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Lesson 2: A Woman Needing Truth

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“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)

Pray: Lord Jesus, please teach me through this lesson.

A Little Bit of History

In Jesus’ time, the two main geographical areas of the country of Israel were Galilee to the north and Judea to the south. Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, was located in the south. Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum and other cities where Jesus spent most of His time were located in Galilee. Between those two areas was the territory called Samaria, home of the Samaritans.

The Samaritans were considered to be half-breeds, the product of mixed marriages between Jews and the foreign people imported by Assyria (a country that spanned modern-day Syria and northern Iraq) when it conquered the northern Kingdom in 722 BC. The Samaritans had a polluted worship of God, insisting God should be worshiped on their Mount Gerizim. The Samaritan Bible contained only the books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) so they knew very little of God apart from that.

The Jews hated the Samaritans. Just being near them would make a Jew feel dirty. Though going through Samaria was the shortest route from Judea to Galilee, the Jews normally crossed the Jordan River to travel on the east side in order to avoid Samaria, especially since the Samaritans were generally hostile to traveling Jews.

Jesus, however, was not the typical Jew. Nothing could make him unclean. He travels through Samaria, and there He meets and talks with a Samaritan woman. Let’s call her ‘Samantha.’

1. Read John 2:25. What does Jesus know?

2. Read John 4:4-15. What did Jesus do when He got to Sychar (verses 5-6)?

Jesus was fully God and fully man. As a man, He experienced thirst, weariness, pain, and hunger. The “sixth hour” was noon according to Roman time.

3. How did Jesus begin a relationship with ‘Samantha’ (verse 7)?

4. ‘Samantha’ recognized Jesus as a Jew so she questioned His even talking to her. What gift did Jesus offer her in verse 10?

5. What additional explanation about “living water” does Jesus give to her in verses 13-14?

6. How did ‘Samantha’ respond (verse 15)?

7. Read John 7:37-39. When Jesus told her about “living water” (John 4:14), what was He offering to her?

Normally, a Jewish man would not speak publicly to women. But, Jesus did not hesitate to start the conversation. Drawing water was a daily chore for women. ‘Samantha’ thought Jesus was offering a way to meet that need to get water without her having to work for it.

To the people of Jesus’ day, “living water” referred to flowing water from a stream or spring rather than the still water found in a well or cistern. Such “living water” was highly valued. “Living water” in the Bible also referred to spiritual life. Jesus was offering to satisfy a deeper need than just physical thirst—the need for spiritual life.

8. Read John 4:16-26.

  • In verses 16-18, what does Jesus know about her that shows you He is also God? (See John 2:25.)
  • This time, what need do you think He was addressing in ‘Samantha’s’ life?
  • How does ‘Samantha’ change the subject in verses 19-20?

Jesus gets to meddling in her personal life, pointing out an area of need she can’t meet on her own—to have real love, a moral life, and fulfilling relationships. In a few words, Jesus revealed her sin and her need for salvation. It’s as though He was asking, “How’s that working for you?”

9. What truth does Jesus say about worship in the following verses?

  • Verse 21—
  • Verse 22— 
  • Verse 23—
  • Verse 24—

‘Samantha’ diverts the conversation away from her personal life to a controversial issue about where to worship God. Jesus responds by giving her truth (twice He mentions “truth”)—true worship is not dependent on a place but on “spirit and truth.”

The term “spirit” probably refers to the Holy Spirit of God who dwells inside all Christians and guides every believer to do what pleases God. True worship of God will be directed by the presence of the Holy Spirit and be rooted in the truth (meaning all of God’s written revelation, not just the books of Moses).

Notice that ‘Samantha’ refers to “our fathers” (verse 20) referring to traditions she knew. Jesus introduces God as “the Father,” indicating someone with whom she can have a loving relationship. This is more truth to satisfy her spiritual thirst.

10. Once again, Samantha changes the subject. What does she declare (verse 25)?

11. What truth does Jesus give to her about Himself (verse 26)?

The title “Christ” is from the Greek word christos, a translation of the Hebrew term “Messiah” meaning “anointed one.” The Old Testament prophets promised that the Messiah, as the anointed one of God, would come and do many wonderful things for God’s people, including restoring God’s Kingdom on earth. Christians are followers of Jesus, who is the Christ. ‘Samantha’ knew a little truth—a Messiah is coming. Jesus gave her more truth—He is that promised Messiah.

12. Read John 4:27-30.

  • How did ‘Samantha’ respond to Jesus and His conversation with her (verses 28-29)?
  • What did she leave behind (verse 28)?
  • How did the townspeople respond to Samantha’s news (verse 30)?

13. Read John 4:39-42.

  • How did the townspeople respond to what they heard (verses 39-40)?
  • How long did Jesus stay to teach the Samaritans truth?
  • What were the results (verse 41-42)?

‘Samantha’s’ words to her neighbors raised curiosity among them as Jesus had done with her. They came to see for themselves, and many believed in Him because of her story. They offered hospitality, urging Him to stay and continue teaching them truth that they then believed. In the last lesson, you read this:

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, He began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34)

That is what Jesus is doing here—teaching truth to men and women who had been deprived of it before this.

14. Read John 6:40. What is the Father’s will?

15. Read John 14:6. What does Jesus declare about Himself?

We can confidently say this: Jesus is the way to know God as the Father because Jesus shows us the truth about God in His life, and He gives His life to anyone who believes in Him. What about you today? Do you believe that Jesus is the way to know God as your Father?

Satisfied by His Love

‘Samantha’ grew up knowing only half-truths. And, because she was deficient in truth, she could not have a proper relationship with the true God. Her need for spiritual life remained unsatisfied, then Jesus entered her life. Jesus is the Son of God who came to live as a man on this earth and to give eternal life to anyone who would believe in Him.

‘Samantha’ needed this truth as did every other person Jesus met on earth. Jesus satisfied her need for real life, real love, and fulfilling relationships by giving her Himself. And, He continues to offer that to everyone today.

By knowing the truth about Jesus and experiencing a relationship with Him, you will also be satisfied by His love.

16. Think about your story of knowing Jesus and respond according to your own experience:

  • If you have already trusted in Jesus to be your Savior, think back to what life was like before knowing Jesus. What triggered your need for Jesus? What did God use to draw you to Him?
  • If you trusted in Jesus as a child and kept faithful to Him through the years, what did God use to keep you drawn to Himself?
  • If you have not made the decision to believe that Jesus is who He says He is—God’s Son, you can put your trust in Him today and experience His love for you right away. If you do this, tell someone. If you are still unsure, ask Jesus to reveal Himself through the truth of His Word. Ask someone to meet with you and answer questions you might have.

Your response:

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Truth

On the night before His trial and crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that He was going there to prepare a place for them, and they could follow because they knew the way to get there.

But one of His disciples named Thomas wasn’t so sure about this. So, Thomas asked Jesus, “How can we know the way?” Jesus answered with a strong declaration of truth,

“‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

We can confidently say this: Jesus is the way to know God as Father because He shows us the truth about God in His life, and He gives His life to anyone who believes in Him.

Let’s look at each one of those words—Way, Truth, and Life.

Jesus is the Way.

Jesus says He is the only way for any person to have a relationship with God the Heavenly Father. By simply believing in Him.

Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension back to Heaven, one of Jesus’ followers named Peter confidently declared to the religious leaders of Jerusalem,

“Salvation is found in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

The first Christians were so convinced of Jesus being the only way to know God and taught this truth everywhere so they were called “followers of the way.” As a “follower of the way,” the apostle Paul traveled extensively preaching that Jesus is the way to know God, the way to receive forgiveness for your sins, and the way to live a life that pleases God. Anyone who asked him, “How can I know God?” Paul would answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” He’s the way.

Based on this understanding, would you identify yourself as a “follower of the way?”

Other people may try to tell you that there are many ways to get to Heaven, such as just being a good person or doing good works. Or, they might say there are other gods out there besides the God of the Bible.

But, you can tell them only one man died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins: Jesus. Only one man was ever resurrected from the dead with a new body that will never die again: Jesus. Only Jesus was truly God. Anyone who believes in Jesus can now have forgiveness of their sins and a relationship with God.

No other religious leader has ever been resurrected from the dead, and they are all in their graves. Jesus is not in His grave. He was resurrected from the grave, given a new body, and is sitting in Heaven on His kingly throne ready to welcome you and me when we trust in Him.

Jesus is the only way for any person to have a relationship with God. You have to start with that and believe that. Jesus said He is the way. Jesus also said He is the truth.

Jesus is the Truth.

After Jesus told His disciples that He was the way, the truth, and the life, the next thing He said was very important.

“If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:7)

When Jesus was on earth, He showed everyone the truth about God the Father. Jesus was loving and kind, showing us God is loving and kind. Jesus was always good, showing us that God is always good. Jesus showed us that God answers prayer and that God hates sin. Jesus was the living truth of God.

Jesus declared this to a crowd listening to Him,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Knowing the truth will set you free from error, misconceptions, ad bondage to lies that have prevented you from having a satisfying relationship with God in your life.

Jesus was the truth of God back then and is still the truth of God. Truth never changes. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is also the life.

Jesus is the Life.

Anyone who believes in Jesus not only has a relationship with God but also receives eternal life. Eternal life starts the moment you believe in Jesus, can never end, and no one can take it away from you!

That is Jesus’ promise to us when He said,

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die….” (John 11:25)

Even though your body dies, your soul lives on in Heaven where you will one day receive a new body just like Jesus’ new body, one that will never die again. That’s eternal life. But, when Jesus said He is the life, He meant even more than that. Paul describes this beautifully in Galatians 2…

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

As part of God’s family, God’s Spirit comes to live inside you and enables you to live a life that pleases God your Father. He changes the way you think and feel to be more like the way Jesus thought and felt when He was on earth. Jesus is the truth that satisfies.

Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. Another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. As the Bible promises,

“for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

A satisfied heart stands firmly on the truth that brings real life and real love and fulfilling relationships. Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love.

17. Read the following prayer and then express what it means to you to be satisfied by Jesus’ life in you.

How absolutely amazing is your loving plan, oh God, that takes care of my need to know you! Help me to hold onto the truth that Jesus is the only way to have a relationship with God as my Father. Help me to believe that I am truly your child, completely loved and accepted by you the moment I trusted in Jesus. Fill my heart with joy and celebration because Jesus’ life is inside me.

Response in prayer and praise:

Ask Jesus to satisfy your heart through knowing Him. Trust Him to work in your life to bring you healing, hope, and freedom. Thank Him for His grace toward you and His unending love for you.

Discover more about Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read Luke 5. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 6. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 7. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 8. Reflect on what you read.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

Lesson 3: A Woman Needing Forgiveness

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“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

Pray: Lord Jesus, please teach me through this lesson.

A Little Bit of History

After Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, He continued teaching and performing many miracles. It was a time of great popularity when Jesus gained many followers. He chose His 12 disciples and preached the Sermon on the Mount. He spent time traveling throughout Galilee and in the area of Capernaum (a sizeable town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee). Peter (one of the 12 disciples) had a house there that became Jesus' base of operations during His extended ministry in Galilee. The inhabitants of Capernaum had many opportunities to see and hear Jesus and to offer hospitality to Him.

Hospitality to guests was one of the most important social functions of Jesus’ time. A guest was highly honored even if he was a stranger passing through the town. When a stranger appeared at someone's door close to evening, the head of the household usually let him in and asked him to spend the night.

If the homeowner refused to be hospitable, he could be snubbed by friends and neighbors. A host always kept in mind that someday he, too, might be a weary traveler looking for shelter and company.

Once inside, the host’s wife or servant brought water to wash the guest's feet, though the host might do it for a special guest. Since the roads were always dusty and most people walked, washing was a common courtesy that made one's guest feel at home. At mealtime, the guest would often be served first. Other customs included anointing the guest with oil, which they used as soap, or even providing clean clothing for the mealtime.

According to custom, a guest should stay no longer than three days in his host's home. While there, he was protected by his host. On leaving, the host was to escort his guest a short distance, sending him safely on his way.

