David, the son of Jesse, who became the greatest ancient king of Israel, is someone I’ve always admired. While the Bible says, he was “a man after God’s own heart,” in a sense, David reflects the hearts of many of us. He was a man of great highs, but also deep lows; a man of extraordinary success, but also of overwhelming failures. In this respect, we can all likely relate to him.
For years, David faced great pressure and his life was threatened when Saul, the king of Israel, was seeking to capture and kill David. So David found himself constantly on the run, a fugitive from the country he loved.
When David’s period as a fugitive drew to an end, following the providential death of Saul, David assembled a vast army of warriors. The list of these men is found in 1 Chronicles 12, where we discover they numbered in excess of 337,000. As you read the list, it’s interesting that nearly all of the men were described as valiant warriors.
But in the midst of this long list of hundreds of thousands, there is reference to a small group of men totaling only 200. This band of brothers was referred to as “the sons of Issachar.” While they too were warriors, they were singled out as different than the other 337,000. Note what God purposely tells us about them:
“…the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do…” (I Chronicles 12:32)
These men were different. Sure they could fight. Yes, they were courageous. Of course they could wield a sword. But, they had something else. Their difference can be seen in two critical attributes.
First, the sons of Issachar “understood the times.” This suggests they were discerning. They did not simply jump to the default conclusions that everyone else did. They didn’t dabble in unproven conspiracies. They properly assessed the events around them. Apparently, while the preponderance of the other men were experts in fighting, the sons of Issachar were able to perceive and detect truths that the other men either couldn’t, or they chose not to.
The second truth we are told about the sons of Issachar is that they had the “knowledge of what Israel should do.” These men were not content simply sitting back, as Monday morning quarterbacks, critiquing the acts or decisions of others. Rather, the discernment of the sons of Issachar led them to the proper knowledge of what to do. The truth they understood drove them to take the proper steps to address the times within which they lived. Theirs was a proactive response, based on an accurate assessment.
As we think about these extraordinary men, the sons of Issachar, is there any application to our present day? As our world moves from one global crisis to the next almost as swiftly as the sun sets and rises, are there any lessons we can learn from the sons of Issachar? I think so.
First, are you and I discerning? We’d all like to say we are. But is our discernment based on a certain ideology, or select media, or underlying assumptions, or even our own bias? It’s highly possible some of these variables influence us to “discern” inaccurately. Why? Because they can all be subjective, approaching these times of crisis with a predisposition to arrive at our own preferred conclusions.
But there is one objective truth. This truth can help us discern accurately what is going on in our world today. The objective truth is God’s Word. Jesus said this about the Bible:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
We also know this about the Word of God:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so the servant of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
So, if we immerse ourselves into “the perfect law of liberty” (as the Bible describes itself), not only will God provide us with His supernatural discernment, but He will then equip us with the knowledge of what we should do, during these trying times. We can also know this because God promises it:
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
This verse promises to show us not only what is up close, right at our feet, but also how to navigate the path as it extends further out, beyond our sight and understanding. That discernment will help us to know how to respond to the here and now, as well as what is coming down the road. Is this because we are supernatural? No, but God’s Word is, and that is the faithful source of our discernment.
I would encourage you to consider these thoughts. Think about the sons of Issachar. They too were warriors. But they were different. They discerned. They knew what to do. Then, because they in fact were warriors, they took deliberate action to properly address the facts around them. Finally, it’s not too far-fetched to believe that these men influenced the other thousands of warriors around them, because they allowed God to properly guide them in their own conclusions.
Are you a modern day “son of Issachar?” If so, then let God humbly use you to lead your family and your community, in whatever godly manner your Heavenly Father directs. But if you are not yet one, then do what we are instructed to do, when we are lacking in the attributes we’ve discussed:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
In January, we marked the end of a chapter in our lives with the sale of Liberty Ridge Ranch. Eight years ago Lori and I stumbled across a farm property that would become much more than just that, in the years to come. It’s funny how oftentimes we push on a door without fully comprehending what’s on the other side of that door. That was the case with the door God opened for us eight years ago.
One of my life’s verses when it comes to our businesses, and life in general, over the last few decades has always been:
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” Ecclesiastes 9:10
In the case of Liberty Ridge Ranch, it required a lot of hard work, and many folks helped us (including our faithful ranch hand Ken from day one), but the labor was so worth it. From an old horse barn, to a venue; from an abandoned cattle property to a number of lush pastures; from the dream of a few bison to a herd of as many as 32, with 12 more calves to be born this spring; from a little plot of land, to what a recent friend described as “a million dollar view.” But ultimately all the credit goes to God. He painted a beautiful masterpiece, with hundreds of majestic sunsets over the years.
