When Everything Seems to go Wrong

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Curse that day for failing to shut my mother’s womb, for letting me be born to see all this trouble. Job 3:10 NLT

While our experience may be different than Job’s, many of us have been in situations, so dire, that we even question our existence.

Wayne’s parents never married. Growing up, he learned to shrug off the names he was called on the church school playground, and ignore the older ladies whispering behind his back in church.

Wayne managed to work his way through school. He got a job, and then got engaged to his best friend. Finally he had someone who loved him and would never leave him, unlike the father he never even knew. He vowed to himself as much as to his fiancee that he would create the perfect home for her, and unlike his biological father, would always be there to provide for his future children. As he looked forward to the wedding, he hoped to begin a new and better life.

But then Wayne’s whole world came crashing down. First, his fiancee broke off their engagement. Then he lost his job. And when he thought he had found a new job at least, his new supervisor told him things were not working out.

Wayne came home to his empty apartment and threw himself down on the floor. Feeling as low as you can get, Wayne felt a huge void in his life.

His fiancée did not want him. His old job did not want him. Now things were not working at at his new job, and he wondered if anyone needed him or wanted him at all? It sure did not feel like he was wanted or needed by anyone. He was all alone, and it seemed nobody cared if he lived or died. And if no one cared if he lived or died, why should he? Who would miss him if he just vanished away? Obviously no one from his work, or his ex-fiancée.

No one called from church to check up on him either. What’s the point of surviving in a world where no one cares if you survive or not? Wayne cried out, asking God why nothing was going right. Suddenly a thought came to him – but not from God. He reasoned that his parents never should have had the affair that brought him into this world, and therefore he was never supposed to be born! That has to be it, Wayne reasoned. Nothing works out for me, because God does not have a plan for my life, seeing how my parents never should have made me.

Wayne was so sure his theory was correct, that the following day at lunch he shared it with a friend from church. When Wayne explained that nothing was working out because he was not supposed to be born, his friend surprised him, by responding, “That is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard!” Wayne’s friend was close enough that only he could get away with a response like that, but it woke Wayne up enough to realize his theory simply was not true. After all, Solomon was a product of Bathsheba and David’s sinful encounter, yet Solomon went on to write inspired proverbs and became an ancestor of the Savior.

Long story short, Wayne discovered that God did have a plan for his life. Although he’s had his ups and downs, he has had many opportunities to see God’s hand in his life. And God used him and is continuing to use him to pastor his flock.

Like Job, even though God greatly loved and had a plan for Wayne’s life, did not mean his life was just a walk in the park. Even Mary, Jesus’ mother had her moments.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! ” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! Luke 1:28‭-‬30 NLT

Mary was chosen. She was favored and the Lord was with her. I’m sure she didn’t feel that way when she heard her Son being called a demon and folks questioning the legitimacy of His birth, or when she watched Him being crucified. Still, she was chosen and favored, and God was with her.

If your heart is fully surrendered, take heart. Whatever storm you are going through. You are chosen. You are favored, and the Lord is with you. And yes! God has a plan for your life!

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

8: Seeing the Invisible-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class on Sabbath, August 20, 2022.

Main Theme: God’s Word gives us real hope we can trust even in the worst circumstances.

Read in Class: Romans 8:28-39. Identify the main thought of this passage.

Study: How does this passage help us keep from doubting God’s goodness, even when things go wrong?

Apply: How is it possible for a truth (God’s goodness) to have a more powerful effect on you than your doubts? What does this do for your faith?

Share: Your friend asks you if all things work together for our good, does that mean that everything that happens to us is good? What do you tell your friend?

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

Study: What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus? Why does Jesus encourage us to pray this way?

Apply: What hope and encouragement can you draw from these promises? At the same time, ask yourself, “What things in my life could be standing in the way of having these promises fulfilled for me? What changes must I purpose in my heart to make?”

Share: Your friend asks, “Why did Jesus say in John 14:3 that He would come again so we could be with Him? Aren’t we with Jesus as soon as we die?” What do you tell your friend? Hint: See Death in Light of the Cross.

Read in Class: Ephesians 1:18-23. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: Paul talks about the power of God. What do these verses teach us about the power of the Resurrection? What hope and promises for yourself can you find in these verses?

