Patience isn’t passive.

One could make the argument that no one has ever been more patient than David was after being anointed the next king of Israel. Consider the fact that he went back to one of the lowest of jobs – shepherding sheep – after being anointed. He ran errands for his father after being anointed. He had his wife taken from him and given to another man after being anointed. He had his life threatened and nearly taken from him by a murderous lunatic, King Saul, after being anointed. He lived life on the run, even hiding in caves after being anointed.

Furthermore, David had multiple opportunities to essentially end all of his problems by killing Saul – opportunities that could hardly have been easier (1 Samuel 24, 26). Yet, David chose to trust God’s timing and obey God’s calling on his life, not taking matters into his own hands but instead being patient in the Lord.

David was not passive in his patience, though. In other words, he did not just sit back and do nothing while trusting in and waiting on God to accomplish His will. Instead, David worked hard. He honored and obeyed God. He wisely gained allies and protected his life. He boldly spoke truth and called for justice. He bravely fought to defend God’s honor and protect God’s people. And, David did all of this while still not being recognized by Israel as king and instead being in danger of losing his life at the hands of King Saul.

Patience is not passive. Rather, patience is actively suffering in faithful obedience to the Word of God. Biblical patience is enduring difficulty by trusting God’s perfect plan.

Lord willing, on Sunday morning I will be preaching from 1 Samuel 24 on “Suffering in Obedience,” challenging those who listen to walk in daily obedience to God’s Word through daily dependence on Him. David was not a superhero who had super power and super patience. David trusted and relied on God and was controlled by the Holy Spirit. That is how David was able to patiently endure his suffering with faithful obedience.

Are you trusting and depending on God in the midst of the trials you are facing? Patient endurance will not last unless you do. Every single one of us, without exception, needs Jesus. We need him for our salvation from sin and eternal death, and we need Him for daily victory over sin and temptation.

Do not confuse patience and faith, though, with laziness and apathy. Patience is not passive, as we must daily, actively seek God and surrender to His authority over our lives.

As I was reading through 1 Samuel 24 this week, a biblical prayer kept coming to mind. And so, when I preach Sunday morning, I will encourage you to pray five things you can and should pray in order to walk in obedience, no matter your circumstances.

Hope to see you Sunday morning! If you are unable to join us for worship, you can also listen to the message, which will be posted later that day HERE.

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Is He undeniable in your life?

“Everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on earth below” (Rahab as quoted in Joshua 2:11).

When Rahab was talking to the Israelite spies in Joshua 2, she shared about the great fear the people of Jericho had. Was it because of the mighty strength of the Israelites? No. Rather, it was because of the mighty God they served. Because of what God accomplished in and through Israel, the people of Jericho were terrified of Israel. They were panicking because God was fighting for Israel.

God was undeniable in the life of Israel, and people could not help but notice. Is He undeniable in your life?

Do people see God at work in your life in such a way that He cannot be denied? Do you point people to Him? Does He get the credit and the glory He deserves?

If we sincerely follow and serve the Lord faithfully, then I believe more and more people will take notice. What will happen then? If God is undeniable in our lives, people will likely either respond to Him in repentance and faith or in fear and rejection.

Is He undeniable in your life?

Genuine faith in God will prove itself in various ways, but perhaps the most obvious and noticeable way is in how you treat others. In John 13:35, Jesus Christ said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” How do you treat others in the body of Christ? Is God undeniable in your sacrificial love for His church?

If you want God to be undeniable in your life, be sure you have surrendered your life to His Son, and trust Him to grow you through the power of His Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Do you have the fruit of the Spirit? If you have the Spirit, He will grow the fruit.

That kind of fruit is certainly undeniable, and living a life of faith and dependence on the Lord will prove Him to be undeniable before others. To God be the glory!

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David vs. Goliath isn’t about March Madness.

We have all heard it before. Maybe, we have even said it ourselves. “It’s a battle of David vs. Goliath!” Whether it is the big school vs. the small school, or it is the seemingly great team vs. the not-so-great team, this time of year seems to be the time more than any other when I hear about David vs. Goliath. March Madness!

After all, David of Bethlehem was a teenager who probably was not much more than five feet tall, and Goliath of Gath was at least nearly seven feet tall and possibly over nine feet tall. Goliath wore armor that probably weighed as much as David. His spear was about 15 times heavier than the normal spear used during that time. David was the ultimate underdog when he entered the battlefield to face Goliath.

While we all understand why this well-known story is referred to in underdog scenarios, I fear we are missing a very important point when we make this story about basketball. More importantly, we miss the point when we make this story about us.

David vs. Goliath is not recorded in the Bible to make us look inward for courage and strength. David vs. Goliath is recorded in the Bible to make us look upward to the Lord God Almighty.

The reality is, we are all much more likely to behave like Goliath than we are to behave like David. In our sinful, prideful nature, we are prone to think we have it all figured out and can “do all things” through our hard work, accomplishments, acquired skills, preparations, etc. Yes, we would all like to think of ourselves as David, but the truth is that we are more like Goliath – doing things our way rather than God’s way. If that happens to be the case, then we, too, like Goliath, will fall.

