July 22, Sunday

The AMI QT devotionals from July 16-22 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Failure & Forbearance”

Jeremiah 22:20-23 (NET Bible)

People of Jerusalem, go up to Lebanon and cry out in mourning. Go to the land of Bashan and cry out loudly. Cry out in mourning from the mountains of Moab. For your allies have all been defeated. 21 While you were feeling secure I gave you warning. But you said, “I refuse to listen to you.” That is the way you have acted from your earliest history onward. Indeed, you have never paid attention to me. 22 My judgment will carry off all your leaders like a storm wind! Your allies will go into captivity. Then you will certainly be disgraced and put to shame because of all the wickedness you have done. 23 You may feel as secure as a bird nesting in the cedars of Lebanon. But oh how you will groan when the pains of judgment come on you. They will be like those of a woman giving birth to a baby.

After a week of reading about judgement of God, it’s nice to end by remembering His forbearance. In v. 21 (and throughout the book of Jeremiah), God repeatedly warned the people of Israel to turn from their wicked ways, that they might avoid judgment. God, in His patience, exercised forbearance (self-control, restraint, tolerance) for a time, that the people might be saved. Yet they refused to listen.

In an article for Christianity Today, one writer reflects on the reality of failure and forbearance. R. O. Blechman is one of the most famous illustrators in the world. In his recent book, Dear James: Letters to a Young Illustrator, he shares a series of letters that he wrote to a younger fellow illustrator. In one of the most poignant letters, Blechman addresses the reality of failure:

“Preliminary drawings and sketches often are discouraging things, pale shadows of one’s bold intentions. Seemingly nonsense, they’re especially dispiriting for beginners … ‘Is that what I did,’ the novice might ask, ‘and I consider myself an artist?!’ … Speaking for myself (but also for other illustrators, I’m sure), my trash basket is full of false starts and failed drawings … There should be a Museum of Failed Art. It would exhibit all the terrible art that would have ended up in trash bins and garbage cans, lost and unknown to the public life.

“Surprisingly, the Bible contains a ‘Museum of Failed Discipleship.’ Over and over again, the Gospels record the ‘false starts’ and spiritual failures of the disciples. Thankfully, they also record Christ’s willingness to encourage and challenge his flawed disciples. We tend to cover up our heroes’ faults; and we’re even more likely to gloss over our colossal flops. Instead, the Gospels allow us to see the disciples’ failures—and most of those stories came from the disciples themselves. This honesty provides encouragement to us when we feel like saying, ‘Is that what I did, and I consider myself a Christian?’ Our security is in Christ who continues to love us even when we stumble and fail.”

Jesus Himself hand-picked twelve disciples, all of whom deserted him in His last hours. As far as we know, only John was even at the cross during Jesus’ final moments. All of them failed miserably, by running from Him, doubting Him, denying Him, over and over again. Yet I do find it comforting to know that God chooses to work through such broken people. One of my favorite passages in Scripture reminds us of this:  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; (2 Corinthians 4:7)

One thing we must remember is that our failures and missteps are a product of sin, a terrible debt whose redemption cost Jesus His life. May we never take His sacrifice lightly. But the resurrection assures us that there is life after failure, and freedom and power to live anew. May we also never take that for granted! Let’s honor God’s forbearance today by living fully for God’s Kingdom and His glory.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your patience and forbearance with humankind as we fail time and time again to live up to your intentions at Creation. Help us to learn to love one another, and to bless the creation which You’ve entrusted to us. Thank You for the means by which I can do this, which is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Zephaniah 3

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