The Tragedy of a Half-Hearted Religion
2Kings 3 September 6, 1998
Half-heartedness is akin to lukewarmness and complacency, or perhaps superficiality and shallowness. The thought leaves a bad taste in our mouths, perhaps because we consider a sense of purpose and faith as essential to the fullness of our human existence. We don’t have much respect for anyone who doesn’t know where they stand, because then we don’t know where they stand either. Jesus had the same impression of the Laodiceans when he said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16) Therein lies the tragedy of half-heartedness as it is rejected by both men and God in its lack of accomplishment for want of commitment and zeal. What does God want? He wants the whole heart, soul, and body of a man or woman - that we might be a man or woman of God, not a man or woman of ‘whatever’.
Today’s passage takes us on a course of half-heartedness as it is conceived and winds its way through an ill-fated campaign against the Moabites. Except for the grace of God, it would have been disastrous. Except for the half-heartedness of the people, it would have been altogether successful. When it was all said and done, there was really nothing accomplished. Unless we give our all, we won’t get it all. And just like cancer, it will come back. If there is something in your life you want victory over, consider the state of your religion from the condition of your heart. (And just in case anyone here would wonder, the only religion that we are considering the state of is the one true religion of God Almighty as revealed in his Son Jesus Christ.)
1. A half-hearted religion has a half-hearted history. (vv. 1-3)
2. A half-hearted religion holds a half-hearted power. (vv. 4-8)
3. A half-hearted religion has a half-hearted endurance. (vv. 9-10)
4. But even a half-hearted religion holds opportunity for whole-hearted grace. (vv. 11-12)
5. A half-hearted religion has a half-hearted confidence. (v. 13)
6. But a whole-hearted religion seeks the whole mind of God.
7. Whole-hearted religion takes whole-hearted effort. (vv. 16-19)
8. Whole-hearted religion finds whole-hearted results. (vv. 20-25)
9. But when tested by whole-hearted opposition, the tragic return to half-hearted religion yields only a half-hearted victory. (vv. 26-27)
Turn the tables; the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus, as it were, on the city wall.
The tragedy of a half-hearted religion is that it leads to only a half-hearted victory which is no victory at all. Victory only comes to those who follow through with it.
What if Jesus had turned back from a whole-hearted victory?
Do you have a history of something in your life that has kept you from realizing the amazing victory that God has for you in his Son Jesus Christ? It has sapped your spiritual power and endurance, but God’s grace has kept you going even though your confidence level has been low? The place God wants you to come to is a whole-hearted submission to his will. This takes great effort but yields even greater results. What a tragedy it would be if you quit too soon and hand the victory back over to the enemy.
Title: Awesome Obedience
A few centuries before Christ a man named Alexander conquered almost all of the known world using military strength, cleverness and a bit of diplomacy. The story is told that Alexander and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly fortified walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice and demanded to see the king. When the king arrived, Alexander insisted that the king surrender the city and its inhabitants to Alexander and his little band of fighting men.
The king laughed, "Why should I surrender to you? You can't do us any harm!" But Alexander offered to give the king a demonstration. He ordered his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff
The townspeople gathered on the wall and watched in shocked silence as, one by one, Alexander's soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths! After ten soldiers died, Alexander ordered the rest of the men to return to his side. The townspeople and the king immediately surrendered to Alexander the Great. They realized that if a few men were actually willing to commit suicide at the command of this dynamic leader, then nothing could stop his eventual victory.
Are you willing to be as obedient to the ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ, as those soldiers were to Alexander? Are you as dedicated and committed? Think how much power Christ could have in, and through, your life with just a portion of such commitment.
--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 102-103.
Only by desertion can we be defeated. With Christ and for Christ, victory is certain. We can lose the victory by flight but not by death. Happy are you if you die in battle, for after death you will be crowned. But woe to you if by forsaking the battle you forfeit at once both the victory and the crown. Bernard of Clairvaux