The Rewards of Righteousness – Proverbs 21:21

The Intellectual Pursuit Of Anything Pales In Comparison to Reaping The Rewards Of Experiencing It

Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Rewards of Righteousness

The disciples of Christ read in the word of the Living God that we are to live lives in righteousness.  (Self-)Righteousness is not required because we have been adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters.  We receive our righteousness though belief in Jesus Christ, made possible by His perfect life, death, and resurrection on the cross.  His shed blood covers our sin, and we are clothed in His righteousness.  Our sanctification is the application of our imputed (legally acquired) righteousness in how we live our lives in holiness before God.  Righteousness (in this case, the pursuit of sanctification) has its own specific rewards.  We can rest assured that God both rewards faithfulness as well as punishes wickedness.  The author of this Proverb, however, links love with righteousness

Linked with Love

Love is THE defining aspect of God’s holiness and righteousness.  A person cannot be righteous without displaying agape love – a love that is volitional, sacrificial, and unconditional.  The two greatest commandments in the Law are:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love [agape] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love [agape] your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Notes in brackets added for clarity.)

Without love, we cannot be righteous.  And righteousness, or even exercising spiritual gifts without love is worthless:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

When we pursue righteousness and love, we are shown* that we will find three things – Life, Prosperity, and Honor.

Long Life

The very first promise is that we find life.  But we don’t just find life here on Earth – we find Eternal Life with God in His kingdom.  As we pursue righteousness and love, freed from the bonds of sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we are obeying God’s will for our lives.  We find spiritual life in abundance:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Powerfully Prosperous

Most people use their physical eyes to see the world.  God challenges us to see with our spiritual eyes and listen with our spiritual ears:

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

All Earthly wealth will eventually rot and burn, but spiritual wealth has made us wildly rich:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

When we have eyes that see and ears that hear, we recognize that we are being made prosperous in heavenly treasures.  And while God may or may not prosper us here on Earth, our reward will be great in Heaven as we pursue righteousness and love.

Heavenly Honor

There is but one note of praise that every disciple of Christ desires to hear.  That praise is not from men, but from our Lord Jesus Christ when we go to be with Him:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Those who pursue righteousness and love labor for the reward of praise from a most holy God.  It is the greatest honor for God, as our master (for we each should be a doulos** to our Lord) complements us in being faithful to His commands.  This is the equivalent of the highest form of accolade and accomplishment possible.  This is the Heavenly equivalent of getting a Grammy Award in music, or a Nobel Prize, or a Congressional Medal of Honor.  It is the highest achievement possible in our field of endeavors.

And God will not only honor us there.  When we pursue righteousness and love here on Earth, He will acknowledge us among men as well, regardless of our circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, say to me when I am reunited with Him in glory?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who raise people up and bring people low.  You alone are sovereign Lord over all.  Thank You for adopting me as Your child.  Please help me to grow in grace, love and righteousness, that I may honor and glorify Your name.  Show me what I am to do, for You already have prepared my work for me in advance.  Help me to submit myself to you as Jesus submitted to You.  Watch over me, and use me as You see fit.  I look forward to my report from You when I will be joined with You in glory.  Help me to have the best report that I can.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Please Note:  This blog has been edited for clarity (changes have been made in the first paragraph to provide better insight into the difference between the imputed righteousness of Christ and the pursuit of sanctification [holy and righteous living in the presence of God]).

* The proverbs are not promises, but rather generalized truths about life and spiritual matters.  We are able to glean great wisdom and insight from their truths, but it is not proper to interpret the proverbs as being absolute promises.  God is still sovereign, after all…

** A doulos is a slave, but not in the ordinary sense of the word.  Slaves had no say whatsoever in their situation.  A doulos was a slave who was freed by his master, but loved that master so much that he begged his master to take him back as his bond-slave.  The doulos‘ ear was pierced by an awl on the door, and everyone would recognize that mark as one who loved his master and voluntarily submitted to him because he was treated so well.

In a spiritual sense, the word doulos speaks to the willingness of the disciples of Christ to submit themselves to the Holy Spirit, being freed from the bondage of sin, and voluntarily submitting themselves to the commands of their Savior.

Many of the Epistles in the New Testament were written by those who identified themselves as a doulos of Christ.

