Fear of Commitment
January 16, 2000
We’d rather bail out than blast through. We’d rather leave than last. We’d rather throw in the towel than stay in the game. It is so easy to waver and waffle and take the path of least resistance, isn’t it? Why? Why? Because we fear this ten-letter word that reeks of accountability, integrity, and discipline. Commitment. Our culture is so characterized by a lack or a fear of commitment. From month to month apartment leases, to pre-nuptial agreements in marriage. From playing career hopscotch to escape clauses in contracts. “I don’t want to be hemmed in.” “I want to keep my options open.” “I don’t want to be stifled or handcuffed.” Commitment.
Commitment means to pledge yourself to a position no matter what the price tag, to pledge yourself to a stance no matter what the cost. And I want to tell you something—if you invest in commitment, the returns will be awesome. They will be unbelievable.
Speaking of commitment, I took my eight-year-old son, EJ, to his very first Dallas Cowboys football game. When we found our seats, we waited expectantly for the big kickoff. The Giants kicked off to the Cowboys, and they returned the ball all the way to the six or seven yard line of the Giants. The fans were going ballistic. They were jumping up and high-fiving and saying, “How about them Cowboys.” Three downs later, the Cowboys hadn’t scored. They had failed to put six points on the board. Amazingly, they were greeted with a chorus of “boos.” I looked around and began to laugh. A lot of people were turning into boo-birds, and they were blaming the coaching staff and the players—who had forgotten more football in a week than they will ever know in their lifetime—about how to do their job. And when I checked out who was actually making all of this noise, it was basically overweight, beer-drinking, baby boomers, who couldn’t outrun the trainer much less play a down of high school football.
And then while they were booing—to top it off—kicker Eddie Murray trots onto the field while they are still booing and kicks a field goal. EJ, my eight-year-old, looked at the scoreboard: Cowboys 3, Giants 0. And against the backdrop of all of the boos, EJ said, “Yeah, the Cowboys scored. We’ve got 3, Dad. Isn’t that great?” And as I was looking at him and smiling, I could see behind him the boo-birds. EJ was committed. He had pledged himself to a position no matter what the price. It didn’t matter to him that the Cowboys won by three touchdowns or lost by five touchdowns. The others who were booing, they looked committed, they looked fired up with their caps and clothes and Cowboy regalia, but they weren’t committed. Fair-weather, fickle fans—people who talk it but don’t walk it. People who lack commitment.
We get on a roll. Things are going good for us. We are making money. The stock market is up. The marriage is going well. Our relationships are clicking along and we look committed. We say, “How about my life! How about my marriage! How about my career! How about the stock market! Yeah.” Then we get a couple of losses under our belt—the economy goes south, we lose our number one client, we have a conflict—and we greet the whole deal with a chorus of boos. “Boo. Boo.”
Why do we struggle with commitment? Why do we fear it? Because if we are honest with ourselves, we all do. I think we fear commitment because so many of us have been rejected. We have put our heart and soul into something, and we have had it trashed. We are apprehensive to put it out there again. Others of us have had an authority figure, maybe a parent or a teacher or a coach, commit to us, to say that they were going to show up— maybe take us to the game or fishing or shopping or whatever—but they don’t keep what they said they were going to do. And we fear it.
Others of us fear commitment because we have broken so many commitments ourselves. We think, “Why even think about it, why even talk about it, why even go through with it.” All those things lead to a fear of commitment. But our true fear can be traced all the way back to the soils of the garden. God, the Bible says, was committed to Adam and Eve. He showed His hand. He put His cards on the table, and Adam and Eve realized this and they, in turn, were committed to God. One day God said, “Adam, Eve, don’t touch the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.” And they responded by saying, “Lord, we are committed to that. We want to obey You. We want to follow You. We want to be your people for this time.”
Enter the Evil One. Satan always attacks our commitment quotient. Why? Well, if you do a brief background check on him, you will discover that he struggled with commitment his entire existence. When he was in heaven as Lucifer leading the worship and all of the music, he struggled with commitment. He tried to commit himself to himself rather than committing himself to God. He got kicked out of heaven, and from that day forward, he has been trying to tear apart your commitment and mine. And so he attacked Adam and Eve and said, “Hey, guys, God is holding out on you. If you eat of the fruit of the tree, you will become like God. Don’t really commit to Him. Just back off once. Just bail out once. Just leave once. Just throw in the towel once. And Adam and Eve sinned; they blew their commitment. They failed their test, and from that day forward we have all been struggling with this issue.
