, promising to be with him, bless him with many descendants, provide for him, and bring him safely back to Canaan (Gen. 28:13-15). In response to God’s promises, Jacob vowed to commit his life and one-tenth of his resources to the Lord if fulfilled those promises (28:20-22). Many years later, while Jacob was still in Haran, God spoke to the patriarch again and reminded him that He was “the God of Bethel” and it was time for Jacob to leave Haran and return to the land of his birth (31:13).

 

Even though Jacob had been back in Canaan for some time, he still procrastinated about returning to Bethel. The Lord revealed Himself to the patriarch at Shechem and said, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau” (35:1). Jacob’s pledge to follow God required him to turn completely away from idolatry. Neither he nor any of his company could worship on a pagan altar or have any further association with pagan gods. Such actions were unacceptable to God.

 

The sad story of God’s people has often been a repeat of Jacob’s: Many have promised to be faithful to the God of Abraham and Isaac but then have forgotten or postponed the fulfillment of their pledges of obedience to Him.

 

In later years, the psalmist repeatedly lamented Israel’s lack of faith, disobedience, idolatry, and rebellion against God. A root cause stated for their sins was their forgetfulness about the wonderful works of the Lord (Psalm 78:7-11; 106:7-14, 19-22). The Lord reminded Jacob that, as the God of Abraham and Isaac, He would bless him the way He had blessed his father and grandfather. Further, God promised to be with Jacob on his journey and bring him safely home. However, Jacob had to fulfill his vow to go back to Bethel and worship Him (28:13-15; 31:13; 35:1).

 

The same kind of challenge is evident in the New Testament. Almost two full chapters, Hebrews 3&4, warn Christians about the dangers of procrastination, unbelief and disobedience to God. The writer cautioned the brethren about making the same mistake Israel made in the Old Testament. He urged them with the words of the psalmist: “…’Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when [Israel] provoked [God], as in the day of trial in the wilderness’” (Heb. 3:7-8). God’s people were not to procrastinate and develop an “evil, unbelieving heart.” Such a lapse could be disastrous, leading to their disobedience and failure to enter into God’s heavenly rest (Heb. 3:11, 12, 18).

 

Peter described some of God’s people who had not developed the true qualities of Christian character as “blind or shortsighted.” Their spiritual growth was stunted because they had “forgotten” how they had been purified from their “former sins” (2Peter 1:8-9). They had forgotten the blessing of God’ “calling and election.” The apostle admonished them to “practice these qualities” so they would “never fall” (2Peter 1:10; ESV). He didn’t want them to lose their salvation.

 

Jacob’s problems of forgetting and procrastinating obedience were similar to the problem Peter addressed. God reminded Jacob to return to Bethel because, by delaying his obedience, Jacob was putting himself in danger of forgetting why God had called him. By demonstrating a careless attitude about fulfilling the vow he had made to the Lord, he was setting a bad example before his family. Jacob needed to get serious about his commitment to serve God.

Do I Believe I Am Able?

Sunday, May 02, 2021

“Do I Believe I Am Able?”

by Jeff Curtis

 

The size of our faith determines our thinking, and our thinking determines our spiritual growth. A person who believes he can accomplish nothing will not rise far above that belief.

 

We have to remind ourselves that we don’t think as God thinks (Isaiah 55:8). A serious mistake is made when we try to presuppose God’s purposes and expectations. Statements such as “I don’t think God expects this of me” should be avoided. How can we come to see situations in the way God does? First, we are to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2). Second, since the mind of God is revealed in His Word, we must study the Bible.

 

Three texts reveal how we can increase the size of our faith and learn to think more as God thinks.

 

Believe in Jesus (Matthew 9:27-31). Two blind men followed Jesus and begged for Him to have mercy on them. He asked them if they believed He could restore their sight, and they answered “Yes, Lord” (Matt. 9:28). He then touched their eyes and said, “It shall be done to you according to your faith” (9:29). Immediately, they received their sight.

 

Not every case of healing depended on the faith of the one being healed. Examples are the lame man who was carried to Jesus by four friends, the centurion’s servant, and the demoniacs of Gadara.

 

However, our usefulness to God may be determined by the measure of our faith in Him. We must believe that He is able to accomplish through us whatever He wants us to handle (Matt. 19:26).

 

We are often held back because of some real or imagined disability. Age, illness, and lack of talent can be hinderances; but a person stops being “disabled” when he stops thinking about what he cannot do and starts thinking about what he can do by God’s power. Being “spiritually disabled” is far worse than being physically challenged.

 

Be motivated by God’s assurance of success (Philippians 4:13). Paul presented a three-step plan to achieve what God would have us to do: (1) “I can,” (2) “Do all things,” (3) “Through Him who strengthens me.” Paul believed that God was able to do through him whatever He wanted done.

 

God doesn’t limit our accomplishments in His kingdom. “We do!” “For as he thinks within himself, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). If we are concerned with a lack of usefulness in the kingdom of God, the problem is not God, but with our thinking.

 

Concentrate on God’s power working through us (Eph. 3:20). Let’s examine the text. “Now to Him” refers to God, the Creator and Sustainer of this universe and all that is in it. “Who is able” means “beyond measure, far more than, in excess of expectation.” “All that we ask or think” indicates that we can’t out-think God’s ability to perform. Our only limitations are God’s will and our faith. “According to the power that works within us” indicates that God works through us with power. If we think and plan small, we will be small. Conversely, if we think and plan big, we can accomplish big things. Our growth as individual Christians or as a congregation is hindered or helped by our faith.

 

Finally. If God wants something done through us, it can be done when we are ready and willing to do it. Our faith determines our potential for serving Him.

Displaying 161 - 162 of 316

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