How Much Are You Willing to Give Up?
By Rick Beltz
The author has been a church member for
more than 30 years and spent nearly 20 years in the I.T. field. From 1998-2004
he was the editor of The Churches of God Newsletter. Along with his wife
Eileen, he currently answers online questions from new believers for Barnabas
How much are we as true Christians prepared to give up in order to serve God and His people? Are we also willing to have a part in making sure the next generation of our young adults is prepared to walk with God in an ungodly world, just as we have been learning to do?
There is no denying that we live in a godless world that continues to step further and further away from God and anything that has to do with God. We have seen this process accelerate tremendously since the 9/11/01 attack on U.S. soil. Instead of heeding this wakeup call, our people in general have all but ignored it. Our nation and world are in spiritual darkness and almost completely uninformed about what is really happening today in that they rely on a controlled media for the most part. They are also being slowly conditioned to follow a future new world order, now in the making.
With the re-launching of Servants’ News after a 30-month hiatus, as well as the beginning of a new calendar year, now is a good time to consider some very important issues. How much are we willing to give up in order to serve God, our fellow brethren in Christ, and people in general? The apostle Peter questioned this very subject in response to Jesus’ reply to the rich young man in Matthew 19:23-30:
23And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 27Then Peter said in reply, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" 28Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30But many that are first will be last, and the last first. (RSV)
From the accounts in the four gospels and the Book of Acts, it is obvious that the true disciples of Jesus gave up much in order to follow Him and His teachings. This was especially true during the 3-1/2 years that they spent in developing a close relationship with the Master. For the most part, they gave up their working life, time with their families and probably other things that they were used to before Jesus called them into training and service to others.
Just as with the first disciples, those who have been truly called by God the Father and have responded to that call have had to give up much in order to serve and obey God. True Christians have given up their old way of living the life of the world and many of their past beliefs, including most of the holidays of the world. They may also have had to give up a job or career. Some have also had to give up possessions, including homes, vehicles, household goods and many of the comforts that we in this western world take for granted.
In some extreme cases, true Christians have lost mates, families or even give up their physical lives in order to obey God and serve others. Jesus personally said that something like this would happen to some few who would respond to follow His teachings:
Matthew 10:34-36: 34"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and a man's foes will be those of his own household. (RSV)
In the case of the original twelve apostles, with the possible exception of John, they gave up all and were martyred for their beliefs. People professing belief in Jesus Christ throughout the world today are being martyred for their beliefs. God’s true people may or may not have to give up their physical lives in the future. But in the future, they may have to be willing to walk away from it all, including homes and possessions in order to serve God and others. Some in the church today have already taken this step through their involvement with personal ministries, both large and small. A few years ago a church member serving in a ministry in Southeast Asia stated that most brethren are not able to serve directly in various ministries because they are head-over-heels in debt and too involved with their possessions.
Do We Know Where We Are Going?
My wife and I have owned a cleaning business for more than two years. We have gone into many homes of both rich millionaires and the not-so-rich middle class. We have seen what is important to many people in this affluent, western society: one’s possessions, including homes, vehicles, high-priced electronics, fine art, crystal, tapestries, antiques, swimming pools and one-of-a-kind items from all over the world.
We have also had many negative experiences in trying to find dependable help for our business. We have found, at least here in the Southern U.S., the existence of a poor quality of workers. For the most part, this is the direct result of the lack of proper training about the work ethic at home while growing up. We have worked with people who have had college degrees who seem incapable of following a few simple instructions. We’ve also worked with others who had a mental comprehension problem and a lack of focus with even the simplest of tasks.
