Tag Archives: courage

Courageous in Christ

Today’s message summary from Melvin Gaines:

[Last week we discussed the plight of what it means to be a myopic (or nearsighted) believer, and what it takes to overcome it. While we discussed the downside traits of a myopic believer–hidden fruits, complaining and unappreciative, we presented a remedy to grow strong in your faith as a believer. We discussed how important it is to build and develop your IMAGE in order to become more faithful and confident as a believer in Jesus Christ.]

Developing your IMAGE starts with God’s Word:

Investigate God’s Word

Meditate on His Word

Apply His Word

Grow in Jesus Christ

Endure the hardships that will certainly come

 

2 Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Believers in Jesus Christ are reminded by Scripture to be confident in their faith, but often, this is easier said than done. Perhaps you have experienced difficulties or setbacks in your faith because of life’s circumstances. These are completely normal and understandable. You can be a believer in Jesus Christ and experience different degrees of hardship. In these experiences, there is a lack of confidence in your circumstances.

Where does this lack of confidence come from?

  • First, it begins with a loss of focus on Jesus Christ
  • Next, it continues with doubt–something is not right, and now you’re not sure about the outcome of the situation
  • Finally, the loss of focus and the doubt is stirred up with a potion of fear.

A loss of focus is a huge distraction in your walk of faith.

Doubt is the opposite of faith.

Fear creeps in when faith is absent.

In order to get back to a place where faith can be placed at the forefront, you need to overcome the greatest obstacle that perpetuates doubt, and that is fear.

Fear comes from the available information, or a lack of information, which leads to a perception or anticipation of a negative outcome.

There are many different ways that fear become manifest in the life of a believer. Here is a top ten list that encapsulates how fear can overshadow a person’s life:

10. Losing your freedom

09. The unknown

08. Pain

07. Disappointment

06. Misery

05. Loneliness

04. Ridicule

03. Rejection

02. Death

01. Failure

Fear is a real emotion, but it is debilitating to your faith.

The result of fear, in your doubt and lack of focus, is a believer who is outside of the place where God wants you to be. It’s a place that is unsettling at best, and dreadful at worst.

Fear is not a switch that one can turn on and turn off. In our flesh, there is no such thing as an absence of fear. Fear is like a wound that needs ointment and a bandage in order to promote healing.

In order to overcome fear, which allows us to combat doubt and regain focus on Jesus Christ, there is a remedy. Fear must be suppressed with a reliance on God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fear must be met with courage.

Courage is the essence of a believer that drives the necessary change to promote growth of your IMAGE in Jesus Christ and the ability, in spite of any life difficulty or circumstance, to proclaim the good news for the Great Commission.

God reminds you of the importance of being courageous. It takes your mind off of the things that you are fearful of. He gives us many reminders and words of encouragement throughout Scripture.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

6 Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Joshua 1:9

“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Fear is anxiety and can be driven by impatience. God wants you to be patient.

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and courageous.
Wait for the Lord.

 

God wants you to experience rest and comfort as you rely upon the Spirit to overcome fear.

John 16:33

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

 

Fear is the absence of trust. God reminds us to trust in Him. Leave the results of your anxiety at His feet.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?

 

There’s no need to go it alone. There’s strength and courage in numbers. Stay in a fellowship.

Philippians 1:27-28

27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, 28 not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God.

 

Trusting God in your fear leads to confidence that there will be a good result…but even more than this…that God will be glorified.

Daniel 3:15-18

15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

What amazing courage! But make no mistake about it…your courage is far from your own strength. God provides the ability for you to overcome fear and be strong in Him.

Philippians 4:11-13

11 I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

 

Proverbs 3:25-26

25 Don’t fear sudden danger

or the ruin of the wicked when it comes,

26 for the Lord will be your confidence

and will keep your foot from a snare.

 

Isaiah 41:8-10

8 But you, Israel, My servant,

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

descendant of Abraham, My friend—

9 I brought you from the ends of the earth

and called you from its farthest corners.