Well, the Bible comes along and says this. Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in him and he will do it.” Nike was not the first to come along and say “just do it”. God said it through His word thousands of years ago. “Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in him and he will do it.” What a promise. What an assurance.
1 Kings 8:61, “But your hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands as at this time.” This time. One of our twins commented to Lisa, “Mommy, when will it be 1999 again?” Lisa replied, “Landra, it will never be 1999 again.” Now is the time, ladies and gentlemen, to commit. We can’t bring back ’99 or ’98 or ’96 or ’95. Now is the time to commit.
So I want to give you a crash course on commitment. I want to talk to you about some ways we can commit to God. And if we do these things, God will increase our level of commitment, and He will give us incredible returns on this investment. Now the first area I want to talk about concerning commitment has to do with the marriage/family dynamic. And here is what we need to do if we are really going to be committed in this realm. We have got to be willing to shift into four-wheel drive. We have got to be willing, if we are going to be truly committed in a marriage or in a family situation or a blended family, we have got to be willing to shift into four-wheel drive.
I drive a pick-up truck. It has four-wheel drive. I haven’t used it very much but I have now and then and it has helped me out. I like it because I know if I get into a four-wheel drive off-road situation, I can shift it into four-wheel drive. Marriage is wonderful. Marriage is the most important earthly relationship we will ever have. But I would be lying to you if I said that marriage was just a cruise control deal, just an autobahn scene. It is not. If you get married, you will have those off-road moments.
Lisa and I have had them. We have had them in the past and we will have them in the future. I am talking about the four-wheel drive stuff. When you hit a point and you have got a problem and suddenly you veer off the smooth freeway and you start four-wheel driving it. Mud is slinging, you are burning up fuel. And this is a good thing because, if you are committed, totally committed, if you have pledged yourself to a position no matter what the price, you will go through this off-road situation, this barrier. You will bust through it and when you bust through it, it will build deeper levels of commitment, of love, of compassion and intimacy and discipline and vision like you have never known before. But here is the problem. Most husbands and wives when they hit some off-road, four-wheel drive stuff, when it gets to be a little bit dicey, when the tail of the vehicle kind of starts spinning and you begin to freak a little bit, most people just bail. They ditch the car. They say, “You know what? I’m going to go into another relationship, get into another marriage.” But little do they realize that just down the road they are going to do some off-road, four-wheel driving in that marriage. Then they will go into another marriage and another marriage. Thus they play the game called relational hopscotch. If you are not willing to four-wheel drive it, don’t get married. Don’t get married.
But what separates great marriages from mediocre marriages are those marriages that are willing to go four-wheeling and to crash through it and to spin and to burn fuel because it is worth it when you do it God’s way. But most husbands and wives who get into trouble wait too long to scream that four-letter word that can change the course of their marriage. HELP. Most husbands and wives in their marriages when they get stuck and the tires are spinning instead of saying HELP, they just sit in their vehicle. “Yeah, I have been married for twelve years. I am still married. I am just sitting here in this four-wheel drive vehicle. We are just stuck. We can’t move. We are just broken down.” If only their would say help and seek a great Christian friend or Christian counselor who could drag them out of the mud. I am telling you, ladies and gentlemen, it is well worth it and it can revolutionize the most important earthly relationship that you have. It really can.
Now when you are driving home and you have some car trouble, are you just going to sit there on the side of the road for a couple of years? No. You would get on your cell phone, get proactive and do something. Husbands and wives, those of you who are carrying that dark secret that you have been stuck in this rut, that the tires are spinning, get help. Be committed and say, “We are going to work it out. We are going to make it happen. We are going to do it God’s way.”
The family thing is also a four-wheel drive thing. Moms and Dads these days say, “We want to crank out kids who are committed, kids who pledge themselves to a position no matter when the price. That is what we want to do.” And they say that, yet they go back on their word. They say that, yet they sign up and don’t show up. They say that, yet they let a couple of raindrops or sunshine outside to keep them from church. And they expect their children to be committed. Children, Moms and Dads, scoop up commitment cues from you and from me. They are taking it all in and they are watching you and watching me. We are always on stage. Always.
