• Tony Birkhead

Are you Sure? Week - 3




God, let me see what I cannot see so I can be confident where I am not sure!


INTRODUCTION

Are you prone to taking risks? Why or why not?

What is the biggest risk you have ever taken? What influenced you to do it? What was the outcome?

Does your opinion about risk say anything about the way you view faith? Why or why not?

Some people confuse taking risks with having faith. Risks generally have no basis for success but faith is characterized by assurance that comes from trusting God. Faith is a biblical concept in which we trust in God with all of our lives, including our future. Faith, more than anything else, is what God is looking for to characterize the lives of His people.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 11:1-2

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

2 Kings 6:8-23

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” 9 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. 11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” 12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” 13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. 19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. 20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. 21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” 22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ HEBREWS 11:1-2.

How would you describe faith to someone who has never experienced it? How did the writer of Hebrews describe faith?

Complete the following sentence: “Faith is ….”

What do your answers reveal about the nature of faith?

Since we have confidence that God has the power to create something good out of nothing, what concerns in your life do you need to turn over to Him, and in the process exercise the faith that pleases Him?

Hebrews 11 provides one of the most beautiful and familiar passages about faith. Invite volunteers to quote Hebrews 11:1 from memory before the class locates it for Bible study or invite the group to say the verse with you as you read it aloud. Enlist volunteers to read the verse from various Bible translations.

The writer of Hebrews described faith in terms of trusting God with assurance that the blessings He promised are real and that the events He has announced are certain.

What is the foundation for Christian faith? What other foundations do people try to use for faith?

What happens when they do not work out?

A relationship with God begins with faith in Jesus. Jesus is the only means for salvation. People place their trust in their own abilities and other people. They are disillusioned when the inevitable happens or when they are let down.

How do your past experiences or the experiences of others affect your faith?

We can draw strength by remembering past experiences when we demonstrated trust in God and His promises. Not only that, but when we see how God worked in others’ lives, we are encouraged that He can work in ours.

READ 2 KINGS 6:8-23.

Discuss this story together. What stands out to you about faith in this story?

MOVING FORWARD

  • How are faith in God and obedience to His ways related? Can you have one without the other? Explain.

  • What is one area of your life that God is calling you to exercise faith inside of?

  • What’s one action that is tied to faith in that area of your life?

PRAY TOGETHER

Pray to close your group and ask to be the kind of people who are characterized by faith more than anything else. Pray for the specific situations your group mentioned in which they need to exercise their faith.

COMMENTARY

Hebrews 11:1-2

11:1-2. In verse 1, we find a good, biblical definition of faith. Faith has always marked God’s people and their relationship to God. Indeed, faith marks the difference between a person’s receiving God’s approval (salvation) or His wrath against sin (destruction).

Faith on the one hand is the reality of what is hoped for. Faith is a firm conviction concerning the promises of God, an unyielding confidence that He will do what He says He will do. On the other hand, faith is the proof of what is not seen. Faith endures even when a particular promise of God does not come to pass on our timetable. We live by faith as Christians because our faith rests in Him, not in ourselves or in our abilities.

For example, God promised Abram (Abraham) that he would have countless descendants at a time when the man and his wife seemed destined to remain childless. Abraham took God at His word, however, and Abraham’s faith received God’s approval. His faith was credited as righteousness (see Gen. 15:1-6). Abraham was just one of many Old Testament ancestors who received God’s approval through trusting in God rather than trusting in themselves or in other created things (see Rom. 1:18-25).

2 Kings 6:8-23

6:8–12. Through his supernatural insight, Elisha was able to reveal to the king of Israel the secret military plans of the Arameans. The prophet had a strong personal dislike for King Jehoram, but he did not allow these personal feelings to interfere with his patriotism. The king of Israel learned to avoid those spots where Elisha indicated he would encounter an Aramean ambush (2 Kgs 6:8–10).

The king of Aram became greatly concerned at the repeated failure of his best laid plans. One officer—perhaps Naaman—suggested that the plans were being revealed by the Israelite prophet. Perhaps the Aramean had learned this through intelligence agencies in Israel. On the other hand, perhaps this official was merely surmising that a man who could heal the dreaded leprosy would have no difficulty reading the secret thoughts of a man (2 Kgs 6:11–12).

