This material was originally used at a retreat with Sessions 1 and 2 on Friday night, Session 3 on Saturday, and Session 4 on Sunday morning.
Note that session 1 is used in a socratic style of teaching using questions in a discussion form to get them to come to the truth as a group. Session 2 is to be done by each group member separately as an inductive study and coming together at the end to discuss what they have learned. Session 3 is to be done alone as well in a time of reflection coming back together. After session 3, we did an art project using canvases, paint, scrap-booking paper, scissors, etc to depict ways God has been faithful throughout their lives. Each person shared their “God monuments” when finished. Session 4 is also done alone as a quiet time the last morning with the group coming together to wrap up.
The call for endurance
- What is our life purpose as Christians?
- Greatest commandment?
- Chief end of man from the Westminster Catechism?
- What does the Bible say about God’s purpose in us/his will?
- What is your greatest desire in life? How does that fit or not fit with his purpose?
- What times in life have you loved him/enjoyed him the most?
- Has the hardest thing so far in your life brought you toward or away from contentment in Christ?
- How did Christ view suffering?
- What does the Bible tell us about suffering?
- Do you think it is necessary in your life? How will this view aid or hinder your walk with Christ?
Crazy—we are told to rejoice in suffering and trials and count it pure joy, Paul prayed to share in the sufferings of Christ—THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT IS TAUGHT TODAY!
Did you know that the church flourishes more under persecution?
Early Christians knew they were taking a huge risk claiming Christ—many losing their lives. How would that change our lives and outcome? Do you think they followed the great commandment? Do you think they enjoyed God? Were they living in entitlement or joy?
The year had been filled with tragedy when Horatio Spafford, a forty-three year old Chicago businessman, penned this hymn. He and his wife were still grieving over the death of their son when the Great Chicago Fire struck and caused them financial disaster. He realized that his family needed to get away, so that fall he decided to take his wife and four daughters to England. His wife and daughters went ahead on the SS Ville du Havre; he planned to follow in a few days.
But on the Atlantic, the Ville du Havre was struck by another ship and sank within twelve minutes. More than two hundred lives were lost, including the Spafford’s four daughters. When the survivors were brought to shore at Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband with the words “saved alone.”
He booked passage on the next ship. It was while crossing the Atlantic that Spafford penned the words to the hymn: “When sorrows like sea-billows roll…’It is well with my coul.’”
“It is Well With My Soul”
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Though Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—O, the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin—not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Oh my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so”—it is well with my soul.
Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888)
What do you think aided Horatio in writing these words and obviously trusting God in such a devastating time? What prepared him to be in this place of submission?
There are three sections in these verses: 10:32-39, 11, 12:1-11
As you study this passage in Hebrews, look for the who, what, when, where, why and hows of the passage. In studying the Bible, context is king—you must not isolate verses but look at intended purpose and meaning in the passage.
In the overarching theme, what do these passages tell us about our lives in Him? What are we promised?
- Observe the characteristics of these believers amid sufferings
- What was their hope?
- Any key words or phrases stick out to you about suffering?
Hebrews 11 Hebrews original recipients were Jewish Christians who knew the history of their people well—this is a litany of those people.
- Definition of Faith
- What characteristics/experiences are common to these people?
- Any key words that stick out (repeated words or synonyms?)
- Who gave them faith? Was it by their merit? Who worked the feats? To what purpose?
- In the light of this whole chapter, read verse 39. What is your response to this? How does it connect with your life?
Anytime you see a “therefore” in scripture it always refers to passages in front of it.
- Who were the cloud of witnesses this is referring to?
- According to this passage, how does looking to Jesus help us run with endurance? Do you see correlation to Horatio’s hymn in how he looked to Jesus?
- Endure/ance in these passages is translated from four Greek words:
1. hypomeno—“to abide under, to bear up courageously” sometimes translated patient, longsuffering 10:32, 12:2-3,7 (Often used as a characteristic of one not swerved from his or her deliberate purpose and loyalty to piety even amidst greatest trials and sufferings.)
2. phero—“to bear” 12:20
3. huphero—“to bear or carry” (temptations, persecutions, griefs)
4. kartereo—“to be steadfast, patient” 11:27
- How many times is the word endurance or its derivative used? What does that tell us? What does Hebrews 10:36 state as the reason for endurance?
- What does James 1:2-4 tell you about trials and endurance?
- Why is examining Jesus endurance important to us? What do you learn about Him in this passage?
- What is discipline as defined here? What is the reason for it? How do endurance and discipline go together?
- What do you learn about God’s character in this passage? This is an important question to ask of any passage you are studying.
- What promise do we have in the discipline of God?
- After studying these passages, how would God have you react to trials, sufferings? To what purpose?
“The highest dream we could ever dream, the wish that if granted would make us happier than any other blessing, is to know God, to actually experience Him, The problem is we do not believe this idea is true. We assent to it in our heads. But we do not feel it with our hearts.” Shattered Dreams, Larry Crabb
We are content with lesser dreams than God. We are content with the blessings of grace from His hand more than the experience of knowing His person. C.S. Lewis says “pain is God’s megaphone to us.” Marrying these thoughts, we may not be awakened from lesser dreams without pain and affliction. God is the greatest gift—but we do not naturally seek Him.
- How do you see this in yourself?
- In what times have you gotten to experience and know Him?
- How do you view pain and suffering? Did last night change that in any way?
