Finding Faith in Trials

Psalm 11.5
The LORD tests the righteous.

Finding Faith in Trials | by Steven Dilla

Dorothy Parker sold her first poem to Vanity Fair in 1914 and wrote prolifically for the next five decades. Near the height of her success, Parker revealed a sentiment few writers admit, but to which all can relate; “I hate writing, I love having written.”

To be fair, nearly all disciplines require sacrifice and dedication to a difficult process in order to produce beauty. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, who performed at The Metropolitan Opera in the early 1900’s, had a long and difficult rise from obscurity to fame. “Bisogna soffrire per essere grandi,” he said regularly. “To be great, it is necessary to suffer.”

This process — beauty born of suffering — is found all around us. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone;” Jesus says, “but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” We love the fruit, but do not often reflect on the death that bore it.

What often goes unnoticed in the difficulty of the trial is the way it activates a person’s faith. It is possible, for many of us in the comfort of the modern western world, never to actually engage our faith at the deepest levels. It is the pain of crisis that pushes us from the assumptions and pleasantries of religion into the depths of genuine love and trust in God.

What we find, at the depths of God’s presence and love, is the fruit of the resurrection. “Death used to be an executioner,” said the english poet George Herbert, “but the resurrection of Christ makes him nothing but a gardener. When he tries to bury you, he’s really planting you, and you’re going to come up better than before.”

“Having written” worked out well for Parker. In addition to hundreds of poems, Parker published nine books, composed a play, and she was on the founding editorial board for The New Yorker. Her legacy lives through her words she endured to write.

How much greater the reward for those who persevere in faith?

Prayer
God, you are our greatest hope. We cling to you in times of trial. We long for you to refine us — give us strength and endurance in the process. Forgive us for our brokenness and pride. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 10 (Listen – 4:17)
Psalms 11-12 (Listen – 1:59)

Finding Faith in Injustice

Psalm 10.1
Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

I ducked under the police barricade tape a little over an hour after the gas explosion rocked the East Village last month. Since the first-hours of the response to September 11, New York City has called on clergy to care for needs of victims, family members, and sometimes the responders themselves.

As I stood a few hundred feet from the three buildings engulfed in flames I couldn’t help but think of our great need for God’s intervention in the brokenness of our world. Twenty two people were injured that day, two lost their lives, and dozens lost everything they owned in an instant.

Meanwhile that day, our minds were dealing with what was known about Germanwings flight 9525, ISIS was still the scourge of the Middle East, and a near-endless list of infirmity and injustice billowed around the world.

Little of this has changed to date — and, although the problems are different, the past was full of its share of tyranny and pestilence as well.

David’s frustration at injustice is justified. His boldness in prayer is admirable.

We should aspire to join him in both. As we do, however, we cannot miss the reality of our role in the injustice we long to see God destroy. We are coconspirators in other people’s pain — our passivity, our lies, our sin are all part of the injustice of this world.

“Justice alone will destroy us all,” writes Don Carson in his book How long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. “There is, no doubt, a place for asking God to display his justice in a particular case. But such requests must not presuppose that justice is the only thing we need, or  that we are more just than God, or that we can afford to tell God that he is not just enough.”

We need both the justice and mercy of God. It is Christ’s love on the cross, his promise in resurrection, and the new life found in his grace which end our pain, redeem our lives, and give us hope in the face of injustice.

Prayer
Father, we long for you to come quickly. End the injustice of this world. In wrath, remember mercy. Help us to rest in your grace, to trust in your sovereignty, and to give ourselves to your restorative work in our world today.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 9 (Listen – 3:18)
Psalms 10
 ( – 2:13)

Going To The Place Of Painful, Shameful Execution

Today: Going To The Place Of Painful, Shameful Execution: a Holy Week reflection and prayer guide to prepare our hearts and minds for Easter. Curated by Steven Dilla.

Leviticus 6.24-25
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron and his sons: ‘These are the regulations for the sin offering: The sin offering is to be slaughtered before the LORD in the place the burnt offering is slaughtered; it is most holy.”

How Long, O Lord (an excerpt) | by Don Carson

Suffering the opprobrium of the world is bound up with what it means to be a Christian. Perhaps the most famous passage in this connection is Mark 8.34–38: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

“To take up one’s cross” does not mean to put up with some relatively minor irritant, like a crabby in-law or a runny nose. Crucifixion was the form of execution reserved for the most despised and evil of criminals.

After sentence was passed, the victim was scourged with the most severe of the three Roman levels of beating (the verberatio), and then the cross-member was lashed to his arms and shoulders so that he could carry it out to the place of execution. There the cross-member was fastened to the upright member of the cross, already sunk in the ground. Thus, for anyone to “take up their cross” was to go to the place of painful, shameful execution.

To use that expression in a metaphorical sense is not to strip it of its force. Jesus means that his followers must die to self-interest, declare themselves dead to the glories and attractions of this world, and be prepared for suffering, even the most ignominious suffering. And in this, we are doing no more than following Jesus, for that is the way he went—without the advantage of hiding behind metaphorical language.

Second, the alternative is to forfeit one’s soul. It is to gain the approval of the “world” and Jesus’ disapproval. The confrontation between, on the one hand, Jesus and his kingdom, and, on the other, the world he has come to redeem, is so total that one necessarily sides with one or the other. 

