Saturday, October 29, 2005

Handling Adveristy - What to do when I fail?

What to do when I fail?

We know it all too well, but there are going to be times when we fail to act or behave in a way that a Christian should. Recall back to some of the details that were studied about the definition of trials. Peter tells us:

1Pe 4:12 Beloved, do not be astonished at the fiery trial happening among you for your testing, as if a surprise were occurring to you;

The problems we’re going to experience are going to feel like we’re being smelted like metal and experiencing intense heat in the process. That type of trial is going to feel very intense and making the right decisions and taking the right actions will be very challenging. We should not go through life expecting that we will fail but be realistic that failure will occur.

One of the traits of patience is perseverance. In the chapter of the book “Habits of a Loving Heart” dealing with perseverance it was observed that the difference between success and failure is often very small. You may find yourself in a situation and fail to succeed the first time, and maybe even the second or third time. The difference in success may be getting up and trying again the fourth time and finally succeeding. It takes character and strength to keep working at something that we’ve failed at in the past.

Fortunately for Christians we have a solution to our problem of failure resulting in sin in our lives. In 1 John it is written:

1Jo 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of His Son Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.
1Jo 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous that He may forgive us the sins, and may cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We must keep in mind that the blessing of forgiveness does not provide a “license to sin”. This passage in 1 John highlights something extremely important to the Christian: walking in the light. A walk is a pattern of life that is pointed in a specific direction. For a Christian that means we walk in God’s truth in a direction towards Him and Heaven. We may sin as we move down the path but it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us. However, when we sin we have a choice: either face and deal with our sin, repenting in order to stay in the light or ignore and flee into the darkness. It is when a person fails, sins, and then refuses to deal with the sin that a person begins walking in darkness. The failure then results in a separation from God and making the problem even worse.

1. Light

2. Repent


1. Peter is a very important character to examine in seeing a spiritual response to failure. What was his response immediately after betraying Jesus? What was he doing in the days that followed?

2. Contrast Peter with Judas Iscariot. What was Judas’ response immediately following his betrayal? What did Judas do in the days that followed?

3. David committed several sins in the course of events surrounding Bathsheba. How was he initially confronted with his failure? What did he do? What did he do when finally confronted by Nathan?

4. In conjunction with David’s sin, after this he is still called a man after God’s own heart. How and why is this said of him?

5. Jesus on many occasions spoke to individuals about their sins and spiritual failures. Provide some examples and then briefly explain how he dealt with them?

6. Read again James 1:1-5 and in your own words, explain how patience is so important in the face of failure, both your own and others.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Handling Adversity - Prepare Now: Habits of a Loving Heart

Prepare Now
Habits of a Loving Heart

A habit is something that is done naturally almost without thinking with a need and desire to do whatever is the habit. Most of the time we think about habits in a negative sense but a habit in and of itself is not bad. The past two topics have emphasized the need to be in action instead of dwelling the answer to why we’re experiencing suffering and pain as it happens. But, the actions of the Christian are not aimless or random. Instead our plan of action in the face of trouble should already be decided, practiced, and prepared.

There is a book used for reference with the very same title as this lesson, “Habits of a Loving Heart.” It is a complete book on this topic and lays out 12 specific behaviors, or habits, that result from the love that should be a natural part of a Christian. There is no greater text in the Bible for this subject as that of 1 Cor 13:

1Co 13:4 Love has patience, is kind; love is not envious; love is not vain, is not puffed up;
1Co 13:5 does not behave indecently, does not pursue its own things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;
1Co 13:6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth.
1Co 13:7 Love quietly covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1Co 13:8 Love never fails. But if there are prophecies, they will be caused to cease; if tongues, they shall cease; if knowledge, it will be caused to cease.

Entire classes have been built that study this subject for 13 weeks which is well worth the time. We’re going to do a brief overview of this material and it is my hope that more time will be taken individually to dwell on and fill your mind with these things.

