Stopping Just Short of Great

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

There is no area of weakness and struggle in your life where sin is guaranteed a victory. No sin is too big, too powerful, too overwhelming. It might be tough, but there is always a way to win! And furthermore, God stands at the ready to offer his help to give you that victory—even over the toughest temptation!

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 14:3

Amaziah did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not like his ancestor David.

Here is a haunting refrain that appears several times in 2 Kings as the writer talks about the kings of Judah: “He was a good king, but…” In other words, the king did a pretty good job, but… The king was pleasing to the Lord, but… The king was good, but not great!

In each of these cases, the king seemed to be a godly leader with a commitment to carry out the will of God, but there was always this knock against them: In certain areas of their lives, their obedience was selective. They tolerated subtle sin—subtle in their minds, but not in God’s.

For whatever reason, Amaziah, a guy dedicated to leading the nation in a godly way, did not destroy the pagan shrines around Judah, and as a result, some of the people continued to worship there. Perhaps he thought he had done enough to promote the worship of God at the temple in Jerusalem; maybe he didn’t want to come off as a religious fanatic; maybe he was somewhat unaware or preoccupied with other concerns; maybe he was concerned about being popular with the populace—trying to please all the people all the time; maybe he just didn’t have the energy to deal with yet another demand of spiritual leadership; maybe he didn’t think it was all that big of a deal.

But upon further review, how could Amaziah have missed it? What he was allowing some of the people to do in worshipping their god at shrines in the hills was a violation of the First and Second Commandments:

You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. (Exodus 20:3-6)

Who knows Amaziah’s reasons for sure, but what we do know is that his failure to deal with this area of life and leadership prevented him moving from good to great as a king. Because of this inattention, his reign was limited, his nation was affected and his legacy was marred.

What a lesson for us! Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:11-13, “These things happened to them [the Old Testament figures] as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

What are the areas of selective obedience in your life? What are the reasons you are failing to deal with them? Have you convinced yourself that you can’t tackle them, can’t overcome them? Paul gives both a negative and a positive encouragement that you’d better step up to the plate and swing for the fences in dealing with the things that are keeping you from going beyond good and on to great in your walk with God.

On the negative, Paul calls you to allow the power of hindsight to motivate you to action. Just take a look at one example after another of the also-rans strewn along the path in the Old Testament—people who “sort of” obeyed God. Frankly, there is no “sort of” in our obedience to God. In God’s eyes—and only his view of things really counts—there is no such thing as selective obedience. You’re either obedient or you’re not! So if you have justified in your mind that partial compliance is okay, Paul says you are not on solid ground.

On the positive, Paul reminds you that there is no area of weakness and struggle in your life where sin is guaranteed victory. No sin is too big, too powerful, too overwhelming. It might be tough, but there is always a way to win! And furthermore, God stands at the ready to offer his help to give you victory—even over the toughest temptation! If God is for you, who can stand against you? No one and no thing!

St. Augustine once said, “Will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.” So exert your will where God has provided his grace, and you will be great in the Lord’s eyes! Don’t let selective obedience prevent you moving from good to great as a child of the King!

Going Deeper With God: Join me in my prayer for today: Lord, I don’t want people to read about my life someday and say, “he was a good man, but…” More importantly, I don’t want that to be your analysis of me. Rather, I want you to say of me, “In him I found a man after my own heart.” Give me discernment today to ferret out any area of selective obedience; give me strength and resolve to tackle that temptation; give me grace that I don’t deserve, and I will exert my will as best I can. Help me to be great in your eyes, O Lord—that is my humble prayer.

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