Maintain Faithfulness to God

Maintain Faithfulness To God

Chapter Two

Maintain Faithfulness To God
The Importance Of Maintaining Your 'First Love' 34 Sail On 41
A Heritage Of Faithfulness And Perseverance 36 "Commitment Is Not Something With A Guarantee Attached" 43
One-Eyed Faithfulness 38 Just Hold On! 45
Waiting For The Tide 39 Discussion Questions 47

Joshua 24:14-24

The Importance Of Maintaining Your 'First Love'

Mrs. Keener opened her door and leaned against the door frame. Removing her glasses, she rubbed her eyes and said, "I'm having trouble seeing." She then explained how she had been working on another quilt as she pointed to the beautiful patterned pieces which had been carefully sewn together. The quilt covered most of her living room on her homemade quilting frame. It was a tumbling block design.

We had never held much of a conversation before – just a little chit-chat now and then. But she had something important to say this day. I have grown to love and appreciate the stories of elderly people. Theirs is a generation of story tellers. Telling stories of one's life is fast becoming a lost art, like quilting. My generation has adopted the theme of a famous TV detective: "Just the facts, ma'am!" Tell it like it is and let us draw our own conclusion. Story telling, on the other hand, gives life to the values which are being expressed.

Standing all of four feet and eleven inches tall, this seventy-five year old grandmother began to tell me her story. She started making quilts when she was seven years old. She wanted to start at a younger age, but her mother told her she would first have to grow a little more. On her seventh birthday she again begged her mother to teach her how to make a quilt and, to her joy, her mother consented. Over the years she has made hundreds of quilts, bringing warmth and joy to many people.

It would be simple for me to draw a moral conclusion from this conversation. I could write about patience, or perseverance, or other such virtues. However, I would rather write about Mrs. Keener's eyes. Although she admitted that she was having a little trouble seeing, I did not see the weary eyes of a seventy-five year old grandmother who had experienced many of life's trials. Instead, as she told the story of learning how to make quilts on her seventh birthday, I saw the fresh, excited eyes of a seven year old daughter who was about to receive her first quilting lesson. I was left with the impression that this latest quilt was just as exciting for her to create as was her first. What I discovered in her eyes was the secret for staying forever young: holding on to your first love.

I wonder… will I have a story to tell when I am her age? Oh Lord, when I am seventy-five, let me see with seven year old eyes.

"Remind me of the first time I came to You in faith and trust, Oh God. Enable me to remember the joy which flooded my heart as I realized Your love for me. Furthermore,

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I now renew my love for You. Take my heart once again… I give myself completely to You. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because of God's love, I am able to love.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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2 Timothy 1:3-7

A Heritage Of Faithfulness And Perseverance

Faithfulness to God and faithfulness to God's Church are lessons I learned well throughout my childhood and youth. Although I have a humble ancestry, I am rich with a heritage of godly forefathers who were faithful to Christ and to His Church. Timothy's mother and grandmother remind me of my own committed mother and grandmother.

As a child, I regularly went with my mother to Wednesday night prayer meetings in a little white-framed Free Methodist Church in Fountain, Colorado (a church where some of my ancestors worshiped from the time it was founded in the 1800's). My godly mother rarely missed attending those prayer meetings, even though her long working days as a school cook made her very weary, and she often was plagued with headaches. She believed in faithfulness and she practiced it throughout her long life. She lived well past 94 years, and throughout her life she seldom missed attending the Sunday morning and evening services, as well as midweek prayer meetings. In her later years she hosted a small 'Christian growth group' in her home for more than a decade. While I was growing up, I often saw her reading her Bible and praying on her knees. She greatly loved God and she loved everyone around her. At her funeral service recently, her eleven grandchildren offered 'glowing' tributes, describing her joyous and compassionate life of commitment to Christ. Recently, the following was written in her obituary: "Helen Irene Christian, 94, died March 2, 2000, at the home of her son and daughter-in-law, Ron and Venita Christian of Fort Collins. Mrs. Christian, a lifetime member of the Free Methodist Church, was an active and committed Christian her entire life. She was known to her family and friends as 'The Prayer Warrior'."

