by Bill Rudge
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by Bill Rudge
Everybody wants it, but few are willing to give it: Coaches want it from their players; drill sergeants demand it from new recruits; teachers and professors love it in students; employers require it from their employees; husbands and wives desire it from their spouses. What is this characteristic most everyone wants from others? Total Commitment!
While speaking at a pastors’ conference I asked, “Do you believe in God? Everyone said a hearty Amen! So I asked again, “Do you really believe in God and Jesus Christ?” Same response as they all acknowledged they did. Then I asked, “Do you really believe the Bible is God’s Word?” They all enthusiastically affirmed they did. So I said, “If you really believe in God, Jesus Christ and the Bible, then it should radically affect your life: how you live, what you watch, what you say and what you do.” They got the message.
However, as I travel and minister throughout the U.S. and around the world, I find that many who profess faith in Jesus Christ – even many leaders and pastors – are not totally committed to Him as Lord of their lives.
When I use the words total commitment, I am not talking about what you say with your mouth, or what you appear to be on the surface. I am talking about a heart commitment. I have learned from experience that outward appearances and words can be deceptive. Man looks at the externals, but God looks at the heart. Are your heart, your motives, your will, your goals, and your desires fully committed to Jesus Christ?
Many Christians believe the Bible and live for the Lord, so long as it poses no difficulty and agrees with their preconceived beliefs and ideas. When Scripture contradicts what they want to hear or do, they discard, deny, compromise, or attempt to twist it to say what they want it to say. Many have a “dip and skip” mentality: They dip into all the promises, blessings, and miracles, but skip all the responsibilities, commitment, and obedience.
For every gift and privilege God gives, responsibility and commitment are required:
If you want the mountaintop, you must walk through the valley. If you want the benefit and blessing, you must pay the price of commitment. If you want the victory, you must fight the battle. If you want the gifts of the Spirit, you must develop the fruit of the Spirit. If you want spiritual power, you must develop spiritual muscle.
Throughout the Old Testament, God emphasized the principle that He wants first place in our lives: When He said, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,” He was saying, “I must be first regarding your finances.” When God said, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work,” He was saying, “I must be first concerning your time.” When God said, “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God,” He was saying, “I must be first in regard to your business and livelihood.” When God asked for the firstborn of all cattle, He was saying, “I must be first regarding your belongings.” When God said, “You must give [consecrate] to Me the first-born of your sons,” He was saying, “I must be first concerning your family.”
God does not need your money, cattle, produce or your possessions; He wants you! Jesus said:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
When Satan tempted Jesus by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world, he said, “All this I will give You, if You will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). Then Jesus said to him, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’” (Matthew 4:10). Jesus clearly revealed that God not only wants first place, but He must be the only Lord and God in our lives.
Why does the Lord not allow anyone or anything else to be god in our lives? Because not only has He created us and deserves that unique position, but He knows that anyone or anything else controlling our lives becomes our god – and eventually that god destroys us. In contrast David said, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).
If you think total commitment is only for those in Christian leadership, look closely at Scripture. Luke 14:25-27 says:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: “… Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.”
Jesus is not saying we are to carry a literal cross around, but He is making it perfectly clear to the crowds that to be His disciple requires total commitment.
The disciples knew what Christ meant when He said:
If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34,35).
Being well aware of Roman crucifixions, and of their context in the culture, they knew that Jesus was speaking of dying to self and of total commitment to Him.
There are acceptable and unacceptable types of commitment mentioned in the Bible. Which of the following four categories is most like your commitment?
Committed to Rebellion
Are you like King Ahab who, in outright rebellion against the Lord, did evil in His sight with no desire for repentance?
In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him (1 Kings 16:29, 30).
Although Ahab was king of the northern tribes of Israel, he openly rebelled against God. Similarly, there are many who name the name of Jesus Christ outwardly, but according to God’s Word, their hearts are in outright rebellion in the way they live, the things they do and in their associations.
Committed – Sort Of
Do you serve the Lord halfheartedly like Amaziah, king of Judah?
Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2).
Wholeheartedness matters to God.
Committed – Sporadically
Like Uzziah, king of Judah, when the Lord blessed him and he became powerful, he also became proud and turned away from the Lord.
Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. … He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success. But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God… (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16).
Do you want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, but have not maintained that commitment your whole life?
So far we have three types of commitment: those who live in outright rebellion and do evil before the Lord; those who only halfheartedly serve the Lord; and those who wholeheartedly serve the Lord, but only for a short duration. Will you run the race for two, or even twenty years, then get weary and fall away?
