Reading the human heart remains an elusive enterprise. While God knows each of us better than we know ourselves, we cannot truly understand any other human being except through what they say and do. Perhaps this sheds light on some pattern of behavior we have witnessed in the church. Some people seem so strong spiritually at one time only to swerve erratically to the right hand or the left only a few years later. Such spiritual inconsistency perplexes us, especially when we thought we knew them.
The Holy Spirit’s description of King Amaziah might aid our understanding. He said, “he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a loyal heart” (2 Chr. 25:2). The juxtaposition of doing the right things but not necessarily with the right heart provides greater insight than we often consider. He originally followed the Law when executing only those personally responsible for his father’s assassination (2 Chr. 25:3-4); however, when he prepared to go to war, a man of God had to talk him out of his plans to use mercenaries from Israel, only relenting when the prophet assured him he would recoup his financial loss (2 Chr. 25:5-10). God did indeed provide much spoil when Amaziah fought against Edom (2 Chr. 25:11-13), but their idolatry ensnared him—so much that he would not heed the voice of one of the LORD’s spokesmen (2 Chr. 25:14-16). Then, in his pride, he attacked Israel, losing all that he had gained and more (2 Chr. 25:17-24), leaving them in a reduced condition until ultimately assassinated by his own people (2 Chr. 25:25-28).
Amaziah’s life offers several principles for us to consider about ourselves and those who fall away.
- The correctness of his original actions provided only limited information about his motivations. It is impossible to project any person’s obedience throughout life without knowing his real motivations (Jn. 14:15).
- It is possible to display obedience to finer points of God’s will while actually not obeying in principle. It takes a wide variety of circumstances to size up anyone’s character (Rev. 2:10).
- There is a difference in the faith of a person who seeks God’s will originally for himself and one who is accepts God’s will only when his objections are satisfied. In truth, this shows that the will has not submitted to God’s will, and this will not go well in the long run. Faith should be our forethought—not an afterthought (2 Cor. 5:7).
- When a person’s motivations are not fully centered on God and His will, he will fall prey to the worldly allure of false doctrine if it becomes convenient (2 Tim. 4:2-4).
- Any person whose humility fails after small successes will fall even further when greater challenges come (1 Cor. 10:12).
- In the end, there will always be consequences that could have been avoided with simple obedience and faithfulness (2 Th. 1:7-9).
The church has seen more than her fair share of shooting stars and preachers of potential. She has witnessed far too many Christians who hold fast for a while but ultimately let go completely. Spiritual inconsistency is nothing new, but it is painful to observe nonetheless.