May 2: Don’t Focus on Overcoming
Judges 2:11–3:31; Philippians 1:12–18; Psalm 63–64
When I go through difficult circumstances, I want the end. I’m so focused on escape and overcoming that I barely think about what God might be teaching me through that experience. And I’m certainly not thinking about how He might be using me to witness to others.
Paul was on a completely different wavelength. In his letter to the church at Philippi, he sets his Roman imprisonment in context: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that my circumstances have happened instead for the progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in Christ has become known in the whole praetorium and to all the rest” (Phil 1:12–13).
Paul wasn’t just enduring or anticipating the end of his imprisonment. He was using his experience to be a witness for Christ. His captors must have wondered: what makes a person willing to suffer like this? What makes his message worth imprisonment?
Paul’s circumstances didn’t merely create waves with those he was testifying to. Other believers were emboldened by Paul’s endurance and preached the gospel without fear (Phil 1:14).
It’s not natural to be filled with joy in the midst of difficult times. It’s not normal to have a sense of purpose when everything appears to be going wrong. We don’t expect much from ourselves or others during these times, but God wants to refine us and use us. He’s giving us a chance to display the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding”—as a testimony to Christ’s redemptive work (Phil 4:7). Are you responding?
How can you use your difficult circumstances to point others toward Christ?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- And an Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I had sworn unto your fathers, and said, I will never break my covenant with you. Ye also shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land, but shall break down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice. Why have ye done this? Wherefore, I said also, I will not cast them out before you, but they shall be as thorns unto your sides, and their gods shall be your destruction. And when the Angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, the people lifted up their voice, and wept. Therefore they called the name of that place, Bochim, and offered sacrifices there unto the Lord. Now when Joshua had sent the people away, the children of Israel went every man into his inheritance, to possess the land. And the people had served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the Elders that outlived Joshua, which had seen all the great works of the Lord that he did for Israel. But Joshua the son of Nun the servant of the Lord died, when he was an hundred and ten years old: And they buried him in the coasts of his inheritance, in Timnath Heres in mount Ephraim, on the North side of mount Gaash. And so all that generation was gathere dunto their fathers, and another generation arose after them, which neither knew the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. Then the children of Israe did wickedly in the sight of the Lord, and served Baal, And forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt and followed other gods, even the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. So they forsook the Lord, and served Baal, and Ashtoreth. And the wrath of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers, that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was sore against them, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: so he punished them sore. Notwithstanding, the Lord raised up Judges, which delivered them out of the hands of their oppressors. But yet they would not obey their Judges for they went a whoring after other gods, and wroshipped them, and turned quickly out of the way, wherein their father walked, obeying the commandments of the Lord: they did not so. And when the Lord was with the Judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the Judge (for the Lord had compassion of their groanings, because of them that oppressed them and tormented them.) Yet when the Judge was dead, they returned, and did worse than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and worship them: they ceased not from their own inventions, not from their rebellious way. Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, Because this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and hath not obeyed my voice, Therefore will I no more cast out before them any of the nations, which Josahua left when he died, That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord, to walk therein, as their fathers kept it, or not. So the Lord left those nations, and drove them not out immediately, neither delivered them into the hand of Joshua. These now are the nations which the Lord left, that he might prove Israel by them (even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan, Only to make the generations of the children of Israel to know, and to teach them war, which doubtless their predecessors knew not.) Five princes of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal Hermon until one come to Hamath. And these remained to prove Israel by them, to wit, whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hands of Moses. And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and Jebusites, And the took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. So the children of Israel did wickedly in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God, and served Baal, and Asherah. Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim King of Aram-naharaim, and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years. And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord stirred up a Savior to the children of Israel, and he saved them, even Othniel teh son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into his hand, and his hand prevailed against Cusham-Rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years, and Othniel the son of Kenaz died. Then the children of Israel against committed wickedness in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Egdon king of Moab against Israel, because they had committed wickedness before the Lord. And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon, and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and they possessed the city of palm trees. So the children of Israel served Egdon king of Moab eightteen years. But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord stirred them up a savior, Ehud the son of Gera the son of Jemini, a man lame of his right hand: and the children of Israel sent a present by him unto Eglon king of Moab. And Ehud made him a dagger with two edges of a cubit length, and he did gird it it under his raiment upon his right thigh, And he presented the gift unto Egdon king of Moab (and Eglon was a very fat man.) And when he had now presented the present, he sent away the people that bare the present, But he turned again from the quarries, that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O King. Who said, Keep silence: and all that stood about him went out from him. Then Ehud came unto him, (and he sat alone in a summer parlor, which he had) and Ehud said, I haev a message unto thee from God. Then he arose out of his throne. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly, So that the haft went in after the blade, and the fat closed about the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; but the dirt came out. Then Ehud got him out into the porch, and shut the doors of the parlor upon him, and locked them. And when he was gone out, his servants came: who seeing that the doors of the parlor were locked, they said, Surely he doeth his easement in his summer chamber. And they tarried till they were ashamed: and seeing he opened not the doors of the parlor, they took the key, and opened them, and behold, their lord was fallen dead on the earth. So Ehud escaped (while they tarried) and was past the quarries, and escaped unto Seirah, And when he came home, he blew a trumpet in mount Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mountain, and he went before them. Then said he unto them, Follow me: for the Lord hath delivered your enemies, even Moab into your hand. So they went down after him, and took the passages of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over. And they slew of the Moabites the same time about ten thousand men, all fed men, and all were warriors, and there escaped not a man. So Moab was subdued that day, under the hand of Israel: and the land had rest fourscore years. And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad, and he also delivered Israel. Judges 2:11–3:31
- I would ye understood, brethren, that the things which have come unto me, are turned rather to the furthering of the Gospel, So that my bands in Christ are famous throughout all the judgment hall, and in all other places. Insomuch that many of the brethren in the Lord are boldened through my bands, and dare more frankly speak the Word. Some preach Christ even through envy and strife, and some also of good will. The one part preacheth Christ of contentions, and not purely, supporting to add more affliction to my bands. But the others of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the Gospel. What then: yet Christ is preached all manner ways, whether it be under a pretence, or sincerely: and I therein joy: yea, and will joy. Philippians 1:12–18
- O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee: my flesh longeth greatly after thee in a barren and dry land without water: Thus I behold thee as in the Sanctuary, when I behold thy power and thy glory. For thy loving-kindness is better than life: therefore my lips shall praise thee. This will I magnify thee all my life, and lift up mine hands in thy Name. My soul shall be satisifed, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips, When I remember thee on my bed, and when I think upon thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been mine helper, therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. My soul cleaveth unto thee: for thy right hand upholdeth me. Therefore they that seek my soul to destroy it, they shall go into the lowest parts of the earth. They shall cast him down with the edge of the sword, and they shall be a portion for foxes. But the king shall rejoice in God, and all that swear by him shall rejoice in him: for the mouth of them that speak lies, shall be stopped. Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, and from the rage of the works of iniquity. Which have whet their tongue like a sword, and shot for their arrows bitter words: To shoot at the upright in secret: they shoot at him suddenly and fear not. The cncourage themselves in a wicked purpose: they commune together to lay snares privily, and say, Who shall see them? They have sought out iniquities, and have accomplished that which they sought out, even everyone his secret thoughts, and the depth of his heart. But God will shoot an arrow at them suddenly: their strokes shall be at once. They shall cause their own tongue to fall upon them: and whosoever shall see them, shall flee away. And all men shall see it, and declare the work of God, and they shall understand, what he hath wrought. But the righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and trust in him: and all that are upright of heart, shall rejoice. Psalm 63–64