7: Indestructible Hope-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School class, Sabbath August 13, 2022.

Main Theme: Understanding God’s love gives us hope in our crucible.

Read in Class: Habakkuk 1:1-4. What did Habakkuk face?

Study: How does the introduction to the promised destruction of Babylon in Habakkuk 2:2-3 give hope?

Apply: Read Habakkuk 3:16-19. What does Habakkuk identify as his reasons for hope? What is the hope of God’s people as we wait for the last prophetic scenes to unfold? How can you make this hope your own?

Share: Your friend tells you they feel just like Habakkuk, when he said there was no justice. The court system is a joke and the wicked get away with everything, and the righteous suffer. What do you answer your friend?

Read in Class: Isaiah 41:8-14. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What reasons for hope can you identify for people waiting eagerly for future deliverance? How does this promise help us as we wait for our exile on earth to end?

Apply: How does knowing that the God of this universe is close enough to hold your hand, change the way that you live? How does it change how you cope with your crucible?

Share: Your friend asks, “what if those who are against us claim the promise of Isaiah 41:8-14? What if our enemies believe we are the ones in verse 12 who will become nonexistent? How do we know if this is really talking about us? How do you answer your friend?

Read in Class: Jeremiah 29:1-14. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What specific sources of hope are provided in verses, 4,7, and 10?

Apply: Read Jeremiah 29:11-14, saying your name after the word you, as if God is making these promises to you personally. Apply these promises for yourself in whatever your present struggles might be.

Share: Your friend points out that the promise in Jeremiah 29:11 was given to the Jews. Your friend asks why the same people who claim the promises in the Old Testament turn around and say the commandments in the Old Testament were only for the Jews? What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Hebrews 12:1-13. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: In verses 5-13, what is our source of discipline? What should be our response to discipline? What is the goal of discipline?

Apply: Read through Hebrews 12:1-13 again. Make a list of all the reasons you can identify with as grounds for hope. How have you experienced this hope in your own times of spiritual “education”?

Share: Do you have a sharable testimony on how it has gone the last week or so when you have reached out to encourage a friend with a thought from the recent lessons?

I did my Very Best! Maybe Not?

In the third grade I was diagnosed with learning disabilities. I was told I could do the work, I just needed to try harder. Well, sometimes I was not just tired of trying harder, I was just tired of the work, period. For example, in English we had to find the noun, verb and adjective in several sentences. Each assignment had about 20 sentences as I recall. However, I thought 10 sentences was plenty and 20 was just unreasonable. So after actually trying during the first 10 sentences I just hurriedly guessed on the last 10. One time, just to throw my teacher off, after guessing on the last 10, I turned my paper over and started writing over and over, “I did my very best. I did my very best.” For some reason, writing “I did my very best” 20 times seemed easier than actually doing my very best. It worked! The teacher showed the paper to my mother and told her, “I guess we have been too hard on Willie. Look how frustrated he must have been when he wrote over and over I did my very best.” I wasn’t doing my very best. I knew it and God knew it. In the end, I wasn’t cheating my mother or my teacher. I was cheating God.

  …or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, Colossians 3:23 NKJV

In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira tried to make it look like they were giving 100% but God knew better. Even though I tried to make it look like I was giving 100% in 3rd grade English class God knew better.  

Sometimes people think we are trying our best when we are just being lazy. Sometimes though, people think we are not trying our best when we really are. Only God knows. 

I have been an avid golfer since 2007. I have practiced, I have watched golf instruction videos. I play regularly. However my golf score has not changed much since I first began. When someone asks me what my handicap is, I tell them, “It’s my swing.” Several times I have gone golfing with a friend who has told me, “I have not played in several years, and you play all the time, so I know you will win.” And then they are surprised when we walk off the 18th green and they have won. My score clearly does not show how much I have practiced and how much I have tried. My scores today are only slightly a little better than my scores 15 years ago. That may not be entirely true because I do not give myself as many mulligans as I did in the past. So my scores 15 years ago were probably even worse had I not given myself so many mulligans. Still, I don’t think my poor scores reflect how hard I really try. 

