Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

encouragement Archive

Tuesday

7

June 2022

A glimpse of sunshine

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

Even though the outlook appears bleak, the goodness of the Lord can still be seen in the land of the living.

...no times are so wild but that in them are quiet corners, green oases, all the greener for their surroundings, where life glides on in peaceful isolation from the tumult. (Alexander MacLaren) | Read more of A Glimpse of Sunshine on hopereflected.com

“Every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” (Judges 17:6, 21:25). The book of Judges depicts a bleak and black history of Israel, one where man was doing what man wanted, where truth was twisted to suit selfish inclinations, and where God was not forgotten, but purposefully rebelled against. It sounds eerily similar to our present situation.

But God, in His tender mercy and grace, was still very much present among the profanity happening in Israel, just as He is today. Within the book of Judges we see reminders of this, that though man may seem to rule for a season, the Lord is the ultimate judge (11:27). Even though the outlook appears bleak, the goodness of the Lord can still be seen in the land of the living.

There can still be peace within us

Take Ruth, for example. Tucked away within the times of the judges of Israel, Ruth’s history serves as a reminder that though there may be unrest in the world, there can still be peace within us, and there are always glimmers of God’s grace around us. Alexander MacLaren wrote that “no times are so wild but that in them are quiet corners, green oases, all the greener for their surroundings, where life glides on in peaceful isolation from the tumult.”

Although days are dark and times are tumultuous, like Ruth, we can be beacons of light to those around us. Ruth was a Moabitess, the Moabites of which were enemies of Israel and certainly not godly by any stretch of the imagination. And yet we see in history that Ruth is an ancestor of Christ, a prominent member of His lineage. Thank God for His grace! Our past does not determine our future. When we know God, He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Rather than being preoccupied by our past, in Christ we can move forward and face the future with fearlessness.

Stand firm and resolute

Nowhere do we read that Ruth was afraid of what the people of Bethlehem would think of her or say about her. Rather, the Bible tells us of Ruth’s unwavering loyalty. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17). Even in the face of opposition, Ruth stood firm and resolute. Do we stand firm and resolute, even though noise comes at us from every side and current events contradict what is true and right? Is our loyalty to God unwavering?

“Even in the face of opposition, Ruth stood firm and resolute.”

Hope Reflected

Ruth showed a quiet strength, and lived with humility. She worked cheerfully, gleaning in the fields. The big picture didn’t need to be revealed to her in order for her to be diligent and faithful in the little things. God is the Painter and our life is the picture. As Ruth’s testimony is a glimpse of sunshine in an otherwise stormy sky, may others see His light through us in dark times.

Originally published as “A glimpse of sunshine.” Independent Plus. January 21, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Tuesday

22

March 2022

Worry is wicked, not wise

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

Fussing always ends in sin. We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are an indication of how really wise we are; it is much more an indication of how really wicked we are. (Oswald Chambers) Read more about worry on hopereflected.com

A full-fledged fire

Twice in the first seven verses of Psalm 37 we are told to “Fret not”. According to Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, the Hebrew for this actually means to burn, to be kindled, or to be inflamed. Isn’t that what it feels like when we worry? Our worry starts out small, as a single flame, and once we’ve considered every angle and hypothetical outcome of our situation, we’ve got a full-fledged fire on our hands that can’t be put out.

Worry is a great form of pride

When we worry, we tell God that we don’t trust that He’s going to look after us. Worry is a great form of pride. We think we know better than God, or at least we think that by thinking and overthinking we’ll somehow come up with a better solution than God, or that we’ll discover some angle that He’s never considered or didn’t think of before. It sounds silly when you read it, doesn’t it? But that’s what worry is.

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” David wrote in Psalm 34:4. To win the battle of worry, it’s imperative that we seek the Lord and not our own solution. We cannot trust the Lord and worry at the same time, it’s just not possible. The only way to be delivered from worry is to seek after the Lord.

We must put ourselves in check and put our hope in God – not in what we want to happen. When we’re looking forward to what we want to happen more than what God wants for us, worry is inevitable. When we rest in our circumstances rather than in Christ, discouragement will follow. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Psalm 43:5).

Winning over worry

Winning over worry requires us to give God our problems. Pride tells us that we can do it all on our own. Society tells us that we can find our own solutions if we just believe in ourselves, because we are enough. This is so wrong. “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:2). When we carry our burdens instead of casting them on God, we will be weighed down, tired, and subject to making poor decisions.

