Without a Doubt

“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”’ – John 20:24-29.

Most doubt is healthy. If we have doubts in a specific area, it generally causes us to work harder in that area. For example, an athlete who doubts his or her natural ability will train that much harder to improve that area. Doubt can challenge us and keep us honest. But not in every case. Sometimes doubt hurts.

Doubt can tower over us, and makes us afraid to move. Failure and rejection can feed doubt until it becomes a real presence in our lives.  It makes us doubt whether we will ever find a mate, or find a job or find peace in our lives. So it is with God. Some of us have had so many doubts we relegate God to a secondary role. Even if God was once near, doubt can make God seem more than just far away. Doubt can make God seem distant and disconnected. 

When we as believers struggle to believe, it’s not that we’ve misplaced hope; it’s that we’ve misplaced God, who is our hope. We’ve become comfortable living in doubt of God’s promises and in denial of His goodness.In these times, our prayer needs to be like David’s, when he was hiding for his life in a cave from King Saul:

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” (Psalms 57:1-3)

Like He did for David, God will fulfill his own purpose in us. He will provide us reassurance in our times of doubt and wondering. Yes, doubts will surface now and again. None of us have perfect faith. All of us have room to grow. But here is the good news: God exposes our doubt for one purpose: to grow our faith. Yes it is hard and yes, it can be painful. We will have doubt, so don’t think your faith will ever be without some doubt. We have to learn to live with our doubts. But doubts don’t mean we don’t believe. They just reveal what we need to work on in our faith. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you or anyone close to you ever gone through a season of doubt? What do you think were the motivating factors behind that season? How did you respond to that season? What did you learn from it?
  2. What is the difference between going through a season of doubt and becoming a doubter?
  3. Why are we sometimes hesitant to voice our doubts to God? What happens when we neglect to do so?
  4. How might we remind ourselves daily of the character of Christ this week? How might doing so help us fight the temptation to let our doubts define us?

I Need A Miracle

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:3-9.

Have you ever wondered what happened to the miracles that were commonplace in the Bible? God creating the heavens and the earth, the ten plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and Joshua stopping the sun to name a few in the Old Testament. And in the New Testament you have the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus walking on the water, raising Lazarus from the dead, and the resurrection. Those who watched the ministry of Jesus were amazed at the miracles He performed. 

Fast forward 2,000 years. Such miraculous events seem rare and, when we do hear reports of miracles, we tend to be a little reticent to believe. At the very least, we feel there’s something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way He works today. This raises a valid question: Where are the miracles?

The Israelites rescued out of Egypt seemed to be slow to learn and quick to complain in spite of all they had seen. They reach the Red Sea, but are stuck. An army of chariots follows behind them, a body of water sits before them. At just the right moment, God miraculously parts the Red Sea. Every single Israelite crossed over unharmed. Could you ever forget such a moment? There was no natural explanation. After crossing the Sea and finding themselves hungry, God provided manna. Every day for forty years. Every day they feasted on His provision. When they were thirsty, water flowed from a rock. Yes, a rock. 

And, yet, still their hearts struggled with unbelief. Earthly troubles caused them to miss the heavenly miracles. Most of us believe that if we had seen what the Israelites had seen, trusting God would not be an issue. But is that true? Easter season always reminds me that God rescued me as well. It makes me reflect on how well I trust God as I wander through the wilderness of my own life. 

Easter is the ultimate rescue story and an ongoing miracle. Jesus takes all our sin, all our failings, all our loss. He tasted death so that we may experience life. He made a way for each of us to have a relationship with God the Father. But so often we forget. In the messiness and mundane moments of life, we can miss the miracle. Like the Israelites, we are easily tempted to go back to the slavery we know, rather then trusting God with every facet of our life.  Like the Israelites, our earthly troubles can cause us to miss the miracles God is doing daily.

Because whether or not we’re privileged to witness obviously miraculous or supernatural events, we can be confident that God is actively at work in the world, bringing people to himself, bringing glory to Jesus, and building his church. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Matthew 16:18).

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think miracles are important?
  2. Do you believe Jesus can work miracles in you?
  3. Have you been looking for “out of this world” miracles, missing the little ways God wants to bless you?
  4. Where do you need to see the hand of Jesus turning the ordinary things of your life into extraordinary things?
  5. Spend some time this week reflecting on the miracle of Easter.

For His Purposes

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” – Ephesians 1:11. 

There is no part of the world exempt from disasters. Here in Florida, we have hurricanes and tornados. Other places have wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and mudslides, and these are just the natural disasters. Other disasters are caused by humans such as genocide, racism, terrorism and others. But God is more powerful than any disaster.