I said to you: You are My servant;

I have chosen you and not rejected you.

10 Do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be afraid, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you; I will help you;

I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

 

God offers Himself to you for comfort, healing, preservation and love, which overcomes all fear. He is your confidence. He is our confidence that we will succeed in any difficult situation or circumstance.

His love overcomes fear.

1 John 4:17-19

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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Your Identity: Shame and Denial of Christ

Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:

If you are truly following Jesus Christ, there will be evidence in what people can see in your life. We are to be a group of people that should truly reflect a difference, for we are in the world but not of the world. We’re not to be a people that will be here on earth forever; we have a divine purpose.

People will also know when you are denying Christ or if you are ashamed of Him. Your actions will not support your words that you are a Christian. It really takes courage to follow Christ. It takes courage to stand up for biblical beliefs and Scripture. It takes courage to be distinguished as a Christian in today’s world.

To deny something is to declare a statement that turns out to be untrue or in contradiction. For example, you can make a declaration that Jesus Christ is your Lord, but you can still walk contrary to what God’s Word says. A person may choose to not follow God closely because he may not see evidence of God working. The question becomes, “Is God really real for me?” We may be so busy in life that we miss what He is really doing.

We read about Jesus Christ in Scripture, but the connection needs to be made as to how He is relevant in your life; otherwise, we may fall victim to not followhing Him as we should.

To be ashamed is to be humiliated or embarrassed due to inadequacy or inferiority. As a Christian, are you so affected by the world that you find yourself ashamed to be associated with Jesus Christ? Do you feel inadequate because you don’t blend in? Don’t allow Satan to trick you into moving away from Christ. Either you are bringing people closer to Jesus or you are turning people away from Him. People should not view you in such a way where you are presenting a double standard.

Matthew 10:32-33
32 “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.

2 Timothy 2:12
…if we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He will also deny us;

Luke 12:8
“And I say to you, anyone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.

John 9:22
His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jews, since the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him as Messiah, he would be banned from the synagogue.

Fear will keep a person from completely following Jesus because of the world’s pressures.

John 12:42-43
42 Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. 43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

If there is confidence in God’s power and authority, you can and will speak boldly for Jesus Christ, in spite of formidable opposition.

Daniel 3:15-18
15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

Isaiah 40:27-31
27 Jacob, why do you say,
and Israel, why do you assert:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my claim is ignored by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He never grows faint or weary;
there is no limit to His understanding.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Youths may faint and grow weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
31 but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint.

Do you think that God is unaware of your life circumstances, and because of that you choose to not follow His direction? Remember that God is fully involved in your life and He does care about you. If you trust in God, you will be strengthened and encouraged in His presence.

We have courage when we trust in God. We gain knowledge of Him with the power of His Word. Without it, you will find yourself empty.

Philippians 1:20
My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

Psalm 40:9
I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
see, I do not keep my mouth closed—
as You know, Lord.

Trusting in Jesus Chrsit makes you a living testimony. There will be no shame in Him or being associated with Him.

2 Timothy 1:8
So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.

Believing in Him and living for Him allows you to bear His name before others.

1 Peter 4:16
But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name.

Psalm 71:15-18
15 My mouth will tell about Your righteousness
and Your salvation all day long,
though I cannot sum them up.
16 I come because of the mighty acts of the Lord God;
I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone.
17 God, You have taught me from my youth,
and I still proclaim Your wonderful works.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
God, do not abandon me.
Then I will proclaim Your power
to another generation,
Your strength to all who are to come.

Are you proud to bear the name of Jesus Christ before others?


Listen to His Voice

The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2006.

Last week we were in Hebrews Chapter 3 learning about the relationship between Jesus Christ and us.  We learned that Jesus Christ was appointed by God to be in charge of His household, which refers to all of us within the body of Christ, and His church.  God created all of us, and Jesus was put in charge of us by His divine appointment.

