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Following the Footprints

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 14, 2023 12:00 am

Following the Footprints

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 14, 2023 12:00 am

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Consider Job. He wrestled with doubt, depression, and frustration with God, yet he didn't fall into the trap of blaming God like we so often do.  So what was his secret? What kept him faithful even in the midst of intense suffering? The Apostle James tells us.



Where are your footprints going? In the direction of obedience?

Developing along the way a little bit more of endurance? Or maybe it's, yeah, I love those testimonies, Stephen, of Knox and Wesley. That's great, but you don't know what it's like on that campus. I mean, I'm in a line of cubicles all the way to the window. On one side is an atheist, on the other side is a New Ager. Across the hallway is a boss who's bitter and angry with life, and he thinks religion is for fools.

And I think I'm going to sit it out. That philosophy teacher will have me for lunch. One of the reasons why we don't think often enough about our legacy is that we're overly concerned about what people think of us now. Have you ever struggled with that? If people were to follow in your footsteps, where would it lead them? Well, God in His Word has given us some footprints to follow. It's the footprints of the prophets. They weren't perfect people.

They had their struggles and they made plenty of mistakes. But they finished their race and left us a legacy of endurance. Stephen called this message following the footprints. I've heard it said several times in past days that every believer is either coming out of a storm or experiencing a storm or heading into a storm. Perhaps you've been a Christian long enough to discover the fact that Christianity does not settle the storms of life.

Sometimes it stirs them up. You're in the process of discovering that integrity does not guard you from tribulation. It guarantees a little wonder that God is interested then in developing in us not only holiness, but endurance.

Why? Because he knows that holiness can't make it without endurance. To put it in another way, purity will require perseverance. If you don't care about purity, there's nothing to worry about as it relates to perseverance, right? If you don't care about holiness, you won't need to develop endurance. But if you're here today and you've decided already in your mind and heart to live all out for Jesus Christ, you're in the process of discovering that your Christianity does not calm the storms, sometimes it creates them.

You're either living in one, you're coming out of one, or you're heading into one. I find it fascinating that a large part of the development of endurance in the believer's mind and heart while encountering storms is to remember those who've suffered through them, to recall the testimonies given to us in the Word and testimonies of those outside the Word. Of course, the chief example is Jesus Christ of whom Peter wrote in his first letter that Christ also suffered for us, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. The word example goes back to the ancient days of teaching children how to write. In fact, one author writing just 75 years after Peter wrote that particular text used that same word example to refer to a child's exercise book. The teacher would write out the letters of the alphabet and they would trace over the child.

He would trace over those letters to learn by tracing or copying how to write. Peter effectively says that Jesus Christ has left us the alphabet of obedience, and we trace over the letters with our lives as we learn to walk like he does. The end of verse 21 in that same text from Peter, he says, so we'll follow in his steps.

The word steps literally refers to footsteps. Follow the footprints, watch them where they lead, walk like he does, walk in the direction he did. There is little doubt in my mind that James, the apostle, is writing to people who are discouraged and despairing. The opening lines of this letter, you remember, said, here's how you handle trials right off the bat. And now as he comes to the end, these last few paragraphs of this letter, he will deal with the same subject all over again. Now, beginning in verse 7 of chapter 5, if you'll turn there, James has been writing out effectively for us the alphabet of faith and endurance. In our last study, if you were with us, we followed James as he led us to a farm.

You remember? And we learned some lessons from a farmer and made observations about the farmer who plows, and plants and weeds and fertilizes and sweats it out and then waits. He waits. There are some things under his control and things outside of his control that will be needed for the crop to grow. James is pointing us to those kinds of footprints, that kind of work ethic, that kind of obedience, that kind of dealing with whatever it is in your control, leaving to God what is under his, only he can do. These are the footprints of faith, and James is effectively saying, now follow them. And he's going to show us, first of all, the footprints of prophets. Look at verse 10, where we left off. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, there's that idea of example. Here's a model.

Here's something to trace over. Take, for example, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. In other words, you want to develop endurance? Not just an unnamed farmer now, but the prophets of God who delivered the message of God. Take a look at the footprints of their endurance, the footprints of prophets. Now James' audience is dispersed Jews, believers. They'll immediately recall the mind, the prophets of their nation's past. They'll immediately recall Hosea and his faithfulness in his covenant vow to his wife, who was unfaithful to him. And Hosea will serve in that shame and suffering as an example of God's covenant love to Israel. They'll think of Jeremiah, who preached the truth without any appreciation.