Or are you like Abraham, Moses, Caleb, Ruth, Elijah, Daniel, Paul, and many others who made their commitment to the Lord, and served Him wholeheartedly all the days of their lives? It is this kind of commitment that God desires from those who name the name of Jesus.
Consider the words David spoke to his son, Solomon:
And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever (1 Chronicles 28:9).
Do not serve the Lord halfheartedly all your life – or even wholeheartedly half your life. Instead, serve the Lord wholeheartedly all of your life!
I believe the old adage, “You are only as good as your word,” and I do everything possible to keep mine. If you make a commitment to Christ today and then next week you give up, then it really was not much of a commitment. A true commitment isn’t for just one day or one week, but the rest of your life. It isn’t just one or two hours on Sundays, but twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We should seek to live under His Lordship and glorify Him, not only when in church, reading our Bibles, praying or witnessing, but also when we are at home, at work, at school, engaged in sports or social activities, working out at the gym – anytime and anywhere.
When I was on a speaking tour in Tobago, in the West Indies, I learned there were two waterfalls on the island. One was an easy two or three minute walk. Although very nice, the other one was far more beautiful, but would require a 45-minute hike through streams, over stones and rocks, across slippery ledges, and through thick brush.
Having a few hours of free time, my ministry team decided to go with me on the longer excursion. The waterfall was awesome, forming three tiers of pools. When we swam in the cool and refreshing waters, it was like being in paradise.
Most people visiting Tobago avoid the more difficult way and are satisfied to see just the first falls. As one who is willing to pay the price for that which is truly worthwhile, I led the team into a breathtaking area, unsurpassed in beauty and serenity, rather than to settle for second best.
Too many people settle for convenient Christianity. But real blessing, power, and victory manifest in the lives of those totally committed to the Lord, with all their hearts. Believe me, it is well worth it!
Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ which is being expanded for its third edition in book and E-book form. In a future newsletter we will discuss “Bridge Burning” as we continue this series.
In the previous blog, I shared with you my seventh and eighth New Life Resolutions: 7) Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life; 8) While I should grieve over the wickedness in the world, I will still approach non-believers with the same love and grace that Jesus has shown me. Let us now examine the final two New Life Resolutions.
Resolution 9: When I face difficulties and challenges, I will think of those who face daily persecution and have given their lives (martyrs) for their faith in Jesus Christ.
Since we live in a fallen world, all of us will experience pain and suffering. While we cannot avoid this, we can choose how we respond. Will we respond like the children of Israel who grumbled and complained, or will we respond with hope and joy? As Peter encouraged those Christians who were facing persecution,
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4)
A book that I recommend every Christian read is “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.” It details the many men and women throughout history who have given their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ. Their commitment and love for Jesus in the midst of difficult challenges is truly inspiring. One such example is a girl named Mary who, along with her family, was given the choice to renounce her faith in Jesus or die. In their refusal to deny the very One who had given His life for them, they were all shot. Mary would be the only one who survived but would be paralyzed by the bullet that had severed her spinal cord. In response to this tragedy, she makes the following profound statement, “Everyone has a vocation. I can never marry or do any physical work. So I will offer my life to the Muslims, like the one who cut my father’s throat, stabbed my mother while cursing her and tried to kill me. My life will be a prayer for them.”
The lives of those who have faced persecution and even death have provided me with a resolve to approach the challenges in my life, which are much less, with the same faithfulness and trust. I have come to recognize that these challenges be opportunities for spiritual growth, to help encourage others in difficult times, and to show others that the God of the Bible is faithful. This life is but a moment in comparison to eternity and one day the pain and brokenness we experience will forever be wiped away:
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying,
“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever (Revelation 21:3, 4).
Resolution 10: At my death my family and friends will rejoice over the life I have lived, and that I will have the ability to say with my final breath, “It is finished”; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
I recently had to visit a friend who is facing terminal cancer. With only months to live, he shared with me how many regrets he has as he approaches death. Full of remorse for wasted time and making poor choices that have negatively impacted both his children and grandchildren, he is now trying his best to redeem what time he still has left.
Reflecting upon what my friend said made me want to have the resolve to not approach my death full of regrets. I want to live my life like Jesus who, not distracted by the insignificant things of this world, lived his life with resolve to fulfill the will of His Father. Thus, with no hesitation in His voice, He was able to say with His final breath on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). I also want to live my life like the Apostle Paul who, despite the obstacles in his life, took the Gospel to every corner of the Roman Empire. As a result, in the final letter he wrote to his dear friend Timothy he was able to say,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
My prayer for all of you is that you will choose to live your lives with resolve. A resolve where you seek His glory, desire His presence, and live for eternity. Regardless of where you are in your journey with Jesus, remember these words:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
In the previous blog, I shared with you my fifth and sixth New Life Resolutions: 5) Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life; 6) Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me. Let us now examine New Life Resolutions seven and eight.