The actions that Paul describes that pour out of the love inside a Christian are not some kind of casual or superficial love. The love that we may express to friends often comes up very short of acting in a way that 1 Cor 13 describes. The challenge for Christians, and why it must be an ingrained, habitual type of reaction, is that this is the way we should act with everyone. A Christian doesn’t just do these things for friends, family, or those in your local congregation. By constant thought, study, practice, change, and diligence the actions we perform will be a habit springing from the love we have and given to us by our God and Savior.


1. Habit

2. Love


Read through the book “Habits of a Loving Heart” and consider the questions at the conclusion of each chapter as the assignment for this lesson.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Handling Adversity - Gaining the Victory: Promise and Hope - it's about what you do

Gaining the Victory
Promise and Hope – it’s about what you do

Just mentioning Abraham’s name will bring many things to mind about him and what the Bible says about his great faith. It was through Abraham that God established the plan of salvation for all mankind. There is a quotation of Genesis 15:6 that occurs three times in the New Testament:

Gen 15:6 And he believed in Jehovah. And He counted it to him for righteousness.

God had promised an heir, a son, to Abraham but at the moment of this quotation, Abraham was questioning this promise. The verse just preceding verse 6 says that God took Abraham outside and told him to count the stars if he could and so would be those of his seed.

Someone can make a promise and if you believe it, that the person making it will execute it, then you have something to look forward to, hope for. If you believe and hope that the promise will happen then you act and behave in a way that is consistent with the promise. However, there are promises made to us that we simply don’t believe will happen for many possibly reasons. When that happens, you’re going to carry on as if the promise was never made.

Consider the passage in Hebrews 11:1

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

A person has faith because something has been promised and is the result in believing that it will be executed. There are two characteristics of faith that are identified in this verse: substance and evidence. A substance is something that can be seen, handled, and measured. Evidence is something that is left behind as a result of an action or sequence of events. Both of these words describe a faith in action and producing results for all to see.

In the context of suffering, pain, and problems, faith is critical to nourish the Christian and provide a source of comfort and strength. We know that suffering will come our way and when it does rather than dwell on why it is happening, we should spring into action because of our faith. If we truly believe God’s promises then we will act and behave in a way that is a reflection of those promises, our faith requires it.


1. Promise

2. Hope

3. Believe

4. Faith

5. Righteousness


1. Where are the three passages in the New Testament where Gen 15:6 is quoted and what is the context for it being quoted?

a. Romans ___:___

b. Galatians ___:___

c. James ___:___

2. How is it that Abraham’s belief is counted as righteousness?

3. What are some of the promises made to Christians that should be mindful in times of suffering and trouble? Give specific scripture.

4. Upon what basis do we know and trust that God will deliver on the promises He makes?

5. Why is it that Christians believe that we will be raised from the dead to a new life in Heaven with God? Give specific scripture.

6. Read James 4:7,8. What is the application to Christians during trials and temptations?

7. What does James have to say in his letter about faith and works? What is the relationship?

8. In Acts 16, we have the account of Paul being thrown into prison. What is recorded that Paul was doing while in prison? Why did he act like this?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

It's the little things

It’s the little things

Many sports have some aspect that reflects on the importance of “small” details. There is a lot of focus in the game of golf on the drive from the tee but there is a saying that the game is won or lost in chipping and putting. Similarly, it’s a lot of fun to watch a big hitter in baseball knock one over the fence for a home run but most games are won with singles and doubles. Both of these observations reflect the importance of focus on the details of each game.

Jesus tells his disciples:
Mat 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
Consider how “small” offering a cup of cold water seems to be but Jesus calls this out as something critical to securing our reward. The relative size or importance of events and actions is something we do naturally in an attempt to prioritize our daily lives recognizing that we struggle to get everything done. However, we should be cautious in how we widely we apply this concept to other areas of our lives, especially our faith.

We sometimes apply the idea of the relative size of things to various types of sin. We’ll look at one sin and say to ourselves that it’s no big deal, it’s only a “little” sin. But we should be mindful that it is sin itself that separates us from God, not the size that we may assign to the sin. For example, recalling the scene in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were told to eat of anything except of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Conventional wisdom of our day would look at this and comment that eating of the tree is no big deal but we know that when they ate of the tree it resulted in the most dire of consequences: expulsion from the Garden, separation from God, and physical and spiritual death. As the saying goes, looks can be deceiving.