Hebrews 3:3-6

Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household. For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said [in the future].  But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

There is a role for all of us within God’s household that we must be mindful of, however, and that important piece of our relationship within Jesus Christ is revealed here beginning in Hebrews 3:6 where it states “But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are IF WE HOLD ON TO THE COURAGE AND THE CONFIDENCE OF OUR HOPE.”  Some manuscripts add the words “Hope in Christ” or “firm to the end.”  So it is our responsibility, as members of God’s family, in the body of Christ, within our church and in our Christian community, for us to hold onto the courage and confidence of our hope for the rest of our lives in Christ Jesus.  It is by doing this that we remain as members in “good standing” within His household.  What do I mean by members in “good standing”?  Well, you can be a member of an organization, but as a member there are certain things (at the very least minimum requirements must be met) that must be done within the organization in order to fulfill the terms and conditions of your membership.  Members that do these things are regarded as members in “good standing.”  If one fails to meet these requirements, it does not mean that your membership is automatically cancelled or that you were being kicked out of the group, but it does mean that you may be a member “not in good standing.”  You can also be a member of the body of Christ, God’s family, and yet you are not doing the things that God would have you to do.  Here is where your relationship with God may be tenuous.  God has one standard for all of us to meet, and if we fail to meet that standard, our membership is classified as “not in good standing.”  God does not cancel our salvation or break His promises to us.  If we are not in good standing it is because we have failed Him or broken our promises to Him when we accepted Christ.

We fail God, and yet He does not fail us.  We fail Him because all too often we succumb to the temptations of the flesh, the world we live in, and we put God in a place far removed from first place in our lives.  We fail to obey His laws and precepts and we fall victim to our own selfish desires…pridefulness, jealousy, envy, anger with sinful behavior.  No, we don’t lose our membership in God’s family, but we systematically remove ourselves from God’s fellowship because we find the ways of the devil as more attractive.  All of this occurs because we fail to listen to what He has to say to us.

In Hebrews 3:7, this is exactly why the voice that we are to listen to, in the form of the Holy Spirit, makes a strong and firm declaration.

Hebrews 3:7-11

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested Me, tried [Me], and saw My works for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore in My anger, “They will not enter My rest.”

We need to listen to His voice, and not just listen, but also trust in His voice.  We get ourselves in trouble because of our inconsistency in trusting in Him and our failure to truly believe in Him.  We are distracted all too easily by the flesh.

Why do we fail to believe in Him?  We show a lack of courage versus the world.

Courage is the ability to act on what we know is right and good, and to dare to do what we should or must.  While fear paralyzes, it is courage that helps us move ahead.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom should I be afraid?

Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

We lack confidence in God and who He is in our lives.  Confidence has many meanings.  It also can imply our level of faith, our level of hope, and our level of trust in Him.  Note that I refer to having confidence in Jesus Christ and not just confidence in us, which is completely different.

The other reason why we don’t listen to His voice is that we listen to other voices.  We have been studying in Sunday school about our first enemy who is all-powerful…the flesh.  We can never allow the flesh to get the upper hand.

Romans 6:12-14

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

Pride creates an adversarial relationship with God.

Psalm 95:6-11

Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. For 40 years I was disgusted with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.’ ”

Anger must be subdued.

Genesis 4:3-7

In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented [an offering]—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

We are to avoid these failures and heed the warnings in Hebrews 3 and 4.  Notice the emphasis–in triplicate–within these Scriptures to bring the point home:

Hebrews 3:7-8, 14-15, 4:7

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert…For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…again, He specifies a certain day—today—speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

In Hebrews 4:7, the emphasis is not to put off listening tomorrow (which is the response that the flesh will always present to you when it is time to make a decision).  The importance of doing it today as referenced means “DO IT NOW!”  Today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week, not when you get older and more settled in…today!!!

We run away from God when our life is not right.  Look at the evidence of this in Genesis 3:8-11:

Genesis 3:8-11

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I had commanded you not to eat from?”

