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Finding Meaning in Suffering

Lesson 11 - February 11, 2018

Focus Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Central Truth: While no suffering is pleasant, God often chooses to make suffering the birthplace of blessing.

Objective: By the end of this lesson my students will understand that just as God used suffering in the life of Jesus to bring salvation to the world, He can cause our suffering to also bear precious fruit.

Lesson Outline:

  1. Rejected by Others (Isaiah 52:13-53:3)
  2. Punished for Others (Isaiah 53:4-9)
  3. Exalted by God (Isaiah 53:10-12)

Encouragement for a Despondent Prophet

Read 1 Kings 19:1–8

“And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (v. 7).

Are you feeling low on this Monday? It’s common for us to feel drained after a time of strenuous labor. How did your church services go yesterday? Did you experience the intense presence of God or was it a painfully discouraging experience? Either way, you are likely to be experiencing the Elijah syndrome: Deep sighs; hunger to hide for a season; fatigue; questions of adequacy. Don’t feel ashamed; we have all suffered from the symptoms of the Elijah syndrome, sometimes often. “The journey is too great for thee.” Can you relate? Are you there now?

Notice that the immediate remedy God prescribed to Elijah was not more prayer, witnessing, or preaching. He could not give out anymore because he had already drained himself at Mt. Carmel. It was time to take in: to eat, sleep, and recharge his soul. God still had work for him to do but first things first and he couldn’t pour out without first being refilled.

If you are suffering from the Elijah syndrome today, take some time to recharge. Take a breath, take a walk, take a nap, take nourishment, engage in a hobby, feed your soul. You’ll be empty without it. (Don D Callaway)

He knows how hard the fight has been;

The clouds that come our lives between;

The wounds the world has never seen;

He knows He knows! — G. W. Lyon

You can find encouragement when you feed your soul.

This devotional is the Monday, January 29, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.


Solicit examples from the class of notable stories where one person had a major impact upon important Christian figures in history. Henrietta Mears is a solitary human being whose ministry influence still lives on today. She was a Presbyterian Sunday school teacher in Los Angeles who had a burden for young boys. By hosting Bible studies, she extended warmth and encouragement that resulted in untold eternal investments. Some of those who sat under her godly teaching and mentorship were Dawson Troutman (founder of the Navigators), Billy Graham, Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), and future Senate chaplain Richard Halverson. Everyone has a role in God’s kingdom, and there is a contribution for every believer to add. “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one” (1 Cor. 3:8).

Encouragement for the Downcast

Lesson 10 - February 4, 2018

Focus Text: Isaiah 51:1-16

Central Truth: God’s people will always find encouragement when they truly seek and listen to the Lord of hosts.

Objective: By the end of this lesson my students will have found encouragement because they have clarified their focus (vs. 1-8); expressed their need (vs. 9, 10); and listened to the Lord of hosts speak (vs. 11-16).

Lesson Outline:

  1. Clarifying Our Focus (Isaiah 51:1-8)
  2. Expressing Our Need (Isaiah 51:9-10)
  3. Listening to Our God (Isaiah 51:11-16)

A Promise of Success

Read Judges 1:1–4

“And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand” (v. 2).

When phone caller ID service first became available, I received a call and recognized it as my elderly mother’s phone number. She was startled when I answered, “Hi, mom!” and she asked how I knew it was her. I told her my new phone system had caller ID and not only could I see who was calling but where they were and what they were wearing. Since my mom was so predictable, I guessed what outfit she had on and described it to her. I happened to be right, and she was aghast responding, “That’s not right that phone companies can do that!”

I confessed to my mother that I had made up the story, and she laughed with relief. However, I am reminded of our God who is also predictable. Just as my mother’s daily habits were predictable, God’s promises are foreseeable, and we can count on His guaranteed outcomes. He never changes, and we can trust the promises He has given us. God assures, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you … to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11). It is such a comfort to know that God not only thinks about us but He also promises to take care of us according to His perfect, divine will and plan for our lives. (Clifford Churchill)

’Tis true, oh, yes, ’tis true.
God’s wonderful promise is true;
For I’ve trusted, and tested, and tried it,
And I know God’s promise is true. — Leila N. Morris

“God never made a promise that was too good to be true” (D. L. Moody).

