July 1, 2012

An Unbeatable Advantage

In business and educational fields, we often hear the word “advantage” used. An advantage is defined as “any state, circumstance, opportunity, or means especially favorable to success or a desired end; a benefit, gain, or profit; a position of superiority or ascendancy.” Most people enjoy having an advantage.

Some of us have lived in the state of North Dakota during the wintertime. I cannot recall much of a personal advantage in living there during the cold months, because a warm day was zero degrees and the rest of the time it was just plain cold. However, people who own property in North Dakota have an advantage. A number of years ago, it was discovered that underneath the surface of the land, there is oil. That is an advantage which is not perceived—especially when the wind is blowing at thirty knots and the temperature is thirty degrees below zero!

In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul referenced an advantage the Jews had, though that advantage was not perceived by everyone. He made his point by asking two questions and then answering them. “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2). In chapter two, Paul had pointed out that Israel’s law, rites, and ancestral heritage could not bring about salvation. Anticipating a rebuttal to his conclusion, he asked these questions, saying in essence, “What advantage does the Jewish nation have in being chosen by God? How can being Jewish be an advantage if that does not save?” He answered by asserting that God had given many advantages to Israel, the chief of which was that they had been entrusted with the receipt, inscription, and transmission of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Paul went on to indicate that the unbelief of the Jews did not disannul what God had said. Though they were keepers of the primary message of God to mankind, the Jews had failed to perceive the value of the message. However, that did not make the message without effect. We are thankful that, though we may not have believed the Gospel right away, it was still available, giving us a chance to get to the point where we could finally pray our own prayers and make a personal connection with God.

The Jews were custodians of the message that there is a way for man to get out of this world alive. That is a good message! All of mankind is born in sin, and as we grow older, we are consumed by sin to a greater or a lesser degree. Since God’s Word declares that the wages of sin is death, our destination is not good. But the message of the Gospel explains that deliverance from sin is available through salvation by Jesus Christ, and that through salvation, we can make Heaven our eternal home.

What a tremendous advantage we have in knowing of this salvation! This is a “benefit package” from God that He provides for anyone who is willing to accept the terms that He designates. Obedience is of high priority in order to receive. Belief is necessary. To trust in God is at the top of the list. But when we utilize obedience, belief, and trust, we tap into this advantage and obtain forgiveness of sins, and a personal relationship with God.

The Word of God gives many examples of individuals who had an advantage because of their connection to God. For instance, consider the man Abram. The Lord called Abram, telling him, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1). In other words, “You have to move, Abram.” That does not seem like much of an advantage, does it? What benefit could there be in leaving home, family, and father’s house? But look at the blessings God promised Abram if he would follow in obedience. The Lord continues, “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” What an advantage Abram’s obedience would bring!

God gives an awesome package of benefits, not only to Abram and his family, but to us as well when we follow Him in obedience. And our commitment to Him not only impacts us, but the blessings are spread around! The people we know who are willing to go along with us as we follow God will be blessed, too. Our lives can have an impact on our families, friends, and the people we work with. We can be a blessing to the people in our neighborhoods. The fact that God did something for us will affect other people in good ways, for the Gospel speaks to the true need in people’s hearts and lives.

Sometimes the advantage we have may not instantly be visible. In fact, onlookers might think those who oppose us have the edge on us. I am thinking of Goliath. In the eyes of those who watched Goliath come out and mock the armies of Israel, this giant of a man had an advantage—he was tall, wide, and strong. This summer my wife and I saw a likeness of Goliath at a presentation in Pennsylvania. They had an image there that was Goliath’s size, and that guy was big. We always think of him as being tall, but he was proportionally wide too. Think of the benefit that immense size would be in conflict! However, Goliath was on the wrong team. The young lad David actually had the advantage. He was not big like Goliath, but he knew the living God whom Goliath was defying. When we know the living God, He goes before us and gives the victory! That was what happened in the contest between David and Goliath. The “giants” we face in life may not look like Goliath, but we too can have the spiritual advantage that will help us triumph.

The Book of 1 Kings records the details of a similar situation. The prophet Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal to a trial which was to reveal by fire whether the God of Heaven or Baal was the true God. The prophets of Baal were not successful in bringing down fire, even though they went through a lot of motions. In 1 Kings 18:36 we read, “And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.” In essence he was saying, “I’m not doing this for a show, but to prove that the God of Israel is the true God.” When Elijah prayed, the fire of God consumed the sacrifice, the wood and stones of the altar, and even the dust and the water that Elijah had poured over the sacrifice. When we operate from a spiritual advantage, it is powerful! That is the side we want to be connected to—the side where the Lord says, “I want you to have the advantage of My presence in your life.” The proof may not be as dramatic in our lives as it was in Elijah’s, but God will make resources available to us to accomplish His purposes.

The Word of God tells us of many advantages that can be ours if we will avail ourselves of them. We read in Leviticus 20:7, “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 20:7). We can set ourselves apart for God. Just think of what a benefit it is to be holy, sanctified, set apart for God’s use, and free of the nature of sin that every man is born with. God would not tell us to be holy if that were not possible. It is possible to be sanctified and to live a holy life. That is an advantage, and it is a great privilege, too.

Sanctified believers are in a position to receive another wonderful blessing: the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Power from the Holy Spirit provides courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability, and authority. What an advantage those attributes are in this sin-darkened world!

We have the advantage of prayer—we can go to One who understands every need of our hearts, and find encouragement, strength, and comfort. Sometimes we sing a song that says, “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.” It is a benefit to have the presence of God in the house of God. However, we want the presence of God to dwell not only in our church but also in our own homes and lives. We want to walk with Him and talk with Him and go through life with God at our side. What a blessing to have the Creator of the universe walking with us!

The advantages God offers extend beyond this world and into eternity. Not only has He made it possible for us to live godly and holy lives here on this earth, but if we continue to faithfully follow Him, we will enjoy life after death forever with the living God!

Today, have you tapped into the advantages that God offers you? You can!

apostolic faith magazine