2 Corinthians 5:1-7 (NIV) provides rich insights into the Christian perspective on life, death, and faith. Here’s the passage for reference:
1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling
Romans 8:22-24 NIV We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?
3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.
Colossians 2:6-8 NIV So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.
7 For we live by faith, not by sight.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
From this passage, here are some key takeaways:
1. Earthly Bodies as Temporary Shelters: Paul uses the metaphor of our bodies as “tents,” highlighting their temporary nature. This life and our physical existence are but a brief moment in the grand scheme of eternity. It emphasizes the transient nature of life on Earth compared to the eternal life to come.
2. Longing for Eternal Life: The “groaning” represents a deep spiritual desire and anticipation for the eternal life promised by God—a life free from the pains, struggles, and burdens of our current existence.
3. Assurance of a Heavenly Dwelling: Paul assures believers of an eternal home in heaven, built by God. This is not a structure made by human hands, suggesting its divine perfection and everlasting nature.
4. The Holy Spirit as a Guarantee: The Spirit is given as a “deposit,” ensuring believers of their future redemption and the promises of God. The presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life serves as both a comfort and a constant reminder of the heavenly home awaiting them.
5. Living by Faith, Not Sight: One of the most quoted verses from this passage emphasizes the essence of the Christian walk. This life is filled with trials, uncertainties, and unseen challenges. However, Christians are called to navigate these challenges not by relying solely on their limited human perspective (“sight”) but by trusting in God’s promises and plans (“faith”).
6. Being “Away from the Lord” on Earth: Paul notes that while we are in our earthly bodies, we are not in the direct presence of the Lord. This separation heightens the believer’s anticipation of one day being in direct communion with God in heaven.
In essence, 2 Corinthians 5:1-7 offers comfort and hope, reminding believers of the impermanent nature of earthly struggles and the glorious eternal future that awaits them. It challenges Christians to prioritize their spiritual journey, to live with eternity in mind, and to navigate life’s challenges with unwavering faith in God’s promises.
The exact age of Daniel when he was thrown into the lions’ den is not specified in the Book of Daniel. However, we can make an educated guess based on some chronological markers and historical references.
Daniel’s Arrival in Babylon: Daniel was taken to Babylon in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, which would be around 605 B.C. (Daniel 1:1). It’s traditionally believed that Daniel was a young man, possibly in his teens, when he was taken to Babylon.
Medo-Persian Reign: The events of the lions’ den occurred during the reign of Darius the Mede, following the fall of Babylon to the Medo-Persian Empire in 539 B.C.
Given these references:
If Daniel was, for instance, 15 years old in 605 B.C., he would be 81 years old in 539 B.C.
If he was 18 in 605 B.C., he would be 84 years old in 539 B.C.
Thus, Daniel was likely in his early to mid-80s during the incident in the lions’ den. This also underscores his remarkable faith; as an elderly man, he displayed unwavering commitment to God, even in the face of potential death.
Context and Lessons with Scripture References
The story unfolds in Daniel 6. Here’s a summarized breakdown with references:
Daniel’s Favor with the King: Daniel had distinguished himself among the administrators by his exceptional qualities (Daniel 6:3).
The Plot Against Daniel: The administrators and satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs (Daniel 6:4-5).
The Decree by King Darius: King Darius is tricked into signing a decree that no one could pray to any god or human besides him for 30 days (Daniel 6:7-9).
Daniel’s Faithful Response: Knowing about the decree, Daniel still prays three times a day (Daniel 6:10).
Daniel’s Faithful Response: Knowing about the decree, Daniel still prays three times a day (Daniel 6:10).
The Consequence: Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den (Daniel 6:16).
The Message (Daniel’s Response)
Daniel 6:10, 25-28 NIV 10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Psalms 34:4-7 NIV I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Note: Daniel lived the majority of his life in exile.
He was taken from Judah as a young man, possibly in his teens, during the first wave of Babylonian deportations around 605 B.C. (Daniel 1:1-6).
From that point onward, he remained in Babylon and subsequently served in the Medo-Persian government after the Babylonian Empire was conquered.
