Wisdom Says: Wisdom Doesn’t Hide

“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: ‘To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.’ ” (Proverbs 8:1-4)

For the next week, we’re going to listen to Wisdom. Yes, I capitalized that “W” on purpose. That’s because Proverbs 8 quotes Wisdom herself, calling out to us. Yes, I wrote “us,” even though Proverbs 8 was written thousands of years ago. Wisdom wants to talk to you this week.

hurting_350Notice this first: Wisdom is not hiding. She’s not a secret available only to those of us rich enough or smart enough or spiritual enough to find her. She’s not a prize awarded to the most popular or most attractive or most polite. She wants to be found. She wants you to find her.

That’s why she’s standing there at the top of the hill, at the gate to the city, at the one spot that everyone must pass by sooner or later. And she’s not whispering. She’s yelling, calling out, looking you in the eye. She wants to be heard. She wants you to pay attention.

Think: Do you ever think of wisdom as being secretive and mysterious instead of obvious and available to all? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God for the boldness and courage to listen to Wisdom this next week. Ask Him to help you slow down long enough not to miss what she wants to tell you.

Do: Read Proverbs 1.

Hurting for Good?: Pain with Honor

“It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit . . .” (1 Peter 3:18-19)

The Apostle Peter didn’t work for Hallmark. These verses aren’t meant to be comforting, rhyming poetry decorated by soothing pastel colors. Peter is NOT saying, “Sorry you have to suffer, but at least it’s better to suffer for Jesus than for being an idiot.”

hurting_350Suffering for Jesus — being persecuted for believing in and following Him — is not a consolation prize. It is one of the highest honors a Jesus-follower can experience, and not everyone will get the opportunity.

After all, Peter reminds us, Jesus died for us, “the unrighteous.” Just for the record, He died one time and paid for all of our sins in that moment. Nobody who suffers for Him pays for any sin, obviously, but we will be resurrected as He was. And there will be special rewards for those who suffer under persecution.

Think: Do you ever think of suffering for Jesus as an honor? Do you know anyone who has been persecuted for believing in Jesus?

Pray: Ask God to provide courage and comfort for Christians under persecution around the world today.

Do: Check out persecution.net.

Hurting for Good?: Why So Hopeful?

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

How can you possibly be loving your life? I don’t understand, with all you’re going through, how you could call this a “good day?” Why don’t you just stop talking about Jesus? Be done with Him and move on. What has being a Jesus-follower done for you? Why are you still so hopeful?

hurting_350Those are the kinds of questions you should expect, according to Peter. Did you notice that he just expects, assumes, anticipates a few things here? Christians who make Christ first in their hearts will be hopeful. When the hard times come, people will notice that Christ-as-Lord Christians are hopeful. They will see joy and purpose where they would expect to see sorrow and defeat. Eventually, someone will ask “why?”

Then what? The command here is, “Always be prepared.” How? Ask yourself the question, “Why are you so hopeful?” and come up with a short, truthful, gentle, and respectful answer. Hint: It has something to do with what you’re hoping for.

Think: What are you hoping for? What could possibly happen to you in this life that would change that?

Pray: Ask God to help you to set apart Christ as Lord in your heart today.

Do: Write a paragraph answering the question, “How can you be so hopeful right now?”

Hurting for Good?: Don’t Be Frightened

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:13-14)

Two of the most powerful motivators are anger and fear. We know instinctively that selfish anger can motivate us to do hurtful things. But when we are ruled by the fear of the wrong thing, that also motivates us — to NOT do right things, to NOT boldly walk the path God has called us to.

hurting_350Peter wrote these words to people who had good reason to be frightened. They all knew that following Jesus could lead directly to painful persecution. Peter said that was less likely if they were known for doing good. He didn’t say it wouldn’t happen anyway. Hard times will come to all of us. So how can he say, “Don’t be frightened.”?

When we organize our lives to avoid suffering at all costs — to dodge all the things that scare us — we make fear our god. We serve fear by letting it tell us how to live. Peter says, “You may suffer; you may not. Either way, you have a mission to serve the God who loves you. Don’t run from the line of fire if that’s where He calls you.”

Think: How many of your decisions are based on fear of what others might think? Or of the work that might be involved? Or of losing something you care about?

Pray: Ask God to make you a fearless follower of Jesus.

Do: In today’s passage, Peter quotes Isaiah 8. Read Isaiah 8:11-17.

Hurting for Good?: Conditional Love

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)

So what’s the key to loving life and seeing good days? According to King David in Psalms, which Peter quotes in this passage, it’s all about what we say and how we live.

hurting_3501) Don’t speak evil. (Hurtful words, gossip, disrespectful talk . . .)

2) Don’t lie. Ever.

3) All sin — even the little ones — are evil. Don’t hang out there. Turn around.

4) Do good.

5) Always keep your eyes peeled for peace; when you see it, chase it down.

6) Live like God cares how you live. Because He does, and He will respond to you accordingly. Because He loves you.

Think: Are you motivated by the idea of “loving life” and “seeing good days”? Are you motivated enough to change how you live? Do your really believe living this way will bring that result?

Pray: Tell God you really want to love life and see good days; ask Him to help you live in a way that makes that possible — even on the hardest days.

Do: Dictionary time again: Look up and write down the definitions for evil, good, and righteous.

Hurting for Good?: Loving Life?

“For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.’ ” (1 Peter 3:10)

If you’re reading this passage out of the NIV, you’ll notice a header at the top of the section: “Suffering for Doing Good.” Peter is writing to people who have or will likely experience suffering for expressing their faith in Jesus. Spoiler alert: He’s going to tell them — and us — to live right even when life hurts so that we can point people to our hope in Jesus.

hurting_350But right in the middle of that teaching, he quotes David’s Psalm 34: “Whoever would love life and see good days.” What? I thought we were talking about suffering. Sure, we can grit our teeth and do good even when life is hard — but isn’t it a bit much to expect to “love life” and “see good days”?

Peter says no. Lousy external circumstances do NOT have to determine our internal state of mind. Like Paul, who said he’d learned the secret of contentment in good and bad times, Peter says “good days” have more to do with my heart choices than what happens to me from the outside.

Think: Why do you think saying evil things and telling lies kills our love for life and ruins our good days?

Pray: Ask God to help you love life and see good days by telling the truth and saying unevil things.

Do: Make two lists: three hurtful things and/or lies you said this last week — and three helpful things you said. How did your words help or hurt your days?

Hurting for Good?: No Touch-Backs!

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

In yesterday’s passage, Peter told this group of Christians to live in harmony with each other, to give themselves away, to show sympathy and compassion, to live like close family.

hurting_350In the very next verse, he seems to admit that families sometimes fight. Some of the angriest, meanest fights I’ve ever had were with the people closest to me. Brothers, especially, can be vicious to each other. If they’re going through hard times, they can really lash out.

Peter admits that even in this Christian family, there will be evil and insults done to each other. How should we respond? Don’t return the favor, he says. Take the hit, and let it go. No, more than that: Take the hit, and give back something good. Stop the cycle right now. That’s how a Jesus follower lives. That’s what we get rewarded for.

Think: Have you ever made the conscious choice in the moment not to “get even” in words or actions with someone who hurt you? How did that feel? What were the results?

Pray: Ask God for the maturity to stop the cycle of traded hurt and insults when it is in your power to do so.

Do: Look for an opportunity this week to hand a blessing to someone who says or does something hurtful to you.