DAILY DISCIPLINE #2
By Colleen Donahue
In our first study of the Daily Discipline series, we started to look at some of our problems in life and what the Bible has to say to us about how to deal with them. We looked at various conditions we find ourselves in from time to time such as adversity, fear, and depression. Then we looked at various sins we can let ourselves fall into that can lead to all kinds of problems for us.
Now, In part 2 of this study, we'll look at situations that can overwhelm us during life that maybe through no fault of our own. We can let these situations swamp us or we can continue to seek God during these times. The Father never wants us to live in defeat. He is with us through everything we face, but we do need to get in the habit of looking up to Him, talking things out with him, and obeying his directives. There is nothing that can come our way but that God wants to be involved and with us in it.
So, let's get started with Part 2 of ......
TEACHINGS ABOUT LIFE'S PROBLEMS- Part 2
Situations That Can Overwhelm Us
It's first important to clarify that temptation is not sin. That "pull" to sin can seem so strong that it might feel sin is inevitable -- but it's not.
A. WHO is behind all temptation?
1 Chronicles 21:1 / Matthew 4:3 / 2 Corinthians 11:3
Who is NEVER behind our temptations?
B. So how does temptation work in us? James describes the process for us.
James 1:14 - 15
Satan and his fallen angels study our lives and know all the "fault lines" -- the cracks where they can get a foothold into our lives. It always starts with a suggestion in our minds.
For example, you have trouble with the sin of overeating. Your mom has made a wonderful meal and you have eaten just the right amount and have enjoyed it. Suddenly you think "mom has not made this for a long time and I might not get it again any time soon. I better take a 2nd helping of everything." And so instead of stopping because you are full, you have second helpings and you have just started overeating.
Then, at the next meal if this becomes your pattern it "gives birth to death". The inevitable outcome of this sin of overeating is obesity that leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, and numerous other problems eventually leading to an early physical death. But before that happens we become spiritually less and less in tune with God the more we sin against Him. Food can soon become an idol that preoccupies your mind.
C. So while temptation is not sin, it is serious because it leads to sin and all sin separates us one way or another from God -- and that's Satan's goal. Jesus was tempted the same way we all are and yet he never gave in to it and sinned. So let's look at what He did. Read:
- Three times the devil tempted Jesus with "if.....then...." scenarios. They are in verses 3,5, & 9.
"IF you do this...THEN it will prove you are the Son of God."
- In the second temptation Satan quotes scripture to Jesus --Psalm 91:11-12 -- but he takes it out of context. God doesn't agree to protect us when we willfully jump off the highest point of the temple. He protects us when we stay under his shelter. Beware -- Satan knows scripture well and he loves to either misquote it or quote it out of context.
- Now here's the important part to see. Jesus recognizes the temptation for what it is and doesn't engage in any chit chat with the devil. He simply quotes God's word back to Him. Three times Jesus says, "It is written...", "It is written...", "It is written...".
-Jesus knew what God had to say and quoted it. The devil will not usually flee at the first push back but if we are firm to quote God's word he will eventually be forced to flee.
D. What is our part when temptation comes?
Ephesians 4:26-27 / James 4:7 / 1 Peter 5:8
E. Often this resisting starts with staying away from the things that could push you into sin.
For example: if you have trouble eating too much then stay away from buffets! It's that practical.
F. Then resisting includes being on guard especially when you know you'll be in situations that cause you trouble.
1 Peter 5:9 / 2 Peter 3:17
G. Third, you deal with the living spirit that stands behind your temptation by speaking the word of God -- the same way that Jesus did. (It can be to yourself or out loud, depending on the situation).
This will require some homework on your part so that you'll be ready to quote the scripture you need. If you are easily driven to fear, you might want to memorize
2 Timothy 1:7. Then, the next time you are tempted to fear you say, "No! I will not fear. God hasn't given me a spirit of fear but rather a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
H. Finally it's important to be proactive in doing some positive things that can make you successful in resisting.
Romans 6:13 - Notice that it's not only about the negative but also about the positive. "Do not offer... but rather offer yourselves to God."
Ephesians 6:13 - "therefore put on the full armor of God..."
I. Perhaps the most proactive thing any of us can do to resist temptation is to know some of God's word by heart. Why?
2 Timothy 3:16-17
J. We'll end this section on temptation with two thoughts.
1. We do not need to sin. Sin is not inevitable. Why?
2. We have an obligation to resist the enemy causing the temptation. Jesus has made it possible for us not to sin but we need to enforce it.
