Rethinking Your Life | Week 11: Rethinking Faith and Science

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For some, faith and science doesn’t fire you up and it’s a non-issue. But for some, you’d say you cannot be a Christian because of science. You see faith and science as two opposing position where you have to pick a side.

Let’s start off with a just an establishing statement. Everyone has a belief system.

Atheism is a faith system, a belief system. Agnosticism is a belief system. Christianity is a belief system. So are other religions. So is the thing you made up on your own.

Even if you have a scientific worldview there are belief components to it. It’s just the nature of the gap between what we know and what we believe.

You don’t have to be a Christian to believe that life continues after death. Many people who aren’t even religious believe that because of science; the patterns and cycles of nature, ethics, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy give us evidence of life after death.

Einstein, who wasn’t a Christian, he believed consciousness continued after death based on the physics as he understood them. That’s a belief system. Everyone has a belief system.


Widely-Held Misconceptions

When it comes to faith and science, there are some widely-held perceptions, misconceptions about Christianity and science that we can debunk before we get to the main points today.

Many people believe this myth that

  • Christianity is anti-intellectual.

Christians are people. People are all different. Are there some who are anti-intellectual? Some who reject science and logic and study? Sure. They certainly portray that in the media. It seems like every Christian in a sit-com is a fool, completely unaware of their surroundings, very annoying, trying to make people do stuff they don’t want to do.

The media often portrays or highlights Christians who have some completely ulterior motive. But when you get past the surface and those stereotypes, you see there is a very strong, deep resonate well of intellectual thought that is thoroughly Christian.

Here’s some things a lot of people don’t know.

The university is a twelfth-century Christian invention.

Higher learning and faith have been historically linked, not uncoupled. In fact, where Christianity and the church is strong, you find very helpful science. Eyeglasses, clean water, hospitals, vaccines and so many things. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth and Brown all began as Christian institutions.

Some of the smartest people in human history have ended up being people of deep faith. There are very smart people who have rejected faith. There are intellectual Christians, and anti-intellectual Christians because there are intellectual people and anti-intellectual people.

But there is a rich tradition of philosophy and scientific discovery in Christianity. Christians engage their mind.

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'”  Matthew 22:37 NIV

Maybe you feel like you can’t engage your mind to follow Jesus, that’s a misconception.

Second widely-held misconception:

  • Science is objective. Faith is subjective

Let’s just look at evolution as a case in a point. Evolution is a theory that attempts to explain observable, but sometimes unrepeatable, data. A lot of what evolution observes, you can’t repeat.

A lot of science is based on repeatable experiments. So there are science experiments that repeat, but you can’t repeat the big bang. You can’t repeat an era. You can’t go back in time or recreate it in a lab. The universe is expanding, but we can’t repeat it. So it’s trying to explain observable, but sometimes unrepeatable, data.

The reality is:

The data is objective. The explanation is subjective.

That’s why scientists disagree. Some say it happened this way, others say it happened this way. So this idea that all science is objective, any scientist worth his or her weight will tell you, we’re workin off interpretation.

Both science and faith have subjective elements.

They aren’t so different from one another here. Both have data and evidence, both have things they discern from that. Both have objective elements. Both have subjective elements.

Third misconception is this:

  • If I believe in science, I can’t believe in God.

Some of you got into a class or college or the internet or read a book or got around a group of friends and and thought, you couldn’t believe in God in that environment.

Science v. Faith – When you see cases, Jones versus Smith, that’s just the way we say it in english. Actually, the latin v does not mean versus. It means and. Jones and Smith not Jones versus Smith.

It’s not science versus faith, it’s science and faith.

Science leads researchers toward faith as much as it leads them away from faith.

You’ll hear atheists say, no one in the scientific community believes in God. That’s not true. If you want to know why that’s not true, look at data science has done for themselves. Look at what a scientific poll discovered about their own community.

American Association for the Advancement of Science showed 51% of scientists believe in some form of deity or higher power.

In the hard sciences like astronomy and biology, it’s higher. In the social sciences, it’s lower. Psychology and so on are getting less religious. In the hard sciences, there’s a much higher belief. The rate is higher for people who are looking at the universe, looking at the evidence.

51% of scientists believe in some form of deity or higher power.

31% believe in a personal God, not just a higher power however you define that.

7% don’t know.

Fact-based science is not perpetually at war with faith-based religion. Maybe science is revealing what God did and does.

Allen Rex Sandage, Astronomer, Successor to Edwin Hubble:

“It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated that can be explained by science.”

He didn’t start out in life with a Christian conviction. The deeper he got into astronomy, the deeper he got into the way the universe is created, the more questions got raised. In his fifties he became a Christian. He would say science raised so many questions that led him to faith in Jesus.

Science shouldn’t kill your theological curiosity, it should spark it.

The more you know, the more questions you have. What you discover, is that God has answers.


Four Questions

1. What caused everything that exists?

When you think about the origins of the universe, everyone agrees that everything that begins to exist has to have a cause.

Your kids didn’t just spontaneously appear. You know what happened. If you have a business, where did it come from? You started it. Where did your car come from? A factory. Originally the mind of engineers.

Theists said it was God. Others said it was the universe or the big bang. How do you explain an infinitely complex universe that began out of nothing? The Bible answers this.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 NIV

This takes this all the way back to the question, where did the first cell come from? Where did the first thing of matter come from? Where did existence come from? How did any of it begin?

This is the question of origin. This is what the Bible addresses. Christianity has an answer for origin. It has an answer for how the first cell began. And how existence began. As we discover more, we discover it must be a Creator.

In the first century, the Apostle Paul, a Jesus Follower, put it this way…

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Romans 1:20 NLT

2. What caused order?

This is the evidence from design. There’s a world within a world within a world and it’s coded and all works together. The laws explain what we see, but not how they got there. Who or what created the laws of physics? Let’s ascribe to God the worth and worship He is due for his creation.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

Creation’s voice goes out and the evidence points to a designer. A creator.

3. What caused humanity’s desire for morality and meaning?

The dignity of humanity. We refer to it as human rights. Inherent worth. This idea that every person, just by virtue of being a person, has inherent worth and value can’t be trampled upon and shouldn’t be violated.

This just doesn’t make sense without God. How did we all come to believe, that every person believes humans have worth just by virtue of being human. We think this idea has always been around. Ideas aren’t like that. Ideas have to come from somewhere.

What’s great about this is there’s zero debate. Regardless of what you believe, anyone who has any knowledge of history the idea of human worth and dignity, the idea of worth and dignity came from the Bible.

They’ve tried to find it in another source and it just isn’t there. The basis for human worth is that God made you!

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 NIV

This is why there is some science Christianity rejects. We reject when any science becomes the authority over human life. God is the only one who rightfully exercises sovereign control over human life. To attempt to control who lives, who doesn’t, when someone dies, or do things to place ourselves in God’s position. Clearly, man is not to do this.

If we view man as simply another creature and not as the unique creation he is, it is not difficult to see human beings as mere mechanisms needing maintenance and repair.

But we are not just a collection of molecules and chemicals. The Bible teaches that God created each of us and has a specific plan for each of us. Deep down, we all know it.

“Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.

They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.

And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.” Romans 2:14-16 NLT

When we are different from the character of the creator who made us, it’s wrong. When we’re like the character of the creator who made us, it’s right. That’s how you decide what truth is.

These are rational explanations as to why we have morals. The idea that these morals just evolved can’t be. As you study it, you find that God created them. And you have inherent worth because you were created in the image of God.

That’s why the Christian faith, at its core, is not only about believing something, it’s about knowing someone.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.

He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Colossians 1:15-20 NLT

4. How will I respond to Jesus Christ?

If Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, if he’s done all these things and he’s extending his hand to me, how will we respond? In the gospel of John,

“One of the twelve disciples, Thomas was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!'”

“But he replied, ‘I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.’”

He’s got enough evidence to make him a believer, but he’s not.

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ he said. Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!’”

“’My Lord and my God!’ Thomas exclaimed.”

One of the great statements and confesses in scripture. He didn’t touch. At this moment he believes, he didn’t have to put his hands in there.

The problem is not the evidence. It’s the human heart.

Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.'”

There is a special blessing on those today  who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” John 20:24-31 NLT

This is written that you might believe that He’s the one who died because of your sins. When you believe, then you’re alive, you’re born again, and have life. Life after death is sweet and wonderful as you are with Jesus.


Check Back

Briefly check back on your discussion from the last week, “Rethinking School and Work.” How was your school and work week? Any areas you recognized where God is working.

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

Many believe that science and Christianity are incompatible. Widely-held misconceptions are that Christianity is anti-intellectual; Science is objective, faith is subjective; If I believe in science, I can’t believe in God. However, fact-based science isn’t perpetually at war with faith based religion.

Read John 20:24-31

Discussion & Application

  1. As a kid, were you quick to question things or did you generally believe whatever was presented to you? How has this tendency changed for you as an adult?
  2. What was the attitude toward God in your house growing up?                                         Did you parents lead you toward faith or away from it?
  3. Of the four questions on the outline, which jumps out to you most? (What caused everything that exists? What caused order? What caused humanity’s desire for morality and meaning? How will I respond to Jesus Christ?)
  4. Even if we fully and completely understood the scientific how of science, we would always wonder who and why. In what ways are who and why more significant questions than how?
  5. If morality, cosmology and the design of the universe do not point toward a creator, what do you think they point toward?

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Next Steps

Even as you explore the ‘how’ of science, remember to go beyond that and ask who and why? As you embrace those questions, read biblical accounts like the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John to gain a better sense of who God is and why he created us.

When Faith Is Hard | Week 4: Faith That Makes a Comeback

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We’re looking at the life and faith of Elisha today to learn how to find something when you’ve lost it. How often are you looking for you things you have misplaced? Or better yet, how much time have you spent searching for things that are already in your possession? Maybe you’ve lost your glasses while wearing them or frantically looked for your phone while you were talking on it…

However today we are going to talk about losing something else. There’s a good chance that for many of you who are followers of Jesus Christ at some point in that faith journey you may feel like you’ve lost some of the passion for God or the things of God that you had at one time.

Maybe you used to have a deep settled spiritual contentment and joy that somehow along the way you’ve lost, but you’re not quite sure how you’ve lost it. Maybe at one time you had great faith and you prayed and prayed and believed God for things, but now you’re not praying for much of anything. Maybe you’re not even sure what you believe about God right now.

As we look at the prophet Elisha,  we read about one of the oddest miracles in all the Bible. If you look through and survey the different miracles that Elisha performed, there were some really big and important miracles.

He healed a poisoned body of water which saved a community.

He raised a boy from the dead.

He provided for a widow who would have lost her two sons after losing her husband.

He healed a commander from leprosy.

He blinded an entire army to move forward the things of God in a battle.

He did all these significant things.

And in this miracle there was a young prophet who borrowed an axe and was chopping on a treewhen the axehead flew off of the stick into the water. Elisha, the man of God, takes a stick, and throws it in the water. Then the axehead floats to the top so the prophet can grab it…. and we go, “Wow! What does this mean?”

To get some context before we dive into the passage, one thing you need to know is that iron was very valuable at this time and it was hard to come by. This younger prophet who lost the axehead, was likely very poor. He was kind of like a college student eating Ramen noodles. He had borrowed this axehead and he couldn’t pay it back.

Another thing to remember… Elisha was mentored by Elijah, but they were different from one another.

Elijah was spectacular, fire and rain. He dealt with princes. He did not die. 

Elisha was more silent. Dealt with common people. He did die.

They represent both aspects of the rapture. The living will be caught up with the Lord, the dead will rise again. And now, we see Elisha mentoring the next generation of young prophets who wanted to learn from him. This reveals the popularity of Elisha. He was a great teacher. That’s where we pick up the story.

