Sunday, June 27, 2010

 

All Access: The Privileges of Justification, Romans 5:1-5

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on June 27, 2010. The lesson is on Romans 5:1-5 and looks at the advantages or the access that justification provides for those who follow Christ. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

All Access
The Privileges of Justification

Romans 5:1-5

Introduction
Recent travel and some experiences
I noticed in our recent trip that many places are marked off by boundaries or signs warning people away
a. The fence around a field marked as “Private Property”
b. The “No Soliciting” or “Stay off the Grass Sign”
c. The “No Trespassing “ or “Keep Out” sign
d. Employees or Authorized Personnel Only
All of these say “Access Denied” to those who don’t “belong” there

Questions
a. Describe a time when you were tempted to go in where you weren’t “allowed”
b. Have you ever gained “full access” to a celebrity, band, event? How did you feel being able to go where others were “forbidden”?
c. If you could have full access to one celebrity in today’s culture, who would you pick and why?

We have all been denied access to certain things.
There have also been times when we were allowed “access” that we did not expect.
We were given a benefit to get closer than we could before.
We were given “grace” to enter the secret place.

Our passage today describes the access or privileges we receive due to justification

Justification Defined

Galatians 2
A couple of weeks ago we discussed justification by faith
We saw how Paul understood justification to stem primarily from what Christ has accomplished, not from what we bring to the table
Justification means having a right standing with God, being acceptable in his sight

Romans 1-4: God’s good news
Chapters 1-2 consign all of humanity to the position of sinners; that is, we are all rebels fighting against God and his just cause. We are enemies of God.
Chapters 3-4 show the wages of our rebellion (DEATH!) and offer the idea that justification in God’s sight can be found only by faith in what Christ has accomplished. Sinners cannot justify themselves. Justification gives us access to all of God’s holiness, glory, righteousness, and mercy. It gives us access to all of God and his character

This leads us to chapter 5 and the privileges of justification

In Romans 5:1-5, Paul lists three major areas where justification provides access that makes a difference in our lives
a. Our Past
b. Our Present
c. Our Future

Jesus gives all access to the benefits of justification

1. Past Access: Peace with God
Romans 5:1

Paul begins his discussion by reminding the readers of his previous material: “Therefore”
Since we have received a proper standing with God by faith in what Christ has done, Paul shows how that access to God’s grace provides a past privilege

Access to Peace with God
We were enemies to God, rebels bent on doing things our way (Rom. 5:8-10)
We were at war with God and his righteousness or purpose
Paul reminds his readers that when they came to faith in Jesus and his faithfulness, they changed sides in the war.
The wages of sin (DEATH—Rom. 6:23) were no longer required of them. Jesus’ death and resurrection provided for them a pardon. We were declared innocent (even though we weren’t and still aren’t). God has given us Christ’s innocence
Peace is a cessation of hostilities. If we have come to have access to God’s grace through faith in Christ, then we are no longer to live as hostiles/rebels against God . We are not at war, we are at peace.

Jesus has all access to our past
He forgives our sins and brings peace between us and God

2. Present Access: God’s Provision
Romans 5:2-5

Paul reminds his readers that their access to God’s grace does not merely have repercussions for their past, this justification also has an impact on their present lives
Simply stated, Paul tells his readers that justification provides access to the very character of God and his provision for our lives in good and especially bad times

Access to God Himself (v. 2)
a. “Through whom” probably refers to Jesus and all he accomplished on our behalf
b. “Introduction” may be better translated “access”: By means of justification followers of Christ are given total access to God’s grace, even to God’s character!

Jesus provides us all access to God

Access to God Himself (continued)
Think of access to the President: If you or I tried to get into the White House, we’d meet with all kinds of prohibitions or hindrances. Why?
Simply stated, we do not have a relationship with the President that allows total access
The President’s children, however, have full access to their Father whenever they want it (Story of Tad Lincoln and the Confederate soldier)

This is the kind of access Paul addresses here. As children, we have total access to our Father and all the privileges that such an intimacy entails (Rom. 8:11-18)

What does this access to the Father mean for us?
a. Intimacy with God (He is “Abba” who adopted us)
b. Provision for our needs (Phil. 4:19)
c. Love and acceptance

Jesus has all access to his Father, and through him we do too!