“Fussing always ends in sin.”

Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers wrote that, “Fussing always ends in sin. We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are an indication of how really wise we are; it is much more an indication of how really wicked we are. Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. Our Lord never worried and He was never anxious, because He was not “out” to realise His own ideas; He was “out” to realise God’s ideas. Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God.” Worry is wicked, not wise, and it can wreck our lives.

Originally published as “Wicked, not wise.” Independent Plus. November 4, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Tuesday

8

February 2022

At the helm: God makes things still

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow:" (Mark 4:37-38) Read more of At the Helm on hopereflected.com

Striving, not being still

Although it was night and He had just spent the day preaching, Jesus suggested traveling across the sea with the disciples. A great storm arose, and the ship filled up fast (Mark 4:37). In this storm, Jesus  “was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow:” (Mark 4:38).

The disciples had an initial reaction of panic. “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” they questioned (v. 38). In any storm where we face unknowns, things that are out of our control, our first reaction – unfortunately – is not to be still. Usually we run about, trying to take matters into our own hands and figure things out. We find ourselves striving, not being still.

The first thing we should do

And yet, Scripture says to be still is the first thing that we should do. “Be still, and know that I am God:” (Psalm 46:10). Before verse 10, Psalm 46 reminds us that God is “a very present help in trouble” (v. 1). “Very present,” meaning that He’s right there, He is always with us, He’s always in the boat with us, at the helm, even when we – like the disciples – are panicking and wondering why He’s not panicking.

We're quick to observe Jesus sleeping. We forget that He is in the hinder part of the ship, right in the captain's place. He's always at the helm, even when we think He's not paying attention, or we wonder why He's sleeping. Read more of At the Helm on hopereflected.com

When you pass through the waters

In the prophecy of Isaiah, our Lord said, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isaiah 43:2). He did not say, “If you go through the waters,” or “if you go through the rivers, or “If you walk through the fire,” He said “When”.

As much as we’d like to deny it, storms and troubles are a part of this life, but God is with us. We are created for His glory. When things are not going our way, it’s a reminder that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God uses the rivers to make the rocks smooth and He uses the fire to make the metal pliable.

Prayer is how we get His attention. Read more of At the Helm on hopereflected.com

He’s always at the helm

Like the disciples, we’re quick to observe Jesus sleeping, and we forget that He is “in the hinder part of the ship”, right in the captain’s place. He’s always at the helm, even when we think He’s not paying attention, or we wonder why He’s sleeping. How can we get His attention?

The disciples woke Him by talking to Him. In storms and troubles, are we talking to Him first or using prayer as our last resort? When the disciples spoke to Him, Jesus got up, “and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39).

“He maketh the storm a calm,

so that the waves thereof are still.”

Psalm 107:29

It is God that makes things still. “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.” (Psalm 107:29). As Matthew Henry wrote, “A word of comfort to us, that, be the storm of trouble ever so loud, ever so strong, Jesus Christ can lay it with a word’s speaking… He that made the seas, can make them quiet.”

Originally published as “In the hinder part of the ship.” Independent Plus. October 21, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Read more about how to trust Jesus in the storm here.

Tuesday

18

January 2022

Bold as a lion

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"The Bible not only describes the devil as a lion; this mighty animal is used to illustrate Christians as well. "...the righteous are bold as a lion." (Proverbs 28:1) Read more on hopereflected.com

A roaring lion

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8). Anyone who’s watched a documentary about lions understands the picture being described here. A roaring lion is both fierce and hungry, with a powerful roar that can be heard up to 8km away. Lions have a distinctive prowess; they act gracefully and swiftly to take over their prey – even when their prey is running in the opposite direction.

Peter warned believers that the devil is “seeking whom he may devour,” walking and watching for the best opportunity to destroy Christians. If he fails at one attempt, most assuredly he will continue trying until he succeeds.

Lions are not afraid to face each other head on

Fortunately, this is not a one-sided battle. The Bible not only describes the devil as a lion; this mighty animal is used to illustrate Christians as well. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth:” Proverbs 28:1 opens, “but the righteous are bold as a lion.” Bold as a lion not only in the sense of our ability to pursue, but also bold as a lion that is not afraid to face another lion head on. Observation of nature has shown us that lions will fight one another in situations when they are threatened, when their cubs are in danger, and when another lion assaults their territory.