My grandmother, before her, was equally faithful to her Lord. I was told that she taught Sunday School classes for some 50 years! My great grandmother, who died in 1950, was a godly woman, married to Joseph E. Benedict. This man died October 8, 1928, and the following appears in his obituary: "Early in life he united with the Free Methodist Church and was a very active, faithful member and sacrificed greatly for the work of God. Though for many years a cripple he was always faithful. He would hobble to church or prayer meeting even when others thought the weather too bad or they were too weary." My great, great grandfather was born in 1821 and died in Fountain, Colorado in 1909. His pastor, who wrote his obituary, notes, "When the Free Methodist Church was organized in Fountain, he and his wife became charter members. He loved the means of grace and often, even in the last months of his life, walked with trembling steps to the house of God." Will you leave a 'legacy' of faithfulness and perseverance in the Christian Faith, for your children?

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"Father, enable me to be faithful to you until the end of my life. Help me never to allow weather or weariness or worry to keep me from being faithful to your church."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The best gift I can give my grandchildren is a godly heritage of faithfulness and fidelity to my God and my Church!

– Ron Christian –

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Ephesians 5:19-20

One-Eyed Faithfulness

"We would like to thank all our dear friends for all of your prayers, cards, and support the last six months. After two operations', ending with the removal of my eye, it's all behind us now and we have so much to be thankful for. We have surely been blessed."

These words were recently written by Pete, retired Master Potter, who was once invited to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., to participate in an exhibition by the finest potters in America. Pete would create his clay masterpieces and his wife, Fernie, would paint them with bluebonnets and scenes from the farm. They are a creative couple.

Pete and Fernie are ever the optimists, always smiling, never complaining. Theirs is a quiet faith, like still waters running deep. "Six months, two operations, one eye gone, so much to be thankful for, surely blessed." Words such as these would sound foreign coming from a chronic complainer. They are very much at home in Pete's heart. Words such as these are foolishness to the unbeliever. They are the wisdom of faith for this creative couple. These are mature Christians, having learned that faith in God does not always shelter us from misfortune, but it does always see us through.

Our commitment to Christ must not be a fragile thing, blown back and forth by every wind of misfortune. It must be as inviolable as wedding vows: for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death shall call us home. Such a commitment creates a relationship in which it is always possible to be cheerful, thankful and optimistic regardless of the circumstances. Fanny Crosby was that way with no eyes. Pete is that way with one eye. Surely we can be that way with two eyes. Paul's words in Philippians 4:10-13 are helpful here.

If I ever see Pete again, I imagine he will be wearing a patch over the missing eye and will say, "Well, shiver me timbers, if it isn't preacher Bill!" I'll ask him where his parrot is and Fernie will smile, raise her hand shoulder high and say, "Here I am." People of faith sure are fun to be around.

"Dear God, deliver me from so small a spirit that would cast you aside at the slightest difficulty."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not allow outward circumstances to cause me to break my pledge of allegiance to Jesus.

– William Jenkins –

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Luke 8:22-25

Waiting For The Tide

The Sea of Galilee is a beautiful blue gem fed primarily by the melting snows of Mt. Hermon; its waters are sweet, clean, and clear. Called the "Sea of Cinnereth" in the Old Testament because of its harp shape, Galilee is thirteen miles long and eight miles wide at its farthest points. Jesus chose the gentle slopes of the western shore of Galilee for his base of ministry. Among his friends and followers were the boat people who made their living fishing the waters of Galilee. With such friends as these Jesus spent many hours riding in a boat on the bosom of Galilee. One such adventure is described in Luke 8:22-25.

