"Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge, etc."
2 Peter 1:5-6
If thou wouldest enjoy the eminent grace of the full assurance of faith, under the blessed Spirit's influence, and assistance, do what the Scripture tells thee, "Give diligence." Take care that thy faith is of the right kind--that it is not a mere belief of doctrine, but a simple faith, depending on Christ, and on Christ alone. Give diligent heed to thy courage. Plead with God that he would give thee the face of a lion, that thou mayest, with a consciousness of right, go on boldly. Study well the Scriptures, and get knowledge; for a knowledge of doctrine will tend very much to confirm faith. Try to understand God's Word; let it dwell in thy heart richly.
When thou hast done this, "Add to thy knowledge temperance." Take heed to thy body: be temperate without. Take heed to thy soul: be temperate within. Get temperance of lip, life, heart, and thought. Add to this, by God's Holy Spirit, patience; ask him to give thee that patience which endureth affliction, which, when it is tried, shall come forth as gold. Array yourself with patience, that you may not murmur nor be depressed in your afflictions. When that grace is won look to godliness. Godliness is something more than religion. Make God's glory your object in life; live in his sight; dwell close to him; seek for fellowship with him; and thou hast "godliness"; and to that add brotherly love. Have a love to all the saints: and add to that a charity, which openeth its arms to all men, and loves their souls. When you are adorned with these jewels, and just in proportion as you practise these heavenly virtues, will you come to know by clearest evidence "your calling and election." "Give diligence," if you would get assurance, for lukewarmness and doubting very naturally go hand in hand.
"That he may set him with princes."
Our spiritual privileges are of the highest order. "Among princes" is the place of select society. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Speak of select society, there is none like this! "We are a chosen generation, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood." "We are come unto the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven." The saints have courtly audience: princes have admittance to royalty when common people must stand afar off. The child of God has free access to the inner courts of heaven. "For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." "Let us come boldly," says the apostle, "to the throne of the heavenly grace." Among princes there is abundant wealth, but what is the abundance of princes compared with the riches of believers? for "all things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Princes have peculiar power. A prince of heaven's empire has great influence: he wields a sceptre in his own domain; he sits upon Jesus' throne, for "He hath made us kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign forever and ever." We reign over the united kingdom of time and eternity. Princes, again, have special honour. We may look down upon all earth-born dignity from the eminence upon which grace has placed us. For what is human grandeur to this, "He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus"? We share the honour of Christ, and compared with this, earthly splendours are not worth a thought. Communion with Jesus is a richer gem than ever glittered in imperial diadem. Union with the Lord is a coronet of beauty outshining all the blaze of imperial pomp.
Today's reading: Psalm 40-42, Acts 27:1-26 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Psalm 40-42
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him....
Today's New Testament reading: Acts 27:1-26
Paul Sails for Rome
1 When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. 2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.
3 The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. 4 From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board.7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea....
[NÄ'bal] - prominence or foolish. A wealthy but churlish sheepmaster of Maon whose business was in Carmel (1 Sam. 25; 2 Sam. 2:2).
The Man Who Was a Fool by Name and Nature
Nabal is a striking illustration of a man with a name indicative of his nature. When David came to Nabal asking food for his hungry men, this churlish man refused. David set out to kill Nabal but Abigail, his beautiful wife, pled for the life of her unworthy husband. What a contrast they afford! Abigail so beautiful and Nabal so bestial - The Beauty and the Beast. Pleading for Nabal's life, Abigail said to David, "As is his name, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him." In effect, she said, "Pay no attention to my churlish husband. He's a fool by name and a fool by nature."
After his drunken orgy, Nabal was told of David's threat to take his life and he died of fright. David afterwards married Abigail, a woman of good understanding and who, as Edith Deen tells us in her most valuable handbook, All the Women of the Bible, was "the greatest influence for good and helped David to remember that he was God's anointed into whose keeping the kingdom of Israel had been entrusted."
WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO PEOPLE?
Suffering is often the direct result of the sinful things humans do to each other. The first murder occurred just four chapters into the Bible. What’s worse is that it was a brother killing his own brother. Why did bad things happen to a shepherd named Abel? It was because Cain chose hot, bitter jealousy. It was because Cain had the opportunity to live in harmony with God, but he took his God-given ability to choose and listened to the dark side of his nature.
God doesn’t murder. People do.