In fact, on one occasion, he was thrown into an abandoned well where he sunk down in the mud, and he would have died had he not been rescued by people who pitied him. Ezekiel watched his wife, taken in death, yet obeyed God's command to continue serving him. These Jewish believers would immediately recall prophets like Micah, Zechariah, who was murdered, Amos, Haggai, who suffered for their obedience, Isaiah, the great prophet Isaiah, who was eventually placed in a hollow tree and cut in half by his own king. See, prophets were not commissioned by God to make friends. They were not called to compromise their message, and they were never guaranteed success. In fact, they were told to expect the opposite. You remember Jeremiah was told to preach, and he was told ahead of time that nobody would listen. I can't imagine how many of us who preached today would deliver the message after being told no one was going to listen. James knew that his audience would resonate with the obvious fact that none of these prophets were well treated or revered. In fact, Jesus Christ would later come along and condemn the nation, Israel, by describing Jerusalem as a city who killed the prophets and stoned all the messengers God sent to it.

Matthew 23, 31. They weren't chosen, by the way, or commissioned. And James knew this would encourage the believer because they were perfect. They were flawed and fallen. They were clay pots, like you and me. But yet, James says, you need to watch them because they endured. They walked through it.

They kept on. Modern day testimonies, like a John E. Erickson Tuttle, Tuttle revealed the same. I've stood in John Wesley's chapel and thought of what it must have been to preach in that generation, in the 1700s. He one time preached so passionately against slavery that his audience rioted and broke the pews to pieces. And he escaped with his life.

I've stood in the cathedral where John Knox preached with courage in the 16th century in the face of persecution under the reign of Mary that we know now as Bloody Mary because of her bloodlust against those who were followers of Christ, according to the Scriptures. You know, today there is no grand monument in Scotland for his faithfulness. In fact, his grave is under the asphalt of the parking lot that's now outside the cathedral where he pastored for years. And one of the parking spaces is simply painted to mark his burial place. Underneath parking space number 23, a splash of yellow paint indicating the greatest reformer in Scottish history is buried here. If you walk a few steps ahead and you go into that cathedral, you will see ornate marble stone crypts for heads of state. John Knox, without any monument, is buried under space number 23 in the parking lot.

And I can't help but wonder, do you think Knox cares? James is effectively reminding his audience that the prophets were not honored in life. They weren't honored in death.

There are no monuments built to their glory. That was for the pharaohs, not the prophets. And James knows that because of that, we consider them blessed and we honor them in our own lives and hearts.

In fact, he adds that exclamation point. Look at the first part of verse 11 where he writes, we count them. We count those blessed who endured. In other words, we know intuitively in our heart that they ought to be honored and we pay our respects to them to this day.

We watch their footprints and we say, I want to walk like that. They endured for God. James is basically saying to his scattered weary audience of exiled Jewish believers, to this day you and I honor these prophets of old who were persecuted and mistreated, were often discouraged and despairing and we say together and we do this to this day 2,000 years after James wrote nearly 2,000 years, yes, they are truly blessed. See, there's a deeper question that James is asking them and us.

Do we just want to bless them or do we want to become like them? Where are your footprints going? In the direction of obedience, developing along the way a little bit more of endurance, or maybe it's, yeah, I love those testimonies, Stephen of Knox and Wesley and that's great, but you don't know what it's like on that campus.

I mean, I'm in a line of cubicles all the way to the window. On one side is an atheist, on the other side is a New Ager, across the hallway is a boss who's bitter and angry with life and he thinks religion is for fools and I think I'm going to sit it out. That philosophy teacher will have me for lunch if I make it known I belong to Jesus Christ. James says, let me show you some footprints that not in their lifetime but afterward that they would be considered blessed. John Wesley would pray this prayer, Lord, put me to what you will, put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee, let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing, I freely yield all things to thy disposal, thou art mine and I am thine, amen. James says, do you want to develop the muscles of endurance and follow the footprints of a person who prays like that? In fact, I want to do a little sidebar just briefly and I think it's fitting with this text to make this kind of application but I want to encourage you to read, read biographies of believers that have come and gone. Read Johnny Erickson Tada's life story.

It'd be a great place to start. Learn from the examples of others who follow Christ. Not just the prophets and the apostles, we live in that and they are supremely inspired testimonies for our lives but the lives of men and women who serve him with endurance. I'll tell you, it's been my practice now for many years to have at least one biography going at any time. It may be two or three pages a day, it might be two or three pages a week, depending.

