From the view of 30 years in pastoral ministry: Rev Edmund Chan speaking at IDMC 2018. Photo courtesy of CEFC.
Wise as King Solomon was, he missed the call of God in his life – totally.
“A good start does not guarantee a strong finish,” cautioned Reverend Edmund Chan at the recent Intentional Disciple-Making Churches (IDMC) Conference. The spiritual life is a marathon, not a 100-metre dash, he said, and that is one of the lessons from Solomon’s life.
Speaking to the 5,500-strong crowd that had gathered in the Singapore Expo, Rev Chan pointed out that God had given Solomon the name, Jedidiah, which means “beloved of the Lord”. Yet it was finally said of him that he did evil in the eyes of the Lord (1 Kings 11:6).
How is it possible that the wisest of men, who penned the wisdom books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, ended up straying?
“Because he lost his compass and backtracked to follow after those inner compulsions that led him astray,” said Rev Chan, Leadership Mentor at Covenant Evangelical Free Church (CEFC), the organiser of the end-August conference.
Waves of interference
Solomon’s biggest problem had nothing to do with wealth or power; it was women. He took 700 foreign wives and “clung to these in love” (1 Kings 11:1-4), and they caused him to turn his heart after their gods.
“His spiritual inner compass was compromised because something inside his heart was compromised,” Rev Chan said as he outlined the dangers through an analysis of 1 King 11:2:
1. The stumbling block of stubbornness: “Solomon clung to these …”
Warning that when we live in stubbornness for too long, we will no longer change, Rev Chan recalled an encounter with a man struggling with an addiction to pornography. The man was convicted of his sin and wanted to get rid of the materials he had. But as they talked, the man said: “I got rid of them but I kept some – just in case.”
Solomon’s biggest problem had nothing to do with wealth or power; it was women.
Buried deep within was an obstinacy that caused him to shortchange change, contrary to God’s command: “Remove your detestable things … do not waver” (Jeremiah 4:1).
2. The bondage of emotional attachment: “ … in love”
Solomon’s decision to violate God’s law of marrying foreign women stemmed from his pride. He thought he would be able to manage the unequal yoke. However, his emotional attachment to his wives was so strong that he allowed his heart to be distanced from God and drawn nearer to them.
The big three
Stubbornness and emotional attachment continue to be stumbling blocks today as we grapple with money, sex and power. This side of eternity, these three idols will always be with us, and the problem of our attachment to them will remain stubbornly emotional. Hence, in the face of temptation, emotion – not rationale – will rule our choices.
In King Solomon’s case, he probably rationalised that he would be able to handle his foreign wives. “Somewhere down the line, from that rationalisation comes an emotional attachment, comes an emotional choice, comes an emotional bondage,” Rev Chan reasoned, adding that God is not looking at what we have openly surrendered to Him; He is looking for the residue we have yet to give up.
However, when we try to, “the temptations will not only hit hard and fast, the bondage becomes deeper”. Sin clings to our inmost beings and eats us up from within, and “you cannot break free apart from the deliverance of God”.
Once there is deliverance, it takes about 12 to 18 months of growth in honouring God before one is truly free. Temptations test us, but “you can choose” by resolving to:
1. Not be distracted
“Love Christ. Because He first loved you. That’s what discipleship is about because that’s where the victory begins – a love relationship with Jesus.”
2. Turn from idolatry
“Make sure that every step of the way, we see the Lord leading us in our spiritual compass, for our hearts are prone to idolatry.”
3. Turn to Christ
“The only way we can break free is that we have a new devotion in our heart and that new devotion cannot be anything else except Jesus, our Master.”
“The temptations will not only hit hard and fast, the bondage becomes deeper. You cannot break free apart from the deliverance of God.”
Revealing that he still cries about the stubbornness of his own heart even though he has been in the pastoral ministry for over three decades, Rev Chan shared: “There are times in life when you will be called to choose, between the emotional attachments that hold fast to us and Christ, our magnificent obsession.”
Overcoming the temptation to stray will take much more than sheer willpower or self-control. It will take repentance – which he described as a response to the grace and love of God. Neither remorse nor regret, and not self-generated, it is a sincere acknowledgement of our need for God.
It expresses itself in prayers like: “Lord, help me because if You don’t, I will do it again.
“Sustain me by Your grace, by growth, by a spiritual community and help me come out of this bondage in deliverance because I repent. I respond to Your grace, Your working in my life.”
Early bird registration is open for Singapore IDMC Conference 2019: Re-thinking discipleship – “Discipleship doesn’t work” and other myths. Sign up here.