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Weekly posts and an opportunity to ask questions or give your perspective. Let's study the Bible TOGETHER!

30 May 2012

Victorious Living - 30 May

On Monday we discovered that Job’s response to adversity (loss of everything he owned and all of his family) was to grieve and then worship, never denying the Holy One. What did that attitude do for him? Did he know a secret about God? What was he expecting? How does that relate to us?

God took Job’s “friends” to task. He showed them how petty their attitude was, and then…

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before… And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.  Job 42:10, 12 (ESV)

Sweet! So if I am in trouble, God promises to give me twice what I had! Bring on that trouble!

Uh … no.

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.  James 5:10-11 (ESV)

We will be considered blessed. God never promises His people a specific amount, or percent, or money, or riches. He promises to bless us. If you listen to some preachers, you would think that God promises to double, triple, quadruple whatever you give, or that God promises a “payday” for your troubles. That is not true. God does promise to bless us.

Some people think that when you suffer adversity, it’s “payback” from God for something you did – or didn’t – do. Let’s look at Job again to see what the Bible says:

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Job 1:13-22 (ESV)

Why did Job suffer so much? So that we could see Satan cannot do anything that God does not permit, and so that we could see that God has a plan for everything that comes our way, good and bad.

What do you say to God when you go through a struggle? Is your first response anger, incredulity, lashing out? Or do you pray, attempt to stay calm, and look for God’s hand in the plan? Are you like most of us and respond with a combination? Is a trial a good or bad thing?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness*. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect** and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4 (ESV)

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience*. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect** and entire, wanting nothing.  James 1:2-4 (KJV)
*Some translations say endurance
**fully mature, attaining the intended goal

When we are tested, we are supposed to do what? Joy? Which leads to maturity?  Can you look back at times of adversity and see how they really helped to develop your Christian character and testimony?

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7 (ESV)

What do we see is the purpose of trials? What is the relationship between trials and faith?

Between now and Friday, think about times that you’ve been under a trial. What is your first response? What’s next? Once you decide to trust God, how does the trial affect your faith?

28 May 2012

Victorious Living - 28 May

So far, we’ve looked at Paul, with unbearable burdens (which he likened unto death), a thorn in the flesh, and constant persecution. His choice was to follow God’s plan for his life, no matter what circumstances were thrown at him.

25 May 2012

Victorious Living - 25 May

When you are suffering, feel unjustly treated, or think the world is out to get you, do you feel blessed or cursed? Do you feel God’s arms and love surrounding you, or do you want to get even with your tormentor? Let’s see what Jesus had to say about persecution and insults.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt 5:11-12 (ESV)

Jesus laid it on the line here. We can expect to be reviled (subject to verbal abuse) and persecuted (treated badly, especially because of race, religion, gender, or national origin) and slandered (words that damage your reputation). Lovely!

23 May 2012

Victorious Living - 23 May

We discovered that Christ is our example for suffering. We know that because the world hates Him, it will hate us, and we found out that suffering is part of the deal because we are sinners. Next, let’s look at the ways that Christ’s example can help us respond to trials.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. …

21 May 2012

Victorious Living - 21 May

Last week we watched as Paul suffered through physical pain and persecution. We saw that Paul trusted in God through all his adversity. But didn’t you wonder – just a little – why God let HIM suffer? Paul? The guy who helped to write a large part of the New Testament? The super-Christian? Obviously, if HE suffered, we’re going to suffer as well. But (whining, just a little) WHY?

“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

18 May 2012

Victorious Living - 18 May

This week we’ve seen that Paul suffered so much that he considered the situation a death sentence – and saw God rescue him. We’ve learned that Paul’s attitude of trust in God had much to do with the outcome of his problems. Today we close out the week by hearing more wisdom from Paul.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Cor 12:7-10 (ESV)

Paul had seen a vision. He had special revelations from God. Like any human, he was prone to boast of things like that, and God wanted to put a stop to it. So he gave Paul a thorn. Paul wanted it gone – and what did God tell Paul? How did it affect his life? Did his attitude toward weakness change?

In our society, the weak are overpowered. They are looked down upon and walked over. It’s a dog eat dog world. But here, Paul tells us that weakness is good. What is his reasoning?
Grace means graciousness, unearned merit or favor. We need to realize that we are weak and that He is our strength. We must bow our knee to the One Who gave His life for us. We must submit ourselves to His leadership and correction.

But Paul didn’t just have a thorn. He also suffered imprisonments for the cause of Christ. As you read these words, try to put yourself in Paul’s place. How would your words and actions stack up against his?

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Phil 1:12-14 (ESV)

What would you do if Christians were persecuted in America like they are in other parts of the world? Would you be able to speak boldly, or would you want to avoid prison? Would your testimony be an inspiration to others to become more bold to speak the word without fear? Sometimes I get scared to say things about Christ and there is little or no persecution. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to know that my words might be the justification for imprisonment!

Is “imprisonment” jail? Could it be a physical limitation? How could a physical limitation show Christ’s strengths and make others much more bold to speak the word without fear?

