• Tony Birkhead

Simplify Week - 2



We are at our best when we rest in Jesus!



INTRODUCTION

Share about a time you or your family faced a difficult time.


Are you more mindful of God in the midst of trials or during peaceful times?


What did you learn from that time? How are you different because of it?


We tend to view the trials in our lives as inconvenient at best and evil at worst. According to the Bible, however, trials are opportunities for spiritual growth because Jesus has designed these times to strengthen our faith and make us more like Him.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Mark 4:35-41

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Psalm 23:1-6

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Read Mark 4:35-41.

What does the fact that Jesus willingly placed Himself in harm’s way in the boat tell us about Him?


How should Jesus’ presence in the boat changed the disciples’ attitude toward the storm? How might knowing that Jesus is with us in the midst of our difficulties strengthen us to face them?


Where was Jesus during the storm (v. 38)? What does that tell us about Him?


While the disciples were beginning to fear for their lives, Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. This doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t care about the fate of His disciples but rather that He was still in control. Jesus didn’t sleep because He didn’t care, He slept because He wasn’t stressed.


How did the disciples react to finding that Jesus was asleep in the midst of the storm?


Have you ever been tempted to think that God didn’t care about you in the midst of your suffering?


How might knowing that the storm didn’t worry Jesus give us strength and hope in the midst of trials?


How might remembering what God did for us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross help us overcome the temptation to doubt God’s love for us?


Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The cross is final proof that God loves us. We don’t have to guess about whether or not He loves us. We don’t have to worry about whether or not we have done enough good things to deserve His love. We can know that God loves us because He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have a relationship with Him forever.


What is significant about the manner in which Jesus calmed the storm (v. 39)?


Jesus spoke to the sea and said, “Quiet! Be still!” and the wind died down and it was completely calm. Jesus spoke and the wind and the sea obeyed Him. Jesus calmed the storm the same way God created the universe, by His word (John 1:1-5). When Jesus commands nature with His voice, He is communicating that He is God and that He is sovereign over nature.


How did Jesus’ disciples respond to this miracle (v. 41)? Why do you think they responded that way?


How does Jesus make us able to approach God without fear?


There are many examples in the Bible of people fearing for their lives (Isa. 6:5) when they realize they are in the presence of God because God is holy and cannot allow that which is sinful into His presence. Jesus, however, makes us able to approach God without fear by offering to forgive our sins through His sacrifice on the cross.


MOVING FORWARD

  • What difficult situations and circumstances are you or your family currently facing? How might God be using that situation to strengthen your faith and deepen your relationship with Him?

  • How might studying God’s Word make you more prepared to face the storms of life?

  • Who do you know that needs to be reminded that God is in control? How might you encourage them to trust Christ in the midst of their difficulties this week?

PRAY TOGETHER

Thank God for demonstrating His love so boldly and freely by giving up His Son on the cross for our sins. Pray that the Lord would help us to trust that He is constantly working for our spiritual good, even in the midst of trials and difficulties. Ask God to help us testify of His goodness and mercy as we face the storms of life.

COMMENTARY

Mark 4:35-41

4:35. “That day” refers to the same day that Jesus delivered His teaching in verses 1-34. “When evening came” is typical of Mark’s dual references in which the second time marker is more specific than the first. In this case, the words indicate that Jesus had been teaching all day and they help build suspense for what follows, since a storm on the water at night is more frightening. “The other side of the sea” refers to the eastern side, which was Gentile territory. Parallel accounts of this passage can be found in Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25.

4:37. The Greek term for “furious squall” is used here and in Luke 8:23 to describe the fierce windstorm, whereas Matthew 8:24 used a phrase that means “sea-quake.” The Sea of Galilee lies almost 700 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by highlands. To the northeast is Mount Hermon, which rises over 9,000 feet above sea level. When the cold air from Mount Hermon meets the rising warm air from the sea, it often results in a storm that sweeps down on to the lake from the heights. Because fishing boats of the day had low sides, the boat was already being swamped.

4:38. Jesus, tired from a long day of teaching, was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. Boat owners reserved the seat at the stern with carpet or cushions for the comfort of special guests. The cushion implies the boat only had one cushion on board. Jesus used it as a pillow for His head. Mark often showed Jesus’ humanity with such details. Jesus did get tired and needed sleep. His sleeping on this occasion also suggests His confidence in God (Ps. 4:8).

That storm’s severity terrified even experienced fishermen. They rudely awakened Jesus. Their cry carried a sharp tone of rebuke: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Apparently they did have some faith, however, as evidenced by the fact that they awakened Jesus. Their scolding of Him for sleeping indicated they thought He might do something about their situation if He was awake. Their reproach, however, showed they did not know who Jesus really was.

4:39. Only Mark recorded the words Jesus used, “Hush, be still,” or “be muzzled.”

4:40 Jesus reproved His disciples for the lack of faith expressed in their terror and panic. This rebuke represents the first of a series of such rebukes in Mark’s Gospel (see also 7:17-18; 8:17-18,21,33; 9:19). Mark’s inclusion of the disciples’ rebuke of Jesus, omitted by Matthew and Luke, showed his usual candor (see Matt. 8:24-27; Luke 8:22-25). Jesus’ questions indicated the disciples should have had faith rather than fear.

4:41. “They were terrified” is literally “they feared a great fear.” The great storm that Jesus turned into great calm now led to great fear. Their terror is understandable in light of the teaching that only God can make the wind and the sea obey Him (cp. Ps 65:7; 89:8-9).

