July 2: Conflict and Certainty
1 Samuel 2:22–4:22; James 1:9–18; Psalm 119:17–32
Conflict drives fiction and riveting movies, but if we had it our way, we’d live stable, stress-free lives. We might crave the excitement or change of a vacation, but we rarely welcome an unexpected complication. So when James says to “count it all joy … when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas 1:2), we are tempted to dismiss his perspective as something that works on paper but should not disrupt our real lives.
James shows us how to internalize a faithful response to unwelcome conflict. He starts by describing a negative reaction: When difficult times come, we might be like the person who prays and then doubts that God will provide him with wisdom for the situation. This person complicates the conflict by internalizing it with uncertainty and doubt. He is “like the surf of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed about” (Jas 1:6).
The irony is that, although we only create more conflict when we doubt, we like to think we can trust ourselves. As long as we remain in control (we tell ourselves), we can avoid the storms of life. It’s tempting to manufacture an attitude of stubborn self-sufficiency—of inner strength.
That’s the opposite of how we should respond. God wants us to meet the chaos by trusting in Him. We might feel tossed about by life’s events, but God provides us with wisdom for the chaos we encounter. When we ask Him and trust that He’ll provide us with wisdom, He gives generously and without reproach (Jas 1:5).
Stability isn’t an inner strength, but certainty in God’s provision is. We can meet the uncertain with the certain when we trust God to help us work through the chaos. We can also remember that, at the end of the novel, the protagonist who endures conflict is changed by the experience. In the same way, God is working through the conflict in our lives to make us more wholly devoted to Him, since “testing produces steadfastness” (Jas 1:3). And there will be an end: We’ll “receive the crown of life that he has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12).
How are you turning to Christ in the midst of difficult circumstances?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- So Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel, and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for of all this people I hear evil reports of you. Do no more, my sons: for it is no good report that I hear, which is, that ye make the Lord’s people to trespass. If one man sin against another, the Judge shall judge it: but if a man sin against the Lord, who will plead for him? Notwithstanding they obeyed not the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them. (Now the child Samuel profited, and grew, and was in favor both with the Lord and also with men.) And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Did not I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharoah’s house? And I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my Priest, to offer upon my altar, and to burn incense, and to wear an Ephod before me, and I gave unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of israel. Wherefore have you kicked against my sacrifice and mine offering, which I commanded in my Tabernacle, and honorest thy children above me, to make yourselves fat of the firstfruits of all the offerings of Israel my people? Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said, that thine house, and the house of thy father should walk before me forever: but now the Lord saith, It shall not be so: for them that honor me, I will honor, and they that despise me, shall be despised. Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy fathers house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. And thou shalt see thine enemy in the habitation of the Lord in all things wherewith God shall bless Israel, and there shall not be an old man in thine house forever. Nevertheless, I will not destroy every one of thine from mine altar, to make thine eyes to fail, and to make thine heart sorrowful: and all the multitude of thine house shall die when they be men. And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons Hophn and Phinehas: in one day they shall die both. And I will stir up a faithful Priest, that shall do according to mine heart, and according to my mind: and I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before mine Anointed forever. And all that are left in thine house, shall come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Appoint me, I pray thee, to one of the Priest’s offices, that I may eat a morsel [of] bread. Now the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli: and the word of the Lord was precious in those days: for there was no manifest vision. And at that time, as Eli lay in his place, his eyes began to wax dim that he could not see. And yet the light of God went out, Samuel slept in the temple of the Lord, where the Ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel: and he said, Here I am. And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I, for thou callest me. But he said, I called thee not: go again and sleep. And he went and slept. And the Lord called once again, Samuel. And Samuel arose, and went to Eli, and said, I am here: for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called thee not my son: go again and sleep. Thus did Samuel, before he knew the Lord, and before the word of the Lord was revealed unto him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time: and he arose, and went to Eli, and said, I am here: for thou hast called me. Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go and sleep: and if he call thee, then say, Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went, and slept in his place. And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak, for thy servant heareth. Then the Lord said unto Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, whereof whosoever shall hear, his two ears shall tingle. In that day I will raise up against Eli all things which i have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. And I have told him that I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knoweth, because his sons ran into a slander, and he stayed them not. Now therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the wickedness of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever. Afterward Samuel slept untl the morning, and he opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and Samuel feared to show Eli the vision. Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel my son. And he answered, Here I am. Then he said, What is it, that the Lord sai dunto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me, God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide anything from me, of all that he said unto thee. So Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. Then he said, It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good. And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that faithful Samuel was the Lord’s Prophet. And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by his word. And Samuel spoke unto all Israel: and Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek. And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined the battle, israel was smitten down before the Philistines: who slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. So when the people were come into the camp, the Elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us this day before the Philistines? let us bring the Ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. Then the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from thence the Ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who dwelleth between Cherubims: and there were the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, with the Ark of the covenant of God. And when the Ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the host, all israel shouted a mighty shout, so that the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the sound of this mighty shout in the host of the Hebrews? and they understood, that they understood, that the Ark of the Lord was come into the host. And the Philistines were afraid, and said, God is come in the host: therefore said they, Woe unto us: for it hath not been so heretofore. Woe unto us, who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty God? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong and play the men, O Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have served you: be valiant therefore, and fight. And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten down, and fled every man into his tent: and there was an exceeding great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the Ark of God was taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas died. And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head. And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside, waiting: for his heart feared for the Ark of God: and when the man came into the city to tell it, all the city cried out. And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth this noise of the tumult? and the man came in hastily, and told Eli. (Now Eli was fourscore and eighteen years old, and his eyes were dim that he could not see.) And the man said to Eli, I came from the army, and I fled this day out of the host: and he said, What thing is done, my son? Then the messenger answered, and said, israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people and moreover thy two sons, Hophni and Phinehas are dead, and the Ark of God is taken. And when he had made mentio of the Ark of God, Eli fell from his seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken, and he died: for he was an old man and heavy: and he had judged Israel forty years. And his daughter-in=law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near her travail: and when she heard the report that the Ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself, and travailed: for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death, the women that stood about her, said unto her, Fear not: for thou hast borne a son: but she answered not, nor regarded it. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from israel, because the Ark of God was taken, and because of the father-in-law and her husband. She said again, Th glory is departed from Israel: for the Ark of God is taken. 1 Samuel 2:22–4:22
- Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: Again, he that is rich, in that he is made low, for as the flower of the grass, shall he vanish away. For as when the sun riseth with heat, then the grass withereth, and his flower falleth away, and the goodly shape of it perisheth: even so shall the rich man whither away in all his ways. Blessed is the man, that endureth tentation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to the that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own concupiscence, and is enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Err not my dear brethen. Every good giving and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be as the firstborn of his creatures. James 1:9–18
- Be beneficial unto thy servant, that I may live and keep thy word. Open mine eyes, that I may see the wonders of thy Law. I am a stranger upon earth: hide not thy commandments from me. Mine heart destroyed the proud: cursed are they that do err from thy commandments. Remove from me shame and contempt: for I have kept thy testimonies. Princes also did sit, and my delight, and my counselors. My soul cleaveth to the dust: quicken me according to thy word. I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach my thy statutes. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts, and I will meditate in thy wondrous works. My soul melteth for heaviness: raise me up according to thy word. Take from me the way of lying, and grant me graciously thy Law. I have chosen the way of truth, and thy judgments have I laid before me.. I have cleaved to thy testimonies, O Lord: confound me not. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge mine heart. Psalm 119:17–32