Back in 1990, country singer Aaron Tippin sang his hit song “You’ve Got To Stand For Something” to the troops at Bob Hope’s USO show in the Persian Gulf. The song really resonated with those brave men who took a stand in the desert to defend the line our president had drawn in the sand during Operation Desert Shield.
That song reminds me of the stand that Berean Bible Society founder Pastor C. R. Stam took for Paul’s gospel when he began publishing the Searchlight back in 1940. It also reminds me of the stand that a group of grace pastors took against the doctrinal declension that had infected the grace movement back in 1968, prompting them to form the Berean Bible Fellowship. We are honoring all of these men in this, the Searchlight’s 80th year, with a study of the men in Scripture who took a stand for God and His truth, hoping to inspire you to take a stand of your own.
The prophet Job took a stand for God by choosing to fear Him and eschew evil (Job 1:8). What a reminder that any stand that you hope to take for God and the truth of the grace message must begin with a decision to live a godly life.
But as you know, Job paid a steep price for his stand when God let Satan afflict him with the loss of his wealth, his health, and his family. Those were losses God could have prevented—losses that He did prevent for many years because Job was godly. But then God decided to change the program and stop rewarding Job for obeying Him.
A Dispensational Change
If all that sounds familiar, it’s because those were the kind of losses that God used to prevent when the Jews were His people if they lived godly lives. But then He changed the program from law to grace, and He’s not preventing losses like that any more. That means if you’ve taken the same stand for godliness that Job took, you’ll just have to learn to suffer losses like he incurred with “the patience of Job” (James 5:11). That’s the price that you have to pay to stand for God today in the dispensation of grace.
But those losses weren’t the only things Job had to suffer. He also had to suffer the “comfort” of his friends, each of whom accused him of being a great sinner whom God was punishing for his sins. Of course, they didn’t come out and say that at first! The first friend pondered it aloud (Job 4:7,8) and the second one suggested it (Job 8:20). But eventually Job’s third friend came right out and told him that God was punishing him less than he deserved (11:6)!
If you think about it, they were making a dispensational error. They were judging Job on the basis of what God used to do because they were unaware that He had changed the program and was no longer rewarding godliness with prosperity. And if that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s what is going on today! When you suffer the loss of your health or your wealth or your loved ones, prosperity preachers make the same dispensational error when they conclude that it is because you sinned.
Of course, they seldom come right out and say that. But they imply it when they give the illusion that they are prosperous because they are godly. But do you know what God calls that kind of thinking today?
“Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness” (1 Tim. 6:5).
God says that in the age of grace it is corrupt and perverse for men to say they’ve gained wealth and prosperity due to their godliness. Yet that’s what prosperity preachers believe and teach. And I don’t have to tell you how that makes poor and unhealthy believers reproach themselves when they are not prosperous. My fellow grace believer, we have the truth that sets men free from all the guilt that religion puts on them, and it’s worth standing for at any price!
The prophet Isaiah took a stand when God asked who He could send to His people with His truth, and he declared, “Here am I; send me” (Isa. 6:8). But he learned of the price he would have to pay for taking that stand when God told him,
“Go, and tell this people, Hear ye… but understand not; and… perceive not” (v. 9).
God said, as it were, “Go tell Israel what I want you to say, but you should know they’re not going to understand it” (v. 9).
How would you like to get a commission like that? How enthusiastic would you be if you knew in advance that people weren’t going to understand the message God gave you to convey to them? If I were Isaiah, I’d want to know how long I’d have to serve a sentence like that—and he did too! When he asked, “Lord, how long?” (v. 11), God replied,
“Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant…and the land be utterly desolate.”
Oh that’s nice! It would be one thing if God said that they’d eventually get it. That might make your stand a little easier to take. But to hear God say that they’d never perceive it had to be pretty discouraging.
Do you ever feel that way? Like the grace message you’ve been sent to preach is a message that no one will understand? That you just have to serve out a life sentence of telling people a message they’ll never perceive? If so, listen to what God told His prophet about His land:
“Yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return” (v. 13).
God was telling him that while the majority of people wouldn’t receive his message, there was a remnant that would. And while the majority of people won’t believe you, there will always be some who will. You just have to find them. But isn’t it worth any price you have to pay to find them?
The Price Goes Up
Isaiah was probably a little discouraged to hear that most of his countrymen wouldn’t listen to him, but discouragement wasn’t the only price he had to pay to stand for the truth. He lived in a day when God asked prophets to act out His prophecies. So when the Assyrians threatened to conquer Israel and the Jews looked to Egypt for help instead of God, God told him to go around “walking naked and barefoot” (Isa. 20:2-4) to illustrate how Assyria would conquer Egypt too, and lead the Egyptians away naked and barefoot as well as the Jews.
