Seventh-day Adventists are called to proclaim “the everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6) to all the world. By so doing, we are simply obeying Jesus’ words about making disciples, baptising them, and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20, NKJV). And among the things He commanded was that we minister to the hurting, the downtrodden, the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned.
After all, it was Jesus who, after telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36), then commanded His listeners: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37, NKJV). It was Jesus who, in depicting the time when He would divide the nations before Him as a “shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32, NKJV), talked about just how important helping the hungry, the sick, the naked, and the imprisoned really is. “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40, NKJV).
In other words, along with proclaiming the great truths about salvation, the sanctuary, the state of the dead, and the perpetuity of the law, we are to minister to the needs of others. And what better way to reach people than by working in their behalf, too? As Ellen G. White famously wrote: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’”. – The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.
According to one count, Scripture contains 2,103 verses expressing God’s special concern for the poor and oppressed. Compared to many other aspects of faith, doctrine, and Christian living in general, the weight of references about ministering to those in need is overwhelming. We must get serious about working to relieve the pain and suffering that exists around us. This doesn’t take away from our work of spreading the gospel; on the contrary, it can become a powerful way of doing it.
Of course, it’s a good thing to help others, just for the sake of helping them. We should “do justly” (see Mic. 6:8) simply because it is both right and good to “do justice”. And yet, is it not even better when doing justice, when helping others in their immediate and temporal needs, also to point them to the “reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15, NKJV), and that is the promise of eternal life in Christ?
Jesus healed disease, gave sight to the blind, cured lepers, even raised the dead. But all those to whom He ministered were going to die sooner or later anyway, right? So, in the long run, whatever good He did for them and their immediate needs, He also did more. Yes, He ministered to the hurting, but then He bade them, Follow Me. And that’s precisely why we, too, should minister to the hurting and then bid them, Follow Him.
No question, by seeking justice and goodness in the world, we are rehearsing the kingdom of God (see Luke 4:18, 19) in a way that is at least as faithful, valid, and perhaps effective as preaching it. When we care for the poor and the oppressed, we are actually offering honor and worship to God (see Isa. 58:6-10). But if we fail to minister in behalf of the hurting, the suffering, and the broken, we misrepresent Him (see Prov. 14:31).
This quarter, then, we’re going to see what the Word of God says (and it says a lot) about our duty to minister to the needs of those around us.
“Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8, NKJV). That says it all.
Jonathan Duffy has served as president of ADRA International since 2012. Before joining ADRA Australia in 2008, Duffy served as director of Adventist Health for the church's South Pacific Division, where he had extensive experience in health promotion and community health development.
Lesson 1 June 29-July 5
Read for This Week’s Study: Genesis 1-3, Acts 17:28, Psalm 148, Ps. 24:1, Gen. 4:1-9, Matt. 22:37-39, Rev. 14:7.
Memory Text: “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Proverbs 14:31, NKJV).
Have you ever worked to create something—perhaps an item of art or craft, a meal, or some other creative work—only to have it broken or rejected by the person you gave it to? If so, you might have just a small glimpse of what God experienced when He made this world and gave human beings life, only then to see what He created broken by sin.
The Bible says that the world was created carefully and created “very good”. How God felt about His creation is evident in the accounts of Creation in Genesis 1 and 2. This is the context in which we should read the story of the Fall in Genesis 3 and the heartbrokenness of God as He confronts the people He has made.
Remarkably, our world continues to be something that God loves, even despite millennia of sin, violence, injustice, and outright rebellion. And even more remarkably, while God set in motion His plan for redeeming and re-creating the world, He has given us, as believers, roles to play in the fulfillment of His larger plans. Yes, we are the recipients of His grace; but, from the grace we have received, we have been given our work to do as colaborers with our Lord. What a solemn, sacred responsibility!
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 6.
Sunday ↥ June 30
This world and all life on it, our own life and all we do with it—our existence begins with God, “for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NKJV).
Here’s where the Bible’s story begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, NKJV). And the fact that He spoke it into existence points to a power and a process that we can’t even begin to imagine.
And yet, God didn’t create from a distance; He was intimately involved, especially when it came to creating the first human being (see Gen. 2:7).
Read the story of the creation of the first human beings in Genesis 1:26-31. What important things does this account tell us about God? What important things does it tell us about people?
It has often been said that we can learn a lot about God from spending time in nature, from looking at His creation, and seeing in it glimpses of the character of the Creator Himself. But we can also see glimpses of how God created the world to be from examining our understanding of God Himself. For example, if God is a God of order, we should expect to find order in His creation. Or if we believe that God is a God of creativity, we should not be surprised to find incredible examples of that creativity in the world He made.
Similarly, we believe that God is a God of relationships, and so, we find relationships as a core element in how God put the world together. He created each element of the world in relation to the rest of Creation. He created animals in relational harmony. He created human beings in relationship with Himself, with each other, and with the rest of creation.
While our understanding of God is limited in many ways, what we can see of His character should prompt us to reconsider how the world should be.
How helpful is it to your understanding of the world to see it as a reflection of the character of God, even with the ravages of sin so readily apparent?
