Judges 2:20-23 (NIV)
Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.
I recall the time that I prayed a very hard prayer: “Lord do whatever it takes to make my friend see the error of his ways.” The next day my friend was in jail. That was not what I expected, however, the long–term result was that good fruit has been growing from my friend since those days.
Peter writes that Christians will suffer for their faith, but unrighteous behavior or compromising the faith will also produce suffering (1 Peter 4:15). If we ignore God’s commands, we may well face consequences. As James points out, we are not to merely listen to God’s word, we are to do what it says (James 1:22).
One author describes Israel’s disobedience with James image of the person that looks at his face in the mirror and forgets what he sees (James 1:22-25). That image also raises a question for us: Are God’s people suffering today for their faith or for their lack of obedience?
We regularly pray for our fellow believers around the world who suffer for their faith. Perhaps we also need prayer for believers who do not or cannot yet take responsibility for their lack of obedience?
Scripture asks every generation to examine if the testing of our faith is a result of our faith or faithlessness. Hebrew 12:7-10 instructs us to bear with suffering, regardless of the reason for suffering, because God means it for good, for growth, for an example for others.
May our worship today provoke us to self-examination and to direct our eyes to Jesus for the sake of our spiritual health.
Lord, please show us and forgive us our sins – and if we suffer, may it be for Jesus’ sake. Amen.