David Huffstutler

Allegiance to Jesus Christ Alone

If we could learn something from Paul and his words to Corinth, friends, please don’t pledge your allegiance to one leader alone, however godly and effective he may be. Some leaders plant, some leaders water, and God will give the growth (1 Cor 3:6–9). God spreads his work among many and does not save it all just for one leader. Every true Christian leader simply wants you to see past himself and give glory to God alone.

Human sin will worm its way into our Christian institutions until Jesus glorifies us all. Churches, conventions, fellowships, colleges, universities, seminaries, mission agencies, networks, associations—all of these institutions require people, and people sin from time to time. When they do, their sin brings reproach to Christ and the institutions that bear his name. Some sins are so significant that they threaten to destroy these institutions altogether, something like what beset the Corinthian church in the days of Paul.
Paul dealt with sinful division in the church. In writing to the Corinthians, he introduced the matter with an imperative: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10). Factions of people were jockeying to follow one Christian leader over another (cf. 1 Cor 1:11–13), so Paul would more narrowly command, “Let no one boast in men” (1 Cor 3:21).
This division brutalized the church with quarreling, jealousy, strife, and pride (1 Cor 1:11; 3:3; 4:6), corrosive elements that Paul feared would destroy the work of God (cf. 1 Cor 3:16–17). Godly people sent word to Paul to ask for help (1 Cor 1:11). The problem was so severe that Paul ended this section of his letter with a threat to come to Corinth wielding his shepherd’s staff, a contrast to coming “with love in a spirit of gentleness” (1 Cor 4:21). Paul deeply desired his spiritual children to follow Jesus Christ, not act as arrogant fools by pledging allegiance to one of his servants (cf. 1 Cor 4:14–20). They were not being “spiritual people” but “merely human,” void of the Spirit of God (1 Cor 3:1, 5). Instead of living according to the gospel and wisdom of God, they were living for the flesh and wisdom of men (cf. 1 Cor 1:26–3:5).
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Joseph: An Example of Suffering and Patience

God puts us through suffering as we encounter various trials from time to time. When He does, we must be patient to let Him accomplish whatever His purposes may be, whether we know these purposes in time, in full, or neither. As we are patient, God will show compassion, mercy, and blessing—in this life, perhaps, and certainly forever in time to come. May God help us to persevere like Joseph whenever suffering comes our way.

After repeatedly commanding his readers to be patient in suffering (Jas 5:8–9), James points to the prophets and Job as examples for us today: “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (Jas 5:10–11).
Joseph received and interpreted dreams from God, marking him as a prophet. So, surveying his life in Genesis 37–50, let’s consider his suffering and patience, being steadfast in the Lord’s purpose, and experiencing the Lord’s compassion, mercy, and blessing in time.
Suffering and Patience
When Joseph was “seventeen years old” (Gen 37:2), he was taken captive by his brothers and sold to some Midianites who sold him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, in Egypt as a slave (Gen 37:24, 28, 36). This suffering began thirteen years of hardship and affliction that would end at age thirty when Pharaoh appointed him over the land (cf. Gen 41:46).
“After a time” in Potiphar’s house, Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph (Gen 39:7). When he ran from her advances, she falsely accused him of the same, unfairly landing him in prison (Gen 39:17–20). Nonetheless, as the Lord had blessed him with favor in Potiphar’s house (Gen 39:1–6), the Lord gave him favor in the prison as well (Gen 39:21–23).
“Some time after this,” Joseph interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker (Gen 40:1; cf. 40:5–22).
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How to Raise a Worthless Child

He honored his sons above God by refusing to restrain them from their blasphemous life described above (1 Sam 2:29; 3:13). In fact, he joined their sins by fattening himself with the meat that his sons so wrongfully took (1 Sam 2:29). Hophni and Phinehas would answer for their own sins, but Eli would answer for letting them live unrestrained. 

The book of 1 Samuel begins with a contrast between Samuel and the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas. Whereas Samuel would grow to be a godly boy and young man (cf. 1 Sam 1:28; 2:11, 18–21, 26; 3:19–4:1), Hophni and Phinehas were very sinful.
Notice the sins of these sons. They were generally “worthless men” and “did not know the Lord” (1 Sam 2:17). They showed themselves irreverent bullies and gluttons by eating sacrificial meat with its fat and taking it by force (1 Sam 2:13–16; cf. 2:29; Lev 3:17; 7:22–27). They slept with the women who helped at the tabernacle (1 Sam 2:22). They refused to listen to rebuke (1 Sam 2:25). As it was still Israel’s era of rule by judges, perhaps the lawless spirit of the day encouraged their sins as well (cf. Judg 21:25). It is no surprise, then, to find their sin described as “very great in the sight of the Lord” and that “it was the will of the Lord to put them to death” (1 Sam 2:25). As promised, they died on the same day, and God exterminated Eli’s descendants from the priesthood altogether (1 Sam 4:1–22; cf. 2:27–36; 1 Kgs 2:26–27, 35).
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Forsaking Sinful Ambition and Fostering Humility Instead

Serve others and not yourself. We saw this in the words and example of Jesus, and the letters remind us to honor others more than ourselves (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3). Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:14–15) and died for us all on the cross (Matt 20:28). He serves as our High Priest (Heb 8:1) and will serve us in time to come (Luke 12:37). What an example we have in him. Humbles yourselves before God, and he will exalt you in time. Think on these things over and over and let them have their way. 

