COMMITMENT

Please find below my notes to the teaching series, “Movies: Life Lessons from the Big Screen, Pt. 2 Commitment.”  For personal use only.  All other uses please contact info@gccnetwork.org.  (c) 2012, Terry Broadwater.

I’ve had a couple very cool weddings this past month because of the vows… the couples wrote their own to each other!  What is a VOW?  It is a promise or oath.  BUT, a vow is really meaningless without a COMMITMENT to see your vow or promise through!

In the Movie, “The Vow” the main characters, Leo and Paige make this vow: “I vow to fiercely love you and all your forms now and forever.  I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love… and no matter what challenges carry us apart we’ll always find a way back to each other.”  Everyone say, “AHhhhhh!”  “The Vow” is based on the real life story of Kim and Krickett Carpenter- “Leo and Paige” in the movie.  After a car accident, Paige is left in a coma only to awaken and have no memory of her life and marriage with Leo.  Leo’s response is to set out on a journey to win her heart back again!  Spoiler alert!! 

It’s a great movie, yet in my opinion, it falls short of truly defining “commitment.”  Leo and Paige’s story, is based purely on the movie and not on the real life couple.  In the movie, Leo and Paige’s idea of love and marriage relies largely on emotions, circumstances, and “moments of impact”, valuing the ever-changing feelings over promises, fate rather than faith and commitment.

The movie fails to relate what Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “It’s not your love that sustains the marriage… but the marriage that sustains your love.”  In other words, romance and falling in love is a beautiful thing, and re-falling in love again and again is important.  But re-falling in love after seasons of pain, etc., can be sustained only if you elevate covenant and commitment above those affections and romance.  While Leo and Paige wrote great vows, but they built their marriage on current sentiments and affections, not promises.  Where’s the romance in that?  Love, affections, true romance actually flourishes where true covenant and commitment is found!

So what do we take away from this movie, “The Vow?”  How do we define true commitment and why is this so important in our lives?

Numbers 30:1-2 “This is what the Lord has commanded: A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it.  He must do exactly what he said he would do.”

Matt. 5:34-37 But I say, do not make any vows!  Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne.  And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool.  And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King.  Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black.  Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’  Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”

These two passages seem contradictory: “Make a vow… Don’t make a vow…”  In reality they compliment each other!  If you make a promise, keep it; and be careful about making promises, because you’re expected to keep them!  So, how do we make, and keep our commitments?

COMMITMENT TO THE RIGHT CAUSES

Ps. 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust in him and he will help you.”

Prov. 16:3 “Commit your actions to the Lord and your plans will succeed.”

Matt. 7:7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

Several words in the Bible are utilized to express commitment. First, commitment communicates the entrusting of something valuable to another person [Gk tithemi— to commit, commend, assign; paradidomi— to give over, commit]. Second, commitment additionally includes the responsibility to practice specific activities [Gk poieo— to do, cause, commit; prasso— to do, practice, commit].  For example: Think about what God has entrusted to us- the Good News, and his expectation that we are putting it into practice.  That’s commitment!  This is valuable and I need to be actively engaged!

We need to be committed to the right causes in life, and it starts with…

Commitment to Christ (Luke 9:23-25 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”)- Christ calls you to commitment!  He is the source of right causes and purpose for life.  How else can you know what your life is meant for and what you therefore need to be committed to??

Commitment to Core Relationships (Eccl. 4:9-10 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”)- This is why we need commitment in our core relationships- your spouse, your family, key friends- we can’t succeed without each other!  Your foremost relationship is with Christ; but that is to be experienced and express through your relationships with your spouse, children, family, friends, etc.

Commitment to the Church (Heb. 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”)- We need to be committed to our church family primarily because we all need encouragement- especially as we encounter the constant challenges of life and the certain resistance of the enemy to the cause of Christ.  Along with that we need commitment to the ministry of the church and giving to facilitate the mission of the church!

Of course, there are other key commitments to causes within the context of those I’ve mentioned- Commitment to the Great Commandment and Great Commission (Mt. 22:38-37; 28:18-20), etc.  What helps us to better appreciate the importance of commitment, is seeing…

COMMITMENT AS A COVENANT

Heb. 8:6 “But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.” 

Commitment can never be taken casually because in reality we are making a promise, a covenant.  The Bible is divided into two parts: an Old and New Covenant!  There are also actually seven distinct covenants in the Bible (teaching for later)!

