What Will You Suffer For?, Day 7

Today’s reading is drawn from 1 Peter 3:17 and 1 Peter 4:19.

Observation

Suffering is not optional. We might wish it were. We spend millions of dollars to avoid it, ignore it and get immunized for it, but we can never be immune from it.

We mostly think of suffering as negative. And much suffering is synonymous with the consequences of sin or ignorance. But sometimes good comes from pain and suffering. A child is born into the world through pain. When we get a speck of dirt in our eye, pain signals us to do something about it before it does damage. When we have a virus, the pain signals a need for rest or medication before the disease turns into something deadly.

Pain and suffering are inevitable. However, Peter tells us in 3:17 that since we are going to suffer, we are to suffer for doing right. We can choose what we suffer for. We can suffer because we are doing evil, or we can suffer to give life.

Application

We can suffer as a result of stupidity. We can suffer as a result of sin. Or we can choose to suffer. We can suffer for speaking the gospel or defending it. We can suffer for doing the right thing even though we are mocked or misunderstood. We can suffer by biting back angry words when something unfair occurs to us. We can choose to suffer with others when they are hurting, and it forces us to pray, learn, act and minister.

Prayer

Father: I pray that when I suffer — and it is inevitable that I will — I will suffer in doing the right and the good. If I suffer, let me do so with a contrite heart — a heart that desires to follow you.

 

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Doctrine: Atonement; God’s Forgiveness, Day 2

Today’s reading is drawn from Leviticus 6:6-7 and Leviticus 4:26.

On August 7, 2007, baseball slugger Barry Bonds hit career home run number 756, the home run that broke Hank Aaron’s record. However, many questioned whether or not the new record should count because Bonds was alleged to have used steroids. Sports buffs said if his name is listed in the record book, it should be accompanied by an asterisk to indicate that the record is a sort-of record, a tainted record. In 2008 Mark Ecko, the man who bought the ball Bonds hit to set the record, branded the baseball with an asterisk and donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s not unusual for Christians to imagine we have an asterisk by our name. We may be destined for that Hall of Fame called heaven, but aware that our lives our tainted, we’re left with a sour taste in our souls. We’re grateful to enjoy eternal life with God, but we wish there wasn’t that sense of being tainted. The gospel is hard to believe at just this point, but it is nonetheless the great truth. There is no longer a need for sin offerings. The forgiveness we are offered through Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just make our sin null and void, it also erases the asterisk. God doesn’t see a fixed sinner, but someone righteous and pristine. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. We are a new creation. The old has passed away — so much so that there is no need for an asterisk — and all things have become new.

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Combat by Champions, Day 2

Today’s reading is drawn from 1 Samuel 17:26 and 1 Samuel 17:45-47.

The contest joined between the “champion” Goliath and David is perhaps the best-known example from antiquity of a military conflict decided by “single combat,” namely, a fight between representatives of the warring factions intended to get an initial indication of how the general battle would go. The logic behind such contests was grounded in the belief that battles were ultimately decided by God or the gods, and that the champion representing the more powerful deity would triumph.

The premise that the people of the loser would serve the people of the winner did not suggest that the general battle would not be fought; it just gave an assessment of the expected outcome. A superior champion would serve as a ready instrument for the god, but the gods were not constrained to the relative skills and strength of the combatants. In a match as lopsided as this, a victory by David would serve as incontrovertible evidence of the superiority of Yahweh.

Other examples of similar situations from ancient sources are well-known, such as those in Homer’s Iliad (Paris versus Menelaus, Hector versus Ajax) and the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe, in which Sinuhe defeats a Syrian challenger. Sinuhe uses an arrow in place of David’s sling, but, like David, he then uses his opponent’s own sword to complete the victory.

While certain similarities with the story of David’s triumph over Goliath are striking, it is important to distinguish between duels settling personal grievances and representative combat. A good example of the latter is found in an account by Hattushili III, who defeated the champion of the enemy with the result that the rest of the army fled.

We can therefore see that David’s confrontation with Goliath illustrates a practice that was familiar in the ancient world. By any account, it should have been Saul, who had been chosen to lead the armies, who represented the Israelites in battle.

 

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