Understanding Faithfulness – Part 5: Confirmed Obedience
- The obedience that characterizes our covenant life must also possess certain attributes if it is to be recognized by God as faithful. Or put another way, it is our commitment to these attributes that is the key to achieving the faithfulness God requires in our obedience.
5.1. Careful [Question being addressed: Can I take risks and be sloppy in my practice of God’s Word and still be considered faithful? No, you must be careful in both your lifestyle and obedience.] (Deu 28:1b) – “If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments”
5.2. Comprehensive [Question being addressed = Can I be selective in what I choose to faithfully obey as commandments necessary to salvation? No, you must comprehensive in your submission to God’s Word.] (Deu 28:1b) – “If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments”
5.3. Confirmed [Question being addressed = Can a person be considered faithful whose obedience has never been tested or when tested, fails? No, faithful obedience refers only to that which has been confirmed through testing.] (Deu 8:1-2)
“testing you”: (נסה) [nasah]= to try/test for the purpose of confirming that someone/something meets expectations, is true to their/its claim or what others claim them/it to be; (e.g. 1Sa 17:39; Gen 22:1w/Jam 2:21-23; 1Ki 10:1). In Deuteronomy 8, it is the test of our moral resolve – or commitment to keeping God’s commands (“testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not”). Accordingly, there are two tests God uses to confirm His people’s faithfulness:
5.3.1. Time (2 – “God has led you these forty years in the wilderness…testing you to know what was in your heart”) = “Forty years” represented the average lifespan of a person living in biblical times. What therefore God expects when it comes to the duration of time His people will remain obedient is the entirety of their life. As mentioned in prior studies, being obedient only for a season is not enough. This then is the first way God confirms our faithfulness to Him – did our obedience stand the test of time? Did we endure in faithfulness until the day of our death?
220.127.116.11. Additional OT support (Deu 4:5-10) = Obedience is expected “all the days of [our] life” (In this respect, see also Due 6:1-2, 12:1); (Eze 33:12-13) = The obedience of the person who gives in/up over time is forgotten or treated as worthless.
18.104.22.168. NT support (Mar 10:19-20 –“kept from my youth”) = The RYR understood his obedience needed to be able to endure the tests of time; (Mat 25:1-30) = If this parable teaches us anything about the test of time, it is that doing nothing for God with our lives – or during the time He gives us to live – is the same as open rebellion. Hence the reason Paul says what he does in (Eph 5:15-17) = The time God gives us is to be spent seeking out what is pleasing to Him not on folly or the evil opportunities that solicit our attention every day we live in this world (“the days are evil” = filled w/evil opportunities).
22.214.171.124. What this means = As part of our final judgment according to our deeds, God will be assessing how we used our time since this itself was given as a test. Did we spend it pursuing and promoting Christ’s kingdom or the kingdom of darkness? Were we living every day with the mindset of being productive and progressing for Christ or for self? Remember, do nothing is the same as open rebellion. IOW: every day you are either progressing or regressing spiritually.
126.96.36.199. Examples of what this looks like: 1) From a social media perspective = spending time posting Scripture or Gospel promoting content on Fb; following Gospel promoting and Christ-honoring things on Instagram; listening to/watching content that helps you grow in your understanding of Scripture, encourages you in your discipline and commitment to Christ, helps you to conquer in those roles or places Christ has called you to serve (e.g. Art of Manliness podcast; YouTube: how to write a paragraph/essay; how to read with comprehension; understanding Algebra – versus wasting countless hours watching/listening to/posting/following folly and garbage – Parents what are your kids following/looking at on social media? What is the majority of their Instagram likes/follows? What is it that fills up their internet/search history? 1Co 13:11);
2) From a fellowship perspective = spending vast majority of such time with your brothers and sisters in Christ (not pagans in the world). Rarely should a week ever go by where you are not hanging out w/your Christian family outside of our time together at church. We must actively pursue such fellowship!
5.3.2. Trials (Deu 8:3) = The “And” that begins this verse is meant to indicate an addition to what has already been said. In this case, the addition is in relation to testing and confirming faithful obedience.
Here, however, it is not time that is the instrument, but trials (“he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna…that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”) = The heavenly bread God provided to His people during their desert (or “wilderness”) wanderings was paper thin and limited to only what was necessary to survive. It wasn’t meant to fill their bellies (Exo 16:14-18). They would (instead) be left to “hunger” as a trial meant to test their faithfulness to “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. IOW: would they continue to feast on the spiritual bread of God’s Word even when the physical bread was sparse? Would they demonstrate that “man does not live on [physical] bread alone”? That such skimpy provisions were indeed intended to be a trial also testing the obedience of His people is made clear by (Deu 8:16).
188.8.131.52. Additional OT support (Exo 15:25, 16:4; Deu 8:1-2, 16, 13:1-5; Jug 2:20-3:4; Psa 7:9, 11:4-5; Pro 17:3).God’s use of trials to confirm the obedience of His people as faithful is not only revealed to be common practice w/His OT people, but God’s modus operandi w/NT people as well. As a matter of fact, the NT reveals this to be the number one reason we face trials – to test or confirm our faithfulness as more than just “fair-weather obedience. What else (then) we must understand about the various trials we face in this life is that God is using them to determine who is worthy of heaven (or receiving salvation). Those who “pass the test” and thus confirm their faithfulness, will be rewarded with heaven; those who continually fail the tests, will inherit hell.