Imagine telling a group of people that you had a month to live. Instead of comforting you, some of them ask for your most valuable possessions, angering the others because they didn’t ask first. Or, imagine that after your death, everyone started looking for your wallet or figuring out who would take your television. As a police chaplain, I’ve seen some interesting responses to the news of someone’s death.
Jesus experienced something like this once upon a time. For a third time in Matthew, he plainly told his disciples that he would be murdered and raised from the dead (Matt 20:17–19; cf. 16:21; 17:22–23). In response, James and John asked through their mother for special places in his kingdom, and Jesus promised them suffering instead (Matt 20:20–24). The ten were angry with the two brothers, prompting Jesus to teach them all that greatness to God is achieved through humble service, prizing the needs of others over self (Matt 20:25–27). The superlative example of such humility is the Son of Man. He gave his life as a ransom for many and now sits exalted with the Father on high (Matt 20:28; Phil 2:9).
In this story, the disciples show us how deeply sinful ambition roots itself in our souls. Jesus had recently taught the disciples to humble themselves like children (Matt 18:3–4) and to turn no one away from himself (Matt 19:13–14). Twice, Jesus taught that many who are first would be last and the last first when he sits on his throne (Matt 19:30; 20:16). He even promised the twelve prominent places in his kingdom (Matt 19:28). Yet still, James and John excluded the ten to ask for the first place next to Jesus on his throne.
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Hope In a Hopeless World

Whatever storms of life might come our way, we are like steady ships with “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Heb 6:19–20). So, hope in Jesus Christ and His salvation. Steady yourself by placing your anchor with Him in heaven. Protect yourself from the enemy and wrath to come by wearing the helmet of salvation. Have hope in a hopeless world by trusting only in Him.

Something I read from 1988 reminded me of the hopelessness that many face today:
Present hurts and uncertainty over what the future holds create the constant need for hope. Worldwide poverty, hunger, disease, and human potential to generate terror and destruction create a longing for something better. Historically people have looked to the future with a mixture of longing and fear. Many have concluded that there is no reasonable basis for hope and therefore to hope is to live with an illusion.1
What is hope? And why are so many hopeless today? Maybe it’s because people are putting their hope in all the wrong things.
The Bible warns us against false hope.2
The Bible warns us against putting our hope in people (Jer 17:5–8; Mic 7:3–5; Ps 118:9; 143:3–7). Whether princes, great men, neighbors, friends, spouses, children, or parents—people can dash our hopes in them.
The Bible warns us against putting our hope in riches (Job 31:24–28; Ps 52:1–7; Prov 11:28). They will perish with us in the end (Job 1:21; Ecc 5:15; Luke 12:13–21; 1 Tim 6:7).
The Bible warns us against putting our hope in whatever saves our physical lives (Ps 33:10–11, 16–17; Isa 30:15–16; 31:1–3; Hos 10:13). Personal strength, an army to bid, our resources and greatest plans—none of these will deliver us from death and take us into heaven.
The Bible warns us against putting our hope in false gods (Ps 115:4–8; Hab 2:18–19). They are made and make nothing themselves. They give no profit to those who worship them but bring woe from God instead.
If our hope is in any of these things, we have “hope in this life only” and “are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:19). We will “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13). We may even show that we are “separated from Christ… having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Our hope would thus be eternally deferred, and our heart forever sick (Prov 13:12). “Hope that is seen”—people, riches, resources, or gods made by men—“is not hope” (Rom 8:24).
True hope does exist. Let’s remind ourselves of that eternal hope today.
The Bible tells us what true hope really is.
There is only “the one hope” (Eph 4:4) which comes from “the God of hope” (Rom 15:13), which is in “Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Tim 1:1). More specifically, it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Here’s the story of that hope.
First, there was once a day when hope was unknown and unnecessary to man on earth. God created all things, man included, and walked and talked with him (cf. Gen 3:8). Everything was perfect. Faith was sight and hope unknown, and man knew only love (cf. 1 Thess 1:3; 5:8; 1 Cor 13:13; Gal 5:5–6; Heb 6:10–12; 1 Pet 1:21–22).
But then, man sinned, and the human race sinned in him (Rom 5:12).
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Only Christ Is Enough

If you have a relationship with Christ, the righteousness of Christ, and will be called to life at the resurrection by Christ, it is enough. And if you have the resolve of Christ to live by his power to face whatever comes, it is enough. Don’t yearn for more when Christ is all you need. He is enough for you and me.

A reporter once asked John D. Rockefeller, “How much money is enough?” The world’s first billionaire gave his famous reply: “Just a little bit more.”
Rockefeller’s answer strikes a chord in every heart. There is something in us that, even if we were to be given a billion dollars, we would still say, “Just a little bit more.” Left to ourselves, we would never be able to say, “It is enough.”
Enough. When is anything ever enough? Can you say of yourself and your situation, “It is enough”?
The apostle Paul once used a word that combined the pronoun “self” with the verb “it is enough.” It made for the adjective “content” in a verse most Christians know well:
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
(Philippians 4:11)
If etymology for this word means anything, I suppose it means that Paul, whatever his circumstances may have been, found something true of himself that gave him satisfaction, something that was enough. What may that have been?
The Strength of Christ Is Enough
In the immediate context, his contentment came from the strength of Christ to face anything in life. Whether his circumstances were terrible or terrific, Paul claimed, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13; cf. 4:12). A truth about himself was that he was in Christ, and his strength through Paul was enough.
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