From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 8 – Further advice on how we can become more faithful
A feature which is found in the vast majority of people, even among the best, is that they tend to have limits, beyond which their faithfulness does not go, or does not continue. In other words, even the best of us tend only to be faithful up to a certain point, but no further. We see this feature quite often among the better kings of Judah. The Bible speaks of them as having done what was right and as being faithful. But it then points out what they did not do, i.e. the things which they did not have the courage or the determination to achieve.
An example of this is found in the lives of King Jehoash of Judah and his son, Amaziah and grandson, Azariah. In general these three kings did what was right. But there were certain things which they did not have enough courage or will power to do:
In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. 2 And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the pri.est instructed him. 3 Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.2 Kings 12:1-3 (ESV)
In the second year of Joash the son of Joahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin of Jerusalem. 3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not like David his father. He did in all things as Joash his father had done. 4 But the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.2 Kings 14:1-4 (ESV)
In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 4 Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.2 Kings 15:1-4 (ESV)
Kings Jehoash, Amaziah and Azariah, like most of the Kings of Judah, stopped short of demolishing the ‘high places’ where some of the people used to go to offer false and idolatrous sacrifices. Perhaps they feared the reaction of the people if they went that far, just as modern day politicians will only go so far. They stop short of doing anything which would arouse substantial public outcry or opposition.
We do the same ourselves and set up boundaries, beyond which we will not go, because we think it would be too hard, dangerous, costly or difficult. Sometimes we may even do that unconsciously, without ever saying out loud, even to ourselves, that we are holding back or what it is that we are afraid of.
One of the main reasons why a person sets limits on the extent of their own faithfulness and obedience is that they are not wholehearted. That means that they are generally loyal and willing, but only up to a point. It is usually up to the point where faithfulness begins to cost too much, or is likely to cause more difficulty than they want to face.
The problem with being on God’s side, but only up to a certain pre-determined limit, is that there will eventually come a point at which your willingness to obey will be used up. You will then betray God, and even switch sides. That is inevitable if you set any limits beforehand on how much you are willing to endure or how far you are willing to go. Any such limit, wherever you choose to place it, will inevitably lead to you being brought up to and beyond that point. The demons in your life will make sure of that.
So, if you say to yourself “I will endure for up to six months, but that’s all”, then you can be sure that a demon will arrange things so that your ordeal lasts longer than six months. Or, if you were to say “I will be honest and do what’s right at work, as long as I don’t have to lose my job”, then you can be sure that the demons will engineer some situation that requires you to choose between being faithful to God or losing your job.
Therefore the only safe and sensible policy is total faithfulness, where you are wholehearted and set no limits at all. Just resolve to do whatever God asks you to do, no matter what. Then ask Him for the grace to be obedient. That is the only approach that will work. A person who is not wholehearted will inevitably come unstuck and go wrong.
Why not begin to examine yourself in this area and to ask yourself whether, how and where you are doing this and what the boundaries are to your own faithfulness? Ask God to expose these limits or boundaries to you and to help you to break through them and go beyond them. Imagine the changes that would occur in your life if you were to do this and to become, like King David, a person who is “a man wholly after God’s heart”.
The consequences could be very significant, in terms of what God could then achieve through your life, but also how well you would do at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The famous nineteenth century evangelist and Bible teacher, D. L Moody, put it very well when he said:
“The world has yet to see what God can do with, and for, and through, and in, and by a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will do my utmost to be that man”.