|LESSON 13||*March 19 - 25|
|Partnership With Jesus|
Read for This Week's Study: Mark 1:21–35; Luke 4:31–42; Matt. 6:14, 15; 25:34–46; 26:36–44; Ps. 31:24.
“ ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me’ ”(John 15:4, NIV).
In recent years, research has pointed to the positive effects that religiosity, faith, spirituality, prayer, forgiveness, hope, and church attendance can have on health, including mental health. Numerous prominent scientific publications have reported a connection between religious faith and positive mental and emotional well-being. Surprise of surprises!
Yet, this is not magic; the faith factor applies only to those who are deeply committed to their religious principles. Psychiatrist Montagu Barker, an expert in the interface between religion and mental health, states that religion is a potent safeguard against mental illness, but only when believers possess a strong commitment to their beliefs. If not, religion may become a source of guilt and the cause of emotional, mental, and behavioral disturbances.
This week we will look at our best example, Jesus, to learn how we can be strong in faith. By studying His life and maintaining a close relationship with Him, we can build solid mechanisms for spiritual growth, which itself can lead to better mental health.
Prayer and Bible study, worship, the practice of forgiveness, service to others, and hope and trust in God are sure pathways to spiritual development and mental health. With Jesus as our Example, we surely can’t go wrong.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 26.
The Praying Lord
Read Mark 1:21–35 and Luke 4:31–42. What lessons can you learn about His habits of prayer? What should this say to us about our need to pray?
Jesus is found going to the synagogue on that Sabbath in Capernaum, teaching the Scriptures to an amazed group of people who recognized His authority and healing a demon-possessed man. After the meeting, Jesus and His disciples went to the house of Peter and Andrew, and there He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. At sunset, many (“the whole town” [Mark 1:33, NIV]) congregated around Jesus and brought all sorts of ill and demon-possessed to be healed.
“Never before had Capernaum witnessed a day like this. The air was filled with the voice of triumph and shouts of deliverance. Not until the last sufferer had been relieved did Jesus cease His work. It was far into the night when the multitude departed and silence settled down upon the home of Simon.”—Ellen G. White, Lift Him Up, p. 86.
That must have been an exhausting day for Jesus. However, He did not sleep late the next morning. He needed to be in communion with His Father; so He got up before dawn, went to a solitary place, and spent time in prayer. Jesus, the Son of God, He who had been with the Father before the world began (John 17:5), He who had created the entire universe (John 1:3), nevertheless felt the need for prayer? The concept is remarkable.
After stressful days, we tend to postpone prayer and communion with God. But it is precisely during those moments of psychological drain that we most need the soothing balm of prayer and time in the Word of God. Jesus knew this and practiced consistent closeness with His Father. If this was necessary for Jesus, how much more should it be for us?
Prayer is a positive factor in well-being and mental health. However much we don’t understand about prayer, about how it works or even about why it works, we are admonished to pray (Luke 18:1, 21:36, Rom. 12:12). Who, spending time in communion with the Lord through prayer and reading the Word, hasn’t felt the positive impact this can have on our spirit and mind? We don’t have to understand all the mysteries of prayer in order to know how crucial it is to have a close relationship with God.
|What kind of prayer life do you have? How much time do you spend in the Word of God? What are ways you can make your devotional time more meaningful and life-changing? However important that we spend time in prayer and reading the Word, time alone isn’t the only element. What other factors are needed?|
Worship and Church Community
Jesus went regularly to the synagogue on Sabbath (Luke 4:16). His example should speak to us of the importance of community. The concept of “a lone Christian,” independent of the body, is not biblical. That there are some occasional examples of this in the Bible doesn’t prove that this is God’s plan. All through the Scriptures we see the model of God’s people as a community, a group working together for the mutual benefit of each other and for the church as a whole.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12–31 and Ephesians 4:15, 16. What do these verses tell us about our role and place in a larger church community?
How interesting, too, that in recent years reputable studies are showing that those who attend and participate in church services (compared to those who don’t) on a regular basis are:
Belonging to a church can be a great source of blessing. Such an environment can be therapeutic for soul and body. True, at times problems arise in the community, and some leave angry and bitter; but more often than not, those who work through their problems can find in the church support and fellowship and encouragement that they might not get anywhere else. Think about what church could be like if every member took to heart these words from Paul: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2, NIV).
|What is your relationship to your local church body? Are you a giver or a taker? Why, at times, might you need to be a taker? At the same time, if we all went to church with the attitude of giving ourselves when and where we could, what kind of community would we have?|
“ ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ ” (Luke 23:34).
