Lesson 3 April 12 - April 18
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21; Jer. 6:19; 2 Cor. 1:3-5; 2 Cor. 7:10; Luke 19:41; Matt. 26:36-38; Phil. 1:29,30.
MEMORY TEXT: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4, NKJV)
KEY THOUGHT: All who pass through life will at some point experience suffering--no one can escape. But what may seem a curse can turn to a blessing if, in our suffering, we make God our refuge.
GOD'S ANSWER TO SUFFERING. Jesus presents God's answer to the problem of human suffering in the second beatitude. Not by explaining why He permits suffering in our lives and in our world, but by simply promising us a sure consolation.
Jesus was not satisfied merely to give us an encouraging word. He came "to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, 'He took our infirmities and bore our diseases' " (Matt. 8:17, RSV). "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief' (Isa. 53:3), "He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." (1 Peter 2:24, RSV).
"Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered" (Heb. 5:8, RSV), proving by example the sanctifying worth of the trials God permits. In this life one will never fully understand the role that suffering plays in the perfecting of character. "Faith, patience, forbearance, heavenly-mindedness, trust in your wise, heavenly Father, are the perfect blossoms which mature amidst clouds and disappointments and bereavements."--Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 934.
What significance should be given to the mourning and tears mentioned in the second beatitude? To find the answer, the close relationship between the first and the second beatitude should be considered. No one will deny the literal meaning of the second beatitude. Our Lord demonstrated it, and, moreover, He devoted the best of His ministry to the afflicted, the sick, the unfortunate.
But this beatitude, like the first, finds full meaning when applied to the spiritual life. "The mourning here brought to view is true heart sorrow for sin."--Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 9.
What spiritual benefits can mourning bring into your life as seen in the context of Ecclesiastes 7:2-4?
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and the followers of Christ are to be the most joyous. But that is not a contradiction to a godly spirit of mourning because of bereavement and sorrow for sin in the life. One finds great education in suffering, and mourning is a great teacher to help us reflect on the core issues of life. Mourning can soften the heart, make the spirit more contrite, and it helps us become more understanding of others. Often what is called "having fun" is but a disguise for the troubled heart. And avoiding grief and suffering is but avoidance of the need to confront what really ails us.
How is our Lord's promise to the afflicted realized both today and in the future? Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21. What impact does Christ's promise have on a troubled area of your life to bring you again laughter and comfort?
As the poor and the underprivileged of this world place their confidence in God's promises, there is and there will be consolation for them. The hope of a better world comforts them now; it is already a consolation for them, a source of joy. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us that they who place their confidence in God and patiently endure suffering in this world will know the joy and happiness of God's children in the ages to come. (See Luke 16:19-31.)
"As God meets the sense of spiritual need with the riches of the grace of heaven ... so He meets the mourning over sin with the comfort of sins forgiven. Except there be first a sense of need, there will not be mourning for what one lacks-in this case, righteousness of character."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 325.
What is God's purpose in permitting afflictions, and what is the immediate effect of afflictions on us? Heb. 12:10, 11.
God allows us to pass through fiery trials because He sees something very precious in us that needs refining. He allows suffering and tribulation to smooth the rough edges of our character, transforming it to be more Christlike. A master carpenter takes a piece of a crude log; he cuts, chisels, carves, sands, and polishes it. The result is a masterpiece that is fit for a palace. "The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character.... Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."--Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 10. That is what God ardently desires to do with us in order to help us share in His holiness and companionship for eternity.
In the midst of trials, do you dwell on the pain of the refining process or on the joy? Why? Heb. 12:11.
God does not cause our misfortunes, but He does use them to lead us back to Him, to teach, to correct, to educate, and to sanctify us. "Through affliction God reveals to us the plague spots in our characters, that by His grace we may overcome our faults. Unknown chapters in regard to ourselves are opened to us, and the test comes, whether we will accept the reproof and the counsel of God. When brought into trial, we are not to fret and complain. We should not rebel, or worry ourselves out of the hand of Christ. We are to humble the soul before God. The ways of the Lord are obscure to him who desires to see things in a light pleasing to himself. They appear dark and joyless to our human nature. But God's ways are ways of mercy and the end is salvation."--The Desire of Ages, p. 301.
