At such a critical time in the history of the nation of Israel, it is said that the leaders of the tribe of Issachar were men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” This memorial and testimony in Scripture is not lengthy; it is not verbose, but it is one of the great accolades which may be credited to any individual. In a time of turmoil and great social upheaval, the tribal leaders of Issachar were well aware of what was transpiring around them and knew the appropriate steps to take to bring peace and rest to their society and the people of God.
1 Chronicles 12:22–23, 32, Day after day men came to help David, until he had a great army, like the army of God. These are the numbers of the men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the LORD had said: … men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do– 200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command …
In the early and middle years of the 1730s, America experienced a tremendous spiritual awakening–an awakening which continued to reverberate in our young nation in the years which led up to the Revolution. As a result, the belief that God alone was the true Sovereign and Ruler among the affairs of men became once again the dominant political ideology of the American colonies. When King George III refused to abide by English law in relation to his American subjects, the colonists revolted and won their independence. The Americans, under the influence of this Great Awakening, argued that a king who would not submit to law had no right to rule in the eyes of God.
But the American Revolution was not a revolution against absolute authority or the “divine right” of the king. Rather, the colonists pledged themselves to the absolute sovereignty of King Jesus. To ensure that America would always be influenced and controlled by Christian principles, candidates for public office throughout our young nation were invited to church services in which the pastors of the communities reminded public officials of their responsibilities under the divine Law Giver. Christian pastors reminded candidates that their authority was not ultimately derived from the consent of the people, but from God himself. Their authority was not democratically, but divinely bestowed upon them.
A number of years ago, Dr. James Dobson received withering criticism from many parts of the Christian and evangelical communities. He had tenaciously spoken out against liberal interest groups and liberal judges who, then, were unable to advance their destructive policies at the ballot boxes of our nation. Like the men of Issachar and our own early American forefathers, Dr. Dobson understood the times in which we live, and he knew “what Israel should do.” Generations of Americans have reaped the benefits of the spiritual wisdom of our national forefathers, and if future generations of Americans are to experience the same blessings, it will come because of men like Dr. Dobson who know the times and know what American should do in the eyes of God.
May our prayer be, “God, once again give us men who know the times and know what should be done in our nation. God give us men of Issachar!”
As is true with all languages, English is undergoing constant evolution. The Schoolmaster of America, Noah Webster, gave America its first dictionary and our own form of English. Since the days of Webster, the English language has continued to evolve. “Gay” no longer means happy or joyous disposition; its contemporary use is completely unrelated. In addition to the change in connotations and denotations of terms, we have added many words to the English language since the days of Webster. He had never heard of a CD or DVD, he had never seen an airplane, or typed on a computer. In addition to new words, many have fallen or are falling into disuse, among them is the term “faithful.”
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10
Some words must be meticulously guarded, because they represent the very best in human experience. They encapsulate the greatest values known to mankind. “Faithful” and the terms derived from it are among those terms which distill the most desirable traits of the human heart. The New Testament idea of “faithfulness” can be encapsulated in three words: ascent; act; and acclaim.
First, it means “firmness of faith,” “trust,” or very simply, “believing.” This idea suggests a trust or confidence in someone or something. In the New Testament, stress is laid upon believing in Jesus as the Christ or Messiah. But from this truth radiates many other teachings which often both elevate and illuminate Old Testament truths. To be faithful or have faith in the New Testament sense means a personal confidence in the person of Jesus Christ and all He taught as contained in the New Testament. This aspect of “faithfulness” lays stress upon ascent of the mind and acceptance of the will concerning the eternal truths which are taught in God’s Word.
Second, “faithfulness” also means reliable to perform a given duty or task. It is used of God who is faithful to His promises (1 Cor 1:9; 10:13; 1 Thess 5:24), and it refers to the duty an individual has to himself and to others (Col4:9; 1 Peter 5:12; Rev 2:10). “Faithfulness” is in part defined by reliability to perform or act as expected.
Third, “faithfulness” is also a reputation received as a result of faithfully performing what one knows to be right. The term is sometimes applied to the sacred things of God (promises, blessings). Often it is used to express the character of that which is trustworthy (1 Cor 7:25; 1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 2:2; 1 Peter 4:9). This aspect speaks of one’s assessment concerning someone or something and finds the thing or person to be true, trustworthy, sure, believable, or worthy of credit or trust. In this way the thing or person receives acclaim when this term is applied.
I often meet those who wistfully yearn for the “good old days” of yesteryear when an individual was as good as his word. How we long for politicians who will be “faithful” to campaign pledges; we long for spouses who will be “faithful” to their marital vows; we long for employers and employees who will be “faithful” to the interests of each other; we long for churches which will be “faithful” to the Gospel without being chameleons, seeking to blend into the world.
