May 19 - 25
The Personal Factor
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Eccles. 4:10; Matt. 9:37; Matt. 10:7, 8; Matt. 11:4; 2 Cor. 1:11.
MEMORY TEXT: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace" (Isaiah 52:7).
KEY THOUGHT: Too often Christians prefer the easy way of sharing: throw out some tracts, donate money to buy a mission launch, give a quick witness on a bus or airplane, whatever. And then they feel so good about themselves for having done the Lord's work.
But to go out and physically bring people to Jesus, to cut deep into personal time, to take away from the things they want to do for themselves, and to use that time to lead a soul to Christthat's not often so attractive a choice.
THE HARD WORK OF EVANGELISM. A German immigrant working near Otsego, Michigan, went into town one Saturday to get his hair cut. To his astonishment, the only barbershop in town was closed, the sign stating plainly, "Open Monday-Friday." So when he returned, he askedwith a heavy German brogue he never lostwhy the shop was closed on the busiest day of the week. "I'm a Seventh-day Adventistand a German immigrant too" was the unexpected answer.
Now, the barber could have handed the man a leaflet as he left the shop, or he could have mentioned some meetings that were coming to town and invited him to attend. But he witnessed by the most effective techniquehe invited the man home for dinner. He gave of himself, his time, his energy. A friendship ensued, and the man was eventually baptized.
That's true witnessing!
"And when they could not get near him [Jesus] because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay" (Mark 2:4, RSV).
According to Mark, there were four men who, knowing that Jesus was in the house, brought the paralytic to Him. Yet almost nothing has been revealed about these men. Who were they? In what way were they related to the paralytic? Family? Friends? Yet so determined were they to get help, not for themselves, but for the discouraged paralytic (see The Desire of Ages, p. 267), that they climbed onto the roof of the house, broke through it, and then dropped the man down at the feet of Jesus.
Talk about friends! Talk about the personal factor! Talk about a desire to bring someone to Jesus. Imagine if all who believed in Christ were that determined to bring everyone to Him.
Notice what Mark says in verse 5. "When Jesus saw their faith" (emphasis supplied). Jesus was impressed by the faith of those four unnamed men. In response, He said to the paralytic, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." Analyze what's going on here. According to the text itself, it was the faith of these men as well (not just the sick one) that promoted Jesus to move in behalf of the paralytic. What does this incident teach us about the role we have in making God real to others?
|"At his suggestion his friends bore him to the top of the house and, breaking up the roof, let him down at the feet of Jesus. The discourse was interrupted. The Saviour looked upon the mournful countenance, and saw the pleading eves fixed upon Him. He understood the case; He had drawn to Himself that perplexed and doubting spirit. While the paralytic was yet at home, the Saviour had brought conviction to his conscience. . . . Jesus had watched the first glimmer of faith grow into a belief that He was the sinner's only helper, and had seen it grow stronger with every effort to come into His presence. "The Desire of Ages, p. 268.|
|In this incident three factors are at work: the friends, who bring the person to Jesus; the paralytic, who was open to Christ; and Christ, who alone does the saving and the healing. In what ways does the story exemplify the work of evangelism?|
"Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years" (John 5:2, 3, 5).
Hard to imagine, 38 years with a debilitating diseaseand yet no one to help him into the water! The fact that he would be left, trampled by others wanting to get there first, says so much about sinful, selfish humanity. Here is one man who could have used the four friends that the paralytic had in Mark 2. In this case, however, when there was no one to help him, Jesus Himself the Great Physician, came along instead.
The cripple didn't have anyone to bring Him to Jesus; so Jesus came to him. Does this fact in any way lessen our responsibility in the work of evangelism? If we fail to do our part, do we have any assurance that the Lord will seek people out Himself, without us? Explain your answer.
After healing the man, Jesus told him to "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk" (vs. 8), even though it was the Sabbath day. When the leaders saw him carrying his bed, they accused him of breaking the law. "It is the sabbath day," they said, "it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed." (vs. 10). Rather than be amazed about him being healed, or even happy for him who had been sick for so long, they were more concerned about "the law." Though Scripture doesn't say, it certainly would be easy to imagine those who had accused him of violating the Sabbath as being the same ones who would ignore him and let him lay there, without trying to bring him to the water.
