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Lesson 2 July 2-8
Read for This Week’s Study: 1 Pet. 4:12-19, 1 Pet. 5:8-11, Rom. 1:21-32, Jer. 9:7-16, 2 Cor. 12:7-10.
Memory Text: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12, 13, NKJV).
In chemistry labs one often places various materials into a small container and heats them to extreme temperatures. As the container becomes hotter, the materials either melt, fizzle, spit, or burn brightly, depending upon what they are made of. The container is called a crucible.
A crucible is defined in the dictionary as (1) a vessel used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat, (2) a severe test, (3) a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.
These definitions also give us a helpful insight into what happens in our spiritual lives. This week we’ll highlight some reasons we may suddenly find ourselves under pressure and experiencing tests in places in which circumstances cause us to change, develop, and grow in character. This will help to give us an awareness of what God is doing in our lives so that when we enter a crucible, we will have an idea of how to respond.
The Week at a Glance: What are the causes of the difficult times that we experience through our lives?
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 9.
Sunday ↥ July 3
Surprises, painful surprises, can come in many ways. A car veering across the road into your path. A sudden notification that you’re losing your job. A medical test that gives you unexpected bad news. Betrayal by someone you loved and who you thought loved you. As bad as the pain can be, it’s always made worse by the element of surprise.
This week we will look at a few specific types of painful situations or crucibles that should not take us by surprise.
To begin, let’s go back to 1 Peter 4:12. The Greek word for “surprised” in 1 Peter 4:12 (NIV) means to be “alien” or “foreign.” Peter is urging his readers not to fall into the trap of believing that fiery ordeals and trials are alien to Christian experience. Rather, they are to be considered normal — they can and should be expected.
The word used for “fiery ordeal” (NIV, NRSV) or “fiery trial” (NKJV) comes from another Greek word, and it means “a burning.” In other places it is translated “furnace.” This experience of suffering for our faith could therefore be considered a “smelting process,” the process of the crucible.
Read 1 Peter 4:12-19. What is Peter’s message?
Many of us are surprised about suffering because we often have an oversimplified view of the Christian life. We know there are two sides — God, who is good; and Satan, who is bad. But often we then automatically put everything that feels good in the box with God, and everything that feels bad in the box with Satan. But life is not so simple. We cannot use our feelings to decide what is in God’s box or Satan’s box. Sometimes walking with God can be challenging and hard. And following Satan can appear to bring great rewards. Job, who is righteous yet suffering, illustrates this when he asked God, “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (Job 21:7, NIV).
Peter was referring to trials that are the consequence of standing up for Christ. But there are also other reasons that trials come. How could 1 Peter 4:12-19 help you to explain tactfully to a friend why not to be surprised at the painful trials he or she might face?
Monday ↥ July 4
Read the above verse. What’s the message there for us? Ask yourself, “How seriously do I take these words?” What things do you do in your life that show whether you take them seriously?
Have you ever watched a hungry lion? It’s awesome because you know it can catch and eat just about anything it wants. Peter says that Satan is prowling around in the same way. When we look around, we can see the consequences of his desire to kill. Death, suffering, and the twisting and perverting of morals and values are everywhere. We cannot escape seeing the work of Satan.
Read 1 Peter 5:8-11. How should Christians react to Satan’s prowling?
What does God promise to do for those who are suffering? 1 Pet. 5:10.
Peter writes these words in the context of responding to Satan’s attacks on Christian faith. But as we have mentioned, Satan is at work in many different ways. And although we must be aware of the reality and the power of our enemy, we must never be discouraged, for we must always remember that Jesus has beaten Satan, that Satan is a defeated foe, and that as long as we stay connected with Jesus, as long as we cling to Him in faith, we can never be defeated, either. Because of the cross, Christ’s victory is our victory.
Think about the other ways that Satan causes pain. How could reading 1 Peter 5:8-11 help us to deal with the anguish that we experience because of our fate in living in a sinful world in which Satan wreaks havoc?
Tuesday ↥ July 5
Everything we do has a consequence. If you stand in the hot sun with ice cream, it will certainly melt. Cause and effect always go together. And no matter how desperately we may want things to be different, it is the same with sin. It always reaps consequences. It is not that God sits in heaven wondering what terrible things He could do to people who sin; no, sin itself comes with its own built-in consequences.
The problem is that many times we think that we can somehow outwit God, and sin without experiencing the consequences. It never happens. Paul makes it very clear that sinning has consequences not only for eternity but painful and distressing consequences today.
In Romans 1:21-32, Paul describes the process of people falling into sin and the consequences of those sins. Read these verses prayerfully and carefully and summarize the essence of what Paul is saying, focusing specifically on the stages of sin and the consequences.
A couple of verses earlier Paul describes these consequences as the “wrath of God” (Rom. 1:18). God’s wrath in this passage is simply God’s allowing human beings to reap what they sow. Even for Christians, God does not always intervene immediately to remove the pain that results from our own actions. Many times He allows us to experience the consequences of our actions in order for us to understand how deeply damaging and offensive our sin is.
We have been considering the consequences of breaking God’s moral laws. But what about breaking God’s health laws? Our bodies are God’s home. If we abuse our bodies by failing to eat healthfully or to exercise, or if we regularly overwork, this is also sin against God. And this has consequences that can create the conditions of a crucible.
In your own life, how have you reaped the immediate consequences of your own sins? What lessons have you learned? What changes must you make in order not to go through something similar again?
Wednesday ↥ July 6
“If the Spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that hurts you, you can be sure that there is something in you that He wants to hurt to the point of its death.” — swald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour & Company, Inc., 1963), p. 271.
