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It is difficult for us to comprehend fully the relationship that our God, the Creator of the universe, wants to have with us human beings. (The mere idea of it is astounding!) “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1, NKJV). Or as Ellen G. White wrote: “Can any human dignity equal this? What higher position can we occupy than to be called the sons of the infinite God? … Can any worldly honor equal this?” — Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace, p. 341. It’s only the darkness of this sin-laden world that causes us not to appreciate fully the status that we have been given in Jesus.
Yet, if we are not careful, the lure of the world and the things of the world will pull us away from Christ. The Word of God informs us of the temptations and allurements of Satan. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10, NKJV).
The Lord, however, gives us guidance on how to earn money and utilize it wisely and not to let it be something that, as Paul warned, can lead to “destruction and perdition.” In the more than 2,000 verses in the Scriptures that deal with money and possessions and our attitude toward them, God gives practical instruction on how to live above the stresses of life and to manage in financially faithful ways what we have been given.
In this quarter’s lessons, we will study God’s ideal in our relationship with Him and clearly see how we can develop a trust so deep that we will remain faithful to Him, even when we can’t buy or sell. (See Rev. 13:17) But this kind of faith does not come overnight; by faithfully managing what God has given us, we can be prepared, even now, for whatever comes our way.
God is the One with the resources, and when we work with Him, He allows us to handle them for Him. It is the Savior’s purpose that human beings, purified and sanctified, shall be His helping hand. For this great privilege, let us give thanks to Him “who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13, 14).
God’s counsel to His children through the wise man, Solomon, is: “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” (Prov. 3:9, NKJV). This counsel is appropriate because “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11, NKJV).
From a merely secular perspective, we live in very challenging and stressful times. However, our Christian worldview gives us confidence and hope as we see the signs Jesus gave to let us know that the great climax of human history, the second coming of Christ, is very near — even at the door. We pray that these practical lessons will deepen your faith and trust in God and encourage you to be a faithful manager for Him.
G. Edward Reid, M.Div. (Andrews University), MPH (Loma Linda University), JD (Georgia State University), is an ordained minister and licensed attorney who served for many years as the director of Stewardship Ministries of the North American Division.
Lesson 1 December 31-January 6
Read for This Week’s Study: Gal. 3:26, 29; Ps. 50:10-12; 1 Chron. 29:13, 14; Phil. 4:19; 1 John 5:3; Matt. 6:19-21.
Memory Text: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1, NKJV).
As Christians, an amazing feature about our relationship with God, is that He trusts us to manage His affairs on the earth. At the very outset of human history, God explicitly delegated to Adam and Eve the personal care of a flawless creation. (See Gen. 2:7-9, 15) From the naming of the animals, to keeping the Garden, and to filling the earth with children, God let it be known that we are to work on His behalf here.
He also blesses us with resources, but we are the ones whom He has entrusted to manage them, such as to collect money, to write the checks, to do the electronic transfers, to make the budgets, or to bring our tithes and offerings to the church on Sabbath mornings. God encourages us to spend the resources that He has given to us for our own needs, for the needs of others, and for the advancement of His work. Incredible as it may seem, we are the ones whom God has entrusted with raising His children, building His buildings, and educating the succeeding generations.
In this week’s study, we will explore the privileges and responsibilities of being a part of the family of God.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 7.
Sunday ↥ January 1
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14, 15, NKJV). What imagery is evoked in this verse, and what hope is found there?
Early in Jesus’ ministry, He states, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9, NKJV). Later He repeats the same prayer privately to His disciples (Luke 11:2). Jesus told us to call His Father, “Our Father in heaven.” When Jesus encountered Mary after His resurrection, she wanted to embrace Him. Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God’ ” (John 20:17, NKJV).
Because we have the same Father as Jesus, He is our brother, and we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. Jesus became a member of the earthly family so that we could become members of the heavenly family. “The family of heaven and the family of earth are one.” — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 835.
Read Exodus 3:10; Exodus 5:1; and Galatians 3:26, 29. What do these verses say about how God relates to us? Why should this be so encouraging?
In contrast to a view of creation in which we are deemed the mere products of cold, uncaring natural laws, Scripture teaches not only that God exists, but that He loves us and relates to us in such a loving manner that the imagery of family is often used in Scripture to depict that relationship. Whether Jesus calls Israel “My people,” or us “sons of God,” or refers to God as “our Father,” the point is still the same: God loves us the way family members are supposed to love each other. What good news amid a world that, in and of itself, can be very hostile!
