Prepared to Suffer

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish my personal notes on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

John 16:1–4 (ESV)

1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

The Son of Man Will Suffer

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Reading the Word

Matthew 17:9–13 (ESV)

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Parallel Text: Mark 9:11-13

Understanding and Applying the Word

After the Transfiguration, Jesus tells the disciples not to say anything about what they witnessed until after he is raised from the dead. Of course, they obviously did not fully understand what he meant by this because the resurrection will be an unexpected surprise when it happens.

The disciples did take an opportunity to ask Jesus a question regarding prophecy and the coming of the Messiah. The scribes, the teachers of the Old Testament to the people, had taught that Elijah must come before the Messiah. If this is true, where is Elijah? How can Jesus be the Messiah if Elijah has not come? This understanding comes from Malachi 4:4-5 and Isaiah 40:3.

Jesus responded that Elijah had indeed come. John the Baptist was the one who fulfilled the prophecy. It was not that Elijah himself was going to return, but one who would come in the spirit of Elijah (cf. Luke 1:17 and John 1:21). John appeared as a forerunner of Jesus to prepare the way for Christ’s ministry to the people.

John the Baptist not only served to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry, but he also served as an example of how Jesus would be received. John was rejected, imprisoned, and later beheaded for his ministry. Likewise, Jesus too was rejected, arrested, mocked, beaten, and crucified. And Jesus tells all of his followers that if the world rejected him, it will also reject his disciples:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18–21, ESV)

Lord, grant us the strength and grace to serve you each day as we live in this world as your people. Amen.


The Lord Has Done Great Things for Us

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Reading the Word

Psalm 126:1–6 (ESV)

1  When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2  Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3  The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.

4  Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like streams in the Negeb!
5  Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6  He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Lord is a God of restoration. In the Old Testament, we see how he restores the nation of Israel after defeat by its enemies. Such a turnaround results in joy and celebration.

The entire Bible is a story of restoration. It is a story of how God is restoring the entire creation to what it was meant to be. In the beginning, God created all things good, but when mankind rebelled against God through disobedience, sin entered the world and God’s good creation was corrupted resulting in suffering and death. God, in his grace towards us, promised to send one who would deliver mankind from the power of sin (Genesis 3:15).

As we read the Bible, we learn that the promised one was Jesus Christ, who died to pay for our sins and give us life. Those who turn to Christ in repentance and trust are promised eternal life in a restored creation without sin. Revelation 21 describes what that new world will be like:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:1–7, ESV)

There will be no mourning or crying or pain or death anymore. Our tears will be turned to joy and we will be with the Lord! Praise the Lord. He has truly done great things for us through Jesus Christ.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

The Good of Affliction

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Reading the Word

Psalm 119:65–72 (ESV)

65 You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word. 66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. 68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. 69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; 70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. 71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. 72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines affliction as “a cause of pain or harm.” Why then does the author of Psalm 119 says in verse 71 that “It is good for me that I was afflicted?” After all, who likes to suffer?

The psalmist speaks of the good of affliction because it was through suffering at the hands of others that he turned to the word of God. As he was facing pain, he found hope through the promises of God. This is why the psalm ends by saying, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”

Are you hurting or facing your own affliction? Turn to the promises of God that are recorded in his word. Know that God is faithful and always keeps his promises. And remember that he is good and does good (cf. verse 68).

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

The Day of My Distress

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Reading the Word

Psalm 102:1–11 (ESV)

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! 2 Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! 3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. 4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. 5 Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. 6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; 7 I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. 8 All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. 9 For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink, 10 because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down. 11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm has historically been classified as a penitential psalm, which is a psalm of confession of sin. It is interesting because the psalm never mentions a confession of sin. There is lament over the circumstances the writer is facing and a call for relief, but there is no mention of sin as the cause. The reason(s) for the psalmist’s troubles are unmentioned.

This psalm does help us as we face difficulties in our own lives. We often suffer and hurt and wonder why things are the way they are. We call out to God and wonder if he is listening because he does not seem to answer. If you have ever felt that way, the words of Psalm 102 will resonate with you. As we continue reading the rest of the verses tomorrow, we will see that God is always there and that we can find our hope in him. We may not have all of the answers to our “Why?” questions, but we do know the answers to our troubles are in the sovereign hands of God.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

No Evil Shall Befall You

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Reading the Word

Psalm 91:5–13 (ESV)

5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The words of these verses can be, and have been, misunderstood. If we do not read them carefully we may think that they teach us that nothing bad will ever happen to the people of God. This is how Satan tried to deceive Christ when he quoted verses 11-12 (cf. Matthew 4:5-6). This is how Satan has always tried to deceive mankind.

In the garden of Eden, Satan deceived the woman and the man by convincing them that God was not good. God was holding something good back from them (i.e. wisdom). The first man and woman fell for it and ate of the tree that was forbidden. Likewise, we are often tempted to believe that if God is good then nothing bad should ever happen to his good people. We might ask, “If God is good why do bad things happen to good or innocent people?” After all, the verses of this psalm teach that evil is reserved for the enemies of God, right?