One day, Jesus was a guest in someone’s home…

1. Read Luke 7:36-50.

The Pharisees were a religious society of ~6,000 men who strictly obeyed the Jewish laws as interpreted by the teachers of the law (also called scribes). This law consisted of the written Mosaic Law (found in the first five books of the Old Testament) plus the tradition of the elders, containing hundreds of rules and prohibitions that were equally important to God’s Law. They considered themselves to be Israel’s spiritual leaders.

Though originally standing against evil in Jewish society, by Jesus' day many Pharisees had become narrow-minded and petty, more concerned with rules than with relationships, even with God. They looked at other Jews as well as Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew) as tainted and, therefore, to be avoided. In their minds, no rabbi (Jewish “pastor”) or religious leader should mingle or eat with such “sinners.” Jesus confronted this wrong view of people. So, many Pharisees were opposed to Him.

2. Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. What did he call Jesus in verse 40?

Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner from a Pharisee. He did not cut all the religious leaders off simply because most of them rejected Him. He dealt with people as individuals, and He still does!

The men are reclining around a table as they eat. A woman enters the scene. Let’s call her ‘Emma.’

3. Who is ‘Emma’ (verse 37)?

4. What does she do (verses 37-38)?

5. Put yourself in ‘Emma’s’ place. Why do you think she was weeping, using her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet?

6. Both the alabaster jar and the perfume inside were very costly and could have been ‘Emma’s’ dowry or her savings. What was she giving to Jesus?

If you are thinking that this woman “crashed the party,” social custom allowed needy people to visit such meals and to partake of some of the leftovers. And, it was not unusual for people to drop in when a rabbi was visiting. ‘Emma’ must have heard Jesus teach, which might have given her hope for a new life. Overcome by her brokenness and her need for forgiveness, ‘Emma’ gave to Him the most precious thing she had.

7. What was Simon the Pharisee thinking while this was happening (verse 39)?

8. Jesus read his thoughts (only God can do that) and took the opportunity to teach Simon. What does Jesus teach through the parable (verses 40-43)?

9. Then, how does Jesus address Simon’s harsh attitude in verses 44-47?

Simon viewed this heartbroken woman as dirty and someone to be avoided. Jesus read his thoughts showing that He was indeed a prophet. Remember John 2:25 from Lesson Two? Jesus always knows what is in the heart of men and women.

Jesus contrasted Simon’s lack of courtesy and respect for Him as a guest with the woman’s tender attentions to Him. The Pharisees didn’t recognize their own need for forgiveness because they “followed” the rules, yet their hearts were hard toward God and people.

I heard someone say that your capacity to love is directly tied to your capacity to get how deeply you have been forgiven. When you see yourself as righteous and not needing anything from Jesus (like Simon), you lose compassion for the lost and needy. ‘Emma’ knew how deeply she needed forgiveness.

10. In verses 47-48, what does Jesus grant to ‘Emma’?

11. What else does He say to her in verse 50?

12. Put yourself in ‘Emma’s’ shoes. She needed something from Jesus. For what need(s) do you think she came to Him?

13. What did Jesus give to her to satisfy those needs so that she could choose a different kind of life?

Jesus grants forgiveness and peace to ‘Emma’ because of her faith and love. She needed a relationship with God, forgiveness for her sins, and a chance for a new life. He accepted her gift of love and publicly acknowledged her faith and forgiveness. Jesus gave her respect, hope, and a new beginning. ‘Emma’ could go in peace with her need for forgiveness completely satisfied by Jesus’ love for her. She now has to make choices to live a different kind of life and hopefully leave her life of immorality.

Satisfied by His Love

Jesus took notice of this “worthless” woman of the town. Because she was held in bondage by her sin, she could not have a proper relationship with the true God. Her need for spiritual life remained unsatisfied. Jesus entered her life. He recognized her faith in Him, cleansed her of sin, and gave her new hope. ‘Emma’ needed this as much as every other person on earth. Jesus satisfied her need for real life, real love, and fulfilling relationships by giving her Himself. He does the same for you. No matter what you've done and who won’t forgive you, Jesus does—through faith in Him!

We don’t just need a teacher. We need a Savior who comes in and does for us what we can’t do for ourselves: forgiveness. All of our debt before God is enormous; we are incapable of ever paying it back.

14. Read Hebrews 10:22. What does God promised that He will do for your conscience when you draw near to His presence by faith?

Dwell on the FACT that Jesus will cleanse your conscience from guilt. Will you take Him at His word? If there is any past sin for which you are still feeling guilty, claim God’s complete forgiveness today. You can simply tell God,

"Thank You for forgiving me, thank You for cleansing me…Thank You for being bigger than my sins, and being able to turn things around in ways I cannot imagine. With Jesus' help, I receive the assurance that You have forgiven me. Help my heart catch up with my head on this. Help me to see that You allowed me to go down that dark path into sin because You are able to redeem even the worst things we do." (Sue Bohlen, Probe Ministries, Sept. 2012)

Now, choose to believe you are forgiven and allow Jesus to cleanse your conscience from any residual guilt. Every time you think about it again, thank God for His amazing gift!

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Forgiveness

Like the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears in Luke 7, many of us carry the guilt of our sins with us like a heavy burden, weighing us down. The continual reminder of our sins keeps us from experiencing freedom and from enjoying the relationship with God that we have by faith in Jesus Christ. You and I need to understand how complete and continual is God’s forgiveness of us. And, we need to know how to deal with any recognized sin in our lives so that we won’t carry that guilt.

In the Bible, the term “forgiveness” means “to send off or send away.” Our sin is transferred to a substitute, Jesus, and taken away. People in Old Testament times were accepted by God and received eternal life in the same way as we are today: by faith in the merciful grace of God. For daily living, however, they had to bring their animal sacrifice to the priest. Their sin was transferred to that sacrifice, and they received forgiveness for their sins up to that point. In Luke 7, Jesus declared forgiveness of sins to a sorrowful, sinful woman without a sacrifice, shocking the other guests. He did this because of her faith in the merciful grace of God.

God promised His people that one day forgiveness would no longer be a temporary solution, but be complete and permanent. That happened on the cross through Jesus.

As Paul declared in Colossians 2,

“When you were dead in your sins…God made you[a] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

Once you place your faith in Jesus Christ, whatever you have done that was wrong in God’s eyes from the time you were born through the time of your death has been canceled. Taken away. All of it. Past, present and future. Nailed to the cross.

It’s even better than that. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says,

that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”

Since your sins have been taken away, God is longer counting them against you. Just like the woman in our lesson today, you are forgiven based on your faith alone. Sins are applied to Jesus who takes them on your behalf. Once you have trusted in Jesus, Ephesians 1 says that forgiveness is something we possess as believers. We receive God’s forgiveness for all our sins (past, present, and future) from the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. That is very important for you to know. Forgiveness is complete and continual.

Although our God does not hold our sin against us any longer, and His grace is continually forgiving us of sin, that does not give us permission to intentionally sin. Intentional sin does not fit with who you are as a forgiven Christian with a new life to enjoy.

But, as long as we live in these earthly bodies, we will be tempted to sin. Sin will happen—whether intentionally or unintentionally. So, as an already forgiven Christian, you might ask, “How do I deal with sin when I recognize it in my life?”

Great question. Here’s the biblical process for dealing with sin as a believer:

Step One: View yourself rightly.

Your identity is not “_______” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever that sin is).

You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “_____” (covets, is greedy, gossips).

Step Two: Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your sin.

To confess biblically means to agree with God about what you and He both know to be true. Confession is not a formula, a process, or dependent on a mediator. Regarding sin in my life, it is not saying, “I’m sorry.” It is saying, “I agree with you, God. I blew it!” You see your sin as something awful!

Using sexual immorality as an example: while reading 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, the Spirit convicts you that sexual immorality in any form is not pleasing to God. You are instructed to "flee/avoid immorality." You recognize this sin in your life. You agree with God that your immoral sexual behavior is seeking love and acceptance from the wrong source. It doesn’t fit someone who knows God. That is confession.

Step Three: Confession is incomplete without repentance.

Repentance means to change your mind about that sin, to turn away from it, to mourn its ugliness, resulting in changing your actions. Paul says that godly sorrow brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Like the woman in Luke 7. It’s saying, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it hurts You, God. Please help me to live differently.” That’s how our lives get transformed.

For sexual immorality: You want to live in order to please God, and God wants you to avoid sexual immorality. So, you pray, “Lord Jesus, please have your Spirit nudge me when I am not holy and honorable with my body. Help me to say no to temptation and to give up any relationship that is not honorable to you. By faith, Lord, I want you to do that in my life.” That is repentance.

Repentance isn’t repentance until you change something. You can confess “until the cows come home” (daily, habitually) and never change anything. Jesus called for people to “repent” not “confess.”

Step Four: Repentance leads to dependence.

Depend on the living Christ inside you for that change to take place. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in our compliance (outward conformity) as much as He desires our obedience from the heart.

For sexual immorality: Memorize 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 and any other scriptures that deal with staying pure and not rejecting God’s instructions. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s nudging when you are tempted to do otherwise. Choose to desire a life that pleases God.

Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. Another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. The complete and continual forgiveness we receive by faith in Jesus satisfies our thirst for love and acceptance. This forgiveness motivates us to want to live a life that pleases Him. As the Bible promises,

“for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

A satisfied heart basks in forgiveness, love and acceptance. Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love.

15. Is there any ugliness in your life that you mourn? Follow the steps above to live in freedom from that ugliness. Will you trust Jesus to work on this area of your life? For example, if you are currently in immoral behavior, such as an affair, pornography, living with or attracted to someone who is not your spouse, what choices do you need to make in order to flee from immorality or leave your life of sin? Be confident that your Heavenly Father has given you everything you need in order to do this.

Response in prayer and praise:

Ask Jesus to satisfy your heart through knowing Him. Trust Him to work in your life to bring you healing, hope, and freedom. Thank Him for His grace toward you and His unending love for you.

Discover more about Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read Luke 9. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 10. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 11. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 12. Reflect on what you read.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

Lesson 4: Two Women Needing Hope

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“He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’” (Mark 5:34)

Pray: Lord Jesus, please teach me through this lesson.

A Little Bit of History

Hopefully in our study so far, you have seen how absolutely different the Lord Jesus Christ was from His culture in the way He regarded women! Thus, as Jesus’ ministry unfolded, the average citizen of Israel began to witness an extraordinary approach to women, one that cut against the grain of commonly held practices. Jesus treated women as no man had ever treated them before. His warmth, personal attention, tenderness, sound teaching, and compassion toward women were revolutionary.             

Jesus taught God’s Word to large crowds in the area around Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. As He taught, He also healed many people who were in desperate need of hope in their lives. The news about His teaching and the miracles spread, drawing large crowds wherever Jesus went. One day in the midst of one of these large crowds, Jesus encountered a woman and a girl who were also in desperate need of hope.

1. Read Mark 5:21-34.

Focus on the Sick Woman

Let’s call the woman ‘Dottie.’

2. Looking at verses 22-24, where was Jesus heading and why?

3. From verses 25-26, describe ‘Dottie’ and her circumstances.

Her condition is probably uterine hemorrhaging like a number of women experience with endometriosis or fibroid tumors. Some of the medical treatments available for her condition included carrying ashes of ostrich eggs on your body and taking ground-up willow bark—a bitter-tasting remedy containing salicin, an aspirin-like drug, that would have only aggravated her bleeding.

According to the Mosaic Law, anyone with this condition was considered unclean until healed. She was excluded from the temple area (and synagogue seating), excluded from mingling with others, and considered separated from God. Anyone who touched her or anything she touched would be unclean. This likely pale, emaciated woman was without any hope.

4. Think about the kind of life ‘Dottie’ had led for 12 years. Considering what you as a woman enjoy in life, what did she miss out on?

5. What brought ‘Dottie’ to Jesus for healing?

The prevailing opinions of her day were that bad things didn’t happen to good people. The thought was that everyone got what they justly deserved. Thus, to be stricken with a chronic, incurable disease such as this was equated with sinful behavior, presumably being immoral. People shunned her. She was not invited to parties, weddings, or to anyone’s house for dinner. She couldn’t even sit in the women’s section of the synagogue. If married, her husband would be unclean for 7 days after every sexual encounter with her; perhaps she had been divorced and shut off from her family. She is an outcast—lonely, isolated, and probably in a state of clinical depression.

