Week 1 Lesson: Believing
Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 (NET)
Perhaps you love to vacation at the beach, as I do. For years I lived near the Gulf of Mexico, and I so enjoyed days of lazing around on the sand and in the water. For many summers my husband and children spent hours building sand castles. I never participated much because I hated it when all our work disappeared with the tide! Sand castles have no foundation; there is nothing on the beach on which to build them securely and so they wash away.
Without a secure foundation it is impossible to build a castle of any kind; in the same way without faith it is useless to attempt to grow in godliness. God has to participate in the process. As women of faith, our purpose is to glorify God and love him forever. God is pleased when we mirror the qualities that he possesses, which are built on believing in him, the first quality we will consider.
Today we will read verses about faith, the noun form of the Greek verb believe, which involves conviction of the truth. The biblical concept of faith means that we are willing to step out and act because we put our trust in that truth; we are not simply assenting to it intellectually. If I had not truly believed that my husband loved me, I would never have proceeded to marry him, trusting his word to care for and about me.
Each week the lesson will begin with a look at the quality which we are studying and its presence in Jesus’ life; then, we will look at a biblical character who exemplifies that trait.
Our memory verse this week is Hebrews 11:6, written at the top of this lesson. Each week you will have a verse to learn, and I have given it to you in the New English Translation, called the NET Bible, offered free online at bible.org. However, feel free to learn it in any translation that helps you best understand God’s word to you.
Read Heb. 11:1-31 quickly, noting what is repeated throughout the passage. Repeated words and phrases show you the author’s emphasis or theme.
1. As you think through what the author stresses, what do you learn about the nature of faith or believing?
2. Explain Heb. 11:6 in your own words, as if you were explaining it to someone unfamiliar with the concept of faith.
3. Sharing question: Think of a present or recent difficult experience or situation in your own life. What was it and how diligently did you seek God in the midst of it? Did you expect Him to respond? Why or why not?
Read Hebrews 12:1-3 and 1 Peter 2:21-25.
4. How did Jesus’ faith relate to his actions according to these passages (Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 2:23)?
Diamonds in the Word: Read the account of Jesus’ arrest and trials in Mark 14:43-15:37 thoughtfully, remembering that Jesus experienced all of these things for you. If you have time, read one of the parallel accounts in Mt. 26:36-68 27: 11-31; or Lk. 22:39-53; 66-71; 23:1-25 ; or John 18:1-19:30, writing down any additional thoughts that come to mind on the next question.
5. Sharing question: What do you personally learn from the way Jesus handled his ill treatment from Heb. 12:2 and 1 Pet. 2:23?
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer asking God to give you the faith you need to deal in a godly way with the trials that you face.
Yesterday we read that Jesus himself trusted God and depended upon him while he walked on the earth. For the rest of this week we will look at Peter and his faith. (With each quality we will study at least one Bible character and his or her example of that characteristic.) As you think about the quality of believing God in your own life, consider what you learn from Peter.
Read John 1:35-42, Peter’s first meeting with Jesus.
7. What did Peter hear about Jesus that motivated him to come meet him?
Diamonds in the Word: Peter was apparently with Jesus when he left Judea and returned to his home in Galilee. Read about some of the things that Peter saw and heard in John 2:1-11. How would this be a faith-building time?
Read Matthew 4:12-22.
8. Upon Jesus’ return to Galilee what was he doing (Mt. 4:17)? How would you describe Jesus’ effect upon Peter considering Peter’s actions in Mt. 4:20?
9. Sharing question: What have you heard about Jesus or from his words that has drawn you to follow him? What have you learned about him that has built your faith?
10. Sharing question: What have you been unwilling to leave behind to follow Jesus? What does that say about your faith?
11. Responding to God: Draw a picture, which you will not have to show others unless you want to do so! (I know that some of you don’t like to do this but others love it; we all learn and relate differently to God.) In the picture put Jesus calling you to follow Him. Put at least one thing that you are reluctant to give up behind you. Talk to God about what you have drawn and about your need for Him to help you let go of those things. They may be bad things (for example, addictions to food; reading romance novels; selfishness in relationships; discontent; lack of commitment) or they may be what you see as good things that you are demanding from God (a job, a husband, relief from a trial, your own plan for your child, a different boss, a certain outcome in a situation).
Today we will read about some of the ups and downs in Peter’s faith.
Diamonds in the Word: Skim the chapters from yesterday’s reading in Mt. 4 to today’s passage in Mt. 14. Consider what Peter saw and heard during that time. What things would have helped develop his faith?
Read Matthew 14:22-33.
12. Summarize what happened.
13. What does this story teach you about faith? Comment on the contrast between Peter and the other disciples.
14. Sharing question: Read Mt.17:20 in light of this story. How are you encouraged today to believe and step onto the water as Peter did in a specific area of your life?
Read Mark 8:27-33.
15. What do you learn about Peter’s faith from this passage?
16. Consider Jesus’ responses to Peter here and in the previous story. How do they relate to our memory verse Heb. 11:6?
17. Responding to God: Write out a prayer asking God to help you believe that he will move mountains in one situation in your life right now. However, be careful not to dictate to God what he must do in the circumstances rather than believe him for the answer. You may want to pray as the father did in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Today we will look at events that led up to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Read from the account of the Last Supper in Matthew 26:32-35. Then study events that occurred afterward in Matthew 26:47-56.
18. What do you learn about Peter’s faith from his boasts and his actions? What does this teach you about faith in general?