Imagine a world in which we treated everyone as family. How can we learn to relate better to all human beings as our brothers and sisters?
Monday ↥ January 2
Read Psalm 50:10-12; Psalm 24:1; 1 Chronicles 29:13, 14; and Haggai 2:8. What’s the message here, and what should this truth mean to us and how we relate to whatever we possess?
The book of 1 Chronicles, starting with chapter 17, records King David’s desire to build a house for God. He shared this desire with the prophet Nathan, who responded, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you” (1 Chron. 17:2, NJKV). But that night the word of God came to Nathan and instructed him to tell the King that, because he was a man of war, he couldn’t build God’s house. His son would do the work instead. David asked if he could, at least, draw the plans and prepare the building materials. When David was granted this request, he spent the rest of his life amassing a tremendous amount of hewn stone, cedar, iron, gold, silver, and brass “without measure.” When all of the building materials had been prepared and assembled at the building site, David called all the leaders of Israel together for a ceremony of praise and thanksgiving.
In 1 Chronicles 29:13, 14, in King David’s public prayer, what did he say was the real source of all the building materials that he and the people had spent time and money preparing? Of course, in essence, he said, “We really can’t take any credit for all these special materials because we are just giving You back Your own stuff.”
The point is important for all of us, whether rich or poor (but especially the rich). Because God made everything in the beginning (see Gen. 1:1; John 1:3; Ps. 33:6, 9), He is truly the rightful owner of all that exists, including whatever we possess — no matter how hard and diligently and honestly we have worked for it. If not for God and His grace, we would have nothing, we would be nothing; in fact, we wouldn’t even exist. Thus, we must always live with the realization that, ultimately, God owns all that is, and by praising and thanking Him for His goodness to us, we can keep this important truth before us.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?” (1 Chron. 29:14, NKJV). What beautiful principles are expressed in these words, and how do they reflect what our attitude toward God should be and our attitude toward what we possess?
Tuesday ↥ January 3
God’s greatest gift to His children is Jesus Christ, who brings us the peace of forgiveness, grace for daily living and spiritual growth, and the hope of eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Salvation, then, is the foundational gift because, without this gift, what else could we get from God that in the long run would really matter? Whatever we might have here, one day we will be dead and gone and so will everyone who ever remembered us, and whatever good we did will be forgotten as well. First and foremost, then, we must always keep the gift of the gospel, that is, Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), at the center of all our thoughts.
And yet, along with salvation, God gives us so much more. To those who were concerned about their food and clothing, Jesus offered comfort by saying, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33, NKJV).
Read Psalm 23:1, Psalm 37:25, and Philippians 4:19. What do these verses say about God’s provision for our daily needs?
Also, when Jesus talked to His disciples about going away, He promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to comfort them. “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:15-17). “He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
Then the Spirit Himself gives amazing spiritual gifts to God’s children. (See 1 Cor. 12:4-11)
In short, the God in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), the God who “gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25, NKJV), has given us existence, the promise of salvation, material blessings, and spiritual gifts in order to be a blessing to others. Again, whatever material possessions that we have, whatever gifts or talents we have been blessed with, we are indebted in every way to the Giver in how we use those gifts.
Wednesday ↥ January 4
We all enjoy the spiritual and temporal blessings and gifts that God gives us. How comforting to know, too, that we are “part of the family.”
Read Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37. What does this mean, and how do we do it?
How would you love God with “all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37, NKJV)? Interestingly enough, the Bible gives us the answer, and it’s not what most people expect, either.
Read Deuteronomy 10:12, 13 and 1 John 5:3. Biblically speaking, what is our proper response in our love relationship with our Father in heaven?
Keeping the law? Obeying the commandments? For many Christians, unfortunately, the idea of obeying the law (especially the fourth commandment) is legalism, and they claim that we are called, simply, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. However, God is clear: we reveal our love to God and to our neighbors by, yes, obeying His commandments.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3, NKJV). We are used to looking at this verse as, well, we love God and, therefore, we keep His commandments. That’s fine. But perhaps we can also read it as “this is the love of God,” that is, we know and experience the love of God by keeping His commandments.
In Matthew 7:21-27, Jesus said that those who hear and do God’s words are likened to a wise builder who built his house upon the solid rock. Those who hear but don’t obey are likened to a foolish builder who built his house on the sand — with disastrous results. Both heard the word; one obeyed, one didn’t. The results made the difference between life and death.
