Suffering (Days 22-30): Read through Isaiah, James, 1-3 John, and Jude

Just desserts. Suffering for something done which was stupid or sinful. We’ve all been there because we’re all stupid or sinful at times. We suffer because of our own shortcomings, but we also suffer because of other people’s failings. At other times, we suffer just as a common condition of mankind. A relative’s death brings crushing suffering. A diagnosis of cancer places a heavy weight on you and your family. A friend suffers with Alzheimer’s while you visit your 30-year friend as a stranger. Your business goes belly-up as a result of a downturn in the economy. Your employer transfers you to another state. An injury due to a texting driver nags you daily. There wasn’t anything that you did that directly led to the suffering, but you have to endure it nonetheless. God wants us to look to Him in our suffering, whether we’ve done it to ourselves or not. However, there’s a special kind of suffering of which God takes notice—suffering because we’ve done something right.

Suffering for doing what’s right is biblical. Let’s focus on suffering which you may endure because you did something to lead to it. You did something right. This is commendable. Peter says, For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you (1 Peter 2 NLT). The Old Testament prophets suffered for doing what’s right. James says, Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience. See, we count as blessed those who have endured (James 5 CSB). The apostles suffered for preaching the gospel. Stephen was stoned for speaking the truth. Peter and John were imprisoned for healing a man and giving glory to Jesus. Eventually, Paul was executed as well as ten of the original twelve. Peter went on to explain, For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2 CSB). Peter then recalls a passage in Isaiah 53 about the Suffering Servant Jesus. You’ll read this this week. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds (Isaiah 53 CSB).

If you’re suffering, endure patiently. If you’re suffering for doing something good, then endure patiently, and take comfort that you’re walking in Jesus’ steps. You’re walking in Jesus’ sandals. He’s been there. However, the difference is that Jesus suffered for doing what was right, and He’d done no wrong–ever.

This week you’ll read…

Isaiah 49-66: “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53 in The Christian Standard Bible).

James 5: “Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit” (James 5 in The Christian Standard Bible).

1-3 John: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Jude 1: “Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1 in The Christian Standard Bible).

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

Living Faith Works (Days 15-21): Read through Psalms, Isaiah, and James

Jesus’ brother James wrote one of most beloved books of the Bible—James. It’s beloved because it’s so practical. He preached about doing. He preached that a real, saving faith will produce righteous works. A belief that doesn’t move you to action is a false faith in the same vein as a demon’s faith. James wrote that we must not merely be hearers but doers. This is the main idea of the big little book of James. True faith will result in action. It’s not merely an alleged faith but an applied faith. If you look throughout the book, you’ll see how James basically says that if you claim to have faith, you should be living it out here and here and here.

You say that you have faith, but…

  • Are you looking after the needy (James 1)?
  • Are you treating people equally (James 2)?
  • Are you treating some people better because it benefits you more (James 2)?
  • Do you pass by truly needy brothers or sisters in Christ without lending a hand when you have the means (James 2)?
  • Does your faith affect what and how you speak to others (James 3)?
  • Whose wisdom do you seek and use—God’s or the world’s (James 3)?
  • Are you just trying to get your own way by fighting with others (James 4)?
  • Are you making your own plans or seeking God’s will (James 4)?
  • Are you treating your employees harshly or with a heavy hand (James 5)?
  • Are you patiently enduring suffering (James 5)?
  • Are you being truthful? Are you keeping your word (James 5)?
  • Are you confessing your sin (James 5)?
  • Are you praying (James 5)?
  • Are you helping other believers turn back to Christ (James 5)?

Remember that you are not saved by your works. However, a truly living faith works.

This week you’ll read…

Psalms 135-137: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His faithful love endures forever” (Psalms 136 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Isaiah 34-48: “Youths may become faint and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40 in The Christian Standard Bible).

James 1-4: “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1 in The Christian Standard Bible).

