What is your standard for living? We need to become people of Godly principle. How can we become a person of principle? This message looks at four "no matter what" principles to live by.
[Steve Myers] Have you considered your standard of living? You think of that, oftentimes we think of, well, mostly money. You know what kind of money do I have, what kind of money do I earn? Maybe you think of the job that you have when it comes to your standard of living. Most of us would probably in some way or other, even though we have so much in America, we’d like to better our standard of living, “I’d like to get a better job,” or “I’d like to make more money.” And oftentimes it seems, especially in our country, that becomes our focus, that’s our standard.
How successful are you? Well, how much do you make? What kind of car do you drive? What kind of house do you have? That seems to be our standard. But when it comes to us as a part of God’s Church, what is our standard of living? Or maybe to think of it a different way, what’s our standard for living? Because when we look at this world, well, we may have a lot of things in America, but does our society mirror the standard that should go along with that, not just money-wise but morality-wise?
Do our morals match the blessings that we’ve received physically? I mean, when you think about it, Israel was told much the same way when they were coming into the Promised Land. God told them that they were going to be blessed beyond measure. They we’re going to come into a land flowing with milk and honey. But God also told them, “You want to maintain those blessings?” “Then,” He said, “keep My commandments.” If you read through Deuteronomy 6, that’s exactly what God told them. “Keep My commandments.” Keep the statutes, do God’s will, and He said the results would be it will be well with you.
It will go well, God would bless them. He would continue to watch out for them. But I wonder if that describes our nation today. Is that the way that you would describe us here in America? How are we doing when it comes to maintaining the commandments of God in association with the blessings that we’ve received? You see, all too often I think our world, our society here in America, we disassociate ourselves from that. We think somehow as Americans we’ve earned it. It’s our right. We deserve it. And we disconnect between the blessings God has poured out on us and what our behavior is like.
Because certainly our nation doesn’t fit into that category. Of course now we think, “Well, yeah, okay, I see a little bit of a disconnect there, but we’ll elect a new president this fall, and that will solve all of our problems.” Oh boy, I don’t know if a lot of people think anymore, maybe not. But where do we fit in as God’s people? We can identify that kind of an approach out there in the world, but do we see any of that in ourselves?
We’re at a special time of the year right now. We’re between Passover and Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, and that’s a significant time. Because what happened during this time in ancient Israel, as they came into the Promised Land they planted their crops. We know at Passover and Unleavened Bread it began the harvest, it began the barley harvest. But it wasn’t just that first Sunday after the Holy Days that began the harvest. It went on all this time from Unleavened Bread all the way to Pentecost. The barley harvest was ongoing. That meant that that barley was still growing. There was still growth in the harvest.
So for you and I to think about that, we need to grow from that time of Passover and Unleavened Bread all the way through the harvest season. So are we continuing to grow? Sometimes when we think about the world we live in, we think, “Well, we’re doing pretty good.” We compare ourselves to the rest of America out here and we say, “Hey, I’m a pretty good citizen. I’m fine, young, upstanding person that I’ve got everything going for me. I obey the laws of the land. I don’t do all these terrible things that they’re doing out there.” And yet are we really upholding the standard for living—not this world’s standard but God’s? What is our standard for living? Are we really people of principle? And that’s the question I’d like to pose today. How can I become a better person of principle? In order to have growth that God intends, I have to be a person of principle.
And so let’s think about that for just a little bit. What is our standard? What is our standard of principles? Now if you wanted to define it, it would be easy to go to the Web or pull out your Webster’s dictionary and look at a person of principle. I think we know that’s somebody that’s going to follow a principle. They’re going to have set standards that they’re not going to live by only when it’s nice and convenient but always. Even when it’s difficult, even when there’s challenges, there is a set order of principles that we are going to live by whether things are going well, whether things are difficult. These principles are going to be the guiding factor in our life, and we’re going to decide what actions to take based on those principles. And of course for us, those principles are the principles that we find in the Word of God. And ultimately the Word of God defines that standard, defines the principle that we must live by.
Ultimately, I think we could narrow it down to just one sentence if we really wanted to. I believe that sentence is found over in Ephesians 4:13 Ephesians 4:13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
American King James Version×. If you’d like to turn there, maybe we could summarize the principles that we need to live by by this one sentence that we’re supposed to be striving for as those that are called out by God. Ephesians chapter 4 talks about a lot of things when it comes to the Church and being His people. It talks about the gifts that God’s given as positions of service. In verse 11 it talks about some are apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and pastors, teachers, and it says they’re all for equipping the saints for the work of service, that we’re all to be equipped for serving the Body of Christ.
And then in verse 13, I think it gets to that principle we’re striving to live by. It says in verse 13, “Until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” So if we’re to be a person of principle, there’s the standard. There’s the principle that we’re striving for. We’re striving to emulate Christ. We’re striving to be like Christ.