A lot of times I'll pull it out over lunch and I'll be able to get through four or five pages while I eat. You will, and let me encourage you, in the church library there are dozens of biographies. Go get a card, sign one out and start reading. They will encourage you, they will convict you, they will surprise you. And they're all just about real people. I wonder how many of you have read portions or all of that famous devotional by Oswald Chambers entitled, My Utmost for His Highest. How many?

Just hold your hands up, look around. I wonder how many of you have read his biography, which I had not until a few of you. Almost finished. Oswald Chambers did not write that devotional. His wife did, after he died. In fact, he had a very short ministry, and not all that dramatic. He taught about 25 students in a little Bible college outside of London. And after a number of years, he sends the Lord's call and he and his wife and their daughter, who would be born in about a year, left, joined as a chaplain in World War I. He was stationed outside of Cairo, Egypt, where temperature swelled.

I've read up to 130 degrees. They even built a little underground room into the sand where it would be cool enough to study during the day. And Oswald Chambers would preach and teach soldiers who were in that particular military camp. They were missionaries with the YMCA, when there used to be a big C in the YMCA. Then unexpectedly, barely past 41 years of age, due to complications with appendicitis, he died, leaving his wife and their four-year-old daughter.

For years after his death, she edited the notes that she had taken by shorthand every time he preached, and compiled it in a book she entitled By Utmost for His Highest, which, by the way, has sold more copies in the English world than any other Christian book beside the Bible in history. So you read a biography of a guy who endured obscurity. He taught 25 students, and he teaches soldiers stationed in Egypt in an open tent without any flaps on the side.

Then he dies unexpectedly. Great lessons. You don't have to be well known to be well used. One of the thoughts that's already come to my mind reading this biography is you don't even have to be all that visible to be that usable.

Just give him what you have. See, God knew that he was preparing someone who endured years of ministry obscurity to influence millions of people, and only after he died reminds me of the prophets of old. James adds another testimony here.

Look back at the text. This one comes from the footprints of a patriarch. Verse 11, you've heard of the endurance of Job. You've seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and merciful, and you'd think after mentioning Job's name, you might not think the Lord was.

Frankly, it looked like God had disappeared. But James writes, you have heard of the wisdom of Job. Look at your text.

It's not what it says. You have heard of the greatness of Job. You have heard of the wealth of Job. You have heard of the influence of Job. You've all heard about the endurance of Job. James expected his audience to be so familiar with Job's testimony, he really doesn't provide any information at all. He says, you've all heard about him, haven't you?

In fact, this is the only text in the New Testament where Job is mentioned by name. Why? Because he didn't matter?

No. His testimony is that it continued. In fact, everybody already knew about him. You could translate this text from James. You have already heard and you are still hearing about the endurance of Job. And we're still talking about it today. His testimony begins with all the reasons why the average Christian would assume he would be the last person on the planet to undergo suffering. We believe God's children suffer.

We're just not too convinced godly children of God suffer. He was godly, a man of integrity, a man of morality, a man of honesty. The text says that he was upright. The Hebrew word for upright, asher, actually refers to a straight path. There's nothing crooked about Job's walk. Look at his footprints. They're straight.

They're heading in the right direction. It would have been easy for Job as a wealthy man, a powerful man, to be anything other than honest and upright, but his handshake was as good as his word, better than a contract. He didn't buy into his culture and ours to this day, and any culture that if you're on top of your world, you can make up the rules or you can break them at will. Not Job. You fast forward the tape as God allows Satan to test the faith of Job, and you find Job stripped of everything. One messenger arrives after another until Job hears the news that he's lost everything, his fortune, his businesses, his staff, his personnel, his industries. And last of all, the most devastating blow of all, the final messenger arrives to tell Job that a tornado has touched down, and it slammed into the house where Job's ten children were eating together. Hebrew linguists consider this an implication that they were actually celebrating a birthday. If you read the reports from those messengers in the Hebrew text, they come one after another.

There isn't any gap. They interrupt each other, and I timed it when we went through the book of Job as I read those messengers and what they delivered, and it took me about 39 seconds for Job's world to be turned upside down. In 39 seconds he learned he'd lost everything. He falls to the ground. We're not told how long he stayed there, but sometime later we're told he got up and he tore his robe, which was a symbol of his torn heart.