Trust in God – Matthew 1:18-25

Sometimes Trusting God Will Place You In Very Awkward Situations

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Social Scandal

In the birth of our Lord Savior, we have (yet another) scandal.  The seed of Abraham preferred that their line be “pure” – that all of their family be of the line of Israel.  Jesus’ line has some interesting bumps in the road:

  • Rahab, a prostitute in the walled city of Jericho who helped the spies of Joshua, was the wife of Salmon.  Together, they had a famous son – Boaz
  • Ruth, the Moabitess, was the wife of Boaz.  They bore a son, Obed, who also bore a son, Jesse.  And his son was none other than King David – a man after God’s own heart.

In just two generation of the family tree of David, who was anointed by Samuel at God’s request to be the second king of Israel, we see intrigue and scandal.  Talk about your “skeletons in the closet”!   But these were Godly women who feared God, and to them it was credited as righteousness.  God is able to use anyone for His purposes as He sees fit.

And now for the latest scandal.  Even just a half a century ago, it would have been major scandal for a young woman to be found pregnant out-of-wedlock.  The shame of it drove many women to flee their homes and stay hidden until they could have the baby, often giving it up for adoption before returning to their family.

But in this case, God had appointed this very awkward event in prophecy.  And Mary did not hide, but rather endured the social maelstrom that ensued.  Gabriel had announced that she had been chosen, and she was fully submitted to the will of God.  Sometimes that means great personal sacrifice and loss.  In this case, public opinion must have been fiercely harsh towards Mary.  Yet she endured it all in wonder, for God had ordained it, and she believed God.

Honorable Husband

Now, place yourself in Joseph’s place.  Traditionally, after getting engaged, the husband-to-be would go off and build the home where the newlyweds would live in anticipation of the blessed union.  Imagine at that time coming home, and finding your wife-to-be pregnant.  What to do!  Joseph had options at his disposal.  He could have her stoned for this “alleged” misconduct.  By being pledged as Joseph’s wife, Mary was effectively classified as married for the purposes of adultery.  Joseph could very publicly end the marriage.  But Joseph, being a man of God, in his heart determined that rather than cause Mary any more difficulty, chose to divorce her quietly (end the engagement).

Imagine if you were in the military and sent off to a foreign land, ready to be married, and come home to find your wife-to-be pregnant.  How would you react?  Imagine how you would feel.  Imagine the character and self-restraint that it took for Joseph to even consider handling this quietly.  This took great courage and character.

Angelic Announcement

But God…  Those two words are the source of great amazement.  Just as it seemed that all would be ruined, God sent an angel down to counsel and command Joseph.  Notice how the angel greets him:

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

In this, the angel invokes the royal line of David as the line of the Messiah.  Imagine his relief in finding out that what Mary has told him is true – this is of the Holy Spirit of God.  Imagine the relief in finding out that Mary has been faithful to him.  Imagine the dread of the social storm that is upon them.  Imagine his apprehension, being chosen by God to be the surrogate father to his Savior.  And imagine his joy and wonder, knowing that the time has come for God’s promise to be fulfilled, now in his very lifetime.  And imagine this happening all at once.

Faithful Father

And even in the midst of this, Joseph proved himself to be a man of God.  The angel commanded him to take Mary as his wife, for he was charged with naming his first son Jesus.  And as was the law, the firstborn son was to be dedicated to God.  How fitting that Jesus, the firstborn son of Joseph and Mary, the Son of God, be dedicated to the Father.  And Joseph, being the man of God that he was, fully embraced the responsibility that was placed upon his shoulders.  He passed the test with flying colors.

Now let’s take a look at a few of the events that transpired to make this blessed event come off at the appointed time and in the appointed way.  Imagine if Rahab had not protected the spies of Joshua.  Imagine if Ruth had gone back to Moab rather than stay with Naomi and later listen to the odd commands of Naomi (who now claimed the name Mara, which means bitter), as she carefully planned the circumstances of courtship between Ruth and Boaz.  Imagine if David had refused to be anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel.  Imagine if Mary had said “this is too much for me to bear” to Gabriel instead of announcing herself as God’s servant.  Imagine if Joseph had succumbed to social pressure and left Mary as a stay-at-home, unwed mother.  In each and every case, these people were tested by their circumstances, and their character triumphed as they chose to honor God.   Regardless of the scandals in our lives, and the circumstances that we find ourselves in, we too must exhibit great character.  Who knows what interesting things will come about as we submit ourselves to the will of God!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  How far am I be willing to go to endure great loss and scandal to be obedient to my Lord and Savior?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, with our lips we praise You, and with our lives we worship You.  Remember me that in every decision that I make, that You are always at the forefront.  May every word I speak, thought that I have and embrace, and action that I take reflect Your character, Your love, and Your sacrifice.  Help me when I feel pressure from anyone or any circumstance to deviate from Your express will.  Strengthen me, especially in my moments of weakness, that I would continue to honor and glorify your name, regardless of the pain, loss, or difficulty that I encounter.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Give Thanks to God – Psalm 136:1-3