Biblical examples of courageous Christians

Fellow Christians, we are not to turn away in times of adversity, we are not to shrink back and sulk away silently when our beliefs are openly contradicted and wrongfully made out to be backwards; these are the very times that we are trained for. The confrontations that we face courageously every day prepare us for even greater adversaries.

Consider David, who before defeating Goliath bravely killed a lion that threatened his sheep (1 Samuel 17:35). Look at Samson, who before destroying the temple and defeating the Philistines, killed a lion that attacked him (Judges 14:5-6). Famously, Daniel was cast into a den of ravenous lions and demonstrated courageous bravery the whole night through, and then his accusers were cast in and destroyed by the same lions before they reached the bottom of the den (Daniel 6:20-24).

Be prepared to give an answer

Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians that Christians become more confident when they see other Christians boldly “speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14). What do our brothers and sisters in Christ see when they look at us? We are exhorted in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Are we working for God, are we prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us when someone questions us or contradicts what’s right?

“speak the word without fear.”

Philippians 1:14

We should not be ashamed! Unfortunately, we often avoid giving hard answers because we want to be liked and we want to be comfortable. In doing so, we become cowards, and we teach our children the same. Matthew Henry wrote that, “Sin makes men cowards. Whatever difficulties the righteous meet in the way of duty, they are not daunted.” Christian lions need to stop basking and start being bold.

Originally published as “Bold as a lion.” Independent Plus. September 2, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Read more about being bold here.

Thursday

30

December 2021

With us always

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

No matter who is against us, even when we are surrounded with opposition, God is with us.

"No matter what is in front of you, you don't have to face it alone." Read about how God is with us always on hopereflected.com

He is with us.

“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” (Acts 23:11). The Lord was with Paul, and He is with us. As Matthew Henry wrote, “Whoever is against us, we need not fear, if the Lord stand by us.”

No matter what we face, we don’t face it alone.

As the new leader of the children of Israel, tasked with leading them into Canaan after the death of Moses (talk about intimidating!), Joshua needed to be reminded more than once that God was with him. First, Moses assured Joshua of God’s presence in Deuteronomy 31:6 when Joshua was commissioned to be Moses’ successor. “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

There is no greater reassurance than the presence of God.

Then, as he prepared for the conquest of Canaan, Joshua needed to be reminded by the Lord Himself that God was with him. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9). Whatever season we are going into, there is no greater reassurance than the presence of God. Even when we face unknowns and uncertainty, we don’t face it alone. We need to be reminded of this frequently!

"I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:20). Read about how God is always with us on hopereflected.com

David, nearing the end of his life, reminded himself of God’s presence, when he penned Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (v. 4). After a lifetime of danger, death, and no shortage of drama, David recalled how no matter what he faced – even in death – God was with him.

“…for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Joshua 1:9 (KJV)

Thousands of years later, these inspired words are often-quoted and continue to provide hope to God’s people, even in the darkest of times. What a comfort that even in the deepest valley and under constantly cloudy skies, the Great Shepherd still leaves His flock to come and find us, and bring us back. His rod and His staff guide us and defend us wherever we are.

"Jesus didn't say He might be with us, He didn't say, "I was," in past tense. He says in very present tense, "I am with you always."" Read about how God is always with you on hopereflected.com

Our Lord is with us, always.

Jesus Himself gave this promise, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus didn’t say He might be with us. He didn’t say, “I will be,” in future tense, or “I was,” in past tense. He says in very present tense, “I am with you always”. Jesus doesn’t claim to be with us sometimes, or only when we’re good. He promises that He is with us always. No matter where we are, no matter who we face, and no matter what season we’re coming into or coming out of – it does not matter what – our Lord is with us, always.

Originally published as “With us always.” Independent Plus. July 29, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Monday

29

November 2021

The Reason for the Season: A primer on Advent

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

What is Advent?

Advent, taken from the Latin word adventus, means "coming". Read more about what Advent is on hopereflected.com

Advent, taken from the Latin word adventus, means “coming”. During the four weeks of December each year, we celebrate the first advent of Christ and prepare our hearts for Christmas. Some families have an advent calendar for each day leading right up to Christmas day. Others prepare by reading through a selection of devotionals each day.