It is true, we often yearn for faithfulness in every sphere of life, but too infrequently is this yearning satisfied. A tragic fact must not be overlooked if we are to take large strides toward the realization of a society that is indeed more faithful. In recent years, I have sensed that the cry for faithfulness has increased throughout our society, but the willingness to be part of the solution has decreased. What we need is not mere ascent to truth. We desperately need people who will act faithfully–people to whom we can point with acclaim as we walk down the street, saying, “There goes one of the most faithful Christians I have ever met!”
You are an important part of the solution to faithfulness. You and I must not merely talk about faithfulness to our spouses–we must be faithful! We must not just talk about being on time to work and being faithful in all matters to our employers–we must be faithful! We must not merely take membership vows at churches–we must be faithful to them! Do you long for more faithfulness in our homes, churches, and places of employment? Be part of the solution–be faithful!
Our Lord has promised eternal life to those who are willing to be faithful. May the grace of our risen Lord rest upon our hearts and hands that in matters great and small we might be faithful to Him!
A few years ago, Beth and I took the opportunity to go see the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit in Mobile, Alabama. We doubted that we would again have the opportunity to see such an exhibit which lends great credibility to the authenticity of our Bible. So seldom have we had the opportunity to be together in this way that to be with my wife on such an occasion was sheer delight for me.
Upon arriving at the convention center where the exhibit was displayed, we entered a ticket line to purchase our tickets. It was then that we realized that we would also have the opportunity to see a docudrama of King Tut, titled (I believe), The Treasures of Egypt, staring Omar Sharif. I was excited about the prospect of learning something about the part of the world of which I knew little. The docudrama was being shown in an “Imax Theater.” This was only the second time I had been in such a theater.
2 Timothy 4:5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
As was true the first time, my apprehension of the experience began as I entered the theater. Some of you may be unaware that such theaters cascade upward, so that patrons feel as if they are sitting on the side of a pyramid–I am certain it must be similar to sitting in the cheapest seats of a stadium. The screen wraps itself around the audience, creating a surround, realistic sensation. The auditorium was so steep that I found myself wishing the seats came standard with seatbelts.
We were not in our seat long before the docudrama began. It began with forte, the images streaked across the screen with such rapidity and frequency that it immediately began to create a dizzying sensation which was sickening. Accompanying the swirling scenes before me on the screen was music at such a decibel level that I am sure nearly rivaled sonic booms (maybe not that loud). What I was seeing and hearing caused both my head and stomach to spin to such a degree that I feared that those moments might ruin the anticipated outing with my wife.
In the midst of my discomfort, the Lord spoke to me and enabled me to see that what I was experiencing in such a graphic way was the experience of every true believer with regard to the spiritual world. It is easy for us to allow the loud demands and swirling circumstances of life to cause us to lose sight of what is real, what is lasting, and what is eternal. Often what is showing on the screen of life threatens to swallow the larger truth of eternity, which frequently is less boisterous and less conspicuous, but never-the-less more true.
The Apostle Paul was concerned that his son in the faith might become dizzied by the fast-pasted sights and sounds of life, and passionately warned him, “But you, keep your head in all situations …” As our church looks toward the future, we must not allow what plays out on the screen before us to cause us to lose sight of a deeper reality. Men, women, boys, and girls need the Lord! The sheep of Christ’s flock need to be fed.
Will you pray for me that my vision will be clear? –that I too will keep my head in all situations? And what I ask for myself, I also pray for each one of us.
Lord, no matter how bright the sun today, teach us that there is an infinitely brighter Son tomorrow. No matter how dark the clouds of today, remind us we are bound for a land of cloudless day! God give us vision of the eternal and hearts resolved, by your grace, to go there!
Many years ago, well-known Christian speaker and former member of the Salvation Army, Harry A. Ironside, was publicly challenged by a member of his street meeting to defend his faith. His challenger demanded a public debate the following day at the same location. Knowing that infidelity and atheism always leaves a dark trail of death wherever it sets its foot, Ironside said he would accept the challenge if his prospective opponent would bring proof of the personal and social benefit of unbelief. Ironside proposed to have Christians with him whose lives had been gloriously changed through the saving grace of Christ.
Romans 6:9, For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him.
He requested that his challenger, likewise, demonstrate how infidelity and unbelief had produced a happier and more hopeful spirit in the lives of its adherents. Ironside was sure that many from the local city mission could accompany him and stand by his side the following day as evidence of the life-changing grace of Christ. As Ironside continued to throw out the rules of engagement between himself and his would-be opponent in debate, his challenger turned and walked away. This infidel realized what Ironside knew by experience, but few ever consider. He knew that unbelief did not produce a more hopeful and joyous life. When all of the biblical and theological arguments are spent against the citadel of unbelief, the mockers of Christ and His Church cannot deny the life-changing influence of the saving grace of Jesus Christ!
