Today and tomorrow we read about the raising of Lazarus. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus saying, “he whom you love is sick”. Jesus waited two days and departed for Bethany but in the meantime Lazarus had died.
The disciples were wary about a trip to Judea where the Jews had recently attempted to stone Jesus.
The puzzling thing about Jesus behavior in this case is that though the text twice states that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha (3, 5), it appears He intentionally delayed going to them, allowing Lazarus to die.
His word to the disciples is also curious. He told them Lazarus was dead and then said “I am glad for your sakes I was not there”. “I am glad”?
How does verse 4 explain this?
Is it possible that God allows us to go through painful experiences and the reason is not that He doesn’t love us but it is because He does love us so much?
Today’s Reading: Luke 13:1-5
Two horrible tragedies are mentioned in today’s reading. Pilate had evidently murdered some people as they were sacrificing. Also, a tower had fallen and killed eighteen people. One was the act of an evil man (Pilate) the other appears to have been an accident.
These are the same reasons tragedies happen today. Sometimes it is the work of evil people, and sometimes it’s simply an accident. The question asked is “is it because of people’s sin that such things happen to them?
How do you understand Jesus answer to the question about the cause of tragedies? Was it because they were sinners? What does he mean unless we repent we will likewise perish?
Filed under Sin, suffering
Today’s Text: Luke 12:49-56
These words may be shocking at first. The point is everyone has to choose whether or not to believe in and follow Jesus. Even within one family some will believe some will not, causing division.
If we are expecting and easy and always pleasant Christianity we have come to the wrong place. It wasn’t easy for Jesus and likewise His followers will suffer trials and hardships.
What hardship is Jesus Himself anticipating in this reading?
Today’s Text: John 9:1-7
Two interesting things in this miracle. First, the disciples assume the blindness was a result of sin. They ask, “who sinned?” The man or his parents?
Second, the method Jesus used to perform this miracle is unique. He applies clay (made from his own saliva) to the man’s eyes and tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man obeys and his sight is restored!
Do you think it is common today to ask “who sinned”, when bad things happen? How can Jesus’ answer to the disciples here help us accept bad things that might happen to us today?
We finished our class on 1 Peter, “We’ve Lost The Culture War, Are We Now Ready To Suffer”, by looking at the last paragraph. It tells us to be sober and watchful because the devil is looking to destroy us (5:8). We are to “resist him, steadfast in the faith” (5:9). Then verse 10 gives us a wonderful promise: After we “have suffered a while” God will, “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle” us.
A point of emphasis in our class was that resisting temptation is a form of suffering. This is true whether we are talking about giving in to sin or giving up on God because of discouragement or threat of persecution. Resisting temptation means denying the desires of the flesh (whether indulgence or preservation). But also we noted the text encourages us by telling us this suffering is for “a little while”.
A similar idea was seen in 1 Peter 1:6 – “for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials”. Suffering is “for a little while”.
Question: What does “for a little while” mean to you? How does this phrase encourage you?
The name of our Sunday class is “We Have Lost The Culture War, Are We Now Ready To Suffer”?
Peter challenges Christians who are in the minority in a godless society to continue doing good (2:12, 15), submit to authority (2:13), “honor all people”, “honor the king” (2:17). If we are persecuted because we hold a Biblical world view we are to follow Jesus example: “when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten” (2:23).
In 1 Peter 2:15 he says “this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men”.
Again, Peter tells us to keep doing good, but then he uses some really strong language to describe the philosophy of those who do not follow God: “the ignorance of foolish men”.
Do you agree with the way he describes the philosophies of godless culture?
Is he being unkind?
Why is this an accurate description?
You could say the story of Esther is the story of two decrees. The first, sponsored by evil Haman authorized the destruction of all Jews, men, women, and children and the taking of plunder from their possessions (3:13).
After the King learned of Haman’s true character and had him hung, Mordecai the Jew was allowed to write a second decree allowing the Jews to “destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions (Esther 8:11-12).
Wednesday night we studied that the day came and instead of being destroyed (according to the first decree), “the opposite occurred”, and “the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them” (9:1).
Twice the narrative observes that as the Jews defeated their enemies they did not lay hands on the plunder. This is interesting because in the decree it specifically says they were allowed to plunder the possessions of those they destroyed.
Similarly, the decree stated that not only men but also little children and women could be killed. Yet when the day come only men are listed among the dead.
What does this restraint (not taking the plunder, not killing women and children) show about the disposition of the Jews?
How can we practice similar restraint today? (See Romans 12:17-21).
Wednesday night in our Esther class we saw that God got the Jews through their crises. Haman was killed and King Ahasuerus authorized a second decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves.
When the Jews thought they were going to die, chapters 3 and 4 described them as “perplexed”, “mourning”, “weeping and wailing”. Chapter 8:16 and 17 describes the Jews now as having “light and gladness, joy and honor. And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday”.
God got them through their crises. He will do the same for us! In our dark times we need to “wait on the Lord”. Things will get better, usually in this life, but if not in this life, certainly in the next!
8:17 adds this: “Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them”. One of the good things that came out of this horrible ordeal was many non-Jews turned to God.
Question: No one wishes for trials to come, but if through our trials some are led to Jesus or brought closer to Jesus – is it worth it? If that is the case how does that make us like Jesus?
The results of Sunday’s Poll Question: Would you be here today if you knew it could cost you your life?
67% – Yes
8% – No
25% – I Don’t Know.
I admire the courage of those who said “yes”, and the honesty of those who said “no”, or “I don’t know”.
We know the “right answer”, but frankly, here in America, we are so far removed from such life and death choices I think it is hard for us to imagine. In other places of the world this an actual decision facing believers today.
To be willing to suffer takes great faith. The great chapter on faith, Hebrews 11, tells about real people who “experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
Those verses sound almost exactly like what the religious minorities in Iraq are going through at this moment.
Their faith helped them make the right choice. Hebrews 11 also describes them as men “of whom the world was not worthy”. How do some other versions put that? What does it mean to you?
After a long-drawn-out and somewhat futile debate between Job and his friends concerning the cause and meaning of Job’s horrible suffering, God finally spoke to Job.
One of the most remarkable things in the book of Job is that when God does finally speak He says nothing about Job’s suffering or about human suffering in general. He doesn’t even touch the subject. Instead, in chapters 38-41, God reminds Job of His creative power as seen in the natural world including outer space, the animals, the earth’s environment, etc.
Having “seen” God for himself Job confessed, “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (42:2).
The book of Job teaches us that God does not always reward good or punish evil in this life. Really bad things can happen to really good people. God will however certainly make all things right in the next life.
How can the lesson Job learned about God (42:2) comfort and strengthen us when trouble comes our way?
Filed under Job, suffering