WHO IS WINNING?

“Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.”
II Samuel 3:1

After the death of Saul, David was anointed king over the house of Judah. However, Abner, the captain of Saul’s military, made Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, king over Israel. Though Saul was deceased, the battle continued between some of his followers and the house of David. Our text describes the “long war between the house of Saul and the house of David” and the result of the conflict. “David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.” Saul, through his disobedience and rebellion, had forfeited his ability to rule God’s people. David was chosen by God to succeed Saul. Although Abner made an effort to keep the kingdom of Saul in power, David was destined to reign. Gradually, the house of Saul weakened, and the house of David ruled.

These two kings, as well as their lifestyles, illustrate practical lessons for our own spiritual growth. Saul represents the result of prideful living. He began his service as king in a humble way, but that soon gave way to presumption and self-will. On the other hand, David represents humility and dependence on the Lord. Saul is a picture of a man serving in the flesh, while David is a picture of a spiritual servant. We have to deal with these two principles in our individual lives. Will the flesh or the spirit govern us? Will we walk by faith and dependence upon God, or will we trust in ourselves and rely on our abilities? As there “was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David,” we are in a continual battle within ourselves. The New Testament says, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

If the house of David could represent the spiritual part of the believer, we see that it was growing “stronger and stronger.” In our personal growth, we want to see the spiritual man growing “stronger and stronger” and the flesh waxing “weaker and weaker.” Who is winning in our lives? As we deny ourselves and our carnal appetites and consistently yield to God’s will, we will see the spiritual man growing “stronger and stronger.”

YE ARE GOD’S BUILDING

“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”
I Corinthians 3:9, 10

God was using Paul to teach the Corinthians, and us as well, about the danger and characteristics of carnal living. We are either living in the power of the Spirit, or we are walking in the energy of the flesh. Evidences of their carnality were their jealousy and partiality. Some claimed to be followers of Paul, others of Apollos, and others of Peter. In reality, they all should have been followers of Jesus Christ. Speaking to this subject Paul said, “we are labourers together with God.” These men were not in competition with each other, but were serving together as a team.

In addition to the preachers being a team, Paul wanted these church members at Corinth to know that they were also on the same team. One way that God describes the New Testament church is “God’s building.” The foundation had been laid and the structure was being assembled. This structure was the church of Corinth. God gives us these metaphors in His Word to illustrate our relationship to Him and to each other. The church is also called a body and a bride, as well as a building. As a building, we have a Builder – the Lord. He is the Builder of New Testament churches. As a building, we see the importance of our interrelationship with one another. Members of the Lord’s churches are not independent and isolated from each other, but rather are vitally connected and interdependent.

As individual components that make up the whole structure, we see the necessity of being committed to each other. Imagine a roof that is not committed to its building, but is only available to serve the structure on an occasional basis, or windows and doors that are not faithful in their places. Because we “are God’s building,” it is only expected that we be committed and faithful to the others who are part of the building. As individual parts of “God’s building,” we do not all serve the same purpose or role; but each component is necessary. The beauty and functionality of a building is not in the fact that every board and brick are identical, but each bit of material serves together for a common goal.

DAVID’S HEART SMOTE HIM

“And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily. And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.”
I Samuel 24:4, 5

Saul was aggressively seeking after David, intent on killing him. When Saul went into a cave to get some rest, David and his men were also in the cave, hidden in the darkness. David’s men told their leader that this was his opportunity to get even with Saul. David quietly cut off a part of Saul’s robe to show him that if he had really wanted to kill him, he would have seized this opportunity. After he had done so, “David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.”

Though David was a brave and mighty warrior, this Scripture testifies to his tenderness, his “heart smote him.” His heart convicted him of his error. He knew that he had done wrong. David’s attitude and action revealed the kind of heart we should all strive to have. When we sin, our hearts should smite us. Our hearts, or our conscience, should convict us when we do wrong. A true Christian will not be able to sin without feeling some guilt about it. None of us are perfect in all of our words and deeds. We all will make mistakes, but how do we feel when we do wrong? David could not get away with his disrespect toward Saul. Even though King Saul had mistreated David and sought his destruction, David’s heart would not allow him to give Saul the same treatment. David knew, and often repeated his position, that to stretch forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed would be sin. David recognized that Saul, with all of his imperfections, was God’s choice to be the king of Israel. It would have been wrong for him to lift his hand against Saul.