God ignores no one.  He knows each and every one of us, and we cannot and will not escape His judgment.

Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

Psalm 139:1-4

Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.

Watch your thoughts and heed your actions.

You can fool others with your false sincerity.

You can even try to fool yourself.

God will not be fooled.

Turn your heart to Him, and give it all that you’ve got!

Deuteronomy 4:29

But from there, you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find [Him] when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.

What about overcoming a lack of courage or the lack of confidence?

Joshua 1:9

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We are commanded by God to do this.  Listen to His command.  Remain faithful to the end.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For additional content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.


Sunday School Today: Witnessing and Winning

Text from today’s Sunday school session:

How can a Christian lead others to Christ? Winning souls to Jesus Christ is one of the greatest occupations in the world today.  Proverbs 11:30.  Although there are no hard and fast rules to insure success in this work, there are some general principles that will prove extremely valuable.  When you witness, it is spiritual warfare.  Before you go into battle put on the whole armor of God one piece at a time from Ephesians 6:11-18.

A. It is of first importance that the soul winner himself be spiritually healthy. He must be constantly feeding on the Word.  He must spend much time in prayer.  He must be yielded to God.  He must confess and abandon any cherished sins.  By thus walking in the Spirit, the Christian will find that the Lord will provide opportunities for effectual witness. This is undoubtedly the Golden Rule of soul winning “Live close to God.” Matthew 4:19. Remember—your life is a continual witness—good, bad or indifferent.

B.  It is a good thing to start each day by asking God to lead us to those whom He wants us to contact.  It is obvious that we cannot speak to everyone we see.  It is also clear that we have no way of knowing by ourselves which souls are “ripe” for salvation, but if we let the Lord lead us, we will work more efficiently and reap more fruit for Him.

C.  Then during the day we should seize the opportunities to speak for Christ. When fellow workers use the Name of the Lord in profanity, for instance, there is often opportunity for a tactful, loving word of testimony.  Religious subjects often come up in conversation—we should make the most of them.  Then again we do not always have to wait for opportunities: we can make them for ourselves.  Worldly men talk freely about politics, the weather and sports. Why should our lips be sealed about Christ, our Redeemer?

D.  Quote the Word of God as much as possible.  Better yet, let them read it.  It is a living Word!  It is the Sword of he Spirit.  Hebrews 4:12.  It has power to reach souls far beyond any words we could ever say.  Every good soldier of Jesus Christ should use this greatest weapon of all. Unsaved men will do everything in their power to stop you from reciting Scripture verses, but don’t stop.  If they say that they don’t believe the Bible, quote more of it.  The Bible teaches sowing and reaping.  There is a time to sow and a time to reap.  It is God that gives the harvest.

If you do not sow there can be no reaping. His Word is the seed, so spread it far and wide. Matthew 13:4-8.

E.  Follow up each contact.  Not many persons are saved the first time they hear the Gospel. Usually they have to be spoken to again and again.  Show a little kindness to them.  Hand them good Gospel literature.  Invite them to attend Gospel meetings with you. Above all, be much in prayer for them.  Do not be discouraged if some are hostile to you.  Opposition is often a sign that they are being convicted by the Holy Spirit, whereas indifference is almost impossible to deal with.

F.  Don’t press for quick decisions.  A false profession is not only worthless, but it may deceive the individual himself, and may do untold harm to the cause of Christ. You be faithful in sowing the seed, and God will be faithful in giving the increase.  John 4:35-38.

G. If you find it difficult to speak to others about the Lord, tell the Lord about it and ask Him to give you strength and courage to witness for Him.  If you really want it, He will give it. Matthew 10:32.

H.  Always carry a good supply of Gospel literature with you.  You can not only pass tracts to those you meet, but can leave them on street cars or buses, in restaurants, or almost any public place.

