The Struggle for Steadfastness in Life
Let us re-read from our Call to Worship, Psalm 95: 6-7, and continuing through v. 11
Oh come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me: they tried Me though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘it is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest.”
This passage is telling us some foundationally important aspects of the struggle for steadfastness of faith and decision in the life of every person, and particularly every man and woman of God. This passage is a foray into the sophisticated and intricate ways in which life challenges our faith, by challenging our double-mindedness. This passage explains how we achieve the stability in life that only comes from bringing ourselves into the Presence of God, into His throne room to receive His Wisdom, His Wise Counsel, believing in Him, in our single-mindedness, not double-mindedness (see James 1:5-8). That stability is a direct result of steadfastness of faith and decision, which only comes from single-mindedness about God’s word and will!
Let’s pick out these foundationally important aspects of the struggle for steadfastness of faith and decision in our lives:
- God is God, our God and Creator.
- We are His people – corporately and individually.
- We are directed to humble ourselves before Him.
- We are directed to worship Him.
- We see His works and miracles in our lives.
- We have a choice, an option, to listen to God, to hear (and read) His word.
- We have a choice whether to harden our hearts.
- If we make the choice to harden our hearts against God’s word, we are testing God and trying His patience and mercy.
- By hardening our hearts against God’s word, if that is the choice we make/made, God will not allow us to enter our rest. Will we be in that generation that rises up, to take its place with selfless faith?.
We know that God’s word says that God is our healer (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24), and many of us have witnessed and personally experienced God’s miraculous healings of our physical wounds and diseases, of our childhood and adult woundings and guilts, or our emotional imbalances and lack of self-control. Thus, like the Israelites in Psalm 95, and in the Exodus and desert travel, we, too, have seen His work! So we ought to embrace, in faith, God for who He says He is, also, because we have seen the proof!! Yet not all do that: many are distracted (yielding to double-mindedness), by an unwillingness to walk away from bondage (our personal Exodus) and through the desert of life with its tribulations, threats and temptations. We are not alone in our distraction to unbelief and resulting disobedience and rebellion against God: in 2 Kings 1, we have the history of Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:51-53 tells us Ahaziah was King of Israel in Samaria, reigning for only two years, who did evil in the sight of the Lord, made Israel sin, served Baal and worshipped him and provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger). In 2 Kings 1:2, we learn that King Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room and was injured and sent messengers to go to Baal and inquire whether he would be healed of this injury or not. The messengers returned early because they encountered the prophet Elijah, who told them, as God instructed him (verses 3-4), “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of BaalZebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore, thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up and you shall surely die.’” The messengers reported this to King Ahaziah, and he sent several companies of soldiers, in sequence, to see Elijah and bring him to the king, and he called down fire from heaven to burn them up. The fire came and each of the several companies of soldiers was burned up. The last captain and company of soldiers to come to Elijah, verses 13-14, humbled himself, and acknowledged that Elijah was a ‘Man of God’ and asked that their lives be preserved. In the ensuing verses, we learn, in the history of King Ahaziah, that an angel of the Lord visited Elijah and told him to go with the captain to King Ahaziah and to speak the word of the Lord directly to him. Elijah did so, and King Ahaziah heard it and then promptly died.
You wonder what would have happened here if Ahaziah had repented and changed his life and led the people of Israel in Samaria to Jehovah God, instead of living and dying in the hardness of his heart, in rebellion to Jehovah God.
In the New Testament, in the latter part of Hebrews 3 and in Hebrews 4, we find a further explication of the message of Psalm 95, and I encourage you to review it this week, noting the congruence of the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Now, I am going to review with you a few related Scriptures, and then we will see how they apply to this issue and difficulty of being steadfast in our faith, as we struggle to mature our Christian Character that we may be steadfast in life:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who have Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.Titus 2:11-15
[Biblical rebuking should be accompanied by Biblical exhortin/encouraging.]
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.I John 1:9
But with balance as to Romans 6:1-4
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
[“Newness of life” describes not only the change to life with the risen Christ, in our salvation, but also describes the constant changes as we struggle with our faith, and grow in steadfastness and maturity in our faith, growing in ever-newness of Christian Character!]
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast (not double-minded) and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.Colossians 1:21-23
We have struggles, perhaps, from time to time, with unbelief, and then with continuing in the faith, in not getting moved away from the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the tribulations, temptations and threats come against our flesh and souls. We must ask ourselves if we are going to have faith without works (James 2:26), if we are going to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14), we, in order to live righteously and godly in the present age – our generation –(Titus 2:12), we will honor God with humility and worship, and hearing from him, and extending our faith in obedience. Or, Proverbs 19:3, “The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.” One or the other.
Each of us frequently faces tests of steadfastness in faith: Have we made a mistake of carefulness and been struggling with whether to admit it, own up to it, and accept responsibility for it? Have we made a mistake based on anger, greed, lust or arrogance – a knowing and intentional sin – and been struggling with whether to admit it, own up to it, and accept responsibility for it? Have we allowed (James 1:14-15) our own desires of flesh and soul to fester and entice us away to sin and death, without preemptively (Romans 6:1-2) denying ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11) and taking those desires and temptations to the foot of the Cross and asking God to remove them from us, from our sight? Have we lied to cover up our mistakes of carelessness and intentional sin (Proverbs 13:5)? Have we nurtured lust in our heart that was adultery – physical, emotional, or spiritual – itself? Have we done any or all these things – or one or more of a myriad of others – without stopping them preemptively or repenting afterwards (John 1:9)? The question really asked is this: (Romans 6:4), Are we – you and me – truly walking in newness of life. Are we ourselves, and other people, and God, noticing that from day to day, from glory to glory, we are not the same today as we were yesterday, we are changed, walking each day in the certainty of our redemption, and in extended faith that we will deal with issues of sin in our lives from a place of stableness, single-mindedness as to the word and will of God, being grounded and steadfast in our faith? It is a struggle, and neither I nor you, nor other Christians are immune from the struggle. It is a struggle for steadfastness in the faith as we mature in our Christian Character into the fullness of Jesus Christ Himself . The admonition is from the song we sang today, and often sing, “trading my sorrows, shame, sickness and pain – in the Glory of the Lord!“. That admonition is also in Hebrews 6:12: Do not become sluggish but imitate those – not King Ahaziah – who through faith and patience inherit the promises of God!
All these things are examples of struggles of being steadfast, grounded, stable in our faith – which, James 1:5, is wisdom for life! This comes from drawing night unto the Lord, into His Presence, knowing He will draw nigh unto us and guide us in His Wise Counsel, His Wisdom!