2. PERPLEXED AND NEED GUIDANCE
Life can be messy. Things happen that we don't plan for. But the hardest situations are when two roads divide before us ---we want God's way --but aren't sure of it. What do we do?
A. The first thing we need to know in our hearts is that as much as we want to take the right road, God also wants us to take the right road. He has a definite purpose for our lives and wants us on the right path. Therefore, what does God promise us?
Notice that God doesn't just promise to instruct us and show us the way to go, but He keeps his eye on us while giving us His counsel. Remember when your dad was teaching you to ride a bike? He made sure you were safely on the seat, then trotted in place next to you when you started to pedal, and finally when he let go his eye was on you every second. Now that's our Heavenly Father as well!
B. While God has promised to teach and guide us, we need to be in a place to receive His guidance. Who is the person that God can guide?
Someone who is humble is teachable. They are not self-confident "know-it-alls".
C. Then comes the hard part -- waiting. In our instant society, we want action but God wants us to wait for Him to direct us first. How do we wait on Him?
In other words, we push the pause button and keep focused on Him.
D. Then, when God starts to direct us, what will happen?
Isaiah 30:21 / Isaiah 42:16
E. And what will we need to do?
Teachable -- Waiting --- Obedient --- that is the sequence for God's guidance.
F. But there is one more element once we start to obey. You can expect that Satan will put it in your mind to second guess what God has said to you. You'll start to doubt, "Did God really say that? Or, is it just myself talking?" This brings us to the final element in receiving guidance.
What does trusting mean? Here is how I look at it:
T= Taking it all the Jesus
R= Relying on Him to take it
U= Understanding that He knows all about it
S= Safely leaving it in His hands
T= Taking our hands off
I= Interested in what HE will do
N= Not picking it up again to handle ourselves
G= Going our way with confidence knowing that God is at work.
G. Once we have waited upon God and feel a nudge to take a step, then we should confidently take that step. If we don't, God won't be able to give us light for the next step or the next. "But what if I heard wrong?" Then trust Him to stop you and make it plain.
Satan wants to keep you always second-guessing if you heard God correctly. If he can get us in that state then what do we become?
Instead, you should quote this verse back to the devil -- and do it with confidence!
H. The keys during perplexing times is to STOP, LOOK, and LiSTEN.
STOP being in perpetual motion
LOOK up to God (i.e. wait on Him) and
LISTEN for his direction
Then, obey whatever directive you sense rising up in you. Often it will be some small step. When you do it, the next step will reveal itself. Soon, the forked road will be one road again and you'll be able to say along with King David:
3. FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES
Financial difficulties come to everyone from time to time and it's often a means by which God tests us. If you are part of God's family, then you are part of the Kingdom of God. In a kingdom the king owns everything but He gives it to us to use.
A. With anything God gives us, what are we meant to do with it?
B. And if we do this what does God promise us?
C. God has made us for a purpose and as citizens in his kingdom, He promises to provide what we need to do His work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 / Philippians 4:19
D. The problems often come when we start to hang on tight to the gift God gives us. We stop honoring him when we don't use his provisions to do His work. Soon greed and selfishness can take over. Jesus warned us about this.
E. Once greed and selfishness take over our lives, it leads to the next step down.
F. To never be satisfied with what you have is a bad place to be as it leads to something worse.
1 Timothy 6:10
G. The love of money, the love of material things, and a comfortable lifestyle can overtake believers as well as anyone else. What does it lead to?
Hypocrisy is the best way to describe believers who talk one way but live another.
H. This was the situation in Israel when God delivered his message to them through the Prophet Malachi. Read this whole section and then we'll look at it closely.
-What did God want them to do? Verse 7
- When they asked how they were to return --because they didn't think they had ever left --- what question where they asked? - Verse 8a
-This surprised the people and so so they ask how it is that they rob God. Verse 8b
-God is swift to answer. Verse 8c
-The giving of a tithe to God had been established by Abraham 400 years before the law of Moses had even been given. It was to be the pattern for the Jewish people to follow.
-But somewhere along the way, this honoring of God with a tenth of all income had stopped. What was the entire nation under? Verse 9
A curse is like a long, dark arm that reaches out over all of life causing one thing after another to befall people. Maybe you've heard someone express it like this: "My life is just one big disaster!"
-So God challenges the people with a test. What is it? - verse 10A
- And if they take the giving challenge, what does God promise to do? - Verse 10b, 11-12
- Notice there are two ways that God provides for us. First, there is the pouring out of blessings. I'll call this positive giving. But then, there is also what I'll call negative giving. God is going to prevent pests from devouring their crops and keep their fruit from falling off the vine. Today we might see God increase the sales for our business and at the same time keep our old car from breaking down.
