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The Marks of Steadfastness

by Wayne Hobbs

(transcribed from Words of Life Radio)

At the place where I worship in Sellersburg, Indiana, I have noticed some interesting marks. There are marks on the floor, in the carpet, right behind where the minster stands in front of the pulpit. There are also some slight marks on the sides of the pulpit stand where people have spoken over the years, song leaders, readers, preachers and others, those praying, perhaps, have left marks. These are not marks because the carpet is worn out or the furniture is worn out. They are not by any means worn out. But these are, in fact, places that are worn in because they represent service to God. They are not dead marks of the past, but they are living and active marks of service by these folks that I mentioned previously.

My hands and feet will certainly never come up to some of those folks that have been there, but we are grateful for that steadfast mark that is there. This is not the only place where there are marks. There are marks where people have faithfully sat in the same seat for years or where they have walked in the same places in the carpet. These are, again, not worn out places, but places where people have been steadfast.

If you look in your own place of worship you will probably see the same thing unless you have brand new carpet, unless you have brand new furniture, and these are good. Congregations of believers do this in steadfast worship and faithfulness to our Lord and we thank God for them. In fact, the Lord himself in Isaiah 52:7 and then again in Romans 10:15 says that people who bring the good news of Jesus Christ have beautiful feet. Those who bring the good news have beautiful feet. We are not talking about appearance of feet, but we are talking about the function and service of those feet as they serve God and as they make their marks for Jesus. And I know each of us could in some way make a list of people that we know who have faithfully served our Lord in this way.

The Bible is a perpetual listing of people who have faithfully served our Lord. I would like to share just a little bit about that. If you look in chapter 11 of Hebrews there is a long list and we call this sometimes the faith hall of fame. And I know this is not every faithful person from the Old Testament, but look at some of those that are listed. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barack, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and I know there are others. There are many that are referred to because they are those who gave their lives for the Lord God in the Old Testament days and they served God in the Old Testament days. And there are people who have died because of this and there are people who God has spared because of this. And each of these people made their mark of steadfastness in faith for God. And do you know what they had in common? They were ordinary people that God used to do extraordinary things.

In the New Testament, the early disciples were recognized because they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship and the breaking of bread. That is in Acts 2:42. The American Standard says, “They continued steadfastly,” and that is the way I remembered it from years ago.

So we think about this effort and we think about this work that people are doing steadfastly for God and how important this is. But the only way we could ever look at the steadfastness of people is to first go back and look at the steadfastness of God, his faithfulness and his love for us. In Deuteronomy 32:4 it says that God does no wrong. Well, you didn’t expect him to, but this is important. We can always remember that God himself will do no wrong. We can always trust him when we know who he is and what he does.

Earlier in the same book of Deuteronomy in chapter seven verses seven through nine we are told of God’s faithfulness to Israel, but this applies to us today as well.

Listen to these verses.

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than the other people, for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept his oath that he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God, he is a faithful God keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations to those who love him and keep his commandments.”

Now what is that telling us? It is telling us that when God looked at Israel, he didn’t choose them because they were a great big nation or that they were special. They weren’t. They weren’t at all. The reason God is so faithful to Israel and God chose Israel is because he loves them and because once God made his promise to Israel, he is keeping his promise. God keeps his Word. The Lord is faithful and he keeps his covenants and they still apply today.

Well, what does all that have to do with us today here in this century and this time? Remember how we said that God loved Israel? John 3:16 is very plain and very direct. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God loves you and he loves me today and he has made a commitment to us because he loves us. And God is faithful. And we know that this is the new covenant. This is a new and special promise that God gives us in the power and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember what Jesus said at the last supper in Matthew 26:28? “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” God has a covenant with us by the power of the blood of Jesus. This is God keeping his Word. He keeps his covenant. He keeps his promises. And, you know, there is an advertisement that I hear sometimes for a business and it says that this business has really been faithful. They were there for their customers before today, they are there now and they will be in the future as best that they can. This is a good promise. This is a great promise. And I am happy to have a business around that does such things. But God’s promises are more important. God’s promises are more faithful. God’s promises are even better than this and we thank God for them.

