Call to Worship

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great
mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection
of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled,
and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded
through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you
rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by
various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than
gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and
glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him,
you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice
with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your
faith, the salvation of your souls.

Blessed be He–the God and Father of us all. The creator God, the Savior King, the Shepherd who died, The living God. Thank you Father for creating us, saving us, and giving us an inheritance that will last forever.  God… I want to see you. Maybe not fully here on earth, but I want to see you shine through people, I want to know you so well that I see your hands and actions everywhere, your laughter, your smiles, your touch, your truth, you working through the circumstances… Please let me see you…and teach me to have faith.

Confession

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you
there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen
wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Almighty
God, our Redeemer, in our weakness we have failed to be your messengers of
forgiveness and hope. Renew us by your Holy Spirit, that we may follow your
commands and proclaim your reign of love, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Thank you for forgiveness…

Contemplation

GOSPEL READING

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a
fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to
tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant
to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took
him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them
another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully.
And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they
beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent
him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one
another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will
the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the
vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders
rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous
in our eyes’?” And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they
perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went
away.

DEVOTIONAL

Whenever I try to make sense of suffering, I end up in the same dilemma. On one hand,
I know that my hardships and afflictions are relatively insignificant compared to what
I see around me; much less, what I am aware of around the world. mmhmmm On the other hand,
I cannot deny that I get sick, stretched, slandered, and snubbed. Privileged as they are,
I feel burdened by my circumstances and frustrated with my struggle against sin. me too It’s
dishonest to say I don’t suffer, at least from my perspective.

So how are we to view the various forms of hardship and trial that we face? What is the
relationship between our faith and suffering?

Some teach that Jesus suffered so we wouldn’t have to, but an honest assessment is that
no one escapes suffering in a fallen world. It is more than physical hardship. It’s also
emotional pain, relational woes, soul unrest, and spiritual attack. Jesus’ death does not
take away our suffering, but it gives profound meaning and purpose to it.

Consider James’ exhortation to those who suffer: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when
you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces
steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and
complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

I said previously that suffering happens to us. We cannot control our circumstances, but
we can control how we think about them. so true. Dan McCartney comments, “Knowing how
to interpret events and actions is a large part of wisdom, and the faithful attitude of the
Christian is one of joy.” 🙂

We can rejoice on two accounts. First, suffering provides a context for our faith to mature.
The “trials of various kinds” represent the pressures of life that threaten our sense of
well-being. When we are sick or stuck or grieved, we tend to doubt God’s sovereignty
and goodness in our lives. Every test of our body or mind or emotion is fundamentally a
“testing of our faith” (1:2). In other words, the quality of our faith is proven in suffering,
tested and shown to be genuine. In the way that an object is proven to be gold in the
fire, the “proof” of our faith is in the “fiery trial” (1 Peter 4:12). Whether we are talking
about common adversities or more acute hardships, we can embrace and even rejoice in
suffering because we know that it produces character and hope and maturity (Romans
5:3, James 1:2-4).

Second, suffering focuses our hope on the consummation of all things, when God “will
wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there
be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4). Just as Jesus endured
the cross for the joy set before him (Hebrew 12:2), so too we look to the day when the
steadfast will receive the crown of life (James 1:12).

Wisdom, suffering, and maturity are all bound together in the person and work of
Christ. He “became to us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30), and he was “made
perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10). So then: we are justified by Christ’s suffering
and sanctified by ours. By this we are reminded that suffering is not a setback to our
agendas, but rather an orientation to God’s agenda, which is to form the character of
Christ in us.

Ultimately, God does not ask us to explain suffering. He asks us to rejoice in it and
endure it.

REFLECTION

1. How have you questioned God’s sovereignty or goodness in your life? I don’t know that this is something I honestly struggle with much… I know God is good. He has blessed me with that childlike faith that whatever is happening to me will end up okay. I didn’t do anything to get that faith…He just blessed me with it. I don’t have a hard time believing that God is weaving every little thing into a beautiful and majestic whole tapestry that will reveal His true glory. And I thank Him for that.

2. How does the desire for comfort over character play out in your life? Now this…THIS is what I struggle with. I am such a lazy, selfish person that pretty much anything uncomfortable I find a way out of if I can. If it’s an uncomfortable situation that HAPPENS to me it’s more endurable… but specifically CHOOSING to do the right and selfless thing when it’s uncomfortable, or going out of my way to work harder than absolutely necessary…yeah…not happening. or… I should say. It hasn’t happened much in the past, but I don’t want to be that person. I want to be selfless… I want to be hard-working. I want to work hard and go to bed tired but knowing I did all I could with my day and loved on the people God placed in my life. I’ve started trying to work on this by getting up early and going to a yoga class at my church, and my husband and I gave up TV shows for lent…and I’m cutting back on my computer time (other than doing my Bible studies on here) so I’ll be offline a lot more and I’m hoping that limiting myself in those areas that I usually waste time will help to encourage me to do the things that I know I can and should do to help others.

3. Are you willing to ask God to purify your faith? yes

Closing Prayer

O God Whose will conquers all, there is no comfort in anything apart from
enjoying thee and being engaged in thy service; Thou art All in all, and all
enjoyments are what to me thou makest them, and no more. I am well pleased
with thy will, whatever it is, or should be in all respects, And if thou bidst me
decide for myself in any affair, I would choose to refer all to thee, for thou art
infinitely wise and cannot do amiss, as I am in danger of doing. I rejoice to
think that all things are at thy disposal, and it delights me to leave them there.
Then prayer turns wholly into praise, and all I can do is to adore and bless thee.
Amen

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