Monthly Archives: July 2014

Stubbornness is Like… What?

In First Samuel 15 we read concerning the rebellious actions of King Saul. He was given orders from God, failed to follow those orders, yet returned claiming to have kept God’s commands and blaming the disobedience on the people. The most well-remembered verse of that text is verse 22, where the prophet Samuel replies: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” However, an observation of the next verse uncovers a very interesting statement. Samuel continues his speaking for God by stating: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

While stubbornness is generally not viewed as the most ingratiating of attributes, most would not take it so far as to equate it with idolatry. Yet, here God does exactly that, and a little bit of closer examination shows why.

Webster defines the term “stubborn” as: “unreasonably or perversely unyielding; performed or carried on in an unyielding, obstinate, or persistent manner; difficult to handle, manage, or treat.” Therefore, by definition, one who is stubborn is one who is being unreasonable, obstinate, or difficult.

But how does that make stubbornness like idolatry? Consider how that comparison is valid. Idolatry is the worship of an image or creation of man’s hands. Is it giving honor and devotion to someone/something other than God and giving that thing greater authority in your life. Thus, it is an accurate comparison to say that stubbornness is like idolatry: except instead of worshiping some hunk of wood or metal, the one who is being placed on the pedestal is self. A stubborn individual is not concerned with what the right answer is, only what his or her answer is. Once the mind is made up, the stubborn individual is unwilling to change the opinion or decision under consideration. This individual is, as the above definition referenced, one who is unreasonable and unyielding. Such a person is not interested in truth, but in remaining true to one’s own previous conclusions.

There is a difference between being stubborn and having confidence. The confident individual is one who is certain that what is believed or done is correct. However, if shown that it is incorrect, a correction must be made in order for that confidence to remain intact. Nevertheless, the stubborn individual will not make such a correction. Uncaring about the proofs that have been given, this individual will continue down the chosen path no matter what is said, because that is the direction that has been chosen.

Unfortunately, the religious world (both inside and outside of the church) is littered with spiritual stubbornness. For many people you could show them 100 verses that tell them they are wrong in their beliefs; define every term to show them their conclusions are erroneous; and lovingly share with them contextual evidence to show that the way they are using a passage is incorrect; yet they will still stand on their prior declarations and convictions because that is what they have always believed or because that is what mom, dad, or the preacher said.

Saul exhibited stubbornness on multiple occasions and it cost him his throne. We need to learn the lesson that God tried to teach the first king of Israel. Let us be confident in our beliefs and persuaded in our convictions, but may we never become stubborn in our beliefs and opinions. If we allow stubbornness to invade we cease learning, uproot humility, and invite destruction.

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Are you praying for, or preying on, the sins of others?

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

The word translated “fault” in the above verse comes from a Greek word which means “a trespass, a sin, a slip, a lapse.” There are two different kinds of responses to individuals who have sinned, whether the sin was one of wilful intent or an accidental slip. Unfortunately, both are very common. Sometimes the same individual will utilize both of them at different times with different people.

The first type of response is that of preying upon the one who has sinned. Sometimes there are those people who seem to be just waiting for a brother or sister to make a mistake, and once that happens they will not let it go. The offense could be easily fixed, readily repented, and diligently remedied, but these individuals will never let it go. They will always remember and quickly remind others of the mistakes made in the past, forever holding it over the head of the offender. There is no forgiveness in the heart of such people, only malice and wicked intent to shame and degrade a brother or sister who has made mistakes. Such people are described in Scripture as, “backbiters” (Rom. 1:30); those who “sow discord among brethren” (Pro. 6:19); and a “wicked servant” (Mat. 18:21-35). People that respond in this manner are a shame to the body of Christ and should be avoided (Rom. 16:17).

