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Devotional Thought: Coerced or an Exercise in Faith? (Philemon 8-9, 12-14)

I was reading, recently, about the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader. He ruled the communist nation with an iron fist for decades. The article questioned the sincerity of the public display of grief shown at his funeral.

Global Post reporter, Bradley K. Martin, suggested the displays did not involve a sincere love for the dictator. He went on to give several explanations for the public show of emotion but believes the primary reason for the appearance of affection for the deceased leader was coercion.

Earlier defectors had reported Kim Jong-il’s government conducted surveys to see who displayed the most grief and made this a criteria in assessing citizen loyalty. People who scored low on these assessments were punishment.

Being led by coercion produces many things, but love isn’t one of them. The strong-armed tactics of Kim Jong-il manufactured a loyalty created and maintained by paralyzing fear.

Jesus, on the other hand, created a Kingdom founded upon the impact of His sacrificial love. Under His rule, people are not coerced but invited to become and remain part of His family. Paul understood this important characteristic and modeled it in his relationship with Philemon in today’s study.

Because of their history together, Paul felt he could have insisted Philemon free Onesimus. However, this would have robbed Philemon of exercising his faith through this critical issue - “Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.” “But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.”

Paul wanted Philemon to choose God’s truth. He wanted Philemon to work through the struggle of this issue and do the right thing for the right reason.

Consider the commonalities of body-building and faith-building.

In body-building, experts tell us there must be enough resistance to a make a muscle work hard. After a muscle works for a while, then comes the burn. At the moment we doubt the muscle can take much more, we must push through the burn and work it a little longer. Then we rest the muscle and repeat. This is how a muscle grows.

Now consider faith-building. We encounter a situation in which our faith must work hard. After we’ve endured a while, the burn comes. We push through the burn (fatigue, stress, negative emotion, temptation, etc.) and keep trusting. When the situation lessens, we rest/reflect on our experience, and repeat when another situation comes along. This is how faith grows (James 1:2-4).

Has your faith been working hard lately? Perhaps you are experiencing “the burn” right now. If so, you could be on the cusp of great growth. Keep trusting...stay faithful!

Paul didn’t rob Philemon of the opportunity to work his faith through a difficult situation. The Lord doesn’t rob us of these opportunities, either.

The exercise of our faith is not easy. However, the spiritual stability and strength, gained through the experience, is well worth the struggle.

Rev. Will Mackey, NBC Director of Enrollment Management

Filed Under: Blog Published: 10/29/2018

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