No one brought her to Jesus. But, she heard about Him and acted on that news. It’s our job to share with others about how Jesus can change lives. No one knows how many times it takes for someone to pay attention and respond. All we can do is tell.

6. Put yourself in her shoes. As an ordinary woman, what emotions would ‘Dottie’ have experienced…

  • As she reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak (verses 27-28)?
  • After she felt healing (verse 29)?

7. Read Mark 5:30-34.

  • After Jesus willingly extended His healing power to ‘Dottie,’ what did He do next (verses 30-32)?
  • What did ‘Dottie’ do then (verse 33)? See also Luke 8:47.
  • Then, what did Jesus say to her (verse 34)?
  • When Jesus insisted that she publicly reveal herself, how would that be an advantage to her?

‘Dottie’ acts on her own faith—mixed with some superstition about His garments (“If I just touch His clothes”). Later it was a common practice for the crowds to touch the hem of His garments and be healed. Here Jesus chooses to single out this woman’s case for clarification. There is no magic in the garments of Jesus. Even if there is superstition in the woman’s mind, Jesus honors her faith, “I will be healed” (verse 28).

Jesus knew what happened because He was always God. He laid aside His glory and did not use His attributes for Himself while on earth. But He always knew what those around Him were thinking before they spoke.

It is a dramatic moment for Jesus and for the fearful woman. When she revealed herself and told what she did and why, Jesus affectionately called her “daughter,” signifying a relationship with Him (and possibly a clue to her age), and publicly declared her healed. She was now freed from her suffering.

Jesus sent the healed woman off in peace to a changed life of wholeness and hope. She could enter society because she was healed AND she received spiritual life as well. Our God always does more than we ask or think!

Focus on the Girl (and Her Family)

8. Reread Mark 5:21-23 and Luke 8:41-42.

The local synagogue was the place of worship and instruction in the community. Worshipers gathered once a week to pray and read the Scriptures. Services included prescribed readings, prayer, and a sermon. Respected teachers who were visiting for the Sabbath were usually invited to speak.

The ruler of the synagogue was a layman whose responsibilities included such things as looking after the building (maintenance, repairs, and cleaning) as well as supervising the worship (conducting services, selecting participants and maintaining order). He sat in the reserved seats for elders and rulers and was a very important man in the community.

Since Jesus called the girl ‘Talitha,’ that’s what we will call her, too.

9. What do you learn about ‘Talitha’?

10. What did Jairus want Jesus to do?

The synagogue ruler was a prominent and usually wealthy man. But he had a problem that neither his prominence nor his wealth could solve. His precious daughter was dying. Jairus is very specific in what He wants Jesus to do. “Come and touch her.” The Jews believed that the touch transmitted vitality. Jairus had faith in Jesus’ touch, and he expressed that faith. Jesus acts upon the faith we have which is wonderful and encouraging to us. But, would Jesus take time out to go to Jairus’ house for a little girl? The answer is, “Yes.” To Him, this little girl is just as important as anyone else. He starts off with the crowd following Him.

11. Read Mark 5:35-43. During the interruption when Jesus healed ‘Dottie,’ what has now occurred at Jairus’ house (verse 35)?

12. What does Jesus tell Jairus in verse 36? See also Luke 8:50.

Jesus heads to the house and sees a commotion—mourners at work, weeping and wailing. Paid mourners developed as a profession in Old Testament times and continued into the time of Jesus. As a career that passed from mother to daughter, professional mourners were almost always women. Their mourning included loud wailing, sad songs, and eulogies, sometimes accompanied by flutes.

13. What does Jesus say to the wailing crowd outside Jairus’ house (verse 39)?

14. What was the wailers’ response to Jesus?

15. Who went into the room with Jesus (verses 37 & 40)?

16. Once inside, what did Jesus do then (verses 41-43)? (Notice His tenderness toward the girl through His words and gestures.)

17. How is Jairus’ initial faith challenged and stretched through this whole incident?

18. Reread Luke 8:50. What was Jesus’ plan all along?

After hearing that his daughter was dead, Jesus told Jairus to stop being afraid and to keep on believing for she would be healed. Since being afraid and believing are mutually exclusive, you can’t do both at the same time. The Psalmist writes, “I will trust and not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3) It’s as though Jesus was saying to Jairus, “I’m still on it.”

This is important for us as well. When fear overwhelms us, we can with an act of our will stop being afraid and choose to believe God that He is in control and will not abandon us. Fear is an emotion; faith is an act of the will. From Jairus' viewpoint, he had to wait an agonizingly long time for Jesus to respond to his request through delays, diversions, and disappointing news. Jesus had not forgotten Jairus. He could have healed the girl from a distance, but He didn’t. He stretched Jairus’ faith through the waiting.

Faith is learning to say to Jesus, “Lord, I can’t do this on my own. But, You can do this in and through me. I will trust You.” Then, see what He does.

Satisfied by His Love

Jesus stopped His public ministry to heal two women—one publicly; the other privately. One was socially dead; the other was physically dead. One touched Him and was healed without a word; the other He touched and spoke to when she was healed. One was an outcast; the other was loved within her family circle. Both received the hope of new life.

Two women were beyond human help and without hope. ‘Dottie’ was held in bondage to her disease and could not have a proper relationship with her God or her community. Jesus lovingly took notice of both of them and gave them hope through healing. Jesus took time away from the crowd to minister to each one personally. He used endearing terms (“daughter” and “little girl”) to address them, not just “woman” and “child.” He satisfied their immediate needs and gave them abundant life and hope for the future.

Jesus also gave ‘Dottie’ an opportunity to tell her story publicly. Her pain caused her to seek help from Jesus by faith. Everyone hears her tell why she touched Him and how she had been instantly healed.

19. Describe any of your own painful, hopeless circumstances that have driven you to Jesus. What did you learn about His faithfulness through that experience? How did others minister to you in love, showing Jesus to you and giving you hope?

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Hope

In the crowd pressing around Jesus is a woman with a desperate need. Her life is a living death, and her condition is hopeless. Having suffered for 12 years with no break, she is likely pale, emaciated, and weakened. She used all her financial resources to seek out one doctor after another, yet she was worse. This desperate woman hears about Jesus. Hope flickers in her heart.

Sadly, no friend has brought her to Jesus. She acts on her own faith—mixed with some superstition about His garments. She reaches out and touches His cloak. Immediately, her bleeding stops. She feels it. She knows she is completely healed. It is a vivid moment of joy for her!

As Jesus took time out from His busy schedule to minister to two women personally, He also takes a personal interest in each one of us. Yet, as He meets our individual needs, Jesus has the right to choose what He brings into our lives. He wants us to stop being afraid and to keep on believing, to exercise the faith that we have. All of this offers hope to anyone going through what seems to be insurmountable odds.

What is hope?

The kind of hope that the world offers is generally the wishful thinking kind where someone is not sure they will get what they want or need but “hopes” they will.

Biblical hope is the confident expectation that God will fulfill His promises to you because it is based on the character and faithfulness of God.

You need hope when you are facing something tough, when you are sad, or when you can’t see the end of a painful time. Losing hope leads to discouragement and despair. Hope is essential to human life. In Titus 2, Jesus is called “our blessed hope,” promising that Jesus is coming back to earth to make right whatever is wrong. But, in the meantime, Jesus offers us hope now. In the midst of troubles, He satisfies our hearts with hope through healing and through comfort.

Hope through healing

Let’s talk first about hope through healing. The psalmist said this,

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:2-3)

As we learned in the last lesson, once you trust in Jesus, all your sins—past, present, and future—are completely forgiven. You don’t have to wait on that. But what about the “heals all your diseases” part? We know through experience that God doesn’t automatically heal every Christian from every disease. You or someone you love dearly may be struggling with a chronic illness or a debilitating injury. And when you read through the gospels, seeing Jesus heal so many people instantly, it’s easy to question why that doesn’t seem to be true today.

So, let’s look at two things: why Jesus performed so many miracles and how He heals today.

1. Why did Jesus perform so many miracles?

Jesus’ miracles demonstrated that He is God and that His message, therefore, has authority (Acts 2:22). Miracles authenticate the message and the messenger. Miracles also demonstrate God’s compassion for His people. Through His miracles, Jesus showed that…

  • He has power beyond that of an ordinary man. The laws of the natural world, which He created, were not boundaries for Him.
  • He is the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the Messiah. The Messiah would be recognized by the works He would do—healing the blind, freeing prisoners, and releasing the oppressed. Jesus basically said to people "I am that one."
  • He is God on earth. In John 6:25, Jesus calls miracles "signs," pointing to the fact that He was the Messiah—God on Earth. The crowds just wanted the benefits—food, protection, health. Jesus wanted people to believe that He was their God in human form.

2. How does God still heal today?

God still performs miracles today though we may not see them as often as we’d like. Miracles still authenticate the message and the messenger. For someone claiming to do miraculous things, always make sure their message exalts Jesus as the only way to God, that the Bible is their only authority, and that forgiveness of sins is found only through Jesus Christ. Then, you can be confident that you are seeing the genuine works of God. Remember that the greatest miracle is what God does to change a human heart from the inside out and redeem a lost life. He is doing that in abundance.

In Psalm 103, the phrase “heals all your diseases” could also refer to God enabling the human body to heal itself. God created the human body with a marvelous immune system. Yet, you’ve no doubt seen where the same treatment for a disease will work well for one person but not for another. We don’t understand why. But, we must trust God’s goodness in what He chooses to do.

Jesus has the right to choose what He brings into our lives. He tells us to stop being afraid and to keep on believing, to exercise the faith that we have, and to hold onto hope.

Hope through comfort when healing is delayed

When God withholds or delays healing, He promises comfort. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

The promise is that Jesus comforts us in ALL our troubles. That includes those that just seem to happen to us like chronic illness or pain as well as those we cause because of wrong choices we make. Paul had a chronic physical illness. He writes about it in 2 Corinthians,

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

God loved Paul dearly; he was doing the work God gave him to do. But, God’s answer was still, “No.” So, Paul said, “I will boast in my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” That frees us and moves us in the direction that will give us hope.

Through any life challenge, including physical debilitation, God wants us to learn to not depend on ourselves but to depend on God and His great power. He wants us to put our hope in Him and count on His work to deliver us when we are in the midst of troubles. Sometimes we want to just quit. It’s God’s power in us that makes us strong during those times. In His strength, we receive hope through comfort.

Even the most loving parents must let their children hurt (cutting teeth, riding a bike) sometimes in order for them to live as adults. God loves you more than the best parents can and wants you to learn how to live as His child, depending on Him for the comfort and strength that flows from His grace to you.

Human parents raise their children to be less dependent on them and more independent. But, God raises His children to be less independent and more dependent on Him. Whatever He brings into our lives that makes us more dependent upon Him is good for us.

You may feel that God isn’t noticing your pain. He knows. He chooses what will make you more like the Lord Jesus Christ. And suffering is an important instrument in His hands much as you may hate it.

In your pain, say to Him, “I am your daughter, Lord. Help me to deal with this situation. Please give me your hope and comfort.” Remember that God is good all the time. You can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do in your life. Trouble is part of human life. Christians who are loved by God will suffer some troubles in this world, but Jesus is Your comforter when you hurt.

Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. Another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. Jesus Christ satisfies our thirst for hope and comfort when we need it. As the Bible promises,

“for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

A satisfied heart faces any dire situation with hope. Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love.

20. What in your life right now is very tough, sad, or otherwise painful? Believe that God loves you even though He allows you to go through that pain. Ask Jesus to heal your diseases. And, while waiting, ask Him to fill your heart with comfort and hope as you endure pain and suffering.

21. Often God uses our Christian brothers and sisters to share Jesus’ comfort with us. With whom have you shared your pain? Have you allowed them to pray for you? To assist you? To give you comfort?

Response in prayer and praise:

Ask Jesus to satisfy your heart through knowing Him. Trust Him to work in your life to bring you healing, hope, and freedom. Thank Him for His grace toward you and His unending love for you.

Discover more about Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read Luke 13. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 14. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 15. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 16. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 17. Reflect on what you read.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

Lesson 5: A Woman Needing Freedom

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“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that He had said these things to her.” (John 20:18)

Pray: Lord Jesus, please teach me through this lesson.