Throughout the Book of Daniel, we see him serving under multiple kings:
Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:19-20; 2:46-49; 3:12-30; 4:8-37): Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and was promoted to high positions in his kingdom.
Belshazzar (Daniel 5): Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall, which foretold the fall of the Babylonian Empire.
Darius the Mede (Daniel 6): Under Darius, the incident of the lions’ den took place. After God delivered Daniel from the lions, he continued to prosper in Darius’s reign.
Cyrus the Persian (Daniel 1:21; 6:28; 10:1): Daniel’s service extended into the reign of Cyrus, the king who eventually allowed the Jewish exiles to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple.
Despite living in a foreign land and serving pagan kings:
Daniel maintained his commitment to the God of Israel.
He was a living testament to God’s faithfulness, proving that even in exile, God’s presence and favor could be with His people.
The enduring faith and integrity that Daniel demonstrated serve as a powerful example of how believers can remain committed to God, even in less than ideal circumstances.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: “May you prosper greatly! 26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
What Can We Learn?
Integrity and Consistency: Daniel’s daily habit of praying three times was known and became the basis for the plot against him (Daniel 6:10-11).
God’s Protection Doesn’t Mean Absence of Trials: God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths, thus protecting Daniel (Daniel 6:22).
The Consequences of Peer Pressure: Negative Influenced by his officials, King Darius made a decision without considering its implications (Daniel 6:9, 14).
God’s Vindication: God’s intervention led to Daniel’s release and the punishment of the wicked officials (Daniel 6:24). Following this, Darius decrees that every part of his kingdom must fear and reverence the God of Daniel (Daniel 6:26-27).
The Power of Jealousy and Deception: The administrators and satraps conspired against Daniel because they were envious of his favor with the king (Daniel 6:4).
The Universality of God’s Sovereignty: King Darius, at the end of the story, acknowledges the sovereignty and eternal nature of Daniel’s God (Daniel 6:26).
The story of Daniel in the lions’ den provides rich lessons in faithfulness, the protective hand of God, the perils of envy, and the importance of integrity even in the face of life-threatening adversity.
Week 2: The Role of Faith in Overcoming Fear and Doubt
Title: “Faith: The Antidote to Fear and Doubt”
Hebrews 11:1-6 provides a foundational definition of faith and highlights its importance in our relationship with God. Here is the passage (NIV):
1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Definition of Faith: Verse 1 offers a beautiful and concise definition of faith. It is the confidence in our hopes and the assurance about things we do not see. This underscores the nature of faith as trust in God, even when we can’t physically see Him or know the future.
2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
Faith is Commended: The passage explains that “the ancients” or the Old Testament heroes were commended for their faith. Faith, then, is not just a New Testament idea, but a timeless and essential part of a relationship with God.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Faith and Creation: Verse 3 discusses faith in the context of creation, reminding us that the visible world was created by the invisible God. This verse invites us to see the world around us as a testament to God’s power and faithfulness.
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
Examples of Faith: The passage then gives examples of Abel and Enoch, who lived their lives in faith. Abel offered a better sacrifice to God because of his faith, and Enoch was taken directly to heaven, bypassing death, because of his faith. These examples demonstrate the power and reward of living by faith.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Necessity of Faith: Finally, verse 6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” This verse underscores the vital importance of faith in our relationship with God. It also reveals that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him, an encouragement for us to pursue God with sincere hearts.
This passage, therefore, not only defines faith but also shows us its practical application and its absolute necessity in our lives.
Fear and doubt are universal human experiences and can be triggered by a range of factors, often interrelated.
Some of the most common include:
1. **Uncertainty**: Fear and doubt often arise in situations of uncertainty, where outcomes are unknown. This could include uncertainty about health, employment, relationships, or the future more generally.
2. **Past Experiences**: Negative past experiences or traumas can trigger fear and doubt in current and future situations. For instance, if someone has been hurt in past relationships, they may fear commitment or doubt the intentions of others in new relationships.