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

No Escape (Days 8-14): Read through Psalms and Isaiah

The story is told of a merchant who sent his servant to the marketplace to purchase supplies. In just a little while, the servant returned but was pale and terribly frightened and exclaimed, “Master, just a moment ago as I was in the bazaar, I was jostled by a woman in the crowd. When I turned around, I saw that it was Death that had jostled me. She saw me and made a menacing motion. Now, please let me borrow your horse, and I shall ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra, and Death will not find me there. The master loaned him his horse, and the servant hopped on and spurred the horse hard, riding as fast as the horse could take him to Samarra. Then the master went down to the market and saw Death standing in the crowd. The master went over to Death and asked, “Why did you make a menacing motion to my servant when you saw him this morning?” Death responded, “That was not a menacing motion. It was a jolt of surprise. I was amazed to see him in town, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”[1]

This story may imply that no one can outrun his fate, but life is not fatalistic. It’s not “whatever will be will be.” Life is given and taken by the Life-giver. God is not an impersonal Fate to whom we must submit. He is a personal God who is in control of galaxies and guppies and yet has chosen to lavish love on lowlifes like us. God is the grand orchestrator. He is the God “who opens and no one will close, and who closes and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7 in The Christian Standard Bible). He is the One whose judgment no one can thwart as Isaiah the prophet states, “Whoever flees at the sound of panic will fall into a pit, and whoever escapes from the pit will be caught in a trap…” (Isaiah 24:18 in The Christian Standard Bible). As the man in the Death story was unable to undo Death’s plan, so no one will undo God’s doings. As the man attempted to thwart Death’s plan, he actually carried it out. So, too, our actions will not subvert God’s plan. I can’t explain exactly how God’s control and our freedom paradoxically work together, but they do. I also know that God’s rule over the affairs of man and the universe far surpass our control and freedom which are only gifts from God anyway. He’s in ultimate control, and, whether you like it or not, there’s no escape from Him.

This week you’ll read…

Psalms 128-134: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalms 133 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Isaiah 19-33: “Lord, be gracious to us! We wait for You. Be our strength every morning and our salvation in time of trouble” (Isaiah 33 in The Christian Standard Bible).

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

[1] https://www.k-state.edu/english/baker/english320/Maugham-AS.htm

STOP IT (Days 1-7): Read through Psalms and Isaiah

Stop it! Have you ever said that to your kids? Stop smacking! Stop running in the house! Stop hitting your brother! Stop it! Stop! Stop! Stop! Some people would say to stop using that stop-language. It’s too negative. Lol. They say to be positive in your language. Keep your lips together when eating, dear. Running is for outside, honey. Keep your hands to yourself, sweetheart. That does sound nice, but do I have to refer to my kids as dear, honey, and sweetheart? Can’t I say ungrateful whiner and money-grabber. There’s that negative thinking again. I jest, of course.

The truth of the matter is that negative and positive language are both appropriate at times and inappropriate at times. I’m all for looking for ways to say things better, but when your child is about to walk in front of a moving car in the parking lot, “Honey, look both ways before crossing the lane” is not going to keep your child free of harm. That negative, psyche-damaging language is the only way to go. STOP! DON’T MOVE! Wisdom and love teach us when and how to use both types of words.

Notice God’s words through the prophet, “…Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good…” (Isaiah 1:16-17 The Christian Standard Bible). Both kinds of language are present in these two sentences. They’re like opposite sides of the same coin. We need to be directed away from the bad and directed toward the good. You needed it when you were young, and you need it today as well. Look at that sin in your life. Stop it! Now look at God’s word. See. This is what you’re to do—the good. Keep on doing this. This is a lifelong process to grow in practical righteousness and distance our behavior from the filthiness of the world. If you still don’t like negative language in your life, I’ve got two words for you. Stop it!

This week you’ll read…

Psalms 121-127: “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain” (Psalms 127 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Isaiah 1-18: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6 in The Christian Standard Bible).

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.