TAKE THE LOWER ROOM

“But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Luke 14:10, 11

When people were invited to a special occasion, it was customary for the more honorable guests to be seated in the higher rooms, and those with less honor to take the lower seats. Jesus used this tradition as a backdrop to teach a lesson about humility. He taught that it would be wise to take the lowest room. Then when the person who invited you comes, he can direct you to the place of higher honor.

We should never exalt ourselves, yet we know that it is a part of our fallen human nature to do that very thing. Our natural tendency is to think that our opinions, our needs, and our feelings are more important than those of others. This is why the Bible has so much to say about the danger of pride. Pride tends to exalt self, to place self before others. This was, of course, the thing that caused Lucifer to rebel against God. Jesus tells us that if we exalt ourselves, we will be abased or humbled. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Several places in the Bible describe how God actually resisted the proud, but gave grace to the humble.

In our text, Jesus is teaching about the importance of humbling ourselves. This is something we can do. This is something we must do. God can arrange for circumstances that will humble us, but we are to take the initiative against our pride and humble ourselves. We can choose to humble ourselves. This is an attitude adjustment that we can make. Pride is not just something that is publicly seen in the way we look for recognition or the most prestigious seat of honor. These things are only the external evidences or manifestations of pride. Pride should be first identified or recognized when it is in our hearts. When we see this tendency to exalt ourselves, we must be diligent to judge ourselves and deliberately humble ourselves. If we do not humble ourselves, then God will have to see to it that we are humbled. If we intentionally take the lower room, God will ensure that we are honored.

WHO ARE THE TROUBLEMAKERS?

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.”
I Kings 18:17, 18

We can certainly relate to this understanding gap, or the difference in opinion in Elijah’s day. Elijah had announced to King Ahab that due to the sin of the king and the disobedience of the people, God would be sending a drought upon the land. More than three years later, Elijah went to meet Ahab. At this meeting, Ahab suggested that Elijah was the source of Israel’s trouble, questioning, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” Elijah saw it in a completely different way. He said that Israel’s trouble was not caused by himself, but was due to the disobedience of Ahab and those like him.

This is very typical of what we see and hear in our world every day. To the unsaved, one of the greatest problems in society is the presence of conservative Bible believers. You can honestly hear more criticism from many liberal politicians against the conservative Christians than you will hear against the terrorists, abortionists, or those who produce and peddle pornography.

We would have to respectfully disagree. We do not think that calling for an end to abortion on demand is troubling America. Nor, do we see that clarifying our position on marriage, as being legal only between a man and a woman, is causing trouble for our country. We do not believe the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places will have a destructive effect on the United States. We do not believe that we are the troublemakers. We believe that the troublemakers are those who deny the moral absolutes and traditional family values that have been a part of the fabric of this nation. Those who are troubling our society are those who reject the absolute standard of truth in the Word of God. Our country has been troubled by those who have removed the Bible and prayer from the public schools.

This cultural war and moral disconnect have been growing in our beloved country for many years. None of us want to be troublemakers, and no one should be deliberately
antagonistic. However, it is vitally important that we stand for truth, let our voices be heard, and not be intimidated by those who call us troublemakers.

MORE AND MORE

“Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”
I Thessalonians 4:1

Paul is admonishing the members of the church in Thessalonica to “abound more and more” in the way they were walking and pleasing God. We all are to be increasing in our spiritual growth and development. There is never a time in our lives when we should think we have arrived, or have no interest in growing in our knowledge of God, application of biblical principles, or obedience. Numerous times in the Word of God, we are challenged with the responsibility of progressing in such things as brotherly love, pleasing God, holiness, etc.

The word abound is used to describe an overflowing or superabundant increase. We are challenged to become more and more godly. What a great challenge for every sincere follower of Christ! There is always room to grow in grace. Even if we love more than we have ever loved, we can love even more. If we are more deliberately seeking to please God, there is still room for improvement. The basic lesson is that we should never take the position that we have no room for progress. How much patience do we have? How diligent has God helped us to become? Have we learned to endure and persevere in difficulties? Have we found the grace to love those who criticize? Are we responding to those in authority better than before? Have we been trusting the Lord more and worrying less? Praise the Lord! However, that does not mean there is not more work to be done and more grace to be experienced.

