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There are two questions we need to ask ourselves: First of all, is there a God? And secondly, if there is a God, what is He like?

 

I’m assuming we all believe there is a God. I’m also assuming we all believe He’s a personal God, who cares about us, and you wouldn’t be reading this if  you didn’t want to know more about Him.

 

The writer, Ernest Hemingway, believed in God, but concentrated on trying to decipher the nature of God. In his book, A Farewell to Arms, the protagonist, Fred Henry, spent the day fishing, and that evening was sitting around a campfire by himself drinking whisky. He threw another logon the fire, which was apparently full of ants. Thousands and thousands of them came rushing out, and he watched them as they scurried from one end of the burning log to the other. Henry thought to himself, I could take the log off the fire and throw it out of harm’s way, but I don’t want to. Many people share Hemingway’s image of God: God exists, but He is indifferent to His creation.

 

Jonah is a book about anything but the indifference of God to His creation. He loves His creation and goes to great lengths to provide for His creation. If you read the Book of Jonah, you will come away with an image of God you’ll never forget! God does not stand by and think, I could do something, but I don’t think I will. God is actively involved in the life of his creation.

1.  What is your personal image of God? Is He a God of mercy and compassion or a God of indifference? Is your personal image of God something you acquired as a child? Or has something happened to you in your life to form your opinion of Him?

2.  Read Colossians 1:15. What image of God is described there? Does this description match your own personal beliefs?

3.  Have you ever been in a situation like Hemingway’s character, where you had the power to change as situation, but you chose not to? If so, do you regret your choice? Why?

God’s call to Jonah could be likened to any one of us being called to do something we do not want to do. Let’s say it’s September 25th, following that fateful day on September 11. God calls you to board a plane to Afghanistan, and tells you to go find Osama bin Laden. What if God said, “I want you to go tell him that I am the true God, the Hebrew God of Abraham, Moses, Isaac, and all of My creation, and if he doesn’t stop doing what he’s doing to his own people and to the other people on the Earth, I am going to wipe out all of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Osama himself. You go tell him.” How would you react? Like Jonah, would you refuse?

Sometimes, I run from the call of God in subtle ways. I read the paper in the morning and leave no time to commune with God, no time for devotions. Or the Lord tells me, “I want you to take your neighbor to church.” But I think to myself, I don’t like him that well. Can’t someone else take him to church? That’s missing the call of God.

Can you run from God? Yes. Do you get away with it? Never. There are always consequences.

Read Psalm 139:7-10.

4.  Have you ever tried to run away from God? Why?

5.  There are stories throughout the Bible about people who tried to reject Jesus. What does Jesus say in Matthew 7:26 about rejecting His Word?

6.  In what ways could you rearrange your daily schedule so you can have more time for devotions and prayer?

Adapted with permission from Overcoming Mistakes, ©2004 Marilyn Meberg. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy for yourself, click here.

The Juggling Act

The Juggling Act

 

There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

I Corinthians 15:44 (NKJV)

 

No circus would be complete without a juggling act. We watch in amazement as a team of men and women in sequined attire enter the ring. They nod and bow to the audience as they’re introduced, then quickly fall into their routine. At first, it seems simple enough. Three balls, then four, then five, then six, then seven. Some begin lofting clubs, hoops, and fragile plates. Then the pattern of flying paraphernalia becomes more complicated, with crisscrossing flight paths. Then, an element of danger is added as long-blade knives and flaming torches are flung through the air. We hold our breaths, gasp in suspense, and applaud with appreciation throughout the jugglers’ demonstration. And all the while, we wonder how they manage to make it look so easy. Even during the most complex display, each of the jugglers smiles broadly. They never miss a pass or drop a ball. Their juggling act appears completely effortless.

Our lives seem like juggling acts. We don’t toss balls and clubs in the air, but we’re wearing many hats and managing various responsibilities and juggling several schedules. Work schedules, school schedules, practice schedules, exercise schedules. Meal plans, reading plans, budget plans, and vacation plans. Grocery lists, to-do lists, laundry lists, and wish lists. Some people we know manage to find the proper balance in their daily routines, and they keep a smile on their face. How do they manage to make it look so easy? We know from experience—it’s no easy trick to keep in all airborne, and to our great despair, we keep dropping the ball.

