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Lesson 8: Resilience *

Introduction: Many people alive today have had a relatively easy life. Imagine what it was like to be a young person in Europe 100 years ago. You would experience, if you survived, two major wars. My dear father grew up in a poor family during the Great Depression, and then was drafted into the army during World War II. He found himself part of the invasion of Normandy and spent 33 months in a war zone. Many people of that generation had a similar experience. What if your life seemed destined for especially unfavorable treatment? Would you be able to "bounce back?" Would you show resilience? Let's dive into our Bible study and see what we can learn from those who faced difficult times!

  1. Joseph


    1. Read Genesis 37:3, Genesis 39:6, and Genesis 37:5-7. What kind of attitude about life do you think Joseph possessed? (He was clearly superior. First, he was part of a wealthy family. He was better-looking than most others and he was favored by his father. God sent him dreams that he would be a ruler. He had constant reinforcement about his own importance.)


    2. Read Genesis 37:28. Review the things that made Joseph special, and tell me how many are left after he had been sold as a slave? (He has his good looks. He has lost the support of his family, he has lost his wealth and status. Instead of a future as a ruler, he has much to fear in his future as a foreign slave. He has his God, but His God has not kept him from this!)


    3. Read Genesis 39:17-20. Compare Joseph's dreams, hopes and plans as a young man, with his present reality - a slave imprisoned for attempted rape. Could things get any worse? (He has lost everything. He is at the bottom, not the top.)


    4. Read Genesis 41:14-15. If you were Joseph, would you feel that this was your one great chance to turn your miserable life around?


    5. Read Genesis 41:16. Is this how you would have answered if you were Joseph?


      1. Hasn't Joseph had enough of humility? Why should he start out with "I cannot do it?" (It shows his continuing faith and dependence on God.)


      2. Would you still trust in God if you had been through all of these problems?


        1. Put yourself in Joseph's head. To be able to still trust God, what would you have to believe? That God has a strange way of rewarding His followers? (If we had read the entire story, we would have seen that Joseph does well even when he suffers a serious set back. But, aside from those brief favorable experiences, Joseph has to believe that faith in God is not dependant upon his success in life. It is not dependant upon visible rewards. Faith is about God, not about Joseph.)


    6. Read Genesis 41:39-40. Why does Pharaoh start out with a reference to Joseph's God? Why not start out "You are fabulous at interpreting dreams, Joseph! I need to keep you around the palace." (If Joseph had tried to take credit, Pharaoh would have thought Joseph a bright and perceptive fellow. But, because Joseph gives all the credit and glory to God, Pharaoh believes that Joseph is the portal to access the power of a new and incredibly powerful God. Pharaoh is getting more than just a talented human.)


    7. What lesson does Joseph's story teach us about how to deal with incredible problems? (Faith is about who God is, and not about how we are doing. Holding on to God, even when God's interest is not obvious, is the key to resilience. God asks us to trust Him and trust His timing.)


    8. Read Romans 5:1-5. What does faith in our salvation do for us? (It gives us "peace with God" and joy in our ultimate hope. It is the platform from which we view all other experiences in life.)


      1. How are the kind of problems that Joseph faced helpful to us? (Problems teach us resilience. They develop our character. They give us hope.)


        1. Hope in what? In Romans 5:1 we are talking about the hope of eternal life. Is Paul talking about the same hope in Romans 5:4? (Yes. First, seeing God work through our problems gives us confidence that He will give us eternal life. Second, dealing with problems makes eternal life (where problems will not exist) even more precious.)




        2. Have you ever had more pleasure in the anticipation of something, than the actual event? (Heaven will be more than we can imagine. But, hope in heaven can give us pleasure.)


        3. I've suggested a couple of times that faith is about God, not about you. Is that what Paul says? (Grace is about us! God died for us. Knowing that God conquered sin and death gives us hope in the midst of our sufferings.)


      2. How do you understand Romans 5:5? Hope in eternal life is our long-term goal. What does God's love and the Holy Spirit have to do with that? (We are able to have proof of heaven now by the working of the Holy Spirit in our life. God's love, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is poured into our hearts.)


    9. Read Genesis 45:4-7. Has God's love been poured into Joseph's heart?


  2. Educated Suffering


    1. Read 2 Corinthians 1:2. What does Paul wish for the Christians at Corinth? (Grace and peace.)


    2. Read 2 Corinthians 1:3. What is God's role in helping us when we suffer? (God has compassion on us. God is the ultimate source of all comfort.)


    3. Read 2 Corinthians 1:4-5. Have you ever considered your problems to be an education?


      1. How can problems help us to comfort others? (If we learn from our problems, we can teach others who face the same problems. Notice that the text says that God's comfort to us in difficult times allows us to comfort others.)


      2. Are your sufferings anything like what Jesus suffered at the cross? (Paul makes that parallel. He says that just like Jesus' suffering blesses your life, so your suffering can bless the lives of others.)


  3. Esther


    1. Read Esther 2:5-7. List the problems in Esther's young life? (Her parents had died. She was raised by a Mordecai, a male relative - so it seems she did not have a woman in her life. She was also a Jewish captive.)


    2. Read Esther 2:8-10. In Esther 2:1-4 we are told that King Xerxes is running the first "Bachelor" contest. The authorities have entered Esther into this contest. Why did Mordecai not allow Esther to reveal her nationality? (She was Jewish - one of the captives.)


      1. What does this show us about Mordecai's interest in the bachelor contest? (He wants Esther to win!)


    3. Read Esther 2:17-18. Is Esther like Joseph? (Yes. She gets promoted to the top after being at the bottom.)


    4. Esther chapter 3 records that a high noble in the court of King Xerxes hates Mordecai. To get rid of Mordecai, he engineered a law which would allow him to kill all the Jews on the 13th day of Adar. Mordecai turned to Queen Esther for help. Read Esther 4:10. Will Esther help? (She seems to be saying it is too dangerous.)


    5. Read Esther 4:12-14. Do you think Esther's life was really in danger? (I doubt it, unless Mordecai has been given a prophesy from God.)


      1. Was Esther in a position similar to that of Joseph? (Yes, she could save the lives of many.)


      2. How was Esther's situation different than that of Joseph? (They both suffered. They both were elevated to a very high post. But, in saving others Esther had to risk her life and her position.)


    6. Read Esther 4:15-16. What does Esther teach us about resilience? (The goal of resilience is not to achieve power and wealth like Joseph - although that might happen. The goal of resilience is to remain faithful to God so that you can bless others. This is one of the things 2 Corinthians 1:4 teaches us.)


    7. Do you see a parallel between Esther and Jesus? (She put her life on the line to save the lives of others. Again, this is what we discussed earlier in 2 Corinthians 1:5-6: our suffering may end up being a blessing for others!)


    8. Friend, if you are suffering today, I invite you to ask God to give you resilience and help you see how your suffering can bless others.


  4. Next week: Self-Esteem.
* Copr. 2011, 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.

© 2014 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
Website by Blake Cameron, M.D.
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