The irony is that those who “lose” their lives by this “crucifixion” thereby find their lives. They discover what they had always denied before: they belong to God by creation, and they can never find themselves, never be fulfilled, never realize their potential, unless they abandon self-interest and abandon themselves to God. But as long as that takes place in this rebellious and self-focused world, suffering and opposition are inevitable.

Lenten Evening Prayer: The Daily Examen
1. Opening prayer of invitation: become aware of God’s presence (2 minutes).
2. Review the day with gratitude (3 minutes).
3. Pay attention to your emotions (3 minutes).
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it (5 minutes).
5. Closing prayer: look toward tomorrow (2 minutes).

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 6 (Listen – 4:17)
Psalms 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

Holy Week Reflections
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

 ___________________________________

This Weekend’s Readings
Saturday: Leviticus 7 (Listen – 5:13); Psalms 7-8 (Listen – 2:58)
Sunday: Leviticus 8 (Listen – 5:06); Psalm 9 (Listen – 2:21)

___________________

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ___________________________________

The Glory of the Cross

Today: The Glory of the Cross: a Holy Week reflection and prayer guide to prepare our hearts and minds for Easter. Curated by Steven Dilla.

Psalm 4.4
Ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah

Who Put Jesus On The Cross (an excerpt) | by A.W. Tozer

Our Lord Jesus Christ “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

For our iniquities and our transgressions He was bruised and wounded. I do not even like to tell you of the implications of His wounding. It really means that He was profaned and broken, stained and defiled. He was Jesus Christ when men took Him into their evil hands. Soon He was humiliated and profaned. They plucked out His beard. He was stained with His own blood, defiled with earth’s grime. Yet He accused no one and He cursed no one. He was Jesus Christ, the wounded One.

He was profaned for our sakes. He who is the second Person of the Godhead was not only wounded for us, but He was also profaned by ignorant and unworthy men. Isaiah reported that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him.”

But the suffering of Jesus Christ was not punitive. It was not for Himself and not for punishment of anything that He Himself had done.

The suffering of Jesus was corrective. He was willing to suffer in order that He might correct us and perfect us, so that His suffering might not begin and end in suffering, but that it might begin in suffering and end in healing.

Brethren, that is the glory of the cross! That is the glory of the kind of sacrifice that was for so long in the heart of God! That is the glory of the kind of atonement that allows a repentant sinner to come into peaceful and gracious fellowship with his God and Creator! 

It began in His suffering and it ended in our healing. It began in His wounds and ended in our purification. It began in His bruises and ended in our cleansing.

Lenten Evening Prayer: The Daily Examen
1. Opening prayer of invitation: become aware of God’s presence (2 minutes).
2. Review the day with gratitude (3 minutes).
3. Pay attention to your emotions (3 minutes).
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it (5 minutes).
5. Closing prayer: look toward tomorrow (2 minutes).

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 5 (Listen – 3:35)
Psalms 3-4 (Listen – 1:56)

Holy Week Reflections
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

___________________

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ___________________________________

What is Truth?

Today: What is Truth? — a Holy Week reflection and prayer guide to prepare our hearts and minds for Easter. Curated by Steven Dilla.

Psalm 2.1-2
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together.

Our Lord’s First Appearance Before Pilate (an excerpt) | by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Our Lord also said that his kingdom came not from this world; it is a substantial kingdom, but it did not spring from the same sources as the kingdoms of the world, neither is it supported, maintained, or increased by the same power as that which the kingdoms of the world depend upon. 

Christ’s kingdom does not depend upon the force of arms: he would have his followers lay these weapons all aside. Christ’s kingdom does not depend, as earthly kingdoms too often do, upon craft, policy, and duplicity. 

He comes to bear witness to the truth, and it is by the truth, not by force nor by craft, that his throne is established among the sons of men, and therefore it is not from this world.

The Master tells us that the main force and power of his kingdom lies in the truth. 

He came to be a King, but where is his scepter? The truth. Where is his sword? It cometh out of his mouth: he bears witness to the truth. Where are his soldiers? They are men of truth. 

Poor Pilate, he did not understand our Lord, even as the men of this world understand not the kingdom of Christ. He said to him, “What is truth?” and without waiting for a reply he went out to the Jews. (John 18.38)

Shun all proud worldliness like that of Pilate. Pilate treats the whole matter cavalierly; he is a proud and haughty Roman; he hates the people whom he governs, and though he has a conscience, and at the first he shows a tenderness towards his prisoner, yet his chief end and aim was to keep his office and amass money, and therefore innocent blood must be spilt. 

He must please the Jews, even if he murder the “Just One.” This selfish worldliness in which a man makes his gold and himself his god always treats religion with contempt. The man minds the main chance, and sneeringly cries, “What is truth?” He knows what money is and what power is, but what is truth? It is a dream, a folly to him, and he despises it.

Lenten Evening Prayer: The Daily Examen
1. Opening prayer of invitation: become aware of God’s presence (2 minutes).
2. Review the day with gratitude (3 minutes).
3. Pay attention to your emotions (3 minutes).
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it (5 minutes).
5. Closing prayer: look toward tomorrow (2 minutes).

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 4 (Listen – 5:17)
Psalms 1-2 (Listen – 2:05)

Holy Week Reflections
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

___________________

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ___________________________________

The Park Forum
Cultivating vibrant faith and sharpening cultural insight. Receive a daily devotional in your inbox.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.