Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
Faith, improperly placed, can be hazardous to one's health. Today's message contrasts one reaction to Abner's death with somewhat similar circumstances among first century Christians. Recall that Abner was chief among warriors and statesmen of a divided Israel. He was seemingly the one upon whom hope for peace and unification was pinned. Ishbosheth, son of Saul and leader of the opposition against David, reacted negatively to Abner's death as the first of our focus texts points out.
2 Samuel 4.1 “When Saul’s son heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost heart, and all Israel was troubled.” The news of Abner's death dealt a crushing blow to the heart of Ishbosheth. His opposition of David was doomed by the death of Abner! The expression he lost heart is one which speaks of defeatism and surrender. Regardless of the long term impact of this loss, the short term impact on Israel was devastating; note from the text that all Israel was troubled. Leadership demands courage and faith properly placed. Such was not the case with Ishbosheth!
2 Corinthians 4.1 “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” This statement of Paul is contrasted with the inspired record regarding Ishbosheth; where one lost heart at undesired events, the other refused to lose heart. Herein is the difference between faith properly placed and faith in men and circumstances. Ishbosheth believed in Abner and his military prowess; Paul believed in Jesus Christ and the victory that was assured in Him.
Hear Paul's own commentary on faith and perseverance: “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, 'I believed and therefore I spoke,' we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.” (2 Corinthians 4.8-14).
Rather than seeing persecutions as a deathblow to the cause of Christ, they actually seemed to buoy Paul's spirit. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4.16). He also encouraged this same reaction among others. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6.9) “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” (Ephesians 3.13). In the latter case, Paul encouraged fellow believers to see his persecutions as their glory rather than a detriment.
The Christian must know that victory is not won in the courts of men, nor on the blood-drenched fields of warfare. How strange it seems to me to hear of those who think they are justified in taking up arms against our leaders because they feel oppressed. As a Christian, I may not approve of many things our country's leaders are doing, but it is not my lot within that role to revolt in opposition to our leaders. Personally, I am appalled at the term Christian Militia and see it as a slap in the face of Paul and others who were truly oppressed and persecuted. Such actions simply cannot be reconciled with Scripture!
Rather than lose heart at contrary events, Christians should see them as signs of victory. The world majority has only been right on two occasions! Take heart in Christ and not in the might of man!
1. Where did Ishbosheth place his faith? What happened when his champion was killed?
2. How did Paul see persecutions? How did he challenge others to see them? Where did Paul place his faith? How could/can that faith be shaken?
3. Do we, as believers and acting as believers, have the right or obligation to revolt against government? If yes, how is it possible to explain Paul's reaction to governmental oppression and persecution?
4. Challenge question: On what two occasions has the world majority been right?
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