It’s impossible to put to words what the last eight years have meant to Lori and me, and our family, but we are beyond grateful to God for His allowing us to steward the 125 acres we called Liberty Ridge Ranch.
While we no longer own Liberty Ridge Ranch, the memories will remain with us for the balance of our earthly years. And those memories include so many of you, in so many experiences over not just eight years, but actually many decades.
Now, we turn the page and look forward to whatever work God has for us on the other side of the next door. We have moved our family to Florida, and while we will miss TN, we’re excited to begin our next chapter. And to all our TN friends, it’s not good-bye… just “see y’all later” God willing.
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
(Video courtesy of our realtor, Jay Robinson, who offered such an amazing service to us. We are so grateful to him and his entire team! First rate… all the way!)
Wars. They’re ugly. People die. Many more are wounded. Destruction abounds. And there are often many battles before the war is won.
Some wars can last years. In fact, America is still engaged in our longest war. We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, and many good men and women have died, and even more wounded.
Imagine for a moment the following fictional conversation between two soldiers, Bob and John:
“Hey Bob, we’re headed out again tonight on a secret mission. I’m told it will be very dangerous with the likelihood that some of us may not return. Are you ready?”
“Well John, I’ve been thinking about the mission and while it could be important, I think I’m gonna pass. I know how it ends. We win! They lose! Plus, I might be killed in the battle. So I’m gonna hang out back here, grab some pizza, and play my favorite video game: Call of Duty. But my thoughts are with ya John! And remember, “we win!”
Any soldier who would say something as stupid and cowardly as what Bob said above would be quickly shamed, perhaps even court-martialed. Imagine exchanging the real life and death battle that John was gearing up for, and instead choosing a fantasy battle, inside a virtual video game. Bob, our imaginary soldier, wouldn’t be fit to wear the uniform.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re a soldier. No, not a physical one with guns and bayonets. But you are engaged in a real battle that is part of a greater war, for all the marbles. Jesus is our Captain, in the war of the ages, between Heaven and hell, God and Satan.
Too often though, particularly in America, I hear many of the members of Jesus’s army exclaiming what Bob said above. We see the continued slide of our culture into the abyss and we exclaim, “we know how it ends.” We quote our favorite prophetic verses, believing that Jesus will just swoop down and pluck us out of this mess we call the world. So we slump into our comfy Lazyboys, and fancy ourselves Saturday night quarterbacks, for the Super Bowl on Sunday. We arrogantly believe we know how it will all play out. Meanwhile, the angels in heaven don’t even know!!
And guess what. You don’t know either. While we are told to watch for the return of Jesus, we don’t know when He will appear. For the last 2,000 years, believers have routinely reasoned that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. But can you imagine if the great believers of past centuries had all sat back and remain disengaged, citing “we know how it ends.” If they had, you and I might not be here today. Or at least, we might not know Jesus.
So, if you’ve ever said (like me) “I know how it ends,” what should you instead be saying and doing?
Thankfully, we have God’s Word to instruct us on the proper response a believer should have in the midst of a “crooked and perverse world.” One of my favorite passage tells us this:
“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.” Philippians 2:14-17
Additionally, if you’re a soldier for Jesus, the Apostle Paul has this word of instruction for you:
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4
From just these passages we see a few suggestions on how we should be living:Complaining or arguing is not an option.
➖Live clean, innocent lives
➖Shine as a bright light (in a dark world)
➖Hold firmly to God’s Word (which means we should be in it more than anything else)
➖Be joyful if you lose your life for God
➖Expect suffering if you’re serving Jesus
➖Don’t get tied up with the things of this world
Is this it? Not at all. But it’s a good start, particularly if you’ve fallen for the “we know how it ends” mentality. The truth is, the “end” that we like to refer to may not occur during your lifetime or mine. So do you want to be “tied up in the affairs of this world” or serving God wholeheartedly?
Perhaps we should live in the light of the fact that “our end” may come sooner than “the end.” Are we living in such a way that when we take our final breath, we will hear the words “well done good and faithful servant?”
If God has spoken to you about the importance of living for Jesus as if your very life, and those around you, depended on it, I would encourage you to read and mediate on the entire chapter of Romans 12. This one chapter perhaps encapsulates how a follower of Jesus should live, in a crooked and perverse world.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing!”