A Little Bit of History

As Jesus continued His public ministry, more and more people began to travel with Him from one town to the next. Some were no doubt just curious onlookers. But others followed because they wanted to accompany the person who had so radically changed their lives. Mary, the Magdalene, was one of those.

Mary came from Magdala, a small village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, southwest of Capernaum. Once famous for its fine woolens and dyed products (the dye came from shellfish caught in its waters), Magdala had as many as 4,000 inhabitants with 80 weavers' shops. It was also known by two other names—Magadan and Dalmanutha. In Jesus' day, it was primarily a Gentile city with a lot of Roman influence. Two gospel writers record Jesus going there (Matthew 15:39-16:4; Mark 8:10-12). Perhaps that is when He met the woman we now know as Mary Magdalene.

1. Read Luke 8:1-3. List every reference to women, including names and any information given about them.

Mary Magdalene had been freed from the bondage of demons (also called evil or unclean spirits) controlling her life. Demon possession was exhibited in a variety of ways—blindness, deafness, muteness, seizures, irrational behavior, crippling of body, cutting oneself, and/or violent behavior. Anyone who was in such spiritual bondage lived a miserable existence.

There is no scriptural evidence that Mary had been immoral. A church leader around 500 AD associated Mary with the immoral woman in the previous passage (Luke 7:36-50), but there is no scriptural evidence for that. This unfairly added that stigma onto Mary’s character.

2. How might her plight as a demon-possessed woman have affected Mary’s life…

3. What did these women do as they followed Jesus (verse 3)?

4. Consider the activities that “helping to support them” as He traveled might have involved. List as many as you can.

Jesus did not use daily miracles to provide for His own needs and for those of His 12 disciples as He traveled throughout Galilee and onward to Jerusalem 70 miles away. Instead, He lived as a man daily dependent upon God to provide. In this way, He could identify with all of humanity and gave opportunity for men and women to support His ministry. This set an example for later apostles and missionaries to be supported by those who benefited from their preaching. These women probably gathered and prepared food, washed clothes, filled water jars, repaired clothing and sandals, baked bread, and probably paid for shelter at an inn.

5. Based upon what you have learned so far, how did Jesus' acceptance of what these women did for Him go contrary to the culture?

6. Why do you think these women supported Jesus by their service and their money?

7. How did traveling with Jesus also benefit them?

Jesus accepted their money and their service as an act of worship, love and gratitude. Other rabbis might have taken the money in an offering but never accepted their close presence. These women were blessed by just being with Him and hearing His teaching over and over again. They saw every miracle. They watched Him interact with people—alongside the 12 disciples. They were unofficial disciples who became a part of the early church.

8. Read Matthew 17:22-23 and Luke 24:1-8. What information did Jesus give to His disciples (and the women) to prepare them for the future?

So, when Jesus headed to Jerusalem for the Passover, Mary Magdalene experienced firsthand the events of the last week of Jesus' life. Consider the joy and expectation she probably felt during His triumphal entry and His cleansing of the Temple. Yes! But, she may have felt anxiety about what would happen in Jerusalem.  Then, she experienced the agony and horror of His arrest and trial. What a shock!

9. Read Matthew 27:55-61. How did Mary Magdalene and the other women continue to minister to Jesus at His crucifixion?

10. Read Luke 23:55-24:1. After His death, how did Mary Magdalene and the other women continue to minister to Jesus?

At a time when most of Jesus’ 12 disciples deserted Him (except for John), these women stayed close to Him. In this case, being “lowly women” (in their culture) was an advantage because they weren’t seen as a threat.

11. Read Matthew 28:1-10 and answer the following questions.

  • Who saw the angels? See also Mark 16:1, 5-6 and Luke 24:1 & 10.
  • What did the angel(s) tell the women to do (Matthew 28:5-7)?
  • Who saw Jesus (Matthew 28:8-9)?
  • How did they respond to Jesus (Matthew 28:9)?
  • What did Jesus tell the women to do (Matthew 28:10)?

12. Read John 20:1-9. John only mentioned Mary Magdalene’s presence at the tomb. We know from the other gospels that Mary was not alone at the tomb (verse 2, “we”). Like John, let’s focus on Mary’s experience on that beautiful morning.

  • When Mary Magdalene ran to the disciples, what was her concern (verse 2)?
  • Read John 20:10-18.
  • After the disciples left, what did Mary do and see (verse 11-12)?
  • When asked by the angels why she was crying, what is still her concern (verse 13)?
  • When she turned around, whom did she see (verse 14)?
  • When asked by Jesus why she was crying and who she was looking for, what does her response (verse 15) reveal about her boldness as a woman?
  • What happens when Jesus calls her by name?

Faithful Mary went to the tomb, ready to prepare Jesus’ body properly, probably thinking this was her last opportunity to serve Him. When she saw the empty tomb, she felt helpless to find Him and to care for His body. Three times she wants to know where He has “been put.” She wants to find Him and declares, “I will get Him.” How could she do that? This is such a bold statement from one gutsy woman!

Jesus calls her by name, and she recognizes Him. Mary may have embraced Jesus physically (as did the women in Matthew 28:9-10) for the Lord responded, “Do not hold onto Me, for I have not yet returned to my Father.”

13. What responsibility does Jesus give to her (verse 17)?

14. How does Mary respond (verse 18)?

Because of a twisted interpretation of the Mosaic law, the rabbinical leaders taught that women were uneducable. They were also considered unreliable as courtroom witnesses. Even the disciples didn’t believe their words at first (Luke 24:11). Yet, God entrusted these women to be reliable witnesses for Him. The women faithfully told the disciples that Jesus was alive.

15. Why do you think God entrusted the spectacular news of the resurrection to women?

“That a woman would be the first to see Him is an evidence of Jesus’ love as well as a mark of the narrative’s historicity. No Jewish author in the ancient world would have invented a story with a woman as the first witness to this most important event.” (Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 342)

Satisfied by His Love

Mary Magdalene was once held in spiritual bondage. She experienced misery. Perhaps she was shunned. Her family may have been burdened to care for her. Then, Jesus came into her life and gave her freedom. Out of gratitude and love, she freely chose to travel with Jesus and care for His needs with money, effort and time. Mary followed Jesus to Jerusalem and was present at the cross.

Jesus satisfied her immediate need for freedom from bondage and gave her abundant life. Jesus intentionally taught everyone who followed Him, including women, what it means to know, follow, depend upon, and obey Him. And, those who had been forgiven and healed wanted to give back to the One who had set them free from their pain.

16. In what ways do you give back to the One who has set you free? How do you support Jesus today?

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Freedom

In the story The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmun Dantes escaping from a cruel captivity lands on a beach occupied by smugglers who force him to fight a man named Jacabo to the death. When Dantes has the chance to kill his opponent, he spares his life and plants the knife into the sandy beach instead. Jacabo’s immediate response is, “I am your man forever”—implying today, tomorrow and the next day—not knowing what would be ahead for him.

Considering what Dantes did for Jacabo, Jesus did that and more for us. He set us free!  And, out of gratitude, each of us should choose to serve the very One who did it.  Not knowing everything ahead of us, we can declare, “Lord Jesus, I am YOUR woman”—today, tomorrow, and the next day.  But, what would that look like?

To be set free means that you are in bondage to something. We’ve already seen how Jesus frees you from bondage to lies by giving you truth in Himself and in God’s Word. He frees you from sinfulness by giving you complete forgiveness and a restored relationship with God. Jesus frees you from bondage to chronic illness by offering you hope that He is going to get you through it, right by your side.

Jesus freed Mary Magdalene from her spiritual bondage to demons. Because of your faith in Jesus you are also freed from spiritual bondage because a greater power moves into your soul—the Holy Spirit Himself. He sets you free from the power of sin and Satan to become what God intended you to be.

But, there is another kind of spiritual bondage—that of expectations based on outward performance. Maybe you started out accepting the gift of salvation by faith in Jesus as a free gift. But then you have been thrown into a works-related way of living this Christian life in order to maintain your acceptance before God. The Bible calls this “living by law.”

Living by law can be any man-made system of works by which people attempt to approach God on their own merits or performance. I’m not talking about what is clearly taught in the New Testament about living a life that pleases God. Sin is still “sin.” I am talking about those extra rules that some person or organization devised for you to follow to be a “good Christian” and for God to love you. Such extra rules could include: how often you must go to church, which church you must attend, what kind of clothing you must wear, and things you must do or say every day to stay in God’s good favor. The result is that you stray from enjoying a love-based relationship with Jesus to practicing a religion. When you are living this way, your spiritual life is in bondage to feelings of obligation, guilt, and fear of punishment for not doing it right.

Jesus wants to set you free from that. The Bible says in Ephesians 2,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Here’s the key truth that will set you free from any bondage to religious performance: by grace are you saved. Grace means “undeserved favor.” It’s a gift you neither you nor anyone else deserves. God gives His favor to someone not because they are good enough to deserve it but because His love chooses to do so. We all receive this grace when we trust in Jesus.

God wants you to relate to Him now on the basis of His grace. Jesus paid the complete price for you to be set free from your sinful past. You can do nothing more to make yourself acceptable to God. Paul understood those who had been relating to God through outward performance for years. He had been there! He writes how God’s abundant grace changed his life when he says this,

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:13-14)

Out of God’s mercy comes His grace to you. God’s grace is so abundant it’s like a cup overflowing. This overflowing grace sets you free from whatever has you in bondage—sin, guilt, religious expectations, whatever. Paul was describing himself, but doesn’t it also describe Mary Magdalene? It also describes you.

God’s grace is His undeserved favor abundantly poured out on those who desperately need Him. You and I desperately need Him.

His grace overflows to you every single day. You are completely forgiven and covered in God’s grace—His gift to you of love and acceptance in His eyes. Who would say “no” to that?

Paul writes in Romans 6 that we have died with Christ and are raised with Him to a new life. This new life has a new identity—you are in Christ, a child of God, totally forgiven, accepted and loved by God. That’s who you are from the moment you placed your faith in Jesus Christ and how God sees you! This new identity sets you free to live a radically different life. You’re dead to the old “you” and alive to the new “you” in Jesus.

So, how do you respond to God’s grace that has freed you from spiritual bondage and gives you a chance to live a new life? You respond with love and gratitude for what Christ has done. You respond to God’s grace by saying,

“I love you, Lord. I thank you, Lord. I want to approach life your way rather than my own way. I am your woman, Lord, ready to serve you.”

That’s what Mary Magdalene did. She responded to His grace. She was willing to love Him, obey Him, and serve Him with her life. She responds out of love and gratitude, not out of obligation.

Grace motivates you to serve Jesus out of love and gratitude for what He has done for you. You want to live the kind of life that pleases God because you love Him and are thankful for what He has done for you. You can freely accept Jesus’ complete payment for your every sin (past, present and future) on that cross and your new identity—you are in Christ, a child of God, one of His saints, totally forgiven, accepted and loved by God. You can freely say, “Lord Jesus, I am your woman”—today, tomorrow, and the next day. You can freely make that choice to serve Him wholeheartedly, without obligation or fear.

God wants you to relate to Him on the basis of His grace, so that your obedience is based on His love for you, your love for Him, and gratitude for what Christ has done for you. Relax! You have been set free from whatever spiritual bondage you have experienced. Thank Him for this wonderful freedom!

Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. A relationship with another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. As the Bible promises,

“for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

A satisfied heart will want to say, “Lord Jesus, I am your woman—today, tomorrow, and forever.” Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love.

17. How have you been relating to God through outward performance, such as works or good deeds, with the accompanying feelings of obligation, guilt, and fear of punishment for not doing it right? Recognize that you have been set free from that by God’s grace through your faith in Jesus Christ. How will you let His grace given to you motivate you from this day forward to love Him, obey Him, and declare, “Lord Jesus, I am Your woman?”

Response in prayer and praise:

Ask Jesus to satisfy your heart through knowing Him. Trust Him to work in your life to bring you healing, hope, and freedom. Thank Him for His grace toward you and His unending love for you.

Discover more about Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read Luke 18. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 19. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 20. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 21. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 22. Reflect on what you read.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

Lesson 6: Two Women Needing Assurance of Love

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“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” (John 11:5-6)

Pray: Lord Jesus, please teach me through this lesson.

