It’s Personal

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”’ – Romans 12:17-21.

Conflict resolution tends to be the sticking point in most relationships. If everything is going fine, you have a good relationship. When conflicts arise, you can have a terrible relationship. But many of us believe we have a teflon coating when it comes to conflict. After all, there would not be any conflict if the other person simply did what we wanted them to. As a result, any resolution of conflict is not up to us. The truth is we couldn’t be more wrong.

Conflict resolution is very personal. Why? Because nothing happens unless we do something. Change needs to begin with each one of us. Jesus was no stranger to direct confrontation; we can see his willingness to address conflict head-on when he turned over the money changer’s tables in the temple. So what do we do when we have to face conflict? How do we handle it with courage and a God-honoring attitude? The apostle Paul challenges us this way: “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:17-18)

As Christians, we know some conflict within the family is inevitable. Regardless of the circumstance, we should always strive to be Christlike, even in conflict. Don’t allow bitterness to take root in your heart. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble… “ (Hebrews 12:15). Then examine your own heart before addressing another’s faults. Jesus challenges us: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5). God is working in the lives of every member of the family, but he’s just as concerned about our responsibility and responses to situations.

Finally, recognize what is yours to change. I am not responsible for other’s reactions to me, but I do own my attitude and behavior. So ask yourself, where do I need to take responsibility for my contribution to this conflict? Have I done all I can do to achieve reconciliation? This is hard because we look at ourselves subjectively, and often view the problem with the other person. But when we become vulnerable before God and ask him to hold up the mirror to us, we see that rarely do we handle situations perfectly. We can always learn something about our behavior to help us grow.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who is responsible for resolving conflict in your opinion?
  2. What would it look like, if you or your group, took personal responsibility to bring an end to a conflict?
  3. What are some ways that you may have caused conflict? How do you make amends?   
  4. Pray and ask God how you can be part of the solution in resolving conflict. 

Conflict Resolution

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are at war within you?You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” – James 4:1-3 .   

When you stop and think about it, the most popular theme in Hollywood movies is family conflict. From the Godfather to Lion King, conflict within families is front and center. Mommie Dearest is another such movie. This biographical film is about movie star Joan Crawford and her callous and abusive behavior towards her adopted daughter Christina. There are many other movies I could talk about, but I think you get the point. 

It makes sense that it would be popular subject matter for Hollywood because conflict is inevitable. No relationship is immune. Conflict arises when we are afraid to tell our spouse that their words hurt us, or to confront our kids about their behavior issues, or Uncle Bill about his negative effect on the family?

But here is what we know. When we quarrel with others, it is most likely because of our own inner conflict, our sinful passions that wage war against our new self in Jesus Christ. James 4: 2 points out the nature of our inner conflict. Simply put, it is our dissatisfaction with our life, or in other words we are not getting what we want. We are dissatisfied with other members of the family. We may be arguing about something, but the problem is not what we are arguing about. So the real problem is not addressed. In the mean time, we are arguing and arguing about something that’s not very important and, in the process, we are generating more conflict. 

Perhaps you have heard a pastor say, “God accepts us the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us the same.” God wants to change us to be more like Him. That can’t happen if we are resistant and slow to change, full of excuses, and rigid in our defensiveness. The reason conflict resolution is so difficult is that we’re hesitant to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We’re also frequently unwilling to humble ourselves enough to admit that we might be wrong or to do what it might take to make amends.

Conflicts will not mend themselves. People do not “get over” insults and injuries. Instead, unresolved conflicts scab over. They go underground, surfacing later, and sometimes with greater fury, animosity, or coldness. That’s why making the changes needed start with us. When managed biblically, conflict can serve as a catalyst for change and an opportunity for spiritual and relational growth. But that depends on whether we can stop wanting what we want and want what God wants. Fortunately, conflict and fighting are not the only options. We can talk about it in a civil, loving, patient way. We can pray about it together in humility and compassion.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Conflict is inevitable. Resentment is optional. Resolution is up to you.  Agree or disagree?
  2. Do you equate the lack of conflict with spiritual maturity? If so, how?
  3. What does it look like to win a conflict? What does it look like to lose a conflict? 
  4. What types of conflict take place in your family? How often is it a case of wanting what you want and not getting it?
  5. Give some examples of how you were tempted to avoid a conflict, but instead dealt with it. What allowed you to face the difficult situation?