In order to experience God's comfort in the midst of our mourning, we must always keep in mind that just as the carpenter is always near his wood, the potter is always close to his clay, and the smith is not far from his metal, so also Christ is always with us to encourage and comfort. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13, NKJV).
You can truly appreciate comforting only when you experience suffering. But where do you see Jesus in all this?
Differentiate between godly and ungodly sorrow. 2 Cor. 7:10.
We all have had experiences when others tell us that they are sorry without their really meaning it. We might have done this ourselves too. To say that we are sorry about something could mean that we want to end the discussion, dismiss the person offended, or get out of a difficult situation. Admitting that we have done something wrong is sometimes not encouraged, for it could convey some weakness or deficiency. Sometimes we feel that admitting a wrong, or getting caught in the wrong, is a greater sin than committing the wrong itself.
Obviously this is not what godly sorrow is about. This does not lead to healing and restoration, but to further resentment and alienation. Only godly sorrow shows love and caring for the grieved and determines to allow God to change and restore the relationship.
What do godly and ungodly sorrow lead to? 2 Cor. 7:10.
"In 'godly sorrow' there is recognition and admission that one has wronged God and his fellow men, adequate effort to right the wrong, and a reorientation of the life with the purpose of avoiding a repetition of the same mistakes. ...
"Worldly sorrow consists of regret for the consequences of the sin rather than for the sin itself, and at being discredited before the world and worldly friends (1 Sam. 15:30). Worldly sorrow plays only upon the surface of the problem. It mounts no higher than the man himself, and his own feelings. It leads to future regret and to deeper distress."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 884.
What biblical examples best illustrate the two kinds of sorrow? Matt. 27:3-5; Luke 22:60-62.
The Greek text makes a clear distinction between the repentance of Peter, which was produced by godly sorrow, and that of Judas. In the first, the word metanoia is used, which denotes a change of mind, of goals, of direction--that is, conversion. In the case of Judas, the word metamelomai, which is employed, means regret, mere remorse.
Recall moments when you truly felt godly sorrow and experienced restoration. What can you specifically do to be sure that your sorrow is the godly and not the worldly type?
Not all affliction and sadness are necessarily the direct consequence of sin. The sufferings of Job, like those of Jesus, prove this. Jesus suffered because of the sins of others and of the world. He was profoundly saddened by the callousness of the Pharisees (Mark 3:5); He cried over Jerusalem, because of the indifference of her children to the salvation God was offering them, which they finally rejected.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem. What does this fact tell you about the kind of person Jesus is? Luke 19:41.
"It was the sight of Jerusalem that pierced the heart of Jesus--Jerusalem that had rejected the Son of God and scorned His love, that refused to be convinced by His mighty miracles, and was about to take His life. He saw what she was in her guilt of rejecting her Redeemer, and what she might have been had she accepted Him who alone could heal her wound. He had come to save her; how could He give her up?"--The Desire of Ages, p. 576.
What do the words of Jesus, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death," say about His sacrifice? Matt. 26:38.
The sadness experienced by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was caused by His dread of the death that brings about complete separation from God. "Upon Him who knew no sin must be laid the iniquity of us all. So dreadful does sin appear to Him, so great is the weight of guilt which He must bear, that He is tempted to fear it will shut Him out forever from His Father's love. Feeling how terrible is the wrath of God against transgression, He exclaims, 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.' "--The Desire of Ages, p. 685.
What consoled Jesus in His sufferings? Heb. 12:2; Isa. 53:10, 11.
Have you pondered this lately? "Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. ... Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Heb. 12:2, 3, RSV).
How can identifying with Jesus and sharing in His suffering bring comfort and assurance to you?
Here Paul is considering the conflicts with Satan that pesecution brought about to the Philippian believers. He could write to them with sympathy, for he was certainly familiar with persecution for Christ's sake. He knew they remembered the beating and the imprisonment he faced in their city during his first visit there. Even as he was writing them he was suffering persecution in Rome. He assured them that by God's grace he could bear to suffer for Christ, and they could too.
Often more emphasis is placed on believing on Christ and not on suffering for Christ. What is the link between the two? Phil. 1:29.
"Of all the gifts that heaven can bestow upon men, fellowship with Christ in His sufferings is the most weighty trust and the highest honor. Not Enoch, who was translated to heaven, not Elijah, who ascended in a chariot of fire, was greater or more honored than John the Baptist, who perished alone in the dungeon."--The Ministry of Healing, p. 478.