3. **Lack of Self-confidence**: Low self-esteem or lack of confidence in one’s abilities can also lead to fear and doubt. For example, someone who doubts their skills might fear taking on new tasks or responsibilities.
4. **Change**: Fear and doubt are often triggered by change. This could be a change in personal circumstances, such as a new job, moving house, or the end of a relationship, or wider societal changes.
5. **Lack of Control**: Situations that are beyond our control often induce fear and doubt. We may fear the potential consequences and doubt our ability to cope with them.
6. **Comparison with Others**: In our interconnected society, it’s easy to compare our lives with others, especially on social media. This comparison can breed doubt about our own achievements and fear about our perceived inadequacies.
7. **Worrying about what others think**: Fear of judgement or rejection can cause us to doubt ourselves and our decisions. This is often related to a desire to conform or fit in.
8. **Negative Thought Patterns**: Certain patterns of thinking, such as catastrophizing (imagining the worst possible outcome), can fuel fear and doubt.
9. **Perceived Threats**: Perceived threats to our physical safety, financial security, or emotional wellbeing are common triggers of fear and doubt.
Matthew 14 opens with the death of John the Baptist, who was beheaded by King Herod Antipas (verses 1-12). Upon hearing of John the Baptist’s death, Jesus withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place, likely to mourn and seek solitude. However, large crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus saw the large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick (verses 13-14).
This leads into the account of the feeding of the five thousand (verses 15-21), which is one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles. In this story, Jesus miraculously feeds a crowd of more than five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. This miracle not only demonstrates Jesus’ compassion and power but also foreshadows the Last Supper and the spiritual nourishment provided through Christ.
Following the feeding of the five thousand is when the events in Matthew 14:22-33 take place, where Jesus walks on water and invites Peter to do the same.
So, before the account of Jesus walking on water, there were significant events that set the stage: the shocking news of John the Baptist’s execution, a time of healing and compassion for the crowd, and the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. These events underscored Jesus’ power and compassion, providing important context for Peter and the other disciples as they witnessed Jesus walking on the water.
Matthew 14:22-33 NIV Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Peter’s experiences with doubt and fear highlight his humanity and the transformative power of God’s grace.
Peter Walking on Water (Matthew 14:22-33):In this account, the disciples are on a boat in the middle of the sea when they see Jesus walking on water. At first, they think they are seeing a ghost, but Jesus reassures them. Peter, wanting to confirm if it was really Jesus, asks if he could walk towards him on the water. Jesus invites him to come. Peter steps out of the boat and starts walking on the water towards Jesus. However, when he notices the strong wind, he becomes afraid and begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus to save him, which Jesus immediately does and admonishes him for his doubt. This account underscores the human tendency to doubt even in the midst of the miraculous. Peter’s fear overpowers his initial faith, causing him to sink.
Matthew 26:69-75 NIV Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
2. **Peter’s Denial (Matthew 26:69-75):** After ‘ arrest, Peter finds himself in the courtyard of the high priest. There, several people recognize him as a follower of Jesus. Afraid of the possible repercussions, Peter denies knowing Jesus, not just once, but three times. After the third denial, a rooster crows, and Peter remembers Jesus’ prophecy that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Peter’s fear leads him to act in a way that contradicts his deep devotion to Jesus, highlighting the power of fear to influence our actions.
John 21:15-19 NIV When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Despite these instances of fear and doubt, Peter’s story does not end there. After Jesus’ resurrection, He reinstates Peter (John 21:15-19), showing forgiveness and renewing Peter’s calling. Peter goes on to become a cornerstone of the early Christian Church, his life demonstrating that fear and doubt can be overcome by faith and the transformative power of God’s grace.
Peter’s struggle with fear and doubt, as presented in the New Testament, is multi-faceted and provides valuable insight into the human condition and the nature of faith.
1. **Uncertainty and Lack of Understanding**: Peter, like all humans, had a limited understanding of the future and the full nature of Jesus’ mission. This was especially true when Jesus foretold His death and resurrection. Peter’s fear and doubt often sprang from this uncertainty and confusion (Matthew 16:22).