Access to God’s provision even in suffering (vv. 3-5 cf. 2 Cor. 4:7-11; 16-18)

Note the use of the word “exult” (which may be translated “rejoice”) in verses 2 and 3. Paul ties our rejoicing in God’s glory with our rejoicing in tribulations
Paul isn’t talking here about enjoying problems; rather, he reports to his readers that access to God provides a reason to operate in hope even when times turn bad
Hope here means something like “a happy certainty” or “confidence” rather than what we usually mean in English by our word “hope”

Note the chain here:
a. Tribulation works perseverance (“patient enduring” cf. James 1:2-4)
b. Perseverance produces proven character
c. Character produces hope

Paul understands trials, and he also understands that trials are not obstacles, but God’s opportunities to work in us more of the character of Jesus. Think of tribulation as God’s opportunity. (2 Cor. 12:9)

According to Paul, it is through tribulations (“Pressure”) that the love of God is revealed in our lives by the Holy Spirit. Without the hope provided by God during the pressure of our lives, we would not know the love of God

Jesus provides all access to God’s love even when things are bad

3. Future Access: God’s Glory
Romans 5:2-5

Paul explains to his readers that justification provides providential access to our past and our present, but it also promises access to a glorious future

Access to the hope of the glory of God (v. 2)
a. This is a reference to eschatology, the end of time
b. It is also a reference to the fullness of God being revealed in and through us
c. It is “heaven,” not just future but in the present time too

In verse 5 Paul indicates that the love of God is poured out in us by the Holy Spirit as our hope is justified by God’s provision in our trials
In other words, as we are “pressed,” God’s glory is revealed as the character of Christ is revealed in our lives

Without a cross, there is no crown. “Suffering is the one and only path to glory.” Stott

“To burn brightly our lives must first experience the flame. In other words, we cease to bless others when we cease to bleed.” L. B. Cowman

“Combat comes before victory. . . . A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen.” L. B. Cowman

There is a process involved that results in the end with God receiving proper glory: perseverance, character, hope, love.

Jesus is our access to God’s future glory since he is God’s glory

Application
So, now what? How do we respond to this?
Honesty compels me to admit I struggled to come up with a good application.

Here is a suggestion:
1. Remind yourself regularly this week of the past, present, and future access that justification gives you. Spend time in Romans 5, let God soak it into your very being, your heart, your soul.

2. As you dwell on what Jesus has accomplished, give a hard look at your character. Where has the trials of your life worked perseverance, character, hope, and love? If you can’t find any, ask God for his help.

3. Look around you this week and see who needs the hope and love of God. Come up with a plan to share that hope and love with them (e.g., share the message of salvation, share a word of encouragement, pray, serve, be the hands and feet of Christ).

Remember, Jesus is our full access.
In him we are not denied our Father’s presence or provision.
We have access to justification and its privileges.

Further Discussion
1. Why is it crucial to know whether or not we have “access” to God? What would prevent our access? Read Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-4; Isaiah 59:1-2. How is access to God granted to us then? Read Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:4-10

2. What are the benefits of justification which Paul expounds in Romans 5:1-5?

3. How did we gain access to God? v. 2

4. What is the hope of the glory of God? v. 2 (cf. Col. 1:27)

5. Why should we rejoice in trials? v. 3

6. How has God used trouble to develop your character? Where do you need more of his help?

7. How do we know God loves us?


Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

 

In Honor of Dad . . . A Repeat

I first wrote this in 2005, but it speaks volumes about my memories of my dad, Bobbie Eugene Percer, Sr. My dad was a hero to me in many ways, and I am terribly sorry that I never told him that to his face. At his funeral in 2004, literally hundreds of people stood in line for hours to tell us of the way my dad had blessed them. I heard stories of dad witnessing to people and leading them to the Lord, stories of dad giving money or clothes or time or work in order to help someone else find a better path in life, stories of my dad going out of his way to help others, etc. It humbled me. I had no idea how "big" a man my father was, how much of a blessing he was to many people. My dad left some mighty big shoes, and I hope I can be half the man he was. With that in mind, here is the first thing I wrote about my dad way back in 2005.

With Father's day coming up this weekend, I wanted to share some thoughts about my Father. You see, my father passed away in August 2004, and for many reasons thoughts of him have been central in my mind recently. I’m afraid I’m losing him.

Let me explain.

