Until the Last Dog Dies

A teacher held an essay contest for her students.

Define friendship.

There were many good definitions offered. The student who won the contest wrote:

“A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”

It’s a difficult definition to improve on.

We all put a premium on loyalty when it comes to defining friendship. None of us wants to be considered a “fair-weather friend” and none of us would consider convenient friends true friends. We know who our friends are, not when things are easy but when they are hard. That’s always been the ultimate test of friendship.

Faithful friends are the very best friends. That’s the friend we want – it’s the friend we want to be.

There’s an old Ozark saying about being with someone – being a true friend – standing right there with him “until the last dog dies.” It’s quaint, it’s simple and it’s Southern. I’ve always liked it. It colorfully expresses the most valued attribute of true friendship: loyalty.

God understands this. He knows we need the assurance that he will always be there for us – no matter what and no matter when. And so God has made this much clear to us: “I’m not going anywhere.”

All the other divine qualities are enriched by God’s faithfulness.

His love, his mercy and his grace, for example, are often described in scripture as “everlasting.” We need to remember this – and to stake our daily lives upon it – especially when the boat of our faith is riding on stormy seas.

The writer of Hebrews invokes the Old Testament to drive home the abiding presence and faithfulness of God.  The One who hung the solar system in space says clearly and simply: “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”(Hebrews 13:5). Those are the same words God spoke to Joshua when God called him to the humanly impossible task of leading Israel after the death of Moses (Deuteronomy 31: 6, 8).

The promise he made to the new leader of his chosen people is the same promise he makes to you and me.

“I will never leave you”.

 Others may turn their backs and walk away. They may abandon; they may forsake, they may leave. And they may forget. They might even accuse and condemn.

God never will.

God tells us that no matter what happens – and no matter what we do – he will never abandon us. He will never withdraw his presence from us and he will never forsake us. We may sin, we may doubt and we may stray, but through it all he remains faithful to us. Through all our stupidity, arrogance and dumb decisions, he remains our friend and our God. He will mercifully and patiently bring us back to where we belong – by his side, holding his hand, following his steps.

He loves you that much. He cares about you that deeply.

God’s faithfulness is not dependent on us and we can all thank God for that. It’s rooted in his very nature as God. Paul tells Timothy:

“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” (II Timothy 2:13, NLT). In my times of doubt and distance, I’ve drawn great consolation from the blessed fact that my destiny is not determined by what I do but by “who he is.”

“He cannot deny himself” (KJV).

God cannot contradict his divine nature.

This is not tit for tat – it’s for keeps.This is not predicated – it’s unconditional. It’s neither earned nor deserved. It’s grace.

After the author of Hebrews reminds us of the promise of God’s faithful presence, he adds this:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NLT). Here is a simple and glorious confirmation of the immutability of our sovereign God. It is the anchor of our faith – and the unfailing bulwark of his faithfulness.

“Be still my soul…in every change He faithful will remain.”

If God were fickle he couldn’t be faithful.

Alliances shift, loyalties wane, and friendships cool. Time, circumstance and choices are continually upsetting the applecart of our relationships. Those that endure mean the most. And the most enduring relationship we can have – the one that takes us through time and into eternity – is our relationship with God.

He is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NKJV).

John wrote of our Savior:

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1, KJV, emphasis added).

Nothing changed that. Nothing could. The cross proved it.

Even when it seems as if “the whole world has gone out”, he stays.

As he told Jacob, so God promises you:

“I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go…I will not leave you.” (Genesis 28:15, NLT).

God’s going to be there for you…“until the last dog dies.”

May God bless you and your family.

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Filed under Faith, Religion

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