“The company of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.’ And he said, ‘Go.’

Then one of them said, ‘Won’t you please come with your servants?’ ‘I will,’ Elisha replied. And he went with them.

They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh no, my lord!’ he cried out. ‘It was borrowed!’ 2 Kings 6:1-5 NIV

Let’s pause there. Have you ever experienced borrowing something and it getting broken or lost? That is a sinking feeling. Watch what happens.

“The man of God asked, ‘Where did it fall?’ When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. ‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.” 2 Kings 6:6-7 NIV

Here we see God working in the small details of someone’s life. The Bible encourages us to pray about everything. Sometimes we don’t do that because we think there are things too small for God. We may just pray about big stuff. But then, God reminds us… It’s all small to Him.

There is one major point we need to embrace that we will keep coming back to:

God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose.

Those of you who lost something in your faith, be reminded that we serve a God who is totally into restoration. God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose.


How Have You Lost Your Spiritual Edge?

Now, as we talk about losing the axehead, losing the edge, what we’ll do is see how this could symbolically apply to our life. The big question to ask is this: How have you lost your spiritual edge?

And some of you may say, “Well, really, I haven’t.” And if that’s you, we celebrate that with you, and encourage you to continue doing what you’re doing.

But there are times in the Christian life that are more faith filled than others. You might recognize there was a time when you had committed Christians around you that helped build you up and pray for you, and encourage you in the things that matter most. But when you look around now, that’s not the case and you’ve lost your edge because of that.

Maybe there was a time when you served in the church and you had the thrill of making a difference with your gifts. And sometimes it was hard, but all the time it was fulfilling. Then you got busier and you stopped.

There was a time when you had a passion for prayer. But now, you may pray over a meal and when someone is watching but you haven’t prayed in a significant way in a very long time.

You really loved to share your faith with other people, But something happened along the way, and now you can’t remember the last time you had a spiritual conversation with someone that is not a follower of Jesus.

Or at another time in your life, your trust in Christ freed you from a lot of worry. But now you find worry creeping back into your life. You’re no longer trusting God to work things together.

Some of you have noticed that your standards have eroded. Years ago, you had strong Christian values. Then through some influences changing in your life, you wake up today and wonder, “How did I get way over here?”

How have you lost your spiritual edge?

These are hard days. These days are going to be hard on your faith.

This is not to make you feel bad or say you are less for going through a drought in your faith. You didn’t mean to lose your edge. And you’d like to have it back. 

What do you do when you’re swinging away and the edge flies off? Can faith make a comeback? We can find the answers by looking at Elisha and the young prophet and apply, symbolically, two lessons about how we get our edge back.


How Do You Get Your Edge Back?

1. We need to be honest about where we lost it.

Verse 6, Elisha asks, “where did it fall?” Why did he ask him that? Because he didn’t know where it was. Couldn’t Elisha see where the axehead was? No. The Jordan is very muddy.

Did Elisha get lucky? No. He made and axehead float like a cork on water. But first, he asked, where did it fall? In other words, the axehead isn’t gone; it’s just where you left it.

Where did it fall?  Where did you lose it? Where did you start to lose your spiritual edge?

You can look back and see when you stopped or started doing something. Perhaps, you have a secret that you thought wouldn’t hurt anyone, but you didn’t realize it wasn’t really a secret because God knew. And it’s hurting you because it’s hurting your relationship with God.

Maybe someone offended you or hurt you by something they said or did. It deeply disappointed you. And you’ve allowed part of your heart to grow hard. Maybe even blaming God for what someone else did.

Those are a couple of places to check, but be honest about where you lost it.

2. With God’s help, take back what you lost.

God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose. But, finding it and taking it back are two different steps.

“…When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. ‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.” 2 Kings 6:6-7 NIV

Only God can make the axehead float, but he wants you to lift it out.

This theme is found many, many times in scripture. In the book of Philippians Paul talks about working out your salvation. Some take that to mean that you work for your salvation. No no no, he’s saying God is working salvation in you, so work to show the fruit of it. God works it in, we work it out.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12 NIV

He wants you to take what He saved you for. And He’s bringing life with Him back into reach. The moment you start to think, “Maybe I can have a passionate faith again,” There will be a voice in the back of your head that says,“No, it’s been too long and you’ve gone too far.” 

But don’t believe this! It’s not too late to have what you used to have and have even more of it with the power of our good God. You haven’t gone too far and you haven’t done too much because our God specializes in resurrections.

Do what you can do and trust God to do what you cannot do.

Can you make an axehead float? You can’t do that. But can you lift it out when he brings it within reach? Yes, you can.

Can you create, in your own spirit, spiritual passion and faith? You cannot do that. Only God can revive a spirit. But we do know that faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of God, so you can put yourself in a place where you hear God’s word so God can build your faith. You can choose to pray even when you don’t feel like it.

My commitment has to be stronger than my feelings.

“You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Revelations 2:4 NIV

How do we get the love back? He says to do three things.

“Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…” Revelations 2:5 NIV

You consider, or remember where it was you were. You repent. Meaning, you change directions. If you’re moving away from God, repent and move closer. How? By doing what you did at first.

That’s good marriage advice too. How do you get close and get the spark back like you had before? You remember what it was like, you stop doing the things that take you away from that and start doing what you did before.


What we have gone through in the last few months has a lot of people on edge. Maybe you’ve lost your spiritual edge and found a new edge. You’re on edge. Maybe not you, but you feel it, you see it.

There’s so much offense, and miscommunication, and divisiveness right now. That’s the enemy’s goal, to divide us. When we allow it to happen, it’s a victory for the wrong side. But there’s a verse in Proverbs 6 that says when the enemy steals something, he’s got to pay it back seven times.

Some of you feel like you have been robbed by your enemy. But if you’ll reach out to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of for you…

You see, this whole encounter with Elisha, is symbolic. Dormant on the bottom of the muddy Jordan is our life. At the fall we became totally depraved. We went down to the waters of death and defeat. Lost to God. No longer enjoying life. Far from God.

We try to find something to do to make life useful and purposeful. We try to find something to do and occupy our time. We try to drown out the futility of life, nothing satisfies.

God cut down a stick and cast it into the waters of death. That stick is the cross of Christ. And Christ bore our sins on that tree. And came out of the waters of death We can rise from the waters of death and judgement through Christ, placed back on the handle of God’s purpose and plan.

The greatest miracle is to be lifted out of the mire of sin and given meaning in life through Christ Raised. Resurrected. Redeemed by the owner. Taken back. Redeemed. If you thought you were hot before, you’re coming back seven times hotter.

And what the enemy meant for evil, our God will use for good. God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose.

“God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors.” Deuteronomy 30:3-5 MSG


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Seeing People as God Does” “We begin to root out racial prejudice with the eyes, the ears and the heart. Seeing people as God does, listening to everyone with respect, and loving everybody the way Jesus does.” Without taking up too much group time, is there anything from that conversation that needs some closure or more observations?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

God knows how to help you find what you did not mean to lose. Be honest about where you lost it.

With God’s help, take back what you lost.

Read 2 Kings 6:1-7

Discussion & Application

  • What stood out to you in this message?
  • What things in your life most often cause you to lose your spiritual edge?
  • How have you lost your spiritual edge?
  • What are some things that keep your faith sharp?
  • If you’ve lost your spiritual edge, what are some steps you will you take to get it back?

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week. Pray specifically for one another’s faith.

Next Steps

What one thing will you do this week that will help you get your spiritual edge back or prevent you from losing it? Write that thing down and make a commitment that will outweigh your feelings.

Grow your faith with commitment to God by reading the following Bible passages this week.

Day 1: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Day 2: 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 

Day 3: Philippians 4:10-20

Day 4: 2 Peter 1:3-11

Day 5: Matthew 6:25-34

Day 6: Proverbs 3:1-12

Day 7: Matthew 15:29-39

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When Faith Is Hard | Week 3: Faith That Provides

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Let’s dive right into our text. We are going to start with two verses just to set the context and then we’ll go further into the accounts. Here’s how it begins:

“The wife of a man from the company of prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘your servant, my husband, is dead. And you know that he revered the Lord but now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.'”

“Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a small jar of olive oil.’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all except a small jar of olive oil.'” 2 Kings 4:1-2

Now, let’s talk about these two verses as there’s actually quite a bit in them. The first thing you’ll notice is we don’t know this poor widow’s name. According to Jewish tradition, many believe that she was the wife of the prophet Obadiah. If this was the case, it would be no wonder she was in financial need because Obadiah was known for protecting and providing for 50 other prophets.

So if indeed she was Obadiah’s wife, he would have taken all the resources he had to meet the needs of other prophets. It would not be uncommon for a prophet’s family to be financially struggling because they would spend the majority of their lives on the run, trying to survive. It was very difficult to make ends meet.

If you can picture this, we now have a widow whom we are going to guess may be somewhere in her 30s and has just lost her husband. She has no chance at meaningful employment because in this culture women were unemployable unless they would take the job that no woman would wants to take. Now, the creditor is coming after her two sons because of a law stating sons can be taken as slaves if debts weren’t paid.

It doesn’t get any worse than this. Humanly speaking, she has no hope whatsoever. Sometimes we face smaller obstacles and get worked up about what we could consider “entry level problems.” We have to wait in a line, or wait for a product or news. We lose things or don’t get our way. There are all kinds of entry level problems. But, the reality is many of us today aren’t just dealing with those, we have some graduate level problems going on right at this moment.

Maybe a marriage is barely hanging on and you don’t know if you’re going to make it. Someone that you love just betrayed you and what you thought you had, you don’t know even know what it is anymore. You’ve got a child that may be going the wrong way and you’re in agony because you’re watching someone you love make decisions that are going to hurt them. Some of you, you may be in a financial situation where you don’t know how you’re going to get out of it. Others of you, it may be a health issue. You went to the doctor or someone you love did, and if there’s not a miracle from God, you don’t know what’s going to happen.

You’ve got a graduate level problem. If you’re in significant need today, this message is for you. God will use this build our faith.

When you don’t have what you really want, you will discover that God is what you really need.

Let’s unpack this story and let this point come to life for us. This woman expresses her need to the prophet, and what does the prophet do? He makes himself available to help…

“Elisha replied to her ‘How can I help you?'”

If you want to make a difference in this world and be filled with joy, make yourself available for God to help. Then he says to her something that is very profound.

“Tell me what do you have in your house?”

In other words, he doesn’t say, “I’m here with all the answers,” but he respects her dignity and says, “Let’s start with what you have and let God meet your needs through what you have.”

She replies, “Your servant has nothing there at all.”

Isn’t it interesting that when you’re hurting and lacking, all you can see is what you don’t have and you miss all the blessings you do have? When we get down and we’re depressed and hurting, we’re just consumed with what we don’t have.

“I don’t have enough money so I can never be happy.”

“I don’t have a spouse so I can’t really have a meaningful life just now.”

“My house isn’t nice enough so we can’t host a small group.” (Because everybody knows the Spirit of God cannot move unless it moves on top of granite kitchen countertops… right?)

We start to think that if we don’t have what we want life doesn’t matter. This is the classic, “I have nothing to wear” as you stare at a closet full of clothes. It’s funny how when you’re in need, all you focus on is what you don’t have. And this is exactly where this poor woman was. She lost everything and all she could see was her lack.


What do you do when you don’t have much?

Stop waiting for what you want and start working with what you have.

You have something to work with. It may not be what you want, but you have something.

Verse 2 again – He says, “What do you have in your house?” She says,

“Your servant has nothing there at all except a small jar of olive oil.”