“What happens when the people of God do not escape from the beguiling enchantment of security? What happens if they try to live their lives In a mirage of safety? The answer is wasted lives.” Don’t Waste Your Life John Piper
“Unburdened youth delays our rendevous with sobering reality. It postpones spiritual maturity. The more faith visits the house of testing and pain, the more it learns to look up to the God of grace and away from the world of illusions. The sooner this maturing, refining, and clarifying process begins the better. Youth, aflame with a faith forged by heat and tempered by severe testing, is an awesome resource in the hands of the Spirit.” Polishing God Monuments Jim Andrews
“Whatever burdens encumber our lives, God put them there. Part of the equation of faith is humble submission to the wisdom of an all-knowing God. Know that God’s wounds are temporary. God’s compassion is as sure as His affliction. (Lamentations 3) There are cycles in the life of a believer, as surely as there are seasons in nature. Blessing always follows burdens and compassion follows grief.” PGM Jim Andrews
- What is God’s will?
- Do you believe in the good Fathering of God?
- He does not do things that are unnecessary and does not delight in our pain. In fact, Jesus has faced that and calls us to approach the throne of grace with confidence in our time of need.
- “ Hard times bring out hard places in our hearts. Pressure exposes cracks in our spiritual walls. Let trials do their perfect work (James 1:2-4). Nothing exposes our dry rot like the scourge of pain and suffering.” PGM Jim Andrews
- The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Westminster Confession of Faith
- “The truth is, a life of suffering is a better mark of God’s favor than a life of surfing. Godliness does not blosson on playgrounds; it flourishes in war zones. If we do not get worked over and melted down by adversity now and then, it doesn’t mean God is blessing us; it more likely means He is disowning us (Hebrews 12:5-10).” PGM Jim Andrews
in knowing suffering is purposed (not haphazard), out of the Fathering love and purposes of God that we may share in Christ’s character, how do we endure when the pain is so loud? Just because something is for your good does not mean that it feels good. It is painful and we need to rely on Him in the midst.
Hebrews 10:35-36 states ‘Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
An eternal perspective sounds crucial, but also not throwing away our confidence, which is Christ. When we are hurting so badly, it is easy to want to throw in the towel and forget our confidence and reach for the quickest thing to numb the pain. In Polishing God’s Monuments, Jim Andrews suggests a practice of remembering God’s past work and faithfulness in your life to recall in the midst of pain, darkness, frustration and loneliness and persecution. It is an excellent book in which he experiences walking with his daughter and son-in-law through horrendous physical problems that go on for years. They tried to be discipline to remember the ways God worked before knowing that He is faithful and will work again. He is at work at all times, but at times feels distant or completely not there. This is like the children of Israel who saw God do many miraculous things and forgot time and time again in the midst of their distress.
This morning, take the time to look back over your life at times where God worked. It can be simple to huge. It can be a way God provided, a way you learned about Him, a miraculous time, etc. It can even be a time of suffering.
Later today we will use these God monuments and make a reminder for ourselves.
In passages about trials, suffering and the Christian life, two words are continuously used—steadfastness and endurance. We looked at endurance Friday night and have even heard stories of our own friends here in the midst of steadfastness for the sake and glory of Christ.
Steadfastness: A life of faithful endurance amid troubles and afflictions. Steadfastness leads ultimately to perfection (when we are glorified in Him)
These are two strong words. We have learned how remembering is faithfulness is so important to patient and faithful endurance. This is an example of knowing and enjoying His person to endure and live as we are created to. Reflect on this life story as an example of learning to rest in Him in order to faithfully endure trials:
In 1901, J. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, kept getting messages of his missionaries being assassinated by Chinese Terrorists. His mission had nearly one thousand missionaries in the country, and one by one they were being killed in the Boxer Rebellion. A total of 189 Protestant missionaries were killed.
There was not anything Taylor could do except pray and sing. Day after day his coworkers heard Taylor singing softly the words to his favorite hymn: “Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art.:
It isn’t easy to rest in the middle of disaster, but as we do, Jesus gives an inner peace and satisfaction, and we will, as the hymn says, find out the greatness of his loving heart.
“Jesus I am Resting, Resting”
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art:
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding our the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
O, how great Thy loving-kindness,
Vaster broader that the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certaintly of promise,
And have made it mine.
Simply trusting Thee, Lord, Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satifies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!
Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of My Father’s glory,
Sunshine of My Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.
Jean Sophia Pigott (1845-1882)
Dave Hunt sang this song at our wedding, and as I reflect on the trials of the last five years of our lives, I know this prayer is being answered. I have learned more and more what it is to put my hope and joy in Him—He is my fulfiller, my rest, my everything. My prayer is that He teach you the beauty of who He is in His grace.
Take Time this morning to thank Him for who He is…spend some time in quiet and prayer. If you want to take a greater look at scriptures dealing with endurance and steadfastness, I am listing some for you.
1 Peter 1:3-9
1 Peter 2:19-20
Examples of churches 2 Thess 1:4 (Paul encouraged them in their afflictions—as he had been living through them as well), 2 Cor 6:4, Col 1:9-14, Rev 3:10 (Philippians)
Paul to Timothy 2 Timothy 4:5
‘One sees the real fruit of someone’s life in how they endure hardship.’
- What is your response to Him? Are you able to give thanks, rest in Him in the midst? Will you be found faithful and fruitful?
- As always, cling to repentance in the cross of Christ—your hope. He is your righteousness. Through His cross—belief and repentance, you can find joy and rest in Him bringing Him glory.
The Hymns and their stories come from The Complete Book of Hynns by William J. and A Peterson