Think about the link between loving God and obeying His law. Why would love for God be expressed that way? What is it about keeping the commandments that, indeed, does reveal that love? (Hint: think about what disobeying His law causes.)
Thursday ↥ January 5
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21, NKJV). What crucial truths is Jesus speaking here?
Who hasn’t read story after story of those who had amassed great wealth, only somehow to lose it? Our world is a very unstable place: wars, crime, violence, natural disasters, anything can come in a moment and take away all that we have worked for and, perhaps, even what we have honestly and faithfully earned. Then, too, in a moment, death comes, and so these things become useless to us anyway.
Of course, Scripture never tells us it’s wrong to be rich or to have amassed wealth; instead, in these verses Jesus warns us to keep it all in perspective.
What, though, does it mean to lay up treasure in heaven? It means making God and His cause first and foremost in your life, instead of making money first and foremost. Among other things, it means using what we have for the work of God, for the advancement of His kingdom, for working in behalf of others, and for being a blessing to others.
For instance, when God called Abram, He planned to use Abram and His family to bless all the families of the earth. God said to Abraham, who “was called the friend of God” (James 2:23, NKJV), “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2, 3, NJKV).
“So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:9). We have the same challenge presented to us as was presented to him.
“Money has great value, because it can do great good. In the hands of God’s children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, and clothing for the naked. It is a defense for the oppressed, and a means of help to the sick. But money is of no more value than sand, only as it is put to use in providing for the necessities of life, in blessing others, and advancing the cause of Christ.” — Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 351.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21, NKJV). Where does your heart tell you your treasure is?
Friday ↥ January 6
Further Thought: “The heart of God yearns over His earthly children with a love stronger than death. In giving up His Son, He has poured out to us all heaven in one gift. The Saviour’s life and death and intercession, the ministry of angels, the pleading of the Spirit, the Father working above and through all, the unceasing interest of heavenly beings, — all are enlisted in behalf of man’s redemption.” — Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 21.
“If you have renounced self and given yourself to Christ you are a member of the family of God, and everything in the Father’s house is for you. All the treasures of God are opened to you, both the world that now is and that which is to come. The ministry of angels, the gift of His Spirit, the labors of His servants — all are for you. The world, with everything in it, is yours so far as it can do you good.” — Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 110.
A stranger stopped the Seventh-day Adventist university student as he walked down the road after a Pathfinder meeting on the island of Chizumulu in Lake Malawi. His green Pathfinder uniform caught her attention.
“Where are you coming from?” the stranger asked with great interest.
The student, Levison Kawonga, told her that he had been participating in a Pathfinder event at an Adventist church. His words seemed to touch her heart, and the words started rolling off her lips. “I used to be an Adventist,” she said. “I married an Adventist man, but we divorced.”
She spoke about going to bars and living licentiously after the divorce. Then she moved to Chizumulu and married a local high school teacher.
The next Sabbath, the woman showed up at the Adventist church. She enjoyed the worship service, and she asked Levison for Bible studies.
Levison was delighted. This was why he had come to the island in the first place: to share God’s love. He belonged to a club of Adventist students at Mzuzu University, a major public university of 8,500 students located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) away. The club aimed to strengthen the faith of Adventists students and reach out to classmates through twice-weekly prayer meetings. The club grew into the Mzuzu Seventh-day Adventist Church, and its students fanned out to engage in missionary work in places in the region, including Chizumulu.
Levison visited the woman and her husband in their home and, after the Bible study, left behind several books, including Ellen White’s The Great Controversy. When Levison arrived for the second Bible study, he found the husband deeply engrossed in The Great Controversy. “What’s the difference between Saturday and Sunday?” the husband asked Levison. At the end of the Bible study, he promised to go with his wife to church the next Sabbath.
Weeks and months passed, and the man and his wife (pictured) gave their hearts to Jesus and were baptized. Today, they are mission-minded members of the Chizumulo Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Levison is convinced that God can use young people to reach anyone and everyone. “It is time to go and reach different classes of people with the good news of Jesus Christ,” he said. “The Mzuni Seventh-day Adventist Church, which started as a club of students, never dreamed that the Chizumulu effort would bear such fruit. Glory to God!”
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will support Adventist education in the East-Central Africa Division. Thank you for your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in second quarter 2021 that is helping to expand Adventist education in Malawi.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.adventistmission.org
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