Dreams from a Big God (Lesson 1)
A Word from Kay Daigle on how to use the resources for this study…I want to encourage you to complete the personal lesson below before you click on any of the accompanying elements that may be found with this lesson (audio lecture, manuscript, PowerPoint, or handout). This study was written to help you maximize your personal spiritual growth. That means that you first spend time with God through His word, and then hopefully, discuss what you learned with a small group of women. After that, if you want to hear the audio (or read the manuscript) and follow the PowerPoint, filling in the handout, then that is a great time to do it! I cannot cover all the verses in depth, but you can read and study them for yourself. It is best for you to think through the passages before hearing what anyone else thinks, even me! You will find some lessons without lectures. At our church we use some of those weeks to spend extra time in our small groups sharing life stories, having a longer prayer time, or expressing how God is working in our lives.
Thought to Cherish
“The Lord commissioned Joshua son of Nun, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you will take the Israelites to the land I have promised them, and I will be with you.’”
What dreams have you had come true? What did you do to bring them to pass? Perhaps you dreamed of a career that you are now pursuing. Maybe it was of having a family, which you now enjoy. You may have dreamed of close friends with whom you could share your struggles in life. Perhaps you desired to make a difference in this world and have searched for the opportunities to do so.
God is a dream-giver; He has dreams for each of us that He intends to bring to pass if we listen and obey. Because of His greatness, He is able to fulfill those dreams if we follow His lead and direction.
Joshua followed God’s dream. It was not a new dream, but rather it was one that God had given hundreds of years beforehand to Abraham. It was the vision of a land. This week we will look at this dream and at the person of Joshua. Who was this man who brought the dream to reality?
Day One Lesson
God first gave the dream of the land to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. At this time his name was Abram; only later did God change his name to Abraham. Read Genesis 12:1-7.
1. What dream did God give Abram, and how did Abram follow that dream?
Read Genesis 15:7-21.
The ancient customs reflected in this story signify the making of a covenant, a solemn binding agreement made before God. In ancient times the covenant-makers would walk between the pieces of animals and make oaths to one another; in effect, they were asking God to slay them as they had done the animals if they were unfaithful to the covenant. In this so-called Abrahamic Covenant, God obligated Himself to fulfill the promises alone when He passed through the pieces of the slain animals by Himself.
2. What promises did God make to Abraham in this covenant?
Over and over God reinforced the dream He gave to Abraham by repeating it.
Read Gen. 22:15-18 and Hebrews 6:13-20. (This Genesis passage is the event to which the author of Hebrews refers.)
3. What truths about the character of God did the author of Hebrews emphasize in this passage?
4. Sharing question: As you think about these truths, how do the words in Hebrews encourage you today (note Heb. 6:18-20)?
Knowing God’s character and the ways by which He works with people can make a difference as we walk with Him day by day. As we experience His character in action, we learn that God is indeed the person whom He reveals Himself to be.
Digging for Diamonds: What aspects of God’s character give you hope in the midst of a hard time? Find verses that focus on those character traits. Memorize one of them if you do not already know it.
5. Responding to God: Focus on one particular aspect of God’s character and thank Him for proving it to be true as you have experienced His work in one circumstance in your life.
Day Two Lesson
Now we fast-forward hundreds of years to the time of Moses, who delivered the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt, as God had promised Abram in Gen. 15. After leaving Egypt, God led the people through the Red Sea and into the desert of the Sinai Peninsula.
Joshua was one of those who came out of Egypt under Moses. He experienced both the hardships of slavery and the freedom from bondage. He saw firsthand the plagues on the Egyptians and the miracle of the Red Sea crossing.
What else do we know about this man who would lead the people into the land?
Read Exodus 17:8-15, which describes an event that took place between the crossing of the Red Sea and the arrival at Mount Sinai.
6. What was Joshua’s role in this battle? What lessons may he have learned about God through this experience?
7. Sharing question: Describe a time when you saw the power of God in your own life. Maybe it was a situation of healing; maybe hard hearts were changed in answer to prayer. Whatever it was, share with your group how what you learned about God at this time impacted you in a later situation.