2. **Perceived Threats and Fear for Physical Safety**: Peter’s denial of Jesus happened in a context of fear for his own safety. Jesus had just been arrested, and identifying as His follower could have led to similar treatment. The instinct for self-preservation can trigger fear and doubt in our convictions (Matthew 26:69-75).
3. **Lack of Faith**: Peter’s attempt to walk on water showed both his faith and its limitations. He had enough faith to step out of the boat, but when he saw the wind and the waves, his faith wavered, and fear took over (Matthew 14:29-30).
4. **Personal Weakness and Human Frailty**: Like all of us, Peter had personal weaknesses. Despite his usually strong and impulsive character, he still had moments of weakness where fear and doubt overpowered him.
5. **Fear of Failure**: Peter did not want to let Jesus down. When he did – such as when he failed to stay awake at Gethsemane or when he denied Jesus – he was distraught. This fear of failure might have contributed to his general fear and doubt (Matthew 26:40, 75).
Remember that despite Peter’s struggles with fear and doubt, his story is ultimately one of faith, redemption, and leadership. After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter became one of the most influential leaders in the early church, showing that fear and doubt do not disqualify us from serving God or others. Rather, they are often part of our spiritual journey and growth.
Title: “Embracing God’s Plan: Finding Purpose in Life’s Transitions”
One example of someone in the Bible who found purpose in life’s transitions is the apostle Paul. (Also see Encounter on Road to Damascus reference)
Before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul, then known as Saul, was a zealous Pharisee who actively persecuted early Christians. However, during that life-changing encounter with the risen Christ, Saul experienced a radical transformation. His encounter with Jesus led to his conversion, and he became a devoted follower of Christ.
After his conversion, Saul’s life underwent a profound transition. He went from persecuting Christians to becoming one of the most influential apostles of the early church. He embraced his new identity as “Paul,” and his life’s purpose shifted dramatically. He now sought to spread the Gospel message far and wide, reaching both Jews and Gentiles with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Throughout his ministry, Paul faced numerous challenges and transitions. He endured persecution, imprisonment, and hardship as he traveled extensively, planting churches and sharing the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Despite the difficulties, Paul remained committed to his purpose of proclaiming the grace and salvation found in Christ.
Paul’s life serves as a powerful example of finding purpose in life’s transitions through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. His transformation from a persecutor of Christians to an ardent proclaimer of the Gospel highlights the life-changing impact of encountering Christ. Paul’s life’s purpose became centered on knowing and making Christ known, and he remained steadfast in this purpose throughout his ministry, no matter the challenges he faced. His story encourages believers to seek their purpose in Christ and embrace God’s plan during life’s transitions.
Philippians 3:7-12 NIV But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
The teachings in Philippians 3:7-11 contrast with how some people respond to life’s transitions in several ways:
1. Priorities: The passage emphasizes the importance of prioritizing Christ above all else. However, some people may respond to life’s transitions by prioritizing worldly pursuits, personal ambitions, or material possessions. Instead of seeking a deeper relationship with Christ, they may focus on self-fulfillment or immediate gratification.
2. Self-Righteousness vs. Faith: Paul acknowledges that his attempts to achieve righteousness through his own works were futile. In contrast, some individuals may respond to life’s transitions with self-righteousness, believing that they can earn favor with God or others by their own efforts, rather than relying on God’s grace and the gift of righteousness through faith in Christ.
3. Fear and Avoidance: Paul’s willingness to share in Christ’s sufferings contrasts with how some people may respond to life’s transitions by avoiding pain or difficulties. Instead of facing challenges with faith and perseverance, they may choose to flee from situations that require courage and endurance.
4. Limited Perspective: Paul looks forward to the resurrection and the hope it brings for eternal life with Christ. In contrast, some individuals may respond to life’s transitions with a limited perspective, focusing solely on the present circumstances and not considering the eternal implications of their choices and actions.
5. Clinging to the Past: Paul is willing to let go of his past achievements and failures, recognizing that they do not define his identity. However, some people may respond to life’s transitions by clinging to past successes or dwelling on past failures, which can hinder personal growth and hinder their ability to embrace new opportunities.