True or False?
I’ve referenced this quote hundreds of times. And a poll concluded that the quote is the most popular one of modern times. Americans wholeheartedly embrace it.
But what if I told you the quote is neither Scriptural, nor inspired. Truthfully, it promotes a very humanistic view of the world.
Yes, this famous quote is anti-biblical for a number of reasons.
So am I suggesting good men should do nothing?
OF COURSE NOT!
But I am saying that we too often accept as “gospel truth” what our traditions teach us, our parents pass down, or our culture inculcates.
In this case, there is pressure from the statement itself because no one wants to be a bad man, so to be a “good man” we must do something. Then, our traditions, our peers, or our echo-chambers, are all there to tell us what we must do.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s dissect what’s wrong with the quote from a biblical standpoint.
1️⃣ First, evil at times does triumph (temporarily), even at God’s command or order, for His greater purposes. (Hold on… read on.)
2️⃣ Second, at times good men are told, by God, to stand down, to do nothing, and to let evil triumph (momentarily). In fact, we are told that at times, fighting evil is akin to fighting against God. (Keep reading…)
3️⃣ Third, the quote implies that “nothing” equals not doing something. So it is a call to “action.” One must do something. But “not acting” is not the same as “not doing.”
Now let me reiterate, THIS IS NOT A CALL TO DO NOTHING. But it is a challenge to go to God’s Word to see what God has to say about evil, what He might be doing, and what our role is in responding to it. So let’s look at the three points above in greater detail.
1️⃣ First, when we suggest “evil triumphs” we have a very short sighted understanding of triumph. We fail to understand that our ways and thoughts are not God’s ways and thoughts. We ignore the truth that for God, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day (2 Peter 3:8). There is no ultimate triumphing of evil. There is only what God sovereignly allows, or causes, momentarily. I will share a story from the Old Testament in just a bit, but let’s look at the second point from above.
2️⃣ At times, good men are told, by God, to stand down and to do nothing, as in take no action. As a result, evil will triumph (momentarily). What??? You mean God allows, or causes , what we call evil and then He asks us to not act? Yep. He absolutely does as Scripture reveals. While we will never fully understand God’s thoughts or ways (He Himself tells us this) we can study what He does and begin to conclude How He acts, at times.
The Old Testament is replete with stories that give us a peek into who God is and how He acts. I’ll cite just one. The southern kingdom of Israel, called Judah, had regularly strayed from God, throughout its existence. As a result, God ultimately punished it by bringing a foreign power to conquer it and take its citizens into captivity. The following passages tells us what was going to happen, why it would happen, and what Judah’s response should be:
“Now Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him there, saying, “Why do you prophesy as you do? You say, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape the Babylonians but will certainly be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes. He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, where he will remain until I deal with him, declares the Lord. If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed.’” Jeremiah 32:3-5
Continuing with this additional passage, the evil that was coming was described, and yet Judah was to not resist:
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Therefore this is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the Babylonians and to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will capture it. The Babylonians who are attacking this city will come in and set it on fire; they will burn it down, along with the houses where the people aroused my anger by burning incense on the roofs to Baal and by pouring out drink offerings to other gods. “The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel have done nothing but arouse my anger with what their hands have made, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 32:27-30
So God tells His people that an evil power was going to triumph over them (which they brought on themselves). And they were told that if they fought against that power, they would not succeed. How does that reconcile with the famous quote above?
3️⃣ Our role is to listen to our Captain to determine what, if anything, we are to do. From Judah, we learn that there are times when TO ACT IS TO SIN. As Americans, this is a tough principle to accept. We are action oriented. So when God tells us to “be still” or to not act (do nothing), it goes against the grain of who we are as a people.
“Not acting” though is not the same as “not doing.” There is a time to act, and a time not to act. But there is one “do” that we should never cease from doing. It is the most powerful “doing” you can ever undertake, and it will guide and empower you when you are finally called to rise up and act. The do that is more important than any action is this: “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Our first, and overriding, response to evil should always be prayer. This is the greatest weapon any believer can have when faced with evil. Yet how often do we either forget, or we don’t really consider this as “doing?” When was the last time you or I sweat drops of blood, or just shed tears of anguish, for the evil we were confronting? Jesus did.
Evil is spiritual. Prayer is spiritual. The battle is always spiritual. So we must start, and finish, there: Prayer!