6:13–23. Aramean spies ascertained that Elisha was currently residing in Dothan, a village about twelve miles north of Samaria. A strong force was dispatched with orders to kidnap the prophet. In order to take Elisha by surprise, the Arameans marched by night and encompassed the city (2 Kgs 6:13–14).

Elisha’s new servant arose early in the morning to discover the city surrounded by a force which included infantry, cavalry, and even a chariot force. Faced with the prospect of capture and consequent slavery, the young servant rushed to his master to report his alarming discovery. “How shall we do?” he cried, i.e., is there any way we can save ourselves? (2 Kgs 6:15).

Elisha was quite calm in the face of this serious threat. He knew that God was with him, and it mattered not how many might be arrayed against him outside the walls of Dothan. The servant, however, needed reassurance. So Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes might be permitted to see that great angelic host that hovers just beyond the realm of sight and sound. The prophet’s prayer was answered. The eyes of the servant were opened, and he beheld round about the hill of Dothan a heavenly force—chariots and horses “of fire,” i.e., glowing with an unearthly brightness (2 Kgs 6:16–17).

Rather than waiting for the Arameans to come up the slopes of Dothan to arrest him, Elisha and his servant went down to the attacking host. As they approached the enemy, Elisha prayed that God would smite the Arameans with blindness, i.e., a state of confusion in which they would willingly follow the directions of the prophet. As a result of that prayer, the soldiers allowed Elisha to convince them that they had attacked the wrong city. Under this miraculous delusion, the soldiers allowed Elisha to lead them into Samaria. The behavior of these soldiers is absolutely inexplicable apart from direct working of God in their mental processes (2 Kgs 6:18–19).

Once inside Samaria, Elisha prayed that God would “open their eyes,” i.e., remove the bewilderment which had seized them at Dothan. The soldiers awoke from their delusion to realize that they were surrounded by a great throng of Israelite soldiers. King Jehoram, though not on the most cordial terms with Elisha (cf. 3:11–14), addressed the prophet by the honorable title “father.” The king was eager to slay these helpless invaders, but he felt compelled to seek the permission of the one who had delivered them into his hand (2 Kgs 6:20–21).

Elisha declined permission to slay these men. They were not prisoners of war in the usual sense. The ultimate purpose of the miracle at Dothan was to teach these foreigners and their king to fear the God of Israel, and to respect his people and prophet in particular. Therefore, instead of slaying the Arameans, the prophet directed that they be treated hospitably and then be sent back to their own land. As a result of this episode, the Aramean raiders, who had heretofore harassed the Israelite countryside, suspended their activities for a time, and Israel had a respite (2 Kgs 6:22–23).

DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE

HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart: Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God: Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer): After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action: Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?

DAY 1

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

1 John 2:3

Hell, eternal separation from God’s presence, is the most horrible reality in existence. It stands to reason then why so many Christians struggle with the assurance of their salvation. How can anyone really be certain that he or she will spend eternity in paradise with the God of Glory? Fortunately for the Church, that very same God of Glory spoke through the Apostle John roughly 2,000 years ago and preserved those words on just this subject.

John wrote that we most certainly can “know that we have come to know him”. The Greek word he chose for know (ginosko) implies a resolution and certitude about the matter in question, and directly perceiving the One whom we know. It’s not a feeble word but a firm one. We can have this certainty by examining both our living and our motivation for that living in light of Jesus’ teaching. Our living will be the evidence for God’s saving work in us because we cannot bear the fruit of obedience and Christ-like living without the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

We will not be marked by an attitude that asks, “How much can I get away with?”, but that asks, “Where else can I follow Jesus?” Our righteous living will and can only flow from Jesus’ righteousness gifted to us. Do not misunderstand John here, he was not saying that if we do what Jesus taught we will be saved, but rather, that we can only live in accordance with his teaching if we are saved!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

“For the LORD is the one who shaped the mountains, stirs up the winds, and reveals his thoughts to mankind. He turns the light of dawn into darkness and treads on the heights of the earth. The LORD God of Heaven’s Armies is his name!”

Amos 4:13

“I don’t want to be so loud that I can’t hear God.” I wrote that in my journal the other day. As I wrote it I let it sink in deep…how often is my mind so loud that I miss God trying to tell me something? God speaks to us in many ways. Through his Word (2 Tim. 3:16), through wise counsel (Proverbs), through circumstances (Jonah), through dreams and visions (Acts 2:17), through peace (Col. 3:15), and many more. One major way I believe we drown out God is through the time we spend on social media. It has become a way for us to numb our feelings.

