Tag: Human effort

Shunammite Woman Overcomes Adversity

Compassion, Faith, and Persistent Prayer

The Shunammite woman’s compassion for a stranger led her to man of God Elisha, who prayed for her so she was blessed with a son. Later, when the son died unexpectedly, her unwavering faith and persistent prayer by Elisha restored the son to life. Subsequently, she lost her home and land while living abroad to escape a seven-year famine. However, all her losses and more were restored because she was a living testimony of Elisha’s work. On two occasions she lost something she treasured but her loss was restored in full each time because of unwavering faith and persistent prayer.

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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of interactions between the Shunammite woman and Prophet Elisha, among other (third-party) participants. The interactions began with the woman’s compassion toward a stranger that turned out to be Prophet Elisha and continued with the woman receiving an unexpected but welcome blessing through the birth of a son.

Map showing Shunem and Mt Carmel
Map showing Shunem and Mt Carmel
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However, the blessing appeared to turn into adversity when the son died after a brief illness. She responded with unwavering faith that she expressed in part by seeking out Elisha at Mount Carmel and insisting that he return to his “sanctuary” at her home in Shunem to ensure her son was restored to life. Elisha obliged, returned to the sanctuary, and prayed persistently until the child came back to life.

Several years later, the woman lost her home and land when she and her household relocated to a foreign land to escape a seven-year famine. However, when the king realized she was a living testimony of Elisha’s work (the woman whose son was restored from death), he ordered full restoration of everything she lost while she was away. Therefore, on two different occasions, the Shunammite woman lost something she treasured but the loss was restored in full because of her unwavering faith, human effort, and persistent prayer.

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Conflict Resolution Example from Daniel

During his early years of captivity in Babylon, Daniel and three compatriots faced an internal conflict with fulfilling their commitment to worship and serve God while being obedient to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king had allotted them a daily ration of food and wine from his supply as part of their preparation to enter his elite service. However, Daniel believed the royal diet would compromise his relationship with God but also recognized he owed obedience to the king and his officials. We study Daniel’s interactions with the king’s staff to understand his approach to negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

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We begin a bible study series based on the experience of Daniel and three compatriots, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-Nego), during their captivity in Babylon. This first session in the series focuses on understanding Daniel’s approach to peaceful resolution of a conflict triggered by the king’s diet requirement for Daniel and his friends.

Royal diet offer
Royal diet offer
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The king had placed them on a diet based on daily allotment from his own supply of food and wine to support a healthy and robust appearance as part of their training for the king’s service. However, Daniel believed consumption of such food or drink would compromise his relationship with God but also recognized he owed a duty of obedience to the king and his officials. He negotiated a peaceful resolution based on substituting a diet of vegetables and water for the king’s delicacies. Thus, he and his friends remained obedient to the king without engaging in any practice that could compromise their commitment to worship God.

The study provides opportunity to discuss some guiding principles of Christian mediation. As we discuss in a previous study under Christian Basis for Mediation: Part 2 of 2, Christian mediation requires a commitment to peaceful resolution motivated by God’s promise of blessing for peacemakers [Matthew 5:9]. Also, successful mediation often will include seeking knowledge and understanding of the facts and a resolution based on respect for the facts. Daniel’s approach to resolving the conflict appears based on similar principles and consists of the following.

  1. He was motivated to resolve the matter peacefully.
  2. He showed knowledge of the chain of command and recognized who had authority for each decision needed to resolve the conflict.
  3. He had faith of God providing a resolution but recognized the need to apply his human knowledge and capabilities while seeking God’s resolution.
  4. He identified the stakeholders and determined their expectations and how the expectations could be satisfied simultaneously.

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Coping with Adversity—Lessons from Hannah and David

The first step in coping with adversity is to commit personally and wholeheartedly to worship and serve God. Resign to his resolution of the adversity, and commit to living in his image, representing him in every human interaction, such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and elicit positive response from others. Furthermore, resigning to the will of God may include applying human effort to accomplish what you can while seeking his intervention. God will intervene to guide us out of adversity but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to position ourselves to receive and utilize his intervention.

