Faithfulness

Finish Well By Staying Focused

It has been amazing to hear the stories of Billy Graham’s impact on so many people in the last few weeks since his death. Billy Graham is a man who finished well.

I’ve been preaching through Judges some recently and we see a different story in Gideon. He didn’t end well. We can learn at least two ways to end well by looking at Gideon’s poor example. This post is the first way–stay focused. Stay focused on God’s ways for your life.

Two manifestations of Gideon not being focused on God’s plan:  

Pursuing his own desires

Gideon didn’t finish well because he became consumed by pursuing his own desires. In Judges 8:4, he leads his 300 men across the Jordan toward the east to pursue two kings from Midian. God won a large battle for the Israelites over the Midianites (recorded in chapter 7), and used Gideon as a leader in that work. In chapter 8, though, there is no mention of the Lord working–just Gideon.

First, he pushed past boundaries that seem unwise. He crossed back over the Jordan, which would go beyond the area of the Promised Land that God gave. His motivation is clear: retaliation. The kings killed his brothers, so he wanted to kill them (Judges 8:19). Nothing seemed unreasonable to Gideon in that pursuit.

Being harsh with God’s people

Gideon could be seen as a brutal aggressor in this passage, even to God’s people. Succoth was established by Jacob initially, and Penuel was the site where Jacob wrestled with God and God dislocated his hip (Gen. 33).

Gideon asks them to supply bread and both refuse. Gideon’s response to Succoth when he didn’t get his way: “So Gideon said, ‘Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.’” (Judges 8:7, ESV) Woah! If you have that response to people who don’t go along with your plan, there’s something wrong with your heart!

Gideon told Penuel that he would break down their tower, probably referring to the defensive tower of the city. In other words, I’ll make you vulnerable and defenseless. Sadly, these weren’t empty promises (Judges 8:13,17).

Gideon wasn’t focused on the Lord’s plan all the way to the end. The last records we have of his leadership over Israel is this debacle and what we’ll look at next week.

What is your motivation, and how do you love others?  Answering this will help you know if you are focused on the Lord’s plan for you.

 

Photo by Shane Drummond on Unsplash

Circumstances Blind Us to God’s Faithfulness

You’ve probably heard the account of Jesus feeding of the 5,000–all these people getting hungry, no food, doubting disciples, and Jesus miraculously multiplying the five loaves and two fish to not just feed everyone but have much left over as well (Matthew 14:13-21).

Notice that the phrase “desolate place” occurs twice (verses 13 & 15) in this passage. That’s part of the setting. A desolate place and hungry people.

Now fast forward to Matthew 15:32-39 where the feeding of the 4,000 is recorded. This situation is similar but different from the feeding of the 5,000 (Jesus acknowledges both in Matthew 16:9-10). The similarity is that people are gathered to hear Jesus teach and they are hungry (16:32). Jesus told his disciples that he had compassion for those hungry people and desired to feed them.

But look at what the disciples ask Jesus right after he says that:  “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”

Wait-WHAT??!!! Did they already forget what happened possibly within just a week prior?

  • The desolate place.
  • Enough food.
  • So great a crowd.

ALL of that was true for the feeding of the 5,000. Two desolate places. Enough? There was more than enough–12 leftover baskets in fact (14:20). So great a crowd? They just saw a great crowd miraculously fed.

Somehow, all of a sudden, the circumstances blinded the disciples from God’s faithfulness and the power of Christ.   

Does this happen in your life? You have seen God provide and have seen his grace over and over. But for some reason, when that difficult situation confronts you, you somehow go blind to His faithfulness.

Find great comfort in 2 Timothy 2:13: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  The context of that passage contrasts denying Christ with being faithless. The ESV Study Bible footnote says that being faithless is a temporary lapse in trusting Christ, for which there is still hope because Christ is faithful to pardon, restore, and keep those who are truly his.

Even when we find ourselves like the disciples having a temporary lapse in trusting Christ, there is still grace and forgiveness. Right after the disciples ask Jesus how they could feed so many people, Jesus doesn’t just slap them across the face and say don’t you remember last week??!!

No, our gracious Savior lovingly said, “How many loaves do you have?” Grace on display! The Lord could look into your circumstances and calmly ask you to tell him all about it, then trust Him, and rely on His grace for every situation.   

Fanny Crosby: Faithfulness through Obstacles

What will you do the day before you die? For Fanny Crosby, it was to write another hymn.

Biographies of faithful believers can inspire us to continue living boldly in our faith and Fanny Crosby’s story will not disappoint. If you have ever looked at a hymnal, you have probably seen her name. Other than the Wesley brothers, Fanny Crosby’s name might appear more than any other composer’s name in hymnals. Her hymns are full of theological richness and joy, like “Draw Me Nearer,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour,” “Near the Cross,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” “To God Be the Glory.”

Now let me fill you in on a little of her story.

Frances Jane Crosby was born in Southeast, Putnam County, New York (near Poughkeepsie), on March 24, 1820. She developed an infection in both eyes at just six weeks old, and the doctor’s treatment ended up blinding her for the rest of her life. Toward the end of her first year of life, her father died. Her mother, Mercy, raised her alone and taught Fanny not to turn to self-pity but self-sufficiency.

Crosby enrolled in the New York Institute for the Blind and spent twelve years as a student there and another eleven years as a teacher. She taught a man named Alexander Van Alstyne and eventually married him on March 5, 1858. Alexander was an accomplished organist and composed to the tunes of many of Fanny’s hymns. She collaborated with many great hymnists of her time like William Bradbury and William Doane, and she was published by some popular publishers like Ira Sankey and P.P. Bliss.

Let nothing stop you from serving the Lord in the ways He has gifted you. Fanny certainly overcame adversity. She never let her circumstances paralyze her faith. Crosby died on February 12, 1915, with a total of around 9,000 hymns to her name and her last one written on February 11. I hope we all can have the same kind of faithfulness to the end of our lives!

 

Sources consulted:

  • Nichols, Stephen.  http://5minutesinchurchhistory.com/fanny-crosby
  • Watkins, Keith. “A Few Kind Words For Fanny Crosby.” Worship 51, no 3 (May
    1977): 248-259.
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