Some churches use an advent wreath and light a candle for each of the four Sundays:

  • the Prophecy candle, which symbolizes the hope of fulfilled Scripture;
  • the Bethlehem candle, which reminds us of the humility of Christ and symbolizes our faith in Him;
  • the Shepherd’s candle, which symbolizes love and reminds us that Christ came for all (including the shepherds who were some of the most inconspicuous people of their time);
  • the Angel’s candle, which symbolizes peace and reminds us of the Good News that angels announced.
During the first four weeks of December each year, we celebrate the first coming (advent) of Christ, and prepare our hearts for Christmas. Read more about what Advent means on hopereflected.com

Why does Advent matter?

Advent matters a great deal, because through it, we’re reminded of the accuracy of God’s Word. Advent represents truth. However we celebrate Advent, we remember that we are celebrating the first advent of Christ. After all, that is what Christmas is all about.

Christ’s birth fulfills so many prophecies in Scripture:

  • the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14);
  • the incarnation of Christ (Isaiah 9:6);
  • the timing of Christ’s arrival on earth (Daniel 9:24);
  • man’s rejection of Christ (Isaiah 53:1-4);
  • Christ’s crucifixion (Psalm 2);
  • Christ’s resurrection (Psalm 16).

Does Advent matter if I’m not a Christian?

It sure does! Advent is an opportunity for you to come to know Christ and have a personal relationship with Him. (If you’re wondering how you can come to know Christ, please read this). Advent serves as a reminder that Christ came to this earth so that every person could come to know Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Advent is a reminder that God so loved the world, and that includes you and I!

Should I celebrate Advent?

Should we celebrate the fact that God sent His Son to be birthed in a lowly manger, sent His Son to offer salvation to anyone who calls on His name? Yes!

This is a time of year when each of us can be reassured that no matter where we’re at – lonely, discouraged, or overrun and under-appreciated – God has a purpose and He cares about every detail. Look how He worked in the lives of the shepherds. There they were, “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night,” (Luke 2:8). God’s glory shone around them, and everything changed. No matter where we are, God can work. We just need to be faithful. Notice how the shepherds were being faithful, quietly going about their work, and that’s when God works. He is all about recognizing the unnoticed, the overlooked, and the under-appreciated.

This is a time of year when we can be reassured that no matter where we're at - lonely, discouraged, overrun, or under-appreciated - God has a purpose and He cares about every detail. Read more about what Advent means on hopereflected.com

Who would have thought that the King of Kings would come to earth in the most humble of surroundings – in a stable, where the animals find shelter? Jesus, who throughout His earthly life was the model of humility, encouraged all of us to take up our yoke and come after Him, “for I am meek and lowly in heart:” (Matthew 11:29). It was Christ who reminded us – while speaking to perhaps one of the most prideful groups of His day, the Pharisees – “whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) Humility was one of the most incredible characteristics of Christ, and yet how often we fail to consider it during the Christmas season. Oh that our journey through advent will bring us closer to Christ. He is, after all, the reason for the season.

Originally published as “The reason for the season.” Independent Plus. December 12, 2019: 5. Print. Web.

Monday

22

November 2021

Launch out into the deep

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

An unsuccessful night at work

After working all night, Peter and his crew got out of their boats and started cleaning their nets. Being a fisherman was no easy task; the vocation was a risky one, and the income wasn’t always steady. After this night in particular, Peter and his crew hadn’t caught any fish at all, which meant they wouldn’t have anything to sell at market.

As Peter painstakingly washed his nets, getting rid of any dirt and debris, Jesus got into Peter’s boat and asked him to put out a little from shore (Luke 5:3). Can you imagine? You’re just getting things cleaned up after a non-productive night at work, and someone asks you to get all your equipment back out – equipment that you’ve just cleaned and put away – and head out for another shift? And yet, Peter does it.

Peter was willing; are we?

Peter, without complaint or question, stopped what he was doing and followed Jesus. After Christ finished teaching, he said to Peter, “Launch out into the deep, and let down the nets for a draught.” (Luke 5:4). Peter responded, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” (5:5). Peter was willing to go out his way not just a little bit, but a lot. Can the same be said for us?

We get so caught up in our work that we put our relationship with Christ on the back burner. We can’t even keep up with simple tasks like reading God’s Word regularly and praying – we make other things higher priority. And yet, how many of us ask why God has not given us more? We put Him off, make excuses, waste time trying to rationalize what He wants us to do and question how it makes it sense, when what we ought to do is simply put out a little from shore. We will never get out into the deep waters Christ has for us if we’re not willing to wade into the shallow waters at all.