She only has “this one little thing.” What good is a jar of oil? Olive oil was actually incredibly valuable because it was very rare and had tons of important uses. Oil was used in cooking, burning for lamps, moisturizer… which was a good thing because you couldn’t just go to Bath and Body Works and get some stuff to squirt on your face.

It was also used to help keep leather pliable, keep iron from rusting, given as an offering to God, and anointing people in religious services. It was very valuable but she didn’t have a lot; she only had a little.

We can be so thankful that we serve a God who specializes in doing a lot with a little.

Jesus fed thousands with a little. God conquered a giant with a little shepherd boy. Jesus preached that with a little bit of faith, God can do much. Notice God did not say, “What do you want?” or “What do you need?” but “What do you have?” Let’s stop waiting for what we want and start working with what he’s already given us.

Some of us may look at what we have and want something else so we could do something more significant. But, we need to stop waiting for what we think we want and start making the most of the places He’s already put you.

The second thought that we learn from this awesome story is this:

We’re going to offer God what we have and trust him to give us what we need.

“Elisha said, ‘Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.’ She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.”

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’ 2 Kings 4:3-7

This seems like ridiculous request, to ask her to empty out everything she has and to trust God to provide what she really needed. But that is how our God works. When we show him our faith, we get to see his faithfulness.

Offer what you have, God will do something special.

God blesses the person who does not wait to make an offering. An offering of time. An offering of a gifting. An offering of money. Notice he didn’t say what size, he didn’t say what color, he didn’t say what shape. The only requirement is that the jars must be what? Empty. It could have been any kind of jar. He just needs it to be empty.

“But we have this treasure which is Christ in jars of clay.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

What is it that referring to? That refers to our bodies. We’re clay pots. We are dirt houses. That’s what we are. God is looking for a few empty jars. God blesses those who let go of the most.

When we empty ourselves of self, pride, greed, and our own agendas and come to God totally empty, He fills us with oil. Oil has always been a symbol of the Holy Spirit. And suddenly you realize when you don’t have outwardly what you wanted, it is God that you truly needed.

He is enough; He is sufficient in every single way. When you are weak, He is your strength. When you’re hurting, He is your comforter. When you’re lost, He is your guide. When you’re hungry, He is the Bread of Life which nourishes you. When you are thirsty, He is Living Water. When your life is unstable, He is the Rock that does not move.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Works.” Any more observations from your discussion last week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

God is looking to fill some empty vessels. Offer to God what you have and trust him to give you what you need.

Read 2 Kings 4:1-7

Discussion & Application

  • Where in life do you feel most overwhelmed right now?
  • Why do you think our focus is often on what we don’t have instead of what we do have?
  • Share a time when God did a lot with just a little in your life. What did you learn from your experience?
  • What do you have that God can use? How will you allow Him to use it?
  • “When you don’t have what you really want, God is what you really need.” How have you experienced the truth of this statement?

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Next Steps

Grow your faith with commitment to God by reading the following Bible passages this week.

Day 1: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Day 2: 2 Corinthians 4:1-12

Day 3: Philippians 4:10-20

Day 4: 2 Peter 1:3-11

Day 5: Matthew 6:25-34

Day 6: Proverbs 3:1-12

Day 7: Matthew 15:29-39

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When Faith Is Hard | Week 2: Faith That Works

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How many of you have ever played the “if only” game. “If only” we had “a better job” life would be better. “If only” we had more money. We all tend to think “If only” we had whatever it is, our life would be so much better. You need to read this through the lens of your “If only”, through the lens of your greatest need. Let’s set the background for our study. The King of Israel, the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, and the King of Edom joined forces to destroy the King of Moab. Three against one, so they thought, “We’ll get an easy victory here.” But often in life, things don’t go as planned.

Anyone know what we’re talking about? Think you’ve got it all figured out and, “whoops,” your plans go awry. We had everything all lined out and BOOM…COVID-19. That’s what happens with these three kings. Instead of winning easily they find their troops stranded in the desert completely out of water. They have a very significant need. This story teaches us this principle…

Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God. 

Your greatest need, your “If only” becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Our story begins in 2 Kings, chapter 3, verses 9-12.

“So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom; After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for their animals with them. “What,” exclaimed the king of Israel, has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?”

We thought we’d win easily but now God has screwed it up. We don’t see them asking God if they should do this in the first place. Now that it turns out to be a bad plan, they blame God and expect Him to bail them out.

“But Jehoshaphat, asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha, son of Shaphat, is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.”

He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah. There it is right there in the Bible, “Wash your hands!” Elijah was a great prophet who did great and miraculous things. Elisha is his apprentice, so Jehoshaphat thinks maybe Elisha can help us. When the nation of Israel was in a great drought, Elijah called on God for help and God sent rain from a cloud that started out the size of a man’s hand and grew into a big storm that watered the whole land. So these three kings think, “If Elijah could make it rain then maybe Elisha can make it rain.”

“Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with Elisha.” So the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.”

The three kings go to battle against the Moabites and think they’re going to win easily. Instead, they find themselves out of water and in dire need. The problem is they did not seek God’s guidance regarding this war, and now that they’re in trouble they want God’s help. “Oh no, we’re in trouble. Is there anybody who’s really in good with God? Maybe Elisha the prophet can help us out.”

Elisha had done some miracles of his own. He had parted the waters of the Jordan River. He spoke to a polluted spring of poisonous water and healed the water so you could drink from it. When a gang of hooligans were threatening him and making fun of his bald head, Elijah summoned two bears out of the woods to eat his attackers. This is not made up, you should read your bible. And you should never make fun of a guy with a bald head…just saying.

So the kings ask Elisha, “Can you help us out?” How does Elisha respond? He responds with a bit of an attitude. Elisha says, “Okay kings, you ignored God and went out on your own and now you’re in trouble and you want God’s help.” Elisha learned this from his mentor, Elijah, who was the king of attitude. One time Elijah went up against 450 false prophets of the false god, Baal. Elijah said, “Let’s have a little contest to see who the real God is. We’ll build a couple of altars. We’ll get two bulls. You sacrifice a bull to Baal, I’ll sacrifice a bull to God. You call on your god to send down fire from heaven to consume your sacrifice. I’ll call on my God to send down fire from heaven to consume my sacrifice. We’ll see whose God answers.”

The false prophets started praying to Baal to “Send fire. Send fire.” But nothing happens. They work themselves up into a frenzy crying out to Baal. They start cutting themselves drawing blood to get Baal to act. Nothing happens. Elijah starts laughing and mocking these false prophets. “Maybe you should shout louder. Maybe your god’s deaf. Maybe your god’s on vacation. Maybe your god’s in the bathroom and can’t hear you.” Again, this is not made up, you need to read your bible it’s in there.

Elisha does what Elijah did, he cops an attitude in verse 13.

“Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” 

You hear his attitude?

“No,” the King of Israel answered, “because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to deliver us into the hands of Moab. Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord All Mighty lives, whom I serve, if I didn’t have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you.”

The King of Israel and Edom were not good and godly kings. But Jehoshaphat had been a pretty good and faithful king, a godly king. So Elisha says to the King of Judah and Edom… “If weren’t for Jehoshaphat…I wouldn’t even pay attention to you two. But because Jehoshaphat’s here… I’ll help you out. You need a prophet… I’m your prophet.”

Then in verse 15, Elisha makes a demand. He says, “But now bring me a harpist.”  If you want me to prophesy, I need some worship music. This was not an uncommon practice for prophets to do. God inhabits the praises of His people.

Worship helps your faith grow and connects you to God.

Now the three kings think this is great because, “Elisha’s going to tell God to send rain. The harp music is playing this is going to be good.” But does Elisha give them a word of encouragement? No, he gives them a ridiculous command in verse 15 and 16.

“Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’”

The kings go, “Wait, we thought God was going to make it rain. Our troops are about to die of thirst, and you want them to do manual labor under the hot desert sun? Elisha says, “Yeah, I want them to dig ditches, irrigation ditches to trap water.” Because your greatest need becomes your greatest blessing when it drives you to depend on God.

“For this is what the Lord says. “You will see neither wind nor rain yet this valley will be filled with water and you, your cattle, and your other animals will drink.”

God says, “I’m not going to make it rain here. I’m going to make it rain somewhere else and then bring the water here through irrigation ditches, so dig Me some ditches!” God’s ways aren’t your ways. God doesn’t always meet the need the way we think He will or should. “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.”  You have no idea how powerful, how strong, how mighty God is. At the snap of a finger God can do this. And by the way, that other thing you wanted that whole defeating Moab thing, “He will also deliver Moab into your hands”  but first, I want you to dig some ditches.


We’re talking about faith that works, faith that does something. Faith that believes that God is going to act, so we act and take a step toward God believing that God is going to take a step toward us. Let’s look at two principles of faith that works. The first principle is..

Only God can send the water, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.

Just as the body is dead without breath so also is faith dead without good works.” James 2:26

Only God can send the water but He wants to see your faith. Did the God of the universe really need these guys to dig a ditch? No, but He’s saying “You show me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.” God loves to see our faith. You see faith in our actions. In the Gospels, you see it again and again. When Peter was on the boat and saw Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee, he said “Jesus, tell me to come and I’ll come.” And Jesus said, “Come.” What did Peter do? He got out of boat! The other 11 disciples stayed in the boat… you didn’t see any faith. God wants us to participate in His miracles.

There’s a man with a withered hand. What does Jesus say to him? He says, “Stretch out your hand.” Jesus could have just healed his hand but He said, “I want to see your faith so stretch out your hand.”

There was a lame man who couldn’t walk for 38 years. Jesus tells the man, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk. I’m going to heal you but I’m not going to pick you up. I want to see that you have the faith, so get up.”

There was a guy who was blind from birth, Jesus picks up some dirt and spits in it to make mud. He smears the mud on the guys eyes and says, “Go wash your eyes in the pool of Siloam.” God says show Me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.

Too many people want God to show them His faithfulness but they’re not willing to show God any faith. Show Me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness. You want to quit smoking? Throw your cigarettes in the garbage and say “I’m showing some faith. I’m getting rid of these things. I’M DIGGING A DITCH BY FAITH.” You want to heal a damaged relationship? Forgive someone before they even ask for forgiveness. Treat someone with love when they are being ugly to you. What are you doing? You’re digging a ditch.

You want your kids to serve Jesus and be strong Christians? Read the Bible and pray with your kids. You want some spiritual water in your kid’s life? Dig a ditch, be a godly parent. You want God to bless your finances? Then tithe, give God the first 10% of whatever you make. Tithing demonstrates our faith and our dependence on God. You’re digging a ditch. And then He demonstrates His faithfulness.

The second principal of faith that works…

Real faith believes big but is willing to start small.

Too many Christians are not thinking big enough. “We serve a God who can do exceedingly and abundantly more than all you can ask, think or imagine.”  It’s time to think big because we serve a big God. But when you think big you’ve got to be willing to start small. How do you dig a ditch? One shovel full of dirt at a time, you start small.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10

You start with what is in front of you. Only God can send the water, but He wants you to dig the ditches. You say, “God, we believe you can.” And then you start where you are with what you have. God loves it when we participate in His miracles because then He can see our faith.

The next morning about the time for the offering of the sacrifice, there it was – water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water.” 2 Kings 3:20

You have a significant need in your life, and you think…”If only”. Your greatest need becomes your biggest blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Only God can send the water but He wants you to dig the ditch. Real faith believes big but is willing to start small.


Ask yourself these three questions.

Question 1.  What is your “If only…” – What is your greatest need that can become a great blessing if you depend on God? Identify the need and make a conscious decision to turn it over to God. Jesus asks the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Answer that question.