My dad wasn’t very active the last few years of life. Due to his own lack of proper care for his physical body and a host of problems with illness, the primary memory my children have of their grandfather is dad sitting in a big lounger watching TV and occasionally waking up long enough to tease them.

My children did not get to know my dad. Oh, my dad was never the most active guy in the world (I think I know where my own lack of activity comes from!), but he didn’t sit around a lot as I remember it. Dad coached baseball, football, basketball, if it had “ball” in the title, he learned it, played it, and probably coached it. My dad cared about folks that no one else wanted. He loved kids, especially his own. I once saw my dad kick a field goal from the 45 yard line (that’s a 55 yard kick, if you didn’t know!). I was in high school then, so dad was probably in his mid-40s. He could kick the ball further than the place kicker on our team.

I remember looking for dad’s vehicle to pull up at the football practice field. I don’t know if he knew that I saw him, but I looked for him to show up so I could perform for him. Dad didn’t get real excited about sports (that was mom’s job!), but you could tell when he was enjoying something. He had this infectious grin and mischievous smile that would literally light up his face. I heard that for almost 10 years after my younger brother graduated high school, dad would make his way to the practice field and sit in his car and watch the players go through their paces. For me, his watching was a comforting presence that reminded me that he was there if I needed him. Oh, I’ll admit that I didn’t “need” him as much as he would like, but it made me feel real good to know dad was there.

I miss him.

Sometimes in my work here, I think that dad is sitting in heaven, in his heavenly lounger, watching his boy perform. Oh, I’m not blindsiding running backs and quarterbacks any more, but I can’t help but think that dad is silently cheering for me. He sits there, intently studying me as I pace a classroom or teach a class or grade a paper. When I make a particularly brilliant play, he smiles that smile. Even when I don’t do so well, dad looks approvingly on his boy. I can see him, sitting there, a big glass of sweet tea on the table, a smile in his eyes, and joy in his heart. I want to make him proud, and I think he knows that.

My last words to my dad face-to-face were spoken around Easter of 2004. I don’t remember everything we discussed, but I remember putting my arm around his shoulders and looking into that face. His eyes were a bit dimmed by senility due to old age and strokes. But somewhere in those eyes I saw the place kicker kicking a field goal from the 45 yard line. I remember saying this to him, “Dad, I love you. I’ll see you later.” At his funeral in August 2004, the pastor asked me to pray at the grave site (actually, my mother asked me to do it). As I walked away from dad’s coffin, I touched the lid and said, “I love you, dad, see you later.”

I miss him, but thank God I will see him later. If your father is alive, call him up. Tell him you appreciate him and love him. Memories are great, but I’d love to have my dad here to hug again. He’s much better off, but I need his smile. Dad, I love you. See you later.

Thanks for reading!

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

 

Went to a Wedding . . . Ended Up Missing My Friend

Today was a happy occasion! It was my honor to officiate at a wedding of two folks in my Sunday School class (Congrats, Dave and Kirsten! Thanks for including my family in your special day). For some reason, as I watched the after party and rejoicing, I couldn't help but think back over the years of my life. Something in that joyous time and that moment of reflection reminded of my friend, Steve Huisman. I honestly can't pinpoint what it was, but it made me genuinely melancholy for a moment. I missed my friend, I craved his advice, and I wanted him to celebrate the good times with me. I thank God for Steve and his memory, but I still miss him. Here is a little post about one of the best friends God ever allowed me to have. I hope it blesses you!

Four years ago on June 12, Steve Huisman went to be with the Lord. I don't know why his death is heavy on my heart this year, but it just is. I miss my friend. I have so many things to share with him, so much to ask, and I need his honesty.

I miss Steve more than I can say.

Four years ago, I wrote the following note in memory of Steve. I read it again today and it brought tears to my eyes. I want to share it with you all again as a reminder of how important good friends are. If you have a friend like Steve, call that person today and thank them. If you don't, I pray that God will send you one soon.

Sorry to be so melancholy!

Here's the post in honor of my friend:
Steve Huisman.

Most of my readers will not recognize that name, although a few may think they know it.

Steve was a very good friend of mine. In fact, he was one of the best friends I ever had.

Steve died on Monday (June 12, 2006) in a plane crash. He was flying a plane in Florida that encountered some mechinal problems and crash landed on Davis Island. Steve died when the plane hit a home and caught fire. His co-pilot and the one person in the home survived.