Philippians 3:7-11 encourage believers to respond to life’s transitions with faith, hope, and a deepening relationship with Christ.
Recap of our series
The primary takeaway from the story of Esther is:
God can use ordinary individuals in extraordinary ways to accomplish His purposes.
Scripture Reference: Esther 4:14b – “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (NIV)
The primary takeaway from the story of Joshua is:
The importance of courage, faith, and obedience in fulfilling God’s promises and purposes. Joshua’s leadership as he led the Israelites into the Promised Land showcases the significance of relying on God’s guidance, trusting His promises, and faithfully following His commands.
Scripture Reference: Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (NIV)
The primary takeaway from the story of Jeremiah is:
The importance of obedience and perseverance in fulfilling God’s calling, even in the face of opposition, rejection, and personal struggles. Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry exemplifies the role of a faithful servant who speaks God’s truth, even when it is difficult and unpopular.
Scripture Reference: Jeremiah 1:7-8 – “But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.” (NIV)
The primary takeaway from the life of the apostle Paul is:
The transformative power of God’s grace and the all-encompassing love of Christ. Paul’s conversion from a persecutor of Christians to a devoted follower of Jesus demonstrates God’s ability to change hearts and use even the most unlikely individuals for His purposes.
Scripture Reference: 1 Timothy 1:15-16 – “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason, I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (NIV)
Sermon Title: “Embrace the Shift: Embracing Change and Personal Growth”
Key Scripture: Isaiah 43:18-19
Sermon Focus: Highlight the importance of embracing change and personal growth to make the most of opportunities. Discuss the benefits of flexibility, adaptability, and a growth mindset. Provide practical insights on how to navigate transitions and embrace new seasons of life.
Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet to the nations during a time of great national crisis for the people of Judah. His ministry spanned several decades, and he faced immense challenges and opposition throughout his prophetic journey.
At the beginning of his call as a prophet, Jeremiah was just a young man (Jeremiah 1:6). He felt inadequate and inexperienced, doubting his ability to fulfill the daunting task of proclaiming God’s messages to a rebellious and stubborn people. However, God reassured Jeremiah and promised to be with him (Jeremiah 1:7-8).
Throughout his ministry, Jeremiah faced rejection, persecution, and personal hardships. He was called the “weeping prophet” due to the emotional toll of delivering messages of judgment and destruction upon his own people, knowing that they would not listen or repent (Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 13:17).
Despite the challenges and personal struggles, Jeremiah remained faithful to his prophetic calling. He continually sought to be obedient to God’s commands and faithfully delivered His messages, even when it brought him scorn and ridicule from the people and leaders of Judah.
Jeremiah 1:4-8 NIV The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Challenges Jeremiah Faced:
1. Opposition and Rejection (Jeremiah 11:18-23): Jeremiah faced opposition and rejection from those who were unwilling to accept his prophetic messages of God’s judgment and calling for repentance, leading to hostility from his own people.
2. Persecution from Leaders and False Prophets (Jeremiah 20:1-6): Jeremiah endured persecution and mistreatment from powerful leaders and false prophets who opposed his message and sought to silence him.
3. Emotional Strain and Weeping (Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 13:17): The weight of delivering messages of impending judgment upon his beloved homeland caused Jeremiah emotional strain and deep weeping, reflecting the personal toll of his prophetic ministry.
4. Reluctance due to Youth and Inexperience (Jeremiah 1:6): Jeremiah felt inadequate and reluctant to take on the prophetic role due to his young age and lack of experience, but God assured him of His presence and empowerment.
5. Delivering Messages of Judgment to His Own People (Jeremiah 20:7-9): Jeremiah struggled with the heavy responsibility of delivering God’s messages of judgment and destruction upon his own people, leading to feelings of frustration and a desire to give up.
These challenges showcase the difficult and emotionally taxing nature of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry, as he faithfully delivered God’s messages despite opposition and personal struggles.