Question 2.  What “ditch” do you need to start digging? What action is God asking you to take to demonstrate your faith? Jesus told the lame man, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat. Elisha told the Kings to start digging ditches.

Question 3.  What small step can you take today? Don’t be afraid to start small. Jesus replied, “Truly, I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…Nothing will be impossible for you.” What’s the groundbreaking step you need to take?

It’s time to dig a ditch!


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Moves” “You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately. Those God uses the most are the ones who hold on to the least.” Did you obey God in area this week? Any more observations from your discussion last week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

  • Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God.
  • Only God can send the water, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.
  • Real faith believes big, but is willing to start small.

Discussion & Application

  • During this message, did a time of need come to your mind? How did that time drive you to depend on God?
  • Work through the three questions with your group and help one another with the answers.
  • Question 1: What is your “If only”? Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?”  Mark 10:36 (NIV)
  • Question 2: What “ditch” do you need to start digging? Jesus said, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.”  John 5:8 (NIV)
  • Question 3: What small step can you take today? Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed… Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Next Steps

Grow your faith with commitment to God by reading the following Bible passages this week.

  • Day 1: 2 Kings 3:1-20
  • Day 2: 2 Kings 3:21-27
  • Day 3: James 2:14-26
  • Day 4: Zechariah 4:1-14
  • Day 5: Luke 11:1-11
  • Day 6: Colossians 3:18-25
  • Day 7: Hebrews 11:1-40

 

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It’s Time | Week 2: Why Must I Keep Praying Persistently?

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There are a lot of mysteries about prayer that we do not understand. We may not understand how the sovereignty of God and the free will of man work together when you’re praying for other people with free will. But, what we do know is that God said to do it.

Now, we know that our heavenly Father loves us, we know that He wants to answer prayer, He has commanded us to ask in prayer, and He is eager to meet our needs. Then the question is – why do we have to pray more than one time? Why do we have to make the same request over and over to God? The Bible says…

Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, always giving thanks to God.” Colossians 4:2 TEV

Why does God want me to keep on praying, seeking, asking, knocking? Why does God want us to pray the same request over and over and over until He answers it?


Why Must I Keep Praying Persistently?

  1. IT KEEPS MY ATTENTION FOCUSED ON GOD.

When you pray about something over and over, your attention is focused on God. Attention is the greatest gift you can give someone. When you give your attention to somebody you let them know they matter to you. Just like people crave attention, God craves your attention. The Bible says God is constantly thinking about you. What if you thought about somebody all the time but they never thought about you?

One of the reasons God loved King David in the Old Testament so much is because David gave God his attention all the time. In Psalm 25:15 NLT, David says,

“My eyes are always on the Lord, for He rescues me from the traps of my enemies.”

You’re going to face a lot of traps in your life this next week. God’s the only one who knows them in advance. Focus on Him and He’ll rescue you from all of the traps.

Search for the LORD and for His strength; continually seek Him.” Psalm 105:4 NLT

  1. HAVING TO WAIT TEACHES ME ABOUT MYSELF.

You’ll learn things while you’re praying for an answer that you won’t learn any other way. You learn not just about God but also about yourself. Some prayers are answered immediately, but some take time because while we are working on the prayer God is working on us.

“I will test and purify them as silver is purified by fire. I will test them as gold is tested. Then they will pray to me and I will answer them.” Zechariah 13:9 TEV

Gold is tested and purified by placing it in a big vat and heating it up until all the impurities burn off. When you can see your reflection in the gold, it’s pure. God can see His reflection in you when all the impurities are burnt out of you. Notice that the answer to prayer comes after the test.

God tests you with stress before He trusts you with success.

Having to wait on God tests four things:

  • It tests my DESIRES

When you pray persistently over time your prayer changes, grows, and develops because you realize what you really want. Persistent praying reveals the difference between a whim and a deep desire. God is not in the business of fulfilling every whim you get. Persistent prayer sifts out what’s really not that important to me. God wants to give you your deepest desires, but He wants to make sure that He’s in the first place.

Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 NLT

  • It tests my PRIORITIES

When you have to pray for something more than once it tends to clarify what’s important to you. You can you know what’s really important to you by figuring out what you worry about the most. The problem is, every time you worry you’re acting like an atheist. Worry is acting like you don’t have a heavenly Father who has promised to take care of you. But, when you pray you’re acting like a child of God.

 “Why be like an unbeliever who worries about everything? Your Heavenly   Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need if  your first concern is to live for His Kingdom.” Matthew 6:32-33 NIV

When your priorities are right, God’s answer is yes. If your first concern is God’s Kingdom, God says He’ll give you all you need. You may be waiting on God to answer a prayer. But, are you waiting on God or is God waiting on you to get your priorities right?

“No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what is right.” Psalm 84:11 NLT

  • It tests my MATURITY

When God doesn’t give something to you immediately, He is testing your maturity. He’s testing whether you’ve grown up or not. God is not a vending machine or a genie, He wants to reveal your character. He wants to show you the areas where you need to grow.

If you tell a toddler, “You can have it in a little while,” do they get that? No. If you tell a toddler, “You can have it later,” they throw a temper tantrum and say, “I want it now.” That’s called immaturity. Toddlers don’t know how to wait. Immature adults don’t know how to wait.

God wants to meet your deepest physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, and relational needs. He’s even promised to meet those needs, but He’s far more interested in your character development. God’s more interested in your character than your comfort.

One of the characteristics of Christ is patience. Patience is a fruit of the spirit. How do you learn patience? Through persistent prayer. When God thinks you’re mature enough He’s going to let you go through a period where you feel alone and you don’t feel His presence. The question during that time is, will you depend on your feelings or on God?

God doesn’t want you living by your moods. He wants you living by your commitments and by your trust in His Word. It’s part of your development and spiritual growth. You’re building spiritual muscle. When God thinks you’re mature enough, He’s going to leave you alone for a while to test your character.

God left Hezekiah on his own for a while to see what he would do; God wanted to test his heart.” 2 Chronicles 32:31 MSG

Hezekiah was a very good king, but God still left him alone for a while. Before God answers your prayer for a breakthrough, he’s going to test your heart. He wants to know if you are ready to handle the blessing.

Before every blessing there is a testing.

God did this for the entire nation of Israel. He had a blessing for them called the Promised Land. But before He let them go into the Promised Land, He wanted to test them so see if they were mature enough to handle the blessing of the Promised Land. They could have gone from Egypt to Israel in a matter of weeks, but God kept them out in the desert for 40 years because God was testing, developing, and growing them.

“The Lord led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey His commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT

When we are in pain – emotional, physical or spiritual pain – we cry out to God to remove the painful symptom but God wants to remove the cause of the pain. That takes a little more time. When things are not going good in your life, you just want God to make you happy and put a band aid on it, soothe it, take away the pain. We aren’t looking to clear up the relationship or deepen our character, we just want God to change the circumstance not change our character.

God wants to get to the root of that marital problem. He doesn’t just want to get us out of debt, He wants to deal with what caused us to go in debt. It’s a whole deeper level. Here’s the big question. When praying to God for a breakthrough…

Am I willing to let God change me instead of changing the circumstance?

That’s a whole different issue. This is what’s called the point of surrender. The point of surrender happens in every breakthrough prayer before the breakthrough happens. If you don’t get to the point of surrender, you’re not going to get through the breakthrough.

Give yourself completely to God, to be used in the hands of God for His good purposes.” Romans 6:13

  • It tests my FAITH

We know God has said He will meet our needs, but we may not see the answer coming. In that instance, do we trust our feelings or our Father? It is a mistake to trust your feelings. God will never give you anything unhelpful or harmful. He’ll never give you anything detrimental or deadly. He’ll only give you what is good and He knows what will make you happy more than you do.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They’re plans for good and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11 LB

God has plans for your life that aren’t going to just happen overnight. You have to wait on God’s timing. In fact, the bigger the thing God wants to do in your life, the longer the runway it takes to get it off the ground. When God wants to do something really big, it doesn’t happen quickly. It happens when you’re praying and trusting and growing in desires, priorities, maturity and faith.

“Let us not get tired of doing what is right for at the right time at the right time, we will we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV

Your faith is more desirable, important and precious than anything God could possibly give you. God wants you to keep praying because in that persistence God is changing you.


Four Ways God Answers Prayer

God always answers prayer. There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. He doesn’t always answer the way you like, but He always answers in one of four ways.

  1. When my request is not right, God says NO.

God’s not going to give you something that’s harmful for you. God won’t give you something destructive. He’ll only give you what’s good for you.

  1. When I’m not right, God says GROW.

God may want to give us something but He knows when we may not be ready yet. We may not be ready for the responsibility. We might need a little growing to do in character, maturity, faith, or surrender.

  1. When the timing’s not right, God says SLOW.

In Habakkuk 2:3, he says, “Do not be discouraged if the vision isn’t fulfilled overnight. Surely it will happen. It will not be overdue a single day.” God says it’s coming, but it’s slow. It’s all working together in God’s time.

  1. When my request and the timing and my character all line up right, God says GO!

Those are the four ways God answers prayer. No… Grow… Slow… and Go. This is the reason why we do what Ephesians says:

“Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Always stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Pray at all times. On every occasion. Always stay alert. Pray for all Christians. You need to be praying for other people. Everywhere. Now, what is not included in that verse? Nothing. God wants us to pray persistently.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. In “The Light Is Green” sermon, Pastor Ryland encouraged you to Get Closer to God; Get Honest with a Godly Friend; Get in Tune with God’s Purposes and your SHAPE; and Get to Doing Something Greater Than Myself. What progress did you make on these goals last week? Be specific.

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

“Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, always giving thanks to God.” Colossians 4:2 TEV

God wants us to pray persistently. Let’s look at how asking God for something repeatedly over time helps us learn more about ourselves and tests our desires, priorities, maturity, and faith.

  1. It keeps my attention FOCUSED ON GOD.

“My eyes are always on the LORD, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.” Psalm 25:15 NLT

Thinking about your experiences, can you describe a trap that God helped you escape?

  1. Having to wait teaches me ABOUT MYSELF.

“I will TEST and PURIFY them as silver is purified by fire. I will test them as gold is tested. Then they will pray to me, and I will answer them.” Zechariah 13:9a TEV

What has God taught you about yourself by having you wait for an answer to a prayer? What evidence of God’s testing and purifying have you seen in your life?

  1. God tests my DESIRES, my PRIORITIES, my MATURITY and my FAITH through persistent prayer.

Have you ever prayed for something and then found that your desires changed over time?

How has God reordered your priorities in life? Did persistent prayer play a part in that life change?

What evidence of spiritual growth and maturity can you point to in your life?

How has your faith grown as you have seen God answer your prayers?

Application

Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father … will give you all you need if your first concern is to live for his Kingdom.” Matthew 6:32-33

What do you think “live for his Kingdom” means? How can we know whether we are doing this? What part do you think “surrender” plays in living for his Kingdom?

Tell Someone Else

Who could you offer to pray for and with this week that you have never prayed for or with before?

“Pray at ALL times, and on EVERY occasion, in the power of the Holy Spirit, ALWAYS stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for ALL Christians EVERYWHERE.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

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Preparing to Build | Week 2: How God Anchors Us

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Jesus said that the wise man built his house upon the rock, but the foolish man built his house upon the sand. When the storms of life came the wise man’s house, it stood firm. But the foolish man’s house went splat. All around us we see people who’s lives are going splat including in situations of financial trouble, marriage trouble, kid trouble, and moral trouble. Today we will look at Ephesians chapter 4 to find six ways God anchors us to help build our lives upon a solid foundation.

1.God anchors us by giving us COACHES.