Apply:  what can we do better, what choices can we make, that can allow this power to work more freely in our lives?

Share: Your friend asks how the church can represent the fulness of God’s body? What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22 and Matthew 6:25-33. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: It’s been said, “What we worry about the most shows where we trust God the least.” How can worry be a sin? How does worry expose our lack of trust in God?

Apply: What are things that cause you worry now? However legitimate they are, however troublesome they are, is there anything too hard for the Lord? Maybe our biggest problem is that even though we believe that God knows about it and can fix it, we don’t believe that He will resolve it the way we would like it resolved. Dwell on that last point and ask yourself how true it is in your own life.

Share: Your friend asks you, “Why should I cast all of my care upon someone who let His own cousin get beheaded in prison?” What do you tell your friend?

2: The Crucibles That Come- Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School class, July 9, 2022.

Main Theme: What are the causes of the difficult times that we experience through our lives?

Read Together: 1 Peter 4:12-19. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is Peter’s Message?

Apply: Peter was referring to trials that are the consequence of standing up for Christ. But there are also other reasons that trials come. How could 1 Peter 4:12-19 help you to explain tactfully to a friend why not to be surprised at the painful trials he or she might face?

Share: Your friend asks, “How can I be glad when I am suffering?” What do you tell your friend?

Read Together: 1 Peter 5:8-11. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How should we react to Satan’s prowling? How does God promise to help us?

Apply: Think about the other ways that Satan causes pain. How could reading 1 Peter 5:8-11 help us to deal with the anguish that we experience because of our fate in living in a sinful world in which Satan wreaks havoc?

Share: Your friend asks why God allows Satan to prowl us? What do you tell your friend?

Read Together: Jeremiah 9:7-16. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: God says that he will “refine and test” (NRSV), or “melt” (KJV), Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 9:7, NIV). What two reasons does God give for this? (Jer. 9:13,14). How will the refining happen? (Jer. 9: 15,16).

Apply: Think about the sins that you struggle with. If God were going to refine and test you today, how might He do it? What action could you take now to deal with this before God would want to take drastic steps with you, as He did with Israel?

Share: Your friend asks what it means in verse 16 where God says he will destroy or consume us? After all doesn’t Jesus want to save us? What do you tell your friend? How could this quote help you explain? “If the Spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that hurts you, you can be sure that there is something in you that He wants to hurt to the point of its death.” — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour & Company, Inc., 1963), p. 271.

Read Together: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How does Paul deal with his “thorn”? Do you think that Paul’s weakness had any other spiritual benefits to him? How can the way that Paul responds help you to deal with “thorns” that you may have to carry?

Apply: In what ways might God’s ideas for your spiritual development be very different from your own? Think about areas in your life in which you need to become more fruitful in righteousness. What spiritual qualities would you like to ask God to develop in you through His “pruning”?

Share: Can you think of someone who is going through a difficult time right now? This week can you reach out to them and share an encouraging passage, and pray with them, if even on the phone?

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

12: Joseph, Prince of Egypt-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School class June 18, 2022.

Maine Theme: Joseph’s brothers experience sin, repentance and salvation.

Read: Genesis 41:37-57. Summarize this passage.

Study: What is God’s place in the success of Joseph?

Apply: What are ways that others should be able to see, from the kind of lives that we live, the reality of our God?

Share: Your friend says that the story of Joseph rising to power from such humble beginnings sounds like a fairy tale. Especially the part about him being promoted from prisoner to such a high position. Your friend says nothing like this could ever happen today. What do you tell your friend?

Read: Genesis 42, especially verses 20-23. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What happened here, and how does it reveal the providence of God, even despite human evil and wrongdoing?

Apply: How can we make up for what we have done that we are sorry for?

Share: Your friend asks if God is punishing us every time something bad happens? If not, how do you know the difference between what Joseph’s brothers experienced and when bad things are just randomly happening to you? What do you tell your friend?

Read: Genesis 44:1-9 and 18-34. Define the main idea of these passages.

Study:  Why did Joseph put the divination cup in Benjamin’s sack and not in another brother’s sack?

Apply: What principle of love, as exemplified in Judah’s response, is implied in the process of substitution? How does this kind of love explain the biblical theology of salvation? See Romans 5:8.

Share: Your friend says that Judah did not want to break his father’s heart again. Is that what true repentance is all about? How do you answer your friend?