Jeremiah 19:15 NIV “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’ ”
Pashhur was a priest in the time of the prophet Jeremiah. He was the son of Immer, who was the chief officer in the house of the Lord (Jeremiah 20:1). Pashhur held a significant position of authority and influence within the religious establishment.
Pashhur was motivated by opposition to Jeremiah’s prophetic messages.
He was disturbed and angered by Jeremiah’s warnings of God’s judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem due to their disobedience and idolatry.
Pashhur, being a representative of the religious establishment, likely felt threatened by Jeremiah’s prophecies, which challenged the religious status quo and exposed the corruption within the priesthood.
As a result of his opposition and anger towards Jeremiah, Pashhur took drastic actions against the prophet.
He had Jeremiah arrested and put in stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin, a public display of humiliation and punishment (Jeremiah 20:2).
Jeremiah 20:7-11 NIV You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long.
9 But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
10 I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.
However, Jeremiah’s prophecies proved to be true, and the Babylonian invasion, as warned by the prophet, eventually came upon Judah.
After the Babylonians captured Jerusalem, Pashhur was among those taken into captivity (Jeremiah 20:6).
Pashhur’s fate was a consequence of his resistance to God’s message through Jeremiah. His actions led to personal and national consequences, demonstrating the seriousness of opposing God’s Word and the outcome of disregarding the call to repentance.
Jeremiah 29 message to the people in exile
Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah’s commitment to pressing forward despite past hardships and ongoing challenges serves as an example of courage and determination in fulfilling God’s purposes. He did not allow his past doubts or the difficulties of his prophetic ministry to deter him from speaking God’s truth.
Through Jeremiah’s life, we are reminded that following God’s calling may not always be easy, and it may require us to leave behind past doubts, disappointments, and struggles. However, like Jeremiah, we can find strength and guidance from God as we press forward in faith, trusting that He is with us and will equip us for the tasks He sets before us. Jeremiah’s story encourages us to be steadfast in following God’s leading and faithfully fulfilling His purposes for our lives.
Sermon Title: “Stepping Out in Faith: Overcoming Fear and Doubt”
Key Scripture: Joshua 1:9
Address the common fears and doubts that hinder us from seizing opportunities.
Encourage listeners to trust in God’s promises, step out in faith, and overcome self-limiting beliefs that prevent them from embracing new opportunities.
In Joshua chapter 1, Joshua faced the daunting task of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land after the death of Moses. Here’s how Joshua overcame his fear and doubt:
1. God’s Commission: In Joshua 1:1-5, God directly spoke to Joshua, commissioning him to lead the people into the land promised to their ancestors. God assured Joshua that just as He was with Moses, He would be with Joshua, promising to never leave him nor forsake him. This divine calling and assurance provided Joshua with the confidence and reassurance he needed to overcome his fears.
2. God’s Promises: In Joshua 1:6-9, God reiterated His promises to Joshua multiple times. He encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous, assuring him that He would give him success in the task at hand. God instructed Joshua to meditate on His law day and night and to be careful to obey it, promising that he would prosper and find success in all he did. God’s promises gave Joshua a foundation of faith and hope, reminding him that his success was dependent on God’s faithfulness.
3. Trusting in God’s Presence: God reminded Joshua repeatedly of His presence. In Joshua 1:5, God assured Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This promise served as a reminder that Joshua was not alone in his leadership journey; God would go before him and be with him every step of the way. Trusting in God’s unwavering presence allowed Joshua to overcome his fear and doubt.
4. Obedience and Courage: Joshua responded to God’s commission with obedience and courage. In Joshua 1:10-18, Joshua relayed God’s instructions to the Israelite leaders, and they pledged their support and obedience to him.
Joshua’s willingness to:
step into leadership
trust God’s promises, and
take action demonstrated his courage and faith.
5. Remembering Past Victories: Joshua likely drew strength from witnessing God’s faithfulness in the past. He had been one of the twelve spies who explored the Promised Land forty years earlier, and he had seen God’s power and provision. Remembering these past victories and God’s faithfulness likely bolstered Joshua’s confidence as he stepped into his new role.