A Little Bit of History

After two years of ministering in Galilee, Jesus returned to Judea and Perea, territories near Jerusalem, to minister there. In Jerusalem, He healed a man by the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem told a parable about Himself as the Good Shepherd who would give His life for His sheep. Somewhere in Judea, He answered the question, "Who is my neighbor?" with a parable about a good-hearted Samaritan who helped a fellow traveler. After that, He went to Bethany.

Bethany was a small village on the southeastern slopes of the Mount of Olives about two miles east of Jerusalem on the Jericho Road. It still exists today. Martha, Mary, Lazarus and "Simon the leper" lived there. The Mount of Olives, from which Jesus could see Jerusalem, is about 2 miles long and has three peaks. The modern road from Jericho to Jerusalem still passes along its southern slopes. Rising about 100 feet above Jerusalem, it gives an unforgettable view of the city, which is to the west. Upon seeing Jesus and His companions in her village, Martha opened her home to Him (verse 38)—hospitality in action for quite a large group of men.

1. Read Luke 10:38-42. As manager of the home, what might have been Martha's initial emotions and thoughts (verse 38)?

2. Look at Martha’s attitude change as time progresses. What became Martha’s focus, and what does she do (verse 40)? [Consider what is involved in hosting that size of a crowd.]

3. Toward whom was Martha’s anger directed and why (verse 40)?

4. Where was Mary’s focus at this moment (verse 39)?

5. In Jesus’ response to Martha, what was His focus (verses 41-42)?

Martha opened her home to Jesus and His disciples. This was a large group, understandably requiring quite a bit of preparation to feed and house them. Then, Martha gets distracted from her welcoming attitude and literally “stepped up to and burst upon” Jesus in her frustration. In her anger at her sister Mary, she makes a demand of Jesus.

In His love, Jesus confronted Martha with her wrong priorities. His focus was on this opportunity for both she and Mary to learn from Him. She needed to let go what was distracting her (and others) from that.

6. Read John 11:1-6. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill, yet they did not ask Him to come to Bethany though they probably expected it (John 11:21,32). Knowing the need, what did Jesus decide to do (verse 6)?

Two days later, Jesus makes the announcement that they would go to Bethany.

7. Read John 11:17-27. Mary and Martha were both experiencing grief. How did each respond to the news that Jesus was near (verse 20)?

Notice that Mary and Martha both have the same response in verse 21 (Martha) and verse 32 (Mary), except that Martha went a step further and expressed that she knew Jesus could do something about it even now. Both sisters already knew that Jesus had brought two people back from the dead (Mark 5; Luke 7). But, neither of those had been laid in a tomb yet. Both were confident in His power.

8. What does Jesus declare to Martha?

  • Verse 23— 
  • Verses 25-26—

9. How do Martha’s answers reveal that she had also been listening to Jesus’ teaching?

  • Verse 24—
  • Verse 27—

Martha’s confession of faith is similar to Peter’s in Matthew 16:16. In fact, what Martha says is even more amazing because she makes her declaration with her brother dead now for four days, already in the grave! Her response to Jesus’ question, “Do you believe this?” is a firm, “Yes, Lord.” The emphasis in the original language is that this is her firm and settled faith.

10. Read John 11:28-37. When Martha called her sister Mary, what did she do (verses 28 and 32)?

11. When Jesus saw Mary and the people surrounding her weeping, how did He respond (verses 33-35)?

12. What does this reveal about Him?

John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, yet it conveys to us so much about the love of Jesus. Jesus wept; He shed tears. He identified with us as humans so much that He could express deep human sympathy from His heart with Martha and Mary. Sorrow had touched those close to Him. As you have already read in John 11:4 and 23, Jesus planned from the first hearing of the news to let Lazarus die then to restore his life to him. Their present hurt would soon be healed.

13. Read John 11:38-45.

Because of Palestine’s warm climate, burial usually took place the same day as death. Friends and other family members prepared the body for burial by washing the body and clipping the hair and nails. Strips of linen were then wrapped around the body. Spices (hyssop, rose oil, aloe, and myrrh) were placed between these strips. Placing a linen napkin over the face, the body was laid on an open bier and carried to the tomb—usually a natural cave or a tomb cut into a rock. A large round stone was then rolled across the entrance of the tomb after burial thus sealing it. After the flesh had decayed and only the skeleton remained, the bones were put into a small box called an ossuary, which was then placed on a shelf carved out of the tomb wall. In this way, a whole family could be buried in the same tomb.

14. After Jesus tells the people to remove the stone, what is Martha’s objection (verse 39)?

15. How does Jesus respond to her in verse 40? Do you think He knows her pretty well by now?

16. Describe the scene in verses 43-44 as though you were there watching it. [It’s okay to picture Jesus smiling as He greets Lazarus.]

Jesus stated His mission for this situation:

“for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4)

“that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42).

17. According to verse 45, what were the results?

After the raising of Lazarus, Jesus made His departure. But, after a short stay in Ephraim (15 miles away), He returned to Bethany to stay for His last days. On Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, riding on a donkey. On Monday, He pronounced a curse on a barren fig tree and drove out the merchants and moneychangers from the Temple. On Tuesday, He answered a question about paying taxes to Caesar and pointed out a widow giving her small coins in the Temple. That evening, He taught His disciples on the Mount of Olives. Then He went to a dinner with His friends in Bethany, at the home of Simon whose life had also been changed. Four people whose lives are undeniably touched and changed by Jesus gratefully honored Him…

18. Read John 12:1-11. Describe the scene.

19. How did each of the sisters show their gratitude to Jesus for giving life back to their brother (verses 2-3)?

  • Martha—
  • Mary—

20. Do you think Jesus knows Mary pretty well by now?

Not everyone was as pleased with Mary’s gift. But, Jesus recognized it and responded to their pettiness.

21. Read Mark 14:6-9. How did Jesus come to Mary’s rescue?

22. What do you think Jesus meant by saying, “she did what she could” (verse 8, NIV)?

Martha worshiped Jesus through serving Him and His disciples without complaining. Mary worshiped Jesus through giving her most precious possession. Mary perceived with her delicate woman’s intuition what the apostles failed to understand though repeatedly and plainly told to them by Jesus—His impending execution. Jesus accepted Mary’s act of worship and said that Mary did what she as a woman in her culture with her resources could do for Him. He called that “a beautiful thing to Me” (NIV).

23. In what ways could Jesus say, “she did what she could” about you (in your life circumstances) when it comes to showing gratitude to Him?

Satisfied by His Love

When Jesus met Mary and Martha, they needed neither healing nor a cleaned-up reputation. Yet, they still needed assurance of His love for them. His love didn’t allow Martha to stay focused on the wrong things (tasks & choices) so He confronted that and gave new direction. His love defended Mary when she was criticized by His own disciples. His love gave her respect and commendation instead. His love allowed both of them to learn from Him.

When Lazarus died, Jesus assured them of His love by going to be with the sisters and then raising their brother back to life. He accepted their different ways of thanking Him. Mary and Martha could serve Him, love Him, and worship Him in different ways—all equally as valuable.

Jesus understood their different personalities and behavioral tendencies. He understands that about you as well, quirks and all. He knows how to love you and how to lead you. Think about your tendencies to control a situation or not, how quickly you shed tears or not, or how you speak before you think. He knows you well and still loves you dearly. He hurts when you hurt and rejoices when you rejoice. He knows how to respond to your needs, which will be personally applied and different from how He responds to your “sister’s” needs. He knows how to love you well.

24. Are you okay with that? Or, are you still telling Him how He should do things, telling Him how He should be God?

25. Reread John 11:39-40. If Martha insisted on having her own way, what would she have missed? Apply Jesus’ answer to Martha to your own expectations from Him. How will you let Him lead you in the right direction for you?

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Assurance of His Love

Jesus and His disciples often stayed in Bethany when they were near Jerusalem, probably with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Jesus knew his friends' home was a place of welcome, protection, rest and provision.  Martha and her siblings knew the joy of Jesus' private company and His love.

Mary and Martha were not suffering from illness, demonic possession, or sinful reputation when Jesus first met them. They apparently were not destitute, needing Him to provide for them. But, believing that Jesus could be the promised Messiah, they still needed and wanted a relationship with Him. Remember this…

“Even people with incredible character are not born again until they meet and trust in Jesus.” (Vivian Mabuni, IF:Gathering 2017)

Jesus’ love in action

Over time, Martha and Mary received assurance of His love for them. His love didn’t allow Martha to stay focused on the wrong things so He stopped her bad thinking and redirected her toward what was truly important. His love protected Mary from unwarranted accusation from her sister and from His own disciples. When their brother died, Jesus’ love compelled Him to travel to be with them and to cry with them. His love promised them hope, then fulfilled that promise. Jesus, as fully God and fully man, truly loved them.

The Bible teaches that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so anyone could believe in Him and receive eternal life (John 3:16). You are part of the world that God loves. And, once you accept His gift of eternal life through your faith in His Son, you get even more of God’s love for you.

Jesus said in John 16,

“the Father God Himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27)

He loves you!

Paul wrote in Romans 5 that God pours out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

“God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:5)

As a believer in Jesus, you will have the assurance that your God loves you. He pours out His love into your heart so you can experience that love. You can count on this truth— God loves you.

But, love isn’t soft. Love doesn’t always make it easy on the one loved. Jesus didn’t make it easy on Martha and Mary and Lazarus. In John 11:3, Martha informed Jesus that Lazarus, “the one you love is sick.” John 11:5 says that, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” That is plainly stated. They knew He loved them. All 3 of them.

Jesus knew what was going on in their lives. Lazarus was deathly ill and soon died (verses 6, 11, 14). And, Jesus let it happen. Jesus could have done something about it. Martha was confident in His love for them and in His power to heal. Jesus could have healed Lazarus from a distance the moment He received the news as He had done several times before this (for example, Mark 7:24-30 and John 4:46-53). Yet, He didn’t.

Jesus chose to do something different, even better than what anyone could imagine though it caused pain and suffering to those He loved and a lot of waiting, too (John 11:14-15). Instead, He allowed these friends whom He loved dearly to endure pain and suffering for several days because there was a greater good they could not see at the time. Jesus loved them and hurt right along with them.

After 4 days of being dead, Lazarus was brought back to life, and good things happened. God’s goodness showed up—Lazarus had his life restored, his sisters saw their now healthy brother returned to them, the disciples witnessed an amazing work of God, and many people now believed in Jesus who had not yet believed in Him. Martha could now say to herself with assurance, “Jesus loves me. Jesus knows what is going on in my life. Jesus can do something about it. I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do.” And so can you.

Assurance of His love in your life

How confident are you that Jesus loves you? Do you need assurance that He loves you?

You are loved by your God. Love is good because God is good. And, God’s love for you is unending. I am convinced of this. God wants you to know this:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Nothing. Not you, not anyone or anything, can separate you from God’s love for you because you have believed in Jesus. Jesus loves you consistently, constantly, and completely. Be assured of this.

If you think that you are suffering because you’ve done something wrong to make God stop loving you—that’s a lie! Erase it from the “auto-fill” workings of your mind. Replace it with these four truths you can count on:

Truth 1. Jesus loves you.

Truth 2. Jesus knows what is going on in your life.

Truth 3. Jesus can do something about it.

Truth 4. You can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do.

He may not bring back your dead loved one or heal your sickness or make everything right. But, His goodness will choose to do whatever is best for you, for others, and for God’s glory.

Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. A relationship with another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. As the Bible promises,

“for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

A satisfied heart can go forward with complete assurance that your God knows how to love you well! Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love!

26. On a card or in your journal, write those four truths from above to etch them in your mind. Make them personal, “Jesus loves me…

Response in prayer and praise:

Ask Jesus to satisfy your heart through knowing Him. Trust Him to work in your life to bring you healing, hope, and freedom. Thank Him for His grace toward you and His unending love for you.

Discover more about Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read Luke 23. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 24. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 25. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 26. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 27. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 28. Reflect on what you read.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

Sources

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The following resources were used in the preparation and writing of this study.