Philippians 2 says we’re supposed to think like Christ. And if we think like Christ, we’re going to act like Christ. So that’s going to contribute to our growth, that in this growing season we’re putting on Christ. We’re striving to measure up to His standard, to the full—not just to be a little bit like Christ, or sort of like Christ, or, “Well, at least in this one area I’m like Christ.” Well, here it says, “The fullness of Christ.” We’re striving to be everything that Christ is.
So in a way we could say this is a commandment, kind of a warning I suppose. We’re directed, and I think he’s saying here we’re encouraged to be a person of principle. And I think Paul focuses on this here because Ephesus had its problems. They had some challenges much the same in I think in some ways the challenges that we face today. There are so many pitfalls out here in the world that we live in. There are so many challenges. There are snares that want to grab us and drag us down, and there’s no doubt there are hazards that would derail our faith. And it seems because of the kind of society that we live in, we live in America, and America is all about free choice. We get to choose what we want to be.
You know we’d like to think in America we have free choice, that we can choose our destiny. That’s part of what being an American is all about, but yet at the same time our own choices can trip us up. They can be that snare that can bring us down. The things that we ourselves choose can be our undoing. In fact, the apostle Paul warned Timothy about that. If you look over at 2 Timothy chapter 4, maybe this is a little bit of a prophetic thing in some ways that harkens to the times that we live in. Certainly, Timothy and the Church faced it in that day, but I wonder if, even more so today, this may be where we’re at.
We talk about the choices we make, our own desires, our own wants, our lusts, sometimes we get tripped up because we even have this tendency to think, “I’m not sure I want to do that. I’m not sure that that’s what I would prefer.” Now that’s a real American outlook, isn’t it? “Because I want to choose what I want to do.” But Paul warned Timothy here, look at 2 Timothy 4:3 2 Timothy 4:3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
American King James Version×. He said, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. But according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they’ll heap up for themselves teachers.”
And the story goes on, and okay, this is focusing on doctrine. We could say, “Well, wait a second. We’ve got true doctrine. We understand the truth. That isn’t really an issue here.” “Or with me personally,” we might say that. But I think there’s more to this when you think of the whole concept of what’s being addressed here. Yeah, sound doctrine is an issue, but I think what’s overriding that is this concept of our own desires, our own desires. Why didn’t they endure sound doctrine? Because they didn’t want to. Their own choices, their own desires got in the way.
Well, why aren’t we growing the way that we should be? Could the same thing apply, it’s because our own desires? Because well, maybe I feel I’m doing okay, maybe I’m really not doing that badly. And so we have a tendency to think because I’m not that bad that it’s okay, and that we make this choice because of our own desires not to grow the way that God would have us grow to that full standard of the measure of Christ. Paul warned Timothy about that. In fact, Timothy wasn’t like that. Maybe Timothy set an example that we should try to follow. If you just turn back a page or so in your Bible, look at chapter 3, 2 Timothy 3:10 2 Timothy 3:10But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience,
American King James Version×.
Timothy didn’t have that issue. He said that, “Timothy, you’ve carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith.” Wow, the list is going on here, look at these amazing character traits that Timothy had. He followed not only true doctrine but purpose, faith, long suffering, love, perseverance, he said even in the persecutions and the afflictions Timothy participated in. So in other words, Timothy didn’t let his own thinking, his own desires get in the way from practicing true doctrine. So yes, he had the doctrine, but Timothy put that true doctrine into action in his life, and that’s a critical thing.
What is it that’s keeping me from growing the way that God really wants me to? James warned us all. He said, “It’s you. You’re getting in your own way.” He said each one is tempted when he’s drawn away by his own desires, by his own way of thinking, by his own principles. And of course that can hinder our growth. God wants us to grow. He’s fully backing us for growth. And those choices that we make, yeah, I think we know they do have consequences, and it can be consequences that are not just for today, but there are significant consequences.
We might even say if we fall into wrong patterns of choices, they do have eternal consequences. And so when you think about being a person of principle, we can’t live by convenience. We can’t judge ourselves according to the standards that are out there. Of course we should look pretty good when we do that, but instead we’ve got to live by what’s right and what’s good, what’s proper, what’s suitable, not by just what’s convenient. And so we can’t be one of those that give up the principles and forsake the kind of growth God wants us to have.
And it seems like there’s no end of those pitfalls that can come and confront us. Sometimes it’s just the way we feel about things. You know, feelings can get in our way. It seems they’re so right, they’re so true, but we found feelings are so unreliable and yet I get taken in, I rely on my feelings; this just doesn’t feel right. But we know what the Bible says about feelings. All too often feelings betray us. Remember what Jeremiah was inspired to write. He said, “Feelings are deceitful.” Well, he didn’t say it that way, but he said, “the heart is deceitful above all things.”