This lesson provides for a balanced approach to our view of spiritual progress. We need to realize that maturity will take time, and progress is sometimes measured in small steps. At the same time, we must never become satisfied with our spiritual level – realizing that should be increasing more and more. Complacency and apathy are the enemies of spiritual maturity. We must be careful to remember what the goal is for our Christian journey. The objective is not simply to have better character than we had before we were saved. God’s will is that we be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Let’s accept the challenge to cooperate with God’s plan of continual progress, and be willing to “abound more and more.”

LITTLE BY LITTLE

“I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.”
Exodus 23:29, 30

God had delivered His people out of their Egyptian bondage and eventually brought them back to the land that was promised to Abraham. He protected them and led them along, and drove out their enemies before them. Interestingly, God would not have the occupation of the land be accomplished suddenly. It would be done gradually, little by little. This is not the way we would prefer that things be done, but it is most often the way God wants it done. God made it clear to Moses that they had neither the number nor the might to maintain the land if they inherited it at once. They needed to increase, that they might be able to occupy the land successfully.

This rule of occupation aptly describes the way things sometimes progress in our lives. Recent generations have been characterized by many as “instant” generations.
Innovation has changed the way we live and has reduced the time for many common things. We can be anywhere in our country in only a few hours. We send e-mail
correspondence to friends in other countries in a matter of seconds. A microwave oven can heat a meal in a couple of minutes. Digital cameras can produce instant images, without the need for processing. However, if you desire to use the old-fashioned way, you can still have your film developed in less than an hour. Packages can be delivered, almost anywhere, overnight. We are not accustomed to waiting or exercising patience. There are some things, however, that will never be instantaneous. No matter how many generations come and go, “by little and little” will always describe the pace of things like the building of character and spiritual maturity.

It takes time to develop character, and it takes time to produce maturity in the life of a believer. It is realized “by little and little.” Little decisions, little steps, little lessons, and little acts of obedience are the things that will eventually be recognized as maturity. God wants us to learn to be patient and persistent. We should not expect overnight maturity and godliness, but we should be pleased with consistent and noticeable progress. Little by little, with God’s help, we will see the victory.

HE KNOWS WHO IS TRUSTING

“The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
Nahum 1:7

In Nahum’s prophecy, he announced the utter destruction of Nineveh. The Scripture describes the time as a “day of trouble.” People who do not know their Bibles have no concept of the severity of God’s chastisement or judgment that will one day be poured out on this Christ-rejecting world. In spite of the terrible judgment that Nahum pronounced, he reminds us that God is also merciful. The Bible declares, “The LORD is good.” What a true statement! God is good. It cannot be overstated. God is always good. We may not always understand what He does and what He allows, and we may not always agree with the things He does; but we know that He is good. Even in times of trouble, God is good.

Goodness is not just what God does, but it is what He is. Nahum also says that God is “a strong hold in the day of trouble.” He is an anchor in times of difficulty and uncertainty. Trouble can come to any of our lives. As a matter of fact, it will come to all of our lives. We live in perilous times. International terrorism has awakened us to the reality of trouble, both at home and abroad. Thank God we are not alone to our own resources or devices in times of trouble. God is our strong hold. He is an anchor in the time of storm.

Nahum also tells us that the Lord observes our faith: “he knoweth them that trust in him.” The nation would be dealt with severely by the hand of God Almighty. Yet, wherever He could find those who were trusting Him, it would not go unseen. Of course, we realize that nothing escapes the all-seeing eyes of our Creator; but it is comforting to know that whenever we are trusting in the Lord, He is aware. Maybe you have wondered if God knows where you are and what you are going through. He does know; and if you are trusting Him, He knows that as well. He is able to show Himself strong on behalf of those who are depending on Him.

What are we to do in times of conflict and affliction? When chastisement comes to a people, God’s people are not exempt from the consequences. Famines in the Bible
affected the righteous as well as the wicked. God wants us to trust Him when troubles come. We cannot please God without faith. When He sees us relying on Him in our days of difficulty, He knows “them that trust in him.”