I am particularly interested in that part of verse 22 which says: "…and they launched forth." That was easy enough for them to do. The waters of Galilee are plentiful and dependable. The apostles could sail with Jesus any time of the day or night; just get Jesus in the boat and go wherever their hearts desired. This is a wonderful metaphor of our life with Christ: gliding peacefully from place to place without a care in the world. "Row, row, row your boat gently on the sea…" The abundance of buoyancy makes this possible.

Not all sailing is as simple as that. Not all waters are so plentiful and dependable that you can at any time launch your boat. This was brought to my attention one summer while on the southern coast of England. Reverend Malcolm Groom was taking me from Rustington to Chichester for a meeting with the circuit preachers. As we crossed over a bay bridge I noticed that there was no water in the bay and some boats were resting on the ground. I pointed this out to Malcolm by saying, "What a dumb place to launch a boat." He laughed and informed me that the tide was out. I wanted to know: "If there's a tide, then where's the water!" He grinned and with amusement in his eyes towards his foreign passenger he answered, "Oh, about a mile south of the highway. Things will be different when we come back this way." This I had to see.

Three hours later we crossed over the same bridge and the boats were floating. The tide was coming in. I observed this phenomenon at Bosham and other places. Each time I saw boats sitting in a dry basin I would think "They're waiting for the tide."

This reminded me of a parallel in our life with Christ. I remembered those times when it seemed easy to "launch forth" with Christ in my boat and sail on the plentiful waters of life; but much of the time I have been like those boats in the dry basin, waiting for the tide. If you find yourself in the dry basin, remember three things. First, a boat in the dry basin is no less a boat than the one on the deep waters. It may not be in its natural habitat, but it is still a boat. Secondly, Jesus keeps company with us even when our boat

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is grounded. He doesn't say, "Well, this boat's not going anywhere so I'm bailing out." He promised never to leave us, but to always be with us. Never despair when the tide is out because Christ is with you. Thirdly, the tide always comes in. For those who desire the will of God, the tide always comes in. Just as there is a natural law which never fails to bring the tide in, so there is a spiritual law which will bring an abundance of buoyancy for those who wait in their boats with Jesus for the tide to come in.

"Heavenly Father, I will love You on the oceans and in the dry basin. My faith will not be subject to the tides of life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When the tide is out, I will not abandon the boat.

– William Jenkins –

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Hebrews 12:1-3

Sail On

On October 12, 1492, after 70 days at sea, Christopher Columbus made his astounding entry into the ship's log, "Sighted land!" On such a small hinge history made a sweeping turn. There is some irony in the fact that October 13th is the birthday of the U.S. Navy. On that day in 1775, the Continental Congress authorized a fleet of two cruisers. Need I remind you that Columbus had three boats?

Keeping his place in history has not been an easy task for Mr. Columbus, but if he is known for anything, it is tenacity. He has always had to play second-mate to "Erik the Red", the Viking. Even on the calendar, Erik is ahead of Columbus as Leif Erikson Day is October 9. Those first Europeans must not have been terribly impressed with the New World. They may have considered it a nice place to visit, but didn't want to live here. Perhaps if they had landed in the more tropical regions as Columbus did they would have had a more favorable impression. Interestingly enough, Columbus polished his skills as a sailor by sailing to Iceland. Perhaps that adventure helped him decide to sail around the world to the West rather than to the North.

It was from the writings of Ptolemy and the apocryphal book of 2 Esdras that Columbus concluded that the world was round, and conceived the idea of reaching Asia by sailing West. It is one thing to have an inspired idea and quite another to bring it to pass. On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail to bring his idea to pass. Historians studying the ships' logs kept by Columbus on his epic voyage have noted that on many days the entry stated simply, "Today we sailed on". Not much happened. There were no storms, no rainbows, no interesting diversions from the monotony of sea, sky, and horizon. "Today we sailed on", through the uneventful and unpromising. With only a dream, and faith in that dream, and nothing to sustain that dream but hope, "we sailed on". Beyond the point at which over half the life-sustaining supplies were used up and the greatest peril lay in turning back, "we sailed on". Therein lay the secret of success for Christopher Columbus.

