The Equipping Word

the blog of Dr. Benjamin M. Foxworth
pastor, Bethel Baptist Church, Vandalia, IL

The purpose of this blog is to equip the saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:12). This will not be a digital soap box in which I will offer political rants or hammer home personal opinions about topics in the news. This blog’s whole purpose is to use the word of God and personal reflections to encourage, equip, and edify the body of Christ – the church. Anything other would be to waste an opportunity afforded to me by the grace of God. May you be equipped to serve the Lord for His glory!

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Called to Lead

January 16, 2020  ●  20-1

These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains, he was called Adino the Eznite, because of eight hundred slain by him at one time.
(2 Sam. 23:8)

What does leadership look like? Leaders and leadership styles are as different as there are people in the world. All leaders are the same in that they have been called and placed in a position to lead people towards a goal. Christian leaders are different because of their calling and their goal.

2 Samuel 23 gives us a picture of Christian leadership in two distinctly different pictures: King David and his mighty men. The first picture is one of humility and dependence. The first seven verses of 2 Samuel 23 is David’s recounting his humble background, the basis for his wisdom which was the inspiration of God, and the blessings brought about by being chosen by God and being in a covenant relationship with God. Verse five is very important, for in it David recounts the blessings of God’s covenant: it was everlasting, it was ordered, it was secure, and it was his desire. The first picture of leadership we gain from these seven verses is the picture of dependence on God and humility with being chosen as a leader. David knew all too well that God could take away His blessings just as easily as He had bestowed them.

The second picture is one of action. The “mighty men of David” had earned their titles on the field of battle. As 2 Samuel records, Josheb-basshebeth killed 800 men; Eleazar fought the Philistines, “until his hand was weary and clung to the sword” (v. 10); and Shammah, “took his stand, defended it, and struck the Philistines” (v. 12). Later, King David mentioned he craved water to drink. These three mighty men, “broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David.” (v. 16) David refused to drink because the water caused men to risk their lives for it.

Leaders are humble and dependent on God because they know that God is the source of their being placed in positions of leadership. Leaders are also people of action; when it comes time to act, they do so with decision. Often indecision can paralyze a leader into inaction, and inaction can be very costly.

Christian leaders are called by God to honor Him through humility and dependence on Him. Christian leaders are also called by God to act when necessary, but to act in a way that honors God. If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, then let that picture be the picture of humility, dependence, and action; a picture painted by God in the lives of those He has called to lead.

The Path of Growth

December 20, 2019  ●  19-38

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
(Rom. 15:4)

I recently preached on Genesis 19 which records the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the subsequent sin of the daughters of Lot. There are books and chapters of books in the Bible that are easy to read through and understand the meaning, and there are books and chapters in the Bible that are difficult to read through and understand the meaning. Genesis 19 is one of the more difficult chapters to read through and gain an understanding because of the subject matter. The issue with me was not that I did not understand what was going on, I understood clearly why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and I understood clearly the sin of Lot’s daughters. My challenge was to preach this chapter in a way that the Bible study group, and myself, could be encouraged and learn from it.

Paul wrote a great truth in Romans 15:4 : God’s Word has been given to us for several reasons:

  1. Instruction;
  2. Perseverance in our faith;
  3. Encouragement;
  4. Hope.

As I read, prayed through, and studied Genesis 19 my goal was to find what was encouraging in that dark and sinful story. God showed me where the encouragement of Genesis 19 is:

God’s justice encourages me;
God’s Word encourages me;
God’s promise encourages me;
God’s love encourages me.

Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, stated the Word of God is, “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3.16-17).” God has given us His Word, not just for information, but for the purpose of spiritual transformation. When I read God’s Word I am taught, I grow, I am trained in the ways of God, and if necessary, I am corrected.

Sometimes I read God’s Word and say, “amen!”; other times I read God’s Word and say, “Oh my!” Stories such as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the sin of Lot’s daughters are difficult to read and even harder to find any encouragement or, “grist for the growth mill.” It is the Holy Spirit of God that helps me not just understand God’s Word, but also to gain clarity for application.

God’s Word, God’s justice, God’s promise, and God’s love all encourage me. I can skim over or skip stories such as found in Genesis 19 and I would miss what God would have me learn. The road to spiritual growth and maturity may not always be smooth but it always leads to a greater understanding and greater love, not only for the Word of God, but more importantly, the God of the Word.

Bringing It Back

December 13, 2019  ●  19-37

Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. (Gen. 33:4)

Twin brothers Jacob and Esau had been estranged from one another for twenty years because Jacob tricked their father Isaac into giving him the blessing of the firstborn instead of Esau. Esau was so angry at his brother that he planned on killing his brother after their father had died (Gen. 27:41) But when Jacob and Esau met after twenty years, Jacob discovered that God had changed Esau’s heart, and Esau no longer bore a grudge. God is honored when relationships are restored. The restoration of a broken relationship is the story of Christmas because Jesus came to restore man’s relationship with God that had been broken in the garden of Eden.