How would you like to be the man who had to act out that message, and walk around naked for three years just to prompt people to ask you why, just so you could explain that that’s what would happen to them if they kept looking to Egypt for help?
You say, “Big deal, the only price he had to pay for taking a stand was a little embarrassment!” Well, you know, that’s the only price you’re likely to have to pay as well! A little embarrassment when people laugh at your godliness, when unbelievers scoff at the gospel, and when believers ridicule the grace message you proclaim. But isn’t embarrassment also a small price to pay for standing for God?
Toward the end of his life, Isaiah also had to pay the price of despair. Look what he said 46 years after he cried, “Send me!”
“Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain…” (Isa. 49:4).
After 46 years of proclaiming a message that most of his people didn’t perceive, Isaiah was depressed. He felt like he’d spent his life for nothing.
Do you ever feel like that’s how you’re spending your life? If you do, you might want to consider encouraging yourself the same way Isaiah did, saying,
“…yet surely my judgment is with the Lord… and now, saith the Lord that formed me… to bring Jacob again to Him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord…” (Isa. 49:4,5).
If you’re beating yourself up, thinking you’re a failure because people haven’t gathered around you to hear more of the truth that you’ve given your life to share with them, just do what Isaiah did and remember to leave your judgment with the Lord. Let Him decide if you’re a failure, and take Him at His word when He says that you may be a failure in the eyes of the world but you are glorious in the eyes of God.
Do you think the Lord Jesus ever felt like a failure? We know that He did, for Isaiah 49 is about Him. When God went on to tell His prophet,
“I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth” (49:6),
we know He wasn’t talking about Isaiah! He was speaking prophetically of how the Lord would ultimately gather Israel, and be God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. But when He didn’t gather Israel at His first coming, do you think maybe He felt like He had labored in vain, and spent His strength for nothing? If you think He didn’t, I’d argue that Isaiah 49 suggests otherwise, for this chapter is about Him as much as it is about Isaiah.
The Lord had feelings just like you and I, but when He was unable to gather Israel, wasn’t He still glorious in His Father’s eyes? If so, then so was Isaiah — and so are you, when people don’t gather to hear your message!
You may be thinking that all of that was true for Jews like the Lord and Isaiah but not for us, for didn’t our apostle Paul imply that his labor would be in vain if the Galatians kept flirting with the law (Gal. 4:11), and if the Philippians kept murmuring and disputing (Phil. 2:14-16), and if the Thessalonians maintained their rejection of the pre-trib Rapture (1 Thes. 3:5)?
But why would Paul tell the carnal Corinthians that their labor wasn’t in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). The answer is that their labor wasn’t in vain “in the Lord”—and Paul’s wasn’t either, despite how people responded to his message. And your labor isn’t either—in the Lord! It may be in vain by worldly standards but,
“…thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other the savour of life unto life…” (2 Cor. 2:14-16).
Do you know what that means? It means when you decide to take a stand for God and His truth you can’t lose. You come up smelling like a rose no matter how people respond! You are glorious in the eyes of God! Isn’t that worth taking a stand for Him no matter what the price?
The last man that we’ll consider who took a stand for God was Jeremiah, whom God told,
“I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5).
Right off the bat you have something in common with this man of God, for you preach Paul’s gospel, and the Lord sent him “to all nations” (Rom. 16:26). But Jeremiah was God’s first ambassador to the nations.
And I don’t know about you, but whenever I think about men in the Bible getting a commission from God, I always picture them as eager to carry it out as Isaiah was when he cried, “Send me!” Then I think back to how shy I was when I was first saved, and how shy you may be as well.
Send Someone Else!
But within a year after I got saved in a grace church, I knew that we had the answer to all the religious confusion I was hearing on Christian radio, and I knew somebody had to get the truth out to others. And I knew for certain that I didn’t want it to be me. I didn’t think I’d ever know the grace message well enough to proclaim it.
If that describes you too, it might encourage you to know that Jeremiah felt the same way! Rather than echo Isaiah’s eager cry of “Send me!” he protested,
“Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jer. 1:6).
Jeremiah said, in effect: “Who me? How would I know what to say to the nations? I’m a child in my understanding of Your truth.”
If his reluctance sounds familiar, it’s because when God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, he objected that they wouldn’t follow him (Ex. 4:1). God replied, “They will after I turn your rod into a serpent” (vv. 2,3). Now you’d think Moses would be satisfied with that, but he came up with another lame excuse, citing his “slow tongue” and how he hadn’t been born with the gift of gab (4:10). God countered by making his brother Aaron his spokesman.
Do you know what that means? It means no matter what your objection is to taking a stand for the Lord, He has an answer for it. You’re not going to get the drop on God!
Well, let’s see how He answered Jeremiah’s objection that he couldn’t stand for God and His truth:
“Say not, I am a child… whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak” (Jer. 1:7).