Perseverance through the uneventful and unpromising days yet remains the secret of success in all of life's endeavors. Especially is this true of the life of faith. The Letter to the Hebrews promotes this principle by saying, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us". (12:1) It is one thing to set out on a journey, it is quite another to complete it. Sail on!

P.S. Columbus failed to reach his goal. Something better got in his way. Such are the rewards of perseverance. Sail on!

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"Heavenly Father, in my journey with You, give me the stamina of a long distance runner."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My heart will keep the courage of the quest and hope the next horizon will be the best.

– William Jenkins –

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Psalm 118:27 b

"Commitment Is Not Something With A Guarantee Attached"

I am not an airplane pilot, but I have talked with some who have been. In taking off from the field there is a point of no return, i.e., up to a certain point on that runway, depending on local conditions, load weight, speed, and weather, there is a point where that plane flight can be aborted. Once past that point, that pilot has committed the plane and its cargo to lift off. He cannot now stop; to reverse the engines would be futile. A commitment has been made and the flight pattern must be followed.

What is commitment? To commit is to "give in trust; entrust; consign; to bind; to pledge." There is an air of decisiveness, finality, solidness about this word. I like it. It takes one 'off the fence' of half-hearted devotion to God and His church, or whatever it may be. I like its either/or-ness. It moves one from the realm of luke-warmness.

In 450 BC, the Persians were advancing into Europe, and Leonidas with his small army of Greeks held them off at the Thermopylae Pass. Though he died in the attempt and nearly all of his men were killed, this was one of the most decisive battles which saved Europe from Asian invasion. All that depended on that heroism could not have been known by the men who became the heroes. They simply committed themselves to their duty and to the defense of their people, and history made heroes of them.

Bishop Gerald Kennedy in his book, Fresh Every Morning says:

"In 1776 the Americans who took their courage in their hands and signed the Declaration of Independence had no guarantee of the future. Indeed, most people looking at it objectively would have said these were men doomed to die as traitors. For defeat would have sent them down through history as a group of well-meaning rebels who were executed." Then Bishop Kennedy makes this important observation which is so applicable to us: "COMMITMENT IS NOT SOMETHING WITH A GUARANTEE ATTACHED TO IT, AND THE GREAT MOMENT IS ONLY SEEN TO BE GREAT AFTERWARD." (emphasis mine)

What he is saying, as it may apply to us today, is this – It is one thing to make a decision or a commitment at an altar of prayer in an evangelistic meeting, or in a worship service, or during a missions convention, or in the quietness of our own room, but it is another thing to follow through with that decision or commitment in the days and weeks and months following.

You have no doubt attended spiritual meetings where God's presence was near.

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You were challenged, stirred, dealt with by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Now, you do not want to lose one inch of ground gained. The beachheads are important and necessary but the continued occupation of the territory is also important for continued victory.

The Psalmist in a few words gives us the answer to conserve our commitments: "…bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar" (Psalms 118: 27 b).

"Blessed Holy Spirit, the guarantee for continued commitment challenges me. Help me to always keep that challenge before me. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Have I committed myself to Jesus Christ? If so even today I will make certain that I am still in that mode.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Ephesians 6:18

Just Hold On!

"He's preparing for the inevitable," I said to myself as I drew near to him with my car. What his game was, I do not know-maybe "chicken," "bird-car roulette," or something in bird language. Maybe he mistook my car (a Falcon) for a real bird, then decided at the last moment he was no match for it.

When they saw me coming, all his bird fellows flew away except him. He squatted, dug his claws into mother earth, and held on. Looking in the rear view mirror after the close encounter, I saw him take wings and flyaway – no doubt to his buddies, saying, "See! Nothing to it! Be calm! It takes courage and steel nerves. All you have to do is hold on."

Perseverance means "the faithful continuance in anything." There are the undesirable moments, if not characteristics, in nearly every occupation. Quitting is the method some people use to escape. This is not always wise, but perseverance is.

