Monday, May 14, 2012

Lesson 21 - Enduring Difficult Times

Lesson 21 - Enduring Difficult Times

What meant the most to you from this chapter or helped you think more accurately about God’s character and the truth of His Word?  What offered you the greatest challenge or blessing, and why?

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11

God Has a Plan for You
Read Jeremiah: 29:1-11.

            According to verse 4, who caused the captivity of the Israelites?

            What advice does God give the exiles in verses 5-7 for how to live in a strange land?

            What words of hope does God speak in verses 10-14?

What circumstances in your life does God seem to be asking you to live with and endure?

How does the knowledge of God’s plan and purpose for you encourage you?

A - Acknowledge God’s Hand
First we must recognize God’s hand in whatever has happened.

Look at Jeremiah 29, verses 4, 7, 14, and 20.  Who does God say was instrumental in the Israelites’ captivity?

What differences does acknowledging God’s hand in your situation make?

Our life is not out of control!  Nothing has just randomly happened to put us where we are.  God has allowed us to be here. 

We can better endure difficult times when we acknowledge that God is indeed in full control of not only the universe but of our circumstances as well. 

Thinking about the truth will help to eliminate insecurity, bewilderment, blaming, and bitterness.

B - Bloom Where You Are Planted
What do I mean by blooming where we are planted? 

We are to go on loving the Lord with our whole being – heart, soul, strength, and mind.
We are to go on fulfilling His purposes for us wherever we find ourselves – no matter how undesirable or unexpected our circumstances may be.

Read Jeremiah 29:5-7.  What did God say to His people about putting down roots and getting busy in their captivity?
List the involvement He expected.  Build houses – dwell in them, plant gardens – eat their fruit, take wives for sons and give daughters to husbands – so they may bear children.

What difference do you think such activities make in difficult times?  Focus on priorities of building solid, long-lasting, and ongoing marriages rather than their pains.

Where has God “planted” you?  How have you acknowledged His hand, and what are you doing to “bloom” there?

God wants us to continue building where we are and blooming where we’re planted – this is how we endure difficult times.

Our plan of action for difficult times is simple:  “Keep on keeping on!”

Keep on building, functioning, planting!  Live! Bloom! Grow!
Don’t sit around being sad or depressed, waiting for things to change or get better…MAKE THINGS BETTER!

C - Count on God’s Promises
What was God’s promise to Israel in Jeremiah 29:10 and 14?  Promise of a return to their homeland.

What are just a few of God’s promises to you?

            John 10:27 - 29                          John 14: 1 - 3                            Philippians 1:6

            1 Thessalonians 4:16 - 17

Where do you tend to focus your attention when things fall apart?  Concentrate on God’s promises!

They assure you over and over again of the bright and glorious hope we have even when life looks hopeless.

D - Do Something Useful
While you are in your difficult times you can do something useful!  You can serve God, your family, and His people!

What is Matthew 20:26-28 calling us to do?  What guidelines does God give for serving…
            As a wife in Genesis 2:18?                     As a mother in Titus 2:4?

            As an employee in 1 Peter 2:18?                        As a member of the body of Christ in Galatians 6:10?

            As a witness to Him in the world in 1 Peter 3:15?

Ok. So roll up your sleeves and serve God and others in the present, even in your hard times.

If we are married, God calls us to serve our spouses,
If we are parents, we are to nurture and love our children,
Each of us – married or single – is called to serve the body of Christ, His church (1 Cor. 12:7).

No matter where we are or what our circumstances, we are to serve God.

These roles require energy, self-sacrifice, and strength, but God graciously provides everything we need to do something useful…even in the midst of suffering.

We are going to talk about some of God’s people who, when they found themselves in hard and difficult places – places they didn’t choose and places they didn’t want to be in – followed God’s plan for enduring difficult times.

As you review these four ABC’s, what message is God sending to you in your difficult situation?

Acknowledge God’s hand
Bloom where you are planted
Concentrate on God’s promises
Do something useful

Loving God…Even More
Read this section in your book again.  As you consider the contents of this chapter and God’s amazing love for you, what can you do this week, in obedience to Christ…

…to count on God’s goodness?  …to remember God’s power at work in your life? …to love God with all your mind?

We know that in everything God works for good.

Living Out God's Plan

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 

Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lesson 20 - Navigating the Maze of Life

Knowing that God has a purpose for your life and for your salvation will bring great joy and hope; however, it brings great responsibility.

