I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living (Psalm 27:13, NKJV).
The faith of David before Goliath is legendary (1 Sam. 17). His faith continues to encourage God’s people. Psalm 27 is one such source of encouragement. (1) David’s faith was firm in the Lord. Even when the wicked came against him to devour him and if an army encamped against him, he would not be fearful but confident. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1, 2-3) (2) David’s faith informed his desires. “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Ps. 27:4). (3) David’s faith caused him to seek the upright paths taught by God. “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a smooth path because of my enemies” (Ps. 27:11). The way of righteousness delivers the faithful from the adversary’s lies and deceit (Ps. 27:12). (4) David’s faith endured trials with patience, courage, and trust in God’s power to bless (Ps. 27:14). He waited on the Lord, knowing he would see God’s blessings in his life (Ps. 27:13). Like David, Christians see God’s blessings with eyes of faith, both in the “land of the living” and in the eternal realms where death is no more (Mark 10:28-30).
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:12–13, NKJV).
What are Christians to do when trials come? They will come in various ways, especially when we live godly (James 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:6; 2 Tim. 3:12). Peter teaches Christians how to overcome the distress of trials with the joy of Christ. (1) Do not think your trials are unique to you (1 Pet. 4:12). Trials can be fiery. Your adversary wants to isolate you, but others have faced and overcome trials, and so can you (Heb. 11:36-40). (2) Rejoice to partake of Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 4:13-14). Jesus suffered trials, and He comes to the aid of all who put their faith in Him (Heb. 2:18; 4:15-16). Rejoice in Christ and follow His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). (3) Do not be ashamed of being a Christian (1 Pet. 4:15-18). Remain faithful through the difficulties you face for wearing His name (Mark 8:38). Accept suffering for those things that glorify God, and you will be judged faithful for your obedience to Christ. (4) Commit your life to God (1 Pet. 4:19). Deposit your soul for safekeeping to God. Accept the momentary grief trials bring and keep doing good (1 Pet. 2:19-23). Your trial is a moment to purify your faith and look toward your heavenly reward (1 Pet. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Faith in Christ overcomes this world’s trials (1 Pet. 5:4). Trust that God will not leave you (Heb. 13:5-6). He will right every wrong and reward your faith with eternal life.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:36–39, NKJV).
The Hebrew Christians faced persecution for their faith (Heb. 10:32-34). These pressures and fears tempted some to drift back into the shadows of the first covenant, presumably, to avoid persecution (cf. Gal. 6:12). But such neglect and even willful rejection of Christ exposed them to God’s vengeance (Heb. 2:1-3; 10:26-31). God delivers His people from sin’s punishment of sin by faith (Heb. 10:37-38; Hab. 2:3-4). So, these Christians were encouraged to endure the present trials of faith and not shrink back to destruction (Heb. 10:39). Endurance is accomplished by doing the will of God and therefore receiving God’s promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36). So, they needed to continue to be faithful through their present trials of faith. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Again, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). May we also hear and heed the inspired exhortation given to the Hebrew saints: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (Heb. 10:35).”
4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; (2 Thessalonians 1:4–5, NKJV)
Jesus blesses those persecuted for righteousness’s sake (Matt. 5:10-12). Many early Christians were “made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations” because of their faith (Heb. 10:33). The saints in Thessalonica exemplify steadfast endurance in the face of fierce opposition. Their persecution was not due to God failing or forgetting them. Far from it (1 Thess. 3:12-13). Their faithful fortitude despite suffering for their faith revealed two unbending truths. (1) God will righteously judge those who persecute His people (v. 5). Paul explained, “since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (2 Thess. 1:6). God will judge those who bring suffering upon the righteous. The persecutors of Christians “do not know God” and “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” therefore, they will experience divine vengeance (2 Thess. 1:7-8). (2) Those who suffer as Christians are worthy of the kingdom of God (v. 5). These faithful ones will share in the glory of Christ when He comes (2 Thess. 1:10; Col. 3:4). Like them, may we faithfully endure trials and the promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36-39). Do not be ashamed of Jesus (Mark 8:38). Glorify God when you suffer for Christ (1 Pet. 4:16). Great is your reward in heaven (Matt. 5:10-12).
I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled (Luke 12:49, NKJV)!
The picture of Jesus as a passionless, passive person is not the portrait emblazoned on the pages of inspired Scripture. His passionate heart bursts open in this passage as He testifies of the conflagration His word and work would have (and was already having) on the world. As Plummer commented, “Christ came to set the world on fire, and the conflagration had already begun” (cited by A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures). Soon, Jesus would be immersed in personal suffering and death, the sacrifice for our sins (Luke 12:50). His redemptive work would (and continues to) divide families. Do you suppose it would be otherwise (Luke 12:51)? Not at all. Families would be (and still are) divided by the truth of Jesus Christ, as some believe and follow Him while others reject His truth and oppose those who choose Him over them (Luke 12:52-53; Matt. 10:34-37). Jesus continued His thunderous proclamation by calling out the hypocrites who could read the weather signs but refused to see the signs that He is the Christ, the Son of God (Luke 12:54-57; Matt. 16:1-4). No, Jesus was not a shrinking violet. Followers of Jesus understand and accept the cost of discipleship. They pay the price of allegiance to Him, putting Him above and before anyone or anything else (Luke 14:25-33). The fire of trials will test and purify the Christian’s faith and produce genuine faith that results in eternal salvation (1 Pet. 1:6-9).
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14, NKJV).