The book of Revelation describes this way what Jesus said. “I am the alpha and the omega,’ says the Lord, who was, and who is to come, the almighty.” The Lord describes himself this way. He knew us before we were born. He knows us now and he knows our future. He is faithful and steadfast. He is the faithful God. He will always love us. He will always bless us and we should hold on to our Lord because of his faithfulness. In fact, it says so in Hebrews 10:23. It specifically says we should hold onto our Lord because of his faithfulness. Because God is faithful, we have reason to hold on.

I raise a garden and I sometimes use a push plow to make a furrow. I simply put a mark on both ends of the row and push that plow down the row. As I do that, I keep my eyes on the other end of that row and I end out with a pretty straight row. This is scriptural. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus is that faithful. Jesus came to earth not to be comfortable, not to be just happy about what he was doing here, but he had that mission of accomplishing the salvation of us while he was on earth. As he suffered and died he kept himself fixed on the goal that is there. And so we, in turn, need to fix our eyes and ourselves upon Jesus and faithfully serve him and keep our eyes on him as we live and as we work for him.

God’s people of the Old Testament day were admonished to steadfastly and faithfully serve God in their lives and in their obedience and there is a powerful application for us even though we are not under the law today.

Listen to this rather lengthy passage. This is in Deuteronomy 30 starting with verse 11.

“And now what I am commanding you today is not difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us that we may obey?’ Nor is it beyond the sea so that we have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea and get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?’ No. The word is near you. It is in your mouth. It is in your heart so that you may obey it.”

Pay special attention to this next verse.

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, to keep his commands and decrees and laws and then you will live and increase. And the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witness against you as I have set before you life and death, blessings and cursings. Now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God. Listen to his voice. Hold fast to him for the Lord is your life and he will give you many years in the land that he swore to give you, to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Now what is that telling us? What is that telling us today? The obedience it describes is not far away. The obedience that was expected was not far away for someone else to do it or not too difficult to do. But it was expected. The words of faithfulness are in the hearts and the mouths of God’s people. And that is what is expected of us today, not just the folks of that year or those days beyond.

The choices offered are life and prosperity or death and destruction. We can all comprehend the material and spiritual application of these words, but today I am not teaching a prosperity gospel. We are talking about the eternal reward with the Lord Jesus Christ. The requirements and signs of steadfastness are found in that verse 16 that I drew your attention to. “Love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, keep his commandments and laws.”

To love the Lord our God is easy because we have received his love which is highlighted in the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ. We love because he first loved us. And this is an issue apart. And we are expected, first of all, to have our intentions and our hearts serving God. Secondly, we are to walk in his ways as our issue of heart turns into our issue of action. It is a daily process of walking in his ways. It is used to influence others. It is satisfying and it is secure. The result is obedience from the heart and steadfastness for God.

There is also included in this a warning for disobedience. With all that God did for Israel it only makes sense that they would have wanted to follow his ways in full obedience, but we know that didn’t happen. We might wonder today what was wrong with those people, but with the salvation given to us today by Jesus Christ, it might make sense to wonder what is wrong with us. I wonder why we haven’t all accepted this. That hasn’t happened either.But what about us? With all that God has given us, with salvation that is found in Jesus, it makes sense for us to walk faithfully in his ways. It also makes sense for us to love the Lord our God.

Moses closes this passage by saying they had a choice. They could choose life or death. By choosing life, they could agree that in verse 20 as it says, the Lord is your life. There are many lessons in this passage, but when the Lord is our life, the result is steadfastness for him where people are making their marks for the Lord Jesus Christ and that is what we are to do.

