In 2007, a group of twenty-three South Korean missionaries were captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were terrified. The Taliban separated the group, isolated them and confiscated their possessions. One of the Korean women managed to hold on to her Bible. She ripped it into twenty-three pieces and secretly gave each of them a portion so that wherever they were, each person could read a part of Scripture when no one was watching.
The group knew that the Taliban had decided to kill them, one at a time. One by one the missionaries surrendered their lives again to Jesus saying, ‘Lord, if you want me to die for your sake I’ll do it.’ Then the pastor said, ‘I’ve talked to [the Taliban] because they are going to start killing us and I’ve told their leaders that if anyone dies, I die first because I am your pastor.’ Another said, ‘No, because I also am a pastor and I am your elder. I die first.’
Then the pastor came back and said, ‘You are not ordained, I have been ordained, I die first.’ And sure enough, he died first. Two more were killed before the rest were eventually rescued. They had demonstrated extraordinary loyalty to God and to each other.
Loyalty is a combination of love and faithfulness. It is a quality often lacking in our society today. Disloyalty destroys families, churches, businesses, political parties and even nations.
Pursue loyalty to God in your plansProverbs 14:15-24
Our first loyalty is to God. His favour rests on those who are ‘God-loyal’ (v.19, MSG).
The book of Proverbs is full of practical wisdom. It encourages you, for example, to be discerning about what you believe: ‘The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word’ (v.15, MSG). Ultimately wisdom is about how you relate to God: ‘The wise fear the Lord and shun evil’ (v.16).
‘Fear of the Lord’ is an attitude of healthy respect and loyalty. It means involving him in all your plans. Be very careful about the plans you make – that they are for good and not for evil. Eventually, even ‘the wicked will respect God-loyal people’ (v.19, MSG).
‘Those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness’ (v.22b). The word for ‘find’ is sometimes translated ‘show’. Both are true. Those who plan what is good not only find love and faithfulness, they show love and faithfulness as well. This is at the heart of loyalty – to show love and faithfulness. This is contrasted with those who selfishly plot evil and go astray.
Lord, help me to be wise and God-loyal in my plans. May we, as a community of God-loyal people, plan what is good and find love and faithfulness.
Pursue loyalty to Jesus in your wordsActs 5:12-42
As the apostles went out and preached the good news they performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. ‘More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number’ (v.14). As a result, ‘Crowds gathered… bringing their sick… all of them were healed’ (vv.15–16).
Sadly, their success led to ‘jealousy’ from religious leaders (v.17). Be warned. Envy is such a temptation for those of us who are seen as ‘religious’. In their jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in jail (v.18). But once again God performed a miracle. He sent an angel of the Lord to open the doors of the jail and bring them out.
With huge courage they obeyed the command to ‘Go, stand in the temple courts… and tell the people the full message of this new life’ (v.20).
When they were caught doing exactly what they had been arrested for doing in the first place, they were re-arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest who said to them, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name… Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood’ (v.28).
Peter and the other apostles were loyal to God and to their calling. They replied, ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’ (v.29).
Jesus said, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’ (Matthew 22:21). In saying this, he defined the limits of the authority of human beings and our loyalty to it. When it conflicts with loyalty to God, God takes precedence. Out of loyalty to God, they continued preaching the gospel – even when they were on trial.
Their brief defence (it takes only three verses – Acts 5:30–32) is a model sermon. It is all about Jesus. It is astonishing that they were able to cover so much in such a short presentation. They preach about the cross, resurrection and the exaltation of Jesus. They proclaimed Jesus as Prince and Saviour. The talk includes a description of the way of salvation: repentance and forgiveness of sins.
In addition, they managed to include the whole Trinity: God the Father (‘The God of our ancestors’, v.30), God the Son (‘Jesus’, v.30) and God ‘the Holy Spirit’ (v.32). This sermon produces such fury that, like the South Korean missionaries, they faced the threat of death.
However, in the providence of God, there was a wise man on the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who pointed out to his fellow members (by giving examples from recent history) that ‘if [the apostles’] purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God’ (vv.38–39).
Although his speech persuaded them, nevertheless the apostles were flogged and ‘ordered… not to speak in the name of Jesus’ (v.40).
Once again, with extraordinary courage and loyalty to God and their calling, ‘The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ’ (vv.41–42).
Lord, may we be inspired by the example of the apostles and those like the South Korean missionaries who followed in their footsteps. May we never stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
Pursue loyalty to each other in your heart2 Samuel 14:1-15:12
Loyalty is such an attractive characteristic in a person. Disloyalty is subversive and betrays trust. Disloyalty can undermine the leadership in a church, business or even a nation.
In David’s case, disloyalty came from his own son. This must have been so painful for him. David loved Absalom: ‘the king’s heart longed for Absalom’ (14:1). God speaks to David through the wise woman from Tekoa. As a result David says, ‘Go, bring back the young man Absalom’ (v.21). When he returned ‘the king kissed Absalom’ (v.33). David gave him another opportunity to be a loyal son.
Tragically, David’s love and loyalty to Absalom were not returned. We see here a powerful description of how disloyalty works.
There are always opportunities for disloyalty. In any situation – whether for example in the government, workplace or the church – there are bound to be those who complain (15:2). If you are a loyal person, you will help to deal with these complaints and attempt to diffuse them.
It has been said, ‘Loyalty means I am with you whether you are wrong or right. But I will tell you when you are wrong and help you get it right.’
Absalom failed the loyalty test. He would say to the complainers, ‘“Look, you’ve got a strong case; but the king isn’t going to listen to you.” Then he’d say, “Why doesn’t someone make me a judge for this country? Anybody with a case could bring it to me and I’d settle things fair and square.”’ (vv.3–4, MSG).
Of course, this is absolute nonsense. But it is easy to make promises of this kind. The disloyal person says, ‘If only I were in charge everything would be so much better.’ In this way, Absalom ‘stole the hearts of the people of Israel’ (v.6). Disloyalty begins in our hearts and in our thinking. So does loyalty. Guard your heart and your thinking and do not allow your heart to be stolen.
However, here they found a rallying point around Absalom and ‘the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing’ (v.12). Those who are feeling discontented in any situation always look for a rallying point. They look for someone among the leadership team around whom they can rally. If the entire leadership team remains faithful, the discontents will be unsuccessful.
Lord, help us to stay loyal to our leaders – to our national leaders and governments, parents, church leaders and bosses. Lord, guard our hearts, keep us loyal, loving and faithful to you and to one another.
2 Samuel 14:1–15:12
Being beautiful on the outside doesn’t make you beautiful on the inside. Absalom had a perfect appearance, but what was going on inside was quite different. People spend hours going to gyms, hairdressers, doing make-up, clothes shopping and working on their outward appearance. What really matters is what’s going on inside. We all need to work harder on our inner beauty. I know I do.
Verse of the Day
‘… blessed is the one who is kind to the needy’ (Proverbs 14:21).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.