Joshua was next mentioned at Mount Sinai, recorded in Exodus 24:12-18.
8. How was Joshua described in Ex. 24:12-18, and what took place on the mountain while he stood nearby?
You may remember what happened next in the story. While Moses and Joshua were gone, there was a problem in the camp down below. Read Exodus 32:1-4, 7-8, 15-20.
Digging for Diamonds: Read all of Ex. 32 as well as Ex. 33:1-6, 12-17. Write down your insights into God’s character from these passages.
9. How would you have felt if you were observing all of these events as Joshua did? What would you have learned about God in this situation?
10. Sharing question: Think of a specific situation in the life of a friend, co-worker, or family member where you saw God work. What did you learn about God by observing what happened?
11. Responding to God: Thank God for what He has taught you about Himself as you have seen Him work in your own life or in the lives of others. Thank Him for how that knowledge has impacted your faith. Write out your prayer below.
Day Three Lesson
The people of Israel camped out at Mount Sinai for almost a year while they received God’s law and built a tent of worship. Then, they set out for the land promised by God. They were on the very brink of the dream!
Read Numbers 13:1-4, 8, 16.
12. What was Joshua’s role at this time? What does this tell you about him?
Read Numbers 13:26-14:45.
13. What happened to derail the fulfillment of the dream?
Digging for Diamonds: What lessons do you learn about prayer from the conversation between God and Moses in Numbers 14:11-20?
14. Put yourself in the camp of Israel when the spies returned. All of the men would be expected to go into battle against these giants. You might be a mother left alone with your children. You might have grown sons called upon to fight. Or perhaps your fiancé would march off. Honestly assess this question—would you have likely responded in fear or in faith? Why?
15. How were the consequences of unbelief that God handed down to the people (Num. 14:28-35) appropriate?
16. Sharing question: Either describe a time when you were paralyzed by your fears instead of trusting God, or describe a present fear that could keep you from following God’s plan or purpose for you. What consequences followed your answer to the first question?
17. Responding to God: Be honest with God about your fears. Ask for His strength and for the faith that you need in the situation you face today. Write a prayer or poem about the bigness of God and the greatness of His character so that you can focus on faith rather than fear.
Day Four Lesson
Because of unbelief fueled by fear, the children of Israel returned to the wilderness and spent another thirty-eight years there in addition to the two already spent there. After that time God would finally allow them to fulfill the dream that He had given them. In the meantime, Moses also had to give up his dream of leading the people into the land.
Read Numbers 20:2-12.
18. What happened? How did Moses lose the right to lead the people into the land?
19. What does this story teach you about the dreams given by God and about those people whom He chooses to fulfill these dreams? (Remember that Joshua was right there to learn these lessons.)
After a total of forty years in the wilderness, as the nation of Israel stood on the brink of fulfilling their dream, God spoke to Moses.
Read Numbers 27:12-23.
20. Write down your insights into God’s instructions for transferring the leadership of the people from Moses to Joshua.
Digging for Diamonds: Look up Timothy in your concordance and find the references to him in Paul’s letters. What insights do you have into the ways Paul passed leadership on to Timothy?
Read Deut. 31:1-8; 34:1-8.
21. Consider all that you know about Moses and his influence and impact in his forty years of leading the Israelites. How would you have felt to be stepping into his shoes, as Joshua did? How have you seen God prepare Joshua as you have studied this week?
22. What does the Scripture tell us here about Joshua and Moses as God’s leaders (34:9-12)?
23. Sharing question: Have you ever had to follow someone who left big shoes to fill? Perhaps you had to supervise employees who loved their last boss. Maybe you had to create something, and the previous worker was outstandingly creative. Or you may have taken on an area of ministry from someone who was very well-liked by all. Share the situation and your feelings with your group. What did God teach you through the challenge? OR tell how you can look back and see how God has prepared you for the ministry He has put you in today.
24. Responding to God: Thank God for what He taught you through challenges where you were in over your headJ If you are not sure what He taught you, ask Him and then listen for His answer. Ask Him to continue to challenge you to depend upon Him instead of yourself.