This week we have been looking at Jesus calming the sea found in Mark 4:35-41. The disciples had been fishermen and so they were very familiar with storms on the Sea of Galilee, but this storm was more than even they could handle. But it wasn’t more than Jesus could handle. When all hope seemed to be lost, He stood up and calmed the storm.

It is hard to imagine anybody making it through this life without eventually having to face storms too powerful for us to handle on our own. We have all been at the mercy of the winds of divorce, abuse, relationship problems, money problems to name a few. There are storms that can keep your life in turmoil for years. Well, Jesus is more powerful than those storms too.

In our story, Jesus was apparently so tired that it looked like he was going to just sleep right through the storm that was about to capsize their boat. So the disciples woke him, shouting: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Not only did Jesus care, He was able to do something about it. He calmed that storm because calming that storm served God’s purposes: His disciples discovered something new about Jesus. They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

God knows all things in the past, present, and future. And God-and God alone-is uniquely qualified to know when to ordain or to permit storms and trials and when not to. Therefore, if He allows, or even brings, something into your life, then He has a plan in mind for it.

We love to follow the Lord when things are going the way we want them to go. But when we come across a storm on the horizon, we want to get out of the boat. We don’t want to go through that storm.

That is why I like Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” (verses 1–2). Then David goes on to say in verse 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

God has a purpose for the storms in our lives.  And through His purposes, He can accomplish great things.

Discussion Questions:

  1. There are so many verses in the Bible about God’s protection. Which is your favorite and why?
  2. Have there been times in your life when you felt God left you all alone to survive a storm without help?  Why is it so easy to feel abandoned during storms and think God is not there?
  3. Read Philippians 4:8. List the things this verse tells us to think about. How can we switch our mindset to think about these things in the middle of the storm?
  4. What can we do to trust God’s purposes in the midst of storms?

God Knows About Your Storms

“O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.” – Psalm 89:8-11.

We have been looking at the miracle of Jesus calming the wind and the waves found in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus was on a boat with his disciples when a storm hit them. The disciples panicked because they were afraid the boat would capsize, and they would drown. They woke up Jesus who was asleep and Jesus told the wind and the waves to stop. “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

I hope you did not miss the introduction or setup to this story. Mark 4:35 says that after preaching by the sea, Jesus told his followers, “Let us go across to the other side.” It was Jesus’ idea to cross the sea. The sea that would, in a few hours, be hit by a storm that made the disciples fear for their lives? The journey was His idea.

It is safe to assume that most, if not all of us, have had a storm or storms in our lives.  As a result, we know what storms are like. Maybe your storm was in the past, maybe you are going through a storm right now, or maybe there is a storm on the horizon. In any of those scenarios, our first inclination is to manage as best we can to minimize the damage. So we try to fix, work, perfect, smile, try harder, master, get over it or get through it, while the storm lasts.

But that is not the mindset of the disciples. They are in a sinking boat. They wake  Jesus in the hope He will help them. But here is what you need to remember: Jesus knew there would be storm. It’s not like Jesus said, “Ok, guys, let’s go!” and then a few hours later He said, “Oh,  sorry about that guys, my bad…I had no idea this storm was coming.” No. Just like He knew it was time for us to cross the sea; He knew a storm would meet us somewhere in the middle, and He planned on being there in it with us.   

Faith in the Lord is not an automatic thing. It is something that we must choose to exercise, often in the face of overwhelming circumstances that seem to scream at us, “God doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t even exist or you wouldn’t be in this storm.”

But He is in it. With you. The journey was His idea, so we can be confident that if God said go, and we went, He is with us.  He’s always there, even though sometimes it seems as if He’s not. But often He waits until we are at our wit’s end so that we sense how great our need really is. But even before the disciples called on Him, Jesus was there with them in the boat, going through the storm with them. He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). And Romans 8:38-39 reminds us, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What has helped you survive the storms in your life? What did you learn in the process about yourself? About God?
  2. The better we know the Lord, the better we can trust Him. Agree or disagree?   
  3. The bigger the storm, the more the Lord will be glorified when we trust Him. Agree or disagree?
  4. What can you do to better prepare for storms this week?

Who Then Is This?

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” – Isaiah 43:10-11.