I Can’t Thank You Enough

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him..” – Colossians 3:15-17.

Just about every family celebrates Thanksgiving in November. But there are families that have 20 or 30 thanksgivings or more each year. They are thankful when they experience healing, or someone gets into the school of their choice, or someone accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They rejoice in answered prayer, and for God’s providence, and for His grace. Multiple thanksgivings would not be good for your diet, but it is good for the family. 

In Colossians 3:17, Paul suggests we can’t have too many thanksgivings: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  In whatever we do, on whatever day, we should be giving thanks.  Colossians 2:7 declares we should be “…abounding in thanksgiving..” And in Ephesians 5:20 we’re told that we should be “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Chris.  We should be thankful and it is especially true in our homes and in how we deal with our families. What would happen if our families were thankful people? 

Our families need appreciation. They need praise. They don’t need harsh words and occasional hard feelings. In many families, negative words are the method we choose to modify someone else’s behavior. Parents put down their kids. Wives insult their husbands. Husbands malign their wives because they believe that this is the best way to make our displeasure known and to change the behavior of those they are upset from. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that Martha Stewart or Bob Vila doesn’t live in every house. We need to develop a thankful spirit and a trust in God’s plan. 

The best place to start practicing thanksgiving is in His presence. We need to pray to God and focus on the things we are thankful for about our spouse/child/sister/brother or other family member. 

The point is this: We need to be a people who are known for our thankfulness, especially in our homes with our wives/ husbands/ children/ parents. Partly because of the change it can bring about in our families, but more importantly because of the change it can bring to our own lives and hearts.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How often do we thank God for our families? If not, why not?
  2. What do we do when family members are difficult?
  3. Is it harder to show gratitude to family members than other people? Why or why not?
  4. What can you do this week to be more thankful and grateful for our families?

Double Standard

“ My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” – Proverbs 3: 1-7. 

There is a story of a young boy who is looking at a framed picture of his dad, who was away on active military duty. The mother sees the boy is upset and asks “what’s wrong?” “I want daddy to come out of the frame,” the boy says. Sometimes our relationship with God feels like he’s disconnected from the circumstances and situations of your life. There are times in your life and in the life of your family that you want Him to come out of the frame.

Well, in the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s exactly what God has done. When Jesus took on human flesh, God stepped out of the frame and dwelled among us. Jesus raised the bar and the standards regarding every facet of our lives. Understanding those standards is critical to the journey of every family. Sometimes, when we come face to face with those standards, we want God to stay in the frame and on the mantle rather than the middle of our lives. The world teaches us that standards are a barrier for growth and understanding. The world tells you that having no standard is okay – that way you’re flexible and are true to yourself.

The best place to look for your standards is from the creator and designer of your life. He’s laid it all out in His Word. The standards we have to live with come from the Bible. Who would better know the rules and standards that are best for us than the one who created us?

Living up to those standards can be hard, uncomfortable and discouraging at times. Sometimes, our experiences, mindsets, and outlooks could not be more different. God calls us to be involved in the broken situations, the tough relationships, and the relationships with people who are different from us because He knows that through these relationships we can grow.

It is easy to look at God’ standards as the elephant in the middle of the room. Because you have so far to go it can seem impossible to move the needle in the short-term. We are better served, however, by slowing down and simply following Christ’s example. I have seen how powerful it is when family members truly invest in one another. Through Christ’s own life, we see that it is through deep, invested relationships that the world is changed.

Moving toward God’s standard requires us to overcome our self-focused nature and to step outside of our comfort zone.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does culture contribute to the wrong standards?
  2. What methods have you used to keep your lifestyle in line with God’s standards? What is the only effective way to be in alignment with God?
  3. Our world is filled with temptation and distraction. How can a family overcome those influences?
  4. What can we do this week to move toward God’s standard as a family?

Fruit Of The Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” – Galatians 5:22.