Read Matthew 6:14, 15. What powerful message is Jesus giving to us here? What is He saying that is so full of eternal consequence for all of us?
Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “ ‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’ ” (vs. 12, NIV). Then He insisted (vss. 14, 15) that if we do not wish to forgive, God will not forgive us.
The thought is terrifying. After all, we all are sinners, and thus we all need divine forgiveness. Thus, we all must learn to forgive if we want to be forgiven ourselves!
Forgiveness is so important because it’s foundational in repairing and maintaining good relationships. The Lord knows how painful the burden of sin is and how its burden must be released through forgiveness—through the forgiveness that we get from God and through the forgiveness we give to others.
The experience of forgiveness is helpful, not only to those receiving it but also to those granting it. The feeling of grace and generosity experienced by those granting forgiveness brings them closer to God and contributes to character building.
A study conducted among recently divorced individuals showed the difference between those willing and those unwilling to forgive. Mark Rye of the University of Iowa recruited 199 divorced individuals from community singles’ organizations and church-based divorce recovery groups. Not surprisingly, researchers found that those who extended forgiveness to their former spouses enjoyed higher levels of mental health. When compared to those unwilling to forgive, forgiving persons experienced higher levels of well-being and religious satisfaction and lower levels of anger and depression.
This is not an isolated experience. Studies over the past decade are clear. Forgiveness reduces depression and anxiety, increases self-esteem, and overall emotional well-being. In sum, forgiveness is good for many things; holding grudges, meanwhile, is dangerous for body and soul.
Is this so unexpected? Who among us hasn’t experienced the healing and relief that comes from offering forgiveness to those who have hurt us?
|How can you practice Paul’s counsel: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3:13, NIV)? What choices must you make in order to forgive those who have hurt you?|
The Seventh-day Adventist outreach to the world historically has held two basic branches of ministry: teaching/preaching and healing/helping. They represent the two major tasks of Jesus’ ministry (see Matt. 9:35 and Acts 10:38). Furthermore, for many people throughout the world, Seventh-day Adventists are known by their health and humanitarian work.
At the same time, these powerful branches have become quite institutionalized in many places. As a result, the ordinary member may fail to engage directly in these ministries. Some provide financial support; others leave these ministries to the professionals; and some, unfortunately, even view them with indifference. In the end, many do not become directly involved in the task of going “around doing good” and thus miss a tremendous blessing. Why? Because there is a great personal blessing that comes from ministering to the needs of others. The simple practice of directly sharing with the needy or of helping someone sick or simply of attentively listening to others’ problems will result in great blessing to the one doing the ministering. There’s something wired in us, something not totally eradicated by six thousand years of sin, that makes us feel good, even whole, when we serve others.
Read Matthew 25:34–46. What is Jesus saying to us here? What does this mean in the light of Ephesians 2:8, 9?
Salvation cannot be by works. If it were, nobody would be saved. God’s grace manifested by the sacrifice of Jesus in our behalf is the only means of salvation. At the same time, personal acceptance of God’s grace does produce good works, and these works reveal the reality of our walk with God. The good works we do should be a direct result of knowing that we already have salvation in Jesus, as a result of His works for us. Works are the natural outgrowth of being saved, not a means of getting saved. How crucial that we keep that important distinction always before us.
Meanwhile, there’s a tremendous emotional and spiritual blessing for those who, out of thankfulness to God for the salvation they have in Jesus, give of themselves to others. Many people struggling with emotional issues would feel so much better merely by directing their thoughts off of themselves and onto others.
|Unhappy, unsatisfied? Most likely it’s because you’re too self-absorbed. Get involved in helping others and see what happens.|
Hope and Trust in God
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Ps. 31:24, NIV). What reasons do we have for putting our hope in the Lord?
Studies show that hope is a critical factor in mental health. An attitude of hope found in hostages makes a difference in survival. Hope is a great motivator and a source of mental and physical endurance. Most depression treatments work well in patients convinced that their mood can improve significantly and that they can be helped. Indeed, depression and anxiety often afflict those whose outlook on life is pessimistic, catastrophic, and hopeless. A hopeful attitude can make a big difference in our entire mental outlook.