The story of Jesus calming the storm is a familiar one to those who were brought up in church. It can be found in gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke. Jesus had been teaching near the Sea of Galilee. Looking for a break from the crowds, Jesus decided to take a boat with the disciples to the opposite shore. Not long after they sailed, Jesus fell asleep and a storm arose (Luke 8:23). The creaking timbers groaned as the ship rocked back and forth, and waves crashed over the hull. The disciples tried to bail the water out, but soon the boat was full. It seemed like all hope was lost. The disciples ran to find Jesus. They awoke Him and asked “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  Jesus stood up and with three words, “Peace, be still!” He muzzled the storm. Mark 4.41 ends with the question the disciples asked themselves after witnessing an astonishing miracle: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

That was an obvious question. But it was not a question that needed an answer. Rather, it was a rhetorical question asked by men who had seen the miraculous that led them to a obvious and undeniable conclusion. What else could you think? This is not rocket science, although it took a while for it all to sink in, as it sometimes does with all of us. In a short period of time they had seen Jesus cast out demons, heal a variety of diseases, cleanse lepers, declare to men that their sins were forgiven, heal a withered hand, and teach in ways no man has ever taught before. His goal? At least in part, was to force people to look at Him in a new light and to evaluate Him in different terms.   

I believe the most important question you can answer in life is the same question the disciples asked in the boat that day: Who is Jesus Christ? Who is this man? Like the disciples, you might think you have Jesus all figured out. You may think you are doing fine without Him. Consequently, you have even taken him along in the boat with you and left Him sleeping quietly in the corner over there where He doesn’t disturb you. 

The fact is we cannot contain Jesus. And when He suddenly breaks out of your compartment of your heart where you have contained Him and you are confronted with His awesome power and majesty, you will be terrified, even as the disciples were. 

Jesus is not a fabled figure. He is not just a charismatic teacher or a loving man. He is the eternal Son of God who created you. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Judge of all mankind. Who is it that can still the waves with the spoken word? Although it seems that these men could not get their minds entirely around the concept, they have been shown wonder working capability of such magnitude, actual control of the wind and the waves, such as only Almighty God possesses. And today, God still controls the wind and the waves and everything else in our lives that we are worried about. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you answer the question: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
  2. Sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom so that you will discover He is the Rock at the bottom. Agree or disagree?
  3. The disciples had underestimated the power of Jesus. Once they turned to Him, Jesus immediately calmed the storm. God wants to be the calmer of our storms as well. How should we react when we see a storm coming our way?
  4. Make a list of some storms you want the Lord to calm down in your life. After you’ve made your list, pray over a specific storm each day for the next week.

The Eye of the Storm

“There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.’ – Isaiah 4:6.

Maybe you read the story of the huge Royal Caribbean cruise ship that sailed through strong winds and rough seas in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship’s 4.500 passengers were forced to hunker down in their cabins for 4 hours as 30-foot waves and hurricane force winds rocked the ship. One passenger said, “the ship rocked side-to-side – sometimes hanging at an incline longer than seemed safe. Large noises came from within the ship” Another passenger wrote: “I’m not going to lie: I was terrified – although I did my best to hide it from my wife.”

The people in Biblical times had a healthy fear of the sea and for good reason. Needless to say, the boats in that time did not compare to the technological marvels of today. Psalm 69.3 says, “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.“

So in Mark 4 we have a storm at sea and the disciples losing hope in the storm. Their boat was sinking. They called to Jesus in the midst of this turmoil.  Jesus’ response is in Mark 4:39: “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” 

As Mark tells it, the disciples are on a boat when a sudden and violent windstorm comes up.  Matthew tells us it was a great storm. (Matthew 8:24)  We have all seen storms blow in. We may have “felt” a storm coming in. When difficult storms blow into our lives, many of us engage in a spiritual tug-of-war with God. We view ourselves at the helm trying to guide the boat out of danger. We want to “pull ourselves together” and pilot the boat in the direction we think it should go. We imagine God as the unseen force that is pulling us in a direction we don’t understand.   

We also can experience sudden storms in life. The doctor tells you that you have cancer, or a spouse tells you for the first time that they want a divorce, or you get laid off out of the blue. Sudden storms appear quickly on the horizon and leave you little time to react. 

That is when we seek God in prayer just as the disciples did. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  God does not share our panic. He is not surprised. One Bible commentary says, “we do ill to try to communicate our despair to God.  Instead of rushing to communicate our panic to Him, We should allow Him to communicate His calm to us.”

The reality is God is waiting for us to place our faith in Him. He wants to guide us as we struggle through life’s storms. Colossians 3:15-16 says, “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.”

But I encourage you not to use faith as a bargaining chip when asking for God’s help. How often have we thought, God, get me out of this situation and I will do (fill in the blank). But this isn’t faith and it certainly isn’t a way to experience the freedom of leaning into God’s strength and love. Real faith is allowing God to be God on His terms, not ours.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If hard things in life could be thought of as storms, what is the most recent storm you have faced? How did you get through it? 
  2. When you have felt like the wind of life is about to blow you away, or the rains of disappointment are soaking your plans. What do you do?
  3. Have you ever gone to God when you have been experiencing a storm in your life? Did it make a difference? What did Jesus do when the disciples came to Him?
  4. What can you do this week to make God your anchor in the storms of your life?