When it comes to restoring relationships, there are five important questions we must ask ourselves in order to gain a proper understanding of the importance of restoration:

1. Why is restoration necessary?
The word ‘restore’ means to bring something back to the way it used to be. Broken relationships result in separation. When man sinned in the Garden of Eden by eating of the forbidden fruit, he was thrown out of the garden and separated from God (Gen. 3).

2. What is required for restoration?
Someone must take the first step towards restoration. We think if we take the first step, then we have somehow lost, that we have given in, that we are perceived as being weak. Restoration is not about winning or losing, it is about being obedient to God and honoring Him in our lives.

3. How does restoration take place?
For restoration to take place, we must be willing to be restored. When we refuse to be restored, we are denying God’s desire for us to be restored in our relationships with one another. Restoration takes place when we not only take the first step, but when we accept the offer of restoration from someone else. In fact, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation which is what restoration is all about (2 Cor. 5:17-19).

4. When do we restore?
As soon as possible. It is a sad day when, at the funeral of a loved one, I hear friends and family members regretting not setting right a broken relationship with the person that had died. All the tears and flowers and regrets will not and cannot take the place of a relationship that could have been mended long before it was too late.

5. Where does restoration take place?
Restoration is a work of the heart, the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart and life of the believer. Notice back in Gen. 32 how Jacob prayed that the meeting with Esau would go well, and it did. In fact, it went better than expected. Restoration is a work of the heart because the heart is the seat of our emotions. It is our hearts that God is going to work on when it comes to any type of restoration.

If there are relationships in your family, either between family members or friends, take the steps that Jacob and Esau took as an example:

  1. Pray and ask God for wisdom and guidance.
  2. Take the first step.
  3. Allow yourself to be restored.
  4. Let go of grudges.
  5. Make sure God is honored every step of the way.

Is It Enough?

December 5, 2019  ●  19-36

Is serving God enough? Do we consider our salvation as an opportunity to serve the Lord, serve the king of kings and Lord of Lords, and nothing greater? Is simply getting to serve God enough in our lives?

King David was on the run from his son Absalom, settling in the village of Mahanaim. While in Mahanaim, a man by the name of Barzillai took care of David (2 Sam. 19:31-39). After David’s son Absalom had been killed, and after David’s time of mourning for his son, he set out to return to Jerusalem. David invited Barzillai to come with him to Jerusalem. Barzillai’s reply shows humility and gratefulness from being able to serve David. Barzillai simply told David that he, Barzillai, was eighty years old, and had difficulty hearing, seeing, and even tasting food. For David to take him to Jerusalem would simply be a burden. He was satisfied with going back to his home where he would die in his city and be buried near the graves of his parents. Barzillai did, however, recommend a man by the name of Chimham to go with David as his servant.

Barzillai was satisfied with the fact that he got to serve the king. For Barzillai, serving the king was enough, he did not need any further reward. Later, when David gave his son Solomon instructions on leading the nation of Israel as king, David told him to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai and allow them to eat at the king’s table because they assisted him in his time of need (1 Kings 2:7).

Is serving God enough? The moment God saves us He fills us with His Spirit which enables us to serve God in a particular way (spiritual gift(s)). The purpose of these spiritual gifts is to build up the church and for the benefit of others in the church (1 Cor. 12:7). The question is, though, in our service, are we looking for something greater, a ‘bigger and better ministry’, a position of prominence in our church or denomination? What if we preached or taught Sunday School or was involved in one-on-one discipleship through the years and no one outside our local church ever took notice? Is the fact that we get to serve the Lord of the universe, whether anyone else takes notice or not, whether we are ever placed in a prominent position in our church or denomination, whether we ever write a book or not or are invited to preach many revivals or speak at conferences – is the fact that we get to serve God enough?

Simply seeing the Messiah was enough for Simeon after all his years of waiting for the coming of the Christ-child (Luke 2:29-32). For Anna, simply seeing the Messiah was enough after all her years of praying and fasting in the temple (Luke 2:36-38). For the apostle Paul, all that he ever accomplished in his life was nothing compared to the fact that he got to serve the Lord in the proclamation of His word (Acts 20:24).

Is serving God enough? Yes. The God of the universe, the God of all creation, the God of life itself, saved you when you cried out to Him, forgave your sin, filled you with His Spirit, adopted you into His family, and has prepared a place for you in heaven. You get to serve the God of the universe, and that is enough!

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.