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News for Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sunday School Lesson � Bible Studies for Life
Aug. 10: Joyful Faith
By Gene Nelson
pastor, Russellville Baptist, Russellville

Focal Passage: I Peter 4:12-19

Joy — a word often confused with happiness. Man is eager to find happiness, but joy is not always sought. Happiness is the one thing they cannot seem to find. It is sought in wealth, family, success, and even abuse, yet it is so elusive. Some even think that happiness is found within them, and when they come to peace with themselves, they will find happiness. However, after every effort is exhausted, they realize, as Solomon says, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2b). The Christian knows that happiness can be elusive, but joy is easily found. Ultimate joy and fulfillment do not come from within, but only comes through a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Peter now proclaims that joy is also found in suffering and persecution. That seems extreme and irrational, and it is. However, as John Phillips says, “The normal condition of the church that love Christ … is one of rejection and persecution.” And the result is joy!

As in previous lessons, Peter reminds the church that persecution is to be expected. As a matter of fact, it would be strange if suffering and persecution were not part of the Christian life! These trials come because of a life that remains faithful to God. They come when Christians stand up for God’s standard, and are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter knew about the expectation of suffering. He had been beaten and imprisoned for his faith. Yet, he did not cease preaching about and glorifying the name of Jesus Christ.

What is to be the response to the fiery trials which come into the life of believers? Rejoicing! And what can be expected for the believer who boldly stands and glorifies God in the midst of fiery trials? They will be blessed, or literally, happy! Satan will attack, but God’s presence in the ministry of the Holy Spirit brings happiness and a rest that the world cannot understand. Happiness and joy come not because the church is being glorified, but rather the One who gave Himself is being lifted up. And when Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself. For that, the church must rejoice!

However, in the midst of suffering and persecution, there must be a time of examination. If believers find themselves in the midst of trials, the question needs to be asked, why? We must be sure that our suffering is because of our faith, and not because of a sin harbored in our life. The examination must also consider, are we ashamed of Christ, or glorifying Christ. This must have been especially personal to Peter. It was he who brashly stated he would not abandon Christ, yet denied knowing Him three times. While most Christians would like to think they would stand strong, how many would have done the same as Peter? This time of examination may mean God has to purge the church. For if believers will not deal with sin in the camp, rest assured, God will!

The life of joyful faith has an undoubting confidence that even when God sends trials and suffering, and even when God allows the persecution, He is still a faithful, on-time God. A joyful faith is declared in Habakkuk 3:17-18, when he boldly stated, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

— Nelson is pastor of Russellville Baptist Church, Russellville.

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