We’ve seen a lot of suffering in Paul’s life, but he didn’t just suffer. He also lived victoriously in the midst of his sufferings!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered*.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)

*From Psalm 44:22

We’ve heard these verses over and over. We may have heard them so frequently that they now just pass right through our consciousness. Let’s slow down and really look at them.

Paul is talking about US in this passage! Who is stronger than God? If He is for us, does it really matter what the world throws at us?

WHO can condemn us?
WHAT can they condemn us of?
WHEN can we be separated from Christ’s love?
WHERE is Jesus as He intercedes for us?
WHY are we more than conquerors?

I challenge you to memorize these verses and take them to heart each time you face a trial. The key to victorious living is in knowing Who you are living for, and knowing that only by acknowledging your weaknesses and giving the problem fully to God can God’s strength shine through.

Make a list of your current problems – money, school, family strife, job woes, lack of a home, grief, despair. Seriously. Write them all down. Then, honestly evaluate each problem. Which portions of the problem have you given to God (write it down). Which portions are you still trying to control yourself (write it down). Can you see a pattern? Can you find places where you need to ask for God’s forgiveness for your controlling spirit as well as giving Him the problem to solve? How will giving your problems to God allow you to live victoriously?

I pray that you take time to assess the areas where your living isn’t victorious because you don’t choose to allow God to control your life. I’ve got areas – and I know you do as well!

I pray your weekend is peaceful and that your pastor’s sermon is as inspiring as my pastor’s sermon! Stay in the Word, friends. It’s the only way to get through this life.

See you next week.

16 May 2012

Victorious Living - 16 May

Have you been thinking of what it must have been like for Paul? Have you taken time to reflect on your successes and failures when sharing your faith? Have you prayed for more courage? Have you been afraid to pray for more opportunities to witness?

We have seen Paul’s letter to Timothy before, but we need to explore it again.

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings [King James: holy scriptures], which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  2 Tim 3:10-15 (ESV)

We see Paul encouraging Timothy to stand fast in his faith – the true faith he learned in the holy scriptures. But the bottom line is verse 12. We are included in this statement!

Since you know that you will experience suffering, what can you do to prepare? Should you prepare?

One of the worst parts of suffering is that well-meaning people can try to offer comfort with empty words. I sometimes refer to them as “Christian platitudes”. They can’t understand what you are going through, and they might even secretly think you “have it coming”. They might quote a scripture or tell you things will get better, but very rarely do they ask what can be done for you. Some people erroneously feel that Christians don’t ever suffer, or at least don’t suffer much. But we can see that in at least one instance, Paul suffered so much that he thought he had received a death sentence. Have you ever felt like that? Is there a purpose in such suffering?

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  2 Cor 1:8-10 (ESV)

Our suffering teaching us to rely on God!  Have you ever felt like your burdens were a death sentence? Have you lost a job, a spouse, a child, a home? Did you feel God wasn’t there, or did you have confidence that God could deliver you from “such a deadly peril”? Can you look at Paul’s situation and apply it to your life – not only does God save you from deadly peril, but He will do it again!

Do you ever wonder where song writers get their inspiration? Here we see the inspiration for the song I’m Trading My Sorrows. As you read these words, you may be tempted to sing the song – go ahead! But make sure you come back and read the entire passage that inspired the songwriter.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor 4:7-11 (ESV)

Afflicted - not crushed
Perplexed - not driven to despair
Persecuted - not forsaken
Struck down - not destroyed

The faith that Paul had is an inspiration! Sometimes I feel like the world is out to get me the line for coffee is too long, and here is Paul, talking about Jesus’ life being manifested in our flesh. What a contrast between his faith and mine!

Who does Paul say the power belongs to? How does your life differ when you give the power to God – and when you attempt to take control?

Paul was constantly under attack and affliction, yet he was able to maintain his faith in the risen Christ. He learned that his weaknesses were Christ’s strengths, and he had to give up control to God. Once God was fully in control, even persecutions that seemed like a death sentence were bearable through Christ.

Do you think that Paul ever doubted? Do you think that he ever complained to God in his prayers? Remember, he did mention that he prayed for a thorn to be removed from his flesh – and God said no. So Paul, like us, is human, and even though he had great faith, he still had times of despair and doubt. What do you think Paul did when he doubted? He prayed, I’m sure.

How do you respond to the doubts you feel when things go wrong? What is your first reaction when you feel afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down?

Take some time to think of specific situations where your faith was shining for the world to see. Then look at times where you doubted God’s ability to take care of your circumstance. What were the similarities and differences? For me, my faith shines when I stay in the word and give God the entire situation. Doubts come when I try to solve the problem myself!

We’ll wrap up this week’s study by looking at the ways Paul found grace and mercy in his suffering.

It’s not too late to start the Read Through the Bible Challenge. If you’ve always wanted to read through the whole Bible, I invite you to follow along. If you did not get a chronological Bible at the beginning of the year, it’s okay. You’ll find the weekly reading list at readthroughthebiblechallenge.blogspot.com – and I hope to see you there!