Click here to download a printable version of the Daily Bible Study for the week of 10.17.11.
Series: Refining Faith
This Week: Courage Under Fire
Picture yourself in this scene: You just completed a wonderful meal with your LifeGroup and right in the middle of concluding a rather deep discussion of 1 Peter, chapter 3, you hear a knock on the door. You quickly look at the LifeGroup member who owns the home and watch as they answer the door. You brush it off and go back to the conversation you were having but can’t help but overhear the dialogue that begins to ensue. It’s not a friend or neighbor at the door, rather, it’s the sheriff’s office inquiring about a tip that bible studies were frequently occurring in the home and that they immediately had to stop the bible study or else be fined.
What? You may think “what a crazy scenario … that would never happen … at least not in America today.” Well, “POP!”…(consider that the sound of your reality bubble bursting. Sorry if that hurt).
Just four weeks ago, the Los Angeles times reported that a southern California couple was fined $300.00 for holding regular bible studies that assembled 50 people in their home twice a week because it violated a city zoning code. In fact, city officials warned the couple that subsequent fines could increase if they continued to host the Bible studies without obtaining a special permit. Granted, city officials eventually claimed the violation was due to the amount of people they assembled in their home rather than the bible studies.
Regardless, the initial claim puts a spotlight on what was once a frequent occurrence in Rome in A.D., 62-64, as Peter describes in the book,1 Peter. This book was written just prior to some of the greatest persecution of the church ever. The Roman emperor basically said that if people claimed Christ, they would die. But, if they denounce Christ and follow Roman pagan gods, they would be allowed to live. Bottom line: following Christ meant that you would suffer—greatly!
But look how Peter responds to the seemingly crushed, overwhelmed, and devastated church of those days—he tells them they will be rewarded for suffering in 1 Peter 3:14. In fact, Peter says they should just expect ridicule, rejection, and suffering as a Christian.
The same message that was given by Peter (whose name means “Rock”) so long ago applies even today. We have to have courage under fire, and be a rock for Christ, just like the couple in California.
Last week, Steven Whitlow challenged us to go from the good life to the great life by taking additional steps. This week, Steve Hutmacher outlined what those steps may look like by asking us what level we are at in our Christianity—are we the self-centered, convenient or “all-in” Christian? This week’s LIO explores those levels of Christianity a bit further by asking some tough questions about how much persecution we are willing to withstand in the name of Christ. So, why not consider being courageous in your faith with your LifeGroup. If you hear a knock at the door and you’re issued a fine or citation to stop your bible study, you’ll know what to do!
Persecution makes us stronger
because it refines our faith
and gives us courage!
We can only withstand persecution
by relying on Christ!
How courageous are you?
IN THIS WEEK’S STUDY WE WILL LEARN HOW TO HAVE COURAGE UNDER FIRE!
MONDAY — The Ultimate Level: Sanctification!
Big Point: Living a sanctified life allows Christ to rule our thoughts and emotions which encourages us to believe that God truly is in control of ALL events. In return, we cannot be shaken by our enemies.
As you drink your morning coffee or tea while reading this LIO before embarking upon your daily commute, take a moment to think about this: Today someone in the world may likely be executed purely for their Christian faith and beliefs. It’s true! That someone is Iranian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani. He faces execution by hanging for refusing to recant his Christian beliefs. Nadarkhani, the leader of a network of house churches in Iran, was first convicted of apostasy (renunciation of a religion) in November 2010, a charge he subsequently appealed all the way to the Iranian Supreme Court. In an appeals trial last month at a lower court in Gilan province, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs. “He [Nadarkhani] has stated that he is a Christian and no longer Muslim,” a CNN blog article explains. This story has received national attention and in fact, a Whitehouse spokesperson mentioned that Nadarkhani “has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for people.”
While it seems that merely proclaiming your faith should naturally be a universal right, it doesn’t appear that is always the case, especially in this instance. Nadarkhani was given plenty of chances to renounce his faith but he chose not to. Do you think Nadarkhani wholeheartedly believes he will receive a reward for his suffering and that he’s not worried or afraid of their threats? It appears that way. It sounds like he’s holding true to the words written in 1 Peter 3:14. Nadarkhani must believe he is sanctified; that he is set apart for a special use and purpose to be used by God. That’s not braggadocios or boastful. Rather, that’s Nadarkhani’s way of trusting God as the Lord of all so that he is not shaken by his enemies. That’s what God expects us to do. That’s a pretty tough call that only Christ can help us answer.
READ…What does the Bible say?
1 Peter 3:14-17 (New Living Translation)
14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
THINK…Find the answers
On the surface, it seems there is much to lose when we suffer, but what does God say we will receive when we do suffer?
What does 1 Peter 3:15 say we are supposed to be prepared to do if someone asks us about our Christian faith? In return, if someone does talk about you, how will they likely feel and why?
LIVE…What will you do now?
Living a life with this type of bold faith may seem overwhelming but we serve a God of all possibilities. List three areas of your life that you are struggling in where you have a hard time believing that God can take control of:
What behaviors do you have that can act as an explanation to others of your bold courageous Christian faith?
PRAY…God, What do you want me to know & do?
Ask God to help you live with bold, courageous faith to believe that you are sanctified— set apart for God’s work and being conformed to the image of Christ.
Courage is when you are afraid
But you keep on moving anyway
Courage is when you are in pain
But you keep on living anyway.
It’s not how many times you’ve
been knocked down, it’s how many
times you get back up. Courage is
when you’ve lost your way but you
find your strength anyway.
Courage is when you’re afraid
Courage is when it all seems grey
Courage is when you make a
change, and you
keep on living anyway!
“Courage” by Orianthi
DAILY BIBLE READING COMMENTARY: Deuteronomy 29-31
29:1 God is renewing the covenant with Israel. He actually had multiple covenants with Israel and various leaders of the nation.
29:5 Clothes and sandals not worn out in 40 years. What a marvelous gift to the nation walking in a desert for that length of time.
29:11 Many non-Israelites had joined the nation during the desert travel.
29:19-28 Obedience matters. Israel was given a great deal of responsibility and with it, instruction. Fulfilling, or obedience to, the assignment results in great blessing. Failure, or disobedience, in the assignment results in great judgment. This principle carries through to the new testament (see 1 Peter 4:17; Acts 5:1-6) and likely to today.
29:29 God provides us with everything we need to know in order for us to live holy and joy-filled lives. Anytime we are tempted to say God does not provide enough information, keep verses 19-28 in mind.
30:1-3 God lays out the entire history of the nation Israel in these three verses.
30:9 Blessing or judgment is up to us. God rejoices when He can bless.
30:20a A good admonition for all of us.
31:9 Moses wrote most of the book of Deuteronomy down to complete the Pentateuch, also known as the 5 books of Moses or The Law in the New Testament.
31:10 The people gather every seven years to hear the law read to them. Not a bad idea. God and Moses predict Israel’s disobedience. As Moses put it: If you disobey when I’m here, how much more when I’m gone. Courage is when you are afraid But you keep on moving anyway Courage is when you are in pain But you keep on living anyway. It’s not how many times you’ve been knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up. Courage is when you’ve lost your way but you find your strength anyway. Courage is when you’re afraid Courage is when it all seems grey Courage is when you make a change, and you keep on living anyway! “Courage” by Orianthi