All around us in life we see the value of a coach; someone encouraging us to persevere, stay the course, and finish well. Superstar athletes who get paid millions of dollars have coaches. Famous singers all have vocal coaches. The top CEOs have life coaches. All the great leaders in the Bible had coaches.

Joshua was coached by Moses.

Elisha was coached by Elijah.

David was coached by Samuel.

Solomon was coached by David.

The twelve disciples were coached by Jesus.

Paul coached Timothy and Timothy coached others.

It’s a biblical pattern laid down in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul tells Timothy he wants him to take the things that he has learned from Paul and pass them on to other faithful men who will be able to pass them on to others. We pass it on from generation to generation. You are a link in an unbroken chain of coaching that has been passed down from generation to generation for 2000 years.

We don’t want to be the one who breaks the chain. Everybody needs a Paul and everybody needs a Timothy. We all need somebody we’re learning from and somebody we’re passing it on to. In Ephesians 4:11-13, we see that God has given five coaches to the church.

“Christ gifted some of us to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, so that His people would learn to serve and His Body would grow strong. This will continue until we’re united by our faith and understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like Him.” Ephesians 4:11-13 CEV

God gives the Church five coaches: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. He gives these coaches so that the people will learn to serve, grow strong, be mature, and become like Christ.

2.God anchors us by teaching us THE TRUTH.

If you want your finances to be secure you’ve got to know what God says about finances and apply that truth to your life. The same is true for your marriage or your job. In any area, you’ve got to know and apply the truth.

“Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or made a lie sound like the truth. Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more like Christ, who is the head of His Body, the Church.” Ephesians 4:14-15 NLT

One of the marks of spiritual immaturity is people can sway you from the truth. A spiritually immature believer is always changing their mind about what they believe because of something someone else has said. Somebody makes a lie sound like the truth and they fall for it because they don’t really know the truth. If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.

God says you’ve got to know the truth to weather the storm because every self-defeating behavior in your life is based on a lie. If you want stability in your life you’ve got to identify the lies and replace them with the truth. Every time we believe a lie about something the world says instead of what the Word of God says, we lose our footing and our lives start to collapse.

Jesus said, “The truth will you free.” He also said, “I am the truth.” Jesus didn’t say I teach the truth, I point to the truth, or I’m one of the ways to the truth. He said “I AM” the truth.  Truth is not simply a principle. Rather, Truth is a person.

“Since you have heard all about Him, you have learned the truth that is in Jesus.” Ephesians 4:21 NIV

3.God anchors us through NEW THINKING.

Both the stability and the instability you have in your life start in your mind. You’ve got to build your life on a biblical worldview. You’ve got to see your life through the lens of Scripture. If you want your life to be stable and built on a strong foundation, the battle is won and lost in the mind.

“But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 NIV

The news media, talk radio, television, Facebook, video games, music, etc., are all worldly things that invade our minds and impact the way we think. Whatever you watch, listen to, and read the most is what you’re going to become like. If your primary sources are secular, then you’re being conformed to the world not transformed to become like Christ. If you want to stand firm you’ve got to let God teach you the right way to think.

“So don’t keep living as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused in their thinking. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they’re far away from the life God gives because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They don’t care anymore about right and wrong, and they’ve indulged themselves in all kinds of immorality, evil thinking, and the constant desire for more.” Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV

They have built their lives on shifting sand and one day their lives are going to collapse! And if you don’t want your life to collapse right along with them, look at what Ephesians 4:23 says.

Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.” Ephesians 4:23 NLT    

If we’re going to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, it’s got to come from the Spirit. It’s not something we just attach on the outside, Spiritual fruit is an inside job, it happens in the mind first.

“Let the Spirit change your way of thinking.” Ephesians 4:23 CEV

4.God anchors us by CLEANING HOUSE.

“So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires.” Ephesians 4:22 TEV

To get healthy in your life you need to get rid of some things, this is a concept found all throughout the Bible. If you want a healthy body you have to get rid of the junk food in your house. If you want a healthy mind you have to avoid a few magazines. Cleaning house may mean you need to block some channels on your television. You may need to set a parental guide for yourself or put a filter on your Internet. That’s cleaning house mentally.

You may have to clean house in your schedule. Many of us are trying to do too much and could actually accomplish more if we just did less.  Make a list of everything on your schedule and prioritize A, B and C. Then, focus on the A’s and forget the B’s and C’s, do what matters most!

You may have to do some house cleaning in your heart. Maybe there are things you need to confess to God or confess to someone else. Don’t carry unconfessed sin in your heart. Don’t carry emotional baggage around with you, get rid of it. Confess it.

“We must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially any sin that distracts us, so we can run the race that lies ahead of us!” Hebrews 12:1 

God has an exciting race for you to run but you’ve got to get rid of the stuff that slows you down, distracts you and holds you back. Have you noticed it’s easier to pick up bad habits than it is to get rid of them?

Why is it so hard to give up bad habits? There are four main reasons.

  • Because I’ve had them a long time.

You didn’t collect your hurts, habits and hang ups overnight. Many of your bad habits you’ve had since you were a kid. But what works when you’re a kid doesn’t work when you’re an adult.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV

A lot of our bad habits may be self-defeating but they’re familiar. You know them and you are used to them.

  • Because I identify with them.

We often confuse our identity with our defects. When you tie your identity to your bad habits you set up a self-fulfilling prophecy about how you will act. If you’re going to break that bad habit you need a new identity. You need to know who you are in Christ. You need to get rid of the old self and it’s sinful habits and put on the new self that is yours in Christ.

  • Because they have a payoff.

Whatever gets rewarded gets repeated. So for any negative behavior in your life there’s some kind of pay off. Maybe it’s masking your pain or giving you an excuse to fail. Maybe you’re getting attention or temporary relief or pleasure. But anything negative in your life has a payoff, otherwise you wouldn’t keep doing it. So you’ve got to change the payoff to break the habit.

  • Because Satan fights it.

Satan does not want you to be set free. He wants you bound up in your sin. He doesn’t want you to become more like Christ. He wants your life to collapse. So the moment you get serious about making your life secure in Christ, Satan’s going to start feeding you negative thoughts like,  “Who do you think you are? “You’ll never break this habit, it’s just the way you are.” “You’re never going to be like Christ.” “You may as well give up.”

The Bible calls Satan “the accuser of believers.” But if your life is going to be secure and stable you’ve got to clean house and it’s not going to be easy but the Bible says that in Christ we are more than conquerors in Christ we are a new creation.

5.God anchors us through HONEST COMMUNITY.

There are some storms you can’t handle on your own, some life storms are so big you have to gang tackle them. That’s why we encourage everybody to get in a small group.

“No more pretense! Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s Body we’re all connected to each other. So if you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.” Ephesians 4:25 MSG

Everybody needs a community where they are accepted unconditionally. We waste a tremendous amount of energy pretending we’re better than we are.

“Never use harmful words but speak only what’s helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Be kind and loving to each other, forgiving each other just as God forgave you in Christ.”  Ephesians 4:32 NIV

In a small group you don’t only speak about the things that build you up. You speak about things that build others up according to their needs. It’s not just about you and your needs, it’s about the Body of Christ being built up.

6.God anchors us through FAITH.

You must believe that you can stand firm with God’s help. The person who says “I can” and the person who says “I can’t” are both right. God says you’ve got to believe and not give up.

“Now, by His mighty power at work within us, God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Ephesians 3:20 LB

By His mighty power at work within us God is able. Notice that this has nothing to do with your will power. It’s not you mustering up the will to stand firm. This is God working in your life. Think of the biggest thing you could ever think that God could do in your life and God can top that. That’s faith!


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. What steps are you going to take to get the most out of your small group this Fall?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Read Ephesians 4:11-32 together.

The six ways God anchors us are: 1) Coaches; 2) The truth; 3) New thinking; 4) Cleaning house; 5) Honest community; 6) Faith.

Application

Identify which components of change you need God’s help with the most.

1. God anchors us by giving us COACHING.

Christ gifted some of us to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, so that his people WOULD LEARN to serve and his Body WOULD GROW STRONG. This will continue until we’re united by our faith and understanding of the Son of God. THEN WE WILL BE MATURE, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. Ephesians 4:11-13 CEV

2. God anchors us by teaching us THE TRUTH.

Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or made a lie sound like the TRUTH. Instead, we will HOLD TO THE TRUTH in love, becoming more and more like Christ, who is the head of his Body, the church. Ephesians 4:14-15 NLT

Since you have heard all about Him, you have LEARNED THE TRUTH THAT IS IN JESUS. Ephesians 4:21 NIV

3. God anchors us through NEW THINKING.

Don’t keep living as the ungodly do, for THEY ARE HOPELESSLY CONFUSED IN THEIR THINKING. Their CLOSED MINDS ARE FULL OF DARKNESS; they’re far away from the LIFE God gives because they have SHUT THEIR MINDS and HARDENED THEIR HEARTS against him. They don’t care anymore about right and wrong, and they’ve indulged themselves in all kinds of immorality, evil thinking, and the constant desire for more. Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV

Instead, there must be A SPIRITUAL RENEWAL OF YOUR THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES. Ephesians 4:23 NLT

Let the Spirit CHANGE YOUR WAY OF THINKING. Ephesians 4:23 CEV

4. God anchors us by CLEANING HOUSE.

So GET RID OF YOUR OLD SELF, which made you live as you used to — the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Ephesians 4:22 TEV

We must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially any sin that distracts us, so we can run the race that lies ahead of us! Hebrews 12:1 GW

Why Getting Rid of Bad HABITS is So Hard:

  • Because I’VE HAD THEM A LONG TIME
  • Because I IDENTIFY WITH THEM
  • Because THEY HAVE A PAYOFF
  • Because SATAN FIGHTS IT

5. God anchors us through HONEST COMMUNITY.

No more pretense! TELL YOUR NEIGHBOR THE TRUTH. In Christ’s Body we’re ALL CONNECTED TO EACH OTHER. So if you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. Ephesians 4:25 MSG

Be KIND AND LOVING to each other, FORGIVING EACH OTHER just as God forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32 NIV

Never use harmful words but speak only what’s helpful for building OTHERS UP ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS, that it may BENEFIT THOSE WHO LISTEN. Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Small Group Ground Rules:

  • What is said in the group stays in the group!
  • No quick answers, snap judgments, or simple fixes.
  • No politics, no controversial topics.
  • No selling products or services to other members.

6. God anchors us through FAITH.

Now, by His mighty power at work WITHIN US, God is ABLE to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of ̶ infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. Ephesians 3:20 LB

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How God Tests Your Faith

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Sometimes we wonder why things don’t always work out perfectly and go the way we want them to go. Even after you become a Christian, you still have problems. What’s fascinating is some of the trials we face are the very answers to our own prayers.  We ask for some of these things and don’t even know it. We may pray that we want everything God has for us, we want to be more Christlike, we don’t want our life to look like the world, we want our finances to be biblical and our jobs to be fulfilling. And this is God’s goal for our life too, so he lays out the pathway.

God’s number one goal for your life is to make you like his son, Jesus. He wants to grow you creating a strong faith and character. He knows the best way to get us to that point, whether we like it or not.  Just like a good parent doesn’t bail their kid out every time, God is a good parent and wants to grow us up. We’ll have all of heaven someday to be perfectly happy, today we are in the training ground. The primary way God grows you up is by testing you. When you work out in a gym you test your muscles by lifting weights. The more weight you can life the more it tests your muscle the more it grows your muscle.

God grows your character the same way, through a series of tests. Those tests build your faith, character, patience and all kinds of other things in your life. The problems are not pointless. Rather, they are there to test your faith and to grow you into the man or woman God wants you to be. 

“Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your FAITH IS TESTED, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when it is fully developed you will be strong in character and ready for anything!” James 1:2-4 NLT

Tucked in that financial despair, that mean neighbor or coworker, that marital problem, or that issue with your kids, there is an opportunity for your faith to grow. Some of us are trying to run from the very situation that God gave us as a gift.


How God Tests Your Faith

There is a section of the Bible that deals with this specific thing. It’s in the book of Hebrews. The author is not listed, we’re not sure who wrote it, but it was written or preached to a group of people who were considering abandoning the faith because it was getting difficult and they weren’t strong in character enough to handle it.

In chapter 11 the author or speaker just begins passionately listing out the people of their heritage and how they lived by faith. One of the men mentioned in this chapter is Noah. The Bible tells us that when God created the earth it was perfect, but the longer man went along we started having problems, conflicts and wars, injustice, racism, and sexual problems.

God was so grieved that He had even made the earth because it was going in the wrong direction so He decided it was time to start over. The world was so evil there was only one man and his family who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. This man was Noah.

Now, imagine that you’re Noah or his wife or one of his kids and you know the world is a pretty evil place and God comes He is going to start over and wipe out everything. He says that He is going to flood the Earth and He wants Noah to build an ark. The world is going to start over with this one family and the animals God will bring to the ark. This is the first test and we will all go through tests like this.

1ST TEST: A NEW TASK

God asks us to do a new task or to dream a new dream that seems so big that it’s impossible. This is the WHAT test. God comes and asks you to do it and our response is often, “What?!” You’ve got the wrong guy!”

“It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about something that had never happened before.” Hebrews 11:7 NLT

Up until this time it had never rained on earth, that’s why they’d never seen a rainbow. A mist came up from the ground that would water all of the vegetables and plants. Before the flood people lived a whole lot longer, but after the flood the age of life expectancy starts going down because something in the environment and atmosphere changed. It says it never happened before

  • Faith is facing the future without knowing “WHAT?”

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 NIV

2ND TEST: A MAJOR CHANGE

You have a major change in your life. This is the WHERE test. “Where are we going with this one Lord?” This example comes from another person in the Bible, Abraham.

“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8-10 NLT

Abraham lived in a city called Er which was in the Iraq area. God told Abraham He was going to make Him into a great nation, but not where he was currently located. This is an especially difficult move for Abraham. He’s 75 years old and that’s not really when you want to start the greatest adventure in life. He’s ready to retire, but God says He is ready to inspire.

Abraham had a lot to move because he was a very wealthy guy. He had a lot of livestock and people working for him. God was moving him to a new country in the Palestine area, but God didn’t tell him that. He just told Abraham to move and He would let him know when he got where He wanted him to be.

Some of you are in this test because you’re experiencing a major change. This might be a job change, a school change, moving to a new home or city, or family dynamics are changing.

  • Faith is following God’s leading without knowing “WHERE?”

Abraham does this. He packs up all his herds and employees and heads off following God’s leading. Eventually, he gets to Canaan but when he gets to the land he doesn’t settle down, he lives in tents.

3RD TEST: A DELAYED PROMISE

God has thousands of promises in the Bible for you. They are guarantees. However, God has not guaranteed to fulfill them instantly. They aren’t vending machine promises. They are promises that require faith. God doesn’t work for you, you work for God. He has made the promises but He has all of eternity to fulfill them. Some of the promises won’t be fulfilled in this lifetime, but in heaven.

The delayed promise is called the WHEN test. 

“Even after Abraham reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent and so did Isaac and Jacob, to whom God gave the same promise. Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” Hebrews 11:8-10 NLT

Promise is used twice here. God wants us to base our life on promises not explanations. If you ever understand that you’ll take a giant leap in your character. God is not going to explain everything, He doesn’t owe us an explanation. He wants us to trust His promises.

There’s a delay in transfer of ownership after Abraham gets to the land. He lives in tents for three generations. God calls him a stranger in his own country. You may be in this test right now.

  • Faith is waiting for God’s timing without knowing “WHEN?”

4TH TEST: AN UNSOLVABLE PROBLEM

As mentioned earlier, Abraham is 75 years when God told him He would start a great nation from his family. He moves to the land of Canaan that will become Israel. He’s waiting for his wife to be pregnant, but by age 99 he still doesn’t have a son. 

Now it is physically impossible for he and his wife to have a child. They laughed when God told them they would still have a baby. They ended up naming the baby Isaac because that name means laughter.

This is the HOW test. It seems like an unsolvable problem.

“It was by faith that Sarah together with Abraham was able to have a child, even though they were too old and Sarah was barren. Abraham believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man, Abraham, who was too old to have any children—a nation with so many people that, like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.” Hebrews 11:11-12 NLT

  • Faith is expecting a miracle without knowing “HOW?”

5TH TEST: A SENSELESS LOSS

This was the ultimate test in Abraham’s life and it will be yours too. A senseless loss will be the ultimate test in your life. So much of what happens in life, it just doesn’t make sense. When we look for an explanation we’re not going to find one. We spend our entire lives thinking if we could just get an explanation we would feel better about the loss. But, explanations never offer comfort.

In pain and major loss, you need the presence of God, not the explanation of God. 

One day after Abraham had this miracle baby named Isaac, God told him to sacrifice his son. It seems so brutal and nonsensical. Why would God ask to sacrifice a son he gave in a miracle? Abraham knew his faith was being tested. God is not a mean God, and Abraham knew that. He decides he is going to obey knowing that God will do something about it. But this was the ultimate test, Isaac represented everything God promised Abraham. If his son were to die there will be no future nation.

“It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had promised him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Hebrews 11:17-18 NLT

This is one of the most gripping stories of how God would find a way. This will be the most gut wrenching test in our life when God asks us if we love the dream more than we love Him. If so, then we’ve made the dream an idol. There are many layers to this story, but at the last second God stops Abraham and provides a lamb for the sacrifice to replace Isaac.

In a few thousand years he would offer the lamb of God, his son for you. For those who trust and put their faith in Him, He provides a lamb, a way out. Abraham passed the test. If you can explain everything in your life, you’re not living by faith. Some things are not explainable.

“Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death!” Hebrews 11:19 NIV

  • Faith is trusting God’s purpose without knowing “WHY?”

6TH TEST: PROLONGED PAIN

This could be a chronic physical, emotional or spiritual pain. It is extended suffering that you just have to live with, maybe even for your entire life. It is the HOW LONG test.

Many of the prophets in the Bible asked this question. And there is another person who is used as an example in Hebrews 11 – Moses. Moses had incredible persistence and put up with enormous pain. His life is divided up into three phases: 40 years in Pharaoh’s court learning to be a somebody, 40 years in the desert learning to be a nobody and 40 years leading a million griping people across the desert.

He put up with criticism, conflict, misunderstanding and pain. He has every right to say, how long LordHe gave up everything we spend our whole lives trying to achieve: pleasure, possessions and position. He was the son of pharaoh’s daughter and the grandson of the most powerful man in the world, but he gave it all up.

“It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26 NLT

Our culture tells us to base our decisions on our feelings, that the truth is found inside yourself. Your feelings lie to you all the time. They tell you things are better or worse than they actually are. We’re manipulated by our moods.

I don’t always like to read my Bible, but I know it helps. When I don’t feel like praying, I need it the most. I don’t always feel like encouraging people who are down or need faith. I don’t always feel like being faithful, but thank God faith is not only a feeling.

  • Faith is continuing to persist without knowing “HOW LONG?”

“By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; He persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27 NIV

When life doesn’t make sense we fix our eyes on Jesus. He ran the ultimate race with perseverance, a race that didn’t make sense at the time. It didn’t make sense that when he began his ministry to serve people for the glory of God that He’d be tempted by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness. It didn’t seem right that the Pharisees could get away with lying about Him, and the Sadducee’s could succeed in conspiring against Him. It didn’t seem right when Judas was allowed to betray Him and the disciples abandoned Him. It seemed absurd that God would have Jesus stand silent as Pilot handed Him over to the crowd. And it seemed absurd when the crowd called for Jesus to be crucified. It didn’t seem right that this man who lived a perfect life would take on the guilt and the shame of every murder, rape, lie, abortion, and sin. And it didn’t make sense that God would forsake him in Jesus’ moment of need. God’s ways seemed horrible as Jesus was in the grave for three days. But then, He got up out of that grave and received His reward for enduring His race to the end. And so will you.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on the message about what unites us and what distinguishes us from the Catholic church?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Spend some time in the word. Read Hebrews Chapter 11. Sometime this week, read through each of these stories. Noah (Genesis 6-9), Abraham (Genesis 12-22), Moses (Exodus 1-3).

Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your FAITH IS TESTED, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when it is fully developed you will be strong in character and ready for anything!  James 1:2-4 (NLT)

God uses tests in your life to grow your character and strengthen your faith. As long as you’re on Earth, you’ll be in constant growth and development to become more like Jesus. In this message we looked at six tests from Hebrews 11.

 1ST TEST: A NEW TASK (Faith is facing the future without knowing “WHAT?”)

2ND TEST: A MAJOR CHANGE (Faith is following God’s leading without knowing “WHERE?”)

3RD TEST: A DELAYED PROMISE (Faith is waiting for God’s timing without knowing “WHEN?”)

4TH TEST: AN UNSOLVABLE PROBLEM (Faith is expecting a miracle without knowing “HOW?”)

5TH TEST: A SENSELESS LOSS (Faith is trusting God’s purpose without knowing “WHY?”)

6TH TEST: PROLONGED PAIN (Faith is continuing to persist without knowing “HOW LONG?”)

Application

  1. How do you view your troubles, problems and trials? As a opportunity for joy? As an opportunity for your faith to grow?
  2. What stood out to you in this message?
  3. Which of these six tests have you seen most in your life?
  4. Which of the six tests are you enduring right now?
  5. What is a senseless loss you’ve had to endure in your life?
  6. How can looking ahead to a great reward help you to persevere?

Tell Someone Else

Who is going through a similar loss you’ve already suffered?  Call or text them with an invitation to grab coffee or a lunch.  If you are hurting, who could you reach out to in God’s family and ask for help?

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Not So Far-Fetched: Is God Good?

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No matter who you are, everyone experiences difficulty. The degree of life’s severity differs from person to person. Right now, many people around the world are experiencing heartbreaking realities. In every season of our lives, in every place of our existence, there is this tension. The tension around our pain asks, “Is God good?”

Before we go any further, you need to know that this message may not be for everyone in this moment. If you’re right in the middle of personal pain, a post on good and evil and why we experience suffering and pain is not always the most helpful thing. When you’re in the middle of it, this kind of message can even be seen as offensive. The goal today is not to offend you. The heart behind this post is to offer help and to offer compassion in the midst of your pain.

People have wrestled with the question of pain and God’s goodness for centuries. The greek philosopher, Epicurus, in 300 BC posed the question this way:

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The problem of pain is very personal. It may have started at a young age through divorced parents or maybe you’ve lost someone. And you’re left asking, “Why is there pain?”

Today, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we experience pain.

1. We experience pain because the world is broken.

What we’re seeing and experiencing is not the way it is supposed to be. This isn’t the way God wants it to be. Everything began with a Creator.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1:1

That’s a big statement, we devoted an entire post to answer the question Is God Real? There, we talked about why we believe God exists. You don’t even need to read the Bible to know God is real. Just look around and you can learn a lot about God. Wherever there is creation, there’s evidence of creation. Wherever there is design, there’s evidence of a designer. Wherever there is moral law and obligation, there is a moral law giver.