Here are some instances of God’s power that Joshua would have witnessed during that time:
1. Crossing of the Red Sea: Joshua would have been among the Israelites when God miraculously parted the waters of the Red Sea, allowing them to cross on dry land while escaping from the pursuing Egyptian army (Exodus 14).
2. Manna and Quail: Joshua would have experienced God’s provision of manna, the bread from heaven, that sustained the Israelites throughout their journey in the wilderness (Exodus 16). He also witnessed the miraculous provision of quail when the Israelites desired meat (Exodus 16:13-14).
3. Water from the Rock: Joshua would have seen how God miraculously brought water from a rock to quench the thirst of the Israelites when they were in need (Exodus 17:1-7).
4. Defeat of Amalek: Joshua witnessed the battle against the Amalekites, where Moses held up his hands, and as long as his hands were raised, Israel prevailed. This demonstrated God’s power and victory over their enemies (Exodus 17:8-16).
5. Ten Commandments: Joshua would have been present when God gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud (Exodus 19-20).
6. Pillar of Cloud and Fire: Throughout their journey, Joshua saw the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, which represented God’s guiding and protective presence (Exodus 13:21-22).
7. Conquest of Enemies: Joshua witnessed God’s power in defeating the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, and delivering their lands into the hands of the Israelites (Numbers 21:21-35; Deuteronomy 2:24-3:11).
Joshua 1:7-11 NIV “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’ ”
Joshua’s journey from fear and doubt to courage and faith teaches us the importance of trusting in God’s presence, relying on His promises, and obeying His instructions. Through God’s commission, promises, and assurance, Joshua found the strength and courage to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. His story serves as an inspiration for us to trust in God’s faithfulness and overcome our own fears and doubts.
Overall, 2 Corinthians chapter 3 emphasizes the supremacy of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant, the role of the Holy Spirit in ministry, the sufficiency of God, the freedom and intimacy we have in Christ, and the ongoing transformation into the image of God.
2 Corinthians chapter 3, the apostle Paul addresses the topic of ministry and the contrast between the Old Covenant (law) and the New Covenant (grace):
1. The Ministry of the Spirit: Paul emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit in the ministry. The Spirit brings life, while the letter brings death. This highlights the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant.
2. The Sufficiency of God: Paul explains that our sufficiency comes from God. Our abilities and effectiveness in ministry are not based on our own strength or qualifications but on God’s empowerment and grace.
3. The Veil Removed in Christ:
Paul refers to the veil that Moses wore when he spoke with God and how the Israelites had veils over their hearts, preventing them from fully understanding the true meaning of the Old Covenant.
However, in Christ, the veil is removed, and believers can have a direct and unveiled relationship with God.
This emphasizes the freedom and intimacy we have in our relationship with God through Jesus.
4. Transformation into God’s Image: Paul explains that as we behold the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into His image. This transformation occurs through the work of the Holy Spirit, as we grow in our relationship with God. It highlights the ongoing process of sanctification and becoming more like Christ.
5. Confidence in God: Paul speaks about the boldness and confidence he has in his ministry through Christ. He encourages believers not to lose heart but to have confidence in God’s work. This reminds us to rely on God’s strength and trust in His provision as we serve Him.
2 Corinthians 3:12-18 NIV Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.
16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
• Sermon Focus: Emphasize the importance of being attentive and discerning to recognize the opportunities that God brings into our lives. Explore practical ways to develop spiritual sensitivity and wisdom to seize the right opportunities.
One example in the Bible of someone who recognized and seized an opportunity presented by God is the story of Esther.
In the book of Esther, we learn about a young Jewish woman named Esther who became queen of Persia.
At a critical moment in history, Haman, an advisor to the king, plotted to annihilate the Jewish people.
Esther’s cousin Mordecai urged her to intercede on behalf of their people, recognizing that her position as queen could be an opportunity from God to save their community.
Esther initially hesitated due to the risks involved, as approaching the king without an invitation was punishable by death.
However, after fasting and seeking God’s guidance, she resolved to take action. Esther recognized the opportunity presented by her position and embraced it courageously.