At the end of the day, all evil is only vanquished spiritually. This is not to say that we cannot, or should not take practical, physical steps to address evil. But when doing so, it should only be as we are directly commanded or called to do such. And we should never believe the other false parallel quote that states, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
When evil is defeated, it’s always a God thing. We see this in another famous story in the Old Testament, involving a man named Gideon. God pared Gideon’s army down from 32,000 men to only 300. God then took that band of men, equipped them with lamps and trumpets, and told them to just blow their instruments and shout. No swords, slingshots, or physical weapons. Just men who trusted and obeyed God. And God told them why He used such an unconventional manner to defeat the evil in their midst:
“The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” Judges 7:2
Sadly, men are prideful beings. We love to take credit for good. But if there is any good that occurs, or if evil is defeated, it is only God. First, middle and last. We might be a tool to achieve that defeat, or we might not.
But to boil down evil and why it occurs and “triumphs” to a simple humanistic explanation of “good men doing nothing” ignores all of the Bible and tempts you and me to act first, and pray or consider God last, if at all. This quote would have you believe that to do less, or different, makes you a “bad man” and insures the defeat of good, which means God (since God is good).
God cannot be defeated. Nor is His future dependent on your strength or action. What He desires is for you and me to be so close to Him, that when He commands us to be still, we hear Him. And when He commands us to shout, we shout!
But in the meantime, those who call Jesus their Savior should start with “Pray without ceasing.”
Complaining, griping and fretting. This has become the overarching theme of a nation which has been blessed in such extraordinary ways. Yet, Americans live to grumble.
We breathe in fresh air. And exhale polluted expletives.
We inhale God’s gift of life. And exhale words of death, for to hate is to kill. And there is a pandemic of hate in the hearts of Americans.
How can this be? Why have we become such an ungrateful people? Why do we feel we must make every wrong right? And why do we arrogantly believe that everyone else is wrong, and we are right?
Have we become so self-righteous that we are fooled into believing that our neighbor’s sins are greater than ours? Or worse yet, that we have no sins?
Could it be that Jesus was wrong? Is the speck in our neighbor’s eye actually bigger and worse than the log in our own? Should we fix the other guy’s eye first so we can see our own blindness better?
Is it possible that we have it all wrong? Has the enemy (Satan), that old serpent also known as the father of all lies, deceived us so greatly that we define wrong or right, by the color of one’s politics, or perhaps even their skin? In so doing, have we forgotten the truth of the passage that reminds us that “man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart?”
If the heart is where God looks, should we not also look at our own hearts? Should we not continuously examine ourselves? Should the mirror not be one of our greatest allies in identifying our greatest enemy, and seeking to control and master him or her first?
As parents we do our best to give our children that which will make their lives better, in order to give them the greatest opportunity for success and happiness. Yet, if the response of our children was continuous grumbling and complaining about everything that was imperfect in their world, would we not undoubtedly feel hurt, disappointed, and even dejected by their attitudes?
Now consider God, our Heavenly Father, the model of perfection. He has given each of us so much, and yet we so often respond in such an ungrateful way. Rather than thanksgiving, we are full of grumbling about our circumstances, griping about our neighbor, complaining about our government, or boss, or culture, or anything else that is less than what our unrealistic expectations demand.
How must God feel? What must His response be? Could He grow “weary” with our thankless attitudes, despite the fact that we live in the midst of one of the greatest array of options, freedoms, and wealth in the history of mankind?
Can you imagine what the billions of other people on this globe must think about our pitiful attitudes, as they scratch out a meager existence in squalor, dirt, and mud?
What shame we should feel. If that shame were to lead to guilt, perhaps we would fall on our knees and confess our sin to our Creator, the One who has freely given us innumerable blessings, unknown to all of mankind before us.
Could you and I turn our ungratefulness into true, lasting thanksgiving? What if every time we were tempted to complain, about literally anything, we instead broke out in song? What if we simply understood that while we will undoubtedly have struggles, even in the midst of plenty, that God is still with us, that He will never forsake us, and that He is using our struggles to better refine us into the men and women He can use for His glory, and our good?
So could we change course? Could we be thankful instead of grumbling? Could we express gratitude instead of griping? And could we love in place of hate?
The answer is a resounding Yes. But it will only happen if we exchange our broken spirits with the Holy Spirit. Because to love is not natural. Only as the God who is love invades our minds and hearts, can we overcome that which is natural for us, with that which is natural for God.
So will you join me? Let’s transform our nation, beginning with the one we see each day in the mirror. After all, he is the only person I can control, and he is the only one for which I will ultimately be held accountable someday, as I stand individually before God.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”Philippians 2:14-16