I don't want to dwell on how Steve died. I want to describe how he lived.

Steve was a man that seemed at times to operate on an almost visceral level of honesty. He was unafraid to admit exactly how he was feeling and what he thought, especially when those thoughts and feelings pertained to his own spiritual status.

Don't misunderstand me, he was not a negative person. He was just quick to recognize his own fallenness and struggles. And by his honest admission of his fallenness, he elicited from others a confession that often bordered on sacramental.

Steve was my hero.

I would never have completed my Ph.D. if not for Steve Huisman. He was working on a correspondence course when he called me one day. He asked how the dissertation was going, and I confessed that I was struggling and didn't think I'd finished. Oh, my lovely wife was gently prodding me, the members of the dissertation committee were doing their part to help me out, but I just was not motivated.

Steve had a great thought--"Leo, how about we call each other at 6:00 a.m. to update each other on our projects. It will be good for us and provide a source of accountability."

Promptly at 6:00 the next morning, he called me.

For about two years after that my early morning conversations with Steve were opportunities to admit my fears and my failures as well as times to rejoice in milestones and accomplishments. He never judged me when I had a bad day or week. He gently encouraged me to press on. He laughed with me when something funny happend, he celebrated with me when things got done. He walked with me, and by being there he pushed me to finish.

When I graduated with my Ph.D., I neglected to tell him how much his encouragement had meant to me. Two weeks ago he called me here in VA. He was in FL and just wanted to talk. We talked about an hour about our families, our lives, our Lord. We laughed, we kidded each other, we prayed for each other. He told me that he wanted my wife to speak to his wife. As we were passing the phones, I cleared my throat and said, "Steve, I wanted to tell you how much your friendship means to me. You were God's instrument to help me finish my dissertation. I never adequately thanked you for that." I told him all the great things I loved about him--his acceptance, his honesty, his gentleness even when he corrected me or pushed me to discipline, his gut level love for other people that was evident in my life. I sang his praises, I think I embarassed him.

I told him I loved him.

Little did I know it would be the last time we would talk on this earth.

Steve went to be with the Lord in that plane crash Monday, but he left an awful lot of good stuff behind. His life is still having an impact on others even though it has ended. His diligence to serve God and others has left the world a better place. His love for his wife and children have instituted a legacy that will no doubt bear great fruit. His ongoing desire to be the best he could be for God's sake continues to motivate those who knew him to a deeper intimacy with God through Christ.

Steve was not a Bible scholar, but his life exemplified a clear understanding of the biblical call to follow Christ. He was a friend. He was a godly man. I miss him.

God, how I miss him!

I hate this fallen world of ours, but I know that it isn't home. Not completely. It is a way station. None of us are on this earth forever.

I still miss Steve.

41 years is not enough. I only knew him about 13 or so of those years.

He was a tall drink of water, a missionary kid with a love bigger than the world. He was the kind of guy you could trust to watch your most prized possessions. He had my back, he was my mighty and marvelous comrade. He helped me slay dragons and rescue damsels. Now I have to contemplate life without one of my wing men. Steve loved flying only slightly less than he loved God and his family. He loved to be in the air. Someday, I'll look up in the air and see him coming with Christ. It will be the ultimate flight, and it won't surprise me to see Steve acting as the pilot.

Death has invaded my life again. I can't imagine how his wife and children feel. I feel like I've been punched in the stomach, like I've lost something that cannot be replaced. I can almost hear Steve saying "I'll call you in the morning. You're going to make it! Hang in there!"

Thanks Steve, for all you gave us. Thanks to God for sharing Steve with us for 41 years. I'm crying now and feeling like I'm rambling, so maybe I better stop.

Live today like you have no tomorrow. Hug someone special and tell them you love them. Life is fragile, my friends, but God is strong. God is still in control, even though the world seems to spin crazily out of orbit.

Hang in there! With God's help, we're all going to make it!

Thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

 

The Living Dead: Paul and the Crucified Life, Galatians 2:15-21

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on June 13, 2010. The lesson is on Galatians 2:15-21 and deals with the issue of being crucified with Christ and having his life/faith live through us. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

The Living Dead
Paul and the Crucified Life

Galatians 2:15-17

Introduction

Living Dead?
Not about zombies
But today’s lesson is a bit different
A bit more theological than “personal”

Our topic today
Sometimes called Sola Fide
Usually defined as the theology of justification by faith alone
More to the point, we will look at Paul’s defense of his gospel against a view that wants to add something to Jesus

Topic of Galatians: “Jesus plus” is not the gospel
For Paul, it is Jesus alone

The topic is justification: Having a right standing before God
For Paul this right standing is impossible without death
Life must be preceded by death
Ravi Zacharias: "Jesus didn't come to make bad people good, he came to make dead people live."
Christians become God’s living dead as they learn to live a crucified life

The crucified life is:
1. A life of faith
2. Living for God
3. Relying on Christ only

1. Faithful Living, Not Genealogy
Galatians 2:15-16

The context: Paul’s disagreement with Peter
God does not differentiate between races
Neither should we

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the same for all people
This gospel is Jesus alone, not Jesus plus something—this is the theme of Galatians

Paul’s statement here may continue this discussion with Peter
Paul is identifying himself with Peter: We are Jews
Paul acknowledges that being Jewish is not a privileged place with regards to justification—even the Jews knew that the Law does not result in justification (Psalm 143:1-2)

Works of the Law vs. Faith in Christ

a. “Works of the Law” refers to what the Law can accomplish, not the goodness or holiness of the law (cf. Rom. 7:12; 8:1-4): The requirements of the Law cannot make a person “just” in God’s sight
Even if we kept the Law without fail (cf. Phil. 3:4-6—”blameless”), we cannot have God’s righteousness except through Jesus
Legalism leads to death not to life

b. “Faith in Jesus Christ” may equal “faithfulness/faith of Jesus Christ”: Paul is contrasting what the Law can do with what Jesus (in his faithful life, ministry, and sacrifice) accomplished for us
We must rely on what Christ has done, not on our ability to accomplish something ourselves
Justification comes only from God—It is what Christ does that accomplishes right standing with God
This passage requires us to rely on what Christ has accomplished and to act on his faithfulness to us

The crucified life is a walk of faith
a. We must trust Christ and his accomplishments alone
b. Faith demands action—we must respond with faithful acts

2. Dying to Live, not Living to Die
Galatians 2:17-19

Paul seems to continue his thought on the Law here
Law cannot save, but it can expose sin for what it is—a willful disobedience to God (Rom. 7:7)
On the other hand, if Paul addresses legalism above, here he addresses licentiousness—even though the Law cannot make me right with God, I still cannot live however I wish.
The Law cannot make me right in God’s sight, but I am still required live for God. (Remember the greatest commandments? Matthew 22:34-40—loving God and loving my neighbor are the commandments on which the whole Law rests)

How can the Law be fulfilled? Romans 8:1-4
We fulfill the Law by relying only on what Christ has accomplished
Our faith in Jesus’ faithfulness puts us in position to “fulfill the Law”
We must live “for” or “to” God, not for our own righteousness (Phil. 3: 8-11)

The crucified life focuses on living to or for God
His righteousness becomes our goal, not our own benefit or “self-assurance”

3. The Living Dead, or Life after Crucifixion
Galatians 2:20-21

Crucified with Christ, yet alive
a. Christians are the living dead—dead to sin, alive through Christ’s resurrection and the power of God's Spirit
b. Romans 6:4-7—as in Adam we all experienced the price of sin (i.e., we died), so also in sharing in Christ’s crucifixion we are dead to sin and alive to God
c. Orthodox Church—Jesus sanctified each stage of human life. He is more than just an example, he is the means by which we can live God’s plan for us. He is the remedy for all sin.

The extinguished life=death to sin, law, and self (S. Olford)
We died with Jesus, we should live with him too.

The crucified life relies on Jesus
a. Christ’s resurrection makes it possible to die to sin
b. Christ’s life empowers us to live God’s plan

Christ lives in us
What does this mean? How does Christ live in us?
a. Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27)
b. When we surrender to Christ, he is the treasure we carry in jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:6-7 ; 13:4-5)
c. Hand in glove?

This is the relinquished life: Christ centered living (Olford)
a. We should walk as he walked
b. We should be directed, empowered, and enabled by the indwelling God
c. Live life faithfully because of what Christ did

This is the distinguished life (Olford)
a. Christ loved, so we should also love (1 John 4:7-11)
b. Christ gave, so should we (1 John 3:16-18)

The crucified life relies on Jesus
a. Christ’s life empowers us to live God’s plan
b. Christ’s indwelling presence provides us power to show God’s grace to others

Application
In light of this, how should we respond?

If we are dead to the Law (i.e., it can’t save us), and if we are dead to sin (i.e., we aren’t slaves to it), then what should our lives look like?

How can we be God’s “living dead” and live crucified lives?

Zombie example:
Remember that zombies do not have a will of their own, they only exist to satisfy the will of their master
Zombies continue to work towards accomplishing their master's plan regardless of opposition or obstacles
Christians ought to take a lesson from zombies

Here are some suggestions:
First, avoid adding something to Jesus for your right standing before God. It is faith in Jesus alone that produces a right relationship to God. What are you adding to God’s approach that needs to be removed?

Second, remember that freedom from legalism isn’t freedom to do what you want. Grace doesn’t mean that we can sin if we want. Where are we declaring “freedom” where we ought to be slaves of God?

Finally, we must look to Jesus’ faithfulness as both our power and our example. How can we internalize God’s gift of grace in Christ to empower us to live for him? What does being faithful look like? We must love as Christ love, even to the point of humble service or sacrifice (Phil. 2:5-8). This week we need to seek God’s empowerment and opportunities to love God and to love others. We must learn to live as Jesus lived. Find one person or one situation where you can serve this week, and do it. Rely on Christ to provide power and opportunity.

The crucified life requires us to die to some things so that we may live for God
Carefully consider where you need his life this week


Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

 

Where is Your Confidence? Elijah and the Widow: A Contrast, 1 Kings 17:8-24

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on June 6, 2010. The lesson is on 1 Kings 17:8-24 and looks at how Elijah and the Widow faced trials and where they placed their confidence. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Where is Your Confidence?
Elijah and the Widow: A Contrast

1 Kings 17:8-24

Introduction
Trials in life
We are not immune

When Lisa was diagnosed with MS
We were devastated, the world was ending
I had no idea how to raise a daughter, I needed Lisa—she was my only hope for success!
Our conversation and our focus on circumstance
Our confidence had to be in God

Trials come to us all
The diagnosis we dreaded
The lack of a job
A failure in business, life, or relationships
The death of a loved one or hero

Our passage today
1 Kings 17:8-24
A Contrast in Confidence

Trials reveal where confidence is placed

1. The Widow’s Condition

In verse 9, God says that he has commanded a widow to provide for Elijah. Had God contacted this widow to let her know a visitor is coming? Was she aware the Elijah was being sent her way?
The text isn’t clear, but it seems possible from the language
When God wanted to meet Elijah’s need, he didn’t provide him a mansion or the provision of the wealthy. He gave him a widow!

Conditions of widows in Elijah’s day
a. Lack of a husband was an economic and cultural liability
b. Widows typically lived in extreme poverty and were treated as outcasts
c. The only possible way out was to have a son to take care of you (Note: This becomes real important later in our story!)

When we first meet her, the widow is gathering sticks for her “last supper”
a. This shows her poverty, she had to go find her own fuel for cooking—she had no help
b. Her lack of food shows her financial instability too (evidently her son was not old enough to take care of her yet)
c. The woman is preparing to die, she does not expect to live

The famine caused by the lack of rain (caused by Elijah’s prayer) revealed her lack of confidence
She looked at outward circumstances, and in spite of God’s earlier word, decided to give up

Trials reveal where confidence is placed
Do we look to outside circumstances to save us in our hard times?
Do we look for deliverance from others?
Where is our confidence?

2. The Widow’s Source


The need of a son
a. As a widow, she probably expected her son to be her financial and social salvation
b. Without help, they both were doomed
c. God sent Elijah to provide food for them both
d. Note the miraculous provision—the oil and flour lasted in spite of the meager supplies

The loss of a son
a. In spite of God’s provision, tragedy strikes
b. Isn’t that just like our lives, when we are experiencing “provision” or blessing seems to be when disaster happens, doesn’t it?
c. Her son dies/Her confidence is taken

Look how she responds
a. She blames Elijah
b. She blames her own sin (she feels guilty)
c. She blames God
She is wrong on all three counts

Trials reveal where confidence is placed
Do we blame others for our problems?
Do we wallow in self pity or guilt in our “bad times”?
Where is our confidence?

