Question: Do you have someone you look up to for his/her courage? I have several people in my life that inspire me in terms of courage. I had a fellow officer on a deployment to Afghanistan some time back that remains one of those men. When pressured to go along with some unwise practices, he kept to the high road; he did not acquiesce; he upheld his oath. What abides with me most about him, however, even more than our oath as officers, is the way he maintained his honor. He spoke the truth and did so at significant personal costs. He was maligned at the time by some peers for his principled stand, and yet he endured. I saw him again recently after many months. We caught up. And my respect for him increased even more. He continues to keep to the high road. Compromising on matters of honor and integrity is not in his wheelhouse. And I am grateful to him and for him for that. I saw a man whose honorable works matched his honorable words.
Scripture: In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, especially in the book of Proverbs, the literary device is of a wise father teaching his son. In Proverbs 24, the father says,
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:10-12, ESV)
So many lessons are here:
- Adversity comes, so be steadfast. Don’t “faint” amidst the trials.
- Guard those in your keep.
- Remember that God sees all. Our motives are known to God almighty.
- Holy God will mete out justice.
Our works demonstrate our character. As the half-brother of our Lord Jesus said, “ … faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26b). People demonstrate their faith through their works. And God repays justly.
Connections: When we survey the current climate, we see the results of various ideas/faiths/worldviews. We see the works. This week I read the news online and was met with the following:
- ‘Hands-off’ strategy in Portland, Oregon regarding ANTIFA despite destruction
- Disgraced Cuomo commutes sentences of convicted murderers in New York
- Kabul, Afghanistan airport terror threats ‘very real’
- American woman stranded in Kabul, beaten by Taliban
The list goes on and on. These are the works of our hands. Does God not see? Do you think God won’t repay/is not repaying? So, where are the adults? Where is courage? Where is clarity? Where is conviction? “Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” What do these works say? Do they say that we’ve a mature mind, honorable leaders, and self-disciplined citizens? Or do the works demonstrate the follies of abandoning God and subsequently being abandoned by God?
Encouragement: The good news remains where it has always been, however—in the gospel. When the prophet Jeremiah spent his years of telling the truth to Israel and Judah in 600s-580s B.C., and when his nation was being judged by Assyria and then Babylon, and when he saw Jerusalem destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the temple desecrated, he continued to herald the good news for all with ears to hear:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV)
That is good news for all who are in Christ, to all who are grafted into the true vine. Listen to the words of Christ Himself who laid it out plainly:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:4-6, ESV)
One of great benefits of truth is that it does not change. It is steadfast, sure, unchangeable. The God of truth does not change. And He calls out through His gospel to those whose works only reveal their own lostness and folly. He said it through Jeremiah; He said it through Solomon; He said it through Jesus’ incarnation; He said it through the resurrection of Christ from the tomb: God will repay according to our works if we refuse Him. But for all who will repent and believe upon the One whom He has sent, the Lord Jesus, God in the flesh, we receive the benefits of Jesus’s works instead of our own. In short, redemption purchased and applied to us who flee to God in the gospel of Christ. There alone, we sinners who are in Christ are reconciled … and it’s all according to His work, not ours. And for that the praises of all the redeemed will utter, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”