In our consideration of the will of God in our lives, we notice that in our Bibles we have Godís record of men and women in their varying responses to the will of God. It is like Hebrews 11:2, God has borne witness unto them of what He has seen in their lives, and the same is true for us. It would be a wonderful thing, possibly, if we could arrive at a point from which from then on, we would continually do Godís will and never depart from it. However, we know that our lives are not static and they always have the potential to change. Itís good to know that a believer who has failed to honor God in previous days has the potential to change and begin to respond to Godís claims on his life as he should. Itís also always wholesome to be conscious that, though it may be painful to consider, there is the possibility that one who has gone on well for God for many years may turn out in latter years to be a failure spiritually through not continuing to obey Godís will or to walk with exercise, and thus he may lose his testimony and effectiveness for God. Brethren and sisters, we need to carefully maintain our souls in a proper attitude of subjection to the will of God if we are going to be fruitful for Him and continue to enjoy all that He desires for us! The truth of Proverbs 4:23 is absolutely applicable: ďKeep thy HEART with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.Ē
Let us notice for our profit some men who varied over their lifetimes in regard to their obedience to Godís will:
Men who began well, but failed at the end
When we think of men who began well but then failed later on, we readily think of men like Solomon as one who had potential to use for God and who began with such great exercise to go on to please Him (1 Kings 3:5-15 with 11:1-10). However, it is sad indeed to see the ruin that resulted in his own life and also in his influence on the nation because of his neglect of, and turning aside from, obedience to Godís will. It seems that his downfall began when, having done so much for God in earlier days and having built the temple to the glory of God, he began to please himself. However, we also see that he had already taken a wife of the children of Ammon before he became king (compare 1 Kings 14:21 with the years of Solomonís reign in 11:42). Thus a pattern began early in his life that seems to have been covered by the zeal of his earlier years but which began to be seen when he rested on his laurels and enjoyed the attention of other nations and kings. No doubt, his riches and his wives all worked to influence him to move in the direction of pleasing self rather than pleasing God. It is clear that this manís history should be a lesson to all of us to show us that after many years of having right priorities, we can possibly revert to what characterized us in earlier days, and fleshly desires can arise to ruin a life of testimony for God.
We also can think of Uzziah and all the good he did in his earlier years, as God has written the character of his life in the pages of His Word. Much has been said about his life in its good aspects and we can learn much from his godly example. In so many ways his life was exemplary in his positive influence on the nation and its spiritual state. However, God does not fail to record the occasion of his downfall, when his heart was lifted up with pride when he was strong (2 Chron. 26:16) so that after doing so much in his subjection to Godís will, he presumed to function as a priest and to offer incense before the Lord in a place that wasnít his to take. How sad it must have been to the godly of Judah to see their king who had done so much good, now living in a separate house as a leper until the day of his death, now unable to enter into the courts of the Lordís house or even to go out as before among the people. It seems to indicate the potential for pride to rise in our hearts so that we presume to disregard the will of God and to move in a direction or activity that His Word does not command or allow. May God preserve us from ending our days as Uzziah with the shame of a grievous failure in our lives to hinder our usefulness in what might be the best years of our lives for God.
Men Whose Obedience Varied in relation to Their Spiritual Condition
We find other men in Godís Word who moved in willing subjection to the will of God at times when they were enjoying close fellowship with Him, but who moved in other directions and activities when their hearts were not right with Him. One example that comes immediately into our thoughts is that of David, the man after Godís own heart, who rose to such great heights of spiritual quality and leadership, but who also made such grievous blunders in his life when his heart was not right. We think of His marked subjection to Godís control in his experiences in the wilderness and in the cave of Adullum (1 Sam. 22:1-2), but before that, we see him going to the Philistines where he groveled before Achish as a madman (1 Sam. 21:13) and then later, he almost become involved in the warfare of the Philistines against his own people (1 Sam. 29). All this seems to be in great contrast with his dignity in the cave! We note his subjection to Godís will in his warfare with the Philistines (2 Sam. 5:17-25), but then see his self-will in his attempt to bring up the ark the first time (II Sam. 6). This continues in his life (and we need not mention the more sordid aspects of his sin and the obvious contrast with his state at other times), and it seems to indicate a sad incongruity between these two aspects of his character. Does this not warn us that above all things it is important to keep our hearts in a right condition before God and to be preserved in stability and consistency to please the Lord all the days of our life?
Jehoshaphat is another example of a strange mixture of godliness with accommodation to those who were ungodly. It seems most unusual to see such a man whose life was directed so much of the time toward honoring the Lord and seeking to restore the people to God, to also see him associated in common ventures with Ahab and with Ahabís son. Much could be said about him, but space and time does not permit it. However, we should consider the dangers that can result when we put personal desires for gain and for the friendship of the ungodly of the world ahead of our purpose of heart to seek to please the Lord.
Is it not true that there are believers who at one time displayed such beautiful and Christ-honoring subjection to the Word of God, but then, for some reason, they got away in heart and soul and then showed that change in their lives? We think of brethren who once faithfully supported the assembly and all its gatherings, whose voices were heard in worship and praise as well as in encouragement to the saints. We remember those who set a high example for the saints and who manifested those indications that there was potential for their usefulness in the assembly even more in the future. What happened to them? Where did they get away? Was it when they got more possessions, or were the possessions an indication of their heartís condition? Do we as saints really think that we can accumulate material goods in houses and property and not have our hearts affected by them? If we are not satisfied with a home in a setting that is suitable to Christian testimony, and desire a large estate because we are able to pay for it, does that not indicate a wrong condition of heart and a wrong estimation of the goods that the Lord has entrusted in our hands?
We can never be too careful to maintain an attitude of simple obedience to the Lord. It seems so easy to allow little elements of life to creep in and then to justify our disobedience and to fail to apply Godís Word to our lives properly. If we live with the daily exercise of heart to wholly follow the Lord as did Caleb in his life, we will be preserved to old age to fight the Lordís battles and to conquer land for God, even as he did. But if discontent and worldly desires begin to supplant the earnest zeal to be faithful to the Lord in daily obedience to His Word, we will end like Samson, a man with the most potential for God of all the judges, yet with the most dismal ending of his life. May the Lord instill in our hearts and willingness to judge ourselves in the light of His Word and to practice its truths daily for His honor until He comes.