WHERE ARE THE NINE?

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?”
Luke 17:15-17

Thanksgiving Day is one of the favorite holidays in our country. It encourages each of us to do something we know we need to do more of – offer thanks to God. Thanksgiving should be something we do daily, and even continually, not annually. The act of giving thanks reminds us to take inventory and see how good God has been to us. It is good for us to count our blessings and remember the many benefits God has provided. Where would we be without the good hand of God working in our lives?

The Scripture records the story of some lepers who failed to give God thanks, and it is a personal warning to all of us about the danger of ingratitude. Leprosy is a truly dreadful disease, and one can only imagine the joy that would come from being completely cured. Such was the case in this Scripture. All ten of these men cried out to Jesus for mercy, and He answered their plea. However, only one of them returned to give thanks and glory to God.

How could this be, that nine of the lepers failed to return and thank the Great Physician who healed their diseased bodies? There are probably many explanations, but let’s consider just one. It is very common for men to focus more on the blessings received, than on the One who sends the blessings. If we try, we can imagine how it must have felt to be healed of leprosy. The lepers had been isolated because of the disease, separated from families and friends. They lived a life of loneliness and rejection, and endured continual pain. When they found themselves cured, perhaps all they could think about was seeing their families, visiting friends, and making up for time that was lost.

There is nothing wrong with appreciating what God has done, but how wrong it is to think more of the gift than of the Giver. God has been so good to us. He has blessed us immeasurably. Of all the benefits we have received, none can compare to the gift of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. As leprosy is a truly dreadful disease, so is the dreadful disease of ingratitude. May God help us to always be mindful of the One who has healed our souls.

THE EFFECT OF MUSIC

“And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee. But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.”
II Kings 3:14, 15

The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom were going to battle against the king of Moab. As this great company traveled, they found themselves in desperate need of water. The kings decided to visit Elisha to see if he had a word from the Lord for them. As they were seeking counsel from the man of God, Elisha recognized that he needed to get himself in the right frame of mind to advise them. He called for a minstrel, and it was “when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.”

Elisha understood the benefit of proper music. Godly music can have a calming effect on us, and help us mentally and spiritually. We all have times when we need to calm ourselves or get relief from the stress that is so much a part of our lives. Elisha had no respect for some of the men who came to him. The Bible tells us that if it were not for the fact that Jehoshaphat was among them, Elisha would have given them no attention. One can imagine how difficult it might have been for anyone, including the mighty prophet of God, to remove his personal feelings and position his mind and heart where he could be an instrument of God. God’s servant knew that music would help him do this.

It is a wise person who recognizes the power and influence of good music. We know that God can speak to us through the message of music, but good music can also prepare us to receive the Word of God. This is one of the primary purposes of music in the worship service. Congregational music allows the participants to worship the Lord personally through singing, and the message of the church music program should edify and encourage sound doctrine. But, the music should also prepare us to hear God’s Word through preaching. The right music provides a spiritual atmosphere conducive to meeting with and hearing from the Lord. In the Scripture, it was used to drive away the presence of evil. Ungodly music can be counterproductive, grieving the Spirit of God. In our personal lives, homes, or in our churches, we should seek to employ the kind of music that is pleasing to God.

NOT SINNING WITH OUR LIPS

“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”
Job 2:9, 10

In so many ways, Job serves as a great example for us. We learn from his testing and experience that good people, even godly people, will have difficulty and hardships in their lives. Whenever we think our trials are intense, we need to remember what Job had to face. Most of our trials pale in comparison to the heartache and loss that came to God’s servant, Job. If the thought ever crosses our minds that our tests are too much for us to handle, we can recall what Job was able to endure.

We are also greatly benefited as we see how Job behaved when his world came crashing in. After a tidal wave of tragedy overtook Job and his wife suggested that he “curse God, and die,” Job did not “sin with his lips.” In the great trial of his life, Job did not sin with his words. We may not always think of how serious it is when we sin with our lips, but in reality, this is one of the most common areas of transgression. Our words and conversations can be as wicked as our actions.

