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livingstonesJoe died. His will provided R300,000 for an elaborate funeral.

As the last guests departed the affair, his wife, Susan turned to her oldest and dearest friend. "Well, I'm sure Joe would be pleased," she said.

"I'm sure you're right," replied Joan, who lowered her voice and leaned in close. "How much did this really cost?"

"All of it," said Susan . "Three hundred thousand."

"No!" Joan exclaimed. "I mean, it was very nice, but R300,000?"

Susan answered, "The funeral was R35,000. I donated R5,000 to the church. The refreshments R 2500. The rest went for the memorial stone."

Joan computed quickly. "R257,500 for a memorial stone? My goodness, how big is it?"

"Two and a half carats."

That humorous story serves as a reminder to us that there are many different kinds of stones -- from granite to diamonds -- which are of varying value. People all around the world are agreed that a stone of granite is not very valuable, while a diamond gemstone is of great value. Sometimes, though, a stone can have great value, but not be appreciated by some people.

In I Peter 2:4, Jesus is described as a "living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious." In I Peter 2:6, Jesus is referred to as "a chief cornerstone", the most important stone in any building. But he was a stone "which the builders rejected" and is viewed as 'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." (I Peter 2:7,8).

Peter uses these Old Testament concepts (as Jesus himself did) to point out that, while Jesus was chosen by God, he was rejected by men. He was not the kind of Messiah they were expected, so they stumbled over him. It was the same stone, but Jesus was viewed by some as a very valuable stone and by others as a worthless rock.

The application of this passage to us as Christians is found in Peter's description of us as "living stones, [who] are being built up a spiritual house." (I Peter 2:5). Peter is writing this epistle to Christians who are suffering persecution, and are getting discouraged because this world is making life hard for them even though they are doing what is right.

Peter's point is that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we can expect no different treatment than he received. We are living stones who follow "the stone," a stone that was rejected by men. We shouldn't be surprised when the same thing happens to us. Our responsibility, as living stones, is simply to continue to live in a way that will bring honor and glory to God. Some will appreciate our effort, some will not, but, in the end, all that matters is that we are "chosen by God" just as Jesus was.

"Father, there are times when we get so very discouraged. There are times when it seems that, the harder we strive to serve you faithfully, the more difficult life becomes. Help us to remember that we are followers of Jesus and that we can expect nothing different from what Jesus received while he was on this earth.

Father, we ask your blessing as we seek to live in a way that glorifies you.

In Jesus' name, Amen."

Alan Smith