I’m a big fan of closure. When I come to the end of something, I like to pause and reflect on all that I’ve learned and how it’s impacted me. With another year of Bible study coming to a close at Focused Living, it seems like a good time to take inventory of the major themes we’ve been studying since September.
If you attend Focused Living, you’ll see this post complements my teaching at our end of the year brunch. For those of you who follow this blog but don’t attend the study, you’ll find some good nuggets of truth. (You might even be inspired to try doing one of the studies). The passages we’ll use will help us to see what God calls us to do and how we can apply that truth to our lives. I pray you’ll be inspired to put the things we’ve learned into practice.
Children of the Day
Beth Moore’s study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians focused on the major them of living as “children of the light” based on this verse:
“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5, NIV)
And what are we supposed to do as children of the day? Our answer comes a few verses later:
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8, NIV)
Using armor as a metaphor, the passage urges us to keep faith and love close to our hearts (the breastplate) and hope protecting our heads (the helmet).
This sounds great in theory, but how are we to put this into practice?
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
Rejoicing and giving thanks continually protects our hearts. These attitudes reveal faith and trust in God that goes beyond our immediate circumstances. Even when we don’t understand the things He allows in our lives, we know God is working them out according to His will and for our good. Similarly, praying continually protects our minds and helps us to keep hope central in our thoughts, no matter what we are experiencing.
I like using visual reminders to communicate themes. Because I don’t have any suits of armor handy, I’m giving you a more modern version of a helmet and breastplate (my son’s lacrosse helmet and chest pads). Let them remind you of the spiritual protection we need for our heads and hearts.
One in a Million
Priscilla Shirer’s study on the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land focuses on giving us courage in our journeys through the “wilderness” of difficult seasons in our lives. She encourages us to trust God in our hardships and to fix our eyes on the hope found only in Him.
As the Israelites are on the brink of entering the Promised Land, God speaks to their new leader, Joshua, summing up the major themes of this study. His words to Joshua tell us what to do when we find ourselves in challenging situations:
“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.” (Joshua 1:7, NIV)
He also explains how to do it:
“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. 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.” (Joshua 1:8-9, NIV)
When we become afraid or discouraged, we are wise to remember that God is with us. We need to recall the promises in His Word and then live like we believe they’re true (because they are). The way we handle ourselves in our wilderness seasons shows God’s power at work in our lives, providing a powerful testimony to others.
The visual reminder for this theme is the family Bible that has been passed through my husband’s family since 1886. Its substantial binding (4 inches thick) and weight (fourteen pounds) remind us of the value of the words inside. Our strength and courage through hard times comes through knowing God’s Word and applying it to our lives.
Why Do You Believe That?
Mary Jo Sharp’s study on apologetics reminds us that learning to engage in faith conversations with confidence enables us to spread the light of God’s Word to a world stumbling in darkness. She ends the study by quoting Jesus’ words telling us what we’re called to be as His followers:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15, NIV)
Jesus also explains how we are to do this:
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NIV)
In Sharp’s study, she helps us understand that learning apologetics is a way to be a light to the world. The more clearly we can articulate our faith, the easier it is to point others to God. Ultimately, we glorify God when others see His light shining through us.
How Can I Remember All of This?
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming trying to apply all of the things we’ve learned. But there is a way that God makes it possible—it’s through abiding in Him. Jesus says it this way:
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NASB)
I like the way The Message translates this passage:
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”
What we are supposed to do is abide in Christ. How we do that is by maintaining an ongoing, intimate relationship with Him. Although the verse describes a grapevine, there is a different picture that comes to mind for me. Maybe it’s because a baby is the fruit of human intimacy, or maybe it’s because of the tenderness of the parent-child relationship. To me, this is what abiding looks like:
With continual abiding, we begin to mature and resemble our Father in heaven without even trying:
(The pictures above are of the same father and son taken 14 1/2 years apart.)
The fruit we produce by remaining close to God is the light that shines from us when we are faithful, hopeful, joyful and prayerful. It is the strength we show in the midst of the hardships we endure. We display the fruit of our intimacy with God by the words we say that draw others to know Him too. All of the things we’re called to do happen only when we abide consistently with Him. That is the way to access God’s power and to impact lives. The act of remaining with Him is an ongoing endeavor. Living in Him is the only way to sustain a fruitful and fulfilling life. Jesus says it best: “apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Click on the link to be inspired by Christy Nockels’ song “Life Light Up.”
Moore, Beth; Children of the Day; Lifeway Press; 2014
Sharp, Mary Jo; Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation; Lifeway Press; 2012 & 2014.
Shirer, Priscilla; One in a Million: Journey to Your Promised Land; Lifeway Press; 2010 & 2014.