Resolution 7: Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life.
In a conversation on religion, a friend of mine, who had emigrated to America from a Middle Eastern country, told me that he would never become a Christian. When I asked him why he said, “When I first came to America, I saw Christians living like the world on Saturday and then worshiping God in church on Sunday.” Like my friend, I have heard others say similar things as hypocrisy among those who label themselves as Christians has become one of the main reasons people reject the Christian faith.
This reality is why I want what to resolve to live out my faith in Jesus Christ in an authentic way. Living this way does not entail perfection, as all of us will fail in this life. What it does entail is allowing God to be Lord over every area of our lives, striving to be consistent in how we live both in public and in private; seeking godly repentance when we fall short (2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:9); and reflecting a transformed life marked by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). As we live in a fallen world, may we all take to heart these words by the apostle Peter:
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:11, 12).
Resolution 8: While I should grieve over the wickedness in the world, I will still approach non-believers with the same love and grace that Jesus has shown me.
We serve a holy and righteous God (Revelation 4:8) who grieves over the wickedness in the world, and one day He will come back to judge all that are ungodly (1 Peter 4:5, Jude 14b, 15; Revelation 20:12, 13). Therefore, we also should grieve over the wickedness in this world, and not find entertainment and pleasure in it. However, we also serve a loving and merciful God, who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). This reality should make all of us stand back in awe and wonder at the depth of God’s love for us.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:18, 19).
Recognizing the depth of God’s love for me has helped me view unbelievers not as my enemies but as my mission field. This is the case because their ultimate need is no different than mine, which is we all need a Savior to set us free from our sins (Romans 3:23; 1 John 2:2). In fact, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, the very behaviors that sent Jesus to the cross, were once practiced by them, but now they have been cleansed, made holy and right with God through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Once we experience the grace and mercy of God, which we do not deserve, we should feel empowered to show the same grace and mercy to others. The most effective way to demonstrate this is through the same love that God has shown us. In fact, love is the most powerful way for us to show others an authentic and transformed life.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
In the next blog we will examine the final two New Life Resolutions. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
In the previous blog, I shared with you my third and fourth New Life Resolutions: 3) Live with an eternal perspective where I invest in those things that will outlive me.; 4) To not neglect my role as a husband to love my wife and my role as a father to intentionally invest in the spiritual development of my children. Let us now examine New Life Resolutions five and six.
Resolution 5: Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life.
Growing up, soccer was a major part of my life. In fact, as I was moving into my senior year, I had scholarship offers by division 1 schools. However, a few weeks before my final high school season started, I tore a ligament in my knee at a soccer tournament. This event led me down a path of re-evaluating every aspect of my life. You can read the full story by going to our website and downloading the free e-book “Faith Through the Fire” (http://billrudge.org/store/e-books). One of the key lessons that I learned through this injury was that if I was going to be a Christian, I needed to serve God on His terms and not my own. In other words, I needed to completely yield my life over to Him (Matthew 16:24-26).
Being yielded to God means we must look to God, not ourselves or to the culture around us, as the final standard for our lives. Yet, just as it was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4, 5), this battle between personal autonomy and self-surrender to Jesus Christ continues to wage war within all of our souls. This is why I have made a conscious effort every day to look to God’s Word in setting the standards in how I live my life. As I do this, I fully recognize that I will face difficulties and challenges (2 Timothy 3:12); hence, my life will not reflect the patterns of this world (1 John 2:15-17). Being a person of resolve who is living His life to glorify His Lord and Savior, I must walk in obedience to His commands, even if I find myself walking alone. In the words of the Apostle Paul,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1, 2).
Resolution 6: Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me.
The key to living my life in accordance to God’s standards means I must know Him, a knowledge that is not just intellectual but is personal and intimate. As in any relationship, the only way that this can occur is by spending time with God. In fact, it is in those moments of being on my knees in prayer and reading the Bible where I feel closest to God.
