My first thought about loyalty runs to the military, who place a high value on it. “Each service [in American] focuses on distinct values to be the foundation of how each service member serves; whether it is selfless service, integrity, or honor one of the common virtues that bind all service members together, and that is loyalty. Upon entering the military, a person must first be administered the oath of enlistment or the oath of a commissioned officer. The candidate for service is required to state: I, _____…do solemnly swear (or affirm)…that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God.” (1) Don’t you love the “So help me God?” Loyalty to people and causes is risky because, at some point, we will be disappointed, since no one and nothing is perfect, except God. But we still knowingly or unknowingly put people, ideas, or works on pedestals. How often have you been disappointed by a leader, a friend, or someone in a service industry who didn’t deliver on a promise? In mid-October, just six weeks ahead of the US Presidential elections, many people are discussing their disappointments in the candidates. For some, their experience has made them trust someone less, or change their political loyalty. We all have been through disappointing experiences, which is why we are so comforted and encouraged by God’s perfection, faithfulness, and omnipotence. But when we think of our faithfulness it’s a whole different story.
What is biblical faithfulness if it is not loyalty to God and all his promises? Over the next few weeks, I will be using devotions from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers as the starting place for meditations on Christian faithfulness. Today’s devotion focuses on God’s sovereignty, a crucial doctrine of the Christian faith. (2) “Those who see the Lord in His sovereign glory have an inward compulsion to serve this God. Serving God is the glory of their lives. Their service is measured not so much in what they achieve–or what God achieves through them–but rather in the sheer wonder of the God they serve. Like little boys dividing up into teams on the playground, being picked to play on this team is the greatest joy imaginable, especially for those who are so unworthy…Relying on God’s sovereign purpose, knowing that there is a decree of marvelous grace behind everything that happens, we can face difficult circumstances without wavering from God’s law. We can face the hostility of the world or even the apostasy of the church without faltering in our ministry. We can trust the wisdom and obey the commands of a sovereign God who works all things out according to the purpose of His holy will.” (3) “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
There are two primary truths in Romans 8:28. The first has to do with who knows God. Who is “we” and who are “those?”These two different people groups; they are the same people. Only those “called” to know Christ love God, through the power of the Spirit who has worked and continues to work in us. Saved, regenerated, or redeemed might all be substituted for “called” in a general sense, although each has a precise role in our conversion doctrinally. (4) Only believers are called by God to love Him and understand that He is sovereign in all things. “[Romans 8:28] is not a promise that all things work together for the good of all people.” (5) For Christians, knowing that God is sovereignly working all things for good should inspire our greater loyalty and faithfulness to Him.
James Boice continues, [the good spoken of here] “is for Christians only…is not our idea of the good but God’s idea and that it is to be made like Jesus Christ…the things God uses for this supremely good end are not necessarily good in themselves; and…we can “know” this even though we may not feel or see it.” (6) This glorious six-word phrase is “…all things work together for good…” may have such a powerful effect on our spirits! Oswald Chambers wrote:
“It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberty with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, and that is to our Lord. Suddenly God breaks up a particular set of circumstances, and the realisation comes that we have been disloyal to Him by not recognising that He had organised them…If we learn to worship God in the trying circumstances, He will alter them in two seconds when He chooses.”
“Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the thing that we “stick at” to-day. We will be loyal to work, to service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ. Many Christians are intensely impatient of talking about loyalty to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more emphatically by Christian workers than by the world. God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers. The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us — ‘I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on mine.’ God wants to use us as He used His own Son.” (7)
I have an elderly friend who has fallen recently, can’t remember quite when to take her medication, and finds herself confused or forgetting things. I’m sure that if I ever reach the age of 96, I won’t be in such good shape. Lately, the Lord had her tenants move out of her previous home, next door to her family caregiver, a former registered nurse. Her long-time friend of 97 had to leave the facility where she currently resides. It seems so clear to me that the Lord has orchestrated her circumstances to move “back home,” but she is having a hard time accepting the idea. I sometimes find myself in the same doubting posture, which is Chambers’ rebuke. And, as Proverbs reminds us, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool…Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 17:10; 27:5-6)
[Paul] “does not say that we ‘feel’ all things to be good. Often we do not feel that God is doing good at all. We feel exactly the opposite. We feel that we are being ground down or destroyed. And it is not even that we “see” the good. Most of the time we do not perceive the good things God is doing or how he might be bringing good out of the evil. Paul did not go around saying how wonderful the world was or how pleasant his missionary endeavors had been…The Christian doctrine of perseverance does not lead to a false assurance or presumption, though some who claim to be saved do presume on God by their sinful lifestyles and willful disobedience. Perseverance does not make us lazy. Perseverance does not make us proud. No, the real doctrine of perseverance is precisely what Paul declares it to be in Romans 8: that those whom God has foreknown and predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of his Son will indeed come to that great consummation.” (8)
Our sovereign God exalts the humble and brings down the prideful merely by his Word. The Holy Spirit works in us to draw closer to our Most High God. In Daniel Chapter 4, where Nebuchadnezzar uses God’s title of “Most High God.” “It is not referring to God’s role as Redeemer or to his wisdom. It relates to God’s sovereignty. ‘The Most High God’ is the God who rules, not only in heaven but on earth.”(9) Richard Phillips notes, “The first reason that the Christians of Smyrna should not fear the tribulation before them is that Jesus is the ‘first and the last’ (Rev. 2:8). [The] ‘first and the last’ signifies God’s sovereignty over all things, so Christ’s meaning is also that his people should not fear in light of his sovereign control of all that they face.” (10) All political and military events, history, pandemics, and every situation is under God’s rule. Does this knowledge increase your faith? “…he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)
Related Scriptures: Psalm 37:11; Proverbs 1:33; Ecclesiastes 8:12; Daniel 4; Matthew 25:34-36; 1 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 2:8-9; 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:8-10
- Gipson, Isaac, “Loyalty and The Military Profession,” for the entire statement see: https://www.airman.af.mil/Portals/17/002%20All%20Products/001%20Book%20Reviews/Research/LoyaltyAU_Paper.pdf?ver=2017-07-10-095310-147
- Chambers, Oswald, “My Utmost for His Highest—The Test of Loyalty,” https://utmost.org/classic/the-test-of-loyalty-classic/
- Phillips, Richard, “What’s So Great About the Sovereignty of God?,” Ligonier article, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/whats-so-great-about-sovereignty-god/
- See commentary on Romans 8:29-30. There are many aspects of God’s work in our salvation including those mentioned in the passage as well as regeneration, redemption, adoption, atonement, rebirth, repentance, and positional sanctification.
- Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Romans 8:28, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Boice, Ibid.
- Chambers, Ibid.
- Boice, Ibid, Romans 8:29-30.
- Boice, Ibid, Daniel 4.
- Phillips, Richard, “Revelation—Reformed Expository Commentary,” Revelation 2:8-11, R & R Publishing, 2017.
October 9, 2020