A place we go to get “reassurance” that we are pretty, funny, smart. It’s a scary path to be on, counting your worth by the number of people who push “like.” Somehow these platforms have seeped into our hearts and caused us to question our worth.

God sees you in those moments, He hears your heart cries and it trying to tell you how much you are worth, that you are priceless. How beautiful you are. How He thinks you are hilarious, He designed you that way. He is telling you, can you hear Him? It is scary how loud the world gets, how loud our minds get when we try and drown out the pain with more activity and less stillness. Addiction comes in many forms. When was the last time you looked at your phone? How much of your day do you spend staring at a screen?

Is it time that we stop settling for a false version of connection? Is it time to run to the Word before we run to post a status or share a story? Is it time we set down our technology, pick up our gaze and see the world in a different light? God is always speaking to us. He is patient, loving and kind. He wants us to know our worth, know how deeply loved we are…we just need to pay attention.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.

Isaiah 42:13

I was sitting in a Starbucks on my lunch break, 1,700 miles from home, while I was reading this passage. There was a lot on my mind. Was the new house my wife and I found going to come through? Were we going to be able to sell our house back home in time? Basically, I was doing a lot of worrying. Then, this passage showed up as a part of my daily reading, and it was already underlined from previous readings. We had even used it as a devotion before! But this time, as God does, he used this passage to comfort me in ways it hadn’t before.

Why was I worried about all that was happening when I serve the God who can defeat any enemy in a battle if he so desires? There is something that brings about confidence in a country’s people when they see their military might rightly at work. There is a peace and confidence in their people that their government will take care of them. As Christians, we can have confidence in our God in the same manner. As the worries of this life wash over you, one thing to remember is that we can have confidence in our God who shows himself mighty against our foes.

Lastly, remember that God can speak differently to you through Scripture you’ve read your entire life, like he did with me. As you read familiar passages in your Bible, ask God to bring them into fresh light for you, because the Bible is deep and inexhaustible.

Adapted From: http:// shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 4

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10:35-39

Some people take their faith for granted, thinking it opened them up to Christian beliefs but has no current relevance. However, the writer of Hebrews says that once we are declared righteous through placing our trust in Jesus Christ, we should continue to live by faith and not shrink back.

Living by faith is something learned over time as we see God’s faithfulness in both His Word and our own experiences. Consider the various degrees of faith, as illustrated by the following scriptural examples:

Little faith (Matt. 8:23-27)—Jesus’ disciples focused on a dangerous storm and cried out for help, yet Jesus questioned why they were afraid at all. Little faith struggles to believe that God is bigger than the situation.

Great faith (Matt. 8:5-13)—Though concerned about his servant’s ailment, the centurion recognized Christ’s authority over illness and believed He could do the impossible.

Perfected faith (James 2:20-23)—Abraham was so confident in the Lord that he followed through with a very difficult act of obedience. As a result, his initial faith was made complete and mature.

No matter how long you have been a Christian, God wants you to continually grow in faith. The only way to do that is by knowing and believing His Word.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:8

When I was growing up, Disneyland was like Heaven on earth to me. I regularly watched Walt Disney’s TV shows like Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Then one day, Walt Disney announced that he was building a park. He said it would be “the happiest place on earth.” And when I went to Disneyland, I thought it was an incredible place. I was always sad when it was time to leave. I think experiences like that are glimpses of something much greater that is coming. A place that will never close. I think God has prewired us, deep down inside, to be homesick for a place we’ve never been before, and that place is Heaven. We long for it. In fact, the Bible even tells us that God has set eternity in our hearts (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

One day, this life that we love so much will pass, and we’ll enter into the afterlife. If you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ, then you’re a child of God. You’re a citizen of Heaven. In fact, the Bible teaches that when a Christian dies, he or she goes immediately to Heaven. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul wrote, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (NKJV). So, if you have loved ones who have died in faith, they are in Heaven right now. It’s hard for non-Christians to wrap their minds around the fact that Christians have such a strong hope. I don’t expect them to understand it. It’s a quiet confidence, a supernatural certainty that God gives us.

Where do we find this hope? We find it in the Scriptures. That’s why it’s a good thing to memorize the Bible and to fill your mind with what the Bible says. What are you filling your mind with today?

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

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