Is your faith real?

Ruth 1:14-18 “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’  And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.”

The Lord has many ways of testing our commitment to Him.  He has ways to help us learn if our faith is real.  People can have a very close association with God and the people of God, while at the same time having a heart that is far from Him.  Recently, I heard about a person who had been a faithful churchgoer. He had attended every week for years.  But then something happened with another person in the congregation that didn’t set well with him. It was a minor issue, at least to others who heard about it, but to him it was just too much.  As a result, he walked away and was seen no more. Why would that happen?  Why would a Christian act like this? Well, it is very possible that that person never WAS a Christian. All that churchgoing was only skin deep.  There was likely some other reason than the love of God that motivated his religion, for didn’t Christ command us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ? More than that, didn’t he command us to even love our enemies?  So, if the love isn’t there, that person is not following Christ, for following Christ doesn’t look like that. 

Jesus declared plainly, “you will recognize them (i.e., true vs false believers) by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16), – but usually it takes some sort of a trigger to reveal if there is any spiritual fruit in a life.  It’s always been that way, as we can see above in the story God has preserved for us in the book of Ruth.

The setting of this story is a famine in Israel. As a result, Naomi, her husband, and their two sons migrate to Moab. While there, their sons married Moabite women. The Moabites were idolaters.  Later, both Naomi’s husband and her two sons died. That left her with two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.  In her sorrow and destitution Naomi decides to return to Israel, but she urges Orpah and Ruth to return to their former homes for there was little prospect of them finding a husband in Israel. By Jewish law, a husband would have to come from a close relative of Naomi’s such as another son (Deuteronomy 25:5-6), and she had none.  In Moab, there would be no such restrictions.

In those days, for a woman to remain unmarried most likely meant a life of poverty, for her husband was her source of well-being.  The result: Orpah kissed Naomi, but she went back to her people and her gods.  Ruth, on the other hand, proclaimed her unwavering commitment to Naomi, her people (the Israelites), and her God – come what may, including death itself. It was a stark contrast. Orpah, when the opportunity presented itself, turned away from the true God.  She counted the cost of following Naomi into a strange land and a new life of probable hardship as too much.  Ruth counted the cost as well, and determined that following the way of the God of Israel, no matter what the cost, was the way of truth and eternal (rather than temporal) hope. 

You see, to follow the true God is not just costly, it costs everything.  It’s a commitment to surrender all to Him, come what may. It’s an all-in thing.  It’s a faith that, when tested, whether it be by a petty disagreement with someone else in the church as mentioned above, or by great financial, physical, and emotional suffering as in the case of Naomi and Ruth, will come out refined on the other end.  It won’t be a faith that “evaporates” when faced with things like Jesus described in the parable of the sower: tribulation, persecution, the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches.

What about you?  Are you an Orpah or are you a Ruth?  It’s the most important question about yourself you will ever answer, for in that answer lies the truth about your faith.

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