This devotional is the Monday, January 22, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

Exercising Self-Control

As sanctified believers, it can be tough for us to admit that we sometimes lose our tempers. Most likely, those who are on the receiving end of these strong emotions do not question our spiritual status; rather, they would simply appreciate an apology when our emotions get out of hand. We are still human, and each one of us experiences very genuine feelings and frustrations. The challenging task is for us to respond in a godly and loving way to others even when we may not agree with what is being stated. Perhaps what is needed is a daily surrendering of our extreme reactions when someone makes comments that we dislike. The Holy Spirit is faithful to do His part if we will do ours. Let us take a few minutes to ask God to help us to exercise self-control in the areas where we tend to overreact.

A Model for Servants

Lesson 9 - January 28, 2018

Focus Text: Isaiah 42:1-12

Central Truth: As servants of God all Christians seek to model their lives after God’s perfect Servant.

Objective: After comparing their lives with the perfect Servant, my students will be prepared to share at least one area of their lives that needs attention if they are to be like the model Servant of Isaiah 42.

Lesson Outline:

  1. The Character to Which Christians Aspire (Isaiah 42:1-4)
  2. The Mission Christians Pursue (Isaiah 42:5-9)
  3. The Song Christians Sing (Isaiah 42:10-12)

Our Wise God

Read Isaiah 40:12-18

"Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor hath taught him?" (v. 13).

The idea of wisdom preoccupied the ancients, especially the Greeks, whose interest gave us the word philosophy, the “love of wisdom.” Socrates, reputed the wisest man, claimed he was wise because he realized he knew so little, advocating self-knowledge as wisdom’s starting point. Proverbs tells us Socrates was wrong: proper fear of the Lord, not self-knowledge, is the beginning of wisdom.

Wisdom is not something we create or find. James 1 teaches us that God gives wisdom to those who ask for it in faith. Wisdom comes from God because it is one of His attributes. As had the Book of Proverbs (chs. 3 and 8 especially) before him, Isaiah highlights the display of God’s wisdom in His creative work.

For the millennia from Adam’s naming of the animals in Eden onward, humans have sought to understand the mysteries and wonders of the natural world — a world God spoke into existence in six days. Outer space’s vastness boggles our minds, and a single cell’s DNA information density overwhelms us — and all of this is the product of the divine mind. Out of nothing, He brought this rich complexity. Our God is incomparable! (Aaron Profitt)

How most exact is Nature’s Frame!
How wise th’ Eternal Mind!
His Counsels never change the Scheme
That his first Thoughts design’d. - Isaac Watts

God’s creation shows His all-surpassing wisdom just as clearly as it shows His immense power.

This devotional is the Monday, January 15, 2018 entry of Opening the Word.

Role Models

No doubt, all of those present in the class have had role models whom they have admired and looked to as an example for them to follow. What was it about these individuals that inspired them? Ask the members if their heroes were relatives, celebrities, Bible characters, or someone notable in church history. Did these amazing people possess something unusual that made them a success (a quality that eludes the average person)? Or did they simply make “right” or “best” decisions when faced with uncertainty in their lives? What character traits did these mentors or icons lead with that inspired the adults in the class in their youthful days? How did their loyalty to these teachers, parents, or neighbors impact their life decisions and help them to be more like Jesus? Perhaps someone would want to share about emulating a person that turned out to be a negative influence.

Who is God?

Lesson 8 - January 21, 2018

Focus Text: Isaiah 40:12-18, 25-31

Central Truth: The mission of the Church is to know God and to make Him known.

Objective: By the end of this lesson my students will be able to share three facts about God that motivate them to want to make Him known.

  1. Our God is Wise (Isaiah 40:12-18)
  2. Our God is Sovereign (Isaiah 40:25-26)
  3. Our God is Strong (Isaiah 40:27-31)