Measured by Motive

Friends Magazine Hong Kong
By Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
April 2013 Edition
 

Author of the classic book, Imitation Of Christ, Thomas à Kempis worded it rightly, “Man sees your actions, but God your motives.”

If there is a measurement against which our actions ought to be judged, it has to be the touchstone of our motive. Because motive, by definition, is “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.”

This validates why, even in criminal investigations, authorities often primarily seek to establish the motive for the commission of a crime.  On a lighter note, yet by the same token, we tend to become circumspect too toward people who suddenly do out-of-the-ordinary things for us.  Ask a mom whose teenage son, totally uncharacteristic of him, suddenly offers to do the laundry just because!

* * * * *

In the Old Testament, there are two occasions in Prophet Samuel’s life wherein God exposed the power of human motive.  And in these two occasions, God showed how, like a two-faced coin, motive has the power to ruin or restore – not only individuals, but also even nations.

When the time came for the LORD to avenge the Israelites against the Amalekites who blocked Israel’s way after the Israelites came from their Egypt exodus, He sent Samuel to King Saul with the following order: Attack Amalek. Claim everything they have for God by destroying it. Spare no one and nothing – even the cows and sheep, camels and donkeys (1 Samuel 15:3).

King Saul did as instructed.  Well, almost.

“Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality” (1 Samuel 15:7-9, NLT).

Confronted by Prophet Samuel on why he didn’t carry out fully the command of the LORD, King Saul reasoned with Prophet Samuel that he spared Agag and the best of the spoil because they will be sacrificed to the LORD.

To King Saul’s army, his outward action may seem justified, even commendable, but to the LORD who weighs the motives of the heart (Proverbs 21:2), it was a detestable act of disobedience, even rebellion (1 Samuel 15:22).

“Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So BECAUSE YOU HAVE REJECTED THE COMMAND OF THE LORD, HE HAS REJECTED YOU AS KING” (1 Samuel 15:23, NLT, emphasis mine).

This should serve as a serious warning to us.  “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit” (Proverbs 16:2, ESV).

Meanwhile, when it was time for Prophet Samuel to anoint the successor of King Saul, he went to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to pour oil on the head of God’s chosen one.

When Jesse’s muscular firstborn stood before Prophet Samuel, he immediately thought: “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”(1 Samuel 16:6, NLT)

Yet just as soon as the thought came to his mind, God’s Word came to his heart: “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT).
 
One by one, Jesse’s sons were called out to stand before Prophet Samuel until the verdict was made: “The Lord has not chosen any of these. Are these all the sons you have?” (1 Samuel 16:10-11, GWT, emphasis mine).

Alas! The forgetful father was put in remembrance! “There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats” (1 Samuel 16:11-12, NLT).

By our standards, it can be said that it was not the best beginning for a would-be-king!  But God does not see as humans see. He is not impressed by what usually catches our fancy. He weighs the motives of the heart.

* * * * *

It is not for us to say whether an endeavor is a success or a failure, based on our limited and warped definition of success and failure. The story of King Saul and the Israelites tells us that success is not simply winning a war; it is winning the LORD’s approval by doing everything He commands. On the same note, King David’s election story tells us that being disqualified by one’s own father as a potential future king is not an outright failure or rejection. David was blessed that, while others saw him as a mere shepherd boy, God found him a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22) and worthy of the throne.

We should never be afraid to “walk on water” if the LORD tells us so. We should never be afraid to “let down our nets for a catch” even though we have only been through a night of unproductive fishing.  We should never be afraid to wholeheartedly obey God in all things, and at all times, even when the results of our obedience do not match our expectations.

After all, “God will certainly judge everything that is done. This includes every secret thing, whether it is good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:14, GWT).

When God Conceals A Matter

Friends Magazine Hong Kong
By Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
April 2013 Edition

 

Sixteenth Century English Bible commentator Matthew Henry was quoted as saying, “God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for Himself the knowledge of them, that He may train us up in a dependence upon Himself and a continued readiness for every event.”