Wait! How come God didn’t answer Jeremiah in the same way He answered Moses, by assuring him that He would confirm his words with miraculous signs? Well, don’t forget that God sent Moses to the Jews, and what do we know about the Jews? They “require a sign” (1 Cor. 1:22). But God sent Jeremiah to the nations of the Gentiles—just like He sent Paul and us!
And what do Gentiles seek after? “Wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:22)! That’s why when Jeremiah said he couldn’t speak for God, He didn’t give him the power to work miracles. Instead He told him,
“I have put My words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9).
Instead of giving Jeremiah miracles to perform, He gave him words of wisdom to proclaim!
The Weapons of Our Warfare
Is there anything you can learn from that as you carry out your commission to all nations? Don’t be looking to God for backup to confirm your words with signs following as He did for Moses, and as He later did for the twelve apostles (Mark 16:20). He’s given you His Word because the Gentiles to whom you are sent still seek after wisdom. And He has given us a very special wisdom, one that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 2:7 when he said,
“We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom….”
So don’t be trying to conduct spiritual warfare with Israel’s weapons now that God has recalled those weapons. Instead we need to do what God told Jeremiah to do:
“…gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces…” (Jer. 1:17).
In modern terms this would equate to, “Suck it up and be a man and speak My Word, and don’t worry about the frowns you might see!”
But God also gave Jeremiah a promise:
“I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar… and they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee…” (Jer. 1:18,19).
Now here you probably want to know how God did that, so He can make you a defensed city and an iron pillar too. Well, notice that God says He did what He did that very day—and all God did that day was commission Jeremiah and give him His Word.
That’s how God steeled His prophet to speak His Word, by giving him His truth. And that’s how He can steel you to do it as well. With the wisdom of God’s rightly divided Word you can be as invincible as Jeremiah was, because now you have God’s message for the nations! I discuss Pauline truth for a living, and I can tell you that after 41 years in the ministry and 19 years of defending the grace message here at BBS that nobody can stand against what we believe!
The Price Is Right
If you’re thinking that Jeremiah might be the one man in this lesson who didn’t have to pay a price for the stand he took, think again! God told him,
“Buy thee My field that is in Anathoth…” (Jer. 32:7).
Of course, to understand how this constituted paying a price for standing for God, you have to remember that God had been telling Jeremiah to warn the people of Israel that the king of Babylon was about to conquer them and carry them away from their homeland. If you’re still not sure how buying a field would be paying a price for standing for God, let me ask you a question. Would you have bought land in Poland in 1938 if you knew the Nazis were about to take over the city in 1939, and the land you bought would then belong to the Fuhrer? Well, Jeremiah knew the land that God was asking him to buy would soon belong to Nebuchadnezzar.
But bless his heart, he bought the land! Although he did point out to God,
“…the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans… and Thou hast said unto me… Buy thee the field…” (Jer. 32:24,25).
That was his way of saying, “Okay, I did what You asked me to do. Would you mind telling me why You asked me to do it?” And, speaking of the people of Israel, God answered:
“…I will bring them again unto this place… for I will cause their captivity to return…” (Jer. 32:37-44).
God said, in effect, “Yeah, I know that telling you to buy land in Israel sounds like telling you to buy a ticket on the Titanic. But someday I’ll bring My people back home, so buying land might seem like a high price to pay to stand for Me, but it’s actually an investment, an investment that you and your children can enjoy for countless years to come.”
A Buyer’s Market
And you know what? So is the stand that you take for God and the truth of His grace. The money you give toward the Lord’s work isn’t wasted, it’s invested. The time you give to the Lord’s work isn’t wasted, it’s invested. The life you give to the Lord isn’t wasted, it’s an investment! Everything you give the Lord is an investment in eternity.
And every financial adviser will tell you that when it comes to investments, you have to be in it for the long haul. You can’t get discouraged and sell when the market crashes, for it always bounces back, and if you sell low, you’ll take an unbelievable financial hit.
My father did that in 2008 when the market crashed and he sold all his investments. A few years later all the investments he sold had regained their value and more. But he lost out, and the inheritance that he left his children when he died in 2011 was consequently a fraction of what it could have been.
Now I’m not bitter about that. I share it only in case you’re getting bitter. If you’re getting discouraged about your life, and how you’ve invested it in serving the Lord, you have to remember that you’re not just in it for the long haul, you’re in it for the eternal haul! Investing your life in taking a stand for Paul’s gospel has its ups and downs just like the stock market, but the dividends it will pay in eternity are out of this world. Literally!
Everyone has to stand for something in life. Why not stand for something that will keep you from falling for the errors of religion, and keep others from falling for them as well. It’s a stand that God is counting on you to take, and it’s a stand you’ll be eternally glad you took.