How easy it is for us to be concerned with the forms of religion while ignoring the most important things.
|In what ways is it possible for us, as Seventh-day Adventists, to act like those who accused the man of violating the law? We should each look at our lives and ask ourselves In what ways are we facilitators, working to help souls find or better know Christ; and in what ways are we like those who are so involved with sticking to the law that we, in fact, use the law to hinder a person's understanding of Christ and what Christ has done for him or her?|
"'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29b, RSV).
Newly introduced to Jesus, His earliest followers could not be constrained. .. . We have found the Messiah! . . . We have found the Messiah! . . . We have found the Messiah!
Fill in the blanks, noting the rapid transfer of the good news from person to person:
"The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at _______ as he walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!" (vss. 35, 36). Then _______, one of the two, searched out his brother __________ and told him (vs. 41). "The next day Jesus . . . found ___________ (vs. 43). Next, Philip found _________ and said to him," 'We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (vs. 45).
Not everyone in the time of Christ reacted so positively to Him. The same miracles that converted some people turned others even harder against Christ (see John 11). What causes people to have such divergent reactions to the same message?
This account of those who first accepted Christ shows how important personal witnessing is. Many of those who had met Jesus immediately told others about Him.
In fact, when Christ was here on earth, people could meet Him in the flesh. Since then, the vast majority of souls who have come to know Christ have not seen Him personally, as did the disciples. Instead, they have come to Him through the power of the Spirit and the Word of God. Yet even in many of these cases, it was the work of personal witnessing that first introduced these souls to Christ. Those who want to know about Jesus have to be told about Him, and Christians have been given the commission to do just that.
|A young man found Christ and the Adventist message through the personal witness of a man who, two years later, abandoned Christianity and became an active atheist. What does a story like this tell us about the limits of personal witnessing? In other words, however important the personal factor is, at what point does its crucial role end, if ever?|
"Jesus said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.'
"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!' "(Mark 9:23, 24, NKJV).
What an incredible cry, full of irony, even paradox: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." In other words, "I believe, sort of, but help me believe and trust more than I do."
To whom did the father first go for help? See Mark 9:18.
|Note to whom Jesus' response of "O faithless generation" was probably directed: "It does not seem likely that Jesus had the father of the demon-possessed boy in mind as He spoke these words, for the father's faith was not the only obstacle in the way of the healing of his son. Because the disciples themselves were primarily at fault (see on Mark 9:29), it would almost seem that the Saviour had them in mind particularly. "The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 633.|
Answered and unanswered prayer. This story can cause perplexity if not understood in the context of all Scripture. How many faithful Christians have had prayers for healing (including the apostle Paul [2 Cor. 12]) and others requests not answered as they had hoped? The logical question, in the context of this account alone, would be, "Is it somehow my fault, for not having enough faith?"
Jesus said that "All things are possible to him who believes," (Mark 9:23, RSV, emphasis supplied), not that "all things are guaranteed to him who believes." That's a big difference. He's talking about potential, not guaranteed actuality. Though Scripture talks about the importance of belief, belief doesn't guarantee that prayer will always be answered as we want. In this case, though the immediate context is the demon-possessed child, Jesus seems to be dealing with the broader issue of faith and commitment as a whole; what He's not promising is that if you have enough faith all your prayers will always be answered as you wish.
|A praying, Christian family lost a small child to a disease, even after much prayer and tears were offered in her behalf. How can you help them, especially the parents, not to blame themselves for the death because of lack of faith?|
The command is obvious, but the laborers who respond do not always work with the most effective strategies or with the highest integrity, tact, or sensitivity.
Christian history, sadly, shows just how real the problem is. One twentieth-century Jewish writer, talking about church persecution of Jews (often in the context of trying to convert them to Christ) said, "Wouldn't it be something if Jesus did turn out to be the Messiah, but you Christians have kept us from him!"