C.S. Lewis speculated that 80 percent of the world’s suffering is caused by the immoral choices of human beings. Several years ago I was in the Ethiopian countryside looking over vast fertile fields. The grain was laid like great sheets across the hills, shifting in color and shadow as it was pushed this way and that by the breezes. Women wearing red and yellow and green walked along the road, hunched over with large baskets on their backs. I recalled the severe famine of Ethiopia in the 1980′s. My guide told me that Ethiopia is fertile enough that it could feed the whole of Africa.
There was a drought in those days, and the crops were affected, but in the end it was sinful human beings who hoarded the available grain and prevented its distribution-purely political and tribal manipulation. That was the reason why hundreds of thousands of people died in the famine. God did not cause people to shrivel up and die of malnutrition. Cruel human beings did. And it is not the way things are supposed to be.
People naturally ask, “So why can’t God prevent people from causing the suffering that they do to other people?” The answer is that he could, and someday he will. He will decisively interrupt the affairs of the world, bring a curtain down on history, and judgment will come, along with a new creation in which there are no more tears and no more pain. But in the meantime, God allows human beings to exercise a quality that is one of the most noble things human beings possess, and also one of the most dangerous: freedom.
Freedom is one of our most cherished attributes. Why did the young men emerge from landing crafts on the beaches of Normandy and run up the beach in the face of leveling gunfire? Why did they throw themselves toward the vicious teeth of a powerful enemy? Why did they lay down their lives, many of them never to take another step toward age 20? It was for freedom. Trapped in a battle, but struggling toward freedom. It was because we need to be free to live. It is because to be human means to be free. It is because that’s the way God made us-it’s the way things were meant to be.
But the very meaning of freedom is that we are free to choose the good and we are free to choose evil. It is, in fact, the only way freedom works.
Now think about how we experience this every day with our growing and developing children. If someone asked you, “So, when exactly did you lose control of your kids?” the right answer would be, “What makes you think I ever had control of them in the first place?” A parent realizes with the passing of years that parenting is not about control, but about training. Even if you physically constrained a child, you would not really control him or her, because a human being, no matter what age, asserts the drive to act freely. He or she may comply on the outside, but crossed arms, knit brow, and stiffened lips reveal an independent will inside. Parents realize that their teenagers are progressively moving toward independence. How could it be any other way? Soon the kid will be a grown-up and will have to make daily decisions that will come out of whatever ethical and moral fabric has developed in his or her consciousness. With that freedom of choice the adolescent will make good decisions and bad decisions-and that will continue through every phase of life that follows.
To be human means to have freedom, whether we use it or abuse it. (That does not mean we are uninfluenced by forces without and within. The fact of free choice does not mean that we are entirely self-determinative. We are profoundly influenced by God, by other people, by temptation, compulsion, and addiction. But in the end, only we are responsible for the choices we make.)
Why do bad things happen to innocent people? Frequently it is because human beings act carelessly, cruelly, and maliciously toward each other. Of course it leaves us asking, why? Why must this be? Why would a young man abandon a baby at a rest stop? Why would somebody have his wife murdered? Why would somebody drive by a house and fire a gun randomly at it? Why would someone kill someone for a wallet or a jacket? Why would somebody fly a jetliner full of innocent people into a skyscraper? There is no good answer because there is nothing of goodness in this. It is, at its core, unanswerable because it is nonsensical. But even without a rational explanation for what is in essence irrational, this piece of reality does fit with everything else we know about reality. The foolish and dark use of freedom is a fracture in the world that can be traced from one end of the human race to the other; it runs to the heart of human nature. There is a terrible consistency in this randomness.
Could God have created humanity without this awesome power to choose? Yes, he could have, but then we would be robots and not human beings. We would not know a single moment of chosen love or devotion or goodness. We would not be able to worship God, or love our children or our friends. We would be incapable of understanding grace instead of greed, light instead of darkness.
God wanted to make a certain kind of creature as the last step of the creation. He created human beings invested with this incredible privilege and power, the life-giving and life-taking power of freedom. The misuse of freedom has set into human nature a series of fault lines that goes not only through humanity, but through the whole creation as well.
Like us, the whole of creation groans “as in the pains of childbirth,” it is “subjected to frustration,” and it “waits in eager expectation” for God’s final redemption when the bondage will end, and the adoption of sons and daughters of God will be complete (see Romans 8:18-39).
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Complimentary DVDavailable now.
Next time: How God helps us when we suffer