So our feelings can fool us. It could fool us into thinking, “Well, I’m not sure that’s that important or that’s that critical to rise to the standard that God really wants me to rise to.” And we can be taken in by that. And if you’re still there in Timothy, if you look back just a little bit in chapter 3, 2 Timothy 3, does this describe the world we live in? “People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive,” boy, the list is never ending here. “Without self-control, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Can we fall into those categories?
I think it’s easy to say, “Yeah, that’s the way the world is. That’s the way society is.” But do any of these things apply to me? I think those are the questions we need to ask because it seems all too often I could feel like, “Well, maybe that doesn’t apply to me, and maybe I have grown enough.” But if the harvest isn’t finished yet, there’s still some growing to do, isn’t there? We’ve still got more growth, and it’s a tough thing especially when we’re not treated properly, when we’re not treated fairly, when we feel there’s something unjust that isn’t right. Our feelings get in the way then, don’t they? I think there is a tendency to do that.
I heard an interesting story that I thought, “Wow, is that unfair or what?” It was a story of a basketball team in Georgia, a true story. A number of years ago, this basketball team in Conyers, Georgia, won the state championship. And when you’re from a little town and your school wins the state, wow, that is awesome. That is an amazing thing. I remember that experience when I was in high school.
You win state in whatever event it is, that’s a really big deal. And it was a big deal for this little county high school to win the state basketball tournament. They had won 21 games on their way to the state finals, to the state championship. And when they got there, they won, and it was a huge deal. But a problem came up a couple of weeks after winning the state. The coach became aware of the fact that one of his players had been ineligible to play. Now what do you do? Well, it wasn’t that important of a player, in fact he was kind of one of the bench guys.
In fact, on the way to the state championship, he only played in one game. He played in one game, and it wasn’t even one of the finals, it was one of the early games that really hardly even mattered. So why report that? That’s not that big a deal, an inconsequential player playing one game. You know, why tell anybody about that? Of course as he thought more about it, he even thought about the how inconsequential it all was. Because you know how long this insignificant player played in this one game? Forty-five seconds. Forty-five seconds is all this kid played, and the worst part of it all, he played in the fourth quarter after the team was already 23 points ahead. What do you do?
The coach reported it. He reported the ineligible player for 45 seconds, an inconsequential game that they were already way ahead of. And so if you were to go there and visit the high school, look at their trophy case, no trophy there. The Athletic Association took the trophy away from them. Now of course, can you imagine the outcry in the town? “What?! How in the world could you do this? It had no bearing on the games, on who won, anything like that. How in the world could you do that?”
So there’s this great outcry, but that was the rules. That was the rules. And the coach said something pretty amazing after it was all said and done, and there was a big uproar from the town and the people and the whole thing. You know what he said? His name was Cleveland Stroud; he said this, “You’ve got to do what’s honest and right. That’s what the rules say.” And he went on to say, “I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games, but they never forget what you’re made of.”
People forget the scores of basketball games, but they never forget what you’re made of. Oh, that’s pretty phenomenal, a pretty amazing approach. You wonder how would I react? I probably would have been whining and complaining with the other people that were there. But the point is, you have a choice. If we govern ourselves by our feelings, we can get so far off track, and we have to remember we do have a choice on how we react, how our feelings affect us. And of course as this coach so brilliantly acted, he exhibited character. He exhibited living by principle, not just by feelings and not just by what he thought should be right. And so he exhibited character, and he just didn’t rely on his own self. And boy, is that a pitfall or not?
When we rely on our own selves, when we rely on our own opinions, we know that Proverbs tells us that every man is right in his own eyes. So I’m sure if you wanted to justify keeping that trophy, you could figure out a way to try to do it. But when it came down to principle, when it came down to the rules, there’s no way around it. And so I think that is part of the challenges that we have to face if we’re really going to grow. Do we rely on ourselves? Emerson said, “Trust yourself.” We know the Bible says that’s a problem, that’s a problem.
If we don’t rely on God, we don’t rely on His standard, what His standard for living is all about, then we’re going to have some challenges. Because one of the difficulties is, when we rely on ourself, we rely on our own weakness. The Bible talks a lot about our own weakness. We are weak. Do we have the strength to overcome? Do we have the strength on our own to grow? Or is that something that God has to do in us and through us? I think Passover and Unleavened Bread remind us of that very fact, that we need a Savior, that Christ has to be living in us and through us in order to grow.
1 Corinthians 2:14 1 Corinthians 2:14But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
American King James Version×is a good reminder of that. We can’t live by the human standards that we’re surrounded by. You think of the humanistic perspective, oh, it’s good to be humanistic, to care for people, and watch out for others, that’s a whole philosophy that’s out here. But that humanistic perspective also says, “Well, if you’re bored with life, well, do something about it, do whatever you want to feel self-actualized. Well, don’t hurt anybody else but whatever it takes.” And yet that’s not biblical, that’s not our standard.
