The Fifth Column
Do not I hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. NIV
Do you think it’s right for you and me to use those words today? Those words were spoken by David, but I want to remind you of what he said next because there’s a tremendous lesson there.
He goes on, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there is any offensive way in me.” You see, the enemies of God that will do us the greatest harm are not those that attack us from without, but those that are within.
In 1936 there was a civil war in Spain and out of that war emerged the phrase, “the fifth column.” This was the origin of it. One Spanish general was attacking a city and another general asked him, “What is your plan to take that city?”
He replied, “I’ve got four columns against the city – one from the north, one from the south, one from the east, one from the west.” He paused and then he added, “But it’s my fifth column that I’m expecting to take the city for me.”
“Where is that fifth column?” the second general asked.
The first general replied, “My fifth column is inside the city.”
And that’s the only way that Christians can ever be defeated. We are never defeated from without, but if there’s a fifth column of God’s enemies in our heart then that spells defeat.
So we have the right to make the same determination as David: that we will hate God’s enemies with unreserved hatred. But the enemies that we need to hate most are those that may be within our own hearts and lives. We have to turn them out regardless of the cost.
(Proverbs 3:27–28) Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” – when you now have it with you. NIV
Those are words of very practical wisdom. There’s a proverb in the Latin language. If I quote it to you in Latin, probably most of you wouldn’t understand. But it’s very brief. It says, Pristad quaik it todat, which means, “He gives twice who gives quickly.” What wisdom there is in that! When a person is in need and you have the ability to supply that need and the person is worthy of your help, don’t hesitate, don’t wait, don’t hold back. If you give quickly, it’s like giving twice. If you keep them waiting and frustrate them, then your gift will not really be blessed the way it should be blessed.
So don’t withhold that which is good for those who deserve it. Don’t say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow,” when you have it with you. There’s a kind of stinginess, there’s a kind of lack of total honesty there which somehow spoils the act of giving.
Remember that, “He gives twice who gives quickly.” Next time you have the opportunity to give, don’t hold back, don’t hesitate, and don’t do a lot of mental calculation, just respond to the need of your neighbor and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Give without hesitation. Give without any reservation. Just give freely, because as you give God will give back to you.
He Calls the Stars by Name
[God] determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. NIV
There the Scripture gives us a beautiful picture of the measureless wisdom, knowledge and power of the Lord. No human astronomer would dare to calculate the number of stars in the universe. We know that it runs into millions and billions, but God knows the number of the stars and He calls each by name. His understanding reaches out to the farthest corners of the universe and He knows exactly what’s going on with each star. He controls its movements. Astronomers can compute mathematically where each star was thousands of years ago or where it will be thousands of years from now because the stars are so absolutely accurate and reliable in their movements. But don’t let us attribute that to some unseen, mechanical force. The force, the wisdom, the power behind the movements of the stars is the force and the wisdom of our God. His understanding is infinite.
We marvel today at the achievements of computers, but let me tell you that God is greater than all the computers put together. There’s nothing going on anywhere in the universe that He doesn’t know about, that He doesn’t control. He’s the Creator, He’s the controller of the entire universe, and He’s our God.
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it costs all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. NIV
There are some people whom we may love and admire and seek to do good to, and yet in the end they will turn against us and fail us and betray us. It’s one of life’s tragedies to invest your love and to give yourself to someone who ultimately betrays you. But the advice of Scripture is: love wisdom. Devote yourself to wisdom, she will not betray you, she will honor you, she will uplift you, she will protect you. And wisdom comes from the Word of God.
Wisdom is more important and more precious than all the things that men seek after. Wisdom is like that pearl of great price that Jesus spoke about: when the merchantman found it, he went and sold all that he had and bought that one pearl. He was a merchantman and knew the value of things. That’s how wisdom is. It’s a pearl of great price.
Even if it costs you all you have, the Scripture advises you buy it. Give yourself to wisdom, devote your life to her, she’ll never betray you. She’ll exalt you, she’ll bring you to honor. Your latter end will be better than your beginning.