The rewards of soul winning are tremendous. (1) The present joys of leading a person to Christ are indescribable!  Luke 15:10. (2) How much greater will be the joy in heaven when someone greets you with these words, “It was you who invited me here!” (3) Finally, how incomparable will be the thrill when the Lord Jesus Christ openly confesses you before the assembled hosts of heaven.  Matthew 10:32.

from BBN International, Bible Broadcasting Network



The Impact of Decision-Making

Making decisions is a daily occurrence for each and every one of us. They are a normal part of life, and they are often important over the course of time. In our daily decision-making, we are to consider that our choices can have a significant impact, either favorably or unfavorably, on our lives and the lives of others.

In its simplicity, decisions are ultimately categorized one of two ways–from a godly perspective or from a worldly perspective…from a selfish motivation or those that are with God in mind. Your decisions can bring honor to God or disgrace to Him.

In the book Hard Call by John McCain with Mark Salter (Hatchette Book Group, USA, 2007), McCain writes a chapter about Branch Rickey, the General Manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who made the decision to break baseball’s color barrier by bringing Jackie Robinson to the major leagues. The game of baseball, at that time, was a mirror of society’s segregation. The only opportunity for black ballplayers was to play in the Negro Leagues, and there was the longstanding practice of “colored men” only being allowed to stay in places, and not being allowed to eat or stay at “white” facilities. Rickey was a man of conviction and who noted the injustices of how blacks were treated in society. He made the fateful, yet calculated, decision to find the best black ballplayer in the country that would have the intelligence, stamina and ability to endure all of the jeering and hatred that would be directed to the one who would be first. His scouts, and even a black baseball writer confirmed that Jackie Robinson would be that player. Before signing Robinson and having him play at the Dodgers’ AAA team at Montreal, Rickey had to make sure that six things were in place that would allow for Robinson’s successful entry to the major leagues:

  • The support and backing of the Dodgers directors
  • That Robinson would be the right man on the field (by not fighting back when being provoked)
  • That Robinson was a man of character when he was not playing (traveling with the team; staying out of trouble)
  • That there would be a favorable reaction from the press and the public
  • That there would be support and backing, through communication through the black press, to blacks themselves to see that the project would be a success; in other words, prepare the audience for the tolerance of opposition that they, too, would encounter (blacks were being encouraged to attend the ballgames and begin the integration of fans at the ballparks)
  • The acceptance of Robinson’s presence and play by his future teammates

Rickey’s decisions throughout this process created the event that forever changed the sport of baseball. Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers and was named by The Sporting News as their first ever Rookie of the Year at age 28. He was league MVP two years later and helped the Dodgers win six pennants and a World Series championship. It was the courage of Rickey’s decision making and Robinson’s decision to accept Rickey’s offer to play that shaped change all over America. This is proof that decision-making can have a significant impact outside of our immediate sphere of influence.

McCain writes that effective decision-making requires:

1. Awareness. Who are the enemies in your life? The Holy Spirit help you to use discernment.
2. Foresight. In your decision-making process, look at the possibilities from the direction that you take.
3. Timing. Wait on the Lord and be ready to move when it is time to move.
4. Confidence. Your ability is not in yourself, but in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6)
5. Humility. Adversity is a by-product of life…you need to know how to accept adversity and difficulty in your experience and how to respond properly in your decision-making process.
6. Inspiration. Be inspired by who you are in Jesus Christ–knowing who you are and His will for your life. God has a plan and a purpose for your life.

Sometimes good decision-making is not rewarded with immediate results. One decision may lead to another decision. Ultimately, the hard decisions need to be made in order for things to get better. The purpose of your decision has to be greater than you, just as Branch Rickey’s decision impacted Jackie Robinson, his wife, the other ballplayers, and an entire society. Only after the right and the hard decisions are made, God will act. God will move as you remain obedient to Him. You have to come to the point before you make the decision that you are doing so according to God’s will, His plan and His purpose. Decisions require careful thought and consideration.

Poor decision-making can lead to dire consequences that will effect not just you but even future generations that follow you.