1.  In an effort to keep balance in our lives, we feel like we’re in a juggling act. On the one hand, we have life’s physical needs to consider. Bills—grocery bills, doctor’s bills, utility bills, repair bills, school bills. But what does Jesus remind us of in Luke 12:22-23?

2.  We hear so much about a balanced life these days. We’re urged to get more sleep and more exercise. We’re supposed to have balanced diets and balanced checkbooks. But as believers, we also have to consider the balance between our physical needs and our spiritual needs. What comparison does Paul draw in 1 Timothy 4:8?

3.  In order for anything to balance, it must have a sturdy foundation. We cannot expect to live a balanced life if we do not have a sound base. Both Solomon and Paul spoke much of having something sound at the heart. Match up these examples:

___ Proverbs 2:7                    a.  God gives a spirit of power and a sound mind

___ Proverbs 3:21                  b.  We may be sound in the faith

___ Proverbs 8:14                  c.  Keep sound wisdom and discretion

___ 2 Timothy 1:7                  d.  By sound doctrine we may convict and exhort

___ 2 Timothy 1:13                e. Hold fast the pattern of sound words

___ 2 Timothy 4:3                  f.  God stores up sound wisdom for the upright

___Titus 1:9                         g. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom

___ Titus 1:13                       h. Many will not endure sound doctrine

Striking the proper balance may require us to simplify our lives, for the more responsibilities we have, the more difficult it is to keep all the balls aloft. Paring back on earthly cares allows us to focus on spiritual ones. That’s why nuns of old took vows of poverty and chastity. Without all their time taken up by caring for house and husband and children, they could live to minister to the needs of others. We also have more time for our Christian brothers and sisters if we aren’t overworked, overextended, and overwhelmed. Could simplification help put your life into better balance?

4.  In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells His disciples about the conditions needed for His Word to take root, flourish, and bear fruit. What stood in the way of one heart’s fruitfulness, according to Luke 8:14?

5.  Consider for a moment—why do we want to have balanced lives? Is it so that we can live comfortably, happily, undisturbed? Or is it so that we can give proper time and attention to God’s purposes for us? We are hear to bear fruit!

John 15:2 – “Every __________ in Me that does not __________ __________ He takes away; and every __________ that __________ __________ He __________, that it may bear ____________________” (NKJV)

John 15:16 – “You did not __________ Me, but I __________ you and __________ you that you should __________ and __________ __________, and that your __________ should __________” (NKJV)

6.  A balanced life pays heed to both the physical and spiritual needs of our bodies. A balanced life thrives and bears fruit.

·        What does John 15:4 say we must do in order to bear fruit?

·        What does John 15:8 say is the result of a fruitful life?

Spend a little time this week considering what your physical needs are and what your spiritual needs are. How do they affect one another? What happens when either one is given the greater balance of your time and attention? We weren’t meant to live balanced lives just for our own peace of mind, but so that we can be fruitful. What do you suppose that might mean in your own life?

 

Adapted with permission from Living a Life of Balance, ©2005 Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy for yourself, click here.

Faith Defined

Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.

Hebrews 11:1 (NCV)

 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). Throughout the whole canon of Scripture, we have the preceding fifteen words offered to us as the only definition of faith. In other passages we have pictures of those who exhibited faith, what it looks like to break faith, constant exhortations to have faith or stand firm in the faith, to live by faith, rebukes of those with little faith, those who are rewarded because of their faith, and those who will turn away from their faith. But Hebrews 11:1 is the only actual definition of what the content of faith looks like.

1.  Indeed, no other verse in Scripture says, “Faith is . . . . “ But we can round out our understanding of faith by comparing other passages. Where does Romans 10:17 say our faith comes from?

2.  What does Romans 5:2 say we have access into because of our faith?

3.  According to Galatians 3:26, who have we become because of faith in Jesus?

4.  Take a look at these passages. They help us to understand what faith is and what it can accomplish in our lives. Match up each statement with the verse in which it is found.

___ Acts 6:5                       a. The church can be strengthened in the faith

___ Acts 15:9                     b. We have boldness and confidence through faith

___ Acts 16:5                     c. Hearts are purified by faith

___ Romans 11:20              d. We are kept by God through faith

___ Ephesians 3:12             e. You can stand by faith

___ Ephesians 3:17             f.  Believers can be full of faith

___ 1 Peter 1:5                   g. Christ dwells in our hearts through faith

 

Each of these verses gives us a facet of what faith is by giving us a glimpse of faith in action. When the writer to the Hebrews offered his definition, he presented it to us as a present reality, not a pursued reality. By that I mean he wrote assuming that the reader already has faith. There is great significance in that. Faith is something to be experienced and exercised, not defined, categorized, and neatly packaged.