Between Sundays

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:6-8.

There are many reasons why I love my “job” as pastor of Northstar Church. I am reminded of the old quote by Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I completely agree with this quote. How could you not love a job where you have the privilege to remind yourself and others that God has saved me and gives me the privilege of being His child. Secondly, how could you not love a job that gives you the opportunity to spend time in God’s word to study who He is and how much He loves me.

It is not a perfect job, however. There are weeks when I wish there was a few more days between Sundays. No, I don’t need additional days for preparation. I need the additional time to perform an application litmus test. I’m sure you are a little confused so let me explain:  I don’t generally wrestle with what to say and how to say it. What I would use the extra time for is to think through and evaluate how the message speaks into my life, my relationships, my habits, character, etc. Do I apply what I am talking about in my life?  Do I possess the faith I am talking about? Do I lean on the promises? In other words, do I practice what I preach? And then when I am comfortable, I teach what is on my heart, trusting in the Holy Spirit to do the work only He can do. Once done, I repeat the process for next week.

What do you do between Sundays? For many Christians today, Sunday morning worship services or weeknight small group gatherings are the times and places when we talk and think about our relationship with God. We can come to church every weekend and be moved by the worship of the risen Savior. But, the Bible tells us that is not enough. I believe the time in between Sundays is the time to turn belief into behavior. Reading and listening to God’s Word without acting on it will not build your relationship with God. It’s not enough to just say that you agree with what God’s word says on a subject. You must actually do it. God’s word is meant to be acted upon.

I challenge you to take what you learn on Sunday and respond to it between Sundays.  Respond by allowing the scripture to change us – first an inward change, and then in our outward practice. In Romans 2:13, Paul wrote “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”  There is certainly value in a good sermon or Bible study or small group discussion. But at the end of the day, we must do what the Bible tells us. We must allow God’s word to work in us.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think we tend to be hearers of the word, but don’t do anything to fix what we hear or see?
  2. Often our areas of disobedience are blind spots. How can we see these areas that we often overlook?
  3. Where do spiritual gifts fit in with being doers of the word? 
  4. How can we be better at applying the truths that we are exposed to? What is one truth that you need to apply to your life, but haven’t yet?

Total Immersion

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2. 

One of the ways to develop real faith is to immerse yourself in the Bible. I did not say read or scan or peruse. To get the most of the scriptures, we have to approach the Bible as something much more powerful than just another book, newspaper, or magazine. This is the written word of God, or in other words, God’s side of the conversation. It requires study.   

It means that we stop reading the Bible out of obligation. It means we stop gutting it out because we know we should. It means reading and studying it with delight, even craving it because of the impact it can have on our lives. 

Our culture has conditioned us to skim and speed read for relevant information and then quickly move on. Most media today is sound bites, bits of superficial information designed for a culture that is impatient and has a lower attention span that requires instant gratification. But only looking at the surface of a subject will often hinder us from experiencing the transforming power within the Bible. 

The more we immerse ourselves in God’s word, the more our faith can grow. Romans 10:17 explains, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” That is, you must feed your faith. When we fill our minds with everything but God’s word, our faith will often weaken. According to Romans 12:2, your transformation comes “by the renewal of your mind.”  If we want to increase our faith we must fill our mind with God’s word.

When we immerse ourselves in the Bible we will learn about His love, His justice, His mercy, and His plan. The Bible promises that if we seek God, we will find Him. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7). As God changes us, we will learn to develop the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit, who dwells in all Christians. “even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

As we walk in the Spirit, allowing Him to control our lives, we will begin to trust in Him. “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:7).

We know that the measure of faith given to every believer can grow. Your faith can be strengthened by feeding it on the word of God and by exercising it or putting it into practice.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think is the best way to read the Bible? Have any of you read the entire Bible yet?
  2. How can we move our agenda out of the way and better rely on the Holy Spirit?
  3. Can immersing yourself in the Bible deepen relationships? Increase faith? Why or why not?
  4. How can you go about getting answers to baffling questions or help with understanding the meaning of difficult passages?
  5. What steps can we take this week to immerse ourselves in the Bible?

Keeping The Faith

“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. – Job 2:9-10

James 5: 11 says, “…you have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”  Job is a man who had it all and lost it all, but somehow managed to hold onto his faith in God. 