On the other hand there are those that will respond to the aforementioned situation with an attitude of love, care, concern, and prayer. When they learn of an individual’s offense they immediately and diligently pray for that individual, striving to help in any way they can. These individuals take their pleasure, not in the fall of a brother or sister, but in their return. They are the first to rejoice at the time of repentance and they are the greatest asset the brotherhood has. They remember and utilize the necessity of meekness, humility, and mercy; understanding the time will come when they will be the one in need of forgiveness. They understand the importance of that soul returning to a right relationship with God (Jam. 5:19-20), and their greatest desire is that the soul in question might be saved (Rom. 10:1).

Which type of respondent are you? It is possible for us to respond one way to the person with which we are extremely close, but the opposite way toward the one with whom we have had disagreements in the past. Yet, if we truly have the love of Christ, the grace of God, and the mercy of salvation living within us, the only response we can give is the latter one. Let us always remember our greatest objective: to see mankind right in the sight of God; and may we never respond in a way that is detrimental to that goal.

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The Great Train Wreck of 1918

On this date in 1918 what has often been called the worst rail accident in U.S. history occurred in Nashville, TN. It took place when the No. 4 train from Nashville collided at full speed with the No. 1 train from Memphis. 101 people were killed in the wreck and more than 170 were injured.

In the ensuing investigation it was found that the No. 1 train was 35 minutes behind schedule. Because of this, when the No. 4 train came through the last checkpoint before the wreck, the tower operator waived them through with an “all-clear,” not realizing the No. 1 train had not yet come through. By the time the error was discovered, the train had passed and there was no way to get word to the engineers on either train.

At that time, the train engineers were absolutely dependent upon the tower operators for information about whether the tracks were clear to proceed. They had to maintain absolute confidence in them and trust what they had received because they had no way of knowing the information personally.

Unfortunately, many people do the same thing spiritually today. They take the word of their friends, family, or preacher as the truth for what track they should take. As long as they get the “all-clear” from that trusted source, they believe everything is okay.

What if those sources are wrong? It may not be intentional on their part, but it can happen. Will you know of the danger ahead? Will you be able to change course? That is why John wrote of the necessity to test the things we are told to make sure they are from God (1 John 4:1). The Bereans did this (Acts 17:11) and were commended for it. Do not make the mistake of taking someone else’s word as a substitute for what God said, always check it out for yourself.

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My Favorite Sermon

Last week I had the opportunity to hear my favorite sermon preached yet again. It has been preached by many men in many places. It has utilized various texts over the years and has reached into the hearts of millions as it has been proclaimed. You see, my favorite sermon is not one from a particular text or on a specific topic, it is the sermon that is preached at the funeral of a righteous Christian.

All of us face death at some point in our lives. We certainly will face our own death if time persists, but we also have to face the death of those that we know and love as the years progress. The funeral sermon is one that all have heard to one degree or another, but the funeral sermon for the righteous man or woman is different.

The funeral sermon for the unrighteous is riddled with regret, sadness, and warning. While some try to preach the unrighteous into Heaven to console the family, God’s preacher has no such option. Therefore, it has often been said (and correctly so) that the most difficult sermon for most preachers is the sermon at the funeral of a lost individual. It torments the heart and saddens the soul.

On the other hand, the sermon for the righteous is one filled with joy, thanksgiving, praise, and honor. It is an opportunity to remember a life filled with godliness and positive influence. It is an opportunity to praise the Creator of all men for the blessings bestowed and the promises given. It is an opportunity to give thanks for the blessing the righteous soul had been to the lives of those they touched. It is an opportunity to share in the joy of the knowledge of the release from pain, sorrow, and trial upon this earth.

It is because of these wonderful blessings that such a sermon is my favorite. John wrote, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord… that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13); and the Psalmist recorded: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psa. 116:15). Such an occasion is truly a time when both Heaven and Earth can equally rejoice for the same reason.

So, now that you know what my favorite sermon is and why, let me ask you to think on a very important question. If you were to die today, would I get to hear my favorite sermon at your funeral?

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