If any of us are in a stage of financial difficulty then it's time for us to stop and seek the Lord. God is the source of all good gifts and if they have stopped flowing to us it could be that we have stopped using what He gives us for His purposes. We might be inadvertently creating a dam that is blocking the flow.
4. MARRIAGE DIFFICULTIES / DIVORCE
A. Most marriage difficulties occur for one main reason.
If we don't submit mutually to one another then there will be a constant clash of wills.
B. Both the Apostle Paul and Peter had this advice to give to reverse this clash of wills.
Ephesians 5:22-33 / 1 Peter 3:1-7
C. Today divorce is not only common, it's accepted. Let's hear what Jesus tells us when asked the question: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
God's position is that once a man and a woman are married (joined by God) they are ONE and should not be separated.
D. But even back in the days of Moses, divorce was being requested. So the Pharisees pushed Jesus further on it and here's his answer.
E. Therefore, marriage is God's creation and divorce is man's creation. God does not recognize man's creation even though man accepts it. And that's why Jesus says the next verse.
If God accepted man's creation of divorce, then the people involved would not be adulterous if they married someone else. Jesus gave only one exception for divorce and that is marital unfaithfulness.
Today, we consider this thinking rigid and outdated. But it's God's thinking and anyone who follows Him wants to walk in His will and not our own.
F. Let's look at one more passage written by the Apostle Paul.
1 Corinthians 7:10-16
Christianity was in its early years when Paul was writing. As men and women sought to follow Jesus, it created more and more households where there was a believer and an unbeliever married. Therefore God through Paul establishes one more instance where a couple could separate. If the unbeliever absolutely refused to stay with a believing wife or husband they could go. We see this happening today in many Muslim households where one has converted to Christianity.
All marriage takes work but it's not for us to make it work ourselves. Jesus is the third party in every marriage. He will be our partner in developing the right and balanced relationship in our spouse. So, if you are in the throes of difficulty, your first step is to draw close to Jesus so that you'll know how to draw close to your spouse. Jesus will be like the oil between two cogs in the wheel. He will help to remove the friction by his grace so you can operate as one.
5. FRIENDS FAIL
When ones you love, trust, and count upon fail you or go against you, it's like a "punch in the gut". You expect it from an enemy or someone who doesn't care about you but not a close friend!
A. King David had this happen to him. Can you hear the sorrow in his voice?
What was David's reaction that reflects what most of us would want to do?
It is totally understandable to want to retaliate when a friend or an enemy tries to harm us. It was the law of the old testament to give "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." (Exodus 24:21)
B. But that's what makes Christ so revolutionary. He references this Old Testament law and says, "But I tell you..." Jesus was about to tell the people that a new law was going to take the place of the "eye for an eye" law. As you read these astonishing verses make a list of what we are to do when anyone (friend or foe) comes against us.
C. The Apostle Paul experienced what David did but he had quite a different reaction.
2 Timothy 4:16
What did he count on instead?
2 Timothy 4:17-18
D. It is only as we commit our lives to Christ's keeping and let Him live through us that we'll have the strength to follow Christ's way instead of the way of retaliation. Paul writes these remarkable verses on Christian ethics. To help digest them I would again suggest making a list for yourself.
E. For as hard as it is to have a friend fail us, we must be reminded that we have failed our Heavenly Father time and again. We have sinned against Him on a daily basis and He has not squashed us like a bug or killed us. Instead, He has kept reaching out to us to draw us back to Himself. So the key duty for us when friends fail is....
You won't feel like forgiving. Forgiveness is a matter of your will towards the person who harmed you. It's something Jesus tells us we have to do if we want the Father's forgiveness. But forgiveness also frees us from additional sins such as bitterness that have the potential to "eat us alive!"
A. Loneliness can be our companion -- even in the midst of a crowd. What can cause it?
Psalm 31:11 / Psalm 38:11 / Psalm 88:18 / Mark 14:48,50
B. What do others do that keep us in a state of loneliness?
Job 19:19 / Psalm 142:4 / Luke 15:16 / John 5:7 / 2 Timothy 4:10
C. Loneliness then becomes anguish in the heart. And although it's people who have caused the loneliness, who do we blame?
Psalm 22:1-2 / Isaiah 49:14
D. Can it be true that God forgets us?
E. There seems one major benefit of loneliness. When we are popular and surrounded by friends and family, God is an added extra. But when friends and family are not there, God becomes everything to us. And so David found this true for His life.