 

5.  Faith can seem so insubstantial and yet it is the very thing believers stan upon. Faith means being sure, certain, convinced. How does Proverbs 3:26 put faith in words?

 

“For the ___________ will be your ___________” (NKJV)

 

6.  That sounds so positive, so simple. But the psalmist reminds us that we are apt to place our confidence in the things we can see and hear and touch. What contrast do we find in Psalm 118:8-9?

 

We often call this faith in the unseen “blind faith” or we’ll say we’re taking a leap of faith. But Hebrews 11 assures us that faith has real substance to it. but what we are called to is not blind and stupid adherence to something that makes no sense. The Greek word used for “substance” in Hebrews 11:1 is hupostasis. It is a scientific term that means actual, physical evidence as opposed to theory or hypothesis. And the word used for “evidence” is elegchos. It is a rock-solid legal term. It is a strong, inclusive term in Greek, meaning the kind of evidence that will be accepted for conviction.

 

Faith has substance to it, and the kind of evidence that demands personal conviction.

 

 

7.  Faith rests on a solid foundation. The evidence is everywhere before our eyes. God is able to persuade our hearts and our minds to put our trust in Him. When we find faith, it’s as if we echo Paul’s familiar words, “I am persuaded.” What does Paul say he knows in 2 Timothy 1:12, and of what does Paul say he is persuaded?

8.  There are other verses that speak of this persuasion as well. They speak of the evidence of something that is unseen, but of which we can be sure.

·        What did Paul say he’d seen ample evidence of in Timothy’s life, according to 2 Timothy 1:5?

·        Of what wwas Paul persuaded, according to Romans 8:38-39?

9.  All this persuasion makes us more confident in our faith. What does I John 5:14 say w can be confident about?

10.  What else can we be confident about, according to Philippians 1:6?

When we study faith in the biblical context, it has both an active and a passive sense. In an active sense, faith is our loyalty and devotion to God; in a passive sense, our resting confidence in God, in His Word, and in His promises. Faith is not just what we believe, our doctrine or denominational creed, but also and more importantly, a rock-solid conviction that what we believe and whom we believe in are worth staking our lives on; they are real and living.

Adapted with permission from Extraordinary Faith Study Guide, ©2005 Sheila Walsh. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy for yourself, click here.

This I Know

Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love.”

Ephesians 3:19 (NCV)

How do you know if someone loves you? If a song can be trusted for the answer, we could turn to “It’s in His Kiss,” which hit the top ten back in 1964 [and was re-recorded later by Cher]. It’s familiarly known as the “Shoop Shoop Song” thanks to the memorable support provided by the backup singers.

Does he love me, I wanna know

How can I tell if he loves me so?

Is it in his eyes (oh no, you’ll be deceived)

Is it in his sighs (oh no, he’ll make believe)

If you wanna know if he loves you so.

It’s in his kiss (that’s where it is)

Come on, ladies! Shoop, shoop, shoop . . . ! Okay, maybe that’s the way you tell if a young man is in love. But how can we know that God loves us? Again, we can turn to a song: “Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so.” It’s a sweet refrain we’ve known since childhood. Simple, yet profoundly true. How can we tell if He loves us so? He told us so.

1. We can be confident of God’s love for us—of Jesus’ love for us—because the Bible tells us He loves us.

  • How are we to love one another, according to John 13:34?
  • According to Romans 8:37, victory is ours through Christ, who . . . what?
  • According to Revelation 1:5, all praise should go to whom?

2. Knowing means confidence, assurance, certainty. We know that we know that we know. But it’s also good to remember that we don’t know everything! What does Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians 13:12?

3. Let’s think for a minute. We started with “Jesus loves me, this I know” but that’s not the only thread we’ve woven our faith from. The Bible is filled with truths that we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt. Match a few of them up here.