Discovering God’s Purpose
Do you ever have one of those days when your routine seems dull and the duty of it weighs you down? Maybe you experience days that have a bunch of curveballs thrown at you or is filled with disappointments that leave you feeling like you’re striking out.

The constant awareness that God has a purpose for us will give us hope when we are challenged with these types of days.

Life seems like a maze - like those English gardens that have mazes designed out of shrubbery. We follow along the maze of life, randomly making turns and choosing our paths.

Then we come to know Christ as our Lord and Savior. From this point on we have a purpose -- to serve God.

God provides our direction through life’s maze…God keeps us moving forward as we pray and dedicate our lives to serving Him, becoming more Christlike, and spreading the gospel.

As we begin to grow and move along in our Christian life, we come to corners (special moments when God guides our lives into new directions or deeper understandings of His purpose for us.)

Sometimes we stray from God’s will or misunderstand His direction and come to dead ends. It is through further prayer that we can take the action and seek the Lord for clarification or new guidance.

Remember: God doesn’t ask us to understand the twists and turns, the why’s and the how’s of life….He only asks that we trust He is working His purpose in our lives as we serve Him.

Fill in the last few words of Romans 8:28:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, __________________. “

Read Romans 8:29. What does Paul say is God’s main purpose for your life?

While you have been reading Loving God with All Your Minds, how have you seen God’s promise and purpose (as stated in Romans 8:29) at work in your life? Share one instance.

Finding God’s Will
Let’s look to Acts 16:6-10 where we learn something about how God reveals His will to His people. Luke tells us that when Paul was on his second missionary journey, Paul decided to travel in another direction to proclaim the gospel but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.

How did Paul respond to this closed door? Did he say “I quit”? Did he get mad and have a fit? Did he complain? Did he sink into a depression?

No, he kept moving and tried a different direction. He found himself blocked again. Do you think he quit, got mad, complained, or sunk into a depression?

No, he kept moving and tried the final option where he traveled to Macedonia to preach the gospel.

Discovering God’s Purpose…for You!
Luke does not tell us how exactly God forbade Paul to go certain directions, the passage does teach us that we can trust God to close doors and block our paths in order to keep us going where He wants us to go.

Our role is to love God and keep moving through life according to His purpose for us. His role is to lead us in the maze so that we can fulfill the specific purposes He calls us to at the same time that He fulfills His purpose in and through us.

God will use people, events, and circumstances, both good and bad, to move us ultimately toward the fulfillment of His will and purpose for our lives.

Romans 8:29 explains the primary purpose of “all things” in our lives is Christlikeness. Every person, every event that touches us is for the purpose of making us like Christ. You will find comfort and hope if you will remember this fact.

Psalm 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Wait patiently for Him to act, to work, to reveal His purposes. Even if we never know why things happen, we can still rest in God, hope in Him, and believe that He is using every aspect of our lives to make us more like Jesus.

Using the following questions, share how God has revealed His will to you.

     Who are or were some of the people God has used?
     What unusual events and/or circumstances has God used?
     What were some things you wanted that God did not permit?
     When and how has God stopped your movement in one direction and turned you another direction?
     What do you see about God’s will as you look back at your answers? What hope do you have for the   

I have found myself, at times, busy about doing my own thing and leaving God out of the picture.  This is when I find that life is a struggle and I realize that I have moved out of God’s will while attempting to work under my own will.  I am thankful for the Holy Spirit, Who, at times like these, will shake me in order to refocus me on God’s plan.

I find when I start each day with prayer and a commitment to allow God to lead me that I find the greatest joys and successes, because it is not about me, but it is about Him.  It is easy for us to think that our life has two parts, the one that would surround the natural things of life (workplace or career) and the spiritual things of life.

In fact, God has only one plan for us – His plan.  In His plan, He develops us into the men and women that He created us to be.  He insures that we are in the career path that will bring the greatest success for us, according to His will and purpose.

With His plan there will be a molding process, but He will be there to guide us through the obstacles of life, and in these cases, we can experience His love and His peace knowing all of the time that He is molding us into His will for His glory.

Life becomes easier when we allow the Potter to mold us into His image for His plan and His glory.

God’s Songbird
In your book you read the story of Fanny Crosby now reflect on the doctor’s mistake that caused her blindness and how she responded to that life changing event.

How has God turned a negative event in your life into a blessing for you?

Loving God…Even More
Read this section in your book again. As you consider the contents of this chapter and God’s amazing love for you, what can you do this week, in obedience to Christ…
…to count on God’s goodness?
…to remember God’s power at work in your life?
…to love God with all your mind?

We know that in everything God works for good.