F. We will find it true for our lives as well.
7. OLD AGE / DEATH
A. These are conditions we are all forewarned of but one where few prepare for and indeed can't prepare for. So often you'll hear someone say, "I just turned 65 but I feel like I'm 35." Or, "My 70th birthday was last week. How did that happen?" Old age creeps up slowly and it only starts to hit us when friends around us die and our bodies aren't quite as nimble as they used to be. King David in this entire Psalm tells us about God's help for him in his old age.
All throughout his life, David had turned to God in his troubles, and to him, this was one more time to do that. So we find this psalm a mixture of prayer to God for his troubles, praise to God for the certainty of His help, and proclamations to the world about the great God that has been with David all his life.
B. God is eternal and therefore is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But He knows that man is going to grow old and die from this first life. What does he clearly promise us?
C. According to David's Son, King Solomon, there is one thing we can do to prepare for old again in our youth.
Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6-7
Solomon had started his life committed to God. Then he took a left turn when he started to pursue everything that could give him pleasure, knowledge, and power. After a lifetime of doing that, he came up empty and fortunately took a right turn back to God. Now, that's a detour none of us needs to take.
D. Did Solomon say this because he was convinced that there is a judgment day coming and life in eternity ahead for all of us?
E. Solomon had only a foretaste that Jesus was coming but of course, did not know what you and I can know today. Christ's friend Martha -- who loved Jesus -- heard these words straight from Jesus's mouth but really didn't understand them.
John 11: 25-26
F. Today, because Jesus has died and come back from the dead, we have a fuller understanding of death. The Apostle Paul was given this revelation and he shares it with us.
1 Corinthians 15:50-57
G. Jesus was the first to conquer death by rising from the dead and he won't be the last. Why?
John 6:40 / 2 Corinthians 4:14 / 1 Thessalonians 4:16
H. All who hoped in God without knowing Jesus from the past will be raised because the shadow of the cross falls backward as well as forwards.
I. When it's time for your death and my death what will this time be to God?
J. Because Jesus has already conquered death by rising to eternal life, he is prepared to lead us through this time and take us to Himself. Until that time comes what are we to do?
1 Corinthians 15:58
In these two studies about dealing with the troubles of this life, you may have noticed some reoccurring themes. Let's summarize them.
1. All of us can expect trouble in life because we live in a fallen world. Being a follower of Jesus will not exempt us. In fact, we may experience more because the "world" may hate us.
2. There is an "unholy spirit" in this world whose sole goal is to lure us away from our relationship with God and back into sin.
3. To know the error in the thinking of the world around us we must know the truth of God's word. That must be a life long commitment. When we memorize the Word we have it available to use when we need it.
4. It's important that each of us put off the old nature and put on our new nature that is like Jesus. Jesus gives us his own Spirit to indwell our life. Our transformation occurs from the inside out.
5. To love as Jesus loves (called agape love) is only possible when His Spirit indwells our own.
6. We are in a partnership with Jesus and therefore we never have to go through the troubles of this life alone.
7. We must always be on guard and watchful because the devil prowls around looking for "someone he can devour".
8. Troubles often come when some "idol" replaces our relationship with God. An idol is anything we can't stop thinking about.
9. Our first step in trouble should always be to seek God for that is where our help will come from.
10. Our attitude to receive God's guidance through our troubles is humility, waiting on God, obedience, and trust.
11. The keys during perplexing times are to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN.
12. When in the midst of any trouble, we must set our minds on "the things above", for where the mind goes the man follows.
13. Often we will need to set our mind AND our will to live right even when we feel that everything is wrong.
14. God has equipped us to handle the enemy:
A. He gives us His Word of truth to stand on and to be able to say, "It is written..."
B. Jesus gives us the authority of his name to use
C. The Holy Spirit gives us His power to live through any life circumstance.
15. We should cultivate the habit of praise and thanksgiving to God because in the midst of discouragement, despondency, and depression it's an important tool to maintain our balance.
16. In all close relationships, it's our lack of submission to one another that causes the clash of wills. Humility before God will help us to be humble before men.
17. Forgiveness is a matter of our will towards a person who has wronged us. If we are to receive the Father's forgiveness, then we must forgive those who hurt us. It is not an option and Jesus in us will enable us to be able to do so.
18. Finally, every problem we have can be an opportunity to watch God at work to show Himself strong on our behalf. In the midst of your troubles let Him do that.