Daily Devotion for May 19, 2012
Triumph of Faith by Eugene Thirion, c. 1876
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
The melody of this extraordinary quiet piece will be familiar to anyone who has sung the hymn I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.
Prayer for the Morning
Heavenly Lord, you have brought me to the beginning of a new day. As the world is renewed fresh and clean, so I ask you to renew my heart with your strength and purpose. Forgive me the errors of yesterday and bless me to walk closer in your way today. This is the day I begin my life anew; shine through me so that every person I meet may feel your presence in my soul. Take my hand, precious Lord, for I cannot make it by myself. Through Christ I pray and live,
Prayer for All People
O God, the creator and preserver of all humanity, I humbly pray to you for all sorts and conditions of people; that it might please you to make your Word known to them and bring your saving health to all nations. In particular I pray for the entirety of your church, in all of its many forms; that it may be guided and governed by your Holy Spirit, and that all who profess your name and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth. May all of us live in the unity of spirit our faith in Christ provides to us, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
Finally, I commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are ill or in distress, in their mind, body, or circumstances. May it please you to comfort and relieve them in accordance with their needs, giving them patience during their suffering, and a fortunate outcome to all of their problems. And this I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who was always pleased to relieve the suffering of those he encountered.
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made me one with your saints in heaven and on earth. Grant that in my earthly pilgrimage I may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know myself to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. I ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.
1 Peter 3:13-17 (ESV)
Defending Your Beliefs
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed.
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
Notes on the Scripture
To this point, Peter's epistle has shown us that we have been called by God to be a great nation or race and taught us specific attitudes and behaviors that will help fulfill our calling. In the previous verses, he gave us a central tenet of his lesson: "Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing." (1 Peter 3:9)
Now he takes a diversion to discuss a tangential issue, the suffering one might bear for witnessing to Christ. The churches in Turkey to whom the epistle is addressed, remember, were full of Christians who had suffered persecution in Rome and were living in exile, torn away from their homes and jobs, and driven by soldiers into a distant land.
The first two sentences seem slightly contradictory. The first is a rhetorical question that seems to say, nobody can harm you for doing good. But the passage translates poorly into English.
Peter is saying, essentially, "compare the powers of your persecutors to the power of God." In essence, the first paragraph means "Look at who might want to harm you for doing good. Even if they succeed in making you suffer, they cannot really harm you, for they did the same thing to Christ, and He was victorious over every harm they could do to Him, even death."
Peter then encourages the reader not to be troubled at the slander and criticism one can receive, and not to be goaded into a harsh response. Harsh responses to slander are fueled by fear. If we do not fear even the nastiest criticism, we will not respond harshly. Our confidence will enable us to respond with the gentleness and respect of a good conscience, which will put the critics to shame.
In other words, the only effective response to even the most vile criticism of our beliefs is gentle and respectful. We must, above all, demonstrate the virtues we profess when we defend our beliefs.
Finally, he makes an interesting point. A human being will suffer. Is it better to suffer the criticism we get for being Christians, or to try to avoid that suffering by doing evil? By betraying our call to Christ? For we know that the harm of doing evil is to be cut off from God and to suffer eternal damnation.