Read: Genesis 45:1-9. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What lessons of love, faith, and hope can be found in this story?

Apply: Yes, Joseph was gracious to his brothers. He could afford to be. How, though, do we learn to be gracious to those whose evil toward us doesn’t turn out as well as it did for Joseph?

Share: Your friend says that Genesis 45:5 says God sent Joseph into Egypt. Does that mean his brothers didn’t have anything to do with it? How do you answer your friend?

Do we Trust God Enough to be who we Really are?

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A while back, a woman writing to prisoners for her church ministry asked me if she would be dishonest if she does not use her real name. She wanted to hide her real identity for security purposes. I assured her a pseudonym was not being dishonest. After all, the Bible gives many names for God, so why can’t we have many names? 

While living in the Dallas area during the mid ’90s Deion Sanders was playing for the Dallas Cowboys, so I decided it would be fun to invent “Deion” as my restaurant name. So for the last almost 30 years now, when waiting for a table or placing an order to be called out, my name has become Deion. Since then I have learned many people use pseudonyms when giving their names at a restaurant. It’s not being dishonest. The restaurants couldn’t care less what your real name is. They just need to know who to call when your table is ready. A pastor friend told me he uses the name “Wild.” That way when his table is ready the hostess calls out, “Wild party of four, your table is ready.” 

Name games can be fun, but fact is I love being me. God loves me being me too. I am glad God made me to be me. There is a difference between having multiple names and pretending to be a totally different person than I really am. I don’t need to wear a Deion Sanders jersey with his name on the back. I don’t have to be someone else to be happy. I love who God made me. 

While the name game at restaurants is fun, Satan plays a game that is no fun at all. He likes to make us think that the only way we can ever be happy is, we have to be someone other than who God made us. This was his first deception with Eve. 

“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 NLT

There are two problems here with the serpent’s suggestion. First he is insinuating that Eve cannot be happy unless she becomes someone else. Sadly this is his deceptive suggestion to many people. You can’t be happy being you. You can’t be happy being who God made you to be. You have to become someone else in order to he happy. In this case Eve needed to be God. The second problem with this suggestion is, Eve was already made in God’s image. See Genesis 1:26. While Eve obviously of course was not God Himself, she was already created in God’s image, a truth the serpent’s suggestion seemed to deny.

I suppose since Lucifer thought he could not be happy just being himself he suggested no one could be happy just being themselves, but this is not so. We can be happy just being who God made us to be. However a lack of trust in God led others to skew their own identities. in Genesis 12 Abraham skews his identity, claiming to be Sarai’s brother only, instead of her husband. In Genesis 26 Isaac does practically the same thing, changing his identity and relationship with Rebekah. In Genesis 27 Jacob does not trust God to bless him, so he puts his trust in a lie. That lie causes him to change his identity. Jacob thinks he has to be Esau in order to be blessed. 

David appreciated who he was when he exclaimed, 

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. Psalm 139:14 NLT 

David trusted God enough to be who he really was. Do we trust God enough to be who we really are? Do you realize how special you are to God? Friend, you are no accident. You are not just another face in the crowd. With the billions of beings already to grace the face of the earth God was not content until He made you. He literally loved you into existence! Don’t fall for Stan’s lie that you cannot be happy until you change your identity. Satan’s biggest lie to Eve and all humanity is that you can’t be happy unless you become someone you are not. Don’t fall for that lie. God is love, and God created you to be you because He loves you being you. Don’t try to become someone or something that God never loved into existence. You are you because you are what He loved into existence. Trust God enough to be the you that He loved into existence. 

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

9: Jacob the Supplanter-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

Prepared by William Earnhardt, For Sabbath School Class, Sabbath, May 28, 2022.

Main Theme: Jacob deceives and then gets deceived, thus learning what goes around comes around.

Read Together: Genesis 25: 21-34. Discuss the main theme of this passage.

Study: What qualities of Jacob predispositioned him to be more worthy than Esau of Isaac’s blessings?

Apply: Jacob wanted something good, something of value, and that was admirable (especially compared to his brother’s attitude). Yet, he used deception and lies to get it. How can we avoid falling into a similar trap of doing bad so that “good” may come?

Share: Your friend says its okay to tell a white lie in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Do you agree with your friend? Why or why not?