Well, not really. As we will read tomorrow, in verse 15 God promises to be with his people in the time of trouble and to rescue them. These verses do not promise freedom from trouble, only that God will be with us in those times and will ultimately deliver us. For some, that might mean he will heal our sickness. For others, he may give us victory over our enemies. But for many, it will mean that our victory does not come in this life, but in the next. God promises us that he will give us the ultimate victory. We will be victorious over sin and death because of what he has done for us through his Son, Jesus Christ. We will have eternal life and the joy of eternity with God as our Father. Nothing in this world can ever take that away!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

I Am Helpless

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Reading the Word

Psalm 88:10–18 (ESV)

10 Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah 11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? 12 Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 13 But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? 15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. 17 They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. 18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As this psalm began, so it ends. The writer is calling out to God for help in the midst of great despair. As we come to the end, we may be wondering what we can learn from such a passage.

Here are a few things that I believe this psalm teaches. First, God does not always remove our trials and difficulties from us. We may have to face them all our days. This should not come as a surprise to us. Even our Savior prayed that the “cup” be taken from him before he was crucified. The Father did not remove the cup and Christ went to the cross. When we pray, we do so with the same words of Jesus: “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

A second thing that we can learn is that we should never stop praying. It is an act of faith when we do. Even though the psalmist was discouraged and even after the passage of much time, he continued to pray. He showed his trust in God by continuing to go to him.

And lastly, this psalm reminds us that the fulfillment of the promises of God will not be realized in this world, but the next. God has put in motion a plan to redeem his creation from sin and its effects. There will be a new heaven and a new earth without sin and suffering and mourning and death, but that day is still future. We live in a fallen world and the effects of sin impact us all. So, we wait eagerly for the world to come and we trust in the promises of God until they are realized.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Those Who Hate God

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Reading the Word

Psalm 83:1–8 (ESV)

1 O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! 2 For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads. 3 They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones. 4 They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!” 5 For they conspire with one accord; against you they make a covenant— 6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, 7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; 8 Asshur also has joined them; they are the strong arm of the children of Lot. Selah

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm is a plea for God to rescue the people of Israel from their enemies. Those enemies are spelled out in verses 6-8. One thing to note is the concern of the psalmist. He does not make his plea based on the innocence of Israel. He does not call out and ask God to protect the Israelites because they are being treated unjustly. His primary concern is that the enemy has declared war on God himself. Notice verse 2: “For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads.”

Throughout the ages, God’s people have suffered at the hands of others. The primary reason is not because of something that they had done. The primary reason has always been because the world is at war with God. It does not want him. We, as his people, are a constant reminder of the reality of God and the truth that God will one day bring all of mankind to judgment. Let us, as the people of God, remember that the word is at war with God and let us not be surprised when the world hates us. Let us be encouraged knowing that the war has already been won and that our God reigns!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Suffering for Your Sake, O God


Reading the Word

Psalm 44:17–26 (ESV)

17 All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant. 18 Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way; 19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. 20 If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, 21 would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. 22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. 23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! 24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. 26 Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

Understanding and Applying the Word

We have been reading this psalm for a couple of days. In the previous verses we read the words of one crying out to God for help, but God has not done anything. Now we read that, even through all of the difficulties, the people have been faithful towards God (v. 17). They continue to live their lives for him.

Interestingly, we are told that the suffering that is taking place is “for your sake” (v.22). The people are suffering precisely because they are God’s people. This passage is quoted in Romans 8:36-39 by the apostle Paul who uses it to speak of his suffering for belonging to Christ and proclaiming the gospel.

The people of God in every age can expect rejection. In some places and times they can also expect severe persecution. Why? Because, as the people of God, they walk as witnesses to the truth to a world that has rejected the truth for a lie. When believers suffer for the sake of the truth of God’s word, they suffer for God’s sake. He may not come to our immediate rescue, but we can do the same thing that the writer of this psalm did. We can trust in the steadfast love of God (v.26). After all, he is the one who has redeemed us by sending his Son to die on a cross. He has shown us his love and we can trust him in every circumstance.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Fiery Trials

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Reading the Word

1 Peter 4:12–19 (ESV)

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Understanding the Word

Peter tells his readers not to think of “fiery trials” as a strange thing for Christians. Think of them as normal. After all, that is what Jesus Christ endured. Why should his followers be any different?

Christians have been saved from God’s coming wrath and judgment. Therefore, we can endure the trials we face now without shame and while continuing to do good.

Applying the Word

Mistakenly, many believe that when a person becomes a Christian, it removes all hardship from their lives. They believe the Bible teaches that God blesses with health, wealth, and prosperity if the Christian will just have enough faith and live in the right way.

The Bible does not teach a prosperity gospel. It teaches us that Jesus Christ suffered in this world as the righteous servant of God and that his followers will face similar suffering. Instead of seeking our own prosperity and comfort, we should seek the honor and glory of the one who has saved us for eternal joy in His presence.

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