April 8, Wednesday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on April 17, 2013, is provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Why, Lord, Why?”

Psalm 38:1-4

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.  2 For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. 3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin.  4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

Introduction: What Pastor Barry wrote in 2013, in view of all the hitherto unforeseen things happening globally at the moment, is quite relevant to the “why” questions being raised by many people affected by COVID-19.    

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Is sickness a punishment from God?  A short answer is “maybe” or “not always.”  We will explore a longer answer in today’s lunch time bible study. In any case, in Psalm 38, David did believe that his sickness was God’s discipline, and furthermore, that God had forsaken him (v21).  When we are confronted with sickness and suffering, God’s presence can seem far away and his wrath more evident than His love.

Yet, David prays.  If God has indeed caused David’s sickness and forsaken him, then there is little logic to his behavior, but David does not cease praying.  The fact that he continues to seek the LORD, despite of his circumstances, reveals a deep-seated faith in a God who is loving and merciful.  Did God cause David’s sickness?  I don’t know; however, I am certain that David’s response was the right one regardless whether God caused his illness or not.  God is loving and merciful, and so whatever the circumstances, we can and ought to pray.

Is prayer your first response to sickness and pain?  Let us put our trust in God.  No matter the circumstances, God is good.  We may not always understand His ways, but we do know that God, in His infinite love, never stops working in our midst.

Prayer: Father, it is sometimes difficult to discern Your presence in the suffering that I observe, let alone the suffering that I personally experience.  But when I look at Jesus on the cross, I know that You are not above my suffering.  I thank You that one day, in Your love and kindness, You will eliminate all pain and suffering.  Until that day comes, I put my hope and trust in You.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Acts 8


Lunch Break Study

Read John 9:1-5 (NIV): As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What “theology of sickness” do the disciples hold (v2)?  How is this theology incorrect?
  2. How was the work of God displayed in this blind man’s life?  What is Jesus’ command regarding our interaction with sickness (v3-4)?
  3. In verse 14, we see that Jesus heals this man on the Sabbath.  In view of the purpose of the Sabbath (c.f. Ex 20:11; Deut. 5:15), what does Jesus’ action tell us about God?

While sickness and suffering can seem like either a punishment or evidence that God is far away, John 9 tells us that even sickness can be redeemed to reveal God’s glory and work.  Our God is in the business of bringing reconciliation and healing to this broken world, and we are to join him in this work.

Notes

  1. In Jesus’ day, a typical Israelite, under the influence of the Mosaic Law, held that personal suffering was a direct result of sin.  Thus, the only question that interested the disciples was who was responsible.  Since the man was blind from birth, they believed that either he had sinned while in the womb or his parents.  However, Jesus swiftly dismisses this theology. (See also Job for God’s repudiation of this theology.)  The relationship between sin and suffering is much more complex.  Sin has produced a suffering world, but an individual’s personal suffering is not always attributable to his/her personal sin.  In the case of this blind man, Jesus implies that the LORD allowed this to happen so that “the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
  2. The work of God is displayed in the blind man’s life when Jesus heals him of his blindness, thus revealing that Jesus was indeed the “light of the world” (John 8:12). When we submit our suffering to God, then God’s work can be displayed; either through healing/deliverance, or alternatively, through God’s provision of courageous acceptance (c.f. 2 Cor. 12:7-10). Furthermore, Jesus tells us that human suffering is an opportunity for us to join in God’s work (v4).   
  3. The Israelites rested on the Sabbath for two main reasons: a. They followed the example of God who rested on the seventh day of creation (Exodus 20);  b. As a reminder that God had freed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5).

Put simply, Sabbath rest is about focusing on God and receiving his freedom from captivity.  Jesus’s act of healing on the Sabbath did not contravene the commandment to rest but fulfilled it (made it full).  The institution of the Sabbath reveals God’s heart to bring healing and freedom to this broken world.


Evening Reflectionannie-spratt-wnd7te34T-0-unsplash

Can you recall a time when suffering revealed God’s grace?  Did you witness the suffering of others today?  How did you respond?  As we reflect tonight, let’s ask God to open our eyes to the suffering around us and more importantly, give us insight into how we can be part of His work amid the wreckage wrought by COVID-19.

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