184.108.40.206. NT support (Luk 8:13) = The testing brought thru trials will cause some Christian’s former obedience to fail and thus be considered among those who “fall away”. Clearly then, Jesus sees a proper response to trials as necessary to salvation; (Rom 5:1-5) = “Hope” or assurance of salvation requires “endurance” and “character” in “suffering”. The only ones therefore who should possess such assurance of salvation are those whose faithfulness has been confirmed thru trials; (2Co 4:1-17) = Paul’s ability to say twice that he did not “lose heart” in his trials or that his “light momentary affliction” was preparing for him “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” was only b/c of the confidence he possessed regarding his faithfulness to God thru it – “We have renounced underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or tamper with God’s Word…we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” Hence the reason Paul can also say what he does in the previous chapters [1:12, 2:9, 17]; (2Th 1:3-5) = Our faithfulness must be confirmed thru trials if we are to be “considered worthy of the kingdom of God”; (1Ti 3:10 – “blameless”) = Faithfulness confirmed thru testing. BTW: if blameless referred to perfection then no-one could ever serve as diakonos members in the church; (Jam 1:2-3 w/12) = Trials are the instruments God uses to confirm our obedience/love for Him and therefore who is worthy of heaven [Notice what James clearly implies: those who respond wrongly/reject the change trials demand will not go to heaven – i.e. “receive the crown of life”]; (1Pe 1:1-9, 13-17, 4:12) = Peter likewise views trials (and the growth/change they are meant to promote) as absolutely essential to salvation; (Rev 2:10) = Obedience/right responses in the midst of trials is imperative to being considered faithful on J-day; (Heb 10:32-39) = The obedience we possessed in the trials of the past needs to continue thru the trials of the present and future. IOW: time and trials are how God is confirming us as faithful. (2Co 12:7-10) = Paul reveals another important purpose of trials: to reveal weakness that God wants shored up. In Paul’s case, it was the weakness of becoming “conceited” or viewing his personal prowess/experiences as the reason people should listen to Him versus the “power [or prowess and person] of Christ. Such trials were viewed by Paul as necessary to him making the necessary changes in his ministry [or staying on track in his ministry) and becoming or remaining spiritually “strong”.
220.127.116.11. What this means = Shoring up the weaknesses revealed thru trials is often a part of how we confirm our faithfulness to God. This is especially true when the trial reveals us to be living outside of our means as to our intellectual, economic, physical or spiritual state. God expects us to make the changes necessary to conquering or controlling those areas of our life in a way that will bring Him glory. As such, God follows the mantra: “NO PAIN NO GAIN” – or “the pain experienced in trials is meant to push us in the direction of gain/growth, not a pity-party for self (e.g. turning to alcohol, drugs, eating a gallon of ice-cream, complaining that you don’t have big muscles though you refuse to lift the big weights). According to Scripture, such self-destructive actions reveal deep inner rebellion to the changes/improvement God is calling us to make to in re: to self. Refusing to shore up the weakness revealed thru trials is incongruent with faithful obedience. It is instead the sure sign of a disobedient person on the path of damnation. The question therefore we all need to ask when trials come in to our lives is, “What weakness in my character is God revealing thru the trial and how can I change/behave to shore it up?”
18.104.22.168. Examples of what this looks like: 1) Trial = By the time you get home from work you don’t have the energy to carry out the duties/roles God has assigned you as a spouse, parent, student, Christian, etc. The weakness God may want shored up/The right response or change He may expect you to make = Your diet, weight, the amount of sleep you get or cardiovascular exercise you do since all of these things directly affect your mental and physical endurance. God gave us our bodies for His glory not our gluttony (1Co 6:12-13 w/19-20 w/Phi 3:18-19 w/1Co 10:31); 2) Trial = You are failing/flunking out in those roles/duties that God has given you – even though you give yourself (and your energy) to them. The weakness God may want shored up/The right response or change He may expect you to make = Investing in the training or materials that will make you more effective and efficient (classes, tutoring, books, etc.) (Pro 22:29) 3) Trial = You keep hitting the sucky button on your life by the bad decisions you continue make (i.e. self-inflicted trial). The weakness God may want shored up/The right response or change He may expect you to make = No longer blaming other people, other things (your job, your neighbors, your boss, your employees your teachers) for the reason you life keeps swirling the bowl. Instead taking full responsibility for your actions thru repenting (which includes planning and committing to a course of change/ improvement – Eph 4:17-23).
CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: 1) (Mat 13:22 – “the cares of this world choke the word and it proves unfruitful”) = Daily hardships or the challenges brought on by our lifestyles are trials meant to test the nature of our faithfulness to Christ. Will we succumb or overcome? 2) (MAT 21:28-31) = The only person confirming their faithfulness to God thru trials is the one responding thru obedient action/change. IOW: talk is cheap. Which kind of son/daughter will you prove to be after hearing the Father’s will for you today?