How would life be different if we exhibited the fruits of the spirit in all our family interactions We would be walking billboards of God’s existence and wisdom, and more importantly, we would be striving for God’s standard for the family rather than our own. The fruit of the Spirit is something demonstrated through relationships. We walk by the Spirit when we love our neighbors as ourselves. We walk by the Spirit when we show kindness to the friends who betrayed us. We walk by the Spirit when we demonstrate patience with our children. We walk by the spirit when we love our spouse. We are to grow to think and act more like God does, and the fruit of the Spirit helps outline the path of a Christian.

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, ““But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” 

Each of these is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit’s active presence in our daily activities. Imagine if our families were characterized by the fruits of the Spirit? Wouldn’t this be an ideal family?  Love doesn’t refer to warm feelings but to a deliberate attitude of good will and devotion to others. Love gives freely without looking at whether the other person deserves it, and it gives without expecting anything back. Loving like that, would raise the bar in a family. Joy is being glad completely independent of the good or bad things that happen in the course of the day. How would family life be different if we focus on God’s purposes for the events in your life rather than on the circumstances. Peace is the absence of turmoil, but calmly trusting that God is in control. That family would be less affected by bumps in the road.   

Patience is the ability to endure treatment from life or at the hands of others without lashing out or paying back. Kindness is at work in a person’s life when we look for ways to adapt to meet the needs of others. Goodness in your desires to see goodness in others, even when that person is a weird or annoying member of the family. And faithfulness: our natural self always wants to be in charge, but Spirit-controlled faithfulness is evident in the life of a person who seeks good for others and glory for God. The fruits of the Spirit reflect the nature of God. Let me say it again: imagine how happy and fulfilled a family would be if it was characterized by the fruits of the Spirit? 

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is in direct contrast with the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  This type of fruit reflects our nature.  

Exhibiting and living our lives in accordance with the fruit of the Spirit will take your family closer to being the ideal family.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are the fruits of the Spirit more than mere niceties? Do you think that they are radically countercultural in their true form?
  2. What fruit do you most recognize in yourself? In your family? What fruit of the spirit would you like to see more evident in your family?
  3. Can the fruit of the Spirit in your life be reproduced in your family? If so, how? 
  4. What would it look like in your life or family if you exhibited the fruits of the Spirit?

See The Family Through God’s Eyes

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”’ – Matthew 7:3-5.

One of the reasons there is a gap between the ideal and the reality of family life is because we tend to adhere to the wrong standard. We are content to lower the bar, the standard, because we distort, or forget God’s standard for the family. What we need to do is to stop looking at life from our perspective and begin looking at life through the eyes of God. It’s when we begin to look at life with the eyes of God that we will have a clearer vision of what God intended for the family. The clearer our vision becomes, the greater success we will have living by God’s standards. 

Seeing life as God sees life will never be easy. When we look at our family through our eyes and our standards, we tend to accept our flaws and shortcomings. God looks at life differently. God also sees people differently than you and I. He sees success and failure differently. In the eyes of many, and even in your own eyes, it may look as if you have failed. It may look as if you don’t have what it takes. But whose eyes are you looking through? What standards are you using?

For us as human beings, it’s natural to look at a problem through logic, past experiences, and what we can see with our eyes. God, however, sees past all that. He looks at our challenges and sees opportunity. Where we see a boring and meaningless job, God sees a ministry and place of growth. When we see hopelessness, God sees a chance for us to experience His hands at work in our life like never before. Where we see weakness in ourselves, God sees an opportunity to show Himself mightily.

There are so many examples in the Bible where people see one thing physically, and God sees something far greater spiritually. In 1 Samuel 16, everyone else saw David as a lowly Shepard, but God saw him as a king.  In Exodus 14, Israel saw the Red Sea as the barrier between them and freedom, but God saw it as the instrument of their deliverance.

When we start looking at the world through God’s eyes, we stop focusing on our problems and start focusing on the victory. Jesus has already won the victory for us. Now its just about accepting that victory and letting it reign in every aspect of our lives. That enables us to focus on correcting the areas where we fall short of God’s standard.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you view your family today?  How do you believe God views your family?
  2. Do you believe that having God’s perspective will enable us to better understand God’s standards as far as it comes to family?
  3. What can we do this week to change our perspective?