Read Together: Genesis 29:20-30. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How and why does God allow for Laban’s deception? What lessons did Jacob learn?

Apply: How can we avoid justifying doing something bad so that good may come? 

Share: Your friend asks if God let Jacob get deceived so that he would then realize and be convicted of his own lies. What do you tell your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 30:15-22. Summarize this passage.

Study: How are we to understand the meaning of what takes place here?

Apply: How does this story reveal that God’s purpose will be fulfilled despite human errors?

Share: Your friend asks why God was so good to Leah when Leah was deceptive? What do you share with your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 30:25-32. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is going on here, and what kind of reasoning does Jacob use? What is Laban’s response?

Apply: Have you ever been cheated by an employer? How did you deal with it?

Share: Think of someone who would be encouraged by this week’s message. How can you share it with them this week?

God’s Promises to Abraham are God’s Promises to you

I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Genesis 17:7 NLT

When God made His covenant with Abraham He was making it with all of us. All of the promises that were given to Abraham were given to us.

A member of a church in which I had recently spoken asked me to come to her home. She was very upset because a neighbor claimed to be a witch and put a curse on her home and family. The lady church member believed in God but was afraid of what this curse might mean. When I got to her home I shared this passage with her. It is a promise God made to Abraham.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 2:1-3 NLT

The Lord promised to bless those who blessed Abraham and to treat those who cursed him with contempt. I actually think the KJV is a little more powerful on this point when it says, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Right after this promise was given, Abraham went into Egypt, and instead of trusting God to care for him, he trusted a lie he invented that Sara was only his sister, not his wife. Not only are lies deceitful, they show we are not trusting God. When we trust God we have no reason to make up lies. Pharaoh took Sara to himself, not knowing she was married. Even though Abraham was less than perfect in this situation the Lord still kept his promise like He always does.

But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. Genesis 12:17 NLT

Even when Abraham was less than perfect and even had trust issues, the Lord kept his promise to curse those who cursed him. I reminded the lady I was visiting, that Balaam tried to curse Israel but could only bless them! See Numbers 23:11-12. The Lord’s blessing continued for the great nation of Israel the Lord had promised to Abraham. The lady I was visiting thought that was all wonderful for Abraham but what did that have to do with her and the curse that was placed upon her? I asked her if she belonged to Christ and of course she said she did. I told her I had good news for her.

And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. Galatians 3:29 NLT

I shared with her that the promise to bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you belonged to her just as much it did to Abraham. She claimed this promise and when I spoke to her again many months later, the neighbor was gone and there were no signs of any curses.

Once there was an elder in my area who was being slandered by some of the other church leaders. Thank God the church body could see through the other leaders’ lies and stood up for him. When the truth came out and the elder was exonerated ,one of his enemies, who was also a leader was too proud to recant his lies and accusations. Not long after, the leader who made the false accusations retired to a new area. Soon he had to move far away from the area he retired in, because of accusations that were made against him which were much more serious than the one he made against the local elder. Some called it karma, some called it what goes around comes around. I can’t help but think of God’s promise, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” I hope too that this situation led the slandering leader to repentance and salvation.

Now before we start acting all high and mighty when God works in our favor, it’s important to remember that God blessed Abraham because of His own faithfulness, not the faithfulness of Abraham. Even though God cursed Pharaoh so to speak, Abraham still had his own lesson to learn about honesty and trusting God instead of lies. I would imagine even when God curses those who curse us that we too still need to humbly learn some lessons as well. The promise in Genesis 12:3 goes on to say that all families of the earth will be blessed as God wants to bless and save all of us friends and foes, just as he saved faulty Abraham.

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

7: The Covenant With Abraham-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School class, Sabbath May 14, 2022.

Main Theme: The promises given to Abraham are for all believers. “And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Galatians 3:29 NLT

Read Together: Genesis 15:1-6. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How did Abraham reveal what it means to live by faith?

Apply: What does it mean if we start counting up or relying on our good works?

Share: Your friend says that if we are counted righteous because we believe then there is no reason to obey. How do you respond to your friend? See Genesis 26:5 and James 2:23-24.

Read Together: Genesis 17:1-12. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is the spiritual and prophetic significance of the circumcision rite?

Apply: How do you keep believing even when we struggle with belief?