We look for ways to make our lives easier, more convenient. Innovations in industry, transportation, technology, and communication produce greater efficiency for countless lives. However, striving for convenience can also have unintended consequences. It can lead to neglect and unrealistic expectations. A harmful entitlement mentality may develop, expecting and demanding comfort and convenience. Jesus uses the simple desire for things to be easy to teach a crucial spiritual truth. The broad path is easy, convenient, and desirable but leads to ruin and loss. Sin is easy, and its outcome is eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Many people walk this spiritual path. All of us have entered the wide gate at some point, for we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23). But we can choose a different path. The narrow gate opens to a path that is “difficult” (confined, like the walls of a narrow canyon) yet leads to life. Turning from sin, seeking, finding, and following Jesus is possible for all, but few choose this path (Matt. 11:28-30; Luke 13:23-24). Following Christ demands self-denial (Luke 9:23). The road to heaven is not lined with the pleasures of sin (1 John 2:15-17). Trials will come when we choose to follow Jesus. Convenience is not the motto of Christians. Faith is refined by trials, strengthening us as we live for heaven (1 Pet. 1:6-9).
22 “And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island (Acts 27:22–26, NKJV).”
A terrible storm had wreaked havoc on the grain ship and its 276 souls for almost two weeks. They were lost at sea. All seemed hopeless, but God’s revelation to Paul and his faith in the Lord formed the basis of his confidence amid chaos. Paul, the prisoner, became Paul the encourager. Twice he urged those on board to take heart, to “be of good cheer, of good courage” (Thayer, 258). We can take several points from this event to help us be encouraged and also encourage others. (1) Paul trusted God’s word (v. 25). We must trust God’s revelation as we face life’s storms. God’s word prevails. (2) Paul was confident in the purposes of God (v. 24). The Lord’s angel told him he “must be brought before Caesar.” When we rely on God’s purposes, we can take courage to face every trial (1 Pet. 1:5-7). (3) Paul was also a realist (v. 22, 26). He was honest about the trouble ahead. Encouragement does not sugar-coat the situation. It is compassionate yet straightforward with its analysis and recommendations. Whatever storm you face, take heart in the Lord, His purposes, and His truth. He will not fail or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Then, encourage others.
5 …and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:5–8, NKJV).
God is ready, willing, and able for us to cast our cares on Him. But how do we do that? When facing trials and trouble, we often hear it said, “Just give it to the Lord.” But, how? Today’s verse gives needed instruction on how to cast all our care upon Him to avoid being distracted and overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that test our faith. (1) It takes humility (1 Pet. 5:5-6). Pride prevents turning to God and obstructs grace from His throne of mercy (Luke 18:9-14). (2) It takes trust that God cares for you (1 Pet. 2:7). Faith in God’s mighty hand and attentive care compels us to prayerfully throw our anxious distractions at His feet (Matt. 6:24-25). (3) It takes self-control (1 Pet. 5:8). Anxious care is the devil’s tool to distract and devour us. Sober thinking is needed to make righteous choices when faced with difficult times of temptation (1 Thess. 5:6-10). (4) It takes vigilance (1 Pet. 5:8). Apathy prevents seeking God’s care and grace and prepares us to be an entrée for the devil’s dinner. Casting our care on God takes being watchful to do God’s will and avoid sin (Eph. 5:15-16). We cast our care on God by humbly trusting God (walking by faith), being diligent to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and boldly approaching His throne of grace for “help in time of need” (2 Cor. 5:7; Matt. 6:33-34; Heb. 4:16).
1 Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. 2 Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah 3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. 4 I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah (Psalm 3:1–4, NKJV).
David’s son was attempting a coup. Absalom’s attempt to seize the throne caused David and his cohorts to flee Jerusalem to escape imminent harm (2 Sam. 15-16). David turned to the Lord when an adversary from his own house arose against him, and the Lord saved him from this moment of treason (2 Sam. 17-18). Still, many adversaries hinder and harm the righteous (1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Tim. 4:14-16). Christians wrestle against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Like David, these opponents of the truth and godliness may come from within our family (Matt. 10:35-36). Take strength in the Lord. He is your shield, a strong defense against evil. Trust the Lord’s way and walk in it; He is your glory, not yourself (v. 3). David knew the Lord heard his supplications for relief; God was still reigning from His holy hill of Zion (v. 4). The Lord would overthrow the usurper (Absalom). May we be like David and continue to trust in the glory, power, and purposes of God when trouble arises for following Him (1 Pet. 3:13-17). Victory over every trial and danger is in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Pet. 3:18). He will not fail you (Heb. 13:5-6). Continue to be faithful and do not fail Him.
3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), 4 In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4, NKJV)?
Are you afraid of someone or something today? Over the past year, the Covid-19 virus has injected anxiety, doubts, and fear into many hearts and lives worldwide. Daily crime reports lead many to be afraid of their neighbors. The list goes on. David’s life was under constant threat from enemies when he penned Psalm 56. King Saul saw David as a threat and was looking for opportunities to kill him. The Philistines were a constant menace (Ps. 56:1-2; 1 Sam. 21-24). But David trusted God, so he resolved not to be afraid (v. 3). You and I can follow his example. God had given David His word that he would be king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:12-13). So, David praised God’s word. Faith in God removes fear, while doubt stirs it up. Come what may, David was confident his enemies would not prevail against the will and word of God. May we follow David’s model of trust and confidence in the Lord when faced with the fears and doubt of trials and troubles (Heb. 13:5-6). Do not be afraid. Put your trust in the Lord God.