The Path of the Righteous
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. NIV
Righteousness in the Bible is a path. A path is something that we walk on, something we move along. It suggests motion, change, development. Some people would like righteousness to be some kind of static condition. “Well, I’m saved! Here I am; I’m righteous. All I need to do now is sit in church and sing hymns until the Lord calls me home.” That’s a mistake. Any static condition in which you do not change, progress and develop is not the righteousness of the Bible.
The righteousness of the Bible is a path. And we enter into that path through an encounter with the Son of Righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ. And when He shines into our lives, that’s like the first gleam of dawn. It’s the beginning of light. And then, as we move on in that path, the words are beautiful: “The light shines ever brighter till the full light of day.”
If you are walking in the path of righteousness, today’s light is brighter than yesterday’s and tomorrow will be brighter than today’s. So do not settle down and say, “I’ve arrived,” because that’s a mistake, that’s a deception. The path of righteousness leads us always on until we come into the full light of the noonday sun and to the full and final revelation of God in eternity.
So if you are on that path, keep moving on, and if you haven’t yet found the path, you need to meet the Son of Righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do Not Hate Discipline
At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly [or the church].” NIV
Those are the words of somebody who has known the way of righteousness for many years, somebody that is seen regularly in church. Somebody who knows how to say “Amen” when the preacher says the right thing. Somebody who knows many of the hymns by heart. Somebody, maybe, who prays in public meetings. And yet, that person has never given heart obedience to the truths that he has learned.
And here he is pictured at the end of his life, realizing too late that he has missed it all – that he knew it with his head, but he never believed and obeyed it with his heart. It is remarkable that when Jesus speaks about hypocrites, He uses particular language. He says, “The end of the hypocrites will be weeping and gnasbhing of teeth.” I have asked myself why particularly that language about hypocrites, and I believe the answer is: because they are people who have known it all, all along, but never obeyed it. And there is a particular bitterness in finding yourself rejected and in the midst of ruin at the end of your life when all those years you have sat in church and known the right thing, given outward assent, but your heart has never been changed. You have never come to the place of true surrender, commitment and making Jesus truly Lord of your life.
Laziness Brings Poverty
How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. NIV
One of the interesting things in the Bible is that it traces things to their root causes and although, apparently, poverty is a material condition, the Bible exposes that its root cause is spiritual. Its root cause is laziness. And we are warned that if we indulge in laziness, our poverty will come like a bandit, our scarcity like an armed man. One of the versions says, “like a man who travels.”
Poverty and scarcity may be apparently far off – but if you sleep on it, if you give up, if you fold your hands and just lie down, it is amazing how quickly poverty arrives and forces its way in on us like a bandit. Poverty doesn’t knock at the door; it forces its way in. Remember that laziness is ultimately a sure road to poverty, and that the remedy for poverty is not primarily financial or material, but it is spiritual.
If you are fighting poverty, if it seems to be oppressing you, check on your spiritual condition. See what is permitting that bandit to assault you and to move in on you and take you over.
Commit – Then Trust!
Do you want God in charge of your situation, your life, your problem? There are three simple steps that are indicated in those words I read to you.
The first, commit your way to the Lord. That’s a single, decisive act. You just commit your way to the Lord; you take your own hand off it. It’s like taking money to a bank, depositing it, and getting a receipt for it. You know you’ve deposited it.
The next step, trust also in the Lord. Trust is a continuing attitude. Commit is a single act; trust is a continuing attitude. You just go on trusting. Last night you deposited your money in the bank. But you don’t keep worrying about whether it’s still there, or whether the bank knows what to do with the money, you just trust the bank. But in this case, you are not trusting a bank, you are trusting the Lord.
And when you take the first two steps then the third step is the Lord’s: He will do it. He’ll bring it to pass. Whatever situation you have in mind, whatever need, whatever problem, whatever decision, you commit it to the Lord – that’s the act. You go on trusting in Him – that’s the attitude. And you have that wonderful, peaceful assurance: the Lord will do it. He’s in control. You can trust the bank with your money, and you can trust the Lord with your problem. Just take it to Him, commit it to Him, continue trusting in Him.