Golf is just a game, but I have to remind myself in life, just as I am trying harder than my golf score reflects, many in the church are trying harder than their actions reflect. Golf is just plain easier for others than it is for me. The score does not really show how hard you have tried. In life it may be easier for me to study my Bible every day than it is for others. After all, liking to read or not liking to read does not make you a better person. And even after all the Bible studying I do, during the day I am amazed at how much more Christlike people can be who don’t even believe in Christ! There are atheists who act more like Jesus in every day life than I do! Then again we meet people who are really struggling. It seems like they are living their whole life in a sand trap. It may be easy to criticize, but God may know their hearts, and know they are actually putting more effort into their Christian walk than some of us who come by certain things more naturally. This is why we should never judge. We simply don’t know what is going on inside their lives and minds. Ellen White puts it this way. 

“While some are continually harassed, afflicted, and in trouble because of their unhappy traits of character, having to war with internal foes and the corruption of their nature, others have not half so much to battle against. They pass along almost free from the difficulties which their brethren and sisters who are not so favorably organized are laboring under. In very many cases they do not labor half so hard to overcome and live the life of a Christian as do some of those unfortunate ones I have mentioned.” Ellen White, Testimonies Volume 2 page 74

Let’s remember to be patient with others. We don’t have a clue the crucible they may be enduring. And after all, 

Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. – Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Page 71.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

6: Struggling With All Energy-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School class Sabbath, August 6, 2022.

Main Theme: The Holy Spirit will not force us to obey against our will. We need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as far as we are able.

Read in Class: John 16:5-15. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: In this passage, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13, NIV). What does this imply that the Holy Spirit does for us?

Apply: What convictions has the “Spirit of truth” brought to you recently? How well are you listening to His voice? And, most important, what choices are you making with your free will?

Share: Your friend says that if you are led by the Holy Spirit that you will agree with him on every Bible doctrine, because after all, he is led by the Holy Spirit too. Do you agree with your friend? Why or why not? Do we sometimes create unnecessary crucibles by trying to make everyone agree with us? See Do we Have to Agree on Everything?

Read and Compare in Class: Colossians 1:28-29, Deuteronomy 4:4, Luke 13:24, 1 Corinthians 9:25, and Hebrews 12:4.

Study: Though Paul talks about God working in him, in what ways does he show the human effort also involved? 

Apply: What is your own experience with the kind of striving Paul talked about? What things has God laid upon your heart that you are struggling with? How can you learn to surrender to God’s will?

Share: Your friend says, “God understands some of us may be trying very hard to overcome our bad habits, even though it may not look like it to others.” Do you agree with your friend? Consider: “While some are continually harassed, afflicted, and in trouble because of their unhappy traits of character, having to war with internal foes and the corruption of their nature, others have not half so much to battle against. They pass along almost free from the difficulties which their brethren and sisters who are not so favorably organized are laboring under. In very many cases they do not labor half so hard to overcome and live the life of a Christian as do some of those unfortunate ones I have mentioned.” Ellen White, Testimonies Volume 2 page 74 

Read in Class: 1 Peter 1:13-16. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is Peter concerned about, and what does he want his readers actually to do?

Apply: What important decisions are you facing? Ask yourself honestly, “How can I know if I am basing my choices on feeling, emotion, desire, as opposed to the Word of God?”

Share: Your friend asks, “How can I tell the difference between the Holy Spirit speaking to me and my own feelings and desires?” What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Matthew 5:29-20. What is the main idea of this passage?

Study: Is Jesus suggesting we literally main ourselves physically? What is He actually saying?

Apply: What are some practical ways we can remove temptations?

Share: Think of someone who you have seen grow spiritually over time. Can you affirm them and encourage them this week?

5: Extreme Heat-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School class, July 30,2022.

The Main Idea: God will do whatever it takes, even being misunderstood in order to help us become like Jesus.

Read in Class: Hosea 2:1-12. Define what the main idea is in this passage.

Study: What methods does God say He will use to pull Israel back to Himself? What would these experiences have felt like?

Apply: Read Hosea 2:14-23. What does this passage reveal about God? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you have been running from God in any area of your life. If you are convicted that you have been, why wait to go through the crucible? What’s stopping you from surrendering all to the Lord now?

Share: Are you willing to share with the class, what you consider is the most sever means God has used to bring you back to love and obedience to Him?

