This is the beginning of a series the Lord laid on my heart. How can Christians use times of fear to draw people to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
Let’s start with a brief overview and reminder of who we are in Christ.
We are called to:
-Show the world we are different because all our faith and hope is in Jesus (Hebrews 6:17-20) and eternal rewards.
-A life of sacrifice and taking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). We are not to pursue our comfort here on earth. We are to witness to the power of Jesus, the love of God and the importance of giving over every part of our lives to God.
-Remember we were created by God for good works and to walk worthy of our calling. (Ephesians 2:10 , Colossians 1:10 ) God’s Word is clear that spreading fear is NOT a good work because a spirit of fear doesn’t come from God. ( 2 Timothy 1:7)
-To let our light shine so we will give glory to God. (Matthew 5:16) Times of fear are times are darkness and the world is more desperate than ever to see the light of Jesus through his people.
-To be a peculiar people (obviously distinct from the world), a royal priesthood for Jesus. (1 Peter 2:9) In this time when many are fearful and spreading fear it is good for us to be different and use our opportunity as peculiar people to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” as Peter tells us.
-To make it clear that earth is not our home (Hebrews 13:14) so people will ask about the hope we have within us (1 Peter 3:15). That hope within us is Jesus and in him alone we trust.
Conclusion: Who we are in Christ compels us to dispel fear instead of spreading it.
“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” (John 6:11, NIV)
Background and Setting
“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” (John 6:1–13, NIV)
The Master’s Plan
After healing many, Jesus was followed by large crowds because of his miracles. He asks a provocative question of his disciple Philip. “How will we feed so many followers?” Sometimes, God asks you a stretch question, designed to get you to go beyond your comfort zone and what you know you can do. The question was based on Jesus knowing what HE was going to do because he has all power. Andrew, another disciple, dares to come to Jesus with a tiny amount of food that can not come close to feeding the crowd assembled. But did he have a mustard seed of faith that maybe, just maybe, Jesus could perform a miracle with a little bit of food? I think so.
Calm in the Midst of Crowds
In the behind-the-scenes with Jesus, tensions were mounting. What about this idea of feeding all these people? What good can the small amount of food from a small boy do? Meanwhile, the multitudes are waiting for Jesus to continue doing his miracles. In the midst of this, Jesus takes his time. He tells the crowd to sit down.
Jesus is in front of a large crowd of hungry people. The situation seems desperate. What will happen? The people are restless, the disciples are worried. But Jesus will not be rushed. He will do things decently and in order. Thanks must be given before the miracle occurs. Jesus will lead them in giving thanks to the One who provides their daily bread.
The text says that Jesus knew what he was going to do. He knew he was going to do a miracle and feed the 5,000. Again, moving patiently and methodically, Jesus gave thanks before he distributed the loaves that miraculously multiplied. He did the same before he distributed the fish. Jesus thanked God in faith for the miracle before it happened.
Jesus Our Example
Thankfulness for food may have been part of Jesus’ daily routine. Is it part of yours?
As you approach Thanksgiving Day, make sure to order your Thanksgiving Day celebration to make time to give thanks. Don’t rush it. Give all in attendance a chance to express their gratitude as well. God’s provision for us is miraculous. Take time to remember that every day, not just on Thanksgiving, each time you set down to eat of the food God provides for you.
It is God’s will that we be continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, each day becoming more like him. Christ was thankful. Pray that you become more thankful to the One who provides everything for your nourishment.
Look around this beautiful earth that we live on and remember who created it and sustains it. There is no God like our God! None can compare and none even make the claims of our God.
Psalm 95:3-5 expresses the completeness of God’s power and creation in the way typical of ancient Hebrew poetry.
The first two lines, a couplet, are the background and explanation for the following two couplets. Because the “Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.”, everything is made by him and belongs to him.
The next two couplets explain the breadth of God’s power and possessions. Just as in English we say “From A to Z” to explain something that is comprehensive, so these verses beautifully describe God. The verses are repeating the fact that God created everything but using different examples.
Both the “depths of the earth” and “mountain peaks belong to him.” So too “the sea is his” and “his hands formed the dry land”.
What does this mean for your everyday life? The God who is above all things and created all things has the power to intervene in your life. Whatever problem you are facing, God can create a solution for you.
Knowing that you are loved and forgiven by the Ruler of all brings freedom, peace and joy. So no matter the trials of your life, keep praising God and his power to rescue you.
In the book of Genesis is found the story of a dreamer with a multi-colored coat, Joseph. Favored by his father Jacob, Joseph was despised by his brothers. They resented him and his dreams.
