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Refusing to Quit (Week 5)

Energy for the Race

“Then Paul replied, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be tied up, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

    Acts 21:13

    Energy for the Race

    “Then Paul replied, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be tied up, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

      Acts 21:13

    I think I could do sprints much more easily than a long race, such as a marathon, because I would just get tired of the cost. Eventually, I would quit. Enough is enough! Often runners in the Christian life do the same thing. We go and go and go, and then one day we just quit, believing that we can no longer do it. Surely God doesn’t expect his people to deal with such hardships in serving him! Paul’s example, as we just read in this week’s verse, gives us a different perspective.

    Day One Study

    This week we move into Paul’s third journey. At the point of his departure from Antioch in about 52 A.D., he had already written several letters and sent them off to the various churches where he had ministered on the first two journeys. Dates are not definite, of course, but many scholars believe that both of the Thessalonian epistles and both letters to Corinth were written during the second journey.

    Read Acts 18:22-23, the end of the second journey and the beginning of the third.

      1. What was Paul’s purpose in re-visiting these churches?

    The Greek definition of the root word for strengthening in Acts 18:23 means “(1) to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix; (2) to strengthen, make firm; (3) to render constant, confirm, one's mind.”5

      2. Sharing question: Are you facing a situation that makes it difficult to be firmly set in your faith? Share it with your group. Consider writing a prayer request asking God to bring people into your life to strengthen your faith.

      3. Responding to God: Ask God to bring to mind the name of another believer whose faith needs strengthening because of life situations. Write her a note encouraging her and reminding her of God’s love. Don’t try to fix the problem but show the love and concern of Christ. If possible, you may want to call her rather than write a note. Share with your group what you did and any outcome of which you are aware.

    Extra Training: Read Acts 18:24-19:7. Read some commentaries on these verses.

    Read Acts 19:8-20, which describes events when Paul was in Ephesus.

      4. Summarize the highlights of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus and the results that God brought from it.

      5. This period in Paul’s life was fairly peaceful compared to some of the other things that he had experienced. If you had been in his place, how would you have felt about it and how might you have responded to it?

      6. Responding to God: Pray that you would always be open to follow God’s will, even when you have to leave behind what is peaceful or comfortable.

    Day Two Study

    Read Acts 19:21-20:1. The NET Bible calls what happened “a great disturbance”; the Message says it was a “huge ruckus”; and The Living Bible describes it is as “serious trouble”.

      7. This is great headline material! Write the story as if you were the local news anchor, telling it in a way that would make people want to tune in.

      8. In what ways was the message of Jesus a threat to the Ephesians?

    Extra Training: Study about the city of Ephesus and the goddess Artemis.

      9. Sharing question: How do you see the message of Jesus threaten people in our culture today? Consider what they stand to lose if the gospel is true, perhaps personally or even monetarily!

      10. Sharing question: Is there anything in your own life that you would lose if you truly followed Jesus with all of your heart? Is there any part of his message that you tend to ignore rather than obey because you are unwilling to give up something? What is it? Ask for prayer from your group this week that you would desire to please God more than having this in your life.

      11. Responding to God: Ask God to show you if there is anything you need to add to your answer in the previous question. Write down a prayer of confession for placing an idol in your heart before Jesus. (An idol is anything that you have made your own god, for example: money, entertainment, beauty, leisure, friends, popularity, happiness, security, etc.)

    Day Three Study

    Read Acts 20:1-12, which records Paul’s return to Macedonia and Greece where he had spent so much time on his second journey.

      12. How does the information in Acts 20:3 seem like the same old thing happening again to Paul? How would you be feeling if you were in Paul’s place?

      13. Our verses this week have related some miraculous stories. What miracles occurred in these passages?

          a. Acts 19:11-12

          b. Acts 20:8-12

      14. Compare the miracles done by Paul in Acts 19:11-12 with those done by Peter in Acts 5:12-16.

      15. How do the following verses relate to the miracles of this time period?

          a. 2 Cor. 12:12

          b. 1 Cor. 12:7-11

    Extra Training: There is much debate about healing today. See what commentary you can find on the various perspectives.

    God may answer the prayers of his people to heal today. His name is still Yahweh Rapha, the God who heals. We are to pray for those who are sick, boldly asking God to heal, but we must also accept that healing is not always God’s plan. Death is part of God’s plan for eternity, to bring us to a place where there is no more death. When we cannot discern God’s will in the situation, we have the assurance that the Spirit prays according to God’s will on our behalf (Rom. 8:26-27).

      16. Sharing question: Share with the group a story of God’s healing in response to prayer. It may be your own story or the story of someone whom you know well.

      17. Responding to God: Is there a person for whom you could pray for healing? Ask God what his will is in the situation so you can pray accordingly. He may place on your heart to pray for the person in a different way than simply for healing. You may want to look at examples of kingdom prayers at the end of Week Nine lesson for ideas of scriptural prayers to pray for him or her. Write your prayer below.

    Day Four Study

    Extra Training: Use a Bible atlas or map to follow the progress of Paul’s journey from Troas to Miletus in Acts 20:13-17.

    Read Acts 20:18-38, which records Paul’s message to the elders of Ephesus.