Monday ↥ July 1
It is easy to feel homesick for Eden. There is something in the brief descriptions of the Garden that God created as the home for Adam and Eve that sparks a note of longing in our hearts. We may not understand how such a world would work, but we feel we would like to experience it.
It seems the sense of satisfaction and completeness was also something that God felt: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31, NIV). God made something that was both beautiful and functional. It was exquisite in its design, in both form and practicality. It was vibrant with life and color, but also filled with everything necessary for life to flourish. No wonder God kept pausing to muse that this world that He was making was good.
Read Genesis 1. What do you think is meant by the repeated statements that “God saw that it was good”? See Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 25, and 31.
Even though written entirely after the Fall, the Bible is filled with celebrations of the natural world, such as in Job 38 to 41 and Psalm 148. And we must remember that these are not written as a glimpse looking back to how the world was when first created and before sin; they are written in the present tense, celebrating the goodness that is still evident in our world.
Jesus, too, drew examples of God’s goodness and care from the natural world (see, for example, Matt. 6:26, 28-30), commending both our reliance on God and an appreciation of the simple gifts that surround us with wonder. If we open our eyes and look at the marvels of creation, we can see that we are truly the recipients of marvelous gifts from our Creator. Our response, even amid trials, should be one of gratitude, thankfulness, and humble surrender to the Gift-giver.
As Seventh-day Adventists—those who both celebrate Creation and anticipate God’s coming kingdom—we should realize that the beauties, joys, and goodness we see and experience in the world are glimpses of what our world once was and what will, again, be.
In your experience of the natural world, what do you especially appreciate about the wonders of Creation? In your daily life, how might you be able to know the Lord better through the wonders of the natural world?
Tuesday ↥ July 2
According to the Bible’s record, the Garden of Eden and the newly created earth were places of abundance, created for life to flourish and particularly for human beings to enjoy.
But God also gave the first man and woman—and the rest of us who would come after them—a role to play in His creation. It quickly becomes obvious—and not just from His method of creation—that Adam and Eve were to have a special status in this new world.
Adam was first given the job of naming the animals and birds (see Gen. 2:19). Then he was given another role, presented as a blessing from God Himself: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Gen. 1:28, NIV).
Read and compare Genesis 1:28 and 2:15. How would you characterize the human job description in a sentence or two?
Too often in Christian history, Genesis 1:28 has been used by some as a license to exploit, even to the point of destroying the natural world. Yes, the world obviously was created for human life, benefit, and enjoyment. But the human responsibility is to “work it and take care of it” – in the words of Genesis 2:15 (NIV).
When we talk about stewardship, our first thought is often about money, but the first command for stewardship in the Bible is to care for the earth that God has created and entrusted to us. The command to Adam and Eve also foresaw that the earth would be shared with their children and with future generations. In the original plan for the world, the created world would continue to be a source of life, goodness, and beauty for all human beings, and Adam and Eve would have a big role in taking care of it.
The earth is still the Lord’s (see Ps. 24:1), and we are still called to be stewards of all that God has given us. Perhaps we could conclude, as well, that in a fallen world our responsibility as stewards is even greater.
What does it mean to you to be a steward of the earth today, in a fallen world? How should the realization of this responsibility affect how you live on a day-to-day basis?
Wednesday ↥ July 3
One thing God gave Adam and Eve that He didn’t give anything else on earth was moral freedom. They were moral beings in ways that plants, animals, and trees could never be. God valued this moral freedom so much that He allowed the possibility that His people would choose to disobey. In doing so He risked all that He had created for the larger goal of a relationship with His human creatures based on love and free will.
But there was also a destroyer (this moral freedom existed for angels, as well), one who wanted to disrupt the good and complete world God created and sought to use God’s special creation on earth—human beings—to do that. Speaking through the serpent, the devil questioned the completeness and sufficiency of what God had provided (see Gen. 3:1-5). The primary temptation was to covet more than God had given them, to doubt the goodness of God, and to rely on themselves.
In that choice and that act, the relationships that were integral to the creation as God had designed it were broken. No longer did Adam and Eve enjoy the relationship with their Creator that they had been designed for (see Gen. 3:8-10). These two human beings suddenly realized they were naked and ashamed, and their relationship with each other was almost irreparably altered. Their relationship with the rest of the earth was also strained and broken.
Read Genesis 3:16-19. What do these verses tell us about the changed relationships between human beings and the natural world?
Because of the reality of sin, life suddenly got a lot harder for Adam, Eve, and the rest of creation. The consequences of sin are real, particularly as they affect humanity and our relationships. In a sense, we are distant from God our Creator. Our families are also affected in many ways, and our relationships with others are often a challenge. We even struggle in relation to the natural environment and the world in which we live. All aspects of our lives and our world show the brokenness caused by sin.
But this is not how God created the world to be. The “curses” of Genesis 3 also come with a promise that God would make a way to re-create our world and to repair the relationships that had been broken by sin. While we continue to struggle with sin and its effects in our lives, we are called to uphold the original goodness of the world and to seek to live out in our lives the plan God has for this world.