Always Give Thanks To God

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

Thoroughly Thankful

In this Psalm, the author stresses that we should give thanks to God.  Everyone benefits from God’s grace and mercy whether they realize it or not:

  • Every breath is a gift from God
  • The sun rises on the good and the evil
  • He causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust
  • Every good giving and every perfect gift is from God.

The list goes on and on.  We are the recipients of a loving and faithful God who greatly desires to pour out His blessing upon us.  We are directed to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us.  The author then goes on to list some very good reasons to give thanks to God:

God is Good

The first of these is that God is Good.  God is the embodiment of everything that is good.  He is holy – there is no evil or malice within Him.  His holiness is so perfect, that even the angels who surround His throne righteously declare the character and nature of God.  No human being can gaze upon His face without being utterly destroyed.  Moses was only allowed to see His trailing glory, and his time spent with God was so close that Moses’ face glowed, and the people were frightened.  Since God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we can always count on the goodness of God.  And as such, He and He alone is worthy of praise and worship.

God of gods

The next aspect of God that the author takes note of is that He is the God of all gods.  This is not to say that there is any God other than YHWH; this is merely to highlight and denote that God is above all.  Those who worship false gods and idols do not worship the One True God.  There is none like Him.  All power, authority, and dominion is YHWH’s and His alone.  He delegates authority as He sees fit.  But God will not share His glory – for only He is worthy of all glory.

Lord of Lords

The third aspect of God that the author takes note is that He is Lord of lords.  This rightly implies that YHWH is sovereign over all.  No one and nothing is His equal nor above Him in power and authority.  He created all things, and in Him all things have their being.  All authority is invested in Him, and He gives out authority as He sees fit.  He is the ruler over all.  And when the Judgment of God comes, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord:

By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Lasting Love

Because God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we can count on his enduring love.  God loves us in a way that we cannot even fathom.  Just as God gives parents the ability and desire to rejoice in and see the benefit of their children, God’s love for us – His children – is a million-fold greater.  We cannot even conceive of the love that God has for us.  And when the Son of God comes again in glory, and gathers the righteous to Him and the unrighteous to judgment, we will fully know as we are fully known in love by the One who is God, King of kings and Lord of lords.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I truly have a thankful heart?

A short prayer of preparation:

Lord God Almighty, You are worthy of all praise and worship and glory.  May the meditations of my heart be upon You always.  Help me to cultivate a heart that is thankful in all circumstances.  Help me to always remember that You do not change, and that Your love endures forever.  Give me strength through my trials that I may not falter, but gaze upon Your glory and beauty.  Show me where I need to grow, and provide the necessary circumstances to get me there.  Help me to be thankful through it all, that You may receive the glory that You so rightly deserve.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Restoration by God – Psalm 71:19-21

It Is God Who Brings Down And God Who Restores

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

Regaling Righteousness

David has the foresight to recognize and desire to see that the righteousness of God is to be made known to all.  Earlier in this Psalm, David writes:

13 May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long-
though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

As God’s children, we should greatly desire that the glory and righteousness of God be magnified among men.  Not only should we be displaying the righteousness of God in our everyday lives, but we must also speak the truth about His righteousness to others.  Faith comes through hearing the word of God.

It has always been known by the enemies of God that faith comes through hearing.  That is one of the reasons why there is such a great effort placed on muzzling the voice of truth in society.  They know that if people hear the truth, and believe the truth, the truth will set them free.  Only by silencing the truth and then speaking lies are the enemies of God able to continue to exert their control over people.

There is an old nursery rhyme that exemplifies this truth:

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

This is a bald-faced lie told to children to help them cope with the emotional trauma of the power of the spoken word.  Words DO hurt.  And words CAN help.  When we pretend that what we say has no effect upon others, we deceive ourselves and lay the groundwork for all manner of mischief.  After all, if spoken lies have no power, then lying must be OK, because it doesn’t hurt anyone.  But Jesus addressed this very poignantly:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

When we lie, we murder the truth.

