The Death of a Godly Influence
There was a day in Israel’s history when a second grader was made their king. Seriously!! A second-grade boy wore a crown and ruled the nation of Israel. I know several second graders; some of them are pretty cool kids, but none of them need to be on a throne ruling a nation! Yet, in God’s wisdom, this is exactly what happened for a seven-year-old named Joash. Interestingly, God also provided the means by which this young boy would reign successfully for quite some time as Israel’s king. What did God do in order to make his success possible? He placed a godly person in the young man’s life that exerted spiritual influence over him. Notice what the Scripture says of this time in the life of Joash:
“Joash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest” — II Chronicles 24:2
Joash acted wisely and lived rightly because of someone in his life: Jehoiada the priest. How blessed we are of the Lord to have these types of godly influences to shape us. Their very presence helps us discern right and wrong, truth and falsehood, light and darkness. When we are near them, we slow down and think of the words they have shared, the example they have lived before us and the expectation they have for us. Though we certainly desire to honor God with our lives, sometimes, when our flesh is tempted to waver, having a righteous person nearby helps us to think twice before we make foolish decisions. God uses spiritual people in our lives to temper us because we see them, know them, and can feel their presence when we’re making life’s decisions.
For some people, this person is a parent. Others, it’s a spouse who hungers for the Lord and inspires you to do the same. Spiritual leaders can often serve as those who help us recognize boundaries and open doors of opportunity. It would be wonderful if we were always motivated by a deep commitment to Christ but, frankly, sometimes we need help along the way by having a visible person walking next to us and offering wise counsel. The influence of a committed Christian in our lives cannot be taken for granted. While they are with us, we are often made to feel nearer to our God and prevented from going astray.
Then one day they are gone. Parents go to glory. God reassigns spiritual leaders to different places of ministry. Godly friends get a job transfer. When this occurs, a dangerous moment for us arises. It is the moment when we learn if our own faith is real or if we may have been unknowingly riding upon the coattails of somebody else’s faith.
Unfortunately, Joash found out quickly that Jehoiada served him more as a buffer from doing wrong. Joash was obedient when human eyes were upon him but when those eyes closed in death, the idea of honoring his God was unreal to him. He did not live for the Lord so his true nature was seen when godly Jehoiada was moved off the scene: “Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass” — II Chronicles 24:17-18
There are two lessons for us to learn from this scriptural account:
We desperately need people in our life that are godly examples and who will influence us for Christ, but careful not to mistake the reasons for your blessings or success. Sometimes God blesses us for their sake because we were not properly positioned for a blessing of our own. It is not far-fetched to say that many are being blessed in life because they are connected closely to another whom God has graciously favored. How good of the Lord to surround us with people like this and to give us the powerful potential from observing their faith, hungering for its genuineness in our own hearts and then walking with the gracious God who is so real to them.
You will know if your faith is genuine when those upon whom you leaned for spiritual strength are removed from you. Frightening as it may be, you may not be able to know this unless those people are taken away. If you continue after God in their absence through your faithful love, devotion, and worship, then that person was an effective instrument of the Almighty in your life. If, when they are gone, you lose your commitments, reverse course and leave off from active faith and spiritual obedience — or if you simply stand still in your carrying of the cross — then it is likely that you were riding piggy-back on their faith all along and should be concerned about what you have called your own. Real faith endures because its origin is in Christ who has not left you, even when that spiritual mentor has. This is a suffocating potential, but one you should come to terms with. Is your faith your own or was it simply that a godly person who was once in your life served as a regulator of your behavior? You need to discern the answer to this question.
Gratefully love those who are helping you. Honor them by asking God to make your faith as real as their own. But beware of living vicariously through them because they cannot make you into a strong Christian, no matter how godly their character or powerful their influence or how closely associated you are (or were) with them. Obedience is a personal decision!
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your OWN salvation with fear and trembling” — Philippians 2:12