      18. List the ways that you see Paul model ministry in his farewell address to the elders.

      19. Sharing question: What one lesson about your own ministry, whether it’s serving behind the scenes or leading up front, do you see in the way Paul describes his ministry here? How can you apply it this week?

      20. How do you see Paul’s attitude of refusing to quit the race in his comments to the Ephesians? How does his relationship with them make it particularly difficult?

      21. Responding to God: Write a poem or prayer proclaiming your determination to refuse to quit no matter what. Recognize that only God can give you the grace to follow through.

    Day Five Study

    Read Acts 21:1-17, which takes Paul from Miletus, where he met with the Ephesian elders, to Jerusalem, his intended destination.

      22. What warnings did Paul get along the way that could have kept him from continuing on to Jerusalem?

      23. How did Paul’s response to these warnings reveal that his desires for his life were to do what Jesus wanted him to do? (Be sure and memorize this week’s verse, Acts 21:13!)

      24. Sharing question: What would keep you from responding as Paul did to knowing that God’s will involved something very difficult?

    Extra Training: Read at least one commentator’s thoughts about these warnings and Paul’s response.

      25. What emotions may Paul have felt at this point? Why?

    I understand that marathoners reach a point in the race when they really want to quit; they are too remote from the finish to believe it’s attainable, and they are so far into the race that they are about to drop from exhaustion. At that point another runner coming alongside and encouraging her not to quit but to focus on the goal can make all the difference.

      26. Sharing question: Have you ever felt that you could just not go on another day? Have you been so discouraged that you wondered if it was worth following God at all? Have you considered how much easier life would be if you could wander off as you pleased rather than staying on God’s course? If so, share your story with your group. What or who did God use to encourage you to keep following his path?

      27. Responding to God: If you know a believer who is discouraged, in pain, or perhaps angry at God, ask God to show you how to be an encourager to her today. Write a prayer for her, and find a verse to pray over her situation. Send her a note of care and love.

    We have a great story this week from a woman who has dealt with great difficulty and loss. The temptation was to quit, but she was encouraged by others and God’s Spirit; thus, she determined to keep on going in faith.

    Story of a Real Runner: Abbie

    This year has been one of overwhelming challenges for me. My husband lost his job right after the first of the year in a situation that involved a painful betrayal. I was in a high-risk pregnancy due with our fourth child the next month. This dear blessing was born via a C-section that was unplanned. She stayed in the NICU for a week afterward. My recovery involved unexplained nerve pain for the next six months. And we continued to feel called to home school our children. The Lord did not provide a job right away for my husband. In fact, while I am writing this, He still has not provided it. Most days, I am just waiting to exhale.

    Yet, the Lord is faithful each moment of each day. Some days, He speaks a quiet word to my heart: “I only need a mustard seed.” Other days His Word jumps off the page and feeds my soul. He has sent women into my life that I wasn’t good friends with prior, but I consider them dear sisters now. They have considered it a labor of love to pray me through these things. They listened and obeyed when God placed me on their heart. I am deeply grateful for them. My husband and I came upon an internet devotional ministry. The timeliness of these and the scriptures in them are another fuel for my spirit to keep going.

    I have learned that God does not leave us alone when the trials come. He may seem silent because He is not answering the specific questions that I have. He is not silent. If we ask Him for encouragement, He sends it in the way we need it. I have learned that the Lord reveals things in trials that I would not have heard from Him had I not gone through them. I have learned that pain is good sometimes, and I can either harden or soften my heart toward hearing from the Lord in this pain. Because I know He resurrects that which He allows to die, I choose to pray from a soft heart: “Teach me what I cannot see” (Job 34:32), and I expectantly wait on Him.

    Moms Running the Race (by Susan)

    Have you ever thought about what factors make it more likely for you to be discouraged or to want to quit? My mother called me one day with advice she had heard on Christian radio that was directed to moms. She told me what she had heard and then she printed the very practical and common sense advice so I would have a copy. It went something like this…“Eat right and get plenty of rest. Exercise. Stay on your knees.” I know that this is not only good advice, but also that it is advice that is very difficult to follow – particularly the part about getting plenty of rest. (What mom, especially a mom of young children, ever got enough rest). Following these principles would greatly reduce our stress level and would help us guard against discouragement.

    Just as we can feel discouraged because of our failure to follow common sense suggestions about eating, sleeping, and exercising, we can also face negative consequences, stress, and hardship when we are doing everything we can to do what is right. Paul faced much hardship and opposition for doing what was right and for proclaiming the truth about Christ. In spite of the negative reaction he received, Paul never quit but doggedly pursued his calling to preach the gospel.

    I am called to persevere in doing what is right. I need to persevere on the days when I feel well and on the days when I am exhausted and want to quit. Paul was not surprised by opposition and hardship and neither should I be surprised.

    Action Step: Are you careful to eat nutritious meals, get enough rest, and exercise regularly? Are you “staying on your knees” in prayer, especially when life is challenging? Are you willing to persevere in spite of opposition and hardship when you are doing exactly what God has called you to do?

    If you struggle in any of these areas, confess that to the Lord and commit yourself to doing your part to resist discouragement and to persevere in doing what is right.

    5 Strong’s #4741.

Related Topics: Character Study, Curriculum

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