Extending this thought, we may fool ourselves into accepting a sin because of the good intentions involved. But the way is strewn with the good intentions of others. Consider the story of Uzzah and the transportation of the Ark. In 2 Sam 6:1-7 we have recorded for us that the Ark was shaken while being transported and Uzzah reached out to steady it. Uzzah had good intentions to keep the Ark from being knocked over but he also violated one of God’s commandments that no man can touch the Ark. In verse 7, it says that God’s anger was kindled against Uzzah for his error and He struck him dead. Good intentions can never make up for doing something that is wrong no matter how big or small we might think it is.

We must be mindful that a Christian life is one that requires balance. We cannot become overly attentive to small details that we lose the importance and meaning of being a Christian. Jesus rebuked the Jews in Matt 23:23-24 for being so attentive to tithing the trivial spices in their house that they forgot about what was important: judgment, mercy, and faith. He tells them that they effectively swallowed a camel by straining at such small detail. They were not balanced in their lives.

A passage of similar meaning to that of Matt 10:42 is found in Matt 25:32-46. Here Jesus uses a figure of a King separating the sheep and the goats. The pronouncement upon those on his right was commendation for doing some relatively small things for him: feeding, providing drink, shelter, clothing, visiting in sickness and in prison. Those on the right respond with the question of when did they see him in these various conditions? The king’s response was that as often as they did it to the least of my brothers, you have done it to me. The he turns to those on his left pronouncing condemnation on them telling them of all the small things they failed to do to him. They respond asking when did they see him like that? And again, he tells them in failing to do it to the least of them; they failed to do it for him.

We need to be mindful of opportunity as it comes our way regardless of size or merit. That requires that we are aware and prepared to meet the opportunity with a response worthy as if we were serving our Lord. We must ensure we’re not too busy and begin prioritizing the good we do based on the relative judgment of the size of the matter. The good news is that we can all do small things for our Lord and secure our reward in Heaven. What can you do?

---Stephen Ledford

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Handling Adversity - Gaining the Victory: Patience, winning through weakness

Gaining the Victory
Patience – winning through weakness

Through the first half of the class material we’ve considered a great deal of scripture as we sought answers to some basic questions. It has been more fact based learning than application. This marks the transition to a larger emphasis on application of these principles as Christians. We will consider some specific examples of characters found in the Bible towards the end of the study but, this does not mean that we won’t look at examples before then. It is through example and the characters of the Bible that we can find our greatest lessons, hope, and strength.

Coming back to a key context we’ve examined several times in James 1, he begins the text by saying:

Jam 1:2 My brothers count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
Jam 1:3 knowing that the proving of your faith works patience.
Jam 1:4 But let patience have its perfective work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

It’s tough to remember to be patient in trying circumstances but as James points out, it is the key to victory. As we’ve established, the victory the Christian seeks is a home in Heaven with God. But how do we get there? We must go through the path that James establishes for us: trials, proven faith, and patience in order that we may be perfected and complete. Patience is the key to many things in life.

But is our victory something that we earn? That premise is thoroughly dealt with by Paul in the book of Romans with the clear answer that God owes us nothing but has provided grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is our working faith in God to deliver us that gains the victory. This victory is not something that is to go unnoticed either. Recalling the context of John 1, in speaking of the Word it says that the light shown in the darkness but it did not comprehend it and then further, that the light was the light of men. Do people see us as gaining the victory through our faith in our strength or our weakness? Charles Stanley in his book “How to Handle Adversity” uses the example of the death of Lazarus and the actions of Jesus as a case of how weakness allows God’s glory and victory to be seen clearly and boldly.

It is in times of weakness that we need patience in God the most. We must remember passages such as Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good for them that server God.” The good will arrive but it is on God’s schedule not ours. It is in weakness that our faith in God and his ability to work good in our lives is either proven or fails. This doesn’t mean that we sit back and do nothing but that we do our part and leave the rest to God. It is our weakness that strips back any false ideas that we can do it on our own and it is equally evident to those around that it is God gaining the victory through us. Remember, God wants us in Heaven with Him and He is just and righteous to know what we need and when we need it in order to get us there if we do our part.