Many people often get preoccupied with doing things for God and neglect the importance of just spending time with Him. While it is vital to be actively serving the Lord through external action (doing), we cannot lose sight of the fact that we should also serve God with our heart (being). In other words, our level of faith should be more than just carrying out duties (serving others, giving tithes, etc.), it should ultimately evolve out of a love and passion for Jesus Christ. This is why I have made it a resolve to start and end every day in communion with God. In both good times and bad times, I want to have the daily DESIRE to spend time with God and know His Word. Let us all have a heart like David:
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 7 and 8. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
We often see athletes being interviewed and put in the spotlight for their success and victories, while those who fail and lose and are often maligned and ridiculed. This past weekend, Cody Parkey, who is the kicker for the Chicago Bears, personally knows this reality. In the closing seconds of the game, with his team down by one point to the Philadelphia Eagles, Cody was given the opportunity to kick the winning field goal. This kick would not only allow his team to advance, but it would give the Bears their first playoff-win in eight years. Despite a good snap and hold, Cody’s kick “double-boinked” by hitting both the left upright and crossbar, as it ultimately bounced back onto the field. Although the kick would eventually be deemed a block by one of the Eagles players, the missed kick still left the Bears players and fans dejected and brokenhearted.
Despite the miss, and his own heartbreak, Cody’s response to this situation has proven to be a powerful light during a difficult and disappointing time. In fact, his response to this situation is a reminder to us all about how we as Christians should respond to difficulties and disappointments in our own lives.
While many people who fail either find ways to blame others or avoid the comments by critics, Cody stood firm and took responsibility for the outcome of the kick. He approached this difficult moment with inner strength and integrity. This is a great example that the true essence of who we are as a person is most displayed in how we respond to the challenges and disappointments we face.
While many only praise and thank God in the good times, the first thing Cody did when he missed the field goal was to point his finger to heaven to acknowledge and praise Him even in his moment of disappointment and failure, a great reminder that we are called to serve God in all circumstances in our lives. As Cody mentioned in his interview on The Today Show, “Something that I have always tried to do through good or bad is to give praise to the higher power our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
While many only live for the things of this world (success, popularity, fame, etc.), Cody acknowledged that his life transcends all of this. Even though still saddened by how he felt that he let the whole Bears’ organization down, he made this powerful statement, “I’ll continue to keep my head held high because football is what I do, it’s not who I am.” This is a great reminder for all followers of Jesus that we do not live for the things of this world and that our race is for a crown that will never perish (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
In the previous blog, I shared with you my first two New Life Resolutions: 1) In all my decisions I will do that which brings the most glory to God; 2) To do a weekly spiritual examination to identify specific areas where I can grow in my faith with the Lord. Let us now examine New Life Resolutions three and four.
Resolution 3: Live with an eternal perspective where I invest in those things that will outlive me.
Time is a precious commodity that can never be replaced. We all have a set number of days on this earth, so we must be intentional in how we use the time that God has given us. As Paul tells the believers in Ephesus,
My wife and I recently bought my oldest daughter a book about athletes who had to overcome great challenges. We thought it would be good for her to read since she had to undergo three surgeries on her ankle which hindered her from playing sports. As she was sharing with us about some of the athletes, it was amazing to hear how these individuals were intentional in everything that they did to accomplish their goals. From strict training, to eating properly, to making personal sacrifices, these athletes knew that they could not waste one moment of their day.
What a great analogy for the Christian life, as we too have a goal/prize to accomplish (Philippians 3:12-14). The major difference is our goal/prize is not made of gold, silver, or bronze that will wear away with time; instead, we are competing for a goal/prize that is eternal. This is why I have made it a resolution to live with each day with an eternal perspective. As you read the following words from the apostle Paul, may they inspire you to be intentional in what you do with your time, because every morning you wake up God has given you that day to run with an eternal purpose:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25).
Resolution 4: To not neglect my role as a husband to love my wife and my role as a father to intentionally invest in the spiritual development of my children.
I have recognized that the key to time is not just what I invest in but who I invest time in. In our lives we are going to have specific moments/seasons that will come. When these moments/ seasons come they will provide each of us with certain opportunities that when they are over, they are gone and may never come back.
Right now, I am in the season of investing in the spiritual lives of my children. My oldest is turning 16, and I realize that when she goes off to college the influence that I presently have is going to change. Therefore, I cannot waste this present season God has given me. I must be intentional in spiritually shaping the minds and hearts of my kids. This first starts in how I treat their mother, who as my wife, I am called to love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Next, I must take an active role in instructing them in the ways of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). A responsibility that I cannot delegate to anyone else, but with my wife must pursue with all my energy.
I don’t personally know what season you may be in at this moment in your life. Perhaps you are a student at a school, an employee for a company, a grandparent enjoying retirement, or like me, a parent raising your kids. Regardless, you are presently in a season in which God has raised people up in your life for you to impact spiritually. Don’t waste this season but approach it with an eternal perspective.
The time we are given in this life is truly more valuable than any precious stone or gem. As we use it, may we all remember the eloquent words of Jonathan Edwards:
“Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”
In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 5 and 6. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.