That brings us to a New Testament passage in 1 Corinthians 15:58 that Paul wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”’ The American Standard version words this a little bit differently. It says: “Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Paul has told us here to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. Nothing is to stop that faithfulness to God and we know that Satan is going to do his best to discourage us, to divide us, to conquer us, but this does not have to happen if we have our eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

The passage that was read to you is a glowing picture of people like the ones of the Old Testament days that are shared with us in Hebrews, people who are faithful and people of the New Testament today. We can follow the same way. The people that we have read about – their labor was not in vain, and surely our labor is not either if we are following Jesus and making our marks for him.

Our standing firm for Christ might make a person think that they are being restricted or limited in their lives with a loss of opportunity, but that is not true at all. Listen to Galatians 5:1. Paul also wrote this.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again with the yoke of slavery.” Christ has set us free by giving us freedom to serve, by being in Christ and living in Christ we are not burdened with the yoke of sin’s slavery any longer. As you listen today to this program you had the privilege of turning it off or leaving it on and nobody made you turn it on. Nobody made you leave it on, I suspect, in almost every case. That means that you had the right to make that choice.

Steadfastness is not narrowness. It is not inflexibility. It is serving God with freedom and with the blessings that we get from him. Steadfastness simply includes serving God for the long term.

I understand that the animal, the Cheetah, that is in the plains of Africa is a really fast running animal. It can run up to maybe 70 miles per hour for a short time, but during that quick run, that Cheetah has to catch his prey, because he can’t run for very long. He doesn’t keep that speed up for very long at all. He just runs quickly and stops. That is not what God wants us to do. We don’t need to hurry up for God and do something real fast and then quit. But we need to serve God faithfully and steadfastly.

God keeps his promises and we are to do the same thing. We are to follow him. We are to be faithful to him in suffering and celebrations, in temptations and in spiritual highs and in any other time we are to be faithful to God in serving regularly. And that is what he expects us to do. Our efforts are to be for his spiritual kingdom, for his glory and for his honor.

Before we close let’s think about our relationship with Christ. I must ask myself and you may ask yourself today. Am I making marks of steadfastness for Christ? Am I making marks deeper and more permanent around those who see me? Am I making new marks and new prints in this life that will likewise show a continuing faith in practice and serving God and following after God? Am I continuing to ask God and trust God for the removal of life’s marks where I have failed and where I have sinned?

We need to ask God to remove those marks and just keep the good ones. And he does that. That is the beauty of forgiveness. If we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. So the marks that we leave for God are the ones that are righteous and holy and the others he will take away through Jesus Christ.

In the book of Revelation chapter three there is a lengthy passage from seven to 17. I am not going to read it, but it is written to the Church at Philadelphia. There are three expressions that I would like to mention.

In verse eight there are two. “They have kept my Word. They have not denied my name.”

And then in verse 10. “They have kept my command to endure patiently.”

These people had their eyes fixed on Jesus. They had been faithful for the long haul.

I recently read, “When faithfulness is most difficult, it is most needed. So when we are challenged, that is the time when we need to be even more faithful to God and not back off at all. I thank God for your faithfulness if you are serving him, as you are walking for him. But if you are not, if you are not a Christian, you have something that needs to be done. You have probably done some really good things in your life, but these good things are not going to give you salvation. They are not going to take away sin at all. Only through Jesus can the marks of sin be removed making you clean and holy and righteous in his sight. Your good works don’t overshadow or forgive the bad works. It is only through Jesus and then after you have the sins cleaned up, you will follow Jesus and serve him and make your marks of faithfulness to him and for him.

 

I am told that when we delete something from a computer, you haven’t actually deleted it. We have only deleted our access to it. But that is not true of God. It is through the blood of Jesus this forgiveness is found, then Jesus takes away our sins. They are removed. They are gone, never to come back. And those marks are gone. That is a new beginning that will ensure a clean slate ready to be used for your service in steadfastness for God.

And if you are steadfast with God, we thank God for you and we pray that God will bless you as you face your future. The opportunity is yours today and thank you for listening.

-Wayne Hobbs lives in Sellersburg, IN and worships with the  Sellersburg Church of Christ

 




One Response to “The Marks of Steadfastness”

  1. To God be the glory for worthy service rendered to serve the lord.



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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4