___ Exodus 18:11 a. I know that after I die, I shall see God

___ 2 Kings 5:15 b. I know that whatever God does, it’ll be forever

___ Job 19:25 c. I know there is no God except the God of Israel

___ Job 19:26 d. I know that God can do everything

___ Job 42:2 e. I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods

___ Psalm 135:5 f. I know that God is gracious and slow to anger

___ Ecclesiastes 3:14 g. I know that the Lord is great

___ Jonah 4:2 h. I know that my Redeemer lives

4. Paul’s enthusiasm is contagious. What did he tell Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:12?

5. We can share Paul’s certainty in Jesus’ abilities. What can we be confident of, according to 2 Corinthians 5:8?

6. What is another aspect of God’s love and care for us which lends Paul confidence, according to Philippians 1:6?

It’s a silly little tradition, but familiar enough. Picture a young lady sitting on a green slope dotted with wildflowers. In her hand she holds a daisy; she’s slowly plucking the petals and scattering them on the ground. “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not.” Hardly a reliable method for determining another’s affections, but the lovesick find comfort in any little good omen. Thankfully, with Jesus, we have no need to gauge His feelings by guesswork or little signs. His love for us is constant, and His declaration of love was clear.

7. What does Paul want us to know, according to Ephesians 3:19? Why is his hope for us paradoxical?

8. In Romans 8:38, Paul takes a look at the evidence of Christ’s love in his life and says, “I am . . . “ what?

9. We are assured of Christ’s love for us. “Jesus loves me, this I know.” This allows us to do what, according to Ephesians 5:2?

Adapted with permission from Receiving God’s Love, ©2005 Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy for yourself, click here.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1 (NKJV)

 

You’re standing in line, arms loaded down with packages, inching your way towards the customer service counter. Your list of tasks and questions is long—a couple of returns, an exchange, a rain check, and an inquiry about the store’s gift registry for your daughter. It’s your last errand of the morning, and it’ll be a relief to get it all done.

 

Finally it’s your turn, and as you step forward, you groan inwardly. The clerk’s face wears an uncertain smile, and her smock sports a badge with block letters: “Trainee.” The next several minutes become a test to every one of your Christian virtues. First, she botches the returns. Then, you find out she’s never done an exchange before, next, she can’t find the gift registry forms, and she’s never even heard of a rain check. Will your morning end with an exercise in futility? But then you hear those blissful words, “Let me call my manager.”

 

There are times when we don’t want to waste time dickering with someone who isn’t in charge. We want to deal with the one who is in charge. We need someone who knows what’s going on, knows what they’re talking about, and knows what to do next. We want someone with the authority to take charge, make decisions, and effect changes. So we say, “Take me to your leader.”

 

1. Let’s take a quick look at the Lord’s qualifications as “upper level management.”

 

·       

What rather majestic titles does Paul give to God in 1 Timothy 6:15?
 

 

·       

How is Jesus described in Revelation 17:14?
 

 

·        In Revelation 19:16, Jesus wears His name clearly. Is it “Trainee?” What is it?

 

2. God’s authority is unquestioned, and His ability to lead unparalleled. Match up these Psalms, which pray for and thank God for His leading in our lives.

 

 

___ Psalm 5:8                    a. For Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me

___ Psalm 25:5                   b. Lead me in the land of uprightness

___ Psalm 31:3                   c. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness

___ Psalm 43:3                   d. Lead me in the way everlasting

___ Psalm 139:10               e. Let Your light and Your truth lead me

___ Psalm 139:24               f.  Lead me in Your truth and teach me

___ Psalm 143:10               g. Your right hand shall lead me and hold me

 

 

3.  Consider the theme that runs through the next three verses. What do each of them compare the leading of the Lord with?

 

Numbers 27:17 –  “Who may go out before them and go in before them, who may _____________ them out and _____________ them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like _____________ which have no _____________” (NKJV)

 

Psalm 80:1 – “Give ear, O _____________ of Israel, You who _____________ Joseph like a _____________” (NKJV)

 

Isaiah 40:11 – “He will _____________ His _____________ like a _____________; He will _____________ the _____________ with His arm, and _____________ them in His bosom, and _____________ those who are with young.” (NKJV)

 

4.  One of the most familiar chapters in all of Scripture begins, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). God leads us, just as a shepherd leads his flock of sheep. What happens to sheep who have no shepherd—no leader—according to Zechariah 10:2?

 

5.  What characteristic of the multitude that followed Jesus touched His heart with compassion, according to Matthew 9:36?

 

6.  Sheep may not be the brightest animals in God’s creation, but there’s one thing they do know! What do these verses say it is?