Read in Class: Job 1:6-2:10. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What causes Job’s sufferings and how does Job respond to these trials?

Apply: How does Job’s trials help you with your own trials?

Share: Have you ever been tempted to just “curse God and die?” Why did you or why didn’t you? What was the final outcome of your crucible in this specific situation?

Read in Class: 2 Corinthians 1:4-9. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul states that the reason for receiving God’s compassion and comfort is “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (NIV). To what extent might suffering be a call to ministry? How could we become more alert to this possibility?

Apply: What can you learn from Paul that can help you keep from falling into self-pity amid your own struggles?

Share: Can you share how others have comforted you during a hard time? How did it make you feel? How did you respond?

Read in Class: Isaiah 43:1-7. What is the main idea of this passage?

Study: What are the different ways in which God assures His people of comfort during the times of water and fire. What picture of God does this paint in your mind? Which promises can you claim for yourself?

Apply: What do these verses teach you about the actions and character of God? Ps. 103:13, 14; Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Pet. 1:7. How have you experienced the reality of these verses in your own life?

Share: Can you write a letter, text message or email this week offering encouragement to someone you know who is going through a crucible?

Try a Little Love and Tenderness

Monday’s section of this week’s lesson, reveals the relentless love of God. For me, here is the key verse.

But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there. Hosea 2:14 NLT 

I am so thankful for parents who understand this. I wish all parents understood this is the way to win their children’s loyalty to God and to themselves

.

Several years ago I was preaching for Father’s Day, and I had a few people, young and old, tell us what they liked about their fathers. One young man, about 12 years old, gave a powerful, heartfelt tribute to his dad, even saying “nobody reminds me of Jesus more than my father.”

That same Sabbath morning, the son was offered some cookies in his Sabbath School class which he gladly took. His father saw him eating the cookie and starting publicly berating him and telling him how sinful it is to eat in church! (News to me!) The son could not hide his hurt and humiliation. The son definitely was not trying to be a hard-hearted rebel by taking a cookie just like everyone else. I know the father meant well too, but you don’t have to be a parent to know that publicly embarrassing and humiliating your child is not a good thing to do. Remember, Jesus worked His first miracle, turning water into wine for no other reason than to save the host from public embarrassment. It would not have killed them to just drink water, but Jesus is a Savior from public humiliation and embarrassment. It is not one of His tools.

Not long after this, the father called me up and wanted me to lecture his son because he was becoming defiant. I came to their home as requested, but the talk did not actually go the way the father expected. The father was accusing the son of being disrespectful. With father and son both present, I asked the son about the beautiful tribute he gave to his father. Both agreed that was very nice and respectful. I then asked the son how he felt when later, his father publicly berated him for eating a cookie just like everyone else. He said it was very hurtful and you could see the hurt in his eyes as he said that. I shared Hosea 2:14 with them both and asked the father if he thought he could be a little more tender when correcting his son. I was not asking him to change his standards, just his approach. But I did share with the father that I was unaware of any Bible teaching against eating a cookie in church. Being a father is a very sacred calling, and I did not want to distract from that or appear to try to trump him. However I did encourage him to follow 2 Timothy 3:16 and be sure to correct his son according to Scripture.

Tears were in the son’s eyes by now as I explained to the father how much his son loved him, and how hurt he was, when publicly humiliated for doing something he thought was totally innocent, with no rebellious intentions. I assured the father that his son would not have written such a loving tribute if he did not deeply love and respect him. His son nodded in agreement with tears still in his eyes.

I thought the father was going to turn on me now for not ganging up with him on his side, but, instead, he actually thanked me! I know the father had a good heart and really cared about his children. Why else would his son write that no one reminded him more of Jesus than His father?

Parents, please be tender with your children. You may not think they love, appreciate and respect you, but at school and church I hear them say things you may never hear. I always tell kids, “Your parents love you more than you think they do,” and I say the same to parents. “Your children love you more than you think they do.” As a third party observer, I know this for a fact.

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from God,

But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there. Hosea 2:14 NLT 

Was God Just Using Job as a Guinea Pig?

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Occasionally I hear people ask why God used Job for a guinea pig. Why did God allow Job to be tortured just for the sake of making a point to Satan? Was Job just a pawn in God and Satan’s chess game?

