Living the Truth (5)
So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well. Genesis 26.25
Ready to be pushed around?
Isaac’s life among the unbelievers of his day wasn’t all fun and games. We saw him move from a successful location in Gerar because the local king had become fearful of his growing wealth and prowess. Then we saw him forced to keep moving when local herdsmen objected to his flocks drinking “their” water – which was really his water, after all.
I have condoned these actions of Isaac as efforts on his part to give others some space and to avoid strife and conflict. Peace is more important than perks and privileges sometimes.
We might get the impression that being a Christian means signing up for a life of being pushed around by unbelievers. And there is some truth to this view, if we hear Jesus and the apostles Peter and Paul correctly. We must be willing to suffer indignities and injustices if by so doing we may represent the peace and strength of the Gospel to our unbelieving neighbors.
This is an aspect of our witness for Christ which, like all the other aspects, we can only sustain by staying close to the Lord and abiding in Him, as we see Isaac doing in Genesis 26.
Renewed in God’s promises
Upon arriving at Beersheba, Isaac must have been feeling a little wimpy and weary. His neighbors had stolen his wells and smeared his good name, and all he’d done in response was just move on.
But God came to him in a dream and restated His intention of bringing the promises of Abraham to him (vv. 23, 24). Isaac’s self-image may have been a bit shaky, but God had not given up on him, and His Word of promise to Isaac remained unchanged. Upon waking, Isaac responded to the promises of God by building an altar and worshiping – the same behavior his father, Abraham, had adopted as a way of signaling his trust in God and staying close to Him and His plan (cf. Gen 12).
God wanted Isaac to know that He had not changed His mind, that His precious and very great promises were still in force, and that Isaac’s patience and perseverance would not go unrewarded.
Rather than sulk and simmer in resentment, shame, or anger, Isaac took refuge in the Lord and His promises, and resolved to wait on the Lord to bring the blessings He had promised. He would continue being himself and doing his work while he waited on the Lord to fulfill the promises of His Word.
Jesus promised us that the unbelieving world would be a rough place at times. We can expect our neighbors to hate us because we pursue lives of holiness and do not live like they do (Jn. 15.18-22). At times people will try to bring trouble on us by all manner of schemes (Jn. 16.33). Jesus counseled us not to be scheming, plotting, and vicious in return, but to rejoice in our trials and tribulations, and stay close to Him.
How can believers manage the patience, long-suffering, forbearance, graciousness, and peaceableness that God expects when our unbelieving neighbors are up to no good against us? Only by relying on Jesus Christ; only by resting in Him, trusting in His Word, making recourse to prayer, and drawing on the fellowship and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Heb. 10.24). Only thus will we know the strength we need for living the truth in an unbelieving age.
If your practice of abiding in Christ is not what it should be, you’ll know soon enough. The promised peace of the Lord Jesus eludes those who do not abide in Him, or who fail to seek Him day by day. If you’re consistent in living for Christ, and bearing fruitful witness for Him, the unbelieving world will test your mettle and belittle your faith. How will you respond when someone in your Personal Mission Field tells you to back off, takes advantage of you, gossips about you, or makes you look bad, just because you’ve tried to talk with him about the Lord?
It’s best we give some attention to shoring up our spiritual disciplines and renewing our time with the Lord now, before we get drawn into some strife and find that we don’t have the spiritual resources to pull it off with grace. The Word of our God abides forever. His promises remain unchanged. His power-granting Spirit dwells in all who believe. And He will never fail us nor forsake us.
We can’t stop the unbelieving world from disliking us and saying all manner of evil things against us. But we can keep ourselves from retaliating in kind or from falling into a funk because of the actions of others. Take refuge in the Lord – through prayer and meditation – and keep your focus on His promises. Praise Him and rejoice in the face of your trials, and you’ll find, like Isaac, that God’s Presence and promises will be with you for revival and renewal.
And, at the end of the day, that’s really all any of us needs.
1. How would you assess the time you spend with the Lord at present? Is it regular? Sufficient? Fruitful?
2. Knowing that God’s Word will not change, what precious and very great promises could you take with you into your day, to help you in working your Personal Mission Field?
3. Believers need to encourage one another in this work (Heb. 10.24). Today, whom will you encourage to abide in the Lord and persevere in His work?
Next steps – Preparation: Find a promise from God’s Word that you find especially relevant. Memorize it. Pray through it. Carry it with you for the rest of the week. Repeat this exercise next week.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.