The Bible itself also has various examples of personal witnessing that have not been very effective.
What group was discriminated against in Mark 10:13?
Note Jesus' reaction: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.' . . . And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them" (Mark 10:14, 16, RSV).
What impassioned request did the Canaanite woman ask of Jesus in Matthew 15:22?
Note the disciples' reaction: "And his disciples came and begged him, saying,' Send her away, for she is crying after us.' "In spite of the disciples' request, "Jesus answered her, 'O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed instantly" (vss. 23b, 28, RSV).
Driven desperate by his hopeless condition, the blind beggar Bartimaeus squatted by the road. When he sensed that Jesus was near, what did he cry out? (see Mark 10:47).
Again, those who should have been helping, hindered instead. He who most needed Jesus was told to shut up: "And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' And Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him'" (vss. 48, 49b, RSV). Once again, Jesus overrides those who were supposed to be helping Him.
FURTHER STUDY: The War Against Powerful Personal Witnessing. Study the following passages to glean reasons why the powers of darkness do all they can to thwart effective personal witnessing.
Reason one: Anyone brought to Jesus was healed both physically and spiritually; consequently, Satan did whatever necessary to keep people away: "And he [Jesus] answered them, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them" (Luke 7:22, RSV).
Reason two: Those brought to Jesus not only were healed, but they learned about Jesus and consequently about God: " 'I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me' "(John 8:18, RSV).
Reason three: Review the story of the cleansed leper as told in Mark 1:40-45. As this incident illustrates, it is impossible to be quiet about what Jesus has done for us. Even though Jesus had instructed the healed man to tell no one, "he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news" (vs. 45b, RSV).
In Thursday's lesson we studied misguided witnesses who prevented people from accessing Jesus. There is, however, an even more evil categorythose who brought people to Jesus for malicious motives.
Example one: Review the story of Judas' betrayal in Mark 14:43-46. "Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, 'The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him and lead him away safely'" (vs. 44, RSV).
Example two: Reread the story of the woman taken in adultery as told in John 8:1-11: "Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him [Jesus], that they might have to accuse him" (vss. 5, 6a). These religious leaders brought someone to Jesus alright, but for what heinous intent.
SUMMARY: Christians have been given the greatest privilege ever given to mortals: that of cooperating with Christ in bringing souls to salvation. How crucial it is that they take this job seriously. Even more importantly, how crucial that they not stand in the way.
Tania Batista, a nurse, cowered with the pastor and his wife in their home following a nighttime attack by a mob. The pastor had been severely beaten and needed a doctor.
The elderly pastor who lived in the area sent a church member by motorcycle 120 miles to the nearest city. Another church member rode his bicycle 60 miles to another outpost.
As the sun set that Friday evening, several church members arrived to protect the three missionaries that night. Sabbath morning found hundreds of believers sitting outside the house. They had heard that their new pastor could not attend church, so they had come to pray and sing and study with him.
A few days later the three workers were evacuated. It was six months before Tania and a doctor could return to the mission to train health care workers and midwives and to treat up to 200 patients a day.
Then guerrilla soldiers attacked a neighboring village. Tania and the doctor were warned to leave immediately. Church members hid them in their village for protection, while other believers guarded the mission hospital. The next day survivors of the attack came for help. Some needed immediate hospital care. As Tania and the doctor prepared to evacuate them, Tania knew that they would not be able to return.
Tania's heart was torn. She longed to return and complete the midwife training program, but it was months before the area was safe enough to return. This time she returned alone and for six weeks only. She still had no electricity, and often she awoke at night hearing noises. But from sunrise to sunset she worked for the people.
The UN troops did not allow her to leave the mission grounds, so she prayed that God would bring the midwives to her. And they came. As she taught them and cared for the sick, she thought of the good she could do if she could remain. But when her six weeks ended, she had to leave. As her car drove out of the mission, the midwives she had trained walked along beside it, bidding her a tearful farewell.
Tania is determined to return to Africa as a missionary nurse. It is what she has always wanted to do.
Tania Batista (left) is preparing to return to the mission field. Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
Produced by the Office of Mission
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