Faithful in Little Things
Notice, the little things come before the big things. If you want to have responsibility committed to you in this life, whether it be by God or by man, cultivate faithfulness in the little things. Cultivate punctuality. Cultivate answering your letters. Cultivate keeping your promises, even if they are only apparently trivial things, because there is a God who is watching you. He’s assessing your character. He’s determining whether you are to be trusted with great things.
Some people have got all the words and all the qualifications but they never come up with results. Even if you have to find somebody to work for you or somebody to work with you, don’t go just by the big words and by their qualifications. Watch that person in small things. See how they handle the little responsibilities. Judge them by the way they behave when nobody’s watching them, when issues don’t seem big. Because the truth of the matter is, if they are faithful in small things, they will be faithful in the bigger things. If they are unfaithful in the small things, then don’t commit to them the big things. That applies to those with whom you want to work. It applies to you, too. And it’s God’s way of assessing you and determining what you are really worth. He watches you in the small things and judges you from those.
An Undivided Heart
The psalmist there focuses on one thing that is necessary if we are to walk God’s way successfully.
First of all, he cries out, “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth.” We cannot walk in God’s way unless God in His mercy teaches us that way. And then he says, “Give me an undivided heart.” And a little later he says, “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart.”
Notice the emphasis on the heart: “an undivided heart,” “with all my heart.” That’s so important that we don’t have a divided heart, that our heart is totally yielded to God, that it’s focused on God. We have no second loyalties; we have no options. All our springs are in God; all our expectations are from God.
I’ve discovered in the Christian life, the further you go in God the fewer the options. The way becomes narrower and narrower and ultimately those who come to the end of the course are those who find their total satisfaction in God. It’s not God plus something; it’s God alone. That’s an undivided heart – when we don’t look anywhere but in God for our life, our satisfaction, our peace.
In the Day of Battle
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn your young men will come to you like the dew. NIV, RSV
Remember that God is a God of battles. He’s a man of war; He’s called “the Lord of Hosts,” that is, the Lord of Armies. In the Old Covenant, the Lord appeared to Joshua as the captain of the Lord’s army. Today, God is gathering His army. The Scripture makes it clear that the present age is going to close with a tremendous conflict between the forces of God and the forces of Satan and God is gathering His army. It says, “Your troops will be willing in your day of battle.” Literally, your troops will be free-will offerings. God doesn’t want us to give Him something. He wants us to give Him ourselves – not our talents, not our time, not our strength, just ourselves. We are to be the free-will offerings.
And it says, “From the womb of the dawn your young men will come to you like the dew.” God is gathering an army of young people today. They are being born, as it were, like dawn is born out of darkness. Out of the darkness of the past is coming a new day – a day of birth, a day of battle, a day when young people are being summoned into the army of God. Not to offer God something, but to offer to God themselves, to become His free-will offerings on the day of His battle.
Sow in Tears; Reap in Joy
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. NIV
The Bible is so accurate, so faithful to life. It doesn’t give us a rosy, false picture of what life is like. It shows us both the dark and the light, the evil and the good, the hard and the enjoyable, the bitter and the sweet.
And it says that, in effect, if we want to reap we are going to have to sow. That’s a law of life; it’s a law of the universe. It says that sowing will be done with tears, but reaping will come with joy. That’s faith, you see. You’ve got to go out with your seed even in tears, to scatter the seed and be willing to wait, and to wait upon God and let Him bring forth the harvest which He’s promised. But the promise is so beautiful, “He that goes out weeping carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him.”
Let this be a message to you. If you are feeling discouraged, if you are feeling that somehow things aren’t going the way you want them to, that you are working and seeing so few and such indeterminate results, just be prepared to weep. But go on sowing, because God has promised that if you sow the good seed, even weeping, there’ll come a day when you’ll carry back your arms full of sheaves with songs of joy. Don’t be afraid to sow even in tears, you’ll reap with songs of joy.