Day Five Lesson
Leader of the nation, the one responsible to defeat the inhabitants of the land, the one answerable to God for the spiritual condition of His people—what a daunting and scary position for Joshua! We have seen this week that God prepared him in many ways for the job; yet, Moses had always been there and now he was gone. Joshua was left alone to face the challenge and fulfill the dream.
Read Joshua 1:1-9.
25. What promises did God make to Joshua here?
26. What were God’s conditions for fulfilling all of these promises?
27. What did God repeat to Joshua? Why would He say the same thing over and over? Compare the words to Joshua in Deut. 31:23, our Thought to Cherish for this week. (Be sure and memorize it.)
Digging for Diamonds: Use your concordance or online resource to find other verses about being “strong and brave” (NET) or “strong and courageous” (NASB, NIV). Write down any additional insights that God shows you.
28. Sharing question: What principles do you learn about fulfilling God’s dreams for you from this passage? What specific thing can you do to apply this in your life today?
29. Responding to God: Pour out your feelings before God concerning your desire to fulfill His dreams and plans for your life. Commit to follow Him and His word above all else. Write down your thoughts below.
We gain insight on fear as two women share their stories with us this week.
Life in this world is filled with uncertainty. No one knows what tomorrow will hand us. And through the years I have noticed that security is something very important to women. We all want to have secure lives and futures. We want to know that we will always be loved by husband and family. If we have a career, we want to know we will always be appreciated in our work. If we have children, we want to know that the future holds wonderful promises for them. We want to know that our home will stand no matter what. And so when something happens in our lives to shake the foundation that we thought was solid, we become afraid for the future.
I can tell you from experience that fear, is not only paralyzing, but destructive. As a young adult in my early 20’s, both my parents died within a few years of each other. And as a young, single mom, I had depended upon my mother for advice and direction. In the years following her death, I experienced so much fear that it controlled my life to the point of almost destroying it and every relationship I had. The foundation of my existence had been shaken and as I looked to the future, I was paralyzed with questions, doubts and fear.
It wasn’t until years later after I became a Christian and began to study God’s word that I was able to overcome the fear of not knowing what the future would bring. The first verse God used to help me was I Timothy 1:7 (NASB): “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but power and love and discipline.” The Greek definition for the word timidity is fear and for discipline is sound mind. And so I began to pray and claim this verse for my life everyday until I began to see a difference in my emotions. I would pray, ‘Lord, thank you that you have not given me a spirit of fear, therefore I know that fear is not of you. But You have given me power, love and a sound mind, and I pray your power will overpower my fears and push them out of my heart and mind.’
Following the realization that paralyzing fear is not from God, there had to be a change in my heart and mind regarding trust. God does not want fear to destroy our lives and He gives us the power and sound mind to overcome it. And so, the next step is to trust Him to do in the present what He has already done in the past and to rest in the knowledge of His love. God’s love is perfect and there is no fear in His love according to I John 4:18. In fact the verse tells us that His perfect love casts out fear! We can trust Him to remove the fear from our hearts as we trust Him and ask Him to do it. We can be secure in the future as we give our fears to Him and thank Him for casting them out of our lives. We can overcome! Why? “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4 NASB). This became a life verse for me and I still pray it and claim it in those times when circumstances begin to overwhelm me.
And finally, we receive the help we need to get past our fears by listening to the words of Jesus as He spoke to the disciples in John 14:27 (NASB). “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” As we recognize that fear is not from God, as we ask Him to overpower it and trust Him to do it; Jesus fills our hearts with His peace. Not the kind the world offers, but a deep abiding rest from our fears that comes from believing in Him and believing Him.
Whatever difficult circumstances you face today that are causing you paralyzing fear, Jesus says; “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1 NASB). May His peace be in you today.
