It is a crazy time we live in. Hard to escape the obvious ulteriors in the world around us. Turn on the T.V., walk through the store, sit in a restaurant.... you don't have to be anywhere, doing anything, for more than a few minutes and your senses are bombarded with the degradation and wayward faith all around.
Reading in 1Kings 11 this week, an old familiar chapter, God's Word really grabbed me concerning not just the state of the world, but more importantly, the state of Christians today.
In Kings we see Solomon sitting on the throne God established through his father David. He is a good and wise king. He built a magnificent temple. He erected an amazing house for himself and his successors. People came from all around to hear his wisdom. Even the Queen of Sheba recognized a mighty God above all gods as the only reasonable and responsible source for such wisdom and blessings.
Then it takes a turn. You begin to see this ramping up of extravagance, an extravagance which even transitioned over into the king's private chambers. Verse 3 tells us he had 700 wives "who were princesses" and 300 concubines... he loved many foreign women!!! I simply can't imagine. The worst part of these many companions was that he disobeyed God by taking many of them from nations God had warned Israel not to enter into marriage with (v.1-2) because He knew exactly what would come next. And it did...
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father....
....So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.
- 1 Kings 11:4,6
He did two things wrong:
1. He did what was evil, a big part of which was building a "high place" for the gods of his wives and made offerings to them
2. He did not repent when God called him out...
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded.
1 Kings 11:9-10
The result? God would split the kingdom after Solomon died and, in the meantime, Solomon would meet much resistance.
You see, it wasn't just that he sinned. His father David had his own list of disobediences including giving into lust and temptation. BUT, the difference, David repented when he heard the voice of God and his sin was rooted out. He repented and turned away from his transgressions and did not commit that sin again. 2 Samuel 12 holds a beautiful account of one such situation, some of David's Psalms of repentance and celebrating the forgiveness of the Lord come from this experience. Hebrews 11, the 'hall of faith' even records David's name among those who are 'counted as righteous' because he obeyed God.
It's simple... but it isn't always easy.
1 Kings 11 and the emphasis I added above draws out a key point: Solomon did not WHOLLY follow God, he was not WHOLLY true to God. Meaning, he still believed in God. We don't know for sure but he may have even still visited the temple to offer sacrifices to God... he may have even still prayed... we aren't sure. What we do know is these passages reflect a split. He walked as though he could juggle his faith in God AND follow false idols at the same time.
It simply isn't possible.
I stopped and meditated on these words, seeing so much of modern society spilling out of the same concept. So many Christians who declare "I go to church on Sunday, I'm a Christian. I believe in God."
...Yet they give themselves over to the idols of our time.... money, inappropriate entertainment, un-biblical ideologies, self worship, THINGS worship.... I could go on.
...Many of these same people visit the bars on Friday night, don't think twice about drinking to get loopy or even getting drunk. Scripture calls us to be sober minded, ready to defend the faith and so on.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
1 Peter 5:8-9
...Many of these same people divorce because their spouse just doesn't 'fit' anymore, like a significant other is an old pair of pants. Refusing to heed scripture which calls us to grace and long lasting sacrifice and perseverance and staying with the wife/husband 'of our youth'.
...Many of these same people are NOT digging into the Word of God daily, are NOT praying from their heart daily, are NOT surrendered to seeking God as the Lord of their life and are instead seeking worldly people to advise their life. They are rejecting the wisdom of God for the way of man... something the book of Romans speaks extensively about. Something we see dividing the Kingdom of Israel when Solomon's successor hits the throne in 1 Kings 12:6-11.
I'm not talking about a list of dos and don'ts... rather, this is the test of our faith: do we desire to bring God glory, or do we desire to please ourselves? Yes, it takes effort and self-denial at first, but our love for God should be greater than our love of things which destroy our Christian witness and snuff out the light which could draw others to join us in the glory of eternity. I'm talking about vertical commitment and pursuits verses horizontal or self recognition. It is a sobering thought to remember the words of James:
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
- James 2:19
As I sat in this medication and heartbreaking reflection, one question glared at me: What are the gods we worship in our lives? What things and people do we put above the council and time of the Lord?
- Is anger running our lives more often then peace?
- Is frustration controlling how we respond more than patience?
- Do we count all goodness as "luck", a 'god' in itself, instead of recognizing blessings and giving praise to God?
- Does our Bible Study time suffer because we aren't willing to carve out that time and put God first?
- Do we neglect to pray through every tough spot and find praising God through every victory, big and small, pointless?
- Do we treat church like a sporting event?
- Do we put secular or un-biblical council above Christian or Godly council?
- Do we treat others according to our moods and opinions or according to the grace God has given us?
- Do we sacrifice (time, energy, resources... whatever God asks of us) to the cause of Christ, allow ourselves to be drawn out of our comfort zone and even transformed, or do we put our wants, our comforts or the opinions of others above steps of faith?
The list could go on .... and on! Many of the items boil down to a 'worship' of people, self, and things getting in the way of hearing and/or answering and worshiping God first. Often times I wonder how much the modern message of salvation is planting these seeds of shallow faith. It misleads believers to think it is less than the truly amazing thing it really is: JUST trust in Jesus and you will be saved. Some even extend that to say, trust in Jesus and life will be better. Once you say that prayer you can go back about your life however you please because you've got eternity 'in the bag' now.
More like.... Make Jesus the LORD OF YOUR LIFE, submit (a dirty word in our country but a beautiful Word in God's design) submit to Jesus... this is "trust", this is what saves. Obedience. It is that.simple.
Will life get easier? Not always. But you know what you do get? Peace. When you submit to Christ, when you recognize sin in your life and repent, turning away from that sin and walking the other direction, God is glorified and your peace is in knowing you followed Him. My favorite reminder lately when things are hard is this:
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
- Matthew 25:21
The only praise and accolade I seek is not of this world.... it is waiting for me when I cross that threshold into the Kingdom of God. Worrying what other people think, well, Jesus knew all about that too:
Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
- John 12:42-43
Did Solomon love the approval of man (or rather, his wives) more than the approval of God? We aren't certain, but all fingers point to yes because he did not repent. He "loved" his wives. He refused to make God Lord of his life any longer and for that, his life.... his kingdom.... fell into disrepair.
The same can happen to us.
Romans 3:23 tells us "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Sin is unavoidable as we live in a fallen world. Even once we are saved, sin is still something which needs acknowledging and rooting out, like David did. We all know John 3:16. We know it so well, we often glaze over the meat in it's meaning as Jesus' explained it to Nicodemus:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."
Don't be a Solomon in his old age. Instead, seek God daily...through His Word, through prayer. Test all that you think, do,and say by the refiner's fire and that which is good and honoring to God, will withstand. That which is not.... we must deny and throw away lest we end up on the path of Solomon. Be mindful of what God is telling you.
I pray your walk is strengthened each day as you seek Jesus to be the Lord of your life... denying everything else which might jockey for a position above the only one who is above all!
Need encouragement? Check out this powerful short video: