DAILY DISCIPLINE #1
By Colleen Donahue
"These things I have spoken to you, that in ME (in Jesus) you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33
There are some things that we all have in common no matter what our background, what country we're from, or what our occupation is. We are all faced with daily problems, weekly problems, lifetime problems, big problems, and little problems. The older we get, the more we seem to have. In fact, Jesus plainly warns us in John 16:33 that as long as we are in this world we're going to have tribulations, pressures, and problems. Yet in the next breath, He tells us to take courage because He has already gone before us and overcome the world. This means that every problem becomes for us an opportunity to watch God at work to prove Himself strong on our behalf.
In this first study of the Daily Discipline series let's start with where we are all at -- in the midst of our life problems. God's word is much more than just history. It's full of practical advice for our day to day living. The Bible is rich and full of instruction to help us see our way through problems and find them to be our opportunities. You can start this study at YOUR problem or situation or work your way down from the top. Let's get started with hearing God's .....
TEACHINGS ABOUT LIFE'S PROBLEMS - Part 1
The Conditions We Find Ourselves In
1. ADVERSITY FOR OUR FAITH IN JESUS
A. First, let's look at these verses in Matthew 10:16-42
As Jesus send his disciples out into the world to be his witnesses, what did He compare them to?
Since this would be the case, what qualities did he want them to have?
So, Jesus is making it clear that some of the adverse situations that we as Christians will face are because he has allowed them. They open up the opportunity for someone to hear about Him through you and me.
Why don't we need to worry in advance about what we will say?
As we continue to read this sobering chapter, make a list of all Jesus tells concerning YOU -- his predictions and his warnings.
B. Let's look next at John 15:18-25
Why does Jesus say that the world around us might hate us?
He assures us that anything we face, he has faced already. We should not be surprised by adversity.
Jesus had spoken to the people about their sin and that made them very uncomfortable because they didn't want to change.
When someone is hostile to you because they are hostile to Jesus and his message, who else are they hostile to?
In these final verses Jesus explains that there will always be two witnesses testifying to the truth of His life. Who are these witnesses?
Jesus is about to pour out His Spirit to any who will be His disciples. That Counselor or Spirit of Truth will indwell our life and he will always want to speak the truth through us. He will use our lips to do that and that's why Jesus says we must also testify. From henceforth we were meant to operate in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Together we become a team of witnesses for Jesus.
C. Finally let's read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13-17
Why will there be terrible times in the last days?
2 Timothy 3:1-4
We will start to see leaders, groups of people, even church members acting this way but with one incredibly deceptive element. What is it?
2 Timothy 3:5A
In other words, many of these people will act under the cloak of religion or the Bible. We'll be able to recognize them by their fruit. They'll say things that seem right but what they do won't match up. What is Paul's clear message to us?
2 Timothy 3:5B
A Christian living at any time needs to be thoroughly equipped in the truth in order to recognize the error going around him. How does he do this?
2 Timothy 3:13-17
2. FEAR TAKES HOLD OF US
A. Fear can sneak up on us or it can descend like a ton of bricks on our head. Either way, what is the first thing we should do when we feel fear?
B. When Jesus gives us His own Spirit to indwell our lives what will be three qualities that he will give us?
2 Timothy 1:7
So, if we are overcome by fear and timidity we'll know that that is an "unholy spirit" trying to gain a foothold in our life.
C. What is most important throughout life is to know that we are in a partnership with Jesus. Going through something hard or stressful or fearful WITH someone is completely different than going it alone. What does Jesus promise us?
And therefore what does this allow us to say with confidence?
3. ANXIETY AND WORRY
A. Anxiety and worry often make up a trio with fear and have been known to drive a person to an early grave. Let's look first at the words of Jesus. He knew we would face this duo. What does Jesus tell us specifically NOT to worry about?
-And why shouldn't we worry? Jesus gives at least five reasons.
Matthew 6:25B - 32
- Instead of being anxious and full of worry what does Jesus tell us to do?
Notice for the third time he gives the same directive in verse 34 as He gave in verses 25 and 31.
B. The Apostle Peter was writing to the early church who was going through tremendous persecution and suffering. In the course of his life, he had learned how to deal with adverse circumstances and now gives us advice we should memorize. In four verses he gives four commands.
When we are in situations causing us anxiety and worry what is the first thing we must do?
1 Peter 5:6
When we do this we recognize that for whatever the reason God has allowed this to come our way and He will use it in our life. He promises that in due time He will lift us up.
The second command is extremely important. We are going to have to practice doing this over and over until it becomes a literal habit in our life.
1 Peter 5:7
What is the third command?
1 Peter 5:8
it is easy during good times to forget that we are in an all-out war with the enemy of our soul. We must not let our guard down for even a moment or we will become that "someone the devil can devour."
Finally in a fourth command, what does Peter tell us we must do?
1 Peter 5:9
God will not do our fighting for us. He has equipped us thoroughly to handle our enemy.
God has given us His Word of truth to stand on.
Jesus gives us the authority of His Name to use and the
Holy Spirit gives us His power to live through any life circumstance.
Now it's up to us to use these tools.
The feeling of defeat comes when we sense we just can't win because too many things are stacked against us. Let's look together at Romans 8:31-39.
A. What specifically does God want us to know when we feel this way?
B. Paul as God's spokesman wants us to know that God Himself is on our side. And so he poses to us five questions.
You could rewrite these questions to read like this:
- If God is for me who can be against me?
- If God sent Jesus to die for me - His most precious gift-- won't He will freely give me all other things that I need?
- God has chosen me, therefore who can bring a charge against me? Through Jesus, God has made me "just-as-if-I'd-never-sinned" (i.e. justified me)
- Who can condemn me when I have Jesus constantly interceding for me with the Father?
- Is there anything that can separate me from the love of Jesus? No. There is no one or no circumstance that can do that. By His Spirit He is constantly with me and in me.
C. With our affirmative response to all these questions, what is inevitable for us?
Notice Paul says that we won't just overcome but we will be "more than conquerors" because of Jesus who loves us.
D. Through the Word of God we must get a firm grasp of how much God loves us and wants us to succeed. Jesus has been given by God and His life poured out so that we could have a life that wins. We have everything for us when we have God Himself on our team. Therefore what should we be convinced of?
Depression hits us all from time to time. It knocks at everyone's door. All throughout the Bible, we read about great men and women who sat "down in the dumps" and couldn't seem to move. King David wrote about his depression often and also what he did to get out of it. Let's focus on Psalm 34 that has so much to teach us.
A. Knowing WHO to call upon when we are depressed is something David had to learn and remember to do when he was depressed. We will too.
B. When depression hits everything seems wrong. One of the things David did when he was depressed was to remember and proclaim in writing the things that were right and true.
Did you feel David getting stronger and more confident as you read those verses? You will too as you remember all the good things God has done for you. For myself, I find writing things down like David did solidifies the good and true things. Satan wants us to stay depressed because he knows we are then useless to God. So we'll have to be firm in standing against his darkness.
C. Depression unfortunately doesn't always lift immediately when we think about things that are true and right. Sometimes we have to "stand our ground" for a while and David has advice for us while we wait for the gloom to lift.
He's telling us to live right even when we feel everything is wrong! First and foremost we must set our minds to "fear the Lord." This means that we respect and honor God as our sovereign Lord. This is important if we are going to keep our lips from speaking lies and evil of all sorts. When we're depressed it's easy to say things like, "This is never going to lift!" , "I have no future" or "I will always be a failure."
Then David tells us we are going to have to turn ourselves around 180 degrees. We've been looking at all the evil and the bad. Now we are going to turn from that and start doing something that is good -- something to help someone else maybe.
Because depression keeps us churning inside, we are going to literally have to seek peace and pursue it. Where will we find that peace?
D. Before King David got into telling us what we have just learned, he started his psalm with praise.
Through all his ups and downs he has learned the secret of praising God at all times -- good times and bad. He had to do this purposely because when you're depressed you don't feel like it. In verse 3 he reaches out to you and I. He says, "Come on, Glorify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together!"
6. FACING A CRISIS
King David was always facing a crisis of one sort or another. This psalm documents what he did to face the crisis and what he became confident of concerning God.
A. First and foremost where does our help come from?
If this seems obvious, it's not. We can't see God and therefore when we are in the midst of things we can forget that He's right there waiting for us to call out to Him. God is a perfect gentleman. He will not barge in on us and take over any situation -- that would negate Him giving us free will. No, he patiently waits for us to seek Him out and ask for his help. And when we do, He goes into action in partnership with us to help.
B. The rest of this beautiful psalm is what David found was true when He sought God for help. Can you list eight specific things He will do for you?
C. The Apostle Paul later wrote what he did in times of crisis.
D. He too had learned to go to God right away as did Peter.
1 Peter 5:7
E. These three men: David, Peter, and Paul had formed the habit of going to God first in times of crisis and we'll need to do the same.
7. TIMES OF DANGER
Once again we look at King David who was often in dangerous situations. We'll be looking at Psalm 27: 1-14.
A. What does David proclaim in verse 1 that reassures him?
B. David is not shutting his eyes to what could happen to him, but he does declare confidently what HE is going to do. What are the two things he is going to do?
Psalm 27: 2-3
C. In the midst of his stress, David looks away to God. What does he do?
D. Then, David got into the habit of "proclaiming". He stated things out loud clearly to himself and was constantly affirming God's attributes. He would praise, glorify, and honor God in this way. These verses are examples of that.
E. In the midst of these proclamations about God, David would ask God for things. Reread these verses to see what he asked for.
Psalm 27: 7,9,11,12
F. Proclaiming the truth of God in the midst of crisis times became David's habit. And even when he hadn't seen the "other side of the crisis yet", he remained confident. What was he confident of?
G. Then to end this psalm, David looks out to us -- an unseen audience-- and gives us a piece of advice.
H. Let's look at one more dangerous situation that came up for Christ's disciples and was so bad that they feared for their lives. This crisis happened with Christ asleep in the boat! The disciples had manfully tried to keep the boat steady but finally went and woke Jesus up.
I. And what did Jesus do when he got up?
What Jesus was seeing was the evil spirit behind the winds and the waves and He spoke directly to those spirits. And when He did, they had to stop in the authority of His name.
J. Then he turns to his disciples with a question.
K. Jesus wants us to know that we have been given the same authority that He has and therefore we can do what He does in the authority of His name.
A. As you read these verses, make a list of why David was so overwhelmed.
B. When things are on top of us, we have one main question for God.
C. David's life was a complicated and messy one -- and ours is too. So, we see him in this psalm pouring out his heart to God, asking tough questions, and pleading for deliverance. Then, he suddenly rises up, takes hold of things and declares what he knows is true!
Notice the pivot point in this psalm which is verse 8. "Away from me, all you who do evil." He suddenly saw the evil spirits behind what was happening, and he rebuked them just as we saw Jesus do with the winds and the waves in the boat (Luke 8:24).
Weariness is fatigue or tiredness that causes us to lose our strength and our energy. Sometimes it's a good thing when we've worked productively all day in our garden. But at other times it's the culmination of a struggle that never seems to let up so that we give up on the inside. The scriptures in both testaments give us the remedy for weariness. Let's look first at what the Prophet Isaiah wrote.
A. He tells us to start our healing by looking away from ourselves. WHO does he tell us to look at?
B. Then Isaiah tells us HOW this will happen. It will be the same whether you're young or old
In verse 31 various Bible versions translate the Hebrew phrase:
-"they that wait upon the Lord..."
-"those who hope in the Lord..."
-" those who trust in the Lord..."
C. The Hebrew word translated wait, hope and trust is from a root word "to bind together" (perhaps by twisting). It gives us the sense of being so connected with the Lord that we see Him clearly and wait for Him. King David tells us HOW he waited upon God.
D. When we are weary it's important to not take our eyes off God for even a moment. And what does God tell us through Isaiah that He will do?
E. When Jesus came, He confirmed that we come out of weariness by waiting upon God. But He had one change to add:
Jesus said, "Come unto ME..." Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh -- God we could see. And so taking His place as God, He commands us to come to Him for the rest and rejuvenation that we need.
Then, he talks about us taking on HIS yoke with him. In his day a yoke was a wooden collar that joined together a pair of oxen for plowing a field. A yoke was a connection between two things so that they could move together as a team. It's being teamed up with Jesus that will take the weariness away from our day to day life. He knows just how much we can and should carry and then He takes the rest.
Despondency is that sense of being downcast, disheartened, and hopeless. It's the next level down when we don't wait upon the Lord to renew our strength. The answer to this is the same as weariness.
A. Jeremiah had reached this level of despondency in his life. Read how he was feeling and perhaps you'll relate.
B. But now comes a turning point in Lamentations 3:21. He did what King David often did. He turned his mind from all his woes, he looks out to God, and then he starts to remember what is true.
C. Then he draws some conclusions for his life that begin to reverse his hopelessness. Notice Jeremiah says, "I say to myself...". The rational side of us that knows the truth needs to tell the other side of us that has forgotten the truth what is what. What conclusions does Jeremiah come to?
D. Coming out of our anxiety, worry, defeat, depression, weariness, and despondency will all start at the same place -- our mind. It will require that we use any remaining strength we have to look up and do what?
SPECIFIC SINS THAT CAN CAUSE MANY OF LIFE'S PROBLEMS
Of all the problems we have just addressed, many have come by our own making --- not all -- but many. If we wait upon God during times of trial He will point out to us if sin in our life may be the cause. It might be painful to hear, but if we are open to God's correction, then healing and restoration will come. For example, when we call discouragement (or fill in the blank) for what it is -- sin-- then it means we can do something about it.
A. The first time an old saint referred to discouragement as a sin I thought he had it wrong. Wasn't discouragement something that overcomes us when too many things are on top of us? I was puzzled but eventually came to the same conclusion. We ended the last section with Colossians 3:1-2 admonishing us to set our minds on things above. That is something WE must do because we believe in a Father that loves us and has a way through whatever we are facing. If we don't willfully set our mind on "things above" we become the prey of our enemy the devil looking for "someone he can devour".
1 Peter 5:8
B. Saying we are discouraged may bring sympathy from others but it speaks unbelief to God. God has given us his Son to restore our lives to their original purpose and allow us to live fully in His presence. But if we persist in letting discouragement descend on us then we call God a liar. It's like we are saying to Him, "Yes, I know all that but it's not working for me!" When we wallow in discouragement we become like one of those who fulfill Isaiah's prophecy.
This does not mean that God causes our discouragement. Once we stop setting our minds on the realities of Heaven, then our eyes see less and less light from God. Soon, our hearts become full of unbelief until God can do nothing on our behalf.
C. Let's look at the Apostle Paul as an example. If anyone had a lot of things pressing on him it was Paul
2 Corinthians 4:7-12
- In verse 7 Paul reminds us that we have "this treasure" -- i.e. God's own Spirit -- within our "jars of clay" - i.e. our bodies. And it's this power within us, that overcomes every situation.
- In verses 8 and 9 notice the juxtaposition of four phrases:
"we are hard pressed on every side --- BUT --- not crushed"
"we are perplexed --- BUT---not in despair"
"we are persecuted ---BUT ---not abandoned"
"we are struck down ---BUT ---not destroyed"
- Paul acknowledges that in a world that is totally against Jesus (because Satan is its ruler), we are going to face opposition and persecution. But -- everything we face will allow the life of Jesus to be revealed in us so that the world can see Him clearly. He repeats this FACT three times in verses 10-12.
D. Now comes a pivot point in this text.
2 Corinthians 4:13-14
Notice these phrases: "It is written", "I believed, therefore, I have spoken", "We believe and therefore we speak", "because we know". Paul made it the habit of his life to set his mind on things above. When life is on top of him, he calls the truth of what God has done in Jesus to mind and therefore speaks belief and not unbelief. In doing this Paul did not allow discouragement to settle over him. Now we are going to have to do the same.
A. This sin has nothing to do with enjoying the good world God has made for us. While this first world exists, it's ruled by Satan and he will use any means to ensnare us -- even good things -- to draw us away from God. When we commit our lives to Jesus we are in a full-time partnership with Him with new priorities and goals. What is the first thing every committed believer must do?
B. The renewing of our minds comes about in two ways. First, as we read the Bible we begin to learn what is important to God. And then the Holy Spirit indwelling us teaches us how to apply it.
John 14:26 / 1 John 2:27
C. Worldliness has to do with the "unholy spirit" that is the engine driving this world -- the love of money, ambition, greed, selfishness, etc. It's an "energy" that we are easily caught up in so that soon our commitment to Jesus is a distant memory. John gives us a solemn warning about the sin of worldliness.
1 John 2:15-17
D. Eventually, if we go back to being entangled with worldly affairs what will it lead to?
E. We may start out with a strong love and commitment to Jesus but eventually what happens?
F. And instead of walking forward into the fullness of life with Jesus, we go back to our earlier life -- maybe in a different way but no longer preoccupied with following Jesus.
G. Often worldliness creeps back into our life because we have been presented with a false gospel. We have prayed a quick prayer of salvation, giving us "fire insurance" against hell but have never counted the cost of what it will mean to follow Jesus. Paul put it this way to his young disciple Timothy.
2 Timothy 2:3-4
H. I'll end this section on worldliness with Christ's own words to us.
13. ATTITUDES: BITTER, CRITICAL, ANGRY, HATRED, MALICE, ENVY
A. As soon as we come to believe in Jesus and follow Him, his own Spirit (called the Holy Spirit) comes to indwell our own. And as soon as the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us he begins our transformation from the inside out. This is how we take off the old sinful nature and put on our new nature.
B. As you read these verses that Paul wrote, make a list of the things that will be replaced by Christ's new attitudes.
C. It's these old ways of lying, anger, stealing, corrupt talk, bitterness, insult, slander and jealousy that open the door of our life to Satan's evil work. Paul has a strong word of advice for us. Reread:
D. Bible teacher Joyce Meyer has a phrase she uses that has stuck with me. When things happen to us -- usually caused by other people -- "You can either become bitter or better." It will start with our choice to act opposite of how they are treating us.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
E. This kind of love for others -- that are especially unlovely -- is called "agape love". It's the kind of love Jesus showed to the leper when he reached out to touch him. It's impossible for you and I to express this love to our enemies. But if Christ dwells in us through his Spirit then it's possible.
F. Jesus showed us what real love is and it's what we will need to do with those in our lives who are obnoxious, controlling know-it-alls, and even enemies.
Romans 5:8 / Ephesians 2:4-5 / Ephesians 5:2 / 1 John 3:16
G. I repeat that it's impossible to love as Jesus does without His Spirit. And so to keep from becoming bitter, critical, angry, full of hatred, malice, and envy, what must we do?
1 John 4:16-21
H. We can count on Christ's Spirit within us to produce the fruit needed to behave properly towards those who provoke and vex us.
A. No one thinks they are greedy and yet this sin lurks behind many of the troubles in this life. The dictionary defines being greedy as being excessively desirous for (fill in the blank). We covet for something so much that it's all we can think about. What does Paul say greed is?
Colossians 3:5 (especially the last phrase)
An idol can by anything that stands in the place of God in your life. If you want to know if you have an idol just answer this question: What do you spend most of your time thinking about?
Are you always thinking about food and constantly preoccupied with there you'll enjoy your next meal?
Are you constantly craving for sexual pleasures so that you no longer see a man or a woman as anything but pleasurable toys?
Are you totally absorbed in your business and keeping the money rolling in?
B. Whatever you can't stop thinking about eventually puts you in the realm of being addicted. You not only think about it all the time but you can't stop doing it. It could be the usual things of drugs, alcohol, and sex. But often it's the more "acceptable forms of idolatry" like overeating, smoking, shopping, checking Facebook every 5 seconds or following the news constantly -- that take over the place of God in our lives. God is very jealous of our lives because we are his kids and he loves us. What does he absolutely forbid?
C. And why does he do this?
Deuteronomy 7:25 / Deuteronomy 11:16 / Isaiah 42:8 / 1 Corinthians 7:23
D. What advice does Jesus give us concerning greed?
Luke 12:15 / Luke 21:34
E. What does the Apostle John tell us?
1 John 5:21
F. Once again it's up to us to control our thought life so that we don't follow it down the road of addiction.
Romans 12:2 / 1 Corinthians 7:31 / Colossians 3:2
15. SEXUAL SIN
A. God is the one who invented the sexual union and so it is not dirty and wrong. But, the sexual union is so sacred that it was only to be engaged in within ONE context.
Genesis 2:24 / (Repeated in Matthew 19:5 and Ephesians 5:31)
Without the commitment of marriage, sexual intercourse is reduced to an animal act that creates more children.
B. Since the beginning of this fallen world, men and women have engaged in sexual practices that are outside of the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Christ's advice to the prostitute is the same for any sexual sin.
John 8: 1-11 (especially verse 11)
Notice Jesus tells the prostitute to "leave your life of sin". Sexual sins aren't usually one time sins. They lead to a pattern of sin -- a lifestyle that feeds what becomes a sexual addiction.
C. In order to leave a lifestyle of sin, it will require us to get radical as Jesus shares with us concerning adultery.
It took time to develop this lifestyle of sin and it will take great effort to leave it. But we will not have to do it alone. If we want to follow Christ and leave our life of sin, He will be with us strengthening us for the ordeal.
16. SIN PERSISTED IN
A. If the Holy Spirit puts his finger on something in your life that you persist in doing, then it's a sin for you even if no one else is convicted by it. You'll know it's sin because it'll keep passing before your conscience and you can't get rid of it, although you can rationalize it
B. Who is all sin ultimately against?
C. If we persist in sin what does Jesus say it will lead to?
D. If we persist in being slaves to any kind of sin, what will that lead to?
It first leads to spiritual death (separation from God) and then it can eventually lead to social death (separation from others) and finally it leads to physical death -- separation from God and man.
E. So any sin persisted in leads to plenty of troubles. What does Jesus say is the start of the way back?
F. Acknowledging the truth of your sin will be half the battle.
1 John 1:8
G. Then, confessing that sin to God is the next step. Why?
1 John 1:9-10
At this point, we have a clean slate and are back in a relationship with God so that we can hear his voice. Now it will be up to us to hear that voice and obey. It will usually work like this..... The Holy Spirit will prompt you to do one little thing.
- Go and talk with so and so
- Return that purchase
- Pick up after yourself
- Stop snacking
H. It will be something we can definitely do with Christ's help. And when we obey we are strengthened, God's love begins to be established in us and we start to live as Jesus lived.
1 John 2:3-6
In part 2 of our study about life's problems we'll look at some of the situations we find ourselves in, not necessarily of our own making, but ones that can threaten to overwhelm us.
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