Monday, April 13, 2020

The Whetstone (part 2)

Last week we began to look at look at how God uses two kinds of abrasives to sharpen our faith and character – Relationships and Circumstances.   The metaphor was how a sharp edge is put on a blade. To sharpen a knife, you get a whetstone – a hard, abrasive stone designed specifically to put a razor-sharp edge on a blank piece of metal.  In the hands of an amateur, a knife will just be ground into a blunt chunk of useless metal. But in the hands of an expert, he will gently work both sides of the blade until it is honed into a keen tool, effective for its intended purpose.   So we now have one side of the blade addressed, the Relationship side, and will turn our attention to the other one here, Circumstances.

Romans 5:3-4 - Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Things to think about:
·      Circumstances
o   As we said last week the current pandemic with the social distancing, public activities and places being closed, and many people’s jobs being “furloughed” or eliminated are all sources of stress.  This is on top of all the real life events that were already occurring before the COVID-19 crisis.
o   How are you coping right now?
·      There are many verses that speak to how and why God allows difficulties into our lives
·      Which Bible story resonates with you that tells of God’s child or people in a trying circumstance?
o   There are so many that deal with all manner of challenges in life, here are just a few:
§  Abraham and Sarah couldn’t conceive (Family issues)
§  Moses and the children of Israel in slavery (Political problems)
§  Moses and the Hebrews backed up against the Red Sea (Insurmountable situation)
§  No food and water in the desert (Basic needs)
§  Jehoshaphat facing an immense enemy army (Power struggles)
§  Various people in the Gospels with physical conditions (Health problems)
§  Jesus being persecuted (Being misunderstood)
·      All of these situations looked impossible
o   God has seen it all.  There isn’t a situation He hasn’t come across before and effectively dealt with.
o   What common thread(s) do you see in how they were resolved?
§  Fulfillment of a promise God made
§  God’s mercy prevailing
§  Dependence on God being revealed
§  The praise for the victory going to God
§  Something only God could do
§  Something else?
·      How do all of these various kinds of circumstances help sharpen us? (Hint: our verse for today)
o   Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
o   Does the order of these characteristics matter and if so, why?
§  Think about any skill you have ever learned, whether it is in business, sports, music, a hobby.  You probably weren’t very good at it at first but you kept after it (Perseverance).  After a while, you got a bit better and even developed some competency (Character).  Ultimately, when it was time to perform, you knew you could do it (Hope).
§  How is the current situation building any of these into your life?
·      It wouldn’t be an appropriate Bible study on circumstances without a reference to Romans 8:28 and its orphaned follow-on in verse 29. Here it is from The Message:
o   That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. 
·      At the end of his life, Moses told the Israelites, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
o   In our time of social distancing, God is not staying away.
·      Remember, God doesn’t write stories with bad endings, they just never go the way we would have written them (praise be to God!)
·      My encouragement to you is this - Be alert and expectant to what God is up to.  He is using this once-in-a-lifetime event to sharpen each of us to serve Him and others. It may feel rough but know that His purposes are being worked out in and through you, even in the midst of a pandemic.

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