He shaved his head, symbolizing his humility. He then falls back down to the ground, and the text says, and he worshiped. Then he says, naked I came from my mother's womb. Naked I'll return the Lord gave. The Lord is taken away. Blessed, say it with me, be the name of the Lord.

You knew that. We're still talking about the endurance of this patriarch, aren't we? There is this inner resolve while he suffers so that Job will say in chapter 19, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he shall take his stand on earth. What do you have going for you, Job, to prove that nothing but sheer faith in God? He would say, God knows the way I take, and when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23. He would say, though he slay me, I will hope in him. Endurance means you're willing to wait, you're willing to worship while you wait, and you're willing to keep walking in faith while you worship while you wait. You don't understand the trial. You can't explain it. You feel you don't deserve it. You did not expect it, and worst of all, you cannot escape it. You can't get around it.

You have to go through it. Isn't it helpful to see footprints ahead of you of faith? James is writing to these discouraged believers, and he says, listen, you've got footprints.

Follow them. I think of the apostle Peter, who matured greatly in this matter of endurance. You remember it lasted about 30 seconds earlier at the campfire there at the courtyard. But now as an old man, he would write these wonderful words. Therefore, those who suffer according to the will of God.

Wait, would you back that up and say that again? Those who suffer, not out of the will of God, but according to the will of God, shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator. That word, entrust, is a banking term. It means to deposit treasure for safe keeping. Peter is saying, you can deposit your life into the hands of your Creator.

He will do what is right. You know, when you deposit money in the bank, there's insurance that will cover your money. The FDIC, a federal program, supposedly insures your money up to $250,000.

I've never tested that theory, but maybe you have. Peter writes, you want to have insurance. Deposit your life into the hands of your Creator. He always does what is right. That's 1 Peter 4, 19. By the way, that same word, entrust, was used by Jesus Christ at the height of his suffering. Who from the cross said, Father, into thy hands I, same word, entrust, deposit, commit my spirit. Peter, if our Lord, if the prophets, if the patriarch can do the same, here's James' message.

We can too. These are the footprints of our great prince. These are the footprints of prophets and a patriarch.

Follow their footprints. I remember reading one particular account in the life of Joni Eareckson Tada, who received a letter from a pastor's wife. Her husband had been pastoring but had an accident that paralyzed him. He'd reached a point where he didn't want to get out of bed. He wanted the lights left off and the world to go away. Out of desperation, the wife wrote to Joni and said he's lost sight of the path.

We need your help. Joni tracked Pastor Ron and his wife, Beverly, down and gave them a call. She prayed what Joni wrote. Beverly answered the phone and after I talked and prayed with her, I asked if I could talk to Ron. She knocked on his door. He let her tuck the phone under his ear. Although he would not respond to me, I talked a little bit of shop about quadriplegia.

But I wanted to move beyond those topics and so I started to share favorite scriptures that sustained me through the toughest of times. Only silence on the other end. I even sang to him.

Still no response. And the only thing I could think of that I hadn't already tried, I asked Ron, this came to my mind, if he'd ever seen a particular movie that included this moment of suffering and he actually responded, yes, I have, first time to respond. She said, well, Ron, do you remember what was in that letter when it was found and that poignant quote? Ron said, yes.

It said, hope is a good thing and no good thing ever dies. Johnny then said to him these words, Ron, right now there are 10,000 quadriplegics like you and me across America and all of them were lying in bed this morning wondering whether or not they should get busy living or get busy dying. Ron, I'm going to make a choice to get busy living. Do you want to join me today? And Ron said, yes, ma'am, I do. The last Johnny heard was that Ron and Beverly were active in sharing their testimony to everyone preaching wherever the invitation came.

Do you want to join me? It's what we ought to be saying to each other. Let's commit together to follow the footprints of our high priest, these prophets and a patriarch and along the way develop endurance. That's a good reminder today because when we find ourselves in need of endurance, looking at those who came before us and seeing their example is a powerful encouragement to us. I hope this lesson was a blessing to you. Wisdom for the Heart is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey and is produced by Wisdom International. You can learn more about our ministry at That site contains the complete collection of Stephen's biblically faithful teaching. Our ministry is made possible by the support we receive from our listeners. If you're able to donate to our ministry, we'd be grateful. You can do that at our website or you can call us today at 866-48-BIBLE. Join us tomorrow for our next Bible lesson here on Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-14 00:54:17 / 2023-11-14 01:04:15 / 10

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