At this season of the year, the Christian Church observes one of the most important seasons in its calendar. This season is significant not only for the believer, but for the unbeliever as well. Can there be a better time for the unbeliever to seriously examine his understanding of the possibility of life after death and how to enjoy it if, indeed, that is a possibility. If this life is all that there is, then it makes sense to live according to Darwinian thinking about life and structure life around the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. If there is no hope for life beyond the grave, then it does not matter how we live today. The Apostle Paul realized this truth when he wrote, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19). Though some might deny the teaching of eternity, most would agree there is life beyond death. They would agree with Solomon: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). “Eternity in the hearts of men” is not a principle which is doubted by the vast majority of the human race. What is doubted is the way it is obtained. After comparing and contrasting the truth of the Gospel with the religions of the world which offer various means of salvation, we must correctly conclude with the Apostle Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
For the Christian, the resurrection is a pivotal event. Many have attempted to minimize and completely deny the miraculous deeds of Jesus, suggesting that natural means best explain the alleged miracles of Jesus. But the Apostle Paul–himself converted from unbelief–points to the resurrection of Jesus as the defining moment in his ministry (1 Cor. 15). Why? Because the Apostle knew that if believers through the ages were to be convinced of the fact of eternal life, greater evidence was needed, and God provided the evidence along side the proclamation of the Gospel. Victory over death was won and proven through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Another important truth is tied to the doctrine of the resurrection, that is the doctrine of justification. In Romans 4:25, the Apostle Paul writes, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Here Paul teaches that the believer’s justification, established by Christ’s death on Calvary, was proven to be true by the resurrection. Without the resurrection, no justification of sin would occur, and believers would remain in their sin (1 Cor. 15:17).
Finally, the Apostle Paul identified the practical consequence of affirming the doctrine of the resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul calls believers to “stand firm” in their faith in the resurrection, and the principle reason is one of assurance. Armed with the assurance that beyond this present life God would reward the faithful, believers could give themselves “fully to the work of the Lord.”
If the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not occur, Christians remain in their sin, there is no hope for a glorious life after the trials of this world, and what is done in this life has value only for the present. But since Christ has been raised from the dead, there is assurance of forgiveness of sin, there is certainty of a glorious eternity, and what is done in this life does indeed have eternal significance.
My prayer is that we might realize more deeply than ever before the benefits of the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. May the knowledge and experience of His grace be deeper and more real than ever in your heart and life.
Many years ago in Liverpool, England, a skeptic delivered a strong address against Christianity to a large audience. When he finished, he threw down a gauntlet to the members of his audience: “If any man here can say a single word in favor of Jesus Christ, let him come out and say it.” The foreboding challenge hovered over the audience. No man moved to answer his challenge—the silence became oppressive. Then, two young girls arose from their seats, walked hand in hand toward the front of the gathering (as if moved by the Holy Spirit), ascended the stairs of the platform, positioned themselves before the audience and the skeptic, and then said: “We cannot speak, but we will sing for Christ.” The girls began to sing in rare harmony and with the anointing of God’s Spirit, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus!” As the reverberation of the rousing challenge fell silent, many in the audience wept. So deeply was the assembly moved that it began to quietly go away, being convinced by the power of the young girls’ courage.
Num. 14:36–38, So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it— these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.
Heb. 4:7, Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
The Lord has always been willing to use those who were willing to be used. Tragically, many who realize the need to serve and engage the world for Christ never do. The Israelites refused their opportunity to enter Canaan, and as a result, that generation’s privilege was lost forever. Having left behind them a legacy of disobedience, succeeding generations of Jews—though entering Canaan—followed the tragic example of their forefathers, refusing to faithfully serve the Lord. For this reason, the Jews who received the book of Hebrews were warned of the consequences of neglecting the fullest claims of the Gospel. Man says, “Tomorrow!,” but God says, “Today!”
Many soften their unfaithfulness to Christ’s Church with words such as, “someday” and “tomorrow.” It is not that they mean to completely neglect Christ and his Church, it is only that their service must be rendered on their terms according to their timing. In this way, the Church in America is greatly weakened and enfeebled. A few faithful carry the cause of Christ as long as they are capable, but without a willingness to faithfully serve on the larger part of the fellowship, the Church—in its war against sin—never advances and often loses its Canaan because many obstinately say, “No!” to Christ, but more frequently they say, “Some day!” or “Tomorrow!”