But there is more than the general hope that whatever your present trial is, it will end well. Religious hope transcends the finite and focuses on the eternal. It points us to realities and truths and promises that the world, in and of itself, can never offer. It’s a hope found in the Creator God, who alone can give us what nothing else in the world can.
Read Matthew 26:36–44. What can we learn about trusting in God, even in terrible times, from Jesus’ example here?
The passage tells us of the Savior’s disheartened state. Carefully chosen words are used to describe Jesus’ painful emotions: troubled, exceedingly sorrowful (deeply distressed). Heartbroken and disregarded by His friends, He fell not only on His knees but on His face and asked His Father for relief. When relief did not come, He asked again. And again. Note that every time He posed His request, He asked for God’s will to be done. In the end, Jesus put all His trust in the Father. Regardless of what would happen, He sought to be surrendered to His Father. That was His way, and it must be ours, as well.
|It’s one thing, trusting in the Lord in good times. But how can we learn to trust Him in bad times? How do we learn to trust when prayers are not answered as we wish?|
“We must individually hear Him speaking to the heart. When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. He bids us, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Ps. 46:10. Here alone can true rest be found. And this is the effectual preparation for all who labor for God. Amid the hurrying throng, and the strain of life’s intense activities, the soul that is thus refreshed will be surrounded with an atmosphere of light and peace. The life will breathe out fragrance, and will reveal a divine power that will reach men’s hearts.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 363.
“Every ray of light shed upon others will be reflected upon our own hearts. Every kind and sympathizing word spoken to the sorrowful, every act to relieve the oppressed, and every gift to supply the necessities of our fellow beings, given or done with an eye to God’s glory, will result in blessings to the giver. Those who are thus working are obeying a law of heaven and will receive the approval of God. The pleasure of doing good to others imparts a glow to the feelings which flashes through the nerves, quickens the circulation of the blood, and induces mental and physical health.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 56.
| What has prayer and Bible study done
for you in your walk with the Lord? Where would you be spiritually were
you to cease doing them? Write out a testimony as to what these
practices mean to you and why they are so important in your walk with
What has been your own experience with your local church community? How can you improve that experience? How can you work with your church to make it a place where all people would feel comfortable coming, where all people could be welcomed, where all people could learn about salvation and the present truth message we have for the world? What areas is your church strong in, and in what areas must it improve?
Suppose someone were to come to you and say, “Yes, I believe in God, in Jesus, in salvation, but I just don’t know how to walk in faith. I just don’t know how to trust God.” What practical advice would you give?
|I N S I D E Story|
|No Longer Alone
Alima felt lost and alone. Painfully shy, she spent most of her time at home. Often, as she cleaned the family's small house, she would pause at her father's picture and cry, "Why did you leave us? If you loved us, you wouldn't have died!"
Only later did her mother reveal that her father had died in a drunken brawl. When Alima realized that alcohol had caused her father's death, she vowed never to touch it.
Like many in Mongolia, Alima believed that the deities had drawn her life's destiny, and she must follow the path set for her. But often she pleaded, "Why did you make my path so hard? Why must I go through this suffering?"
One day as Alima walked across her small town, she met two foreign women. They smiled and greeted her. They talked for some time, and then they invited her to attend a seminar on healthful living. Alima liked the women and agreed to attend the seminar.
Alima found much to agree with in the health seminar—especially the dangers of alcohol. As she learned more about healthful living, she also learned about God. The two Christian women invited her to learn more about Jesus, who hears and answers her prayers. Again, Alima accepted.
Alima read the Bible with these two young women and listened to their explanation of God's love. They invited her to evangelistic meetings, and there Alima learned more about this God who loves her so much that He died for her. His love offered her a better life, but He would never force her to follow His plan for her. Alima accepted God's love and took her stand to follow His path.
She invited her sisters to attend church with her, and they went. Her mother doesn't yet attend the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but Alima and her sisters pray that one day she will come.
Alima's shyness disappeared as she grew confident of God's love. In its place was born a desire to tell others that they can be free from fears if they follow God's perfect plan for their lives.
Alima became a short-term missionary, serving in a large city in Mongolia. "I praise God that He cares enough about a lonely and troubled little girl to send someone to teach me about Jesus. Now I can teach others and bring them hope too."
Your mission offerings help establish groups of believers in Mongolia, where just over 2,000 believers share His love with others.
ALIMA BATMEN is studying to serve God in Mongolia.
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