Be committed, parents or single parents, to spending quantity and quality time with your children. You see quality time emerges from quantity time. Make sure that you are committed to quality conversation. Listen to them. Make eye contact with them. If you listen to them when they are five, they will talk to you when they are fifteen and twenty-five. Make sure, Moms and Dads, you’re committed to introducing your kids to an intimate and vibrant relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. Teach them how to pray. Teach them how to read the Bible. And make sure you have them in church. Make sure when we offer age-appropriate teaching for the preschoolers and the children and the students that you have them here. You need to have them up here when we offer age appropriate teaching for their level.
“But, Ed, you don’t know what they say to me.” Oh, yes I do. They say this. “I don’t want to go. None of my friends will be up there.” That is probably a good thing. “It is not really my style.” Parents, you are hitting a four-wheel drive stretch. I am going to ask you a basic question. Who is driving? Are you driving or have you given them the keys? Too many parents have given away the keys.
My parents are far from perfect. But they pretty much are three for three. My brothers and I have had a long, vibrant relationship with Christ. We never went through the dope-smoking, cocaine-snorting, woman-chasing, beer-drinking, hell-raising stage that a lot of people go through. We are not perfect. We have messed up many times. But the reason I believe that my brothers and I have stayed the course is simply this. My parents were willing to four-wheel drive it. They were willing to listen to my junk and my bunk when I would say, “Well, I don’t want to go to church. My friends aren’t going to be there. It’s not my style.” But they said, “Ed, I appreciate that. We hear you but jump in the cab, baby, we are going.”
Now, parents, I don’t know how I can say this any better or clearer. If you are not taking advantage of what this church has to offer, good luck. Good luck. If our church had some kind of mediocre preschool and children’s and student ministry, I could say, don’t worry about it. I’d give you some slack. Whatever. But we have got one of the best in the nation here. And for you not to take advantage of this….hello. Is anyone home? So whether you are here or not, great but make sure they are here because they are the future. As you look around it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that government ain’t got it down. Our educators ain’t got it down. Only God has it down. Only life change will totally take a rebellious heart and turn a young person into a fully devoted follower of Christ. That’s it. So are you willing to four-wheel drive it or not? Commit or not?
Let’s go to another aspect of relationships. And now people are really going to start paying attention because forty-five percent of our church is made up of single adults. And I am going to talk about dating for awhile. That’s right, dating for awhile. Dating is something, if we are single, that we have got to commit to. And we have got to commit to do it God’s way. And when I talk about dating, here is what you need to do. Remember the Bimba principle. I have some friends who live in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Years ago they had a pet monkey. I visited them and this monkey really took a liking to me. I don’t know if you have been around monkeys very much but monkeys are strong. They are always holding on to you. The thing about Bimba was that I could carry Bimba around but if I wanted to put her down and she did not want to get down, I could not put her down. She would always have a tail or a toenail somewhere. Incredible.
Later on I took a friend down there. Bimba had matured and she attacked him. That is another story. Hanging from a tree like a gargoyle. But remember the Bimba principle, singles, students. Hold on to God’s teaching, to God’s way concerning spouse selection. This verse is very, very unpopular when you first read it. Some of the singles already know where I am going. II Corinthians 6:14. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers, for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness or what fellowship has light with darkness.” Now what was going on here? Was God being discriminatory? No. Is God insisting that our best friends and those we date have the same spiritual intensity that we do? Yes. Is He saying that we should never have friends outside the family of God? No. But He is saying that those people we are close to must share the same treasure that we share.
Why? Why would God say this, specifically in the dating realm? Because when you are dating you are really thinking about finding your mate. You are thinking about getting married. I don’t care how casual the date is, you are saying, “Could this be the one? Could this be him? Could this be her?” God insists on this, to argue His case for a second, because He wants us to share ultimate intimacy. God is the author of intimacy. And wouldn’t it be terrible for us to be hooked up to someone and we couldn’t share that which is the most precious to us, a personal relationship with Christ.
I have talked to so many couples where one is a Christ follower, one has that intimacy with Jesus, the other doesn’t. And one is going one way and the other one is going another. God also insists on it because He knows when we have these four-wheel drive things going on in marriage that we can have a common power source to tap into when the tires are spinning, mud is slinging and it is fishtailing. We can have that common power source. Because if we don’t, again, you have one tapping into God’s source, the other one tapping into someone else or something else or another vehicle. You have got some problems.
