July 2, 2015

Trials should produce success . . .

1 Samuel 2:22–4:22, James 1:9–18, Psalm 119:17–32

It has taken a long time for me to accept the fact that people fail. Perhaps I’m an idealist, or perhaps it is easier to trust everyone than try to figure out who is not what they seem. Or maybe I just don’t like admitting that I fail too. Whatever the reasons, I know that I’m to love everyone and that love believes and hopes all things. However, it seems not very prudent to bury my head in the sand and expect perfection, especially of myself.

The failures of biblical people make me sad. Eli, the priest, is one of those. His biggest issue is that he failed to discipline his sons, who should have been the next priests. For this, God said to him, “Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?”

Then He declared: “I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever . . . . Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever.” (1 Samuel 2:29–32)

After this prophetic word, Israel went to war with the Philistines and Israel was defeated and fled. It was “a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”  (1 Samuel 4:10–11) When the news was brought to Eli, he fell from where he was sitting, broke his neck, and died. As God said, this priest’s household was destroyed.

God’s Word does not hide the sinfulness of humanity, even the sin of His people. At the same time, He challenges each of us to be faithful, to obey Him even in the tough times:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:12–14)

God asks me to remain steadfast no matter what. He never asks me to do anything that He cannot also give me the wherewithal to do it. I have no excuses. Because of Jesus Christ, I can obey Him. At times, obedience is difficult, sometimes due to distracting trials, sometimes due to other forms of severe temptation, but God is faithful.

The psalmist knew this too, for he wrote: “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame! I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” (Psalm 119:28–32)

Eli and his sons failed. I fail too. Today I pray that the trials of life will not shut me down. Instead, when trials come my hope is that they will be God’s way of enlarging my heart!

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