Thursday ↥ July 4
With the arrival of sin, it did not take long for the world to break down further. Sparked by jealousy, misunderstanding, and anger, the first murder involved the first pair of brothers. When God questioned Cain about his sin, his reply is probably ironic and rhetorical—“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9)—and the answer implied by God’s initial question was, “Yes, absolutely, you are your brother’s keeper”.
Read Proverbs 22:2. What is implied in this apparently simple statement? What does it tell us about our relationship to our fellow human beings?
Everyone we meet is one of God’s creatures, created in His image, and part of the network of relationships that connects us all in God’s creation, fractured and broken though it might be. “We are all woven together in the web of humanity. The evil that befalls any part of the great human brotherhood brings peril to all”. – Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 345. Like it or not, because of this common link, we have a God-given responsibility to God and to each other (see Matt. 22:37-39).
Throughout the Bible, the claim that God is our Creator is recurring. For example, it is one of the reasons given for remembering the Sabbath (see Exod. 20:11) and for worshiping God in the end time (see Rev. 14:7). It is also a primary motivation given for caring about others, for being concerned for the less fortunate.
We are all linked by the bond of our common origins in God. Whoever “oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Prov. 14:31, NIV). How much clearer could that link be?
God as our Creator has a claim on us that demands our entire life, including our worship and our service and care for others. As difficult and frustrating and inconvenient as it might be at times, we are, indeed, our “brother’s keeper”.
Why do you think God’s claims as Creator are such a recurring theme throughout the Bible? Why is this so important, and how should this reality affect how we treat others?
Friday ↥ July 5
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The Creation”, pp. 44-51, in Patriarchs and Prophets.
“‘God is love’. … His nature, His law, is love. It ever has been; it ever will be. ‘The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity,’ whose ‘ways are everlasting,’ changeth not. With Him ‘is no variableness, neither shadow of turning’. …
Every manifestation of creative power is an expression of infinite love. The sovereignty of God involves fullness of blessing to all created beings”. – Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, page 33.
“If men would do their duty as faithful stewards of their Lord’s goods, there would be no cry for bread, none suffering in destitution, none naked and in want. It is the unfaithfulness of men that brings about the state of suffering in which humanity is plunged … God has made men His stewards, and He is not to be charged with the sufferings, the misery, the nakedness, and the want of humanity. The Lord has made ample provision for all”. – Ellen G. White, Welfare Ministry, p. 16.
Summary: God created a good and complete world, and He appointed human beings, created in His image, to “tend and care for” His creation. Though sin broke the relationships that God had originally intended for us, we still have a role to play as stewards of the goodness of creation and caretakers of our fellow human beings. Fulfilling this role is one way we can honor God as our Creator.
Inside Story~ US
Food ran out on Sunday morning in the home of 9-year-old Joanne.
Father had abandoned the family after Mother started attending the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the U.S. state of Oregon. Father, who had immigrated with the family to the United States from South Korea, made it clear that he would never help them.
“If you choose God, let your God feed you”, he said. “Let your God clothe you”.
Mother, who didn’t have a job, prayed and cried in her bedroom that Sunday.
When lunchtime came, Joanne’s younger sister complained forlornly, “I'm hungry”. Her older brother sat stone-faced, trying to be brave even though he was helpless. Then Joanne remembered reading in “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories” about children who prayed and received help from angels.
“All we have to do is pray!” she exclaimed. “'Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories' says that if we pray, the angels will bring us food. Let’s pray!”
Brother rolled his eyes. Little Sister complained again about her hunger. Joanne didn’t know how to pray.
“Hello God”, Joanne said. “We are really hungry. 'Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories' says that You can send us food, so would You send us something to eat, please?”
The children waited. No food. Hours passed, and dinnertime came. Joanne thought, “What’s wrong? God is late!”
The children grew hungrier. Mother continued praying and crying in the bedroom.
Then Joanne said, “Oh, I know what we did wrong! God doesn’t think that we believe Him because we didn’t set the table”.
She told Little Sister to fetch metal chopsticks from the kitchen. The children set the table and sat down.
“Sorry about that, God”, Joanne prayed. “We probably did it wrong. Could You send us some food now? We're ready!”
But nothing came. The children climbed into bed disappointed and hungry that night.
Early in the morning, they woke up to go to school. They had no food for breakfast and no money to buy lunch.
“Don’t bother, Mother”, Joanne whispered. “She is still praying and crying”.
The children opened the front door to leave the house, but their path was blocked - by a huge box filled with food.
Excitedly, the children called Mother to the door. Mother couldn’t believe her eyes. Joanne was overjoyed.
“The angels were just a little late!” she said.
That was the moment when Joanne knew that God lives and that He hears and answers prayers. Joanne Kim (née Park) is now the mother of her own four children. She and her husband, Jon, a dentist, are missionaries in Mongolia.
After the food miracle, Joanne, pictured left, is convinced that angels are Korean.
“I will tell you today that angels are Korean”, she said. “The food that they delivered was all Korean - everything you need to make rice, kimchi, and seaweed soup”.
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