Many imagine their entrance into “Canaan” to be a personal prerogative—they will determine the best time to serve the Lord. But, the Lord responds to these as He did the rebellious Jews: “They shall never enter my rest” (Heb. 4:3, 5). Tomorrow is too late in the planning of God.
May God give us the grace to answer the Great Commission with one word—“Today!”
“I can’t do it!” What parent has not heard that? And, what child has not used it? When I was growing up, “I can’t do it” was often my defense when I felt inferior to the task or simply unwilling to try. Knowing how much more technical and advanced we are today than we were even a generation ago, I am sure that moms and dads will not have to fear hearing this expression again. However, if there are some who persist in using this antiquated expression, simply relate the following anecdote to them concerning one of England’s greatest scholars.
The exact year is uncertain, but his biographers are in agreement that it was in the early 1760s when he was born (the exact date being unknown due to the fact that the parish clerk failed to enter him in the register of the Church). His name was Adam Clarke. He was born in Ireland in the village of Moybeg. He was a Scotch-Irishman of English descent. His ancestors crossed over from England in the seventeenth century and settled in the region of Carrickfergus, where the great-great-grandfather, William Clarke, was an estated gentleman. Adam’s mother was a descendant of the Laird of Dowart, in the Hebrides, the chief of the clan of the Mac Leans.
2 Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
In his youth, Adam was a stout lad, full of life, and not overly fond of his books. He delighted to hear the wild Irish stories of ghosts and fairies, but for the Latin grammar, and more especially for mathematics, he possessed a thorough disgust. His father owned a tract of land which he farmed. Adam and his brother were employed alternately in work on the farm and helping one another along in the rudiments of classical learning, in which their father was a notable master.
His mother was a staunchly committed Presbyterian and taught him the Catechism of the Westminster Assembly, while his father was an Episcopalian and taught him the Apostles’ Creed–a mixture of doctrine which suited the boy well, for Adam was sensitive to spiritual matters. However, he was in great danger of growing up a dunce in other respects. The only studies to which he would apply himself were the English translation of the Fables of Aesop, Robinson Crusoe, the native fairy literature of Ireland, and the arts of magic, which later was taught him by a traveling tinker who had strayed into his home territory.
While at school one day, Adam was scolded by his teacher and mocked by his fellow-pupils for his poor progress in his school work. So traumatic was this occasion, that in his agony of spirit and shame he “felt as if something had broken within him,” and, taking his book with the resolve to change his ways, he began to study with a sense of power which was quite a surprise to him, and from that moment he became the star pupil of the school.
During the year 1777, a Methodist preacher, by the name of John Brettel, began preaching in the neighborhood, in barns, stables, schoolhouses, and in the open air, and young Adam, now about seventeen years old, was among his most attentive hearers. His father approved of the teachings of the itinerant as “the genuine doctrine of the Established Church,” while his Presbyterian mother, with equal admiration, declared, “This is the doctrine of the Reformers; this is the true, unadulterated Christianity.” As a result, the Methodist preacher was made doubly welcome at the Clarkes’ home, which subsequently became a stopping place for preachers.
It was not long before Adam was spiritually awakened and convicted of his sin. This sense of conviction and sense of spiritual need lasted for some time and was characterized with great agonies of mind, but at last in 1779, Adam was deeply converted. By this time, he was a well-learned lad. Although he had been obligated to spend his days on the farm, his nights afforded him time for study, and when he had found Christ as his personal and present Saviour, he immediately began to share Him with others. He would often toil from four in the morning till six in the evening, and then, walk three or four miles to a Methodist meeting. Before long, he too began to preach. With the encouragement of a fellow Methodist, John Bredin, Clarke left for the Kingswood School which John Wesley had started and assumed the role of itinerant that same year (1782).
From this small beginning, Adam Clarke went on to become a leader among Methodists in the British Isles, most notably as a Bible scholar and Conference President. But Clarke also distinguished himself to the royal family and the most learned societies of Britain. For several years, Clarke, in the midst of a busy ministry as a preacher, was employed by the King in the handling of some of the most important documents of the British Empire.
Adam Clarke was a man immersed in the Scriptures, loved for his character, and ardent in his love for and loyalty to the principles of the Methodist revival. He had no Methodist peers as a scholar and few peers as a preacher and gentleman. Few Methodists have ever been known as widely and as well received as Adam Clarke.
As a young boy, Adam Clarke decided to replace his, “I can’t do it,” with “I can do it, and by God’s grace, I will do it!” Young scholar, as you begin a new school year, my prayer is that you will allow both the challenge of the Apostle Paul to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” and the example of Adam Clarke to be of challenge and encouragement to you.