Terrible Trouble

God is sovereign.  We know this in our minds, but question it in our hearts when terrible things happen to people – murder, rape, theft, disease, and all other manner of difficulty and trials.  The understanding that God is sovereign and is responsible for allowing difficulty into our lives is characterized well in the life of Job.  Job recognizes the sovereignty of God, and tells his wife after his afflictions:

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job’s relatives, after Job had gone through his trials, acknowledged the responsibility and sovereignty of God in their actions and words to Job:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

We would do well to remember that God has not forgotten us in our trials, but rather has sovereignly allowed them into our lives to bring about change in us and glory to Him.  And after those trials are over, God restores us.  We must also remember that God does not do evil, but may allow evil to come into our lives through our circumstances for His purposes and our sanctification.

Rescued in Resurrection

Not everyone is restored in this life after trials.  Job and many listed in the annals of the righteous in Hebrews were restored while they lived on the Earth.  Jesus was not restored on the Earth.  He passed into glory to fulfill what God has intended for our benefit and His glory.  Many who endure great trials will not be redeemed until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We can take heart and have peace, knowing that our pain and suffering will not last forever.  God will rescue us from all our troubles, even if it is not on this side of life.

David recognizes this and records it for us to give us the opportunity to soberly consider these things.  And just because God does not redeem a person during their life certainly does not mean that He will not redeem them going forward.  We must always have our eyes fixed upon the cross of Christ and the future glory that awaits as we will patiently wait for God to act.

Pleased in Peace

David consoles himself knowing that God will restore and increase his honor at a later time.  He knows that God will comfort him at a future time, in God’s time, for God’s purposes, to bring about the maximum glory to God.  We can rest as well in the knowledge that God will comfort us in our afflictions, for He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Using our intellect, we must direct our will to force our emotions into line with the truth.  Otherwise, we will be led by our emotions, and that can have disastrous consequences.  Everything has its proper place and purpose.  Let us reassure ourselves in the character, power and sovereignty of God when all seems bleak.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What comes out of our mouth when we face trials of various kinds?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your glory is over the Earth.  You are to be magnified and glorified.  My lips should be singing praises to You, and revealing Your great and mighty deeds to those who will listen.  Give me the courage to stand strong when people seek to silence the truth.  Help me to remember Your goodness and mercy and grace as You allow me to suffer through my trials.  Help me to overcome, and to speak of Your deliverance to your people so that they would be encouraged.  Help me to speak to strangers and those who do not know You that they may know that the Living God loves them and desires to be in relationship with them.  Prepare the hearts of the people, Lord God, and direct me to them that You would be magnified and glorified.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Love of God- 1 Corinthians 13:5-6

Love Seeks The Betterment Of Others

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Don’t Dishonor

Paul, in his famous treatise of love, provides insight into what can be gleaned from love by highlighting what love is not.  Love does not dishonor others.  Love believes the very best of people.  This is not to say that we don’t take reasonable precautions when interacting and trusting others; love does its best to seek the welfare of everyone:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Self-Seeking

Love is not self-seeking.  It is always other-seeking.  It seeks the welfare of our neighbors first.  The acrostic JOY helps us to remember our place in life:

Jesus
Others
You

It is only when we have our priorities straight that we are able to see clearly.  Self-seeking people are unable to see the priorities of life correctly, because they are blinded by their desire to fulfill their own needs and desires regardless of the injury to their neighbors.  This blinds us to reality.  We are told to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things will be added to us.  Provision by God is a natural extension of His love for us when we are providing for the needs of others.  God again reveals His character when we engage in it ourselves.

Steady State

Anger can be a useful tool.  It is a proper response to injustice and unrighteousness.  But because of the fall of man, we take anger to new levels.  We become angry for many reasons, but mostly because we have a perceived unmet need.  Our expectation of outcome is not met, and many times in selfishness, this displays itself as anger.  Think about the responses that any one of us would have in the following two scenarios:

  1.  You are walking along a crowed street in a strange city you have never visited before.  A person you have never met before walks up to you and says, “I hate you!  You are mean and don’t care about me!”
  2. Your spouse (or someone very close to you) walks up to you and says, “I hate you!  You are mean and don’t care about me!”

