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August 25, 2016

Text: “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.  If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”  I Samuel 17:8b-9

The implacable enemies Israel and the Philistines glowered at each other from two mountains facing each other on either side of the Valley of Elah. The Philistine champion Goliath (nine feet tall)  stood on their side and flung the above challenge across the valley: “Let’s settle this matter mano y mano!” The quaking Israelites chose to send to meet him a  green 17 year old shepherd. What a confrontation! What a challenge!

Life is filled with challenges. Each day you face challenges. They may not be earth-shaking, but some important ones will drop in on you now and again. One morning the car won’t start: big repair bill! How do I pay for it? Your child has developed a dreaded disease. How do I give him courage to face his circumstances? (How do I face his sufferings?) Hardships arise. You get the axe at work due to a big lay-off.

Christians are not at all exempt from challenges. In fact, there are probably more mountains to conquer for Christians.  Notwithstanding, we will  consider two uphill  today.

I.    For the Christian, knowledge of the Bible is often an ignored challenge.  It is indeed a worthy endeavor.  As  an enthusiastic Bible student I have often asked myself, “Why do people not like to study the Bible?”  I have come up with several answers, but certainly not a definitive list. I feel that many people are afraid of the Bible. It is daunting and threatening to some. Others are lazy. The Bible requires work to disclose its meaning.  One person once told me that the Bible says “…be not many of you teachers…”  (It does…James 3:1) But to use that verse with this person’s intent is an excuse. On the other hand, James also wrote,  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22  You know how it is when you meet someone who has just learned some simple basic principles. They are proud to recite something of their new knowledge. You know. What is the shortest book of the Bible? What is the shortest verse in the Bible? What man lived the longest? John 3:16. Those are good things. But if you come back in one year and they have learned nothing new, then they need to move on! What about all that hard stuff in the Bible? Learning the Bible is like learning to read Tolstoy’s War  and Peace.  You start by learning the alphabet and move on up. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15

II.   Not only is knowing the Bible a wonderful  challenge,  it presents us with a lifetime of challenges of our moral behavior.  The Bible is to be learned, and also to be lived!  For some the dodging of obeying God’s word is thinking that  it is made of of ancient platitudes (“old hat”). Some rationalize the moral commands of God are for children and that adults can do as they please. Others try to ridicule how God wants men to behave.  “God can’t be serious about that commandment, can he?” Ridicule is not sound reasoning, but it is a bandwagon people often ride without thinking.  Don’t study the Bible to reinforce your opinions or self justification. The Bible was written to tell the wonderful story of salvation bought by Christ on the cross. But it also came from God’s moral nature to instruct mankind how to live in this world so as to live in eternity with Him. To be sure, if you want to enjoy eternity you must please God with your moral living here. It is a very dangerous thing to learn the laws of God and ignore them!  “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. “James 4:17 

There are many challenges in your Christian life. They are real and important. (Yes! As the destiny of your soul is really important.)   For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Mathew 16:26

Sleep on this:  The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14





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