A poor work ethic and a focus on material possessions can spell serious trouble for one’s entire life. But this is only one part of the training and direction that young people need when they are growing up. They need much education in various areas in order to be successful in a world that is cut off from God for the most part. Most importantly, they need training in the ways of the true God, including interpersonal skills and establishing the true priorities of a Christian life. In Psalms 78:1-8 we find the following verses:
1“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought.5He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children; 6that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (RSV)
In Matthew Henry’s commentary on this section, he says, “it is indeed Maschil – a psalm to give instruction; if we receive not the instruction it gives, it is our own fault.” He continues with the following commentary:
v.3. They are to be transmitted to posterity, and it lies as a charge upon us carefully to hand them down (v. 4); because our fathers told them to us we will not hide them from their children. Our children are called theirs, for they were in care for their seed's seed, and looked upon them as theirs; and, in teaching our children the knowledge of God, we repay to our parents some of that debt we owe to them for teaching us. Nay, if we have no children of our own, we must declare the things of God to their children, the children of others. Our care must be for posterity in general, and not only for our own posterity; and for the generation to come hereafter, the children that shall be born, as well as for the generation that is next rising up and the children that are born. That which we are to transmit to our children is not only the knowledge of languages, arts and sciences, liberty and property, but especially the praises of the Lord, and his strength appearing in the wonderful works he has done. Our great care must be to lodge our religion, that great deposit, pure and entire in the hands of those that succeed us. There are two things the full and clear knowledge of which we must preserve the entail of to our heirs:--
(1) The law of God; for this was given with a particular charge to teach it diligently to their children (v. 5): He established a testimony or covenant, and enacted a law, in Jacob and Israel, gave them precepts and promises, which he commanded them to make known to their children, <Deut. 6:7,20>. The church of God, as the historian says of the Roman commonwealth, was not to be “res unius aetatis” -- a thing of one age but was to be kept up from one generation to another; and therefore, as God provided for a succession of ministers in the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron, so he appointed that parents should train up their children in the knowledge of his law: and, when they had grown up, they must arise and declare them to their children (v. 6), that, as one generation of God's servants and worshippers passes away, another generation may come, and the church, as the earth, may abide for ever; and thus God's name among men may be as the days of heaven.
(2) The providences of God concerning them, both in mercy and in judgment. The former seem to be mentioned for the sake of this; since God gave order that his laws should be made known to posterity, it is requisite that with them his works also should be made known, the fulfilling of the promises made to the obedient and the threatenings denounced against the disobedient. Let these be told to our children and our children's children. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)
Do Our Children Know Where They Are Going?
In addition to what we find in Psalm 78, God also told our forefathers the following in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; 5and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; 7and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (RSV)
Both Psalm 78 and Deuteronomy 6 contain direct instructions to teach our children and the coming generation about the true God, His laws and the works which He has done throughout history. More than ever, our children and young adults need guidance and direction to point them to the right way of life. Throughout the present era of the true church, this has been done by both parents and the church to a certain extent. In spite of those efforts over the past 50-60 years, far too many young people still leave the church environment once they reach adulthood. The draw of our society is simply too strong to them not to become involved in it.
This ought not to be so. The true church in general has compiled only a fair record when it comes to educating and retaining its teens and young adults, as well as caring for its older and elderly members. So, what is the solution? Many brethren seem content to simply work every day, go about their daily business, attend services and Bible studies and do their best to be good examples in this godless world. They feel that there is not much they can do now because the world is “going to pot” and we should just go about our business and “leave the rest to God who will shortly send Jesus Christ back to this earth with all the answers”.
However, this is not the correct approach. God the Father is preparing a people for Himself and for Jesus Christ and wants those people who will be “live wires” for His coming kingdom on this earth. He is training them to be the ones who will be ruling as kings, priests and teachers of both younger and older alike. This world desperately needs to be reeducated in the ways of the true God. We are all brethren in this together and should all be part of the solution to the problem rather than part of the problem itself.
If you think that there is nowhere for you to serve as one of God’s people in these areas, think again. Take your request to God and He will not disappoint you. He will open a door for you to put your skills and talents to work. We have gone to Him many times in the past and He has never disappointed us in this regard. Each assignment to which He called us prepared us for the next assignment. Our current assignment of three years now, that of answering online Bible questions for new believers on the website, has proven to be one of the most educational and rewarding Christian experiences for both of us in the past 30+ years. We must learn now to do what we will be doing in the future. Otherwise, we will not become the mature Christians that God wants us to be (Matt. 5:48; Eph. 4:11-14).
We all may not be able to be directly involved in various ministries as teachers or otherwise on an active, daily basis. But we can be involved in some way through personal prayer, freewill offerings and encouragement to those who are involved in these areas, especially the smaller ministries that depend entirely on God for their very existence. What are you willing to give up to serve God, His people and the coming generation of young adults? Think about it. Pray about it. Wait patiently, expecting an answer from God. Then act on that answer.