The Hebrew word berith, “covenant”, occurs over 280 times in the Old Testament. (The English word covenant means “a coming together.”)  Covenants can include treaties, alliances, agreements, compacts, pledges, mutual agreements, promises, and undertakings on behalf of another.  The NT word for “covenant” is the Greek word diatheke and it occurs 33 times.  It has the idea of a “last will or testament!”  This adds a new depth of meaning to the idea of covenants.  The New Covenant rests upon the death of the one who made it, namely Jesus.  This is important because in the NT, this covenant with God, does not involve joint obligations between two equals.  In other words, God is committed to his part of the Covenant regardless of what you and I do!  WHY?

God’s covenant is based on unmerited favor!  All of the covenants between God and Man in the Bible are really based on our God’s unmerited favor and loving-kindness towards His fallen and sinful creatures.  Although man’s expected response to God’s grace may be stated differently in one covenant as compared to another, God always meets man on the basis of grace.  Man’s proper response is always to come from the heart- resulting in repentance, cleansing, a renewed spirit and worship as stated beautifully by David in Psalm 51.  God is teaching us that by grace we can keep our commitments despite what the other “party” does or doesn’t do!  THAT’S WHY…

Your covenants need to be based on being faithful to them!  Sure, many times we are involved in what is called, “conditional covenants”- they are forfeited if one party violates or defaults on his part of the agreement.  In these cases, you may not need to keep your commitment!  However, unconditional covenants are arrangements in which the default of one party does not negate the ultimate fulfillment and blessing of the covenant.

In our culture we all make use of various types of covenants.  Credit cards, automobile loans, and mortgage agreements are types of covenants.  The lending party makes money or goods available to the borrower.  The borrower agrees to pay back the loan, usually with interest.  Covenants of this kind are clearly conditional.

A marriage agreement is not only a covenant between man and wife, but the name and blessing of God are often invoked as well.  The state enters into marriage covenants because it licenses marriage, and the families involved usually pledge to work together to strengthen the marriage bond between man and wife.  Marriage is the oldest institution in the world, honored in the OT and the NT and approved by God for all mankind, believers and unbelievers alike.  The marriage covenant gets to the heart of what God desires in his relationship with Israel, with the church as Bride of Christ, and with the individual believer.  God treats his “marriage covenant” as unconditional; we treat ours mostly with “conditions!” 

Hollywood has prenuptial agreements because they’re convinced they won’t be able to remain faithful and committed to their marriage covenants!  But, when you understand “commitment” in terms of a “covenant agreement” between two parties, and each extends grace, don’t you think those commitments and covenants have a far greater chance of being kept??  Which brings us to the next aspect…

COMMITMENT IS BEING COUNTED ON

Eccl. 5:5 “It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.”

Matt. 5:37 “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”

Again, as important as causes are, it takes commitment to get it done!  In his book, Tribes, Seth Godin says, “If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either.”  I couldn’t agree more, especially for the church, basically because things like innovation, developing a new strategy, or setting a new standard take time and dedicated people more than willing to stay the course, break through the barriers, and bring something better to fruition.  But sadly, most already established, doing-it-the same-way-for-a-very-long-time organizations, churches, or ministries want the results now!

The problem with this is that you can’t really have new, or different, or especially the best results without some innovation and some people to champion the innovation for however long it takes.  Again, therein lies the crux of the problem- we want change without having to change anything!  I’ve long tired of meetings where the same sad data is presented and a new initiative is proposed to make things better primarily because in the end, what seriously lacks is the commitment to get it done, see it through, make it happen!

Someone once said that nothing happens without commitment- you can’t buy a house without it, have a successful marriage, or build a business.  There’s no question that at the onset of every organization or business or movement, there were some people who were simply very committed to seeing it accomplished.  They sacrificed, served, and were sold out completely.  Every cause needs a champion or some champions, but it also requires great commitment from those involved.

I’m guessing that’s the real challenge today when it comes to accomplishing just about anything- can you find people who will be totally committed; will you be fully committed?  I hear it from pastors and parishioners, both blaming the other for a lack of, yes, commitment!  You see it in relationships, in business, in every aspect of life- where there is no commitment, there is certain frustration, or worse, failure.  And where there are organizations that demand, or at the very least foster an environment of expected success, without a commitment to endearing a culture of creativity, innovation, and yes, real change, you find people and groups that are completely out of touch with reality!

We need causes (and as church folk we can’t really deny what that is); but just as importantly, we need a commitment to whatever it takes to be as productive as possible regarding the cause.

Commitment to see things through to completion!

Eccl. 7:8 “Finishing is better than starting!”

I’ve played a little golf… It always used to amaze me that something I did after I released the ball could have any influence on the ball’s trajectory. One golf expert explained to me that the error always occurs before the release. The completed motion must be realized in the imagination before the swing has started. The mental arc of my arm, leg, the bat, or club or racket has to be envisioned and maintained until the movement is concluded—not when the ball looks as though it might make it, and certainly not at the beginning.