That falls into this category that Paul wrote about to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 2:14 1 Corinthians 2:14But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
American King James Version×, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God.” So that’s the challenge: are we receiving the things of God by His spirit? Is that how we’re growing? It says the normal every day human way of looking at things are foolishness to God. And so the challenge then for us, as it says at the end of the book or at the end of the verse here, we need to be spiritually discerning these things. And coming through Passover and Unleavened Bread puts us on that path.
You see, if you remember the ancient Israelites, when they came through Passover and Unleavened Bread, were they at the Promised Land? No, they weren’t there yet. They weren’t there yet. They had a lot of walking to do in order to get to the Promised Land. They had a season of growth that should have taken place as they journeyed to the Promised Land. The same thing is true for us. As our journey to the kingdom goes on, we have a season of growth, and these things must be spiritually discerned.
And I believe there’s a number of very basic principles that, if we order our life on these principles, we will be people who are rising to the standard, to the measure, to the fullness of Christ. We will be people of principle. Just by striving to follow these four, and maybe they’re over-simplistic, but I believe if we can begin to put these into practice even more thoroughly in our life, we can’t help but have a season of growth. Let’s think about these things—I’ve got four of them—four principles to live by that I’ve called the “No matter whats”. The No Matter Whats, four principles to live by if we’re going to be people of principle. No Matter Whats.
The first one is pretty straightforward. Obey God no matter what. Obey God no matter what. There’s a great example of this that we find over in the book of Acts, Acts 5. Here we’re at the very beginning of the New Testament Church. Pentecost had basically just taken place. Chapter 2 tells us all about the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. What did the early church do? What did the disciples, now apostles, do as they were faced really with a big dilemma? If you go over to Acts 5, I will skip over Ananias and Sapphira and look at an interesting circumstance of what began to happen in the New Testament Church.
What was one of the first things that happened, Acts 5? They’re thrown in jail. The apostles are thrown… “Wait a second, that shouldn’t happen. God is supposed to be with us! Where is God when you need Him?” Well, was God in jail? God was with them. God was with them, and so after being thrown in jail, right, that’s basically what happened. They were thrown in jail, Acts 5:17 Acts 5:17Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,
American King James Version×. “The high priest rose up, all who were with them which was with the sect of the Sadducees. They were filled with indignation, laid their hands on to the apostles, put them in the common prison.” So the results of striving to obey God got them thrown in prison.
Can that happen to us? Can we be in a trial? Can we be in challenges and difficulties because we strive to obey God? Yeah, absolutely, no doubt about it. Well, that’s happening to the early church right as things are just starting to get going. How would you feel about that? The apostles are thrown in prison; well, maybe they’re not doing the right thing. God would never allow people to be thrown in prison, would He? Well, in fact He did. To do something even greater, look at verse 19. At night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out.
All right, they are out of prison. What a blessing, but not the end of the story. The angel, speaking on God’s behalf, tells them what they need to do. So the angel tells them, verse 20, “Go, stand in the temple, speak to the people all the words of this life.” In other words, “All right, you’re out of prison. Go to the temple, preach the gospel.” Wait a second, that’s what got us thrown in prison in the first place. But God didn’t say, “Run. Oh, your growth is enough.” He said, “Listen, you go back to the belly of the beast,” which of course that’s where the temple leaders were. “You go right back to the temple and preach and teach.” How would you like those instructions?
Well, what did they do? Verse 21, I think they lived to this very point, obey God no matter what. We get to verse 21 there’s no question, there’s not even a hesitation that’s mentioned here. “When they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught.” So it’s not like they went to IHOP for breakfast or anything like, they went right to the temple and began to fulfill the words of God had given them. They obeyed, they obeyed. What was the result of their obedience then?
Back in prison again. They were back in prison all over again. Verse 25, “They came, they told the high priest, ‘Look, the men whom you put in prison, they’re standing in the temple and teaching the people.’” So what happened? “They wanted to stone them, but they brought them and set them before the council,” verse 27. “The high priest asked them, ‘Didn’t we strictly command you not to teach in this name? Look, you’ve filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and intend to bring this man’s blood on us.’” So they bring them before the council, they threatened them. The disciples say, verse 29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
So some of them wanted them stoned, let’s put them out of their misery, let’s finish this problem. But instead Gamaliel stands up and says, “Wait a second, wait a second. If this is of men, it’ll come to nothing. If it’s of God, we can’t stop it.” And so they were ordered once again not to preach in the name of Christ, and then they beat them up a little bit, right? We get down to, let’s see, where is it? Verse 40, “they agreed with him,” with Gamaliel. “They called the apostles, and they beat them, and then commanded them, they shouldn’t speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.”
But wait a second, yeah, the angel’s words were still there. It didn’t change the command that had come from God, did it? Just because they started this process. So what happens? Verse 41, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing they were counted worthy to suffer for His name.” And, oh, by the way, verse 42, “Daily in the temple and in every house, they didn’t cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” They obeyed God no matter what. They were unstoppable in their obedience to God.