God also wants spiritual compatibility because of the child-rearing challenge. He knows that if we share Him and we have that commonality, that we will be operating from the same foundation, the same authority, the same absolutes when we are rearing children. When we are saying, “Hey, you are going to church. Hey, you are going to The Edge or The Mix, Junior High or High School ministry. Hey, you are going to Children’s Church.” Let’s don’t have one parent saying that and the other saying, “Well, it doesn’t matter. Just let the kid do what he wants to do.” God is saving you from a boatload of pain and anguish.
But here is what happens to single females. They say, “OK, I am going to commit to the Bimba principle. I am going to hold on. I am going to do it God’s way.” Then, suddenly, the biological clock starts ticking, and they begin to change. Their standards once were that he had to be a true Christian, a true Christ follower. And now that segued into, “Well, if he shaves and wears pants, he’s OK for me. I can change him. I can mother him. I can tweak him. He’ll come around. Surely, he’ll come around.”
Guys, don’t laugh too much. Don’t laugh, you’re next. We’re horrible with commitment. Did you check out the drama and the song? I know too many Christian guys get right on the edge, they have a Christian girl and they begin to waffle and to waver and to freak out and say, “Wow, if I get married, I guess I will have to be responsible. Then I can’t play in thirteen softball leagues at once. I mean, you know, she is good looking and all of that and loves God, but what if Tyra Banks comes to know Christ personally and what if Tyra gets involved in the singles ministry and I meet her?”
Guys, we are so stupid sometimes, aren’t we? It is important to be attracted to the opposite sex and especially the person you date and is your mate. You have got to have that. But if you are always saying, “Well, I’m waiting for someone better looking…” If it is right, it is right. It is a step of faith, a step of commitment. It is pledging yourself to a position no matter what the price tag.
Let’s go to another relationship, friendships. Let’s talk about commitment in friendships. As I was praying about this message about commitment and asking God what He would want me to say, I began to think about the word relationship. Relationships. Friendships. It came to me. I know our problem. I know our problem. We don’t have enough relationships. We have too many re-leech-ionships. Re-leech-ionships. Check our your re-leech-ionships.
Have you ever had a leech on you? That is a horrifying experience. Several years ago I was wading through a swamp with a friend of mine who was a Marine over in Viet Nam named Biff, from west Texas. Isn’t that great? Biff, the Marine. We traversed through this area, got to his car and I was taking off my soggy socks and my shoes and I had this big, old thing on my calf. I was trying to brush it off and it wouldn’t come off. It began to kind of wiggle. “Oh,” Biff said, “Ed, you got a big, old leech on you, man. We used to have those in the jungles of Viet Nam.” I said, “What will I do?” He said, “I will just burn it off.” “What!” He had a lighter and ahhhh burned that leech off.
Leeches just suck blood. A lot of us have too many re-leech-ionships, you know those people who just attach themselves to you, who drain you. You can talk to them and counsel with them and they just drain all your energy. So many of us have so many re-leech-ionships that we are walking around without enough energy and not enough octane to get into really good relationships that replenish us and hold us accountable and challenge us. You know what I am talking about, don’t you? Those people who like to benefit from you. It just makes them feel good to be with you. Maybe there is a benefit financially or relationally just being with you. And most of us don’t have the guts to burn them off. I don’t mean to say, “Forget you as a friend.” I mean to turn down the intensity of re-leech-ionships and turn up the intensity of replenishing, refueling relationships. We must have a balance. We all need some re-leech-ionships in our lives, however, we need some relationships, those people who replenish us, who refuel us.
How do you know if you have a relationship vs. a re-leech-ionship? Well, a relationship happens when you are with people and all of a sudden you look at your watch and say, “It’s midnight already?” That is a replenishing relationship. They must know Christ personally and have the same desire to please His as you do. And when you have a friend like that, man, let me tell you something, you will soar. Your commitment quotient will get greater. You will have an incredible return on your investment. It is going to be a slam dunk deal for you. And this church is built on relational opportunities. Don’t sit there, do something. Remember. Commit your ways to the Lord and He will do it.