Blinded by emotion, Joseph’s brothers sold him into bondage. Joseph was separated from his land and his family by his captors. His beloved father was overcome with grief thinking that his favorite son was dead. Joseph’s brothers became his enemies who did unthinkable evil to him.
Provision for Traitors
How did Joseph, a man of God, re-pay this horrible mistreatment? Joseph made sure that in the time of famine these very same brothers had enough for themselves and their families to eat. He settled them in a land of plenty and welcomed them into his royal palace.
Joseph had the power to destroy his brothers. He could’ve ignored their needs. Instead he chose to lavish kindness on them in exchange for the hatred they showed to him.
The Final Reckoning
But was kind to his brothers only to avoid further hurting his elderly father? This was the question that nagged at the brothers as they received Joseph’s kindness. Once Jacob the patriarch died, the depth of Joseph’s forgiveness would be seen. What would Joseph do to his brothers then? It is at this time that Joseph says these words:
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:15
The story of Joseph is recorded as an example of one who repaid evil with kindness. This principle is repeated throughout the Bible and will later be codified in Mosaic law and the teachings of Jesus. God wants us to learn how to react to the evil we are sure to encounter.
In Joseph is a type of Christ. Both were betrayed for money, without just cause. Both forgave and returned good for the evil given to them. The suffering of both led to the saving of lives. Joseph is a foreshadowing of the glorious suffering of Christ that led to the salvation of all the world!
Ask God to show you how you can return good for the evil done to you.
Going Further: In-Depth Exercises for Bible Teachers
(Often when Joseph is taught God’s favor is the focus. Remember and teach that God’s favor was seen in the midst of the heartbreaking suffering Joseph endured. Encourage your students to feel the depth of the brothers’ rage and the extent of Joseph’s pain in these first few exercises.) Read the text of Joseph’s brothers betrayal of him. (Genesis 37:12-36) List all the consequences Joseph immediately faced as a result.
If you were in a similar situation, list the emotions you would have felt at the time of the betrayal.
Who else was directly affected and saddened by Joseph being sold away to travelers? How do you think Joseph felt about this? How did the brothers feel about this?
Read Genesis 39 and Genesis 40:33 for more of the personal consequences Joseph faced later in his life because he was a slave in a strange land due to his brothers’ treachery.
Read over the story of Joseph then read the story of Jesus’ betrayal, suffering and crucifixion. Make a list of all the similarities you see. Then read a commentary comparing Joseph to Christ. (Like H.A. Ironside’s Care for God’s Fruit-trees and Other Messages or Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament) Encourage your students to find Christ each time they read the Old Testament.
How can you help your students put their enemies in perspective using the story of Joseph? Do you think that doing so may give them hope?
As Labor Day comes to a close, consider that work should be done for the glory of God. Do your best work and bring honor to your Father in heaven. When asked why you work well, be ready to tell others about the hope that is in you, Jesus Christ, the anchor of your hope.
The only posture to have in the presence of a holy God is humility and submission to his will. As New Testament believers, we are always in the presence of God and the posture of our hearts should always be one of worship. All day, everyday, remember to worship our awesome God.
Exceeding Expectations: The Choice of the Father in the Prodigal Son Story
“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”” (Luke 15:11–32, NIV)
The Prodigal Son left home with his share of his inheritance from his father. He wastes his money, the land he fled to is hit with famine and he is desperate. His need blinds him so much that he forgets who he is- a Hebrew, loved and kept by the God of Abraham. He is part of a people consecrated to God. As such, he is to avoid pigs. God commands this of his people. But his sins of greed and selfishness have hidden his true identity from him. He is no longer a beloved child of God and a member of a set-apart people but a penniless, hungry stranger in a strange land.
In the midst of his despair, God in his mercy makes the son “come to himself” (or “come to his senses) and remember who he belongs to and where he should be. It is a work of God when one is bought into a right mind. Jesus did this miracle for the man possessed by legions of demons. (Mark 5:15) Humbled but with a growing remembrance of who he is, he sets out for the home he never should have left. What did he expect to find when he returned? The text said he thought that his father would receive him and treat him as a servant. But there were other options.
4 possible responses of the father:
Turn the son away. “You left, so stay gone.” Interesting that the son didn’t even consider this. He must have known the compassion and kindness of his father. Such knowledge makes the demand of his inheritance early even worse. This must have been in his mind as he came to himself. What a wretch he was to be so cruel to a loving father! We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) You deserve God’s anger. (Ephesians 2:3) God could turn his back on you because of your sin. Why doesn’t he?
Allow the son to come back but to work and live like a servant to repay what he took from the father and wasted. The son would get the opportunity to work for his forgiveness. We often feel we need to work for forgiveness. The problem is we can not do enough work to make up for how bad our sin is in light of how holy God is. Our only hope is to throw ourselves at his mercy and rely on him, not ourselves.