She approached the king, revealed Haman’s evil plans, and advocated for her people’s lives.
Esther’s bravery and trust in God’s guidance led to the exposure of Haman’s plot and the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction.
Her willingness to seize the opportunity that God presented through her position as queen had a profound impact on the lives of her people and showcased the power of God working through individuals who recognize and act upon His opportunities.
The story of Esther serves as a reminder that God can place us in specific positions or circumstances for a purpose.
When we discern those opportunities and have the courage to act in faith, we can participate in God’s work of redemption and make a significant impact in the lives of others.
First Key Scripture Text
Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
I. The Importance of Being Attentive Discerning
Esther 4:14 (NIV): “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Busyness, distractions, and preoccupations can hinder us from recognizing God’s opportunities.
Cultivate a mindset of attentiveness and presence in their interactions and circumstances.
II. Discerning God’s Opportunities
Romans 8:26-27 NIV In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Explore the concept of discernment and its connection to recognizing opportunities.
The Holy Spirit in guiding and revealing opportunities in our lives.
Esther is our biblical examples of individuals who discerned God’s opportunities.
III. Developing Spiritual Sensitivity
Esther 4:15-16 (NIV): “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.'”
Discuss practical ways to develop spiritual sensitivity and discernment.
Comes from regular prayer, studying God’s Word, and seeking wisdom through godly counsel.
IV. Overcoming Hindrances to Discernment
Remember she feared for her life…
Esther 5:1-2 (NIV): “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.”
Stepping out on Faith overcomes
V. The Blessings of Seizing God’s Opportunities
Esther 7:3-4 (NIV): “Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.'”
Blessings and rewards that come from seizing God’s opportunities.
God’s opportunities often align with His purposes and bring personal growth, fulfillment, and Kingdom impact.
When faced with the challenge that Esther encountered, different individuals might have responded in various ways. Here’s a contrast between how others might have responded compared to Esther:
1. Fear and Self-Preservation: Some individuals might have allowed fear to paralyze them, prioritizing their own safety and self-preservation over the lives of others. They might have hesitated to take action, fearing the potential consequences or the risks involved in approaching the king uninvited.
2. Indifference and Apathy: Others might have chosen to remain indifferent or apathetic, disregarding the plight of their people and the call for action. They might have been content with their own comfortable position or turned a blind eye to the suffering of others, lacking the empathy and compassion necessary to intervene.
3. Complacency and Inaction: There could be those who, despite recognizing the injustice and the opportunity to make a difference, might have opted for complacency and inaction. They might have felt that the situation was too challenging or beyond their capabilities, choosing to maintain the status quo rather than stepping out of their comfort zones.
4. Reliance on Human Strategies Alone: Some individuals might have solely relied on human strategies and their own wisdom, trying to navigate the circumstances without seeking God’s guidance or intervention. They might have placed their trust solely in their own abilities or the counsel of others, missing out on the opportunity to experience the power of God at work.
In contrast, Esther demonstrated exceptional courage, faith, and a willingness to put herself at risk for the sake of her people.
She exemplified a selfless and compassionate response, recognizing the significance of her position and using it as a platform to advocate for justice.
Esther’s unwavering trust in God’s providence and her willingness to take action set her apart, illustrating the power of stepping forward in faith even when faced with daunting challenges.
Esther’s response teaches us the importance of courageously standing up for what is right, showing compassion to those in need, and relying on God’s guidance and strength rather than succumbing to fear, indifference, complacency, or reliance on human strategies alone.
Her example challenges us to examine our own responses when faced with opportunities to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin living.” – W.M. Lewis
This quote by W.M. Lewis highlights the notion that the real tragedy in life is not its shortness but rather the wasted time and missed opportunities.
It emphasizes the importance of not postponing the pursuit of one’s passions, dreams, and desires. By delaying or neglecting to embrace life fully, we risk reaching the end with a sense of regret for the time squandered and the experiences left unexplored.
It serves as a reminder to seize the present moment and make the most of our time, ensuring that our lives are not defined by missed opportunities and a sense of emptiness.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalms 118:24