Share: Your friend says that circumcision is nothing more than barbaric sexual mutilation. How do you respond to your friend? See Why Circumcision.

Read Together: Genesis 18:1-8 and Romans 9:9. Define the main idea of these passages.

Study: What lessons of hospitality do we learn from Abraham’s reception of his visitors? How do you explain God’s response to Abraham’s hospitality?

Apply: What is our responsibility to the poor and hungry? How do we help those in need? What stipulations would you put on helping someone who is in need?

Share: Your friend asks, what it was that made Abraham so generous? What do you tell your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 18:22-Genesis 19:13. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How does Abraham’s prophetic ministry affect his responsibility toward Lot?

Apply: How do you respond to someone who says that God does not punish the lost, that it is against His love?

Share: How can we help the sinner realize their need of a Savior without making them feel like the scum of the earth?

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:17 NKJV

6: The Roots of Abraham-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class, Sabbath, May 7, 2022.

Main Theme: God has a plan for His loved ones.

Read Together: Genesis 12:1-9. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: Why did God call Abram to leave his country and family? How did Abram respond?

Apply: What might God be calling you to leave behind? That is, what part of your life might you have to abandon in order to heed the call of God?

Share: Your friend is given an opportunity to serve a couple of years in the mission field far from home. A decent salary and travel and lodging are all provided. Your friend acknowledges that it looks like God is leading in this venture, but your friend does not want to leave a comfortable home, as well as family and friends. What can you share with your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 12:10-20. Discuss the key idea in this passage.

Study: Why did Abram leave the Promised Land to go to Egypt? How did the pharaoh behave in comparison to Abram?

Apply: What should this story teach us about how easy it is, even for faithful Christians, to stray from the correct path? Why is disobedience never a good choice?

Share: Your friend acknowledges that we are saved by faith, but says that a lack of obedience shows a lack of faith. Do you agree with your friend? Why or why not?

Read Together: Genesis 13:1-18. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What does this story teach us about the importance of character?

Apply: How can we learn to be kind and generous to others, even when they aren’t that way to us?

Share: Your friend asks, “How can we reach wicked cities with the Gospel if we are counselled to live in the country and stay away from such places?” What do you tell your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 14:1-17. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is significant about this war taking place just after the gift of the Promised Land? What does this story teach us about Abram?

Apply: What kind of influence do our actions have on others? What kind of message are we sending about our faith by our actions?

Share: Can you think of a friend who needs to be encouraged by the fact that God has a plan for their life? Can you reach out and encourage your friend this week?

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” Hebrews 11:8 NKJV

4: The Flood-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class, April 23, 2022.

Main Theme: While God has to destroy sin He wants to save the sinner.

Read Together: Genesis 6:13-7:10. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What lesson can we learn from this amazing account of early human history?

Apply: Read 2 peter 2:5-9. Why was only Noah’s family saved? What lesson can we learn from the Noah story regarding our role in warning the world about coming judgment?

Share: Your friend mentions that today it seems like God does not punish sin. Evil people get away with everything, never facing judgment. How do you answer your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 7:1-24. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: Why does the description of the Flood remind us of the Creation account? What lessons can we learn from the parallels between the two events?

Apply: What in us needs to be destroyed in order to be created anew? See Romans 6:1-6.

Share: While studying prophecy a friend asks, “Why does a year equal 360 days instead of 365 days?” How do you answer your friend? See Genesis 7:11 and Genesis 8:3-4.

Read Together: Genesis 8:1. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What does it mean that God “remembered” Noah?

Apply: Read Genesis 8:1, Genesis 19:29 and Psalm 106:4. What does the expression “God remembers” mean? What does this truth mean for us, now — that is, how has God shown you that He “remembers” you?

Share: A friend asks, “If God remembers everything how does He forget out sins?” How do you answer your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 9:8-17. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is the significance of the rainbow? How does this “sign of the covenant” (Genesis 9:13) relate to the other sign of the covenant, the Sabbath?

Apply: Next time you see a rainbow, think about all of God’s promises to us. Why can we trust those promises, and how does the rainbow show us that we can trust them?

Share: Do you have a friend who needs to hear the plan of God’s salvation? Can you share it with them this week?

“God hates the sin but loves the sinner” -Ellen G. White.