Most people in the first scenario would probably look quizzically at the person and in their inner voice say, “That was weird…”  But in the second scenario, there is a higher expectation of behavior from that person due to an established relationship, whether it is an accepted cultural expectation of behavior, or an expectation of behavior due to a cultivated relationship.  It would most likely cause emotional distress.  What is the difference?  Both people said the same thing.  It is our expectation of outcome that changes our emotional reaction.

We can choose how we react to situations, as shown in the above scenarios.  God chooses to wait to be angry for a while, giving us every opportunity to come to Him and make things right.  Even when we were sinners, Christ died upon the cross for us.  He had the view of eternity in front of Him always.   This assisted Him in being able to make such great sacrifices, and should encourage us to do the same.

Faithful Forgiveness

Paul goes on to say that love keeps no record of wrongs.  God, in His loving character, moves our sin as far from the East is from the West.  When we keep track of who has done what to us, we are in effect not allowing the grace of God to penetrate our hearts for what we have been forgiven.  We are, in effect, holding these wrongs against the other person.  This is not to say that we excuse bad behavior, but that when we choose to forgive someone of their sin, we don’t hold it against them.

In the same way, we should be prudent in how we exercise our judgment.  If the 16-year-old likes to party (it’s nearly impossible to control the behavior of children every second of every day), and shows poor judgment in how he/she lives life, it is unwise to provide him/her with the keys to the family car.  You still love them, you forgive them, you just don’t permit them to endanger themselves or others by providing access to privileges that require great responsibility to exercise safely.

Eschew Evil

Love does not delight in evil.  To do so would be a public endorsement of it.  In the same way, we don’t wear swastikas nor joyfully put our right arms out and publicly say, “Heil Hitler!”,  even in jest.  We don’t laugh at the misfortune of others in an effort to demean them.  God has a revulsion to evil, a true and deep hatred of it.  He despises evil.  In the same way, as our hearts become attuned to His through the washing of the word, we should have that same hatred of evil.  And while we must have compassion on those who engage in evil acts (remember Stephen’s cry to God to forgive the attackers who were stoning him to death), it is perfectly alright to hate the evil acts themselves.

Triumph in Truth

Instead, we should rejoice with the truth.  Love recognizes truth and is comfortable in it.  Love is a reflection of truth – the very nature of reality as it should be, rather than as it is.  Each of us view life through filters.  The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  It rightly sees things as they are, rather than as we think they are.  Only God, who is perfect, it able to truly see everything the way it really is.  And when we walk in love, a defining character trait of Almighty God, He reveals Himself to us in a greater way, and helps us to see things from His perspective.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I walking in Godly love?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You constantly display Your love for us each and every day through Your mercy, grace, and compassion.  You seek us when we stray, and woo us to You through Your kindness.  Help me, Lord God, to walk in Your love. Show me how to love You and others in the same way that You love me.  Give me a heart of compassion, mercy, and grace.  Help me to rejoice in the truth.  Remove the scales from my eyes that I would see clearly.  Guide and guard my heart in all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Family Living by God – Ephesians 6:1-4

Children are Adults-in-Training.

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Righteous Request

Paul encourages children to obey their parents.  The rebellion started when Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden.  It continues today with children.  No one is immune, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  The fallen nature of man gives us a presence of mind to think that we know better than our elders.  And although information is abundant, and children see themselves learning much faster than their parents, the lack of depth and breadth of knowledge, coupled with inexperience, growing brains, and raging hormones, yields a perfect storm that blinds them to the value of wisdom.  And in today’s generation, how a person feels is more important than facts, and held to be more valid than critical thought and sound judgement.  This further witnesses to the need for children to listen to and honor their parents.

Holy Honor

Children who honor their parents bring great glory to God.  It shows that they are fulfilling their designated role, and helps to display the unity of the family.  Additionally, when children honor their parents, they help the learning process along by displaying self-control, learning obedience (a skill that transfers to their relationship with God), and it makes the job of the parents that much more easy.  This reduces the burden on the parents and allows them to fulfill the designated roles assigned to them by God.  Although children may not initially see how honoring their parents is honoring God, as they mature and their minds grow, they will be able to see the wisdom in this.

Particular Promise

Paul indicates that a promise is attached to this Commandment, and that children benefit from doing this, rather than it being just a rule to follow.  With experience comes wisdom, and the life lessons learned by children through honoring their father and mother will yield a harvest of righteousness later on.  This wisdom will assist them in making decisions that will have a positive impact not only in their lives, but in the lives of people with whom they interact.

