Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Victorious Faith

(Jeff note: I am going to start posting my Sunday School teaching notes. Why use them just on my class where only 20 or so of us discuss it? Right now we are using the Bible Studies for Life guides from Lifeway:

This is the last of the series Resilient Faith and how Christians are to deal with trials and suffering.

*** When was the last time you had to “just grin and bear it,” “roll with the punches,” “bite the bullet,” or “weather the storm?” All are common phrases of encouragement when someone’s going through a tough time. The apostle Peter writes that we shouldn’t rely on ourselves to get through it.

*** Everyone loves a winner. Isn't it more fun to go into a situation when you know you're going to win? You know you're going to beat the other team. You know you're going to ace that test. You are totally going to beat the old ladies to the potato salad at the church potluck.

Today we're going to talk about the ultimate victory. Despite difficulties and opposition, we are not left alone. The Bible shows us what happens when we drop the self-made approach to faith and rely on God. We are winners!

1 Peter 5:6-7

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

*** What’s the danger of trying to handle life on your own?

*** Christians and depression in light of Robin Williams’ suicide. A tough subject, but is it one that churchgoers don't recognize or ignore?

Do Christians have trouble asking for help? It speaks to the struggles of a human soul and to the necessity of a local church. When we hear about a believer doing such a thing we might think, “where was the church, how did they get to such a dark place without others in the body knowing. Did others know?” Our local church community should be so tight and close that anyone who is going through such things has many saints whom they can confide in and seek help to.

How can we lead Christians who are depressed and suicidal to help them let God turn them around?

*** In verse 6 Peter tells us to “Humble yourselves.”

--- This means we are to submit to the will of God, even – especially - when it includes pain and suffering.

*** In verse 6 Peter also writes that we should do this “Under the mighty hand of God.”

--- It may be hard to accept but Peter encourages us that difficulties can come into a Christian’s life through God’s will:

Job 30:21 - You have turned against me with cruelty; You harass me with Your strong hand.

Psalm 32:4 - For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat.

Deuteronomy 9:26 - I prayed to the Lord: Lord God, do not annihilate Your people, Your inheritance, whom You redeemed through Your greatness and brought out of Egypt with a strong hand.

Ezekiel 20:34 - I will bring you from the peoples and gather you from the countries where you were scattered, with a strong hand, an outstretched arm, and outpoured wrath.

*** Cast your cares on Him.

--- Worry, burdens and anxiety distract us from God’s care and concern for us if we focus on them too much.
--- God cares for you right now, wherever you are in life. He doesn’t sit quietly off to the side as His people suffer.

*** Why do you think Peter uses the term “humble yourselves” in verse 6? What do you think that means in our everyday walk?

1 Peter 5:8-9

8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.

*** Peter makes it clear that we have an adversary. Do we take Satan seriously enough? Is it harder to believe in an evil power than in a righteous God?

*** Do you remember the traffic signs with the bees on them that said: "Bee alert, arrive unhurt!" We give the same message to the drivers who look down texting while driving, or doing the lean while talking on the phone in the car.

Likewise, in verse 8 Peter tells us to be serious and alert for those things that could derail our Christian witness.

--- Matthew 26:41 - "Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

--- Acts 20:31 - Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.

--- 1 Thessalonians 5:6 - So then, we must not sleep, like the rest, but we must stay awake and be serious.

*** It is easy for Christians to lose focus and fall away from the church, and even turn to things like drugs and alcohol for false comfort.

*** The study guide points out two steps Peter tells us we can take to resist the Devil: Know what you believe and why you believe it.

*** What are some of the most common attacks we experience from Satan?

1 Peter 5:10-11

10 Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. 11 The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen.

*** If you were going to visit a church, would you still go if you heard that the pastor had cursed and swore that he didn't know Jesus?

And yet this is the story of Peter in Matthew 26. Think of Peter - called The Rock by Jesus Himself - panicking in the face of trials like this. Have you ever been on a flight that had bad turbulence or a mechanical problem where it was clear even the flight attendants and crew were nervous? That’s when my anxiety goes way up. I think to myself, these guys have seen it all. and if they are this nervous, things must really be bad!

Knowing this, we will be restored after suffering trials just as Peter was restored. Note that Peter doesn't say that he will make sure that God doesn't let you suffer in life. He says that God will come through AFTER you have suffered, but only a little.

*** What forms of suffering do you think we can experience in this life that will help us to grow stronger in our faith?

*** Peter uses this experience to assure us four things in these verses:

--- God is our foundation for a sure hope.
--- God is the only One worthy of our trust and reverence.
--- God is the reason we can endure suffering and trials with resilient faith.
--- God is victorious.

*** Peter says God calls YOU, all of us, to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus. The Lord is the One who gives us strength and victory. He is worthy of all praise because there is nothing we can accomplish without Him.

LIVE IT OUT

How will we approach God for strength and restoration?

*** Don’t worry. – Be conscious of moments when you experience worry this week. Turn it into trust in God.

*** Be prepared. – Make a plan for dealing with attacks when they come your way.

*** Plan a retreat. – Take some time in the near future to get away from your daily routine and spend a significant portion of time with God – and only with God.

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