Every Family is Flawed

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15

Our saying at Northstar is that nobody’s perfect. You won’t find any perfect people in our church because there aren’t any perfect people. That means that we’re also a “No Perfect Families Allowed” church. We all have flaws and as a result the family we are part of also has flaws and is less than the ideal.

If you have something about your family that isn’t perfect – join the club. There are struggling families, stressed families and good families that are striving to be better – but no perfect families. The question is whether we accept family life as it is, or do we attempt to make it better by striving to meet God’s standard. Each of us has an idea already in mind of what marriage and family is all about. That idea is our “model,” or pattern, or ideal. The difficulty is that many families are not evaluating their lives according to God’s standards, but rather, according to what other Christians, or others, seem to be doing. It is easy to become so occupied with the standards of this world and forgot that Jesus raised the bar. 

God’s word gives us the ideal in everything, including families. We looked at a few family stories in the Bible. There was no effort made to airbrush the complexions of even some of most notable households. God doesn’t attempt to hide the dirty laundry of Bible families. It began with Adam and Eve. The first recorded murder in history occurred between two brothers (Cain and Abel) and the first civil war in the nation of Israel was between David and his son. Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel gets his maid servant pregnant then ends up sending her and her son away because his wife Sarah couldn’t get along with them. Jacob tricks his older brother out of his birth right. Jacob then works for years for an untrustworthy uncle who continuously cheats him.

Fast forward to today. None of us grew up in perfect homes. Our folks had flaws. Our kids will grow up and look back on our flaws.  So what do we do with our flaws? We need to strive for God’s standard and not be happy with whatever standard we are using at this time. 

In this series, we’re going to discover what the Bible says about dealing with the imperfections in family and navigating the struggles of family life. We get to pick our friends but none of us get to pick our families of origin. As a result, family relationships can be the most challenging in our lives. They can also be the most rewarding. No one’s family is perfect, but it is possible to aspire to an ideal. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your definition of an ideal family? How do we best determine where we are as a family?
  2. What is your favorite part of being a part of a family? What is your favorite part of being a member of the family of God?
  3. Why do you think every family in the Bible had flaws?
  4. What can we do this week to move toward God’s standards for our family? 

Some Final Thoughts On Easter

“As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” – Matthew 20:17-19 (NLT).

Easter is another season of the year that presents an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the life of Christ. Easter also represents an opportunity to remember the heavy price that Jesus paid in order for us to have a relationship with God.   

Jesus was betrayed by one of the disciples, publicly humiliated and mocked, beaten beyond recognition, and hung on a cross to die. He gave his body for us and poured out His blood as a sacrifice for us. As a result, we can experience, love, peace, hope, joy, forgiveness and eternal life. At least those are the words that come to mind first. 

But that is not the complete list. If I attempted to add all the words that come to mind when I think of the resurrection, there may not be enough room in this devotional server to contain them all. Because of Jesus, I know that Someone understands, that Someone always cares, and that I am never truly alone. But the reason I would attempt to compile a complete list of words and would never succeed is because on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead.  Because He is alive I have love, peace, hope, joy, forgiveness, and eternal life.   

Easter symbolizes the complete verification of all that Jesus preached and taught during His three-year ministry. If He had not risen from the dead, if He had merely died and not been resurrected, He would have been considered just another teacher or Rabbi. However, His resurrection changed all that and gave final and irrefutable proof that He was really the Son of God and that He had conquered death once and for all.

Easter also helps me appreciate how much Jesus loved people and got involved in their lives; He ate with them, drank with them, laughed with them and cried with them. He was compassionate. He provided for, healed and encouraged. He literally touched a man with leprosy and allowed a woman of the night to anoint his feet in public. He wasn’t concerned with what the people thought about Him, His primary concern was doing the mission of His father in Heaven.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Easter change everything for you? How does Easter give meaning to all of our days?
  2. The proper response to Easter is not warm and fuzzies, but awe. Agree or disagree?
  3. How would Christianity be different if there was no resurrection?
  4. Take a few moments and reflect on Easter and the impact of Jesus dying and rising again on your life. 

An Easter Story

“As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” – Matthew 20:17-19 (NLT).

What does Easter mean? Have you ever taken a few moments and reflect on what Easter means to you?  For many, Easter is a time when we remember Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It is a time when we tap a little deeper in our spirituality and we take the time to make church an important part of the day. Easter is a time we spend with family.