 

·       

John 10:4-5
 

 

·        John 10:27

 

7.  From the very beginning, the prophets foretold that Messiah would lead His people—“But you, Bethlehem . . . out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel” (Matthew 2:6)

·       

What does Jesus call Himself in John 10:11, 14?
 

 

·       

How does Peter describe Jesus in 1 Peter 2:25?
 

 

·       

What title does 1 Peter 5:4 give to the Lord at His coming?
 

 

8.  We can’t be both sheep and shepherd. When we’ve determined to give God our all, we must accept His leadership in our lives. Where do these verses tell us the Lord will lead?

 

·       

Isaiah 42:16
 

 

·       

Isaiah 49:10
 

 

·        Revelation 7:17

 

9.  We have a Shepherd who knows the way, but the fact of His presence isn’t enough. The Shepherd can only lead those who are willing to follow! What does Jesus urge us to do in John 12:26?

 

Adapted with permission from Giving God Your All, ©2005 Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy for yourself, click here.

 

Reading VS. Studying

The received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

Acts 17:11 (NKJV)

 

Have you ever wondered why reading the Bible is so different from reading a novel? When we’ve got a real page-turner in our hands, with an exciting plot and interesting characters, we can read all day long as the story unfolds. 

 

Yet when it comes to Scripture, we get bogged down after a couple of pages. We feel guilty because we can’t get the same mileage we do with fiction. Here’s the thing—the novels we pick up for light reading are fun, relaxing diversions. Our thoughts are entertained by the story. But when we read our Bibles, there’s a subtle shift that takes place. Our minds must be engaged when we read Scripture. That means giving the words on the page our full concentration. That takes time. Our spirit responds to the World of God in a way that cannot be taken lightly. Our goal is not recreation, but comprehension. We may feel guilty that we can’t cover several pages in one sitting, but what is our goal—distance or discernment?

 

1.     When we read our Bibles, we are reading for understanding. This might mean rereading a verse several times, or chasing after several cross-references, or referring to a commentary in order to grasp the writer’s meaning. Match up these verses, which declare the importance of gaining understanding:

 

___ Job 32:8                      a. Give me understanding so I can know Your Word

___ Psalm 119:34               b. Understanding is to be chosen over silver

___ Psalm 119:125              c.  Apply your heart to understanding

___ Proverbs 2:2                 d.  Be mature in your understanding

___ Proverbs 4:5                 e.  The breath of the Almighty gives understanding

___ Proverbs 16:16              f.  He who keeps understanding will find good

___ Proverbs 16:22              g. May the eyes of your understanding be enlightened

___ Proverbs 19:8               h.  Give me understanding so I can keep Your law

___ 1 Corinthians 14:20       i.  Get wisdom! Get understanding!

___ Ephesians 1:18             j.  Understanding is a wellspring of life

 

So are reading and studying one and the same? No. It’s true that we need to slow down and read for comprehension when we pick up our Bibles. But studying that Bible is something else again.

2.  What term does John 5:39 use for a careful studying of the Scriptures? And what does Jesus say can be discovered by this investigation?

John tells us that the Scriptures are a source of eternal life because they testify of Jesus. What else do believers have because of our Bibles, according to Romans 10:17?

After years of reading through the Scriptures, we begin to have favorite sections. These passages become quite familiar to us and we can say sections of them from memory. They have a lilt to them, a cadence not unlike poetry. The well-known words are like old friends.

It’s like going back to you hometown and finding much of it unchanged. There’s the old grocery, the drug store, the used bookstore. You recognize the bank, the post office, and the school. You know every street sign, every park bench, every inch of the architecture. But even though you can navigate the streets and even give direction to strangers, you may never have been inside the shops. You know them because you used to walk by them every day. You’ve a kind of nodding acquaintance with each. But you’ve never actually stopped at the door, stepped inside, and explored these establishments for yourself.

Reading is walking the old familiar paths through the Scriptures. We understand what we read and can navigate our way through the pages with ease. But studying means stopping in one spot, going in to explore, and unpacking the delights that can be found within.

4.  Read Acts 17:10-12. Paul is in the midst of his second missionary trip, and after a rough time in Thessalonica, is delighted with his reception in the city of Berea. How are the people of this city described?

In order to read through the Bible in a year, we must get through three or four pages in our Bibles every day. But if our intent is study, four pages is too much to tackle. Four chapters, even four paragraphs can be too much. If you have the right tools, four words can take up your whole study time!