Allow the son to come back and live without repayment but not as a full member of the household. The son would be partially restored but not back in full fellowship. He would be more than a servant but less than a son. The Prodigal Son recognized what a privilege it was to be called “son”. He did not feel he deserved that. He didn’t live up to the name “son”. He wrongfully took money from his father and violated the teachings his father gave him by dwelling with pigs.
Eagerly and joyfully welcome the son back as a full member of the household plus repay his foolish deeds with fresh clothes, a feast and a party in his honor. Such unexpected behavior echoes the sacrifices Israelites were commanded to give for their sin in Exodus. Temple sacrifices were like a joyous barbecue. The animals were roasted and eaten in fellowship with the community to celebrate God’s mercy and love of his sinful people who returned to him in humility. The restored Israelites could go back to their homes feeling free from sin and cleansed, joyful and grateful to their God.
Out of these options, the father in Jesus’ story chose only one.
As Jesus told this story the first time, which option do you think the original audience expected to hear? What would you think the outcome would be if you were there? If you heard a story like this today, how would you expect the father to react?
Why did Jesus include the story about the other son at the end? Jesus knew what was in the mind and hearts of the original listeners. He knew the words and attitudes of the son who stayed home reflected what his followers were thinking. He needed to address those heart attitudes to make his point clear. God is most pleased and abundantly merciful to those who humble themselves before him, no matter the sin.
God provides for you. He gives you so much every day. Have you ever wasted what God gave you, like time, talent or treasure? Have you ever been ungrateful for God’s provision and forgotten that he was your source? Have you left God and gone so far away from him that you found yourself deep in sin, unclean before your holy God? If so, you probably feel unworthy and unable to go back to your former beloved status.
But if in humility you go to your Heavenly Father, you will find him waiting for you with open arms of mercy and love. He celebrates your return. (Luke 15:7) It means more to him than you could imagine. Rejoice, knowing that you are loved by a Heavenly Father of abundance. He delights to do above and beyond what you can imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
He sent his Son Jesus to earth that we would have life with abundance. (John 10:10) His love for you is so great that nothing can overcome it. (Romans 8:35-3) He will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19) And he knows that your greatest needs are for grace, love and forgiveness. He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Any sin puts you on a path away from God like the Prodigal Son. Go to God in prayer today. Find forgiveness for sin and be restored to full relationship with your Heavenly Father.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
God frequently reminds his children not to fear. But fear is a common enemy, a part of every day life for many people even today. Is there a way to get through fear? Yes, there is and the answer is a theological one. Understanding who God is and what he does is the key.
If God is who he says he is and does what he says he does for his people, you have the power to gain victory over fear. God’s people can’t do God’s work if they are paralyzed by fear. Isaiah 41:10 reminds you not to fear. It gives two reasons not to fear and three ways God helps you in times of trouble.
You will overcome, in Jesus’ name. Isaiah 41:10 is packed with reasons for courageous hope. Meditate on it in times of fear.
God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, gives two reasons not to fear.
God is with you. God’s mighty presence is always with you to comfort you. Often, the scariest thing about going through a trial is feeling that you are going through it alone. As a child of God, you are never alone. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8) Have faith in the presence of God in your life no matter what you are going through. God sees and he cares.(Exodus 3:7) And he works everything out for your good. (Romans 8:28)
God is your Creator and the guide and guard of your life. He is your protective Father. He guides you as the Lord and master of your life. “I am your God”- these soothing words are rich with the love of a father for his children. How marvelous to have the courage of a child of God! Your God implies a personal, close relationship. Love the Lord your God
Next, Isaiah 41:10 states three ways God helps you overcome anything you fear. He will:
Strengthen you. When you are weak, he is strong. God strengthens you physically and spiritually. He gives a supernatural strength at times when you feel you can’t go on. Calling on God will make you run and not get weary. (Isaiah 40:31)
Help you. This Hebrew word, ezer, is the same one used to refer to Eve as Adam’s help meet or helper. In all but one other use in the Bible, is refers either to God or to military allies. Ezer comes from two root words- one means to rescue or save and the other means to be strong. From this word, used 16 times to describe God’s dealings with his people, we learn important characteristics of God. In the New Testament, Jesus promises a helper, parakletos, will come after he is gone. God has the power to help you in every way and he will!
Hold you up- When you feel like falling and the storms of life threaten to knock you down, God’s powerful hand will hold you up. When you feel weak, he is strong.
Call on God, remembering his strength and promises, so fear doesn’t overwhelm you.