How should a Christian consider participation in Christ's sufferings? 1 Peter 4:12-16; Col. 1:24.
Following Christ's example, the Christian should patiently, victoriously, endure the trials of the present life for the advancement of God's work on earth. It is therefore an honor and a source of joy to share the sufferings of Christ for His church. Like Jesus, who did it "for the joy that was set before him" (Heb. 12:2, KJV), His disciple will do it in anticipation of the joy and gladness that they will have at His appearing. (See 1 Peter 4:13.)
How can joy be an integral part of suffering for Christ in your daily life?
"Blessed are they also who weep with Jesus in sympathy with the world's sorrow and in sorrow for its sin. In such mourning there is intermingled no thought of self. ... All Who are followers of Christ will share in this experience. As they partake of His love they will enter into His travail for the saving of the lost ... drinking with Him the cup of sorrow, they are partakers also of His joy."--Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 12, 13.
FURTHER STUDY: Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, "The Beatitudes" (Matt. 5:4), pp. 9-13; Education, pp. 88-93; The Desire Of Ages, pp. 300, 685-690; Early Writings, pp. 46-48.
The words consolation and hope mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 renew the assurance given by Jesus in the second beatitude--consolation for the Christian in each of his trials. Through Jesus, God provided "the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25, RSV). By His Spirit He still makes provision for "all our affliction" (2 Cor. 1:4). Moreover, he who knows this comfort through experience with His God is, in turn, able to sympathize with a suffering brother and, in God's name, to minister consolation to him.
"Patient endurance of tribulation tests, confirms, and refines the Christian's faith. Out of this comes ever more confident hope. It is the believer's initial hope of sharing in the glory of God (see v. 2) that nerves him to endure in the first place. And as he continues to endure, he gains a steady, calm assurance. Hope and faith grow as they are tested and exercised. ... The experience of Job illustrates how the severe discipline of character can strengthen the faith and hope of a sincere believer."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 525.
1. Give some illustrations from your own personal exerpeinece of how sufering and affliction can enhance your Christian faith.
2. Why does God allow suffering? Does God ever purposely cause us to suffer? Why or why not?
3. To what extent do we sometimes cause our own sufferings? How can we avoid bringing unnecessary suffering upon ourselves?
4. How should Christians respond to suffering?
SUMMARY: At first glance, the second beatitude seems to refer mainly to those who mourn due to the afflictions of life, such as sickness and misfortune. A deeper look, however, reveals that in addition to those who suffer physically, Christ is describing those who mourn because of sorrow for sin. But to all those who mourn, for whatever reason, Christ offers comfort, consolation, and hope for a better life.
On the island of Palawan in the Philippines, the people come from the surrounding hills to celebrate the siburan, a feast in honor of the rice god. While the men play their traditional intruments, the women line up and begin stompingout a rhythm with their feet.
During the feast the shaman bows before the large, ornately decorated urns of rice wine, and begins a ritual chant as he waves a brance above and around the wine. The people believe that the spirit of the rice god enters the rice wine and changes it form sour to sweet. After the shaman and the chiefs and elders have tasted the wine, everyone else lines up for a drink, for they believe that those who drink the wine will be blessed with a good rice harvest. Even small children participate in this drunken revelry.
Rinal and Seblito, two young men from the village, heard the music and the chants that signaled the beginning of the siburan. They were drawn toward the festivities by a lifetime of traditions and memories. But they had recently become Christians, and had promised to "walk on god's trail." The two young men wanted to go to the feast to play the gongs, so they pledged between themselves not to drink, and set out for the feast.
Inside the hut, the music beat a hypnotic rhythm. Sounds of drunken laughter pierced the smoke-filled air. Suddenly two men threw themselves from one side of the hut to the other, thrashing and growling, as demons entered their bodies. Four men wrestled them to the floor and held them while the chief repeated a chant to release them from the demons.
By now the strong rice wine had taken effect. Children were vomiting; adults could barely walk. Around the edges of the hut people slumped in a drunken sleep. Rinal and Seblito tried to slip out the door unnoticed. But someone saw them and shouted, "You can't leave yet! You haven't had any rice wine!" The crowd began urging the youth toward the large pot of strong wine.
(Continued next week)
Ray and Dawn Spoon are Adventist Frontier Missionaries serving the people on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
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