Sunday, September 20, 2015

Trusting God in the challenges



Habakkuk 2:6–3:19, Acts 18:1–28, Job 26:1–14, John 16:33

This morning was one of those days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was thinking that life is too hard, but before I could have too large a pity-party, God had me read the above three passages. My goodness, my life is easy compared to Habakkuk and Job, and even Paul and the early Christians.

Habakkuk faced the certainty that God was going to use the idolatrous Chaldeans to purge His people. He was dismayed, yet finally said, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

Habakkuk trusted God no matter what: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places . . . .” (Habakkuk 3:17–19)

Job didn’t understand or think positively about the calamities that were happening to him either, but he did acknowledge the power of God. He said, “Sheol (place of the dead) is naked before God, and Abaddon (destruction) has no covering. He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing. He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them. He covers the face of the full moon and spreads over it his cloud. He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke. By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” (Job 26:6–14)

Job, like most of us, longed for understanding about his situation, but in the midst of not knowing very much, he knew that God is God.

As for Paul, his life was polarized; he was blessed or he was persecuted. In today’s reading, “He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:4–6)

Then “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’ And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:8–11)

But later, when “Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal . . . .” (Acts 18:12) Gallio dismissed the issue saying he refused to judge religious arguments. So Paul was free. He went to Ephesus, then Caesarea, then Antioch and other areas, preaching the Gospel.

Another believer named Apollos was doing the same. “He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.” (Acts 18:26–28)

Rarely does a Christian serve God without opposition. It seems that the more effective that service, the deeper the trials. Habakkuk was a righteous man, but his way of life was dramatically altered. Job also was a righteous man, yet he lost his family and all his possessions, even his health. Paul and others were obeying the Lord, yet were threatened, even stoned as their message blessed others and changed lives.

God’s ways are not my ways, nor do they fit the perception of the world. We are taught to work hard and be rewarded, yet in this kingdom that reward is uncertain. It belongs with certainty only in the world to come.

In John 16:33, Jesus says that no matter what He experienced, God was with Him. This gives me peace. Then He added, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This I am to believe, even when I cannot see it, and it also gives me peace.


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