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Day 158 of 365 • This day’s reading

Devotional

Trials and Temptations


John Wimber, the US pastor and pioneer of the Vineyard movement, had a huge influence on the church around the world. He died at the age of sixty-three. Life had often been extremely difficult for him.



He had been subject to an outrageous amount of criticism. I remember him once saying to me, ‘Notoriety is fun for a short time, but after that it is just hassle.’ But perhaps what broke his heart more than anything was the fact that three of the men who were closest to him, whom he loved and treated as his sons, all fell into temptation and moral failure.



God used John Wimber in extraordinary ways, but he and his team faced many trials and temptations. This is how life is, and the Bible is not at all naïve about it. Usually, as we emerge from one battle, there is another one around the corner. This is the challenge of life. 




Psalm 71:1-8



1. Take confidence in the Lord



This psalm is full of indications of difficulty and opposition. Yet through it all, the writer says, ‘From my birth I have relied on you’ (v.6). In the psalm we see three key aspects of what that reliance on God involves:




  • Prayer

    Here is a prayer that you can pray: ‘I run for dear life to God… get me out of this mess’ (vv.1–2, MSG).

  • Patience

    Once you have cried out for help and cast your burdens on the Lord, the next step is to hope in him with confidence (v.5): ‘You keep me going when times are tough... I’ve hung on you’ (vv.5–6, MSG).

  • Praise

    You can praise God before, during and after battles you face: ‘I’ll never run out of praise’ (v.8, MSG).




Lord, thank you that I can rely on you as I look to the future and the battles ahead.





Acts 4:1-22



2. Take courage from being with Jesus



Authentic Christianity is bound to lead to opposition and trials of one sort or another. Here, the disciples have been put in jail and literally on trial. Effectively, they were charged with the crime of being Christians (though they didn’t go by that name at the time). There has not been a single period in church history when Christians have not been tried for this offence somewhere in the world.



It was not disputed that the man had been healed. In the Gospels it is Jesus who does the miracles; in Acts ordinary people do miracles in his name. When asked, ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’ (v.7), filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter replied, ‘It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead’ (v.10). Today, you can pray in this same powerful way.



Peter had the audacity to tell his judges that they were guilty of crucifying the saviour of the world. They had rejected and crucified Jesus. Peter had been frightened to admit to a servant girl that he even knew Jesus. Now, he is a changed person. He proclaims Jesus and the resurrection in public, in the court where Jesus was tried and 500 yards from where he was crucified.



The key was that Peter had encountered the risen Jesus and was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (v.8). He now knew what Jesus had come to do and, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus was with him and helping him.



Peter continues, ‘salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved’ (v.12).



It is not surprising that ‘They couldn’t take their eyes off them – Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus’ (v.13, MSG).



Peter and John may not have had much formal education, but they had been to ‘school with Jesus’. They were his disciples. They had been to the ‘College of God’s Word’. And now they were studying at the ‘University of the Holy Spirit’. Many of the people used greatly by God have had little formal education.



Peter and John were threatened and told not to speak about Jesus. But they replied, ‘We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (v.20).



As they faced their judges, they were hugely helped by the fact that everyone could see what an amazing miracle had taken place. The forty-year-old healed man was standing there as living testimony to the power of Jesus (vv.14–21).




Lord, fill me with your Spirit and give me the same courage that Peter and John had so that I can go on proclaiming Jesus, whatever the cost and whatever the opposition. May we see outstanding miracles like those that you performed through your first followers.





2 Samuel 11:1-12:31



3. Take care to please God



In contemporary culture, the words ‘You are the man!’ (12:7) might be words of admiration! But these are among the most haunting words in the whole Bible. David had been found out. He had been tempted and had fallen into sin. He did it in secret and thought he had got away with it. But God saw everything. In one of the supreme understatements of the Bible we are told, ‘the thing David had done displeased the Lord’ (11:27).



Where did it all go wrong?



The point is often made that David’s first mistake was to remain in Jerusalem (v.1). If he had been out there fighting the battle with his people, he would have been less prone to temptation than sitting at home with rather too little to do. John Wimber often used to say, ‘It’s hard to sit still and be good.’ We are much less likely to fall into temptation when we are fully occupied and in the right place.



David gradually slipped. He saw a ‘stunningly beautiful woman’ bathing (v.2, MSG). There was no sin yet, only temptation. However, he must have given in to lustful adulterous thoughts because he made a plan, sent for her to sleep with him and sinned greatly.



Although by the standards of his day it was nothing compared to what other kings would have done, he then planned a cover-up that did not work. Eventually, it ended in the murder of Uriah. As often happens, sin led to more sin – and the cover-up was worse than the original sin.



David must have felt absolutely crushed at Nathan’s words: ‘You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “I anointed you… I delivered you… I gave you… And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?”’ (12:7–9). Not only had David messed up badly, but he was also someone who should have known better.



Amazingly, God forgave David even this enormous sin (v.13). There is no sin or failing that is too great for God to forgive, and no situation into which God’s grace cannot reach. No matter what you have done, God can forgive you.



The key to receiving that forgiveness is admitting our guilt and repenting of what we have done. This is the great difference between David (whom God forgave when he sinned) and Saul (whom God did not). Whereas Saul tried to justify himself (see 1 Samuel 15), David simply admitted everything. He said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord’ (2 Samuel 12:13). In effect he just said, ‘I’m sorry!’



Forgiveness does not take away the consequences of our actions though. For David the consequences were huge. His baby son died as a result (vv.13–14), and God warned him that, because of his violent actions, ‘the sword shall never depart from your house’ (v.10). The consequences of David’s sin were long lasting.



Nevertheless, this was not the end for David. God did not abandon him. Although his son died, there is hope. One day they will be reunited: ‘I will go to him, but he will not return to me’ (v.23). Not only that, but God gave to David another son, Solomon, and ‘The Lord loved him’ (v.24).



This account is a warning and an encouragement. It is a warning to us to take responsibility for our lives, to put in boundaries, to get help early and to watch and pray that we do not fall into temptation.



If you have fallen, like David admit your sin, confess, repent, grieve if necessary and then get on with your life looking forward to what God has in store for you. We all mess up from time to time. God forgives. He restores. He blesses us again.




Lord, guard my heart and the hearts of all your people, that we may be faithful to you.





Pippa Adds


2 Samuel 11–12



We try to cover up our failings, but God sees them all.