We need the kind of sensitive heart that David exhibited. There is something wrong when those who claim to be God’s children can speak hatefully and act rebelliously toward God’s leaders. It is not right when Christians seem to be able to disobey God with no feeling of regret or shame. The Bible teaches that the more we allow sin to occur without repentance, the harder our hearts become. May our hearts be sensitive to the Spirit of God. When we do sin, may our hearts smite us.

HE LOVETH OUR NATION

“And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”
Luke 7:4, 5

A centurion had a servant who was sick and near the point of death. This centurion sent a group of Jewish elders to see if Jesus would come and heal his servant. When they came to the Lord, they presented their case, requesting that Jesus should help this captain saying, “That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.” This centurion, though he was a Gentile, had a reputation of devotion to the Jewish nation, which was Christ’s nation as well as theirs. He evidenced his love for their nation by building them a synagogue, a place of worship.

When we think of our nation, we know she has many faults and stands in great need of repentance and revival. Nevertheless, we love our nation. We do not love the direction she has been going or the wickedness that is permitted and promoted; but still we love our country. We are thankful for our heritage and Christian influence. We are grateful for the freedoms we enjoy. Our nation has been the birthplace and home of some of the world’s most influential preachers. Many faithful missionaries have left this country to evangelize other nations. Our nation has been responsible for publishing the Word of God and Gospel literature for the benefit of millions. We have gone to the defense of struggling nations and helped defend the oppressed on many occasions.

What could we do to express our appreciation for our country? The centurion built a synagogue for the Jewish nation, and one of the greatest things we can do for our country is to build churches. Our country is in a state of moral decline that will not easily be reversed. How can we help our beloved nation? We desperately need multitudes of sound, Bible-preaching, separated, New Testament churches. We need a voice for righteousness in every community and a faithful preacher of the Gospel in every town. If we love our country, let’s support missionaries and get the Gospel out wherever and however we can. Let’s dedicate our lives to reaching out to the lost, discipling the saved, and building churches wherever we can. Our love for our nation can be demonstrated in our commitment to the ministry.

TO BE WITH HIM

“And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.”
Mark 5:18

What would one expect from a person who had been dramatically delivered from his sins and transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ? The person in question “had been possessed with the devil.” As a matter of fact, many demons controlled this poor soul. Jesus drove the evil spirits from the man and transformed his life, making him a new creature. After this great miracle, the people of the community insisted that Jesus leave the area. As Jesus prepared to depart and was “come into the ship,” this new follower “prayed him that he might be with him.” The newly converted man wanted to be with Him. He wanted to be near the One who broke the bonds of his sin, brought him out of darkness into light, and gave him a chance to start over again. He wanted to be near Jesus, Who had given him hope and meaning.

This would be the expected response from a person who has been truly converted. He should want to be with Him. When we were converted, we may not have known much about the Lord; but we wanted to know more. We wanted to learn. Prior to the new birth, we had no real interest in being near the Son of God. We did not want to come near the light because our sins would be exposed. But, when we were saved, we were naturally drawn to the One who loved us when we were most unlovable.

There is something wrong when a person claims to know Him and has no hunger for spiritual things. This is the fruit of many false professions of faith in our day. We speak with people frequently who declare that they are God’s children but have no desire to be with Him. This is not the evidence of true Christianity. Those who love Him should want to be with Him. How is it that we might be with Him? We can spend time with Him in prayer and reading the Word of God. As we walk with Him in daily communion, we enjoy fellowship with Christ. He speaks to us from the pages of Scripture, comforts us in our needs, encourages us in our journey, and reproves us in our sins. We can also be with Him as we assemble with His church. He promised to be in the midst of His local congregations. When we gather with the church family, we are assured that He will be there. Thank God for all that He has done for us. Because of His great grace, we want to be with Him.