Should it be any different for us? Should it be any different for us? Now we may not be preaching and teaching and all of that sort of thing, but are we living the example of obedience to God no matter what? And you know, the challenge is that applies to us in some of the smallest areas of our life. Can we claim to fully be obeying God? Are we growing in the stature, the measure of Christ? Because that would mean we would never claim that our three year old is only two just to get the break in admission at the zoo. We’d never do that, would we?
Or if we thought the boss was going to call us into work on Sunday, we’d have our wife answer the phone and we’d run outside so she could say, “Oh, he’s not home right now.” You see, those are some of the ways that we do kid ourselves, I think. We would certainly live and rise to the standard, if we walked home with something that we hadn’t paid for in the store and we realized it later, we wouldn’t say, “Hey, look at that. I got a discount.” We’d go back and we’d pay for it.
And of course in our relationships, we’re not going to gossip about people. We’re not going to create division. We’re not going to talk badly about others. We’re going to see the best in each other because that’s what we want people to see in us. You see, those are the ways that true obedience to God no matter what begin to show ourselves. Those little areas, we’re going to work when we’re supposed to work. We’re going to serve. We’re not going to cheat others, right? We’re going to do what’s right. We’re not going to allow others to take the blame for a problem that we caused for something that we did. We’re going to stand up for what’s right, and when we’re caught cheating, we change, we repent, we go before God and we’re forgiven, we change. And we then have that opportunity to continue to grow.
Now that’s not like story of a little boy I heard about. A teacher gave a test to her fourth grade class, she was grading this test, and she noticed these two papers were an awful lot alike. And so as she got to comparing them, every answer was the same.
She calls the two little boys up and she was talking to them, she said, “Look, Johnny, I think you were cheating on this test.” Johnny said, “No, I wasn’t cheating. No, not at all.” And said, “Well, listen, I see that all of your answers are the same as Jimmy’s.” He said, “Well, how do you know Jimmy wasn’t cheating? He’s probably the cheater.” She said, “Okay, wait a second. I was looking through your answers and we get down to number 14, Jimmy wrote on his paper, ‘I don’t know the answer.’ You see what you wrote on yours?” Johnny wrote on his paper, “I don’t know the answer either.”
Okay, we know who’s cheating. But that’s what it gets down to. Whatever it is, we have to recognize it in our lives and be that representation of Christ. It may be all this world ever sees until He actually returns, so we have to obey God in every area no matter what.
Now if we’re going to be a person of principle, a second principle to live by, another No Matter What. That is trust God no matter what. Put our trust in God no matter what. Boy, in this life that can certainly be a challenge. In Psalm 112, it deals with this whole concept of trusting God, trusting God. Let’s notice what it says in Psalm 112. Psalm 112 is one of those beautiful songs.
It’s one of those that says, “Blessed is the one who fears God, who trusts Him, who delights in His commandments.” That’s the way Psalm 112 starts out. And as it goes on, I think it begins to deal with this concept of trusting Him whatever the circumstances, no matter what. We look at verse 4, it says, “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness.” Well, when my life is dark, I got a pretty dreary outlook, when I’m facing difficulties, I want some light. I want some light at the end of the tunnel. Well, Psalm 112 is telling us just that. When we strive after God’s way, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It says “He is gracious, He is full of compassion, He is righteous.” There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Says in verse 5, “A good man deals graciously and lends; he’ll guide his affairs with discretion.” The connection here is I’m going to do what’s right even if I’m going through difficulties, even if I’m being mistreated, even if life is unfair. Even through the challenges that come up, my light at the end of the tunnel is God. And I can do things graciously because God is who He is and will not lie. Verse 6 it says “Surely he won’t be shaken; the righteous will be an everlasting remembrance.” God isn’t going to someday say, “Oh, I forgot you were going through that. I didn’t recognize…” No, God is not going to do that.
Those of God, verse 7 says, “They will not be afraid of evil tidings,” really bad news. You got bad news in your life? Trust God no matter what. Life is full of bad news at times. It says, “His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” His heart is established. Well, it’s not in his own thinking, it’s not by his own power, we’re established in God. It says here in verse 8, “He’s not going to be afraid, until he sees the desire upon his enemies.” And the enemies can be those trials, those difficulties, it could be literal enemies as well. But it says we trust in God because ultimately those enemies cannot succeed. The trials cannot overcome us because God is on our side. God is on our side.
How many times are we told that throughout the Proverbs, even Isaiah, it says, what is it? “He will keep us in perfect peace and we keep our mind on him.” Isaiah reminds us of that. And we think about those kinds of things. “Well, can I really trust God even in those most difficult times?” And God answers yes. But in my weakness I say, “I don’t know if I can have that kind of faith.” Because trust and faith are intricately related, aren’t they? I mean faith is having absolute confidence in God, absolute trust in Him. But at times life deals us some difficult things that can cause us sometimes to think that very thing, “Can I really have that kind of faith?” God says, “Yeah, absolutely you can.”