In one of the decisive battles of World War I, disastrous reports poured into the headquarters of Marshal Foch, the commander of the Allied forces. The great general, faced with reverses that would have overwhelmed most people, never lost heart. When things were at their worst, he drafted his famous order which is now in all textbooks of military strategy:

"My center is giving way, my right is pushed back, 
my left is wavering. The situation is excellent. I shall attack!"

Gerald Kennedy in Fresh Every Morning titles chapter 18 – He Did Not Quit! He tells of Lord Kelvin who ''was one of the great scientists of his time. In the latter part of the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries, he contributed to thermodynamics and to the understanding and use of electricity. He received honors from several universities and from the government for his achievement. A statue was erected to him in Glasgow in 1913, and yet he said one time, 'One word characterizes the most strenuous of the efforts for the advancement of science that I have made perseveringly during fifty-five years: that word is failure.' Which is to say that his success came out of perseverance, or if we may put it in the negative way, he succeeded because he did not quit." (p. 170)

In the spiritual battle, we dare not quit, but continue to persevere by God's enablement to the end. "Though Satan should buffet, tho' trials should come…" – H.G. Spafford. "Ten thousand foes arise; The hosts of sin are pressing hard…" George Heath. Keep alert, continue on, persevere by God's grace.

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In Living Truths, B.T. Robert, exhorts us: "To gain Heaven we must endure to the end. Persevering efforts, and not spasmodic efforts, win the prize. A good plan is a good shelter. Becker says: 'That mariner has no praise who sinks his ship before he comes in to the harbor; that soldier obtains no glory who lays down his arms in the heat of the battle.'" (p. 142)

"Precious Holy Spirit, all people encounter storms in life, and in such times I am in need of your help to enable me to persevere. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Not knowing what I may encounter today, beforehand I have determined that I will keep on track.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Discussion Questions

  1. From a practical (spiritual) viewpoint, what do you think is the 'secret' for "staying forever young", even though you have long persevered in the 'Christian Life'? (Note Revelations 2:1-4) Think of an older Christian who has remained 'youthful' in attitudes, in vision, in zeal, in joy, and excitement.

  2. Considering the many various wonderful attributes which describe a follower of Christ, what (to you) is the most important characteristic of the Christian life by which you would like most to be remembered in a 'tribute' at your funeral? Is it your desire to leave a 'legacy' of faithfulness and perseverance in the Christian Faith, for your children and grandchildren?

  3. Why, in spite of a person's great adversities and losses, is a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving and appreciation so important if a believer is to maintain spiritual victory in his Christian life? (Note Philippians 2:14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:5-12)

  4. As you think about the 'most mature' believers whom you have known throughout your lifetime, tell if you think the following statements accurately describe their 'commitment' and the 'happy results' from that 'commitment': "Our commitment to Christ must not be fragile but as inviolable as wedding vows: for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death shall call us home. Such a commitment creates a relationship in which it is always possible to be cheerful, thankful and optimistic regardless of the circumstances." (Note Philippians 4:10-13)

  5. When your spiritual life (likened unto a boat which is resting in the dry basin) is not as 'buoyant' and 'smooth sailing' as you would like for it to be, what three things should you remember?

  6. From your understanding of Scripture and from your own experience, tell if you think the following statement accurately describes the 'secret' to success in the 'Christian Life': "Perseverance through the uneventful and unpromising days yet remains the secret of success in all of life's endeavors, and especially in the life of faith."

  7. As it applies to the 'Christian Life', give your interpretation and application of the following statement: "The beach-heads are important and necessary but the continued occupation of the territory is also important for continued victory."

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  8. When you (as a Christian person) feel at times like 'quitting' because of your frequent 'failures' and 'weaknesses' in living the Christian Life, why is it important to persevere rather than to despair and quit? (Note Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:7-11; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Hebrews 10:35-39)

  9. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "To gain Heaven we must endure to the end. Persevering efforts, and not spasmodic efforts, win the prize." (Note Matthew 24:12-13)

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