kingdom

Declaring Dependence

Are you faithful to God? If you consider yourself faithful, then what do you mean by “faithful”? Does that mean that your faith is so full that you are humbly submissive and eagerly obedient to your Creator?

Do you only serve God periodically, or during special times? Do you love and obey Him in good times and in bad times? Consider the following cycle of faithfulness/unfaithfulness in the early life of the Israelite nation:

Point #1: Failure (Judges 2:10-13).
Point #2: Fight/Fear (Judges 2:14-15).
Point #3: Freedom (Judges 2:16).
Point #4: Faithfulness (Judges 2:18b).

The people would cry out to God during their times of “terrible distress”, but they did not fully give up their idolatrous practices or their lack of real love for Yahweh (Judges 2:17-19). You will find this pattern or cycle repeated multiple times throughout the book of Judges.

Do we ever fall into a cycle of faithfulness/unfaithfulness? Is such a cycle even faithfulness at all?

What was the ultimate problem during this period of Israelite history? The answer is given four times in this book: Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:5. The heart of the problem is often stated right before some horrible atrocity is described (see 18:1; 19:1). The very last verse of Judges explains, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

But what does that mean? Is that simply a reference to the fact that there was no civil king like Saul or David sitting on a throne in the land?

The real problem was that Yahweh, who was their rightful king, was not king in their hearts and lives. They had rejected Him as their Sovereign Ruler (cf. 1 Samuel 8:1-9; 12:12; Luke 19:14). Yahweh had chosen them as a treasured nation for Himself, but now they had abandoned Him and His Word (cf. Deuteronomy 7:6-11; Judges 2:12-13).

Do we ever strive to be “good” so God will give us good things? Are we serving Him because of how great He is, or because of how great His blessings and promises are? Do we ever treat Him like a Genie in a bottle that we rub whenever we need something?

We should pray to God and seek His help in times of trouble (cf. 1 Peter 5:6-7), but we must be careful that we are not engaging in “mourning cloud religion.”

When times are good, some begin to think that they do not need God because they're doing just fine by their own abilities (cf. Revelation 3:17-19). When times are rough, some begin to think that they do not need God because He has not kept them from trouble and pain. Both of these forms of inconsistent faithfulness manifest a lack of dependence on and delight in God. Both forms of unfaithfulness declare, “I do not need/want God.”

So what is the solution to this problem of inconsistent service to God? The solution is making God king on the throne of our hearts (see again Judges 21:25). If we are in the reign of God by submission to immersion into the Messiah (Colossians 2:11-12), then we must live each day as loyal subjects in the kingdom of the Messiah. If King Jesus is sitting on the throne of our hearts, then we are declaring that we are totally dependent upon Him and His will.   

The Work of God 3

After commending Timothy to the Christians in Philippi, the apostle Paul then writes at length about another faithful work and friend - Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus also provides an example of kingdom-life in the Messiah. Paul writes the following about him: 

"I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of the Messiah, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me" (Philippians 2:25-30). 

Later in this letter, we discover that Epaphroditus had brought a gift of money and some news from the Philippian congregation to the apostle Paul. Paul explains, 

"I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18). 

Clearly, Epaphroditus' return to Philippi was greatly delayed, and the Philippians began to be concerned as to what might have happened to him. Regardless of what they may have begun to conclude about him, Paul wants to make it quite clear that sickness was the reason for his delay. It was not just that he go sick with something like the common cold, but he was so sick that he almost died. However, God compassionately kept him from death, so that the apostle would not have even more coals of pain heaped upon his heart. God's mercy and grace shine brightly in this passage!

Please note that even Paul's anxiety was not like some kill switch (v. 28), but it was something he had to work at in his own life (compare Philippians 4:6-7). It is also interesting that Paul starts by setting forth all of  the roles/characteristics of Epaphroditus, a man they all knew well. May we all follow his example in being willing to risk our lives for our fellow-workers and for the sake of the Messiah!

For His infinite worth,

Gantt