But go back two thousand years ago to the very first Easter and reflect on what Easter meant to one biblical figure, Mary Magdalene. (story found in John 20:1-18) Mary wasn’t celebrating. There was only sorrow and grief. She was still in shock because Jesus had been crucified and killed. Mary goes to the tomb while it is still dark. When she arrives at His tomb, the huge stone covering the tomb was rolled away and the tomb is empty. His body is gone. 

But then a man appears – presumably the gardener. He asks her, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for? We can relate can’t we? When people ask us who/what are we looking for, our answers would include: I need someone to love me or to share my life with or to make my life complete. I’m looking for someone to tell me I am cancer-free.  I need someone to talk some sense into my kids. I need someone to sort out my finances. I’m looking for someone to give my life meaning and purpose beyond just existing.

And then, as Mary stands there in shock and sadness, Jesus specifically calls her by name: Mary. And she recognizes Jesus, who was dead, and rose from the dead. And suddenly, for Mary, Easter changes everything. Everything. Her sorrow has turned to joy, her despair into hope, and death has turned to life.

Easter changes everything for Christians today, too. We know that life is stronger than death. Love is stronger than hatred. Hope is stronger than despair. We know that Christ is risen, and is with us. We know how much God loves us. We know what it means to experience new life-even in small ways in our daily lives.  And we know that nothing is ever beyond the power of God’s grace.

Yes, Easter changed everything for the followers of Jesus. The resurrection revealed for anyone who may have doubted, even after seeing Him perform all sorts of miracles, who Jesus really was. “Nothing is impossible for God.” And it offered a preview of the kind of life that awaits all who believe in Him. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Easter change everything for you? How does Easter give meaning to all of our days?
  2. The proper response to Easter is not warm and fuzzies, but awe. Agree or disagree?
  3. How would Christianity be different if there was no resurrection?
  4. Take a few moments and reflect on Easter and the impact of Jesus dying and rising again on your life. 

Are You Discouraged?

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8.

How are you? At this moment, how are you doing? Perhaps you are on the mountaintop or maybe you find yourself in the valley. Maybe you have been in the valley for some time. I think it is safe to say that discouragement comes to the best of us. One of the hard parts of the Christian walk is always being encouraged. That’s because what encourages us can leak out amidst the trials and storms of this life. It can be a telephone that doesn’t ring or something we expected that didn’t happen. Even the smallest things can trigger discouragement. 

So often we are tempted to cover up our discouragement because we don’t want others to think we are weak. We don’t want people to think of us as unspiritual. Yet when we read through the Psalms, we hear the desperate cries of many a discouraged man. Psalm 102:1-5 says “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.” The psalmist is discouraged. This psalm ends with the writer crying out, “but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.” (Psalm 102:27-28). 

There are many examples throughout the Bible of great men and women of God who experienced discouragement. We talked about one of those on Sunday in the story of Lazarus and Mary. Mary was discouraged. Mary loved Jesus, but she was sick with discouragement. Her brother was dead. John 11:32 says, “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” You can sense the struggle and the discouragement. That’s how many of us feel when our prayers go unanswered. We are discouraged. 

But how does Mary feel after Lazarus is raised from the dead, when she sees what Jesus was planning all along. The answer is John chapter 12. Jesus is having dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Martha serves the meal.  Lazarus is at the table with Jesus. And what does Mary do? She takes an expensive vial of perfume and pours it on Jesus’ feet, and wipes his feet with her hair (John 12:3). She worships Jesus. Why?  Because she now sees — what He did was better than they had asked. Because she now sees — Jesus loved them.

Maybe your unanswered prayer is giving you doubt, struggle, or unbelief. So use this story to help you fight the fight of faith. Because it’s not that your prayer is unanswered. It’s just like with Mary and Martha —Jesus loves you. Jesus is answering your prayer and Jesus is bringing you something even better than you are asking.

1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What were your initial thoughts when you heard the story of Lazarus and Mary?
  2. In your life, where do you experience the most discouragement?
  3. Is discouragement a by product of putting our hope in the wrong things? Why or why not?
  4. What does God normally use when encouraging His people?