When we have those kinds of things and those kinds of thoughts come to mind, don’t count on those thoughts. Don’t sell yourself short. You see, when we rely on God, Psalm 112 certainly doesn’t sell us short. In fact, I think there’s an interesting comparison that we can make because sometimes we think we’ve got to have the kind of faith that could defeat a Goliath. Well, God will give us that faith, there’s no doubt. But you know the comparison that Christ made, the kind of faith that we need?
It wasn’t a Goliath kind of faith. He was surrounded by all the little kids. He took them up in His arms. What did He say about faith? He says, “You have faith like a child. If you have childlike faith, that can see the Kingdom of God.” So can I have childlike faith? That kind of puts it on a different kind of a perspective, doesn’t it? Can I trust my heavenly Father the way a little child trusts a loving parent? You see, in a way God is telling us, “Don’t believe everything that rattles through your mind,” like I can’t make it, I can’t do this, this is too difficult, this is over. No, we’ve got a great God that loves us. We’ve got a great God that’s on our side. We’ve got a great God that is the light at the end of the tunnel and we can trust Him because He is a God that always keeps His promises, and His faithfulness is greater than any of the circumstances that we face. It is greater than those circumstances. So God’s telling us through Him, we can grow in faith.
In fact, if you put it on that child-like kind of a level, I mean for those moms out there, it’s Mother’s Day coming up and fathers as well. What do we love to see in our children? We love to see them grow. We want to see our children grow up. We want them to become the kind of people that they can be, the kind of people God wants them to be. And when they do those kinds of things, we’re thrilled, we love them, we care about them. We can’t wait for them to come to their full potential. You know it’s no different than that with God. God loves to see us grow. He wants to see that kind of growth in us. And the closer we draw to our parents, to our heavenly Father, to our Savior, Jesus Christ, the more we can trust them. In fact, it becomes easier to trust them because we know them better, we understand them at a deeper level. And so He wants us to have that kind of trust.
So no wonder Christ said, “Come to Me.” When you’re overwhelmed, when you’re burdened down, when you’re laboring and He says, “I’ll give you rest.” So He’s there to help us. He’s there to be able to have the kind of principles that we need to measure up to the standard of Christ. And so it is very doable when we trust God no matter what.
All right. That brings us to number three, a number three No Matter What, another principle to live by and that is be honest no matter what. I didn’t think about including this one until I ran across a couple of surveys about telling the truth. Boy, they are everywhere out there on the Web, these intricate studies that have been done, whether it’s a Gallup poll or whether it’s a Pew study, there’s all kinds of them out there, and they zero in on telling the truth. Telling the truth. You might say, “Well, I’m pretty good about telling the truth.” Well, do we have some growth to do in that area as well? Well, hopefully we’re not too much like the average American. How many times do you think the average American lies every day? Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. Average American lies 13 times a day. So we could ask ourselves, how many times have I lied today?
One of the polls asked about how often people lie. They put it in the categories of do you regularly lie, not very often, that was kind of their criteria. How many Americans, what percentage of Americans do you think fall into the category of lying regularly? Ninety-one percent. 91% percent of Americans lie regularly. And then of course there was a study that was done by the University of Massachusetts and they monitored conversations between people, just everyday ordinary typical kinds of conversations.
They monitored a conversation for 10 minutes, and so they were trying to determine how many times in a 10-minute conversation an average person would lie. Now you would think in 10 minutes you really can’t pull off too many lies, can you? No, not the case actually. What they found is in those 10-minute conversations, a majority of the people lied. 60% of the people tell an average of 3 lies in a 10-minute conversation. In just 10 minutes they’ve already lied 3 times.
What about us? Well, it’s not that important, it’s not that critical, nobody will ever know the difference, so what? Yeah, we can fall into that kind of thinking. Will that hinder our growth? I think so. I mean there’s that Proverbs 11:1 Proverbs 11:1A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.
American King James Version×, maybe you can turn there really quickly. No matter what tell the truth, be honest, right? We know the Word of God is truth, and as we live by the Word of God, that means darkness can’t be a part of light. You can’t mix it together. So in Proverbs 11 it talks about a false balance. Of course a false balance means if I can cheat on the balance on the weight, then I’ll make a little bit of extra money. So God says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is a delight, a delight.” Down to verse 3 it says, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.” In other words, Living Bible says this in verse 3, “A good man is guided by his honesty. The evil man is destroyed by his dishonesty.” And so what is our standard? Are we striving to be a person of principle? Is this our principle? Is the principle for our life? Because it’s so easy to fall into not telling everything the way it really is.