How is it that we sin with our lips? Of course, we would readily admit that profanity and vulgarity would be considered sinful words, but there are other, more common ways that we sin with our lips. One of the familiar ways that we sin with our lips is complaining. Numbers 11:1 says, “… when the people complained, it displeased the LORD.” We all have been guilty of complaining. We may also sin with our lips when we accuse God concerning the circumstances of our lives. Job’s wife urged her husband to “curse God.” We may not understand all the ways of our perfect and holy Father, but we know that His way is perfect and that He is in control. God is good, regardless of what comes our way. Another way we sin with our lips is failing to praise or thank God for the blessings He sends. Job was faithful, even in his heartache, to give God praise and thanks.

We must learn to carefully and consistently judge the words of our mouths. Rather than being guilty of uttering things that are displeasing to God, we need to use our words to glorify the Lord and edify others.

THE BREAD OF LIFE

“I am that bread of life. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
John 6:48, 51

The religious people who heard Jesus had some of the same struggles that many have in our day. They were trusting in their tradition and heritage and did not recognize Jesus as the Christ and the Savior of the world. Jesus told them that their responsibility was to trust in Him. They boasted of the way God had given their fathers manna, or bread from Heaven, to eat. This was such an incredible miracle and testimony of God’s provision for the needs of His people. Day by day, for all those many years of their wilderness wanderings, hundreds of thousands of Israelites were sustained by God’s supply of bread. But, Jesus wanted them to see that the manna was a type or picture of His supply for their lives, and identified Himself as the “bread of life.” Manna could sustain for physical life, but only Jesus could provide eternal life.

Numerous valuable truths are found in this powerful teaching. The passage clearly identifies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Bread that “came down from heaven.” He came from Heaven because He is eternally co-existent with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. We also see the importance of Christ’s death on the cross. He said that the bread that He would give is His flesh, which He would give “for the life of the world.” The bread that He offered was not for Israel alone, but for every sinner that ever lived.

Jesus would have to die for our sins in order that we might live. This is the way of salvation, through faith in His death and resurrection. To be saved, one must believe on Christ. He would have to trust in Him, not in tradition or religion. It is by faith that we partake of His offer, “if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” When a person trusts Christ, and Him alone for salvation, he immediately receives eternal life.

The manna also serves as a great reminder of our dependence on the Lord. As the manna was provided daily for Israel, God also provides daily for our spiritual nourishment. They would go out early every morning and gather the day’s provisions. God provides for our daily encouragement and direction as we faithfully spend time with Him, partaking of His sufficiency.

BE STILL

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

This command, to be still, would appear on the surface to be very easy to obey. However, in many cases, being still does not necessarily come naturally, especially for those who are action-oriented or highly motivated. Most of us are innately inclined to be active. We do not usually associate being still as a particularly productive activity. However, God knows what is best for us and instructs us to be still. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to be still.

One reason we may need to be still is to get a more godly or biblical perspective. We need to become more “God conscious.” The psalmist was told to “Be still, and know that I am God.” It is in being still that we are able to get to know the Lord. It is common for us, even in our devoted service to God, to become so task-oriented that we neglect our personal fellowship with God. The work of the ministry can become a substitute for spiritual devotion. When that occurs, it is necessary that we be still. It is in our stillness that we get closer in touch with God and realize that He is the source of our wisdom, and that our victory is entirely dependent on Him. Being still promotes faith and worship.

Being still helps us avoid the snare of flesh-oriented service and also the pride that can develop in those who are not humbly dependent on the Lord. We need to remember that God has not called us simply to be active. The unsaved can be active. Social programs with no Gospel are active. We are to be actively involved in the Lord’s will, but activity alone is not the objective.

There must be times when we can put everything else on hold and simply be still. Even in our attempt to spend time alone with the Lord, we can find that responsibilities and opportunities are clamoring for our attention. Jesus was an example of the importance of protecting times of solitude. “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). There were times when Jesus saw the need of pulling the disciples aside that they might rest and be refreshed from the daily drain of “people ministry.” For those who are involved in serving the Lord, being still is not a luxury; it is a necessity, and the source of our strength and perspective.