THE NEXT GENERATION

“And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.”
Judges 2:8, 10

What will become of the next generation? Will those who follow us love and serve the Lord? Joshua was one of the greatest leaders of all time. His generation crossed the Jordan River and saw great victories in Canaan. One might think that succeeding generations would perpetuate the faithfulness of each previous generation, but this does not always occur. After Joshua and his peers died, the very next generation turned away from God and began to serve idols.

We all should be concerned about the generation that will follow us. It would be very presumptuous or selfish for us not to consider the faith and zeal of those who will take our place. It has been said that “we could be only one generation away from apostasy.” Churches that were once led by godly pastors and were served by faithful Christians have fallen to compromise and heresy in a single generation. Parents who genuinely know and love the Lord have seen their children forsake the faith.

What can we do to help preserve the testimony of the Lord for future generations? Obviously, they must know the Lord personally. Our Scripture says, “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD.” We want our children to have a relationship with the Savior that is genuine. Our prayer is that they will come to understand their great need for salvation and trust Him completely as their Redeemer. Not only do they need to know Him initially as Savior, but also they need to grow in their knowledge of Him experientially. The next generation needs to know the Lord as their personal Redeemer and Friend, and as their God and not just the God of their fathers.

The future generation needs to see God at work. The Scripture tells us that the following generation did not know “the works which he had done for Israel.” One reason we are losing the next generation is that they have failed to see God work in their lives and circumstances. They hear that God can do anything, but see no evidence of His activity in their lives or in the lives of others. May God help us to powerfully influence the generation that follows us.

WHAT IS MAN?

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
Psalm 8:3, 4

In general, man tends to have a rather inflated view of his importance in the world. Pride produces an exalted opinion of our contribution or worth. When one listens to the conversations of people, even very young people, he finds that they often think that the rest of the world basically revolves around them. One reason for this is our failure to see the bigger picture. However, the psalmist had a different perspective. He saw himself as a very small part of God’s great creation and was surprised that God would take an interest in him.

The vastness of God’s creation testifies to His magnificence. We should seek to comprehend and appreciate the grandeur of the world in which we live. The “heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars” are all a part of His creation and testify to God’s great power. He created everything and holds all things together. He created and controls millions of stars, feeds and waters the animals and birds, causes the wind to blow, and knows when every sparrow falls.

How is it that He could care about me? “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” Is it not amazing that He would take thought of us, not only generally, but also individually? But, He really does. He cares about us. He is interested in our lives. He is concerned with our problems and our plans. We are in God’s thoughts today, as incredible as that may seem. He loves us and wants to help us. Not only is He “mindful” of us, but He also wants us to be mindful of Him. He wants us to seek His face and include Him in our ventures. God wants us to consult Him before we act and involve Him in our activities.

Not only has God shown an interest in our lives, but He also has proven His love in the fact that He “visitest him.” Jesus visited this planet to go to the cross and die for our sins, offering eternal life to all who will repent and trust Him for their salvation. The Holy Spirit has come to indwell and empower believers, enabling us to walk in victory and communion with our Savior. How is it that God would be so mindful of us and visit us? As needy creatures, we are the objects of His love, the recipients of His mercy, and the focus of His attention.

GOD IS A REWARDER

“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
Revelation 22:12

God is righteous and just, and He is a rewarder of those who love and faithfully serve Him. As our text says, when Jesus returns, His reward will be with Him. The coming of Christ will bring great reward for His faithful servants. It is God’s nature to reward and bless His children. We should never be in doubt as to this attribute of our Lord.

It is not vain to serve the Lord, and our obedience to Him will not go unnoticed. Referring to our obedience to God’s commands, Psalm 19:11 says, “in keeping of them there is great reward.” We know of those who have questioned the wisdom of life-long service to Christ, but let there be no doubt that the perfect Judge of the universe will aptly reward those who are deserving. Even Peter once asked the Lord very directly about how he might be rewarded for giving so much to the cause of Christ. Jesus responded by saying that every one who has followed Him and has sacrificed to do so, will be rewarded in this life as well as the life to come.