In fact, I heard a funny story the other day. I wasn’t sure it was true, so I started looking it up and some sources says nah, it never happened. Others say it’s just a legend. I was talking to someone this morning that said, “Well, it might really have happened.” And it was about a police interrogation. They caught this robber and they suspected him of all kinds of different things, and they couldn’t seem to get a confession out of him. They were 100% sure he did it, but they wanted a confession so they could convict this guy.
So you know what the policeman did in order to get a confession? As the story goes, they took an ashtray and put it on his head and had a couple of wires that they connected to a copy machine, and they convinced this guy this was a lie detector. And so when they would ask him a question, “Did you rob the store?” or whatever, he said, “Well, no, I didn’t have anything to do with it.” They’d press the copy machine, and in it there was a little piece of paper, and it would come out, “He’s lying.” So every time they asked him a question and he denied it, they’d press the copy machine, here would come a piece of paper, “He’s lying.”
Well, finally after doing this over and over and over again, he finally confessed, and then that way they could get the confession. They then threw the book at him and the whole thing. So finally they got it. Now the funny thing about the whole story is the police were lying in the whole thing in order to get the liar to confess. I guess that makes it okay, right? Oh, no, that doesn’t make it okay. Yeah, in fact, the person I was talking to about that this morning said, “Yeah, I heard in the story as well that it went before the judge. The judge convicted the guy, but then he also called the policeman up and said, ‘Don’t ever do this again.’” I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a good story if nothing else.
Point being, not only when it comes to others, but I think most importantly, and maybe this is where we have a tendency to fall short and not really achieve the growth that we should: do we sometimes just have that tendency to lie to ourselves? Do we lie to ourselves? Do we kid ourselves? Do we minimize things in our own thinking, in our own minds?
And maybe it’s things that nobody but God would ever really even know about, but sometimes maybe we forget, “Oh, yeah, God knows about it, too.” You see, that’s the challenge then, and so that means we’ve got to recognize that. We got to recognize that within ourselves and commit ourselves to do that much better. And that’s what we’ve done. We’ve come through Passover, that means we’ve recommitted ourselves to striving for the ultimate standard. We’ve come through the Days of Unleavened Bread, but you know it wasn’t over at Unleavened Bread.
They had to walk through the wilderness. It’s a time for continued growth. So it’s a time to recognize those issues and really resolve that much more to success, resolve to growth, resolve to say, “Yeah, you know I do have that problem, and I don’t want to have that problem anymore.” We confess it to God and we commit our lives into His hands and real change. And that helps us to be that person of principle.
And I think it hinges maybe on number four, this is number four then. How to be a person of principle? Be committed no matter what. We need to be committed to God. We cannot compromise our commitment. We can’t compromise the values, we can’t compromise these principles that God has laid out for us. It’s how we live. They’re principles to live by, and it’s principles that we cannot compromise. And it’s really encouraging when you think, this is not a discouraging kind of thing. Even though when you think about all these things, maybe yeah, I see all my problems. I can see all the ways that I fall short and I need to measure up that much more. And we can get down on our self, that’s not the point of this.
In so many ways that’s exactly the opposite because when we take an examination, when we look at ourselves, when we recommit ourselves, we actually can look at the successes that we’ve had and build on those. And I think that’s God’s perspective in so many ways. We often don’t think of that when you think of ancient Israel because God couldn’t wait to zap them and show them how terrible…Well, we think that, but that’s not the case at all either.
If you go back to Deuteronomy chapter 30 for just a moment. Deuteronomy chapter 30, we often think, okay, Israel has come through the desert. They denied God, they didn’t trust God, they didn’t think He’d do what He would do. They wanted manna, they wanted the quail, they put God down every step of the way, and yet did God want to punish them? I mean He really didn’t, He really didn’t, and as the next generation comes into the Promised Land, God reiterated all the things that they needed to do. He talked about the standards. He talked about what was expected of them. Deuteronomy kind of goes through that whole thing, not only for the priesthood but for the people as well. Here’s the standards that you need to live by. Here is how you sacrifice to God. Here is how you should live your life.
So here is God going through all of these things with the people before they go into the Promised Land. And what I find so encouraging is when you get down to chapter 30, if you look at verse 11. He says, “For this commandment which I command you today, it’s not too mysterious for you.” He says, “Nor is it far off.” Because oftentimes I think we have that feeling, “How can I do that? I can’t be that good. I can’t meet that level of righteousness.” Well, yeah, if we think of it on our own, it is impossible on our own. But God says He’s on our side and even more than…
Look at ancient Israel, He says it’s not too mysterious, it’s not too far off. He says, “It’s not in heaven that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us, bring it to us that we may hear and do it?’” He says, “Don’t think like that.” Verse 13, “Nor is it beyond the sea that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us that we may hear and do it?’” No, it’s not in some far-off place, it’s not something that’s undoable, that’s impossible. Verse 14 He says, “The word is very near you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it.”