Our faith has a ripple effect

Peter, in his acts of faith, saw the results when he and his crew collected such a great multitude of fishes that “their net brake.” (Luke 5:6). The catch was so overwhelming that they needed another boat to help them out! Peter’s acts of faith didn’t just have an impact on him, but on those around him as well. Like waves on the water, our faith has a ripple effect. Our example makes an impression on those around us, whether for good or bad.

Like waves on the water, our faith has a ripple effect.

Hope Reflected

After catching all these fish, and more than compensating for a failed night on the water, rather than saying “Thanks, Lord! Gotta get these fish to market!” Peter instead humbled himself and “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (v. 8). Everyone around saw his response. Unfortunately, when Christ allows us to see success in our earthly ventures, we often let it go to our head. As Matthew Henry said, “Those whom Christ designs to admit the most intimate acquaintance with him he first makes sensible that they deserve to be set at the greatest distance from him.”

Originally published as “And yet, Peter does it.” Independent Plus. July 22, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Friday

19

November 2021

Our task in tribulation

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Romans 8:35, 37 Read more on hopereflected.com

There’s only one way to be encouraged in tribulation

We should not endeavour to evade tribulation; we should expect tribulation in this life. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that though they endured many trying times, they encouraged believers to continue in their faith and expect tribulation (Acts 14:21-22). Matthew Henry wrote that in our Christian walk, “we must count upon much tribulation, but it is encouragement that we shall not be lost and perish in it.” There is only one way to be encouraged in tribulation, and that is to keep our eyes on Christ.

Paul wrote in Romans that “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:3).

How Christ develops and grows our faith

Our task in tribulation is to glory in it, because through tribulation, Christ develops and grows our faith. Charles Spurgeon said that, “As God more fully equips your ship to sail in storms, He will send you on longer voyages to more boisterous seas, so that you may honour Him and increase in holy confidence.” Christ knew a storm was coming when He sent the disciples out to sea; He will not leave us helpless.

As we read in Romans 5 that tribulation works patience, this is another part of our task. We are to be patient. Jesus said that, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19). It is part of our Christian duty to be patient in tribulation, as Paul wrote in Romans 12:12. What a test, especially for those of us who so often struggle to rest in Him. “Only lovers of the Lord will hold out in the hour of trial;” Spurgeon said, “the rest will either sink or sulk, or slink back to the world.” In tribulation, we choose to either sit tight or sink.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God

Our task in tribulation may at times seem impossible, especially when we can’t see Christ through the storm. If we could only remember that through Christ we will overcome our obstacles. As Paul wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:35,37). Not even our most troubling tribulation can separate us from the love of God. This truth is what enables us to glory in tribulation and to be patient in it.

“There is no stumbling when a man walks with his eyes up to Jesus. He that looks at Christ walks safely.”

Charles Spurgeon

“CHRISTIAN! In all thy troubles, look unto God, and be saved. In all thy trials and afflictions, look unto Christ, and find deliverance. In all thine agony, in all thy repentance for thy guilt, look unto Christ, and find pardon. Remember to put thine eyes heavenward, and thine heart heavenward too. Bind round thyself a golden chain, and put one link of it in the staple of heaven. Look unto Christ; fear not. There is no stumbling when a man walks with his eyes up to Jesus. He that looks at Christ walks safely.” (Spurgeon).

Originally published as “Our task in tribulation.” Independent Plus. July 15, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Wednesday

17

November 2021

The agony of antagonism

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

There are two types of characters in every story - the protagonist and the antagonist. Learn more on hopereflected.com

Character Development 101

One of the essential elements taught in any story-writing class is that of character development. Generally, there are two types of characters in a story: The protagonist – who is usually the star, the good guy, the one we’re rooting for, and the antagonist – who is usually the bad guy, the villain, the one working against the protagonist.

Sounds kind of like real life, doesn’t it? We’re always living lesson after lesson of our own character development, and God tends to teach us through the other characters that He brings into our lives.

The word antagonist comes from the Latin antagonista, meaning “competitor, opponent, rival” or “one who contends with another”. Anti means “against” and agon means “a struggle, contest”, and is where we get our present-day word agony. Appropriate, as it can be agonizing dealing with an antagonist.