1. The NIV Study Bible New International Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985.

2. Vickie Kraft teaching notes on New Testament women

3. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary

4. New Unger’s Bible Dictionary

5. Sue Bohlin, “Christianity: The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Women,” www.probe.org

6. Vivian Mabuni, IF:Gathering 2017

7. Carol Kent, Becoming a Woman of Influence

The Walk from Fear to Faith: Selected Old Testament Women

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This Bible Study is part of the Graceful Beginnings Series of Bible studies specifically designed for anyone new to the Bible—whether you are a new Christian or you just feel insecure about understanding the Bible. The lessons are basic, introducing you to your God and His way of approaching life in simple terms that can be easily understood.

The Walk from Fear to Faith study invites you to journey alongside some Old Testament women on their walk from fear to deeper faith in our amazing God. They were ordinary women like we are who experienced fear like we do. From their life stories, we can see an ever-faithful God in action who is also our God, whose character never changes. When we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him and not give way to fear. Learning to do so is our walk from fear to faith.

Related Topics: Faith, Women, Women's Articles

Introduction

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The Graceful Beginnings Series of Bible studies are specifically designed for anyone new to the Bible—whether you are a new Christian or you just feel insecure about understanding the Bible. The lessons are basic, introducing the inexperienced Christian to God and His way of approaching life in simple terms that can be easily understood.

Just as a newborn baby needs to know the love and trustworthiness of her parents, the new Christian needs to know and experience the love and trustworthiness of her God. Graceful Beginnings: New Believers Guide is the first study in the series, laying a good foundation of truth for you to grasp and apply to your life. The other books in the series can be done in any order.

Some Bible Basics

Throughout these lessons, you will use a Bible to answer questions as you discover treasure about your life with Christ. The Bible is one book containing a collection of 66 books combined together for our benefit. It is divided into two main parts: The Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament tells the story of the beginning of the world and God’s promises to mankind given through the nation of Israel. It tells how the people of Israel obeyed and disobeyed God over many, many years. All the stories and messages in the Old Testament lead up to Jesus Christ’s coming to the earth.

The New Testament tells the story of Jesus Christ, the early Christians, and God’s promises to all those who believe in Jesus. You can think of the Old Testament as “before Christ” and the New Testament as “after Christ.”

Each book of the Bible is divided into chapters and verses within those chapters to make it easier to study. Bible references include the book name, chapter number and verse number(s). For example, Ephesians 2:8 refers to the New Testament book of Ephesians, the 2nd chapter, and verse 8 within that 2nd chapter. Printed Bibles have a “Table of Contents” in the front to help you locate books by page number. Bible apps also have a contents list by book and chapter.

The Bible verses highlighted at the beginning of each lesson in this study are from the New International Version® (NIV®) unless otherwise indicated. You can use any version of the Bible to answer the questions, but using a more easy-to-read translation (NET, NIV, NIRV, NLT, ESV) will help you gain confidence in understanding what you are reading. You can find all these translations in Bible apps and online.

This study capitalizes certain pronouns referring to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit—He, Him, His, Himself—just to make the reading of the study information less confusing. Some Bible translations likewise capitalize those pronouns referring to God; others do not. It is simply a matter of preference, not a requirement.

Old Testament Summary

About 1700 years after God created everything, He sent judgment on a rebellious race through a worldwide Flood. He later separated the nations with different languages and scattered them from Babel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were founding fathers of the Hebrew people. Sold into slavery, Joseph became a powerful foreign leader. The Israelites developed into a great nation for ~400 years in Egypt, until their deliverance from bondage. Then Moses took the people across the Red Sea and taught them God's Law at Mt. Sinai. Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land after a 40-year trek in the wilderness because of unbelief.

During the transition toward monarchy, there were deliverer-rulers called "Judges," the last of whom was Samuel. The first three Hebrew kings—Saul, David, and Solomon—each ruled 40 years. Under Rehoboam, the Hebrew nation divided into northern and southern kingdoms, respectively called Israel and Judah. Prophets warned against worshipping the foreign god Baal. After the reign of 19 wicked kings in the north, Assyria conquered and scattered the northern kingdom. In the south, 20 kings ruled for ~350 years, until Babylon took the people into captivity for 70 years. Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah led the Jews back into Jerusalem over a 100-year period. More than 400 "silent years" spanned the gap between Malachi and Matthew.

The 39 books in the Old Testament are divided into 4 main categories:

  • The Law” (5 books)—the beginning of the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people; God giving His Laws to the people that made them distinct from the rest of the nations.
  • History” (12 books)—narratives that reveal what happened from the time the people entered the Promised Land right after Moses died until 400 years before Christ was born.
  • Poetry & Wisdom” (5 books)—take place at the same time as the history books but are set apart because they are written as poems and have a lot of wise teaching in them.
  • Prophets” (17 books)—concurrent with the books of history and, except for Lamentations, reflect the name of the prophet through whom God spoke to the nation of Israel.

Elements of Each Lesson

This book covers the lives of several Old Testament women. Each lesson begins with a brief history of a particular Old Testament time period and then covers the lives of 1-2 women who lived then. The lessons are arranged chronologically following the simple Old Testament timeline below.

Historical Period

Years BC

Woman Studied

The Patriarchs

2100 - 1800

Sarah

Israel in Egypt / the Exodus

1800 - 1450

Jochebed, Miriam

Conquest of the Land

1450 - 1400

Rahab

Kingdom

850 - 800

Zarephath Widow

Prophet’s Widow

Shunammite Woman

Work through each lesson, reading the scripture passages that tell each woman’s “Story.” You’ll be encouraged at the end of each lesson to “Journal Your Faith Story,” writing something that relates to what’s learned in the lesson. Your faith walk is your story, your biography of God’s faithfulness to you and your response back to Him. A “Faith in Action” teaching session follows each lesson and gives you help in taking action so you can walk from fear to faith. Every “Faith in Action” section is followed by a “Reflect” time to consider how you will respond.

The Walk from Fear to Faith

Jill Briscoe once said, “Women are a fear-driven, performance-oriented species.” She’s right. Fear is an ever-present emotion with us. Real fears and imagined fears. Is it realistic to think we can live without fear? No!

Fear is a normal human emotion designed by God to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. Yet, fear can take root in us and cause us to give way to panic and hysteria. God knows this about us. I am so grateful for that! I can remember times in my life when something happened suddenly that caused that creepy-crawly feeling down my back. A car cutting in front of me sending me to change lanes quickly, hoping there wasn’t an 18-wheeler occupying that lane. One night, a feeling of fear my oldest daughter’s safety hit me in the chest. I quickly prayed for her protection. Of course, she didn’t answer her phone when I called so I had to wait until the next morning to hear from her that she was okay. What. A. Scary. Night.

Thankfully, some wise mentors have taught me to trust God all the time, especially when I am afraid. One such wise woman, Vickie Kraft, drilled a couple of verses into my heart and mind.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)

This wise friend said, “Melanie, the psalmist doesn’t say, ‘If I am afraid.’ He says, ‘When I am afraid.’ When we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him and not give way to fear.”

If fear alerts us to danger so we will take action against it, the most significant action is to not give into fear but to trust God instead. That’s the walk from fear to faith. And we can experience God’s faithfulness through any trouble, danger, suffering, or pain that we face. God is faithful always.

And, in His faithfulness, our God doesn’t leave us guessing as to what this walk from fear to faith looks like. In His enduring, living Word, He has recorded examples for us to follow—women of the past who put their hope in God, did what was right, and did not give way to fear (1 Peter 3:5-6). The writer of Hebrews 11 gave us specific examples who chose to live by faith in the midst of terrifying circumstances.

So, in this study, we are going to look at their lives—these Old Testament women who learned to trust in God’s faithfulness and goodness. They were ordinary females with the same emotions and tendencies to panic that we have. Each one of these women had a story, and that story has been shared over and over and over to millions of eager listeners. You might be surprised how many times the scriptures refer to them actually telling their story in one form or another. You’re going to get to know it as you get to know them. It’s a connection with real women. As we study their lives, we’ll see an ever-faithful God in action, a faithful God whose character never changes.

God is as faithful now in our everyday circumstances of life as He was years ago to them. We can feel confidence in His presence and active involvement, even when we can’t see it. And, knowing this, we can trust in Him whenever we are afraid. Trust is faith. Faith is confidence in God—His existence, His character, and His faithfulness to those who place themselves in His care.

That’s the “Walk from Fear to Faith” — learning to trust God whenever we are afraid.

As we join these Old Testament women moving from fear to faith, we will see consistent truths that we can apply to our lives today in our faith walk. In every case, we know that God loved her. He knew what was going on in her life. He was able to do something about it. During her faith walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, she chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded her faith with an outpouring of His blessing in other ways.

Likewise, God may not choose to rescue you from everything that is threatening you. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

#1 God loves me.

#2 God knows what is going on in my life.

#3 God can do something about it.

#4 I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

Count on these truths and live each day believing they are true. It’s going to be a great journey. And, I’m so glad to be walking beside you! Melanie Newton

Suggested Leader Guide for Group Discussion:

1. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you want He wants you to know through the lesson.

2. Work through the lesson together, reading the Bible verses and discussing the questions.

3. Discuss Your Faith Walk questions, read the summary paragraph and say the four truths together.

4. Share your response to the Journal Your Faith Story section.

5. Read through the Faith-In-Action section or watch the video on my YouTube channel (search “The Walk from Fear to Faith”). Reflect on the teaching.

6. Pray for the group members – about their fears and decisions to trust God in them. Thank God for His grace and His love for you.

7. Remind each person to do the next lesson before the group meets again.

Enjoy your study!

Related Topics: Faith, Women, Women's Articles

Lesson 1: Got Fear? Trust Your God

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“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you through this lesson.

The Gift of Fear

You know that feeling. The pit in your stomach, pounding of your heart, and rush of your thoughts as you go from just the possibility of a job loss to starving and being homeless on the streets—all in a matter of seconds. Gripped by fear, although an imagined one.

Fear is a normal human emotion designed by God to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. It has a purpose. It tells us to take precautions, to be wise in our dealings with strangers and strange situations. We need to think of it as a gift.

We know fear has a dark side as well. Bible teacher Jill Briscoe has often said, “Women are a fear-driven, performance-oriented species.” Just watching the daily news can panic us. But, what did she mean by fear-driven? Why would fear drive us? And, what does fear drive us to do?

Women in general are created with a nesting instinct, a need for security and stability, and a desire to control our environment in order to create that security for us and for those we love. Our American way of thinking is this: we can fix it—whatever “IT” is. When we cannot fix it, we panic.

Fear can be real or imagined. For me, a real fear is meeting a snake in my woodsy yard while gardening. I know they are there so I carefully do everything I can to avoid interaction with them.

I experienced an imagined fear as my youngest daughter was growing up. That fear manifested itself in ongoing nightmares about her being kidnapped or molested. She was never threatened that way, but she was friendly and outgoing. I guess I thought she was more vulnerable than my older, more cautious daughter. When that young daughter became a strong teen girl who was daily hockey-checking her older brother into the wall as they met each other in the hallway, those nightmares stopped. I guess my subconscious recognized that she could handle herself.

1. Consider examples of both real fears and imagined ones in your life.

Fear is an ever-present emotion with most women—real fears as well as imagined ones. Is it realistic to think we can live without fear? No!

Our faithful God understands this about us.

2. Read Psalm 56:3-4. Write out these verses on a card or in your journal.

3. Reading back over the verses, underline the phrases that tell you what to do when you are afraid.

Notice that David doesn’t write, “If I am afraid.” He says, “When I am afraid.” Fear will happen.

God gave us the emotion of fear. It was given with a purpose—to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. Yet, sudden fear can cause us to be terrified. We can let fear take root in us so that we give way to panic and hysteria. Does that ring any bells with you? Are you prone to hysterics?

God knows this about us. When we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him and not give way to fear. Learning to do that is our walk from fear to faith.

Trusting a Faithful God

“When we look at life just with our own eyes, we become fearful, pessimistic, & negative. We become people who feel, ‘I don’t know if that can work. I don’t know if I can get through this.’ When we look at the Scriptures and begin to…see how God empowered normal average people like you and I, the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and strengthens us and gives us courage that we didn’t know we had.” (Steve Hixon, pastor)

Because God understands this tendency to fear and panic, the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write to us women in 1 Peter 3:3-6 words that strengthen us and give us courage we didn’t know we could have.