Read Luke 22:54-62, which took place later the same evening while Jesus was on trial.
Diamonds in the Word: Use your concordance to find parallel accounts of the events in Luke in the other gospels. Read them slowly, allowing Peter’s actions to sink in.
19. Relate what happened in this passage in Luke.
20. What insights do you gain from Peter’s actions concerning fear and faith?
21. Sharing question: Think of a particular situation in which you have difficulty believing or trusting God out of fear. What one action step can you take to build your faith so that you overcome fear next time you face that situation? If you have trouble thinking of something, ask your group to help you. God desires us to relate together in community so that we encourage and assist each other by sharing the experience and wisdom that God has given us as individuals.
22. Sharing question: Peter wept bitterly according to Lk. 22:62. Have you ever wept before God because you regretted your lack of trust in him, knowing it saddened him? What happened that caused you to feel such remorse?
23. Responding to God: In light of your previous two answers, write out a prayer for God to help you replace your fear with faith. You may want to write this as your prayer request for your group this week. We often focus our requests on the daily things of life when we should be thinking bigger, more in line with God’s larger will for us. He is more concerned about our character than our circumstances, although he does care about what we face also. You may want to look at the thoughts about kingdom prayers at the back of this workbook. Consider God’s desire for you to walk in faith. Write a prayer that you would trust God in a present situation rather than allow fear to rule your actions.
The great thing about Peter’s story is that it doesn’t end with defeat. From the depths of failure and despair, his faith was ignited by Jesus’ resurrection.
Read John 21:15-19.
24. How does this account of Jesus’ love and care for Peter after his denials encourage you as you think of time when you acted out of fear or other emotions rather than in faith?
Diamonds in the Word: Read all of John 21 and any commentaries that you may have. If you do not have any commentaries, you may want to go online to www.bible.org and look up John 21 in the resources for online commentary.
Read one of these passages: Acts 2:1-41; Acts 3:1-26; Acts 4:1-22; or Acts 5:17-42. (Of course, if you have time, feel free to read more than one!)
25. Summarize what happened and share how Peter acted in faith rather than fear.
26. Sharing question: What did God impress upon you about faith from this story?
27. Sharing question: Considering all that you have studied about Peter this week, what have you learned about faith? What have you learned about God? What do you plan to do to increase faith in your own life?
Read Acts 4:23-31.
28. Responding to God: Pray according to the prayer of the disciples in Acts 4:29 for yourself and for your church. First, praise God for the great deeds that you have seen him do, as they did in vv. 24-28. Write out your prayer below.
I am still in the state of believing. This is not a “I believed, and then this happened” story. But I am discovering that believing is a change of attitude that stays in the present tense. Believing requires commitment and intellect when feelings aren’t there. A time of trial has been, for me, a time where God is saying, “Do you really believe what I say in My Word? . . . Do you really believe that you can trust me?”
For several years, our family has been under a lot of stress. We have been through many emotions with the situations and with the Lord. But what we have learned is that the details of the trial are not what is important. Seeking the Lord, drawing near to Him when we don’t feel like it, looking for and finding flowers in the desert – evidence of His Hand – these are the things that sustain us. In seeing His provision in unexpected ways, we see His love and hold on tighter to the promises in His Word. While we don’t see the purposes, we do know and believe that He is working all things together for His good, because we are called to His purpose.
Periodically I receive emails with online slide shows of digital pictures from a friend or relative who wants to share photos from a recent birthday party, a vacation, or other important event. In a similar way, the writers of the gospels share snapshots of Jesus, the disciples, and other people in the New Testament as they paint narrative pictures. While some of these pictures we would be proud to claim, others are ones that we would never put online if they were our own. I would be thrilled to be Peter walking on water, but I would not want the world to see my denial of Christ.
As a mom, assailed with doubts about my ability to be the mom God wants me to be, I am encouraged to see the people God uses. Just as God chose to use Peter, the disciple who denied Him, to preach the sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2, God chooses to use me as an imperfect mom to impact the lives of my children and to model what the life of faith in Jesus Christ looks like.
A key passage on parenting that a pastor shared with my husband and me when our oldest child was a toddler is Deuteronomy 6:4-8.
Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.
These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates. (Deut 6:4-8)
We can apply the principles given long ago to Israel as we parent our children today. In this passage we see that the first priority is to love God wholeheartedly. Then we are to teach our children. Our faith is not confined to the sanctuary on Sunday morning during the worship service. We are to be teaching in the morning, in carpool, in the grocery store, at the mall, and at bedtime. We are to relate what we know about God and His purposes to the everyday occurrences of life. We are to live out our relationship with Jesus Christ each day in the mundane activities of life. As parents, we are charged with the primary responsibility of teaching our children about God. We cannot outsource this responsibility.
Handing down our faith is more than asking our children to put their faith in Jesus. We can begin with the youngest child to talk about God and His love, to acknowledge Him as Creator of all things, and to build a foundation for faith. When the Holy Spirit convicts that child and draws him to the Savior, the knowledge of who Christ is has already been planted. Start today to plant seeds of the knowledge of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the basics of the Christian walk in the life of your child. Brainstorm with other moms about creative ways to impart your faith. Begin today to teach your children about the most important relationship in life, a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Action Step: Begin to hand down your faith by being intentional, relational, and repetitive in your teaching. Start by choosing a time of day and a routine that you can repeat. For example, you might decide to pray with your children each morning before they leave for school. Write out one thing you will do to teach your children about a relationship with Jesus.