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Lesson 4: Seeing the Goldsmith's Face *

Introduction: "A bad day in paradise is like a good day anywhere else." I'm sure I don't have this quote exactly right, but it is something that I've heard from people who believe they live in a pretty nice place. The sense I get of this quote is that they like where they live even when things are not perfect. Our lesson this week is about a similar idea. Even when the Christian is "having a bad day," his character is being refined. Even bad days are good! Let's dive into our lesson and learn more about "living in paradise!"

  1. Groaning

    1. Read Romans 8:22-25. Are we the only ones who are having a "bad day" from time to time? (No, "the whole creation" is groaning.)

      1. Notice that the "pain" is compared to the pain of childbirth. What does that suggest? (Childbirth pain is limited in time, and gives wonderful results.)

      2. What are the "firstfruits of the Spirit?" The text says we have them. What are they? (Christians have a taste of heaven through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Taking a vacation in paradise ("tasting,") makes us wish we could live there. Having the Holy Spirit in our life makes us wish more strongly we were in heaven.)

      3. To me, this sounds like a complaint about what we don't have, as opposed to suffering real pain. Is that true? (Childbirth is real pain (so I'm told!) The sense I get of this is that if we were just suffering in this old world, we would get used to it and be "content" with it. But, since Christians have the hope of eternal life, since we have the Holy Spirit doing great things in our life, we are not content with the troubles of this world.)

    2. Read Romans 8:26-27. What does prayer have to do with our weakness and discomfort?

      1. Have you ever had a problem with your car and you could not clearly describe the problem to the mechanic? (Or, like me, who knows enough to be dangerous - I tell the mechanic to fix the wrong thing!) How important to the ultimate solution is getting your request for help right? (Romans is still on the same issue of us having a "bad day" on earth. Part of the solution is having the Holy Spirit direct us in understanding the nature of the problem. Helping us to correctly ask God for the best solution.)

  2. Hope for Groaning

    1. Read Romans 8:28. What comfort can we have whenever we have a "bad day?" (God is working for our good.)

    2. Read Romans 8:29-30. What is our ultimate good? (To be conformed to the likeness of "His Son" (Jesus).)

      1. What does this suggest to you about what "our good" means? (Working towards "our good" could be painful. But, eternal life is the goal. It is the ultimate "good.")

        1. I thought we were saved by grace. What is this "no pain, no gain" approach to eternal life? Why can I use the word "working" and "pain" as part of our eternal life and still believe in grace? ( Romans 8:30 shows us that we are on a path. God has in mind eternal life for us. God calls us to follow Him. God justifies us by nailing our sins to the cross, covering our failures with His blood. Then God calls us to be glorified by right living, and ultimately, heaven.)

    3. Read Romans 8:31-37. What past action of God gives us absolute confidence that He is "on our side" in trouble? (That He gave His Son for us!)

      1. Notice the catalogue of potential "bad day" problems we might have? (They are very serious problems, but Romans 8:32 promises us that in those problems, God will "give us all things.")

  3. Unlocking Groaning

    1. Job, a great man of the Bible, helps us to understand the type of problems that cause us to "groan." Read Job 23:1-5. For whom is Job looking? (God.)

      1. Why is Job looking for God? (He wanted to "state his case before Him.")

      2. What case does Job have? (Job is suffering and he believes that God has made him suffer. Since he does not deserve to suffer, Job wants to argue his righteousness before God.)

        1. How can anyone argue that they are righteous? (Read Job 1:8. God affirmed Job was blameless and upright. Job had something to argue before God!)

        2. Wait a minute! If God knew that Job was blameless and upright, why would Job need to argue that before God? (Job wrongly believed that his suffering was brought on him by God because of his sin.)

    2. Read Job 23:6-7. If Job got to present his case before God, did he think he would win? Would he be acquitted of the charges against him that caused his suffering? (Yes. He says he would be delivered "from my judge.")

      1. Who does Job think is "his judge?" (He does not say, but it must be God. The logic of this is not clear. It seems that Job thinks that God does not know all of the facts or has not been paying close attention to his situation.)

    3. Read Job 23:8-9. Can Job find God? (No!)

      1. Is this a problem in our suffering? (How many times do we get discouraged because God does not seem to be listening to our prayers. He is not answering our cries for help.)

      2. Is God really absent from Job's life? (Far from it! Job 1 & 2 show us that God is very involved in what is happening in Job's life.)

    4. Read Job 23:10. What reason for suffering does Job consider next? (That he is being tested and refined.)

      1. Is this consistent with his prior argument about how he does not deserve to be punished? That he is an upright man and if God knew all the facts or paid close attention he would be "delivered forever from my judge?" (This is a very important point. Job is obviously a great guy - God said he was. Yet, in the midst of suffering Job's mind races all over the place to figure out why it is he is suffering. "Is it because I deserve it? No! I'll find God and convince him I'm innocent." "Where is God? I cannot find Him. He is not listening to me." "Maybe what is happening to me is a test? Maybe God wants to see that I am gold." This is how we react to suffering. These are stages through which we pass when we suffer.)

        1. Should we react the same way Job reacted? (No normal person wants to suffer. But, in every difficult circumstance we need to first ask ourselves if we are suffering because of our sins. If so, we need to turn from those sins. If we are not directly suffering from our sins, sin has some role in our suffering. Either our character is being refined by suffering. Or, we suffer because of the general sin in the world. Whatever the cause of our suffering, we need to look for the opportunity for character development.)

  4. Groaning: Worth It!

    1. Read Daniel 12:1-4. What is connected with the end of time on earth? ("A time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations." This distress is followed by the salvation of the righteous! The righteous will be delivered.)

    2. Read Daniel 12:8-10. What makes the difference between the wicked and the righteous? (The righteous are "purified, made spotless and refined." While the wicked just remain wicked.)

    3. Read 1 Peter 1:3-9. How are we saved? Daniel wrote about us being spotless. Is a spotless character, which results from our suffering, necessary for salvation? (I like the way Peter puts this together. He makes it very clear that we are saved by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Our faith in Jesus is refined by fire. Suffering shows whether our faith is genuine or not. Suffering does not make us perfect so that we are entitled to enter heaven on our own merits. Rather, suffering tests and refines our faith in Jesus. It is by the merits of His perfect life and death and we enter heaven!)

    4. Friend, are you suffering today? It is difficult, but look on it as a blessing to refine your character and your faith.

  5. Next week: Extreme Heat.
* 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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