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Samuel handed to Eli
Samuel handed to Eli
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We continue our study series on Samuel with a study focused on understanding how his mother Hannah coped with the adversity of childlessness. Hannah’s experience leading to the birth of Samuel was dominated initially by her bitterness due to not having a child after several years of marriage. Her husband’s other wife sought to take advantage of her condition. In contrast, her husband was kind and sympathetic and sought to comfort her into accepting barrenness. Hannah, therefore, was alone in seeking a solution to her problem. She dealt with the problem initially by nursing self-directed bitterness that she showed by weeping and often refusing food. However, one day during her family’s annual trip to worship at the tabernacle in Shiloh, she decided she could not continue to bear the problem in her heart. She took the problem to God in prayer and appeared to have left it with him because her demeanor changed completely after the prayer.

We examine her experience in this bible study to understand how she transitioned from wilting under the weight of childlessness to a feeling of being completely relieved of the problem even when there had been no humanly observable change in her situation. Also, we use the opportunity to revisit a previous bible study on David coping with adversity brought on him by virtue of a rebellion led by his son, Absalom. We see that lessons from Hannah’s experience and the lessons from David complement each other and provide useful insight into what a Christian can do to cope with adversity.

From both, we learn about wholehearted commitment to worship and serve God and total resignation to God’s resolution of the adversity in his way and at his time. From Hannah, we learn about living in the image of God as a manifestation of the commitment. And from David, we learn about diligence in human effort while resigned to seeking God’s solution through his intervention.

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Ruth Joins Naomi—Faith Human Effort and Compassion



FAITH HUMAN EFFORT AND COMPASSION The account of Ruth joining Naomi in Moab and following her to Bethlehem illustrates interactions among faith, human effort, and compassion. Naomi’s family relocated to Moab to seek better life but experienced changes that brought bitterness and challenged her faith. However, the sojourn in Moab and subsequent return to Bethlehem placed her in position to receive God’s intervention through Ruth joining the family. Ruth’s compassion for Naomi brought her to Bethlehem where she faced uncertain but ultimately prosperous future.

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Ruth Joins Naomi
Faith Human Effort and Compassion

We begin a study series on Ruth, in which we examine her ancestry, entry into Naomi’s family in Moab, and subsequent relocation to Bethlehem; where she met and married Boaz, became the great grandmother of David and, therefore, a key link in the lineage of the Messiah. The series begins with Ruth joining Naomi’s family in Moab and returning to Bethlehem with Naomi. The family had relocated to Moab in search of better life but instead experienced calamity as Naomi’s husband and two sons died. Subsequently, her search for better life took her back to Bethlehem accompanied by her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth.

Fateful departure. Family of Elimelech
Fateful Departure. Family of Elimelech
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FAITH AND HUMAN EFFORT We note that her sojourn in Moab and subsequent return to Bethlehem were driven by human effort: seeking to lift her family to more favorable life while in total submission to God. Because of her faith, she accepted the calamity that befell her family as an act of God and showed she relied entirely on God to help her through the crisis [Ruth 1:21]: “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” She considered herself “empty” because she did not know that her daughter-in-law Ruth that joined her family in Moab would go on to become a great grandmother in the lineage of the Messiah.

Her sojourn in Moab placed her in position to receive God’s intervention through Ruth joining her family. Her subsequent return to Bethlehem provided opportunity for Ruth to launch into a life that ultimately brought her into the role that God created for her. Naomi’s experience, therefore, provides an example of human effort and faith placing a person in position to receive God’s intervention.

COMPASSION Ruth, on her part, followed Naomi back to Bethlehem because of compassion. Naomi offered to release her from being a widow, thus providing her an opportunity to go home and seek new life. However, Ruth had compassion on Naomi and decided to remain loyal and committed to Naomi’s family. Therefore, she followed Naomi back to Bethlehem, choosing an uncertain life as widow. Later, she met Boaz in Bethlehem, married him, and together they gave birth to Obed, grandfather of David.

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