Pat Riley, a basketball coach famous for inspiring his teams to win, once said, “There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either IN or you’re OUT. There is no such thing as a life in-between.”

In sports, commitment is the difference between success and failure, but the principle does not apply only to sports. One of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffett, became rich because of his commitment to make money through investing. Fritz Kreisler, thought to be one of the greatest violinists of all time, was famous for his striving for excellence, constantly playing the violin and composing for it. Joe Girard, known as the world’s greatest salesman, discovered that success comes from wanting success so much, that you are willing to work harder than everyone else and work constantly to achieve it.

If we consider our commitment to serving our Lord, there is no such thing as a life in-between. We are either committed to the Lord or we aren’t. If we are more interested in earning money or excelling at sport or music, or preoccupied with a hobby, we are not dedicating ourselves to our Lord. Jesus did not say that we should not serve God and mammon — he said we cannot.

If we spend our time pleasing ourselves or seeking man-made goals, we are not committing ourselves to serving our God. In the Psalms we are told, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; Trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass. “ Solomon tells us “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.”

What did Jesus mean when he said we must take up our cross and follow him? We have to give up what we want and be willing to endure hardship to do what Jesus wants. He is asking us to commit to serving him. From the Phillips translation, “If anyone comes to me without ‘hating’ his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine. The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple. If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t he first sit down and work out the cost of it, to see if he can afford to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and found himself unable to complete the building, everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him, saying, ‘This is the man who started to build a tower but couldn’t finish it!’… So it is with you; only the man who says good-bye to his possessions can be my disciple.”

Jesus makes it clear that to be his disciple requires total commitment. We are “out” — not his disciples — if we don’t “hate” everything else. The word “hate” does not have the usual sense of loathing, but means that the love we have for our parents, wife and family pales in comparison to the overwhelming love we have for Jesus. Our first priority, the love of our life, must be our love for our Lord. The promise Jesus gives is that by giving up our worldly goals and committing ourselves to him, we will be granted life, eternal life in the kingdom. Jesus tells us, “For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake shall save it.” There is no in-between; if we are not in — striving to serve our God with all our being, we will find ourselves out — outside of the kingdom of God with no hope of eternal life.

Unfortunately there are many who go through life uncommitted. They are wishy-washy, bouncing back and forth from one thing to another. James tells us: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James also said: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

Are we committed? To what? Not only do we need to be committed, but also it is important that we commit ourselves to the Lord. We are to seek first the kingdom of God. The promise of eternal life will not be given to those who do not seek it. Many people are committed, but to the wrong things. The Warren Buffetts, Fritz Kreislers and Joe Girards of our world are excellent examples of total commitment to goals that at best bring fame and fortune for a brief time

What are we doing to show our commitment? If we have trouble thinking of any good works we have done, have we done any? Nehemiah asked in prayer, “Remember me, O my God, for good.” What good are we doing that God can remember us for? Even though there is nothing impossible with God, it is still impossible for Him to remember our effort to serve Him if we make no effort. Our work of service to our God does not need to be spectacular or full of heroic feats, but we do have to do something. Jesus tells us, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

How many elderly have we visited lately? How many widows have we helped? James tells us, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Jesus gives us a picture of the judgment seat: “Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ ” We pray that we may hear those words spoken to us. But Jesus does not stop there; he explains, “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ ”

Let us look at the examples of people who are highly committed and apply them to our walk to the kingdom. Let us be like Warren Buffett, but invest our time and resources into helping the needy and sharing the gospel message. Let us continually strive to serve more perfectly like Fritz Kreisler practiced his violin, by studying the word, working to serve others, and seeking opportunities to serve. Finally, let us desire the Kingdom so much that we work harder and longer in our Lord’s service, as dedicated to selling as Joe Girard is, but selling the good news of the gospel of Christ so that others can be saved.

Let us resolve to show the Lord our commitment to Him by the good deeds we are doing to serve Him and care for His other children. As Jesus said, “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

 Robert J. Lloyd

Having TRUTH decay?

Someone once asked a clever question: “Are you having truth decay? If so, then brush up on your Bible.”

Many people wonder, “What is the purpose of life? Why am I here? Is this all there is? What is truth and does it really matter?” The answers to all these questions and more are all to be found in one place, our Bible. In the past it was more common for people to have some awareness of Bible teachings, but nowadays the Bible has been banned in schools and eliminated from public life. As a consequence many don’t realize that it is the source of knowledge about the big issues of life, the truths that we all need to know. Our world is suffering from truth decay.

If we believe in the Bible, we still can have trouble with truth decay. Every one of us can get caught up in the busyness of everyday life and forget about the important issues. We can neglect reading the Bible. We can drift away from our beliefs. If we want to know about the best way to live our lives and keep on track, it is so important to read God’s word every day. It is sad that so many people in the world are not finding time to read their Bibles.

If we are too busy to read God’s word every day, then we are just plain too busy. Surely out of the 24 hours the Lord gives us each day we can find the time to listen to Him. God caused the Bible to be written as a love letter to each of us, and He rightly expects us to read it. He tells us how we came to be, the good gifts He wants us to have, what expectations He has of us, how we can live happy and fulfilled lives and the extraordinary measures He has taken to provide us a way to eternal life.