Every time I think about relationship and friendships and re-leech-ionships vs. relationships I think about Daniel. Daniel was a single man, articulate, handsome, deported from Jerusalem to Babylon. He was the man who was truly committed to God. Everybody else in his group were eating the fatty food from the king’s table. Not Daniel. Daniel said, “No, no, no. I am going to have water and vegetables.” Daniel was also a man of prayer. There were many temptations out there in Babylon but he was committed to God.
The King loved Daniel. One day some palace plotters who were jealous of Daniel played a cruel trick on him. They went to the king and played up to his ego. They said, “Hey, King. Why don’t you set forth an edict where if anybody worships anything else rather than you, you throw them to the lions.” The king thought about it and said, “OK, I will set forth this edict.” Then these jealous palace plotters said, “King, look at Daniel on the rooftop praying again.” The king said, “Oh, no, what have I done.” And he had to toss Daniel, his man, this committed man, into the lion’s den. He thought it was over. The next morning the king rose, went to the lion’s den, peered over into the cage and Daniel was unscathed. He emerged.
Why was Daniel so committed? Well, obviously, he was committed to God. He was a man of prayer. He loved the Lord. But I will tell you another reason Daniel was so committed. Think about his relationships. Who did he hang out with? Who were his best friends? The three fireman of faith, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Commitment. Relational commitment. Watch out for those re-leech-ionships.
You might be saying, “Well, Ed, this is interesting, you know, four-wheel driving, the Bimba principle, re-leech-ionships. I understand it. But, Ed, you don’t know me. Man, I have messed up on so many commitments. I look back on my life and it is just crater after crater after crater. I have committed. I have messed up. I have committed. I have messed up. Man, is there a chance for me? You mean I can start afresh and anew today in my family, today in my marriage, today in the dating relationship thing, today in my friendships? You mean there is hope for me?”
In John 13, Simon Peter said these words to Jesus. “Jesus, I am committed to you. I will never turn my back on you.” And Jesus looked at him and said, “Simon Peter, over the next 24 hours you will do the first three-peat. You will deny your commitment to Me three times.” Christ was arrested and the night before He was crucified He was taken to the house of Caiaphas and thrown into a dungeon. Simon Peter was outside warming himself by a fire. Remember the fire. Three times he denied his relationship with Jesus. He even started cursing. He just cussed a blue streak.
Christ was crucified and was buried. Simon Peter, the man who cratered with commitment went back to fishing. It was all he knew. He knew about following Christ but fishing was his deal. Jesus rose from the dead and appeared on the Sea of Galilee. The sun was just coming up, it was still kind of dark. Jesus yelled out to the fishermen, “Hey, guys, caught anything?” Now fishermen are always optimistic, but they were down. “Fished all night, nothing.” Then Jesus said, “Throw you nets on the right side.” So they threw their nets on the right side and there were so many fish they could barely pull the net up. And the Bible records in John 21:11, “There was 153 fish.” I’ve always wondered, why did the Bible mention 153? I have a friend of mine who lives over in Jerusalem and he said if you apply the Hebrew alphabet to the numbers “153”, it says “I am God”. Pretty interesting.
Anyway, when Peter felt the size and the weight of this catch, he just dove in and swam to shore. He saw Jesus and Jesus was standing by a fire making breakfast. Don’t you know when Peter saw the fire he thought about how he backed off commitment, how he had cratered, how he had done the three-peat. Don’t you know he was trying to shake those commitment cobwebs out of his mind. He couldn’t believe it.
And then Jesus reinstated him and forgave him and empowered and enabled him. Simon Peter emerged as one of the most committed men to ever live. So I don’t care what you have done, how many times you have blown a commitment. I don’t care because there is no way we will ever blow it like Simon Peter did and look what happened to him. There is running room for you. There is another chance for you, another day for you. You can become a man or woman of great commitment. The ultimate act of commitment was when Jesus was hanging on a cross, his flesh tearing. He was gasping for breath and you know that Satan whispered in his ear, “Bail out, don’t blast through. Leave, don’t last. Throw in the towel, don’t stay in the game.” Jesus, though, was committed, wasn’t He? He pledged Himself to a position no matter what the price, even the price of his death. Why? Why? Because He had your lack of commitment and my lack of commitment on his mind. He had your sins and my sins on his mind and He crashed through that barrier just so we could know Him personally. He paid the ultimate price.
God is committed to us. He has shown his hand. He has put his cards on the table. The question is, are we committed to God? Because if we are, He will do it. He will do it.