4. Read 1 Peter 3:3-6. What does God consider to be great worth in His sight (verse 4)?

Although the focus of this passage is a marriage relationship, the principles relate to any woman’s character (“inner self”), especially the qualities of a GENTLE and QUIET spirit that are precious in God’s sight. These enable a woman to “do what is right and not give way to fear” (verse 6).

But, you may be thinking, “How can that apply to me? I have a bubbly personality. I’m not naturally quiet.” Before you start feeling put out about these words or afraid that you could never measure up to this, let’s find out what “gentle” and “quiet” actually mean.

Gentle = Controlled strength

“GENTLE” does not mean passive, weak, or someone who cannot help herself. Rather, it means “controlled strength.” Picture a mother cradling a newborn. She has the physical strength to harm that child but doesn’t because her strength is under control. If you are going to have a gentle spirit, what will you need? Strength under control.

A woman with a gentle spirit has a humble heart that bows itself before God, recognizes God’s dealings with her as good, and chooses not to be contentious or resistant against Him.

Quiet = Tranquility from within

“QUIET” does not mean whisper, silent, or bland. It does mean “tranquility arising from within” and includes the idea of causing no disturbance to others. Think how a woman’s hysterics affect those around her—family, friends, and coworkers.

A woman with a quiet spirit has an inner peace and calmness in the midst of any circumstance. Have you experienced that kind of peace?

Gentleness and peace are the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work (Gal. 5: 22-23) in a believer’s life and available to every Christian woman who desires them—that includes you and me! We can have a tranquil spirit in the midst of chaos. See how it fits with the “strength under control” mindset?

5. Now that you know the real meanings of these words, are you more likely to desire these qualities? Why?

6. Why do you think these qualities in a woman would be so precious – of great worth – to God?

7. Read these verses again. Look at the three choices women can make—identified by (1), (2), and (3).

“For this is the way the holy women of the past who (1) put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful…like Sarah…You are her daughters if you (2) do what is right and (3) do not give way to fear.” (1 Peter 3:5-6, NIV)

Peter identifies these examples for us as “holy women of the past.” The word “holy” means set apart for God’s special use. These women are holy because they had learned to trust in God when they were afraid. As holy women, these women were beautiful in God’s eyes (regardless of their outward appearance, age or societal status). This beauty attributed to them by God Himself was based on three choices they made (“used to make themselves beautiful”) that every woman can also make:

  • Choice #1: You can put your hope in God—in God and His Word rather than the unreliability of ourselves or others.
  • Choice #2: You can do what is right—according to God’s way of approaching life, not the world’s way, especially those cultural practices that go against God’s Word.
  • Choice #3: You can choose to not give way to fear. Let’s examine this one more closely.

Choose to not give way to fear

Choose to not give way to fear. What does that mean?

We know this: God’s not saying, “Don’t ever feel fear?” God gave us the gift of fear as a normal human emotion designed to alert us to danger so we can take action against it. He’s saying, “Here’s why you don’t have to be terrified and paralyzed by your fear.” We are to face our troubles without panic and hysteria. We are to TRUST GOD—in whom we have put our hope and by whose Word we are taught to do what is right.

8. Have you ever felt terrified? How did you respond?

God says that having a gentle and quiet inner spirit will make it easier for us not to get so terrified and stay that way.

9. What’s harder for God: rescuing us from desperate circumstances or developing in us a gentle and quiet spirit?

Did you select the “developing in us a gentle and quiet spirit?” I agree because it involves our cooperation! Is it too difficult for Him? No! A humble, peaceful heart makes it easier for us to face troubles without panic and hysteria and to choose to trust in the faithfulness of God.

We have a faithful God. That’s not imaginary. In 1 Peter 3, Sarah represents several other everyday women who lived in Old Testament days who put their hope in God and found Him worthy of their trust. This was their walk from fear to faith. What is that?

Your Faith Walk

In the Bible, “walk” refers to following a certain course of life or conducting oneself in a certain way. It’s your daily life. How you choose to live daily. What motivates you. What guides you. What decisions you make in how you will respond to life. Will your daily walk follow God’s way of approaching life or the world’s way? Your walk is your choice.

For the purposes of this study, your choice involves moving away from fear and toward faith. Most of us have a pretty good understanding of fear in our lives. But, what is faith? God defines that for us Himself through the writer of Hebrews.

10, Read Hebrews 11:1. What is faith?

11. Read Hebrews 11:6. What must one believe about God?

Did you notice that faith is related to confidence? Confident hope and confident assurance that what we believe is true. That confidence is in the fact that our God exists and is good to anyone who seeks Him. This confidence pleases Him. Hebrews 11 continues to relate the lives of men and women who had this confidence in God.

12. Read the following verses. In each, who chose faith in God over giving way to fear?

  • Hebrews 11:11—
  • Hebrews 11:23—
  • Hebrews 11:31—

13. Read Hebrews 11:35 (first half of verse). By faith, what did these women receive?

These are the women who are our examples of choosing faith in God over giving way to fear. Old Testament women.

Connecting with Old Testament Women

You may have very little knowledge of the Old Testament so these women may be strangers to you. Even though these women lived years ago, they were still women like we are.

As everyday women, they cooked meals, did laundry, and raised children. They had responsibilities inside and outside of their homes, including home businesses. They experienced hormone fluctuations and menopause. They laughed with their friends, differed with their mates, and cried when a loved one died. They wrote songs and played musical instruments. I bet they all found ways to use their 20,000 words per day!

At one time, they were 20-somethings, then 40-somethings, then 60-somethings and maybe more. They wore beads, earrings, and ankle bracelets. Their hair needed to be combed and fixed, and it turned grey as they aged. No doubt, some of them, if not all, had something on their bodies that sagged!

These women also experienced fear at various times in their lives just like we do. They faced invading enemies, sick family members, and empty pantries. They faced creditors and surprise houseguests. They even had “bad” days when things didn’t go right, sometimes due to their own choices.

These were everyday women, just like we are.

14. As women in general, what kind of life experiences for them might have been the same as your own life experiences?

15. What kinds of fears did these women face that you may also face?

Their stories—snippets of their biographies—are preserved for us to get to know them, and to know their God who is also our God—an ever-faithful God whose character never changes.

They knew Him by the personal name Yahweh (YAH-weh). In our English translations, it is usually written as LORD in capital letters. In the Old Testament, you’ll find the phrase “the LORD your God” or “the LORD our God” at least 500 times. Every time, that phrase is emphasizing, “We have a personal God. His name is Yahweh.” It’s the name by which God wished to be known and worshiped in Israel and by Israel, and it means, “I am.” This name expressed His character as constant, dependable and faithful.

Jesus applied God’s name “I am” to Himself (John 4:26; 8:59). Those listening knew he was declaring Himself to be God. So, the ever faithful, promise-keeping God of the Old Testament is embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament and forever. We still have a personal God.

Your Faith Walk

16. Read John 14:27 and 16:33. What does Jesus promise to you?

He is with you through any trouble. You can trust Him. Our God is trustworthy!

17. What might be holding you back from trusting Him whenever you are afraid?

“When we experience anxiety or fear, the enemy can try to use it as an opportunity to make us feel guilt or shame. That’s when we pause and ask God for help, knowing He understands and never condemns us.” (Holley Gerth, “Fear Not,” Homelife Magazine, March 2016)

Journal Your Faith Story

18. Describe a problem in your life (current or past) where you have needed to make a choice to do right, but the possible consequences have filled you with fear. What have you learned about trusting God and living by faith in that area?

Faith-in-Action: “Embrace 4 Truths Essential to Faith”

When we look at life just with our own eyes, we become fearful, pessimistic, & negative. We think to ourselves, “Nothing’s going to work. I don’t know if I can get through this.” But, when we look at the Bible and begin to see how God has empowered everyday people like you and I, the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God to strengthen us and give us courage that we didn’t know we had. Our examples are Old Testament women. As we join these Old Testament women on their faith walk, we will see consistent truths that we can embrace and apply to our lives today in our WALK FROM FEAR TO FAITH.

Truth #1: God loves you

John 3:16; John 16:27; Romans 5:5

You are part of that world that God loves. And, as a believer in Jesus, God the Father loves you and pours out His love into your heart so you can experience His love.

Truth #2: God knows what is going on in your life

Matthew 6:31-32; Psalm 139:1-10

God is everywhere and knows everything. So, God knows what is going on in your life. He knows your needs and how best to meet them.

Truth #3: God can do something about it

Genesis 18:14; Luke 1:37

Is anything impossible for the Lord? The answer is, NO! Our God is all-powerful. He is capable of doing anything He chooses to do that is in agreement with His character and His purposes.

Truth #4: You can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do

Psalm 119:68; Proverbs 3:5

The Bible says that God is good, and what He does is good. It’s a choice to trust God and bank on His goodness.

As we study each of these women—our mentors, we’ll see that during her faith walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, she chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded her faith with an outpouring of His blessing in other ways. You and I can do the same.

Dear friends, God may not choose to rescue you from everything that is threatening you. But, in any and all situations, you can embrace these truths, making them personal…

#1 God loves me.

#2 God knows what is going on in my life.

#3 God can do something about it.

#4 I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

You can count on that!

Reflect

19. What is causing you fear today? What are your choices for acting on that fear? Apply the 4 truths to your situation.

Pray

Pray about your fears and decisions you are making to trust God in them. Thank God for His grace toward you and His love for you.

Related Topics: Faith, Women, Women's Articles

Lesson 2: God Is Bigger than Your Weaknesses

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“For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.…like Sarah…You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” 1 Peter 3:5-6

Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you through this lesson.

By Faith…Sarah

A little bit of history

Sarah lived during the biblical time of “The Patriarchs” (2100-1800 BC). The term patriarch denotes the father or male leader of a family or tribe. In the Bible, “patriarchs” usually refer to the three main characters whose lives are documented in Genesis 12-50—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

During Sarah’s life, the great civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia dominated the Ancient Near East. Archeologists have discovered that Ur (in today’s Iraq) was a thriving city of Mesopotamia with efficient government, impressive buildings and lots of amenities (like flush toilets). Yet, it was also characterized by idol worship.

Under God’s direction, Abraham willingly left Ur, with its culture and conveniences, for the land of Canaan (today’s Israel). Patriarchal life was semi-nomadic as they wandered from place to place, searching for grazing land and water for their animals. Wealth was measured in animal herds and movable goods such as silver, gold, and tents.

The patriarchal era is important to us. Through Abraham and his descendants, God began to develop a people of His own. The Abrahamic Covenant (God’s unconditional pledge to Abraham) contains many precious promises including numerous offspring, dedicated land, and a plan to bless all people of the earth. These promises passed on to Isaac and Jacob. Jacob’s sons formed the nucleus of the twelve tribes of Israel. Through one son’s kindness (Joseph), the infant “Israel” (72 people) entered Egypt and grew into a mighty nation. Sarah accompanied her husband Abraham on this adventure.

Sarah is mentioned more times in Scripture than any other woman, even Mary the mother of Jesus. She is the matriarch of the Jews and the first woman mentioned in Hebrews 11, what is often called “The Faith Hall of Fame.”

Though she lived 4000 years ago, God uses Sarah as an example for us to follow in 1 Peter 3:3-6. We should, therefore, want to find out about Sarah. Who was she? How was she like us? How can we be like her? Let’s join her journey.

Moving from home (Sarah is ~65 years old)

Although they are called Abram and Sarai in the early passages, for consistency’s sake, we’ll use the more common “Abraham” and “Sarah” (names later given to them by God).

1. Read Genesis 11:29-12:5. Describe Sarah and her circumstances in life at this time.

Barrenness for a woman in Sarah’s time was very painful, not unlike for a woman in our time. Sons, in particular, were needed to carry on the family name and livelihood. When Sarah left Haran, moving to who-knows-where, she was willing to cooperate with God’s plan for Abraham even when it was tough for her.