The follow-through begins with the will and commitment to carry an action through to its ultimate completion.  We need to call this intent to complete our follow-through “counting the cost.”

Luke 14:28-30 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?  Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.  They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

The time for wavering, vacillating or indecisiveness is before we make the agreement, not after the process has begun.  In other words, are you committed to finishing before you even start?  Are you committed to the “follow-through?”  Sadly, so much and so many in our culture and in our churches are not!  It’s much easier to quit and justify reasons for doing so than to make no excuses and stay the course!

God makes it abundantly clear what He thinks of people who make commitments but fail to keep their word—fail to follow through and finish:

Deut. 23:21 “When you make a vow to the Lord your God, be prompt in fulfilling whatever you promised him. For the Lord your God demands that you promptly fulfill all your vows, or you will be guilty of sin.”

Prov. 20:25 Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost”

Eccl. 5:4-5 “When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him.  It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.”

Let’s commit to being people who stay the course and complete what we started!

COMMITMENT CAN’T HAPPEN WHEN YOU OVERCOMMIT

Being overcommitted is being out of control! 

Too many of us can be guilty of over promising and under delivering instead of under promising and over delivering!  This is especially true for “church people” who get busy being busy because we think that’s what it looks like to “serve Jesus!”  Even though we might think we are sacrificing for the well-being of others, we can actually be doing them a disservice. God’s desire is that we would use wisdom such that we would make the most of our time and use our lives for the best possible purposes and in the most God-honoring ways.

Eph. 5:15-16“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

Of course, just how our time is spent and divided up will depend on where we are at in life, what kind of health we are in, what ministry or missional opportunities are available to us, etc., (Galatians 6:10, Philippians 4:10).  Sometimes certain things will demand an unusual amount of our attention for a period of time, and there is nothing we can do about it whether we like it or not.  Other times we will find ourselves with an abnormal amount of time on our hands, and we will need to search out what God would have us do- if anything. Regardless of the specific circumstances, what is certain is that neither laziness nor over-commitment is advantageous to our spiritual success.

Being over-committed is not defined simply by being energetic, purposeful, zealous, or excited about the things of God or about His graces in this life. In fact, we ought to be all of those things. The danger comes when we do more than God has led us to do or something other than He has led us to do such that we harm ourselves and jeopardize our ability to live faithfully, in holiness, and for the long run. Zeal must be tempered by wisdom such that it can remain fervent and not die out.

1 Cor. 15:58“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

The emphasis for us here is on the idea of “steadfastness” and “immovability” because such characteristics are required in order to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Over-committed people abound in activity but not necessarily in the work of the Lord according to how God wants them to spend their time. There is a significant distinction between being active as compared to doing the work and will of God. This is why it is so important to seek God’s will according to the Scriptures as we go throughout our lives.

In Exodus 18:13-23, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, paid him a visit.  Jethro noticed that Moses spent from morning until evening (v. 13) judging the people of Israel. He asked Moses, “Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” (v. 14) Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws” (v. 15-16). Moses was filling his day with good things (or so he thought) by teaching the people the commands of God. But Jethro saw a problem, and he responded, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (v. 17-18 with emphasis added). Jethro then advised Moses to divide the labor between many other faithful, trustworthy men so that he would only have to decide the most difficult of cases (v. 22). Jethro was absolutely right that Moses would never be able to keep his current schedule going because it was too much for one man to do. His over-commitment was not based in the wisdom of God.

Jethro continued in v. 23, “If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.  Moses agreed that Jethro’s counsel was indeed wisdom from God, and he made the proper adjustments in how he governed and spent his time.  Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that God needs us or that nobody else could fill our shoes such that we choose to take on more than God has asked us to do. This is dangerous for us, and as verse 23 indicates, it harms those we are intending to serve as well.   SO…

The cure to over commitment is to only do what God commands you!   

Joshua 1:7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.”

God’s will is that we do the tasks He has given us to do, not more and not less.  Our joy will be full as we do these things, and He will supply our needs accordingly.  The one who walks in wisdom will find balance leading to steadfastness and immovability, which, in turn, enables us to endure. So, let us not be over-committed; rather, let us be fully committed to what God has asked us to do.

Again, it’s the wisdom of saying “no” to good things so you can say “yes” and commit to the best things!

Personalize in prayer: 1) Are you over committed and need wisdom?  2) Do you struggle to keep your commitments?  3) Are you committed to the right things?  To Christ?  To family? 

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