Hey guys, check out this week's lesson that we're calling, "Your Deepest Desires Realized." This is Lesson 4 in our ongoing series, "Living Wisely in Turbulent Times," based on the Book of James. Our Scripture for this lesson is James 1:13-18.
There's a little connection issue during the first two minutes of the video as there was a storm passing through, but it clears up in time for the content. Enjoy.
This week's study is drawn from the Song of Hannah in the 2nd chapter of First Samuel in the Old Testament. Hannah's Song is a worshipful prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for His intercession in her life to give her a son, Samuel, after her many years of childlessness. It is a song of praise celebrating the sovereign might of God in the deliverance of His people and the reversal of human fortunes. Be prepared to worship the Lord!
with Robbie Parks
This week's study examines 1 Samuel, chapter 1, verses 9-28. This section of text contains the prayer and the vow of Hannah. This distraught and childless woman asks the LORD for a son and vows to consecrate the child she would receive back to God as a lifelong servant.
with Robbie Parks
I love Acts 20! As a shepherd entrusted with the care of a local church, I get a lot of mileage out of these farewell words of the Apostle Paul to the church leaders in Ephesus. Paul spent three years shepherding and building the church in Ephesus – longer than he spent with any other church. He poured out his life as he invested in theirs.
As he prepared to depart from them, Paul left the elders with important words for all who would shepherd God’s people.
Paul reminded them that he had never hesitated to preach or teach anything that would be helpful to them. I get the sense here that Paul did not focus on their felt needs, but instead, ministered to their actual needs.
What sorts of things would be included in a list of actual needs? Well, the “10,000 mile high” answer would be, “the whole counsel of God.” Here are a few particulars: The character and will of God. The person and work of Jesus Christ. Our sin and need for Christ’s Gospel. The person and work of the Holy Spirit who comforts, ministers, and guides us – who molds and shapes us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. How to live godly lives in a fallen world. How to bear witness for Christ. All we have to do is read Paul’s epistles and the Book of Acts and we get a pretty good idea of what Paul covered in his preaching and teaching.
Furthermore, Paul didn’t preach only from a pulpit to the masses. Like the pastoral giant, Richard Baxter, who would use Acts 20 as one of the foundations of his ministry some 1,600 years later, Paul went from house to house – teaching both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance as well as place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ if they would be saved.
His work in communicating this message was the cornerstone of his ministry in Ephesus. He said in verse 24,
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
His faithfulness to this blessed task was what enabled him to say in verse 26 that he was, “innocent of the blood of all men.” For he did not hesitate “to proclaim to [the church at Ephesus] the whole will (counsel) of God.” In other words, there were no essential doctrines of the Christian faith omitted. Paul covered everything that would build them up in their faith and bring glory to God – when his words were popular and even when they were not.
I’ve always admired Paul, or any pastor, who ministers so faithfully. Preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God can be hard, especially when it’s what a person would rather not hear. Yet it’s part of a shepherd’s call – whether that shepherd watches over and leads a congregation, a family, a small group, Sunday school class, or a Christian friend.
I’ve heard it put this way before: If you knew you only had five years to minister to someone, what would you want to make sure they heard, understood, and began to put into practice before they left your influence? Paul had only three years. And we don’t have to guess what he spent every minute preaching and teaching. We need only read the Book of Acts and his epistles to know the heart of Paul’s focus.
The Question for Us
That leaves us with this question: What are we teaching the people entrusted to our care during the time we’ve been given? That is a question that is not only for pastors, but also for parents, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and mentors, just to name a few.
We could apply the question to any of us who have Christian influence in the lives of others. In that sense, we are all shepherds who need to ask ourselves that penetrating question. We are all called to pass on the whole counsel of God to this generation of followers and would-be followers of Christ, as well as the next. It’s what Christ meant in his Great Commission when he told us to make disciples by teaching others to obey everything he commanded. He also said in John 8:32, that if we would hold to his teaching, then we are really his disciples.
God’s Word, the “whole counsel” to which Paul referred, will soothe the wearied soul. It will be a balm to the hurting. For others it will encourage, build up, lead, guide, correct and convict. For the rebellious and hopeless it can present inexpressibly good news. For others it will prick the conscience and even stir up anger. Yet we can be assured it will accomplish what God desires for those whom God has entrusted to our care, to our spheres of influence. And that, along with the joy of obeying God in such things, should be all the motive and affirmation we need.
From Robbie Parks - This week we begin a new book of the Bible—the book of First Samuel. The book is contained in the section of the Bible’s historical books and its history is considered to be one of great importance. First and Second Samuel are considered by scholars to be a literary masterpiece. It is also a book filled with “real-time” theology—the outworking of God’s will and purposes through individuals in the exercise of His Providence. The book unveils the establishment of the monarchy in Israel—an incredibly important theme in the scope of Biblical prophecy. And the book is just plain fun to read—we’re going to enjoy this one together!
Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.  So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? …  Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. (2 Corinthians 12:14–15, 19)
There are many examples of bad shepherds in the Bible, those with misguided motives and self-centered behavior. However, the Apostle Paul is by no means counted among them. Like anyone placed in leadership, he was occasionally under criticism or suspicion. But his life was a continual witness to the purity and goodness of his motives and obedience to his Lord.
Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that he did not want their possessions – their money and material goods, their power or influence – he wanted them. He had labored alongside them for the sake of this church. He told them not only would he spend his own money on them and give them what he had, but he would even spend himself – his very being – for their sake. That’s how much he wanted to see them grow in grace.
Paul told them that all he had done, and was doing, was for their strengthening, for building them up in their faith. His great desire was to equip and edify them to know and follow Christ Jesus the Lord.
This should be at the heart of every shepherd of Jesus Christ. And that list of “every shepherd” is a long list indeed. For it is not merely those who have been ordained by the church who are shepherds, but also those who are mothers and fathers, Bible study teachers and small group leaders, youth counselors and Vacation Bible School volunteers, just to name a few.
I wonder how many shepherds today are “spending and being spent” (as the KJV puts it) on behalf of their flock – those entrusted by God to their care. I wonder how many would look more like those chastised shepherds of the Old Testament who worked from unworthy motives.
To help you discern where your heart is on this, take some time to reflect on the questions and next steps below. Ask God to search your heart and weed out any impure and ungodly motives. And ask him for a fresh filling of his Spirit to renew you and give you the same heart that animated the faith and ministry of the Apostle Paul.
It’s good for us to ask ourselves these tough questions. The discernment process is not about self-condemnation. Instead, it should serve as an aid to help us see our need for renewal in this vital calling to shepherd others. Let us recommit ourselves to be faithful shepherds for our Good Shepherd, that we may be counted worthy to serve him and be a blessing in the lives of others.
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