Now imagine that. He’s telling a people who don’t have His Spirit—you know the vast majority did not have God’s Spirit—and yet He’s telling them, “This is right near you. This is in your mouth. You can do this. This is in your heart. These things are possible.” You know He proved it that 40 years with the pillar of cloud, the pillar of fire, He was right there with them that whole time. He wasn’t far off. And so it’s so encouraging when I think about this. If you put that on the spiritual level where we’re at, is God far off? Is this something that’s too mysterious? Is this something that’s too difficult? Is this something that we couldn’t possibly strive to the level of Christ and His measure and that fullness? God says, “No, you can.” This is something that’s very doable because not only is it in your mouth, but we have Christ in us. We’ve been given God’s Spirit. We have the means to accomplish these very things. We have the means to be committed no matter what.
And so He says, “You can grow,” and I think that flows from that commitment to God that we’re committed to that standard, we’re committed to do what’s right. And that commitment can bring about that growth in our life that really points to success, not to failure but to success that flows from that commitment that we have to God. I think we’re reminded of that, and you might write it down, Romans 12. It talks about being that living sacrifice. You mean it’s possible to actually do these things? Absolutely. How is your determination? How is your commitment? Well, we vocalize those things in a sense at Passover. When we got down and we washed other’s feet and we took the bread and the wine, we recognized the body and blood of Jesus Christ that through Him all things are possible, all things are possible.
There is a powerful Psalm that I think when we start to feel down on ourselves, maybe we just should re-read it. It’s over in Psalms 37:5 Psalms 37:5Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
American King James Version×. Psalm 37, notice what it says in verse 5. This is another one of those songs that we sing so often. Maybe a favorite of yours, it is a reminder that we are up against challenges and difficulties, but Psalm 37 begins that way. It says, “Envy not nor fret yourself over evil lawless men,” remember that song? We sing it all the time. Those that work against us, it says they’re going to be cut down. Things that work against us we can overcome through the power of God.
Verse 3 says, “Trust in the Lord.” There is that trust God no matter what. Trust Him no matter what. Yeah, that’s the goal, that’s what we’re striving for. And so when we finally get down to verse 5, talk about commitment. It says, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him,” and what’s God’s reaction? When we commit to Him, it says He shall bring it to pass. So that’s one of those passages you kind of circle, put a star by, that’s a promise from God. That is a promise He will never give up on. We know He says He’ll never leave us or forsake us. It says here we commit our way to Him, we trust him. We change, we recognize sin, we repent. “He shall bring it to pass. He’ll bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as noonday.” You see, we’re trusting in Him. We’re committed to Him. When we commit to Him no matter what, that’s God’s reaction. So what a blessing, what an opportunity that we have for growth, for further growth, to really have that kind of a point of view. I think that’s what God wants for all of us. He wants the best for all of us.
In fact I was reading something the other day that really struck me and kind of inspired me. It had to do with Africa. The Kubiks inspired me in that way, reading through their blogs and different things.
I got kind of off track and I was reading a little bit about another fellow who is doing some work in Africa dealing with people in situations. His name was Dr. Bob Morehead. And he wrote this blog that I got to reading, and it was really inspiring, so I kind of stole it, revised it just a little bit. Very powerful as he wrote about kind of this concept of commitment and our approach as we live this life, especially for us, I think, particularly important as we’re in this time of growth between Unleavened Bread and Pentecost. Here’s what he wrote with a couple of minor revisions.
He wrote, “My face is set. My walk is fast. My goal is the Kingdom. Yes, the road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, but my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, I cannot be compromised. I will not be detoured, I will not be lured away. I won’t be turned back, I won’t be disillusioned. I will not be delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice. I will not hesitate in the presence of adversity. I will not negotiate at the table of my enemies. I won’t ponder at the pool of popularity or meander through the maze of mediocrity. That is unacceptable because I will not give up, I will not shut up, I will not let up, I will not slow up until I’ve prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stood up for God.”
And I think that’s got to be our point of view. God’s way has to be the principles by which we order our life. Because you know, living life we can count on one thing—there will be things that will try our principles, there will be situations. We can’t escape the things that will try us. We’re on in a way a collision course, for all of those things that will put us to the test.
But there is good news and the good news we have Christ living in us. We can become a person of principle and order our lives by the ultimate standards. When we commit ourselves not to be put off track by our own thinking, our own desires, our wrong attitudes, our wrong feelings, the selfishness and the weakness that we as human beings face. When we resolve to do the No Matter Whats—to obey God, to trust God, to put our faith in Him, to be honest no matter what, and to be committed to His way no matter what life brings—we certainly can determine to strive for that standard of the measure and of the stature and the fullness of Christ. So let’s go, let’s go on, let’s grow during this time between Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, and strive for that ultimate standard for living. And when we do that, we will certainly become a person of principle.