Before the calamities that ruined his health and prosperity, Job “feared God” (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3). Satan knew that Job feared God, but assumed that Job, once his wealth was removed, would curse God (Job 1:10, 11). God allowed Satan to test that supposition. Disaster after disaster destroyed Job’s livestock, his wealth and, yes, his ten children. Job lost everything.

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” (Job 1:20). Worshiped? In the days before he lost everything, Job humbled himself before his God and sacrificed. Now, in the face of utter devastation and loss, he worshiped. 

This story does not seem fair. Job was certainly not getting from God what we would expect for a blameless and upright man. It would seem logical that faith would suffer in the face of unfairness. But there is nothing in the Bible that suggests Job was complaining about fairness. Instead, he acknowledged that he had nothing that God did not give him, so how could he complain if God took it away. God is and always has been completely loving, completely just, completely holy, and completely merciful. In Job 1:21 Job says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Blessed? So much for cursing God.   

It is highly probable that too much suffering could cause a person to lose all faith in God. We often speak as if our view of God carries the weight of our faith or gives us sufficient reason to lose faith. Yet while the friends spoke of their view of God, Job continually spoke of God’s view of him. Job, even in his lowest moments, never ceased to believe that God was in control and worthy of being praised. What about us? What do we depend on more?  Our view of God? Or His of us? Do we put our faith in ourselves or in who God is?

Biblical faith is outward, fixed upon God, due to who He is, what He has done, and His power and control over everything. Hebrews 11.6 famously says, ”And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” At Northstar we believe that God is who He said He is and as a result we trust Him to do everything that He has promised. He is worthy of our faith. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is your faith built on if and how God answers our prayers or on who He is? 
  2. How do you think Job had the capacity to worship at a time of disaster?
  3. Read James 1:2-4: What does James say trials will do? (Test our faith, produce perseverance, help us mature in our faith) Is there any possible good you can see coming out of your trials? How can it improve your faith?
  4. What steps can you take this week to reflect on who God is rather than what He does?

Faux Faith

“Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

Do you ever wonder why God sometimes lets a bad situation not only get worse, but get impossible? It would be better just to resolve the problem, wouldn’t it? Allowing the problem to get worse doesn’t make sense. It makes us wonder, “God, what are You doing? Where are You?”

On a truly organic level you have to wonder why is it there are times when there are difficulties in your life, there’s pain in your life, there’s a relationship that’s shredded, there’s something wrong with your body, you need some money, you need a job, you got a kid who is always in trouble. You look heavenly and say, “God, I need help.” But instead of a solution it gets worse, leaving you to wonder if Jesus really cares. 

I would like to remind you of the story in John chapter 11. Lazarus was sick and that was brought to the attention of Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus loved Lazarus. Sisters Mary and Martha have seen Jesus do miraculous works, and now they need some help with a problem. So naturally they bring the problem to Jesus. These people are not just followers or needy people. These are people that have demonstrated that Jesus is enough for them. He is their all in all. They are believers. They care. And they know He cares for them.

So they take their problem to Jesus. And what’s Jesus’ response? How does Jesus respond to His most devoted followers and good friends? Well, we’ll find out in verses 4 to 6. “But when Jesus heard it he said, This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”’ Then notice this little commentary: ”Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

This is a God-ordained, God-timed, God-orchestrated sickness. It will not end in death. In fact, it has a very specific purpose so that the Son may be glorified. The purpose is that people will see and know Jesus for who He is like never before.

How would we react? What if you called 911 and was told, “I’ll be there in a couple days.” We would not be happy to be sure. We respond the same way with God if we needed money. Or a job. Or help with an addiction or a relationship. That’s because we expect to God to do our bidding as justification for our faith. Or we look to a mentor or relative or someone else as a symbol of our faith or we are willing to trust God if He does things our way. This is not faith. This is focusing on what God does rather than who He is. 

In verse 7 to 16 and Jesus announces His plan to solve the problem. He didn’t do it in their time, He didn’t say, “Oh, I’ll be right there, Mary,” The issue is not His power. And the text is telling us the issue is not whether He loves or not. But something is going on here. He has a plan and if we don’t have faith in who He is, we may miss what He is doing in our life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the difference between real and weak faith?
  2. Read John 11:1-44: Many people ask, “Where is God” when they are undergoing times of intense trial and difficulty. What does this section say about who and where He is?
  3. What application can we take from John’s statement in verse 5, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”? Especially as in regards to our own circumstances?
  4. Everything Jesus has said about Himself is true and it is demonstrated yet again by Lazarus’ resurrection. How does that apply to our lives today?
  5. What can we do this week to remember who God is, rather than what He does?