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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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!"
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Read Romans 8:26-27. What does prayer have to do with our
weakness and discomfort?
- 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
- Hope for Groaning
- Read Romans 8:28. What comfort can we have whenever we
have a "bad day?" (God is working for our good.)
- Read Romans 8:29-30. What is our ultimate good? (To be
conformed to the likeness of "His Son" (Jesus).)
- 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
- 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,
- 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!)
- 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.")
- Unlocking Groaning
- 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.)
- Why is Job looking for God? (He wanted to "state his
case before Him.")
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.")
- 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.)
- Read Job 23:8-9. Can Job find God? (No!)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Read Job 23:10. What reason for suffering does Job
consider next? (That he is being tested and refined.)
- 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.)
- 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
- Groaning: Worth It!
- 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
- 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
- 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!)
- Friend, are you suffering today? It is difficult, but look
on it as a blessing to refine your character and your
- 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.