We do not serve the Lord solely for the rewards He has promised. We serve Him because we love Him. We live for Him because He gave His life for us. We follow Him and obey Him because it is the wisest thing we can do with our lives. If there were no rewards we would want to serve Him, but let us be certain of this fact: He will righteously reward the godly. It has been our privilege to know many who have cast their all into this great cause of living for Jesus. Be assured, dear brethren, that He will properly and abundantly reward them in this life as well as in the next.

God’s rewards are not always obvious, but they are certain and they are just. He blesses us with a clear conscience, genuine friends and fellowship, and many victories along the way. He daily loads us with benefits. There is no greater satisfaction and peace than in knowing we are in His will and serving His purpose. But the final and ultimate reward will wait until we take up residence in our eternal home. When we see Him, His reward will be with Him. The words of the familiar song are true, “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus.” May God strengthen us for the journey and find us faithful until the end. Revelation 2:10, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

GOD IS LIFE

“For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.”
John 5:26

God has life in Himself. His life is not derived from any other source. He is self-existent and self-sustained. He was in the beginning when there was none else. He is the Source of life and the Giver of life. God created animal life, aquatic life, and plant life. When the first man was formed, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Our physical life is a gift from God. Life is found in Him. To the grieving family of Lazarus, Jesus referred to Himself as the “resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25). He then raised Lazarus from the dead. When Hezekiah was sick unto death, God added fifteen years to his life. Only God, Who is life, could raise people from the dead or extend a life by an act of His will. About giving His own life, Jesus said, “…I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17, 18).

Not only does God give physical life; He also is the source of spiritual life. Adam was told that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. Disobedience cannot bring life, but rather death. Adam chose to disobey God, and immediately he experienced spiritual death. He continued to live physically, but not spiritually. That death passed upon all men. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Only God can restore spiritual life. Religion alone cannot give life. When a person turns from his sin and trusts Christ as Savior, God instantly gives him spiritual life. This life is everlasting. There is no spiritual life outside of Jesus Christ. He is the Giver of life – physical, spiritual, eternal, and also meaningful. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

The most fulfilling life is found in Jesus Christ. The life He gives is measured both in quantity and quality. This gift of life has no end – either in its duration or in its fulfillment. Our world is filled with people searching for meaning and purpose in the wrong places. Our message is clear and simple. Life is found in Jesus.

GOD IS TRUTHFUL

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”
Titus 1:2

God is truth. It is impossible for God to lie. His promises will never fail. God’s veracity knows no equal. Many have asked, “What is truth?” Jesus told us what truth is. He proclaimed in John 14:6, “I am . . . the truth.” Everything He says is true. “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). God is honest in every way. There is no deception, falsehood, or fiction in Him. God is real and not imaginary. His truth will never change, for “his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). God would have us to know that in every way and in every word, He can be trusted completely. His Word is the standard for truth. The Word of God is the supreme test for every doctrine and every opinion of man. When anyone or anything is in disagreement with the Scripture, we can be certain that the Bible is true. Romans 3:4 says, “let God be true, but every man a liar.” God wants us to know the truth and be people of the truth.

From the beginning, Satan has attempted to cause men to doubt the Word of God. Jesus said of the enemy that he is the father of lies, and there is no truth in him. The devil’s first words to Eve in Genesis 3:1 were “hath God said.” The wiles of our adversary have not changed. He is vigilant in his attempts to cause men to question the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Lies and deception bring men into bondage, but the truth is liberating. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Satan has brought many into bondage through falsehoods and empty promises. In order for us to endure the spiritual attacks of the enemy, we need to be saturated in the truth. The first part of the armor of God mentioned in the Scripture instructs us to have our loins girt about with truth. Multitudes have been led into error because they were not grounded in the truth.

Because God is truth, He hates lying. Lying takes many forms, such as hypocrisy, exaggerations, and deception. God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6). One of the most important commitments we could ever make is a commitment to walk in the truth. We need to be truthful and honest with ourselves, with others, and with God. Because God is truth in its highest and holiest form, if we are to walk with Him, we must walk in sincerity and in the truth.