How do you understand the quote and Bible verse above? What has been your own experience with the pains involved in the purification process?
Read Jeremiah 9:7-16. God says that he will “refine and test” (NRSV), or “melt” (KJV), Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 9:7, NIV). What two reasons does God give for this? (Jer. 9:13, 14). How will the refining happen? (Jer. 9:15, 16).
God’s refining and testing involved drastic action. There are perhaps three reasons why refining and testing may feel like a crucible. First, we experience pain as God allows circumstances to bring our sin to our attention. A little earlier, Jeremiah unhappily writes, “The bellows blow fiercely to burn away the lead with fire, but the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out” (Jer. 6:29, NIV). Thus, sometimes drastic action is needed in order to get our attention. Second, we experience anguish as we feel sorrow for the sin we now see clearly. Third, we experience frustration as we try to live differently. It can be quite uncomfortable and difficult to keep choosing to give up the things that have been so much a part of us.
Think about the sins that you struggle with. If God were going to refine and test you today, how might He do it? What action could you take now to deal with this before God would want to take drastic steps with you, as He did with Israel?
Thursday ↥ July 7
There is a big difference between cutting down and pruning. We cut down plants that we don’t want anymore; we prune plants that we want to develop into greater fruitfulness. Both processes, however, do involve a sharp knife. Indeed, pruning requires cutting parts off the plant that might seem to a novice gardener like destroying it. In a spiritual context, Bruce Wilkinson writes, “Are you praying for God’s superabundant blessings and pleading that He will make you more like His Son?“If your answer is yes, then you are asking for the shears.” — ruce Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2001), p. 60.
People have wondered what Paul actually meant by a “thorn in my flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7, NIV). Ideas range from Paul’s having constant attacks from enemies to having a speech difficulty. It seems that this was actually a problem with his eyesight (see Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1107). Amazingly, Paul believed that his “thorn” was “given me.”
What do you think Paul meant by “given me”? Who gave it to him? How was God able to use it for Paul’s benefit?
Notice that Paul’s “thorn” had a definite purpose: “to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Cor. 12:7, NIV). It was not because of any specific sin he had committed, but to prevent him from sinning in the future. Paul recognized that by nature he had a weakness to sin, and that this “thorn” could guard against it.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. How does Paul deal with his “thorn”? Do you think that Paul’s weakness had any other spiritual benefits to him? How can the way that Paul responds help you to deal with “thorns” that you may have to carry?
In what ways might God’s ideas for your spiritual development be very different from your own? Think about areas in your life in which you need to become more fruitful in righteousness. What spiritual qualities would you like to ask God to develop in you through His “pruning”?
Friday ↥ July 8
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Effectual Prayer,” in Signs of the Times, Nov. 18, 1903; Ellen G. White Comments, p. 1182, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4; “God Permits Trial and Affliction to Purify Me,” p. 92, in My Life Today.“He who reads the hearts of men knows their characters better than they themselves know them. He sees that some have powers and susceptibilities which, rightly directed, might be used in the advancement of His work. In His providence He brings these persons into different positions and varied circumstances that they may discover in their character the defects which have been concealed from their own knowledge. He gives them opportunity to correct these defects, and to fit themselves for His service. Often He permits the fires of affliction to assail them that they may be purified.” — Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 471.
Mother was worried about Junior. The usually cheerful 15-year-old boy had become uptight and hostile in their home in Manaus, Brazil. Against her wishes, he had signed up to learn Capoeira, an African-Brazilian martial art.
“Eduardo, I don’t like Junior learning martial arts,” she told her husband.
“It’s no problem for me to take him,” he replied. “The classes are just up the street from the Candomblé temple where I work.”
“That also bothers me,” Mother said. “I didn’t know whether Capoeira and Candomblé are somehow related, but I didn’t want my son doing either.”
Father scowled. “Junior told me that some boys are bullying him at school,” he said. “That’s why he decided to take martial arts.”
The next day, as Mother waited at school to take Junior home, she poured out her heart to Dilma Araujos dos Santos, the mother of one of Junior’s classmates, Clifferson. “My son doesn’t have any good friends,” she said.
A few days later, Clifferson invited Junior to a video gamers club at his house. Mother, pleased that Junior had found a friend, allowed him to go.
At Clifferson’s house, Junior found several boys playing a sports video game. After a few minutes, Clifferson turned off the game and invited the boys to sing about Jesus. Then the boys opened Bibles and talked about what Jesus meant to them. “Are you Christians?” Junior asked. “Yes,” Clifferson said. “At our club, we play sports games and talk about Jesus.”
Junior liked his new friends, he didn’t miss any meetings after that.
One day, Clifferson’s mother invited Junior to go to church with the family. Junior was happy to spend more time with Clifferson, and he stopped going to martial arts classes. He didn’t tell Mother that he was visiting Alpha Seventh-day Adventist Community Church. He only said he was going out.
Mother soon noticed that Junior was eager to leave the house on Saturday, and she asked what he was doing. Junior showed her the YouTube channel where the church live-streamed its Sabbath services. Mother began to watch.
One Sabbath, Junior told Mother that a man had given his heart to Jesus and been baptized at the church. “I want to be baptized,” he said.
A few Sabbaths later, Mother accompanied Junior to church. She listened as the Sabbath School teacher spoke from the Adult Bible Study Guide. Someone gave her a Bible, and she looked up the verses that the teacher was reading from Revelation. A chill ran down her spine when she read, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8; NKJV).
“That’s the destiny of my husband,” Mother thought. “He will perish in the lake of fire.” From that day, she began praying for Father.
Your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help open eight churches in the South American Division, including four in Brazil, where Father (Eduardo Ferreira dos Santos) and his family live.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.adventistmission.org
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