1 Kings 11:1-13

King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women from the nations that the Lord had told the Israelites about, “Do not intermarry with them, and they must not intermarry with you, because they will turn you away from Me to their gods.” Solomon was deeply attached to these women and loved them.  He had 700 wives who were princesses and 300 concubines, and they turned his heart away from the Lord. When Solomon was old, his wives seduced him to follow other gods. He was not completely devoted to Yahweh his God, as his father David had been. Solomon followed Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not completely follow Yahweh. At that time, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the detestable idol of Moab, and for Milcom, the detestable idol of the Ammonites, on the hill across from Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who were burning incense and offering sacrifices to their gods. The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had commanded him about this, so that he would not follow other gods, but Solomon did not do what the Lord had commanded. Then the Lord said to Solomon, “Since you have done this and did not keep My covenant and My statutes, which I commanded you, I will tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. However, I will not do it during your lifetime because of your father David; I will tear it out of your son’s hand. Yet I will not tear the entire kingdom away from him. I will give one tribe to your son because of my servant David and because of Jerusalem that I chose.”

Because of Solomon’s transgressions, Jeroboam was given the kingdom with God’s promise of dynasty in the same way as David had…provided that he was obedient to God.

1 Kings 11:26-39

Now Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam son of Nebat, was an Ephraimite from Zeredah. His widowed mother’s name was Zeruah. Jeroboam rebelled against Solomon, and this is the reason he rebelled against the king: Solomon had built the supporting terraces and repaired the opening in the wall of the city of his father David. Now the man Jeroboam was capable, and Solomon noticed the young man because he was getting things done. So he appointed him over the entire labor force of the house of Joseph. During that time, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met Jeroboam on the road as Jeroboam came out of Jerusalem. Now Ahijah had wrapped himself with a newcloak, and the two of them were alone in the open field. Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he had on, tore it into 12 pieces, and said to Jeroboam, “Take 10 pieces for yourself, for this is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I am about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand. I will give you 10 tribes, but one tribe will remain his because of my servant David and because of Jerusalem, the city I chose out of all the tribes of Israel. For they have abandoned Me; they have bowed the knee to Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, to Chemosh, the god of Moab, and to Milcom, the god of the Ammonites. They have not walked in My ways to do what is right in My eyes and to carry out My statutes and My judgments as his father David did. “‘However, I will not take the whole kingdom from his hand but will let him be ruler all the days of his life because of My servant David, whom I chose and who kept My commands and My statutes. I will take 10 tribes of the kingdom from his son’s hand and give them to you. I will give one tribe to his son, so that My servant David will always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city I chose for Myself to put My name there. I will appoint you, and you will reign as king over all you want, and you will be king over Israel. “‘After that, if you obey all I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight in order to keep My statutes and My commands as My servant David did, I will be with you. I will build you a lasting dynasty just as I built for David, and I will give you Israel. I will humble David’s descendants, because of their unfaithfulness, but not forever.’”

Decisions can have fateful consequences when the wrong decision is made.

2 Chronicles 10:1-18

Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel hadgone to Shechem to make him king. When Jeroboamson of Nebat heard about it—for he was in Egypt where he had fled from King Solomon’s presence —Jeroboam returned from Egypt. So they summoned him. Then Jeroboam and all Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam: “Your father made our yoke difficult. Therefore, lighten your father’s harsh service and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” Rehoboam replied, “Return to me in three days.” So the people left. Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon when he was alive, asking, “How do you advise me to respond to these people?” They replied, “If you will be kind to these people and please them by speaking kind words to them, they will be your servants forever.” But he rejected the advice of the elders who had advised him, and he consulted with the young men who had grown up with him, the ones serving him. He asked them, “What message do you advise we send back to these people who said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” Then the young men who had grown up with him told him, “This is what you should say to the people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you, make it lighter on us!’ This is what you should say to them: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. Now therefore, my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I, with barbed whips.’” So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, just as the king had ordered, saying, “Return to me on the third day.” Then the king answered them harshly. King Rehoboam rejected the elders’ advice and spoke to them according to the young men’s advice, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I, with barbed whips.” The king did not listen to the people because the turn of events came from God, in order that the Lord might carry out His word that He had spoken through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat. When all Israel saw that the king had not listened to them, the people answered the king: What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. Israel, each man to your tent; David, look after your own house now! So all Israel went to their tents. But as for the Israelites living in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. Then King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was in charge of the forced labor, but the Israelites stoned him to death. However, King Rehoboam managed to get into his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. Israel is in rebellion against the house of David until today.

