problems

1 Chronicles 13-14, Amos 8

Today, read 1 Chronicles 13-14 and Amos 8.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 14.

David was chosen by God to be king Israel. But, he lived in obscurity after God had him anointed until he defeated Goliath the Philistine. After that victory, David’s life became one battlefield after another. He was either fighting valiantly to defend God’s people and advance Israel’s territory or he was fighting for his life, trying to stay way from Saul.

After he was crowned king and began to put his government together, we read in verse 8 that, “When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they went up in full force to search for him....” I don’t know about you, but I think I’d be battle-weary by this point. I would be ready to rule as king and not spend so much time fighting.

Not David. David heard about the Philistines plans and “...went out to meet them.” But before he met them in battle, he “...inquired of God: ‘Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?’” (v. 10). God assured him that He would give David victory (v. 10) and he did, even giving David the Philistines’ idols to burn (vv. 11-12).

Those Philistines were persistent, however, and attacked again (v. 13). Perhaps they hoped to kill David before he get any stronger as king but their pre-emptive strikes did not work. Once again David defeated the Philistines (v. 16) but only after he “inquired of God again, and God answered him” (v. 14). This time God even gave him the strategy to use in his attack (vv. 14-15).

The result of these battles was greater than subduing the Philistines. Verse 17 says that as a result of these wins, “David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him.” From the beginning of his reign, then, God cemented David’s leadership and strengthened his power internationally by allowing the Philistines to attack him and giving him those victories.

There are times in our lives when we feel like we go from one problem to the next. Fortunately for us, our problems don’t involve killing other people in war but none of us gets to be king, either. Our problems are smaller than David but we have a more modest calling to fulfill in our lives than he did. My point is that David could have complained to the Lord that he was tired of fighting. He could have tried to ignore the Philistines or buy them off. Their attacks against him were immediate tests of his will; they were designed by the Philistines to prevent David from becoming too powerful.

David did not shrink from the battles even though he’d had a long, difficult road to the throne. Instead, he used these attacks as an opportunity to honor God by seeking God’s will and acting according to whatever God revealed. The end result of these battles was less fighting for David because through these battles, “...the Lord made all the nations fear him” (v. 17b).

People, in my experience at least, usually don’t expect problems. So we are surprised when problems come and sometimes complain to the Lord as if we don’t deserve them.

If you think that you shouldn’t have any problems in life or that you’ve had enough problems and deserve something else, you’re going to be very disappointed with this life. Problems are a symptom of a sin-cursed world. If we don’t think we should have any problems, we don’t understand how the world works.

We also don’t understand God. God knows that problems are part of living in a fallen world. He, therefore, uses problems for our good. They give us the opportunity either to seek his help and follow his word or to lean on our own understanding. They strengthen our faith when we look to him for help and he delivers. They also increase our stature with other people (v. 17) when we handle them well with the Lord’s help. Problems, then, are opportunities. We should embrace them, believing that God will both help us and strengthen us through them.

What problems are you facing today? Can you look at them as opportunities for God to use you and to grow you?

Deuteronomy 2, Isaiah 30, Psalm 143

Today we’re reading Deuteronomy 2, Isaiah 30, Psalm 143.

This devotional is about Isaiah 30.

Judgment was coming to Judah because of idolatry and disobedience to God’s law. Isaiah and others had delivered prophecies to tell God’s people of their coming exile. How would they respond?

One way they responded was by contacting Egypt and attempting to form an alliance with the Egyptians (v. 2). Their solution to the growing storm clouds of trouble was completely human and tactical. They wanted to fight fire with more fire power. But, as verse 1 said, this was only evidence that they were “obstinate children.” God was not in their plans (“...forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,” v. 1d) so their plans were destined to fail.

If a political solution was not the answer than what was the answer? Verse 15: “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength....” The threat was human but both the problem and the solution were spiritual. Come to God in repentance; walk in his ways and the Babylonians will go bye-bye.

The end of this chapter holds forth the blessings God wanted his people to have. God “longs to be gracious to you” (v. 18). “How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you” (v. 19b). “He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful” (v. 23). “The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted” (v. 26).

We don’t deal with invading armies and national alliances, but we do look for human answers to spiritual problems. Churches look for programs and gimmicks when attendance is weak instead of crying out for God’s Spirit to work and reaching out in genuine evangelism. Believers try psychology and self-help to manage their problems instead of humbling ourselves before the Lord, seeking his forgiveness and help.

Is there any area in your life where you are looking for human solutions to spiritual problems? Do you see how gracious God wants to be to you (vv. 18-26) if you come to him in repentance and faith (v. 19)?

Then what are you waiting for, exactly?

2 Corinthians 1

Today’s reading is chapter 1 of 2 Corinthians.

Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth to continue addressing problems in the church. One problem, which he addressed in verses 12-24, was criticism he received for changing his travel plans after he had told the Corinthians he was coming to visit them. Before he got to that issue, however, he took time to praise God for how God had comforted him during the troubles he and his ministry partners had experienced in Asia (v. 8).

Why does God allow problems into our lives? Why aren’t his servants exempt from problems as a reward for their ministry of the gospel? There are at least four answers and three of them are discussed in this chapter.

First, God allows problems into our lives because we live in a fallen world. Until the redemption of all things is complete, problems will be part of life for everyone--believers and non-believers alike. This we know from other texts, not this chapter.

Second, God allows problems into our lives so that he can comfort us and teach us to comfort others (v. 4). The best people to help you when you are persecuted are those who have endured persecution themselves. The best people to help you when you face a life-threatening illness are those who have been there. They are the “best people” to help because they can empathize with your struggles more deeply and more personally. They know what encouraged and helped them when they were struggling, so that makes them more equipped to help you.

Third, God allows problems into our lives to test and strengthen our faith. Verse 6 says that problems produce “in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” That “patient endurance” is not just giving up and taking it, like when you’re stuck in stopped traffic on the freeway and there is nothing you can do about it. “Patient endurance” is the ability to trust God throughout the duration of a trial rather than giving up faith in him. Trials reveal whether we are truly trusting in God or whether we are self-deceived about our faith. They also teach us to look to God for comfort, help, and deliverance which strengthens our faith when God delivers us. Verse 9 made the same point when it said, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” For true Christians, trials drive us closer to God while problems in life drive unbelievers further from him. That doesn’t mean you’ll never question God; read the Psalms and you’ll see plenty of verses that question God. Instead, while your faith may waver and feel week, it will ultimately hold and eventually get stronger through trials.

Fourth, God allows problems into our lives to teach others how to pray. Verse 11 says, “...as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” As you go through problems in life and ask others to pray for you, your trial gives them the opportunity to learn intercessory prayer. When the trial ends, it gives other believers who prayed for you the opportunity to give thanks to God.

What problems and struggles are you facing right now? Which of these lessons do you feel God is teaching you most directly? If you’re not facing a trial in your life right now, give thanks for God’s favor but study the list above, too, to fortify yourself for when the problems arrive.