God tends to develop our character by the other characters that He brings into our lives. Read more of The agony of antagonism on hopereflected.com

Provoked and purposefully poked

Antagonists typically provoke someone of whom they’re jealous, resentful, or they just don’t like. In the case of Elkanah’s two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, Peninnah knew that Hannah was barren and she continuously contended with her about this. Even though Peninnah had children and Hannah was barren, Elkanah gave Hannah “a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah” (v. 5). Peninnah was jealous, and because of her resentment, Peninnah preyed upon Hannah’s weakness and “provoked her sore, for to make her fret,” (v. 6). It wasn’t that Peninnah antagonized Hannah once, no, the Bible says, “so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her;” (v. 7). Hannah was so deeply affected by this antagonism that “she wept, and did not eat.” (v. 7). Can’t we all relate? Chances are you have someone in your life who knows something that really bothers you, and they purposefully poke you in that area, trying to provoke you and get a reaction out of you.

The proper response to antagonism

Hannah’s response is everything. “And she was in bitterness of soul,” (v. 10). It would be a lie to say that when someone antagonizes you that you can just rise above and be the bigger person; God knows our hearts. It hurts when someone maliciously tries to manipulate and provoke you. Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and she “prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.” (v. 10). Can’t you just picture her, completely worn out, worn thin, and weary – falling flat on her face and giving it all to God? And what does she pray? She asks God to remember her, and not forget her, and she asks in faith and commits the deepest desires of her heart to God. Can the same be said for us? When we’re antagonized and provoked, do we – bitterness of soul and all – take our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses to the Lord? Or do we bite back, allow the antagonists in our lives to hurt us, and to control us through their actions?

Learn more about a Biblical response to antagonism on hopereflected.com

Do we take our vulnerabilities and weaknesses to the Lord? Or do we bite back and allow the antagonists in our lives to hurt us?

Hope Reflected

It’s interesting to note that after Hannah commits it to the Lord, we don’t read of Peninnah again. We do read, however, that the Lord remembers Hannah (v. 19), and that she remembers God’s faithfulness to her.

Originally published as “The agony of antagonism.” Independent Plus. July 1, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

4

November 2021

Countenance Sharpeners

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:" Hebrews 10:24 | Read more of Coutenance Sharpeners on hopereflected.com

The victor’s material

In Biblical times, iron was the victor’s material for weapons of war. We read in Judges that Judah could not defeat the Philistines of the valley “because they had chariots of iron.” (1:19). Before the days of steel, iron was popular for the making of swords and other weapons, because it was stronger and could be sharpened better than other prominent metals of the time period.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Proverbs 27:17 | Read more on hopereflected.com

Sharpening is important

In woodworking, a dull blade can ruin a good piece of wood. In the kitchen, an unsharpened knife can cause serious injury to the person using it. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:17 that as “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Good friends help to keep each other sharp. You know the feeling when you finish a conversation with a good friend, and you feel better, lighter, and refreshed? That is the countenance sharpening that Solomon referred to. True friends help to refine, encourage us to grow in wisdom, and point us to the Lord. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” (Hebrews 10:24). True friends prepare us for action.

Realignment and straightening

Many people have a knife set in their kitchen. A standard knife set usually includes an unusual-looking column of steel or ceramic. This tool is called a honing rod. Contrary to popular belief, a honing rod doesn’t actually sharpen knives. A honing rod is used to realign and straighten knife blades that have become blunt or curled. Beyond countenance sharpening, a good friend offers correction when we’re going astray. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:2 that in addition to exhorting one another, we are to reprove and rebuke when necessary. Jesus Himself said that when a brother sins against us, we’re to “go and tell him his fault,” (Matthew 18:15). As much as we all need sharpening, we also need to be realigned and straightened out once in a while, too!

"True friends help to keep each other sharp. They help to refine, to encourage, and to grow." | Read more of Countenance Sharpeners on hopereflected.com

True friends point one another to Christ

Some commentaries suggest that to “sharpen” in Proverbs 27:17 is to antagonize or exasperate. A true friend doesn’t provoke; a true friend promotes others to be better people and most importantly points their friends toward Christ. Anything contrary to this is not friendship.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves that, “In friendship… we think we have chosen our peers…for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ Friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to us the beauties of others.” The opposite of sharp is to be dull, blunt, or blurred. We’ve all had occasions where we’ve felt less than our best. In such times, it is prayer answered to have a friend come alongside to sharpen our countenance.

“It is prayer answered to have a friend come alongside to sharpen our countenance.”

Hope Reflected

Originally published as “Countenance sharpeners.” Independent Plus. June 10, 2021: 5. Print. Web.