Sunday, Lord willing, I will just-so-happen to be preaching from 1 Samuel 17 on the story of David vs. Goliath. While March Madness will not be a part of my message, I cannot help but think of the reminders that both of these well-known events bring.

But, David vs. Goliath is not about March Madness. David vs. Goliath is not even about you or about me. David vs. Goliath is about God. In fact, David the victor points us to Jesus the Victor, the perfect descendant of David who conquered our greatest enemies – sin and death.

David defeated Goliath because God was with him and because God is faithful and in control. Do not make yourself out to be David. Rather, trust in the same God in whom David trusted, and experience the victorious faith that only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.

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Grumbling and Humbling

From where does your joy come? What makes you dance with excitement and childlike jubilation? Our son Silas loves to make other people laugh, which is why he danced (above) for us on video a few weeks ago.

Consider what makes you want to dance, though. Then, what if that was suddenly gone? What if that circumstance that gives you great joy was changed, bringing about humiliation rather than jubilation?

Naturally, our first response in situations like that is to grumble, right? We are quick to complain when things do not go our way. If we do not feel like dancing (whether outwardly or inwardly), then we feel like complaining.

“I should not have to do this! Why me?”

…or…

“I cannot believe that this happened to me!”

Imagine, though, if we could respond to adversity and uncertainty with patience and humility, rather than self-entitlement and complaining. Impossible, right? Not if we look to the Lord for our joy and contentment.

Consider David in 1 Samuel 16-17. He had just been chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to be the next king over Israel. Yet, he continued to honor his father by shepherding the family’s sheep and did seemingly unworthy tasks like running errands. Those are not jobs fit for a king!

Yet, it does not appear that David grumbled or made his case for why he should have been treated differently. He did what he was told to do, no matter how humiliating it was. How? Well, the answer to that question surely must be seen in 1 Samuel 16:13, which says, “…and the Spirit of the Lord took control of David from that day forward.”

How can you respond to difficulty with humility and contentment and not with complaining and self-entitlement? Only by God’s grace. Only by the help of His Holy Spirit working in your heart.

Two verses we teach our kids to memorize at a young age are Paul’s words in Philippians 2:14-15 – “Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.”

Lord willing, I will be preaching on “Serving in Humility” (1 Samuel 16:14 – 17:19) Sunday morning, and I hope to challenge my hearers to not grumble but rather be humble when facing times of difficulty and/or uncertainty. We can learn a lot from King David, as his life points us to the ultimate King – King Jesus.

Know and follow Jesus, and seek His help to serve in humility no matter your circumstances. Jump for joy not because of who you are or because of what you can do, but rather because of who Jesus is and because of what Jesus has done and will eternally do.

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We can’t do anything we put our minds to.

Silas (above) and Zoe (below) are playing Upward Basketball at a local church this winter and learning a lot about teamwork, fundamentals, discipline, and faith, thanks to great coaches like my wife, Marsha.

Now, when kids play sports, especially if they enjoy playing and hope to be great, people tend to say things like, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

Is that wise counsel, though? I do not believe it is because the truth is that you cannot do anything you put your mind to, and I cannot either. In fact, we can do absolutely nothing apart from the grace and help of God.

If there was any man who seemed like he could do anything he put his mind to, King Saul was surely that man, was he not? But, as is clearly recorded in 1 Samuel 13 and following, King Saul had a tragic downfall. In fact, he became the villain – the enemy of God.

King David, on the other hand, was not someone you would think of, at least at first, as someone who could do anything he put his mind to. And, the reality was, he too could not do anything he put his mind to. Sure, he did amazing things, but how? Well, by the grace and help of God. Not until after the Spirit of God took control of David did he do the incredible things people still talk about today.

The story of King David is not a story to inspire us to think we can do great things. Rather, the story of King David ought to remind us that we serve a great God.

God can do anything He puts His mind to, including use ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things. Do not believe in yourself. Believe in Him.

Start by making sure you have a genuine, born-again relationship with Him, and continue by trusting and surrendering to Him each day. Only He is sufficient to enable you to reach your full potential in Him.

Will Silas and Zoe be basketball superstars some day. It is possible but statistically unlikely. Who cares, though? More importantly, they are learning about a super God – the One who can do all things, the One who never fails, and the One who loves us so much that He sent His One and only Son to die for our sins.

We cannot do anything we put our minds to, but we serve a God who can. He, not our abilities or accomplishments, holds our eternal destiny in His hands.

Why won’t God answer?

Have you prayed for God’s help in making a decision or experiencing a certain result, only to get no answer? This has surely happened to all of us, has it not?

What was or is your response, then? Anger? Frustration? Confusion? Disappointment?

What should be your response? Patience? Faith? Obedience?

Every situation, at least to some degree, is different, so I will not pretend to be able to relate to the ups and downs you face in your life. What if the necessary response to God’s silence, though, is repentance?