Romans 1 says, look around and you’ll learn a lot about the goodness of God. So when God created the heaven and earth, it was perfect. But then, creation rejected the Creator and as a result, nothing is as it should be.

“Cursed is the ground because of you…”  Genesis 3:17

Life is made more difficult. We are all to blame for this brokenness because we have all rejected God and his goodness. God’s plan to restore the world to perfect includes us. The good news is, that God desires for us to join him now in making his plans for restoration, unity, and peace a reality. We find this in Colossians.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God   in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”  Colossians 1:15-20

So through the work of Christ, the creation that rejected the Creator can now be at peace with God. This is good news. Why, because verse 21:

“This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.”  Colossians 1:21-23

A lot of us are pinning our pain on God. It is not God’s Will that there be earthquakes, typhoons,  hurricanes, tornados and natural disasters. He doesn’t want cancer, disease or death for anyone.

Jesus suffered for this suffering world so that we would find renewal in Him, a renewal that will be completed when Jesus brings heaven and earth fully together in the end.

We’re just not there yet. God’s final plan is not simply that we all go to heaven and everything is fine. His plan is to come back to earth and fix everything. Ultimately, we don’t go up to heaven, heaven comes to earth. He’s going to kick out all sin, all rebellion, and that’s how we’ll live forever. God is rescuing all of creation. That’s what every story in scripture is telling us.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

Life is hard because the world is broken, and we experience pain because the world is cursed, but Jesus is restoring all things from the brokenness of the world by his power and through his people. This is temporary. This is not what God has for you forever.

2. We experience pain because of ourselves.

Sometimes we experience pain because we are sinners. We make bad decisions — accidentally and willfully — and these choices make our lives a lot harder.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”  Romans 3:23

Often, life is hard because we not only do evil things, but we don’t respond well when the consequences come.

“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.”  Proverbs 19:3 NLT

Life is hard because of us. Not all the time, but it is a lot more of the time than we care to admit. No matter the sin, it is vital that we do not simply say, “This is just who I am,” and fail to pursue renewal. In this case we must confess sin and repent. In Jesus we find true wisdom, righteousness, and redemption from our sin. We experience pain because of ourselves, but Jesus graciously forgives us when we confess that our sin has dishonored him and made life complicated and difficult.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

3. We experience pain because of someone else.

Sometimes life is hard and we experience pain and suffering because others sin against us. We see this throughout scripture in the parable of the good Samaritan where the man is left for dead, Joseph in the Old Testament who’s abandoned by his brothers and David who’s fleeing for his life. It’s also in Job’s story.

“So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.”  Job 2:7

We experience pain because of someone else, and many times that someone else is the great enemy. We don’t live in a playground, we live in a battleground. Where we’ve got to put on the armor of God. Every day there’s a battle for our heart, attention, focus and worship.

If you are experiencing pain because of someone in your life or even because of the enemy, you are not alone. Jesus didn’t stay far away from this battle. He came and experienced it. He came and received the brunt and the judgement that was sentenced. Jesus responded to the great need of humanity by allowing himself to take the position of a victim and bearing the sins and folly of the entire human race.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

Therefore, when we are victimized, we should remember that Jesus not only can identify with us in our unjust treatment. He put shame to shame on the cross, we also find power and cleansing in Him.

When we cry out to Jesus, we’re crying out to someone thoroughly acquainted with our pain. 

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7

God can heal you from the harm that has been done to you. And through the power of the cross he can heal your pain.

4. We experience pain because it makes us more like Jesus.

Not everything bad in life is ultimately bad for you. Pain is not without purpose. You see, there is a built in assumption that in order for God to be good, He must never allow evil. But there’s fallout from that way of thinking. It means either God would create nothing or God would create beings with no possibility for moral free will. 

The great paradox of free will is that in order for God to create beings capable of love, He must also create a world where evil and suffering can exist.

He could create a universe with no pain. But also devoid of mercy, love, compassion, true peace, significance, forgiveness or happiness. This is where God stands alone and, amazingly, no other worldview deals with pain the way our God does.

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Through suffering we are more and more acquainted and formed into the image of God’s Son. As you embrace suffering you also grow in hope.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-11

Our perishable bodies are subject to sin and suffering, but God never abandons us. Paul would say the things that happened to him, the pain he experienced, was there to further the gospel.

Our weakest moment may be when we’re the strongest. 

“…Indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:17-18

You’re not suffering alone. We suffer with Him. We will be glorified with Him. To those who love God, the suffering doesn’t compare to the glory we have in Christ Jesus. When we look at the character of God and look at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, it tells us what the answer is not. The answer cannot be because He doesn’t love us, that He isn’t for us or because He isn’t working all things together for good.

God is good. We experience pain. This changes our perspective on life. Have you ever looked at things in your life and said, “Why does this have to be so hard?” Things should be easier. This job should be easier. This education should be easier. This marriage should be easier. Walking with God should be easier. Faith should be easier. This perspective makes you miss so much of the goodness of God. Now, try flipping it around and say, “Life is hard, but God is good.”

Life is hard, but God is good.

When you start with life is hard, then you’ll find blessings along the way. Life is hard, but God is good. Life is hard, but look at God over here being faithful. Life is hard, but you’re going to make it anyway. You may be at the end of your rope, but you’re not at the end of your hope. You may be hard pressed on every side, but God is good – you’re not crushed. You may be perplexed or don’t understand it all, but you’re not in despair.


Check Back

Check back on what you discussed last week. Does anyone have any more thoughts on Noah and the flood? Did anyone have any exciting conversations or times studying God’s Word?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week we looked at the questions, “Is God Good?” We ask this questions because of the pain we see around us, and because of the pain we see in the world. It leaves us asking, “How could a good God allow pain?”

Spend some time in the word of God together as a group. Read Colossians 1:15-23. (If you have time consider reading the entire New Testament book of Colossians. It takes about 15 minutes.)

We learn from God’s Word that we experience pain because of four main reasons.

1. We experience pain because the world is broken.

Things are not the way God created them to be, because creation has rejected the Creator. (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 3:17, Revelation 21:4)

2. We experience pain because of ourselves.

Sometimes we experience pain because we are sinners. We make bad decisions – accidentally and willfully – and these choices make our lives a lot harder. (Romans 3:23, Proverbs 19:3, 1 John 1:9)

3. We experience pain because of someone else.

Other people cause us pain. The enemy, the devil, also causes us pain. (Job 2:7, Isaiah 53:3, 1 John 1:7)

4. We experience pain because it makes us more like Jesus.

Sometimes we experience pain because God is good. When we embrace suffering, we become more like Jesus, who suffered for a suffering world. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, Romans 8:17-18)

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message? What did you hear?
  2. What pain are you experiencing because the world is broken and the way life was supposed to operate is fractured?
  3. What pain are you experiencing that you brought on yourself?
  4. Are you carrying any pain because of another person? What pain do we see as a result of our great enemy, the devil?
  5. How can pain conform us more into the likeness of Christ?
  6. Based on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, does the existence of pain mean there is no God?

Tell Someone Else

The world says, ” God is hard, but life is good!” The reality is, “Life is hard, but God is good.” How can this change our perspective and attitude toward life for the better? Who needs to be reminded of God’s goodness through you?

 

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Taking Next Steps

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Salvation is not the goal of the Christian life. Salvation is the start of the Christian life. Once you become a believer, that’s when your journey of spiritual growth begins.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

Coming to Christ is turning onto the right road and the next thing to do is to walk on it.

We are headed into a season of spiritual growth at Rock Brook with a new small group semester and new sermon series called Not So Far Fetched. As we head into this amazing season of spiritual growth you should be warned that you will face predictable resistance.


Predictable Resistance 

We have a Savior in Jesus Christ, but we also have an enemy in the Devil. Just as Christ wants you to grow during this season, the Devil wants to stunt your growth.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

Yes, we get eternal life when we die and go to heaven, but Jesus also offers us a full and abundant life right now.

At Rock Brook we’re not just concerned with getting you into heaven. We want you to live a new, full, productive life right here on earth. You don’t have to wait till you get to heaven to enjoy Christ.

The Devil is working overtime to keep you from experiencing that new, full life that Christ offers you. Once you’ve trusted Christ, the Devil can’t keep you out of heaven. If the Devil can’t keep you from trusting Christ, he will try to keep you from living for Christ.

“The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy…”  John 10:10 (NIV)

The thief will try to:

  • Steal your identity with shame

The Devil lures us into sin and then heaps shame on us when we succumb to it. The Devil tries to get you to focus on the shame of your past. If he can get you to find your identity in the sins of your past, then he can freeze you in that sinJesus Christ frees you from the sins of your past.

Our spiritual growth is rooted in our new identity in Christ, not our issues from the past.

  • Kill my potential with guilt

Too many of us live with the guilt about our past. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t done. The Devil is all about your past, Jesus is all about your potential. It is essential for our spiritual growth that we get our eyes off our past and focus on our potential in Christ. You won’t find the new, full, abundant life Christ offers you by looking in the rear view mirror. Address and confess those old sins, hurts, habits and hang-ups and let Jesus Christ forgive and forget them.

  • Destroy my hope with fear

We all struggle with fear at some level. There’s fear of the future, fear of failure, the fear of dying… So many people struggle with the fear of man. We can be driven by the desire to please other people. The Bible says the fear of man is a trap. It’s a fear that drives us to make bad choices. But God does not want us to live in fear; He wants us to live in hope.

God offers us the hope of heaven, but He also offers us hope for the here and now.

Don’t let shame, guilt and fear rob you of your opportunity to grow. Instead, take your next step of spiritual growth and replace shame, guilt and fear with:

your identity in Christ.

your potential in Christ.

your hope in Christ. 


Taking Next Steps

How do we take another step on our spiritual journey? 

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

These next steps are about taking off the old and putting on the new. Taking next steps isn’t just about you. Don’t do it to just start ticking off boxes and complete a to-do list. If that’s all you are doing, you are missing the point.

A couple of weeks ago we posted about how to have Gospel Conversations with the people in our lives. Take a look at that post and the chart that explains how sharing the gospel isn’t just about getting someone saved. Everyone is in a different spot in their spiritual journey. Salvation is only the beginning of the Christian life. A gospel conversation is anytime you encourage someone to take ONE STEP from where they are, to where God wants them to be.

Once you understand this roadmap to spiritual growth, not only can you apply it to your own life, you have a pathway to encourage other people to follow.

When you start doing that, you unlock the power, purpose and potential God has for you. That’s when you begin to live a new, full, abundant life that Christ offers. You might think your spiritual life is an individual journey, something private and personal, but that is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches.

We are in this thing together. We are a family, a flock and a body. We are an army of God fighting this battle together.

Here are four areas you can start taking next steps in.

1. Declare God’s salvation 

Some people believe that your relationship with Jesus is personal and private. But the first act of obedience that Jesus calls a believer to do is a very public event, your baptism. When you ask Jesus Christ into your heart, that’s a personal decision. Then, Jesus commands you to go public with that decision. The Devil wants you to hide it or keep it to yourself. That’s not what Jesus says to do. Jesus says… “Let your light shine before men!”

Why do people face such a spiritual struggle over getting baptized? Because there is something very powerful about making a public declaration of our faith in Christ.

Peter says, “In baptism we show that we have been saved from death and doom by the resurrection of Christ; not because our bodies are washed clean by the water but because in being baptized we are turning to God and asking him to cleanse our hearts from sin.”  1 Peter 3:21 (LB) 

Jesus not only commanded us to do it in Matthew 28, He also modeled it in His own baptism. Maybe you have been a believer for years and haven’t been baptized. It’s time for you to take that next step. You don’t have to wait till you’ve stopped all your bad habits. You don’t have to wait till you’ve grown spiritually.