No wonder David was called a man after God’s own heart; he declared, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” When David said these words he did not have all the parts of the Bible we are blessed with today. Yet as busy as he was when king, or leading the army, or fleeing for his life from his enemy, King Saul, he still found time to meditate on the word of God.

We who want to live godly lives can actually be deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are doing all the right things. We may think we love God and may think that we are serving Him, but we need to have a close, hard look at what we truly love. What we love is revealed by what we find time to do in our daily life. By our very actions we tell God how much we love Him. We may be fooling ourselves. How much time do we spend thinking about God, reading His word, caring for others and doing things just to please Him? When we have free time, what do we do with it? Do we turn to Bible reading and study, or do we turn to diversions such as computer activities, entertainment, or hobbies?

What often interferes with our free time is that we all have a lot of stuff, material goods, that need care. This in itself is not sin; but if our stuff takes up all our time so that we do not have time to read God’s word or do works of service for our God, then that is a problem. When Lot walked out of Sodom he had only the clothes on his back. When Noah and his wife left their home after living there 500 years, there no doubt was a lot of stuff of theirs left behind when they entered the Ark and God shut the door. They would never see that stuff again.

When the call comes that the Lord has come, we will need to walk away from all our stuff, never to see it again either. We have to make sure that all that stuff is not crowding God out of our lives so that we are not reading His word daily. The stuff might be our house, our car, our hobbies, our business, our computer or other things; whatever it is, we must not allow anything to take away the time we should be spending reading and studying and meditating on the word of God.

Not reading the Bible skews our understanding of God’s ways and can actually be offensive to God. David’s son, Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, tells us, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination,” which can be interpreted to mean we should not even pray if we do not have time to listen to God. Have you ever met someone who does all the talking and never lets you get a word in edgewise? Some people are this way with God — they pray all the time but never listen to Him. Their actions speak out that they are not interested in God’s point of view. Solomon’s words imply that God may refuse to listen to us unless we also open His book and listen to Him.

If we want to avoid truth decay we must truly love the word of God and make sure we spend the time focusing on it and acting on it. We will find the time spent to be a blessing to us not only now, but in the age to come, and we will agree with the Psalmist when he says, “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.”

Robert J. Lloyd

The secret to TRUE happiness

The Declaration of Independence is supposed to grant all Americans the inalienable right to pursue happiness. A wise man once commented, “The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase: If you pursue happiness you’ll never find it.”

Unfortunately human beings have rarely learned this truth, and many spend their days pursuing, but never finding, the happiness they think will come if only they can get or do more. Solomon tested this truth by deciding to do whatever he could to make himself happy. He said, “I decided to enjoy myself and find out what happiness is. But I found that this is useless, too. I got whatever I wanted and did whatever made me happy. But most of all, I enjoyed my work. Then I thought about everything I had done, including the hard work, and it was simply chasing the wind. Nothing on earth is worth the trouble.” Solomon found that living a life of self-indulgence was empty and unsatisfying, and that although he had tried his best to do what would make him happy, he was not successful.

What does bring happiness? The Bible speaks of how happy a man is who has the Lord for his God and trusts in Him, and the happiness that comes from finding wisdom. In addition, researchers who investigate what

causes happiness have found an interesting common characteristic. William James explains, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Mark Twain observed, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”

So, since trying to be happy is useless, what we should be doing is, as William James and Mark Twain both agree, finding happiness by helping others. The more we forget ourselves and concentrate on the needs of others, the happier we should become.

Is there any support for this policy in the scriptures? Peter reminds his listeners in the book of Acts how Jesus went about doing good. Jesus always showed compassion for others. Matthew records that, “As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them.” And again, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Luke tells us, “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

Jesus demonstrated by his actions that he thought of others rather than himself. The example of Jesus clearly shows us what we should be doing. Paul tells us that “Christ did not please himself.” Paul also counsels the Corinthians, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” The outcome of this type of selfless dedication is unexpected—a feeling of happiness. Cheering someone else brings us cheer.

So the key to happiness is to forget about working to get happy and to think how we can help others. Paul advises us to wear this attitude like clothing: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” When we cheer others by our compassion for them, we end up being happy without even trying.

The other side of the coin is described by George Bernard Shaw, who said, “The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.” The people who have nothing to do but to think how they could be happier are the most miserable people on earth. They have not learned to forget themselves and think of the needs of others as Jesus did. They fit the expression, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.”

God has given us the secret of true happiness. Put on compassion, and love, be thankful and do all we do in the name of the Lord Jesus. Solomon tells us, “Happy is he who is kind to the poor” and “happy is he who trusts in the LORD.” May we find the true happiness that comes from trust in our God and filling our lives with acts of compassion so that when Jesus returns he may find in us some reflection of himself and welcome us to enter into his kingdom. Those blessed to spend eternity serving their God will enjoy the true happiness of immortality that is the reward of the faithful.

Robert J. Lloyd