This miracle over nature no doubt reassured first-century readers of Mark’s Gospel who were suffering for their faith. Although Jesus might not always appear to be present or to care, He was with His followers. The Son of God would go with them into the storms of opposition and trial. His disciples need never doubt or fear.


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

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

The word “yoke” can be foreign to those of us living in an industrialized nation. Basically, a yoke is a piece of wood that is used to hold two animals together, usually oxen, to help them share the load in pulling a till or a buggy of some sort. The key here is that the yoke allows the animals to support each other in pulling the heavy weight.

As we live our lives, we are often times yoked by many things. We might be yoked with a personal decision that is weighing heavy on us. We might even be yoked with a spouse who helps us in the hard times. We can even be yoked to sin as the Israelites were with Baal (Numbers 25:3). No matter how you look at it, we are yoked to something, whether good or bad.

Jesus tells us to come and take his yoke and we will find rest. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say he will take our burdens and attach his yoke to it as we standby and watch. No, he takes us under his yoke and carries those burdens with us along the way. In turn, he takes the majority of the burden and makes it “light” for us. We also “learn” from Jesus as we carry the burden with him. This allows us to learn to change from the inside instead of repeating the same wrong things over and over. Is there something pulling you down that you haven’t given to Jesus today?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus traded His perfect rightness before God for our utter depravity. His sacrifice was not lacking, it was complete, flawless, and whole. In fact, Jesus said it Himself, “It is finished” (John 19:30). However, often we attempt to add to Christ’s finished work. We justify ourselves in our own minds and hearts by doing good things (i.e. reading our Bibles, going to church, giving our tithe, serving others). When we do these good things we come to believe that we are good people. Yes, we believe Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), but God’s opinion of us is still largely based on the merit we earn by doing the right things.

The belief that we can add anything to completed work of Christ on the cross is dripping with pride! On the opposite side of this pride coin, however, lurks another evil. It is the idea that we can also subtract from His work. The notion that we aren’t doing enough of those good things to earn God’s favor and love is just as heinous, as it completely undermines the truth that all of our righteousness springs from Christ.

We will, as Christians, walk as He walked, think as He thought, and do as He did (I John 2:5-6), but not as the means for our justification. We will walk in relationship with our Father through the reconciling work of Jesus alone!

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 3

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Luke 12:25

Here I was. I had painstakingly planned for the next day for weeks—no, months. I was prepared. I had prayed about this. I had planned. At times I was even excited. And now I couldn’t sleep. I was scared. I looked at my bedside clock… 11 PM. Then 2 AM… then 4 AM. Could it really be 6 AM?!

Have you ever been struck with fear? My name is Brian, and I am a worrier — and needlessly so! Even those men around Jesus were tempted toward fear, who then reminded them He cares even for the birds – and we, His friends, are worth so much more to Him than birds. Because our Good Shepherd “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart” (Isaiah 40:11), we need only to call to Him in our weakness.

We serve a Master so compassionate, He lifts us into His arms, weakness and all. “What perfect safety!,” as Charles Spurgeon notes, “Who could hurt those in His embrace? To do so, they must hurt the Shepherd first. What perfect rest and the sweetest comfort!”

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

Zechariah 4:5-7

Zechariah 4 speaks of an approach to serving that will never become stale: All kingdom work that the Father considers valuable takes place through His Holy Spirit—not by means of human power or might (Zech. 4:6). Far from being aimed at a select few who are called to ministry, this is an essential truth for all believers.

God, speaking through the apostle Paul, addressed the struggling believers in the Corinthian church as “saints by calling” (1 Corinthians 1:2). In other words, Christians have been chosen by the Lord and called to honor Him with a life of obedience, which is expressed through faith and service. Here’s what this means for believers today: We must not rely on our own wisdom or strength, but on God’s Holy Spirit and Word.

Regardless of the situation, if you’re a believer, you are called—called to rest in Christ, to abide in Him, and to seek His will. The first step is to get your focus off the circumstances and redirect it to Christ. How can you possibly know where He’s leading unless you are looking and listening?

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 5

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Brokenness is a tool the Lord uses to mold us into His likeness. God’s followers desire this outcome, yet the process is a painful one. That’s why the Lord gives encouragement in a number of ways. First, God disciplines with love. Just as parents redirect their children’s behavior out of love, the heavenly Father has our best interest in mind when correcting us. It’s not out of anger that He allows suffering. Second, God gives us hope through His Son. He doesn’t want our suffering to debilitate us, but when it feels like too much to bear, the promise of eternity and Christ’s presence keeps us from despair (2 Corinthians 4:18). Our Father wants us to grow in Christlikeness, but He doesn’t want to break our spirit. Third, God brings clarity through difficult times. As we learn that His ways are higher than ours, we gain greater understanding of His amazing attributes. At the same time, our self-awareness starts to sharpen, and old unproductive thought patterns begin to fade. Fourth, God promises that He’ll never desert us. Brokenness can bring a feeling of emptiness as we are losing things that once captured our loyalty. But our Father replaces those with Himself—and He is vastly more satisfying and dependable. Fifth, the Lord is patient. He knows our background and thought patterns but also sees the end result and knows the journey is worth it.

When you face hardship, remember God’s promises and keep your eyes fixed on the goal. He wants to help you reach your full potential.

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…


The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want

Psalm 23:1

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