2. Cultivate God’s presence 

Cultivate is a farming term that means to stimulate growth. You have to break up the soil, fertilize it, water it, mulch it. You have to disturb the status quo of the soil if things are really going to grow. There are things in your life you need to weed out.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  James 4:8 (NIV)

Take a step toward God, cultivate His presence and God will show up.

Here are three ways to cultivate God’s presence in your life:

  • God’s Word
  • Worship
  • Prayer

[Take a few minutes to hear to a story of one man’s devotion to God’s Word, Worship and Prayer listen online. (start at 15:25)]

Those three things will cultivate God’s presence in your life no matter the struggle you face or the prison you are in.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”  Acts 2:28 (NIV)

Joy isn’t found in your circumstances. Joy is found in God’s presence despite your circumstances.

3. Connect with God’s people

“You are a member of God’s very own family… and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.”  Ephesians 2:19 (LB)

If you, as a believer, are going to grow spiritually, you need to be a member of a local church. There are 58 commands given in the Bible that you cannot obey if you aren’t a member of a local church. The way to become a member at Rock Brook is to take StepONE of Growth Track. It’s offered every first Sunday of the month. At StepONE we will lay out the 5 purposes that God has for your life and explain how being a member of Rock Brook will help you fulfill those purposes. We explain salvation and baptism. We will walk you through our Membership Covenant and put you on the pathway of spiritual growth for your life.

The world promotes independence and self-reliance. God promotes community and fellowship and belonging.

God knows that growth and health are found in relationships. That’s why He created the church, the body of Christ. That’s why He wants you to be a member of a church. That’s why you need to belong to a small group to grow.

Too many Christians are chasing information, they want more knowledge. But they don’t need more information, they need transformation. Transformation comes through relationships.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

4. Discover God’s purpose

“It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”  Ephesians 1:11-12 (MSG) 

If you are going to grow to be all that God wants you to be you’ve got to pursue with passion the purpose that God has for you. That’s what our Growth Track process will help you do.


StepONE become a member 

This is to get you connected with Christ through salvation, declaring Christ through baptism and connecting with the Body of Christ through membership.

StepTWO essential habits 

Here you will learn how to develop the essential habits of the Christian life. Getting into God’s Word every day, worshipping God every day and praying to God every day.

A disciple needs to practice the disciplines that Christ lays out for His followers. A Christ follower needs to follow the pathway that leads to purpose and joy.

StepTHREE discover your design

This event helps you discover your design, your personality, your spiritual gifts and your passion for ministry.

God has shaped you for your place in the church. You were made for this, so you need to discover your design and purpose.

StepFOUR join a team

He we get you plugged into a Dream Team. Our Dream Team are the people who make ministry happen at Rock Brook. The Dream Team is the engine that drives this church.

Which step is the next step for you?

Which step can you encourage someone else to take?

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!”  1 Peter 1:4-5 (MSG) 

The key to your spiritual growth is to take your Next Step and take it now.


Check Back

Check back and review what we talked about last week. Have you made a commitment to be involved in a Small Group this semester? Who can you encourage to join the group with you?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read: Ephesians 4:22-24

Application

1. Declare God’s salvation

Water Baptism

  • Have you been baptized by immersion as evidence of your faith in Jesus Christ? 
  • If not, what is holding you back from being baptized?
  • How can your group encourage you to take this next step?

2. Cultivate God’s presence

God’s Word   |   Worship   |   Prayer

  • Which of these three have you built into your life?
  • Which one do you need to work on?

3. Connect with God’s people

Join a local church   |   Commit to Small Groups

  • Have you taken Growth Track Step One?
  • Have you joined a Small Group?

4. Discover God’s Purpose

Attend the 4-step Growth Track   |   Join the Dream Team

  • Have you completed Growth Track?
  • What Dream Team are you serving on?

The key to my spiritual growth is to take my NEXT STEP and take it NOW.

Tell Someone Else

Have you had any Gospel Conversations with anyone in the last two weeks?  Have you written the person’s name on a ping pong ball and dropped it in the Go & Tell wall?

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Week 5: What About Health & Healing?

Blog YAFI w5.001On Easter weekend, we did a survey and compiled your most asked questions. Those questions are the roadmap for this series called You Asked For It.

This weekend, we took a look at what the Bible had to say about Health and Healing.


Let’s look at God’s Word and see what it says about people being healed. One of the clearest places it talks about sick people getting well is in the book of James.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”  James 5:13-14 (NIV)

Many of us have gone through or are going through major illness or physical struggle. James says, “Go get some believers, some leaders, have them pray over you and anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord.”

Don’t get focused on the oil. The oil is a symbol. There’s no real power in the oil itself. It’s just like baptism or communion. They are symbols. The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who is the One who anoints. The Holy Spirit’s role is to point us to Jesus, not to the person praying.

“And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  James 5:15-16 (NIV)

There are two extremes in the body of Christ. So from church-to-church, you’ll have these two extremes and anything in between.

One of the extremes is a confessionist approach. This approach believes all you have to do is name-it and claim-it and if you say it you can have it. If you don’t get what you asked for, it’s because there’s something wrong with you and God is rejecting you. There’s a lot of condemnation with that one, and God is not a God of condemnation.

The other extreme is a cessationist approachThis is the belief that miracles happened in the Bible, but they don’t happen today. They believe that once the final apostle died that God closed shop. The purpose of the apostles miracles was to authenticate them and have God testify to it by signs, wonders and miracles. Now that we have the authenticated writings of the apostles in scripture and writings of Jesus as the cornerstone of our faith, miracles are no longer necessary to authenticate the message of Jesus.

God is still in the miracle working business. There’s no healing apart from God. We struggle to believe that, because we’ve all had experiences where God didn’t do the miracle. We’re living with an illness or physical struggle we’ve prayed would go away. We’ve buried people we’ve prayed for. But what’s really happening is that those two extremes are trying to answer this question:

Why doesn’t God heal every time we pray?

  • God still heals people.

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  2 Timothy 4:18 (NIV)

Are we going to be rescued or go to heaven? Yes. Both of those options are miracles and a work from God. He’ll either heal you and you’ll glorify God or you’ll die and be in glory.

I refuse to let my faith be hindered by my understanding.

That’s why it’s called faith. I’m going to trust God at his word. That he delivers me from every evil attack and takes me safely into his kingdom. That’s why James changes the subject it seems when he says, “If he sins that will be forgiven.” And if you confess your sins and pray for each other, that’s real healing. Deeper than the physical.

  • God is also concerned about my soul.

God created your body. One day every body will rise. But God is also very concerned, with our soul. We get so concerned about the body: we lock our doors, buy insurance, do everything we can to protect the body, take vitamins, work out. All good things we should do, but Jesus says:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28 (NIV)

We’re missing the big point if we think it’s all about just being physically healed and that it’s all about the body. So go to the gym, see a doctor, watch what you eat but also go to a small group, confess your sins and fears and pull things out into the light. We need to be just as concerned about our soul.

  • God wants me to grow in faith.

The key word there is grow. He wants you to grow in your faith. He wants to take you on a faith journey.

We’re concerned about what’s happening to us.

God’s concerned about what’s happening in us.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see… And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  Hebrews 11:1,6 (NIV)

When do you seek God the most? When everything is answered or when you have a lot of need? The answer is obvious. That’s why the very next verse in this James passage, he tells us the story of an Old Testament person named Elijah.


Understanding Faith

“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”  James 5:17-18 (NIV)

Elijah was a prophet while an evil man, named Ahab, was king. Ahab had an even more wicked wife who controlled many of his decisions. So Ahab & Jezebel turned the hearts of the people away from God to false prophets. God raised up Elijah to be a prophet to proclaim His Word.

Elijah comes and he stands down king Ahab, and says,“It’s not going to rain until I ask God to cause it to rain.” Elijah proclaims the forecast, not like a weatherman, but his words actually turn on and off the water supply. He pronounces this huge drought, and sure enough, it doesn’t rain at all.

Then, God takes Elijah to a ravine where God miraculously provides for him in the middle of this drought while Ahab’s trying to kill him. One day, God dried up the brook that was providing water for Elijah and he went out of the ravine to a place called Zarephath, where he met a widow, who had just a little bit of oil and flour. It wasn’t enough. God miraculously multiplied it so that it was enough.

One day, the widow’s son died and for the first time ever recorded in scripture, Elijah takes this dead boy up into the upper room, prays, and God raises this boy from the dead. After a season of hiding, where there’s been no rain, God calls Elijah back to confront Ahab, and call him out to a showdown. Elijah says, “Get the four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah. Bring them up to Mount Carmel, and we are going to see who the real God is. Is it your gods, or is it my God, Yahweh?” 

Elijah has them build an altar, put a bull on it and ask their god to bring down fire over the altar. All morning the false prophets call out for their god to light the altar. They dance and cut themselves, and nothing happens.

Then Elijah builds his altar, has the false prophets soak it in water in the middle of the drought he calls on God. God sends fire straight down from heaven to consume the altar. Fire engulfs and eliminates the whole thing and licks up all the water in the trench. The false prophets bow in worship to Yahweh and Elijah turns to Ahab and says, “I hear a rainstorm coming.” That’s how the faith journey begins every time. With a word from God.

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It’s a word from God’s Word. There are thousands of promises from God in the Bible. Many people once believed a God promise, but at some point stop. They let their faith grow weary. Elijah’s story begins with a word from God.

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.'”  1 Kings 17:1 (NIV)

The promises of God always come to pass. God will work everything together for his glory and good. God says:

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 (NIV)

Here’s the second part. This is much more complicated and probably where most of us are in our faith journey today: Faith continues regardless of what you see.

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Wherever you are in your faith journey, whatever you’ve been believing God for: healing, relationship restoration, legal situation, getting out of debt… There’s more happening than what you can see. See how this story with Elijah plays out. Elijah prays for it to rain and it doesn’t. The Bible says he puts his head down between his legs and tells his servant, “I’m going to pray, you go look at the sky.”

“’Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said. Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’ The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’ So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”  1 Kings 18:43-44 (NIV)

He kept on. He didn’t give up. He was persistent in his faith. Someone reading this needs to hear, “Go back. Pray some more. Seek God again. Do it some more.”

Wherever you are in your situation. Hold on. Don’t give up. Put your face to the ground, believe God, and if you don’t see anything out there over the sea, go back and do it again. Why? Because…

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

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“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”  1 Kings 18:45-46 (NIV)

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NLT)

We’re so focused on healing, the destination. It’s important. But it’s not the most important thing. God is focused on the journey. The process is the point.

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Let God work in you. He still heals, He still does miracles. 

Maybe that thorn is there to drive you to the throne and push you deeper into a process that will reveal God’s power and grace like never before.


 

Check Back

Review what you talked about last week.

Do you have any more questions or conclusions after reflecting on last week’s message on how the world ends?

Are you living in light of eternity?

To hear the sermon online, go to rockbrook.org/sermons or listen to our podcast on iTunes or Google Play Music.

Hear the Word

Read James 5:13-20 & 1 Kings 17 & 18

Application

Have you ever prayed for healing for you or for someone else? What happened when you prayed?

What words describe Elijah’s faith? Describe ways we can apply the lesson of Elijah to our faith. 

Read Hebrews 11:39-40 and Isaiah 57:1

Discuss with the group what these verses mean. How can these words from God help us when God does not answer our prayers as we planned?

At Rock Brook, we offer a process of next steps to help us in our faith journey. It’s called Growth Track. Where are you in the Growth Track journey?

For more information, visit http://rockbrook.org/connect/growth-track

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to share this message with this week?

Is there anyone in your life who is struggling with health and healing? How can you encourage them?

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