At first glance it may appear so, but let’s look a little closer. First of all it is said of God,

In all their suffering he also suffered, Isaiah 63:9 NLT

While watching a documentary on the holocaust, I heard a woman talking about seeing a small child killed by a concentration camp officer. She said, when that happened, she stopped believing in God. She didn’t understood that God was suffering with that poor child.

No, that in and of itself does not answer all the questions as to why God allowed Job to suffer and the holocaust to happen. But if He is suffering just as much as everyone else, it does tell me God is not using humanity or Job as a guinea pig or as pawns in some chess match with Satan. I don’t have to have all the answers to trust God. If God allowed sin and suffering, knowing it would cost Him His own dear Son on the cross, then I know there must be a good reason.

Job’s friends came up with a quick answer to the problem of suffering. Surely Job brought this upon himself! For some reason we feel better about God allowing pain and suffering if we figure that people somehow deserve suffering. When we do this we misunderstand the character of God. Fact is God does not want to see anyone suffer, even if they deserve it.

Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. Ezekiel 18:23 NLT

So while we are prone to draw peace from knowing people deserve to suffer or brought it upon themselves, the fact that they may deserve it is no consolation to God. He hurts just the same.

Even though Job’s friends might not have had the right attitude, Job did learn and grow through his suffering. While he maintained his innocence for the most part of the story, at the end, Job said,

I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance. Job 42:6 NLT

While Job’s friends may have been more than a little rough on him, Job did have some precious lessons to learn, and yes, some precious revelations of God’s grace that could only be found through suffering. Even though God bragged on Job in the first chapter, He did not imply that Job had “arrived.” Job still had some things to learn about himself, and his need for God’s righteousness. Theologians have been trying to answer the question for ages, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” In fact, they’ve come up with a fancy name for it – theodicy. 1 The question why bad things happen to good people is actually hypothetical, because, there are no good people for bad things to happen to!

No one does good, not a single one. Romans 3:12 NLT

Job grew throughout the story, and in his suffering became more intimate with his Redeemer.

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:25-27 NLT

God did not allow Job to suffer like a guinea pig so God could prove a point to Satan. Job had to suffer to learn obedience just like Jesus did.

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:8 NLT

The suffering and obedience led both Jesus and Job into intimacy with the Father. Again, I do not know why. Maybe you do and can comment below. But for now it is enough for me to know that if Jesus had to suffer too, there must be a good reason. My theory is simply that anything that was proven to Satan was not the main event. Job’s character growth and intimacy with God was the main event. The things Job endured were not just to put on some show for the devil to see. They were to bring Job closer to God, and to realize joys and victories, and yes and intimacy with God, that could not have been realized any other way.

  1. Theodicy covers a little more ground than just the question of why good people suffer. It deals with the questions of God’s goodness in the presence of evil. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

4: Seeing the Goldsmith’s Face-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School Class, July 23, 2022.

Main Theme: God uses trials to perfect our character.

Read in Class: Job 23:1-10. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is the essence of Job’s struggle? What doesn’t he see? Why does he take on faith despite his trials?

Apply: In your own experience, how do trials refine and purify? What other ways could you be refined, other than through suffering?

Share: A friend says God was just using Job as a “guinea pig.” Which was very mean of God. What do you tell your friend? For some ideas on how to respond read, “Was Job Just a Guinea Pig?”

Read in Class: Matthew 25:31-46. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What criteria is used for separating the sheep and the goats?

Apply:  What kind of person are you in stress, or when no-one’s looking? What does the answer tell you about the change you need to make? 

Share: Your friend says that we only love God as much as the person on earth whom we love the least. Do you agree with your friend? Why or why not?

Read in Class: Daniel 12:1-10. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study:  What can we tell in these verses about the character of God’s people during these times?

Apply: What do the wise understand that the wicked don’t? What kind of wisdom is implied here?

Share: Your friend says she is confused about the state of the dead. How could you use Daniel 12?

Read in Class: Ephesians 4:11-16. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What point is Paul making here? What role does he give for community?

Apply: What is the difference in a community revealing the fullness of Christ, and an individual revealing the fullness of Christ? See Ephesians 3:10.

Share: Share a brief testimony about someone who showed you Christ’s loving character when while they were in a crucible of sorts.