1. Joy

2. Patience

3. Prove

4. Faith

5. Perfect


1. Read through the context of John 11 and the death of Lazarus.
a. Who are the characters besides Jesus that are noted?

b. What are their responses at various points in the story?

c. What is Jesus response in return?

d. What does he explain as why events occurred the way they did?

2. Consider the story of David and Goliath. What can be learned about the perceived weakness of David and the victory delivered on the battlefield?

3. Consider the story of the Israelites taking of Jericho. What did they do in order to defeat the city and what does it say about the victory achieved?

4. Consider the story of Gideon in Judges 6,7. How was the victory delivered and why?

5. What is said about God and displaying His glory. How is it achieved? What are some of the reasons given as to why it is done in a particular way?

6. Thought question. The Old Testament contains numerous prophesies about Jesus. Many of them describe the suffering and anguish that he would endure. Why did Jesus have to suffer, why is it so central to be part of prophesy, how did he achieve it, and what did his sufferings accomplish?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Handling Adveristy - Sources of Suffering: Trials, Chastisement and the will of God

Sources of Suffering
Trials, chastisement, and the will of God

Viewing adversity while it is happening and trying to determine if something is a temptation or a trial can be very difficult to discern. We’ve already read in James1:12-15 the process of temptation and how it begins within ourselves when our inordinate desire, lust, goes unchecked. It was said by a wiser man than me, “A temptation can turn into a trial but a trial is not a temptation.” What this statement acknowledges is from the context of James 1, temptations do not come from God but it begins by saying that the enduring of temptation, results in being successful and overcoming it. It is when temptation is conquered that it is only a trial.

There are times when God does place trials, or tests, on people. Recalling the context of John 9:1-5 the man was blind for the reason that God’s works would be made known. A common question on this topic is, “Why does God test those whom he loves?” For example in Jeremiah 17:10, God says he searches the heart and tries the reins and the reason He does this is stated so that God will give to each man according to what he does. David asks to be tried in Psalms 139:23. The idea of a trial as the form of a test is not a new concept to us. Coming back to our favorite analogy of sports, there are often times special events, trials of some sort, in order to determine any number of characteristics of the event. It could be a time trial where one rider is working against the clock to demonstrate their best time. College football players will go through a testing event called a combine before the NFL draft each year. Trials are a good thing when the goal is kept in mind. They provide a means to demonstrate what we’re made of, succeed, and excel.

Chastisement on the other hand, is not so pleasant of a topic. This originates when we’ve done something wrong. A simple example of chastisement is what your parents did when you violated a rule of the house. It could come in the form of a spanking, grounding, extra chores, or any number of possibilities. There is no mistake as to what they are trying to achieve: awareness that you did something wrong and a lesson to help remember not to do it again. When bad things happen to people it is a very common reaction to think that some wrong was committed to be deserving of the punishment. Job’s friends thought this was what was happening to him. We see the same thing today in natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina. Many around the world viewed the destruction of New Orleans as a sign that God was punishing the United States for the war in Iraq or moral depravity. Chastisement is simpler to understand in personal application but very difficult in broad, general terms such as natural disasters. In either case whether it is a trial or chastisement, God is exerting his rule and dominion over his creation to work towards a better good for us all.


1. Trial

2. Chastise

3. Approve


1. Find scripture that speak of chastisement by God. Why is God doing this in each case?

2. Find scripture that speak of trials by God. Why is God doing this in each case?

3. Abraham is a character in the Old Testament that we can see God actively working in his life. What are some of his tests and what was the outcome?

4. What should be our view and attitude towards trials and chastisement? Site scripture.

5. How does love work in the context of trials and chastisement? What do parents do with children as they grow and mature?

6. It is difficult for some to see the difference between God’s will influencing someone’s life and the person’s free-will. What does the Bible have to say about such things and how are these two things harmonized?

7. National judgment and punishment is something that is seen in the Bible many times. Site a few examples and what God says are the reasons why it is happening.

8. It was said earlier that a trial is not a temptation. However, failing a trial can result in sinning. How can that happen and why? Who is responsible for that happening?