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What are you leaning on?

Note: This column originally was published in Saworship.com.

By Richard Zowie

Perhaps the biggest responsibility we as men have is that of leadership. Even if we’re not married and have no children, we potentially can still face potential leadership positions in all we do.

Despite the constant need — now more than ever — for godly Christian men, from time to time Christians fall in their walk and cause damage to their testimonies. We know of such men who have fallen, praise God, He is a God of restoration!

It is a tragedy that Christians fall away from their walks from God, and I think there are two reasons why it happens. (1) Some grew up in Christian homes but chose to follow worldly pursuits once they left the nest and ventured out on their own. (2) Some have lived for God for many years but then chose to leave their churches and ignore God. This isn’t necessarily a mid-life crisis, since this doesn’t exclusively happen to middle-aged people.

For years I’ve wondered what makes people decide to part ways with God. I think a bulk of the problem lies with King Joash in the Old Testament. This Israeli king’s story is told in two places, II Kings 11-12 and II Chronicles 22-24.

Joash’s father, Ahaziah, died when Joash was a baby. His grandmother, Athaliah, wanted to rule Israel, so she attempted to have Joash and his siblings in the royal nursery murdered. His siblings died but Joash was rescued by Jehoiada, the high priest of Israel.

Eventually, Athaliah was murdered when the nobles of the nation recognized Joash as the rightful heir to the throne. Joash was still young, so Jehoiada took the adolescent king under his wing and taught him how to live for God. Though the Old Testament doesn’t give specifics, I can imagine Jehoiada saying the following to Joash: “Joash, this is right, do this…this is wrong, don’t do this. Remember to destroy the false idols and drive out those who worship false images.”

Joash flourished under Jehoiada’s tutelage. II Chronicles 24:2 says that as long as Jehoiada was alive, Joash did what was right in the sight of God. One specific the Bible gives is that Joash worked to refurbish the temple, which had fallen into bad disrepair.

Once Jehoiada died, Joash regressed. He allowed idol worship to flourish in the kingdom. Joash soon proved himself a weak and unpopular king: after servants in the kingdom conspired together and murdered him, he was buried not in the sepulchers of the kings but in a common grave. Ironically, Jehoiada was buried in the sepulchers normally reserved for the kings.

Things got so bad during Joash’s reign that Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son, even talked to Joash and asked him why he was going against everything he’d been taught. Even though Zechariah probably grew up as a close friend of Joash’s, the king had him killed in the Temple of God. Joash had regressed to a point to where not even God’s sanctuary had any reverence to it.

The big question we as readers would have is “What went wrong in Joash’s life?” I think it all comes down to his trying to live on borrowed convictions. He spent his life doing what he was told by Jehoiada that he never took the time to develop his own beliefs. I wonder if Joash spent too much time just going through the motions whenever Jehoiada taught him about godliness and leadership. It’s one thing to learn from a great mentor, but it’s another thing to actually pay attention and apply what you’ve learned.

As much of a failure as Joash was, he provides men with an excellent lesson on convictions. From him we can learn how to develop convictions, maintain convictions and the result of having solid convictions.

Developing convictions requires three basic things: First, listen to the advice of elder Christians who’ve been around the block a few times and might have insight on different areas in life. Second, study the various doctrines of Christian faith and various things about life. Besides reading the Bible and other books, ask the Lord for His guidance. Third, don’t just develop a conviction based on how you were raised or based on what someone says; instead, investigate what the Bible says about a given subject.

Once convictions are developed, they must be maintained. Maintaining a conviction consists of recognizing the difference between a preference and a conviction. For example, I’m not a big country and western music fan. My wife, on the other hand, likes it. While I don’t like it, I don’t consider it sinful. Country stars like Clifton Jansky are Christians and use their music to glorify God and try to spread the Gospel.

For me, my dislike for country music is a preference, while my dislike for the ecumenical movement is a conviction. I believe, and verses like John 14:6 support it, that belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. Faith in Jesus Christ is a strong conviction for me. Preferences can be flexible, while convictions should not.

Once you develop your own convictions and maintain them by knowing how to distinguish them from a preference, be prepared to defend them. The stronger your convictions, the more likely you’ll face conviction. When you face persecution, be firm but polite.

As we read about the end of Joash’s life, we see the results of his lack of solid convictions. His own servants conspired to kill him. He wasn’t even buried in the sepulchers of the kings but in a common grave and his own son had similar convictions. Joash ultimately was a failure as a king and not much better as a father.

This entire story of the rise and fall of Joash, along with his character flaws, poses a question to all men: What are you leaning on?

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