As King Solomon’s decisions had changed his method of rule over the people of Israel, the people were burdened and wanted relief. When the opportunity came for King Rehoboam to follow the advice of his elders, he chose to, instead, listen to his peers. Note that the decision made by King Rehoboam was ultimately the wrong decision. It was the wrong decision, but it was still according to God’s will (2 Chronicles 10:15). The result was that Israel would eventually rebel against the king and would be “in rebellion against the house of David until today” (2 Chronicles 10:19). There will often be good advice and bad advice provided to you when it comes time to make a decision. It is very important to seek wise counsel who have knowledge and understanding, especially from those who seek their own counsel from God and His Word. Godly counsel is always better than worldly advice. If you cannot support your decision-making spiritually and with God’s Word as a foundation, then it is best not to make it. We may not always like the results and the circumstances surrounding our decisions, but they are best for us in the long run, for He loves us and wants us to be successful in our service for Him.

The lesson in all of this is that people are often dealing with all kinds of issues, and we need to be aware of the importance of choices as we relate to others in winning them for Christ, while Christ builds, nurtures and strengthens you.


A Time To Step Up and Speak Up

It is important for parents to communicate with their children about the world we live in, especially in the area of morality and values. Parents need to speak regularly with their children and have frank discussions about matters of right and wrong because there are, unfortunately, ongoing conflicting voices and opinions that are prevalent from media sources, network programming, and even Hollywood and its celebrities. Today, to counter these messages that are in conflict with our values, we must have the courage to speak up for what is truth. We must take a stand for righteousness and be clear in our opposition to sin and deviant behavior. Taking such a declarative stand, of course, has a cost, and we should be prepared for such a cost and fallout for speaking the truth according to God’s Word.

This stance will require courage and strength from the presence of the Holy Spirit. We have to come to a place where we, as a people, have to be prepared to speak up and declare the truth about sin, sexuality outside of God’s intent within marriage, and the gay lifestyle. There are many people who are openly proclaiming that open sexuality and the gay lifestyle is acceptable behavior. Their opposition to any discussion about such behavior is that they should be free to make the choices to live as they do, and that they love everyone, and challenge others to be more open-minded. On the surface, this may be a valid argument until you compare this reasoning with God’s Word, His standards, and its true authority in our lives. The reality is that sin, which is contrary to God’s Word, can have a significant negative impact on your relationship, if any, with God, on your life, and even the lives of others.

For those who believe and trust in God’s Word, are you ashamed of what the Bible teaches? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). When a believer in Jesus Christ goes from place to place, he or she should be presenting a “fragrance” of the knowledge and wisdom of Christ before anyone and everyone in which they make contact. The reality is that there are two different groups of people that you will encounter–those that will have the desire to know Christ, and those who will reject the message of the gospel. Do you realize that your choice to receive salvation is an agreement with God? For those who accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, they are in agreement with God about His message of truth. If one does not accept the gospel, then God is in agreement with the choice to reject Him, and He will allow that person to go his or her own way–to be eternally separated from Him. The truth of the gospel is inherent in the message that needs to be communicated in how sin and a sinful lifestyle separates us from God.