My story is about the journey of how God helped me to overcome my fear of public speaking and prepared me to go on a women’s mission trip to Kazakhstan. A few years ago, if you had told me that I would be going on a mission trip half-way around the world to speak at a Women’s conference, I would have said that it would be impossible. The thought of getting up in front of a group of people to give a presentation terrified me. Just thinking about it made my stomach knot up and I would feel physically sick. Any time I was asked to do a presentation, I would always figure out some way to get out of it.
In the fall of 2003, I was involved in a women’s bible study that focused on how we are all on a journey with God to walk closer to Him and depend on Him and cast our anxieties on Him. I realized that I needed to confront my fear and turn it over to God. Before the study ended that fall, I got that opportunity. I manage the international compensation programs for my company and our team was organizing a global HR conference in Dallas for our HR colleagues from around the world. I was asked to do a presentation, and I decided I could handle doing a 30-minute one. Well, my boss had more in mind; given the material I needed to cover, she wanted to schedule 2 hours for my presentation! I thought there was no way I could do that but there was no way I could get out of it; I was a department of one so there was no one that I could delegate this to. I had my small group here praying for me as I began to prepare. My prayer requests were for confidence and self-assurance and above all, I wanted God to be glorified in this situation. I knew that I did not have the ability to accomplish this task, and I wanted to lean on Him and allow Him to accomplish this through me. So I turned that fear over and going into the presentation, I felt calm and really wasn’t nervous. The presentation went smoothly and I was actually comfortable enough to leave the podium to walk around and answer questions from the group.
After it was over, I thought, “Great – I can now check that off the list.” However, God wasn’t finished with me; the next day, our VP of HR from China came up to me to tell me how valuable the presentation was and that I had to come to China to give it to the China Management team! I thought, “God, you have got to be kidding! You know that I can’t do that!” So I told her that I would need to talk to my boss because we didn’t budget any travel for me, and tried to think of other excuses. Well, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “China pays,” so that ended that discussion. Four months later, I was on a plane by myself, headed to Shanghai to give that presentation to the management team, not only in China but in Taiwan and the Philippines. My small group again prayed for me and all three presentations went very smoothly. Also, I experienced an amazing opportunity from God while I was in the Philippines. My husband’s grandfather served in World War II in the Philippines and was killed a couple of day s before the war ended. He was buried in the Philippines and the American Memorial Cemetery where he is buried is about 10 minutes away from our office in Manila. I was able to visit the cemetery and take pictures for my husband and his family. It was an incredible opportunity that I would have never experienced had I not turned over my fears to God the year before to do that presentation.
After that, God opened the door for me to travel for work all over the world to do management presentations at several of our other international offices. I had always wanted to travel for my job and never realized that my fear of doing presentations had prevented that from happening.
As a result of this, God opened the door for me to go on a women’s mission trip to Kazakhstan. One day in church, the song – To the Ends of the Earth touched my heart and I made the commitment to God that I would go to the ends of the earth to share His love. Immediately, I signed up for the women’s mission trip to Kazakhstan, not knowing what the objective of the trip was. A few weeks later, I met with our Women’s Minister and found out that the objective was to do a women’s conference and that each of the women going on the trip would have to pick a topic to prepare a session to present at the conference. For a split second, those old fears started to creep in, and the old me would have said thanks but no thanks. However, I was quickly reminded of everything that had happened over the past few years and how it all was preparing me to go on this mission trip. Even though I experienced feelings of inadequacies as I was preparing for this trip, I trusted God to use me. On the trip, I realized that the situations in which He placed me, the sessions I did, the home visits I went on, He had perfectly equipped me to be used in those situations. He didn’t need a polished, professional speaker or evangelist; all He required from me was to open my heart and share it with those I met. It was never more evident when we visited a group of elderly ladies in hospice. All they needed was our touch and our love, and we were perfectly equipped to be His arms and heart to those women.
So as you hear God calling you to serve Him, remember that He has not given us a spirit of fear but He has given us a spirit of power and love. And that He is faithful to those He calls. I encourage you to walk out in faith to overcome your fears and serve God, He may take you half-way around the world or next door, but where ever He takes, you will experience His blessings and it will open the doors to opportunities you can’t even imagine.