2. How are you at encouraging your closest friend or your spouse to follow God’s leading, even if it changes your life?

3. Read Genesis 12:10-20.

  • How is Sarah described (verses 11, 14)?
  • What situation did Sarah find herself in (verse 15)?
  • What might have been Sarah’s emotions during this time?
  • When Abraham failed to protect Sarah in this incident, what did God do for her?

Abraham’s “Tell them you’re my sister” plan, though making no sense to us, seemed to have merit in his time. One historian said that if a married man of Abraham’s day found himself in enemy territory, he could be killed for his wife. But, if Abraham were known as her brother, someone wanting her would have to make marriage arrangements with Abraham because in that society, a woman’s brother gave his sister in marriage. Thus, Abraham would have been the negotiator, supposedly giving him the chance to act in his own interest.

Sarah went along with Abraham’s “Tell them you’re my sister” plan because she was willing to do what he thought was needed to preserve his life. Remember that as the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write his letter, God honored Sarah for not giving way to fear (1 Peter 3:5-6).

10 years later (Sarah is now ~75)

4. Read Genesis 15:1-6.

  • What was Abraham’s concern (verses 2-3)?
  • What was still God’s plan (verses 4-5)?

In ancient times, a man who had no son could adopt a favored servant as heir to his possessions. Or, a man who had no son could take a second wife to produce an heir. Some marriage contracts even spelled out this provision. A wife was obligated to have children. We would consider that “Plan A.” If she could not, she was required to let her husband take another wife who could (Plan B). Abraham, however, had not already sought a second wife.

5. Read Genesis 16:1-16. What was Sarah’s “Plan B” to fix Abraham’s need for an heir (verses 2-3)?

Sarah’s “Plan B” becomes a nightmare! Our example was no perfect woman. She was just like we are. Look at her behavior!

6. How did Sarah react to Hagar’s pregnancy (verses 5-6)?

7. What was threatened in Sarah’s life, and what confirmation do you think she needed from her husband?

13 years later (Sarah is now ~89)

8. Read Genesis 17:1-2, 15-22. God once again told Abraham His plan to provide descendants for Abraham and a faithful people for Himself. How does God’s plan include Sarah (verses 15-16)?

9. Read Genesis 18:1-15.

  • When the visitors came by Abraham’s tent, what was Sarah doing (verses 6-9)?
  • What did the Lord give Sarah for the first time (verse 10)?
  • What was Sarah’s initial response and why (verses 11-12)?

The Hebrew word translated “pleasure” in verse 12 is “eden,” a term synonymous with sensual pleasure. By the way, Abraham also laughed (Genesis 17:17). Does it surprise you that Sarah might have given up hope of ever having a baby?

10. What confirmation did God give to her (verse 14)?

Someone once said, “God’s plan is completely different from what you could ever imagine and much more glorious than you would ever expect.”

Have you noticed this in your life? Is anything really too hard for the Lord?

11. When the Lord confronted her about laughing (verse 13), what did Sarah do?

12. What was the Lord’s response (verse 15)? Do you think He knew her pretty well by now?

Shortly after the “tent” visit. Abraham nearly jeopardized the whole situation by again placing Sarah in another man’s harem (Genesis 20). He fails in the same area of faith in which he failed 25 years earlier. At 90 years of age, she was taken into a harem of the reigning king. This gives further information regarding Sarah’s beauty. God must have turned on her hormones again in a big way—super estrogen!!

13. Read Genesis 21:1-7.

  • What is declared in verse 1 about God?
  • What did He do for Sarah (verse 2)?
  • What story did she have to tell (verse 6)?
  • The name Isaac means “he laughs.” In what ways is Isaac an appropriate name for this baby?
  • Through this whole experience, how do we know that God loved Sarah as much as Abraham?

When she got pregnant, can you imagine the hope building in her heart? I think she was smiling and giggling to herself all nine months. Then, Isaac is born; his name reminds her of their laughter. Is it possible that God delighted in making these two old people laugh?

3 years later (Sarah is now ~92)

14. Read Genesis 21:8-13.

  • What problem did Sarah recognize between Ishmael and Isaac (verse 9)?
  • What was Sarah’s solution (verse 10)?
  • How did Abraham respond (verse 11)?
  • What was God’s solution (verses 12)?

Every wife loves that God told Abraham to listen to his wife! God faithfully took care of Hagar and Ishmael, too (verses 14-20).

I’m so glad God gave us Sarah for an example—a beauty queen whose life was rarely smooth or easy. She went childless for many years. Her husband’s fears put her at risk by his decisions. And, she made a huge mistake that made life miserable for her. She was an everyday woman like you and I are. We can relate to some things about her life. It’s more difficult to relate to someone who did everything right. Sarah is one example to follow in believing that God is worthy of our trust.

Your Faith Walk

15. What situations in Sarah’s life could have “terrified” her?

16. Considering those “opportunities” for being terrified, in which ones did Sarah, by faith, do what was right and not give way to fear?

God loved Sarah. He knew what was going on in her life. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not give Sarah a child early in her marriage nor did He prevent her from making a bad decision or spending time in a king’s harem. During her walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, she chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded her faith with an outpouring of His blessing in other ways.

Likewise, God may not choose to rescue you from poor decisions made by you or someone close to you or those circumstances of life beyond your control that bring you pain. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

#1. God loves me

#2. God knows what is going on in my life

#3. God can do something about it

#4. I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do

That’s your walk from fear to faith.

Journal Your Faith Story

17. Consider poor decisions made by you or someone close to you that have brought fear into your life. How did you respond? What have you learned that could help you respond with greater faith in God in your future?

Faith-in-Action: “Press on Beyond Any Weakness”

What happens when something goes wrong in your life? You know, not the way you planned or imagined. Do you feel dazed, embarrassed, or angry?

You may look at your life and only see weaknesses. You feel helpless as a victim of circumstances. You dwell on your mistakes. You focus on your inadequacies, not being enough of…whatever. And, sadly, other people like to point out all those weaknesses in your life, too, making you feel even worse about them.

God calls us to live by faith. Faith involves trust in a God who loves us, who cares, who can guide us, but who hasn’t promised to remove all the obstacles in our paths. And, He knows about our weaknesses.

Jesus is able to empathize with our weaknesses because He knows what we are going through. So, we can go to Him with confidence and get help in our time of need. Paul wrote that the Spirit of God helps us in our weakness in accordance with God’s will for our lives. You can see this in Hebrews 4:15-16 and Romans 8:26-27.

Our God has bigger purposes for our weaknesses than what we can see or know each step of the way. He knows what causes us fear. It doesn’t matter if our fear is driven by circumstances we cannot fix, stems from making mistakes, or is caused by feelings of inadequacy. Our God is bigger than our weaknesses. He asks us to trust Him and His purpose when we don’t understand.

God is bigger than your circumstances

Circumstances = those conditions that affect our lives that are beyond our control or our ability to “fix.”

Think of Sarah’s circumstances. Her barrenness was out of her control. She didn’t do anything wrong. And, in her specific case, God had a bigger plan for her that depended on the right timing, which she knew nothing about. Sarah endured long periods of drought, which brought on the famine, which caused Abraham to go to Egypt to find grazing land for his herds, where she ended up in Pharaoh’s harem. That famine wasn’t her fault. She didn’t do anything wrong. Yet, she suffered.

You may be facing your own version of desperate circumstances—health problems, lack of income, bad relationships, or something someone else has caused. Having to face those circumstances leaves you with choices. You can becomeHagar was definitely affected by her circumstances.  I doubt if she volunteered to leave her home in Egypt and travel with Abraham and Sarah to see the world.  It wasn’t her idea to be the surrogate mother for them.  Instead of coming to her rescue, Abraham gives permission for Sarah to mistreat her.  So she runs away to the desert.  Probably heading back to Egypt.  But, God is bigger than our circumstances.  It was in her desperate circumstances that God appeared to her.  Notice several things:

  1. He calls her by name, acknowledges her misery, and makes her state what steps she is taking to solve her problem.
  2. He tells her to do what is right.  Go back to Sarah and submit to her.  What?  She’s the one who is beating me.  He doesn’t say, “Go on home.  I’ll make you rich and famous there.“ No, go back to the place I had for you.  You have a responsibility there.  Abraham can take care of you and your boy very well.  And, God gave Ishmael the opportunity to choose to follow his father’s footsteps of faith. 
  3. He promises her a future with a son and lots more after him so she’ll be cared for in her old age. 

FaHaving to face those circumstances whiny and bitter. Or, you can depend upon God to get you through them. It is even likely that you will learn to see and appreciate God’s gifts to you in a greater way. God is bigger than your circumstances. If He wasn’t, He wouldn’t be God.

God is bigger than your mistakes

Mistakes can fall into one of two major categories:

1) Willfully going against clear Biblical guidance about what is right and wrong.

2) Attempting to “fix a problem,” without clear Biblical guidance. When it doesn’t turn out as expected, we can regret that decision as a “mistake.”

Sarah made one gigantic mistake in her life that’s recorded for everyone to know and point fingers at her. She took something acceptable from her culture and tried to use it to obtain the promise of God. That mistake had huge, painful consequences. But God’s purpose wasn’t thwarted because of her mistake. She experienced God’s graciousness to her and gave birth to Isaac. I bet everyone within earshot of Sarah for the rest of her life heard this marvelous story of God’s faithfulness to her.

But, what about those things not clearly defined as right and wrong in the Bible—where you live, where you work, or where to invest money? God has given us a mind to use for making decisions in those areas of life. So, we should pray, ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit, get advice from other believers, check to see if it’s legal, then make the decision and act on it.

Living by faith includes the whole process of trusting God while making a decision and trusting God with the results of it. It’s all about faith. Not about being perfect. God is bigger than your mistakes. If He wasn’t, He wouldn’t be God.

God is bigger than your inadequacies

To be “inadequate” means to fail to reach an expected or required standard, to be insufficient and lacking.

Some of us wallow in our inadequacies. God knows all about those things in which we feel insufficient and lacking. Sometimes, He leaves us to ourselves so we will recognize how insufficient we are without Him. Then, we will desire Him more. Have you noticed this in your life?

Sarah was inadequate in her barrenness. And, I think she had lost hope. Have you ever lost hope? The angel of the Lord appeared and personally gave her the good news she would soon be a mother. Sarah laughed, was confronted by the angel, became afraid and lied about her laughter. But, God didn’t zap her. Instead, He rejuvenated her body and filled it with the long-promised son.

Thankfully, God has compassion on our inadequacies. What do you feel is inadequate in your life? I’m not talking about material things right now, but where do you feel you lack as a person? Your character, your abilities. God is bigger than your inadequacies. If He wasn’t, He wouldn’t be God.

Press on beyond any weakness

So, instead of responding to desperate circumstances with hysteria, or replaying mistakes over and over in our minds, or wallowing in our inadequacies, what are you going to do today to move forward? Beyond circumstances you’re in. Beyond mistakes you’ve made. Beyond any feelings of inadequacy that you have.

The apostle Paul knew he had dragged Christians to prison to be beaten and killed. But, he also knew God was bigger than his past, so he writes in Philippians,

“…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…” (Philippians 3:12-13)

How will you trust God now to show you how to press on toward a new future? And, as you press on, you can count on these 4 truths that are not nullified by your weaknesses.

#1 God loves me.

#2 God knows what is going on in my life.

#3 God can do something about it.

#4 I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

We have a big God. He can take whatever is looking ugly in our lives and make it something praiseworthy. Maybe all that you’ve been through in life—desperate circumstances, blaring mistakes, and obvious inadequacies—have led to this moment when God has brought you to hear this message and trust in Him. God is bigger than your weaknesses. He could be showing you that today.

Reflect

18. Take just one of the questions below and apply Philippians 3:12-13 to it. How will you press on, trusting in God? What are you going to do today to trust God and press on beyond that weakness?

  • Have you faced desperate circumstances, maybe because of health problems, consequences of someone else’s sin, or relationships that have failed?
  • Do you live in fear of making mistakes or of others making mistakes that affect you? Have you have made a big mistake with unwelcome consequences?
  • What do you feel is inadequate in your life? Not just material things, but where do you feel you lack as a person?

Pray

Pray about your fears and decisions you are making to trust God in them. Thank God for His grace toward you and His love for you.

Related Topics: Faith, Women, Women's Articles

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