Five centuries later, we still second guess God concerning the future, question His wisdom, depend not upon Him, and hesitate during life’s shifting moments.  Clearly, we are yet to learn the lessons Henry thought we ought to learn.

* * * * *

There was a man who perfectly fit Henry’s bill when it came to trusting God, particularly at a time when he was kept in the dark concerning his future and that of his entire household. 

From the onset of Abraham’s calling by God, he walked in total obedience to Him. With nothing but the weight of His instruction, Abraham went out, “even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).  Without the benefit of a map or a compass at the very least, tangible tokens he could hold onto when the going got tough so to speak, he uprooted himself and his family from their familiar surroundings and moved to a new land (Genesis 12).  He didn’t ask God for the rationale of His command, or the strategies he ought to use to negotiate foreign terrains and navigate strange territories; he simply went out to accomplish his mission. He merely did as he was told.

Abraham’s act of obedience is undoubtedly astounding, but it is not quite unique. Before and after him, people who also heard and believed the voice of God were likewise enabled to do as they were told. 

Noah built an arc at a time when flood was still unknown to men. “Faith led Noah to listen when God warned him about the things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a ship to save his family. Through faith Noah condemned the world and received God’s approval that comes through faith” (Hebrews 11:7, GWT).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose to obey God’s command to have no other gods besides Him (Deuteronomy 5:7) and opted to be hurled instead into the blazing furnace, heated seven times, despite not knowing whether God will rescue them or not. “If our God, whom we honor, can save us from a blazing furnace and from your power, he will, Your Majesty. But if he doesn’t, you should know, Your Majesty, we’ll never honor your gods or worship the gold statue that you set up” (Daniel 3:17-18, GWT).

Betrothed Mary, at the risk of being shamed and stoned to death for becoming the mother of a prophesied Son through the Holy Spirit, responded to the angel of the LORD, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV).

* * * * *

Albeit their stories crossed over various generations, a singular truth tied them all together into the beautiful narrative from where we continue to draw inspiration to this date – that of absolutely taking God at His word.

When God calls us and commands us to do something, there is no fitting response other than obedience. After all, it is our obedience that merits His approval.  It's not the result of obedience, because even that is exclusively up to Him.

Singer Joni Erickson Tada once said, “It is a glorious thing to know that your Father God makes no mistakes in directing or permitting that which crosses the path of your life. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. It is our glory to trust Him, no matter what.”

Just as we simply sit still and trust the engineer when our train goes through a dark tunnel, let us also learn absolute dependence on God when He chooses to conceal a matter to us. Our Father God makes no mistakes; even His obscure acts can be trusted.

SHALOM! SHALOM!

 

Agenda of a Godly Leader Towards a New Season of Service

Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
Executive Bishop and International President
Jesus is Lord Church Worldwide


Serving God is an unending vocation to those who have truly given their lives over to Him. Those who have decided to surrender their entire existence to God normally desire to serve in His kingdom until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. But not everyone who serves God finishes the given race. Many of them stumble along the way and haply return to the lane of Christian service.

What could be the secrets to serve God steadily? There are certain principles that will guide us in establishing a lasting kind of service. Given here are the 6-point agenda that will help us become able, effective and godly servants of God. Let me recite them one by one and ponder how they shall take us to the finish line.

Read more...

Face the future victoriously

Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
January 2011

With the dawning of a new year comes the promise of a fresh start.  This is probably one of the reasons why, at this particular time of the year, there is a generally renewed sense of optimism for people who wish to leave behind their past failures and march toward future opportunities.

While embarking into an unknown future can be interesting, it can be intimidating too.  Thus to get anywhere, it is important that we turn to the Creator of Time (Genesis 1:14) for instruction and direction.

The Message Bible’s translation of Lamentations 3:19-33, when prayerfully studied and considered, is a well of information for us. It teaches us three truths that can help us confidently put our unknown future to the Eternal God as well us empower us to face the future victoriously.

Read more...