If parents attempt to impart wisdom in financial matters to their children, and the children honored them by following the examples provided, even if they didn’t necessarily understand why they were doing what they were doing, the results from that would speak for themselves, and show the wisdom of the decisions.  This could include setting aside money for retirement at an early age, budgeting, using self-restraint and purchasing what they need instead of what they want.  The application of restraint in this area in life would keep them from the pitfalls of debt and monetary indentured servitude.  Most children cannot appreciate being debt-free, owning a house and a car, and having all of their income going into a bank account instead of living paycheck to paycheck until they are actually in that situation.  The pain of self-denial and self-restraint may take years to reap a benefit.

Avoiding Angst

Because fathers are wired to respect and not to love, displaying love does not come naturally to them.  This can lead to conflict as they seek to impart discipline (not punishment but self-control) in their children.  Paul sees the danger and warns fathers that their efforts with instruction and correction can exasperate their children.  Fathers often expect that the children should learn the lessons fast and adhere to their principles immediately.  When children aren’t able to (and sometimes not willing to) do this, the father’s reactions, speech, and discipline can cause a child to just want to stop listening.  The child may feel that no matter what they do, it just won’t measure up.

Fathers must take great care to distinguish between a child’s true intentions – whether they are truly trying to obey their parents, or whether they are engaging in the manipulative feinting of exasperation in order to avoid discomfort in the tasks and lessons being imparted.  Children are master manipulators, being instructed by the world and through the whispers of the devil as he tries to tear apart the family.  It is only the Word of the Living God that can break the power of these evil influences.

And even in all of that, children have free will.  Even the most dedicated, loving, and encouraging father may run up against a child that absolutely refuses to learn the lessons provided (think Oppositional Defiant Disorder).  Someone with ODD doesn’t care if you punish them.  They live to be in opposition to you, and everything you stand for.  This is a strong-willed child who, understanding the repercussions for their reactions, would rather lose their life and liberty than to obey.  The need to be in control and to throw off the yoke of authority is so strong in them that they truly would rather die than to listen.  These children often become expert in the art of manipulation.  They lie with a straight face, telling falsehoods to even get their parents imprisoned just so that they can be free from their authority, or anyone who would attempt to exert authority over them.  Their conscience is seared, and their own personal desires justify any actions that they take.  They often know the exact outcome of what their actions will have on the adults that they malign, and have no compassion towards them or their circumstances once the effects of their plans have taken effect.

Scripture provided a recourse for this in the Old Testament that many today would think harsh and possibly cast a shadow over the grace and mercy of God.  This solution was needed in order to showcase that first and foremost, God is HOLY:

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

The Trials of Training

Oh, the trials and tribulations of training a child…  Especially during the teen years…  It can sometimes seem like herding cats, or grasping oil in your hand – a fruitless effort.  The good news is that it is not fruitless.  Everything that you impart, whether the child grasps and runs with it or not, is being stored in that wonderful sponge of a brain.

Scripture also tells how they should be trained:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Parents are not to make carbon copies of themselves.  They are not to plan their child’s life from cradle to grave.  Rather, they have been instructed to “train up” the child in the way they should go.  This is difficult, as it requires the parents to recognize what God has placed in the child and then nurture it.  These characteristics can be the polar opposition of what was in the parent.  This then requires great prayer, research, submission to God, and following God’s teaching as the parent may not have any knowledge or expertise in the child’s God-given bent and abilities.

Image a family where both parents are scholars and spend most of their time reading books and watching movies.  Now imagine a son who is constantly moving, and loves to jog, play football, soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, and every other conceivable sport.  The parents are to encourage this in their child so that the child can fulfill what God has placed in them to glorify Himself.

If the parents just try to turn this child into an academician, the child will lose heart, and suppress what is in him to do what God has not necessarily gifted the child to do.  This would require the parents to either go outside their comfort zone to be a part of their child’s life, or involving a trusted and respected mentor to help their child to excel in their strengths.  In either case, training up the child in the way they should go would prove to be challenging and counter-intuitive to what they know.

A Qualifying Question

For children, let’s ask the question:  Are we honoring our mother and father the way that God wants us to?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, give me strength as I walk with You today.  Help me to understand my role that You have assigned to me.  Regardless of my age, help me to honor my mother and father, that it would be pleasing to You and bring great glory to You.  Show me the way I should go, and provide the people who are mentoring me through life the ability, knowledge, and wisdom to help me to become the person that You desire me to be.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?