5.  You cannot expect to find a precious nugget of information if you don’t do a good deal of digging first. Have patience as you scour your resources for tidbits of information. With some effort, you may uncover something you’ll treasure! The Bereans “received the word.” What can you make of the word “received”?

If you have trouble finding information about terms in the resources you have on hand, why not begin with the definitions from an ordinary dictionary? That, at least, will give you insight into the word chosen by the translators. Every little bit can help your understanding along!

In Bible study, our goal is not distance, but discernment. So we take the time to consider each word and phrase, poking around in our reference works to see what we can discover.

Adapted with permission from Knowing God’s Word. ©2005 Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy, click here.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6

 

Almost every woman has experienced financial strain at some point in her life. It takes all kinds of forms. You may have struggled to launch out on your own―as a recent graduate or an entrepreneur. You may have tried to buy a house and realized you didn’t have the money you needed for they down-payment. You may have found yourself suddenly burdened by overwhelming debt. Or maybe you or your spouse lost a much-needed job.

 

Even right now, you may have reached the point (or have recently been at the point) where you were or are about to lose everything. There’s nothing to hold onto. Or is there?

 

Whether you have lost everything or you feel like you’re about to lose everything, the truth is that you cannot lose God. He was with you before the loss, and He will be with you through the loss and after the loss. He will be with you through the frustration, the exhaustion, and the disappointment. And along the way, He invites you to know Him as your provider.

 

Though the fear of lack is great, God’s provision is always greater. Your needs do not escape his notice. All of us will face a fear of lack sometime in our lives―whether it’s a lack of food, money, relationships, good health, or the basic provisions needed. No matter your income bracket, no one is immune to the fear of not having enough. But God is greater than any fear and he answers our fear of lack with an invitation to faith the He is more than enough. When you turn to him in prayer, you can’t help but discover the power of his provision in your life.

1. Think of a time when you were in great need. Did you take your need to God through prayer? If so, how did he respond? How did things turn out? How did you learn or grow through the experience?Throughout Scripture, we find God often described as a shepherd. He is One who provides, protects, and leads His sheep. One of the best portraits of the work of God as a shepherd is found in Psalm 23.

2. Take a moment to read Psalm 23, then record all the activities described. Once you record the activities, go back and circle the verbs or action words in your notes.Example: Makes me lie downNotice how active God is in your life! The psalm opens with the line, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1). Then, the passage goes on to show the many ways God is providing for us through his guidance, leadership, restoration, protection, comfort, blessing, and assurance. The truth is that God’s provision in our lives takes many different forme―and not just financial ones.

3. In what ways have you seen God, as described in Psalm 23, provide for you and your family?In 1 Kings 17, we read two powerful stories of God as provider back-to-back. The prophet Elijah is in need of food and God provides for him in two miraculous but very different ways.

4. Read 1 Kings 17:1-6 and 1 Kings 17:7-16. How did God supply food to Elijah in each situation?Recognizing that God could have continued to feed Elijah using the ravens, why do you think God told Elijah to go to the widow? How did Elijah’s lack of food become a source of provision for the widow and her family?In the New Testament, we read of another woman who was in great need. We know that she lacked because she is described as a “poor widow.” In the ancient world, widows lived in cultural context where they were more likely to be financially needy, with no one to care for them.

5. Read Mark 12:41-46. Though the passage does not say, what do you think motivated the poor widow to make her offering? Do you think this woman had a fear of lack? Why or why not? What was the result of her generous gift?

6. Like the widow, have you ever given out of your lack rather than out of your abundance? What was the result? How did you experience God as provider in the situation?In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that He does not want you to fear any sort of lack, but rather he invites you to live by faith.  

7. Read Mathew 6:25-34. What kind of lack ― financial, relational, etc. ― are you most likely to fear? What verse in this passage offers the most comfort or encouragement to you regarding that fear.

8. Is there any fear of lack that you can identify in your life right now? What is holding you back from handing that fear over to God and trusting that He will provide?

Ponder and Pray
The opening Scripture for this lesson comes from Philippians 4:6, where Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Little fears of lack can come into our lives at any time, but we’re particularly susceptible to them during times of transition. Whether you’re moving to a new job, a new location, or a new stage of life, you may wonder, Is God going to provide? What does Paul encourage us to do when faced with anxiety? What prayers petitions, and thanksgivings do you want to offer right now?

Adapted with permission from Overcoming Fear, ©2007 Margaret Feinberg. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy for yourself, click here.