There are things that should never occur amongst the people of God. “Now Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was 41 years old when he became king; he reigned 17 years in Jerusalem, the city where Yahweh had chosen from all the tribes of Israel to put His name. Rehoboam’s mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. Judah did what was evil in the Lord’s eyes. They provoked Him to jealous anger more than all that their ancestors had done with the sins they committed. They also built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree; there were even male cult prostitutes in the land. They imitated all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites” (1 Kings 14:21-24). What God had driven out previously that was against Him and His instruction was being brought back in. Was this practice much different than what is occurring today? Hardly. As a people, those who profess to follow Christ have become accustomed to outside influences that have compromised God’s Word within the church and within the body of Christ. The minds of those who practice sexuality in the form of prostitution have to be trained to do what they practice. These are willful acts that are contrary to God’s Word. “No Israelite woman is to be a cult prostitute, and no Israelite man is to be a cult prostitute. Do not bring a female prostitute’s wages or a male prostitute’s earnings into the house of the Lord your God to fulfill any vow, because both are detestable to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 23:17-18). God’s Word makes it clear that money earned through prostitution should not be shared with the church.

The people of God are the army of God that combats against sin (Judges 20:1-2). There is an urgent need for a counter-response to those who sin and practice sinful behaviors (Judges 19:20-26). How much of an effect can sin have on a multitude of people? In the book of Judges chapters 19 and 20, note that one incident of a sexual act resulted in the death of 100,130 people. A tribe of Israel was destroyed because of what it allowed to occur within their midst. Note that the men who participate in this grievous event were evil and perverted. The thought process of that time was to not necessarily abstain from deviant sexual behavior, but to allow for this type of behavior to be perpetrated against the under a different outlet women, or in this case, a female concubine of the house guest (Judges 19:25-27). The result of this travesty was noted in the verses that followed in Judges 20:5-7.

How does this relate to today? We need to make a decision as a group with one voice that deviant sexual behavior, with its roots in sinful behavior, is morally wrong. Unfortunately, the body of Christ has been deeply divided in its communication of this message to the world, and even amongst its own people. As individuals, we have to make a decision–is it a sin to have sex outside of marriage? Is it sinful to participate in gay sex? Is this behavior right or wrong? In order to even begin to come together as a group, we have to make these decisions as individuals and take a stand for God’s Word and righteousness.

Do you know that, while there is suffering in your decision to speak the truth, God will protect you? “For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher, and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed, because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day” (2 Timothy 1:11-12).

The body of Christ must come together and be united as one voice for the truth of the gospel and God’s Word…He never intended for the church to be divided. “Knowing their thoughts, He told them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand‘” (Matthew 12:25). “Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them, for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words” (Romans 16:17). See also Judges 20:11, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, and 1 Corinthians 12:25.

Who are to be have one voice against? Sometimes the audience is right in front of us–it may be the members of our own families or someone very close to us that is involved in the ongoing practice of sinful behavior (Judges 20:13; Genesis 46:21, 49:27). Yet, it is vital to speak the truth about sin and its ultimate destruction and devastation in the lives of people.

Conquering sin and those who oppose the message of truth will not be swift. While it will not come quickly, victory will eventually come to pass. Until that time, we must continue to encourage each other in the combat and struggle (Judges 20:17-36). When you are taking a stand for truth in the battle against sin, there will ultimately be conflict. We are to encourage, and pray, for one another. Sometimes God has to allow for us to be in a state of brokenness in order to best use us for His glory and His purpose. There are times we need to give of ourselves in fasting, prayer, and sacrifice of ourselves to bring us to a place where we are relying on God’s energy and strength to accomplish His will and purpose (Judges 20:28). When we see God in the way that He wants us to see Him, and we have the proper reverence of Him, He will give you victory (Romans 8:37-39).

In this combat against sin, as we speak to those who need to hear the truth about sin, we need to remember that it starts with an individual decision, and that we work in unity with others for the common goal of proclaiming the gospel. We are to grieve when someone is caught up in sin (Judges 20:6), and we need to not make light of sin and what is occurring in our lives. We are to pray for the Lord’s guidance in addressing these issues in reverence for God and His Word. We need to trust Him that He will give us the victory as we remain obedient to His Word and trust in Him.