Could it be that God is calling you to repentance – a turning away from your sins and turning to Him – before He answers your prayers, makes you aware of His presence, and gives you the hope, peace and joy only He can give?

I must certainly admit, from my own experiences, that when I am failing to walk in faith and dependence on God, and then I seek His direction, I am much less likely to experience His wisdom.

Clearly, His Word tells me who I am to be and how I am to live. In Jeremiah 29:13, for example, God says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” When? When you search for God with “all your heart.”

Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “You will search for the Lord your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.”

If we are living in sin, can we possibly seek God with all our heart and all our soul? If we are failing to trust and obey His Word, are we truly seeking Him at all?

No, for a partial act of obedience is absolutely an act of disobedience. Wholehearted seeking of God certainly cannot take place when wholehearted obedience to God’s Word is not taking place, and this is why repentance is so important.

Why will God not answer?

Well, how is your daily walk with God? Do you have a genuine relationship with Him? Are you daily seeking to turn away from your sins and walk in close communion with Him and with His church?

If not, then you cannot expect to be aware of His presence, experience His power, and trust His promises. Rather, you will likely experience His silence, just like King Saul did multiple times during his downfall.

Lord willing, I plan on finishing my sermon series – Becoming the Villain – Sunday morning. “Villains Follow Fear” (1 Samuel 28:3-19), and if we expect to hear from God without seeking Him through His Word and obeying Him according to His Word, then we prove to be fools and eventual villains (enemies of God).

Too often, people want to claim Jesus’ promise in Matthew 7:7 (“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”), but they want that promise apart from repentance and obedience. As a result, they are blind to the truth of God’s Word – the truth that Jesus’ promise there is in accordance with God’s will. And, we cannot know God’s will apart from God’s Word.

God’s Word tells us God’s will – that we be obedient followers of Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. Maybe God’s silence in your life is due to His calling you to repentance.

If you only seek God in a crisis, then you will be blind to His Word in the midst of that crisis because you haven’t been walking with Him all along.

Does God sometimes choose to make His followers wait and/or to make His followers suffer? Of course He does, and His Word is full of examples and direction in how to respond. Even in the midst of suffering and difficulty, though, you can be assured of God’s presence and faithfulness, but only if you are living a life of repentance.

Why will God not answer?

Examine your heart to make sure you have sincerely repented of your sins and are sincerely seeking Him. Cry out to God in faith and repentance before expecting His response.

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Is habitual church absence a sin?

This is a very short (trust me!) response to an important question. Is it a sin for someone who professes faith in Jesus Christ to be consistently absent from and thus inactive in a local church?

Yes, I believe it is a sin.

When considering this issue, many will point to Hebrews 10:24-25, which says, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

While I believe that clear calling and command are helpful, I believe 1 Corinthians 12 is even more helpful when considering the critical importance of active church membership and involvement for a follower of Jesus Christ. As verse 12 and following make clear, the singular body (the church) with many individual parts (church members) cannot possibly function properly if those parts are not actively involved.

“Now you ([plural you – i.e. you all]) are the body of Christ, and individual members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Paul was writing this letter to the local church in Corinth. They were one body – one church – consisting of many members. And, just as we understand clearly from the body and body parts analogy, a body that is missing members simply cannot function properly or naturally. All members are needed, just as all members need the body. When a member is missing, the rest of the body is affected.

So often, when people choose to miss church services and not maintain active church involvement, they think it is primarily about them

“I’m busy and just don’t really have time for the church right now.”

“I’m not getting much out of it.”

“I don’t need to go to church to worship God.”

But, all of those excuses (and countless others I have heard) are centered on the individual choosing to not engage with the church. I do not recall the last time I heard someone say, “I really need to get back in church, so that I can better serve others and help them grow in their relationship with God.”

What if that was our motivation? What if we loved one another so much that our longing to be actively involved with our church was less about our individual selves and more about each other and the church as a whole?

What if we applied the greatest commandment to love God with your entire being and the second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40) to our church life?

“But, I’m busy and just don’t really have time for the church right now.”

Sure, you might be busy, but you will make time for what is important in life.

“But, I’m not getting much out of it.”

You might not be “getting much out of it,” but what can you do to make sure others are getting much? And, are sharing your concerns about spiritual growth and health with church leaders?

“But, I don’t need to go to church to worship God.”

Yes, you can worship God anywhere, but you need the church and the church needs you.

In a letter to another local church, Paul said, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts…” (Romans 12:3-6).

Now, consider your excuses for not being an active church member, and see if they can still be defended in light of 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. I am not aware of any that can, with the exception of those who are sick or imprisoned for their faith, in which case the church is called to go to them.

Granted, many choose not to join and be active in a church because they do not yet have a born-again relationship with Jesus Christ. In that case, we cannot expect unbelievers to act like believers.

If you do profess to know and follow Jesus, though, please prove the legitimacy of your faith by obeying His Word and loving His church.

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