3. The Widow’s Confidence

The lack of confidence
a. The widow trusted in circumstances more than God’s Word
b. “God has said” was replaced with “Has God said?”
c. The widow trusted in others more than God
d. She relied on humans to meet her needs in hard times
e. The widow revealed a decided lack of confidence in God’s ability to provide
f. She had seen the miracle of the flour and oil, but she couldn’t see how God could provide for her without a son

Trials reveal where confidence is placed
Are we confident in what God says?

4. Elijah’s Condition

Kicked out of Israel due to conflict with Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah is homeless
He goes to Jezebel’s country to “get away from it all”
Practically penniless and friendless, Elijah goes where God’s Word directs him
Lives in the wilderness, fed by ravens (vv. 1-7)
Then the well runs dry so to speak
Finds a place with a widow (remember how society saw them?)

Elijah was basically an outcast, homeless, and without means
Yet he does not lose his confidence in God’s provision

Trials reveal where confidence is placed
“Character is not made in a crisis, it is only exhibited.” Robert Freeman
“Adversity is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its gems with.” Robert Leighton
Elijah’s trials showed him to be a man who trusted God’s Word
Where do we put our trust in time of trial?

5. Elijah’s Source

God and His Word
a. Elijah had developed a relationship with God that led him to obedience when God said to go, even if it meant to a widow’s house
b. His intimacy with God provided Elijah with the confidence to trust God’s promises even when they seemed impossible
c. God uses sources and instruments we would never choose, but in His wisdom He chooses them to accomplish His own purposes and to do exceeding abundantly beyond all we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). We would choose a hero, but God uses a widow. He often chooses the despised, small, or even foolish as a means of provision (1 Cor. 1:27-29)

Elijah had been humbled before God so that self-reliance was no longer an option—how does God provide for us in ways that challenge our independence and self-reliance?

Trials reveal where confidence is placed
What are your trials revealing about your confidence?
Is there an intimacy and dependence on God that is evident in your trials?

6. Elijah’s Confidence

Look at Elijah’s response to the widow’s lack of food
a. He comforts her
b. He encourages her (“Do not fear”)
c. He speaks God’s word to her situation

Look at Elijah’s response to the death of the widow’s son
a. He doesn’t try to explain to her why this happened
b. He doesn’t argue with her
c. He takes her son and prays
d. He sought God three times and prayed fervently (cf. James 5:15, 17-18; 2 Cor. 12:7-10)—Elijah persevered

The result—God heard the cry of Elijah

The response—The widow sees the truth of God’s Word

Trials reveal where confidence is placed
Elijah knew that God would provide, but he didn’t necessarily know how (Rom. 8:26-30, especially v. 28)
Will we trust God in our trials?

Closing Questions
In closing, we have to ask: Are we more like the widow or more like Elijah? If trials reveal where confidence is placed, what do the current problems in your life reveal about your confidence?

Are you in a spiritual condition where you can hear God’s instructions? (Mark 6:30f.)

What are you facing in your life right now that needs God’s supply? Will you trust him for your needs?

Where is your focus? Are you focused on the circumstances of life, on the problems facing you rather than the Lord? Are you seeing the agents of supply in your life as totally inadequate (like the widow’s son)? Are you questioning God’s ability to provide?

How impossible is your situation? Does it look like there is no way God can meet your needs through the circumstances or people he has brought into your life?

Have you considered that before God meets your need, or that in meeting your need, He wants to use you to meet the need of someone else?

Application
So, what do we do now? How do we respond to this lesson?

I see three things for us to do this week:
First, check your own heart, your own focus, your own confidence. Make some time this week to ask yourself the hard questions—what do you trust? Where are you looking in the “problems” or “famines” of your life? Make a point to talk to God and be brutally honest. If you don’t trust him, say so. Then take a step of faith and ask him, “Lord, increase my faith.” (Luke 17:5)

Second, get intimate with God. Set aside time this week to shut out all other influences to sit in his presence, to hear his Word, to be alone with Abba and seek his provision. Learn to know his heart for you and his desire to provide for you. Then respond in obedience to what he asks you to do.

Third, seek opportunities to be God’s provision for others in trouble. Find needs and meet them. James 2:14-17; 4:17. You cannot do it all, but what you can do, simply go out and do. Be God’s provision!

Trials reveal where confidence is placed
This week, let’s show Lynchburg that our confidence is in Jesus and in his Word!


Thanks for reading!

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