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Lesson 2: The Crucibles that Come *

Introduction: What should a committed Christian expect in life? The Bible gives us all sorts of advice for living better lives. Deuteronomy 28 promises us that if we bey God He will give us a better life here on earth. On the other hand, if we are careless about obeying God we will have a difficult life here. Why, then, do we find these texts in the Bible which tell Christians to expect bad things? Let's dive into our lesson and see what we can learn from the Bible!

  1. Don't Be Surprised


    1. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-8. What does God promise us if we "fully obey" Him? (He promises us blessings. If you read Deuteronomy 28:1-45 you will get the full flavor of this. If you disobey God, your life will be pretty terrible and frustrating.)


    2. Read 1 Peter 4:12. After reading Deuteronomy 28, you bet I'm surprised. Suffering is strange when placed against the backdrop of Deuteronomy 28. If God does not change, and His word is reliable, how do you explain these apparently contradictory statements?


    3. Let's look at the context of 1 Peter 4:12. Continue by reading 1 Peter 4:13-16. Should we expect to suffer for our disobedience to God? (Yes. Peter says you can expect to suffer as a meddler, murderer, or thief.)


      1. What seems to be the exception to the rule of obey and prosper, disobey and suffer? (Peter points out how Jesus suffered. Jesus was leading the charge in the conflict between good and evil. As a result, He was targeted by Satan and his followers. Peter says we can expect the same thing.)


    4. Read 1 Peter 4:17-19. Peter continues in the vein of Deuteronomy 28 by comparing those who follow God with those who do not. Have our expected outcomes changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament? (No! Peter says "If you think you've got problems as a follower of Jesus, imagine what is coming upon the unrighteous!")


      1. What seems to be the primary source of problems for the unrighteous? (The judgment of God.)


    5. Read 1 Peter 5:8-9. Will our sufferings only come from unbelievers who are unhappy that we follow Jesus? (No. Satan is looking to harm us.)


      1. If Satan is looking to harm the followers of Jesus, what good is it to "be self-controlled and alert?" (This suggests that Satan is looking to cause us to sin - which will then trigger our suffering.)


        1. Is it only our sin that causes us to suffer? (The sense of verse 9 is that our suffering causes us to consider abandoning our faith. It refers to "our brothers" undergoing the same kind of suffering. Thus, we are suffering attacks of Satan even though we are obedient.)


    6. Read 1 Peter 5:10-11. Will God return us to a state of blessing if we are faithful? (Yes. We suffer "a little while.")


      1. Is this state of blessing here on earth? (The text does not specifically say, but it refers to us being called to "eternal glory in Christ." That is a reference to heaven.)


  2. No Excuses


    1. Read Romans 1:18-20. Are you getting the picture that life might not be perfect? (Good thing we studied Psalms 23 last week!) If we obey, Satan is prowling around to harm us. If we disobey, the wrath of God is being revealed to us.


      1. Does anyone have an excuse for disobeying God?


    2. Read Romans 1:21-24. How does this suggest that God's wrath works? (That if we reject what is obvious, God allows us to continue in our own way and we continue to slip lower and lower into sinful activities.)


    3. Read Romans 1:26-31. What does this suggest about the penalty for sin? (That sin brings its own reward! There is a great truth here if we contemplate it. Obeying God gives us a better life. Disobeying God gives us a worse life. The Christian's life is only worse because of the existence of sin which disrupts the natural order of things. This sin harms us in one of three ways: 1. Satan targets us; 2. General sin in the world catches us in its grasp; or, 3. We commit sin.)


    4. Read Romans 1:32. Is the world today in the condition of the world in Paul's time? (Yes! How many today "approve" of the sins listed by Paul? How many today approve of the sin of homosexuality?)


      1. How about you? Do you approve of the sins listed by Paul?


      2. Read Romans 2:1. How do we walk the line between "judging" others and not "approving" of sin?


      3. Read Romans 2:2-4. What brings us to repentance? What brings those sinners we read about in Romans 1:26-32 to repentance? (God's kindness! Should we take any other approach?)


  3. Getting Better


    1. Read Jeremiah 9:7. We just said that Satan and sin in general can injure us. For what other reason can we have what seems to be trouble in our life? (God says He will "refine" and "test" us.)


      1. What kind of picture do you see in this text - that Joe Christian is innocently walking down the street when all of a sudden the refiner's fire hits him and knocks him to the ground? (No. Notice the last part of verse 7: "what else can I do because of the sin of my people?" Our sin triggers the refiner's fire.)


        1. Is anyone perfect? Since I assume the answer to that question is "no," should we act surprised when faced with the "refiner's fire?"


        2. What should be your attitude towards a refining fire? (You should be grateful. God sees merit in you. He sees that you can be "golden." The goal is not punishment, it is your improvement.)


    2. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul says that he was given some wonderful revelations about heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-6), and later Satan sent him "a thorn in my flesh" to torment him. Why does Paul say he received the "thorn?" (To keep him from becoming conceited.)


      1. Paul asked God to take away this thorn from Satan. Why didn't God take it away?


      2. What does God mean when He says "My grace is sufficient for you?" (I think of grace as Jesus' offer of salvation on my behalf. Thus, I read this as God saying "I'll take you to heaven where you will not have any pain or suffering. That should be an adequate answer to your present suffering.)


      3. What does God mean when He says, "My power is made perfect in weakness?" (This is a theme of the Old Testament - God wants it to be clear that He is the Author of victory, not humans. Thus, when we do great work for God, He is glorified when it is clear that He did it and not us. When we suffer some sort of difficulty, that makes God's power that much clearer.)


    3. Read 2 Corinthians 12:10. What is Paul's final attitude about this annoying problem? (He ends up delighting in it because "when I am weak, then I am strong.")


    4. Friend, how about you? Are you suffering from some problem today? If it stems from your sins, then turn away. If it is sent to refine your character, look forward to the final results. If Satan is just injuring you, know two things: First, God's grace is sufficient for you. Second, God works more effectively for His glory when we are weak.


  4. Next week: The Birdcage.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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