Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 18, 2003

A family from Long Island decided to move west. They bought a ranch via the internet in Wyoming and packed up 3 moving vans and headed for the sunset. Several months later, friends from New York came for a visit. When they knocked on the front door of the ranch house, the father answered. After a hearty exchange of welcomes, the visitors asked him what the ranch had been named. “Well,” said the would-be cattleman, “I wanted to name the ranch the Bar-J. However, my wife absolutely insisted on the Susie-Q. My son liked the Flying-W, while my daughter voted for the Lazy-J.” “So what did you finally decide to name the ranch?” the visitor asked. “We decided to name it the Bar-J Susie-Q Flying-W Lazy-J Ranch,” came the reply. The visitor looked around. “So where are all the cattle?” he asked. “Oh, them,” the rancher said, shaking his head, “None of them survived the branding.”

As we are working our way through the book of Job on Wednesday nights, we are going to be continuing our series on Sundays on trials. I hope we survive.

We’re in the middle of what might be a four week series. Last week we talked about that difficult question, “Why do I go through trials?” This week and next we’ll be talking about how to survive trials. Then we’ll look at how to help those who are going through trials.

How to Survive Trials – Hebrews 12:1-3

1. Remember that others are watching

(Heb 12:1 KJV) Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…

Some are watching from the stands, cheering you on, hoping to see you win.

People and angels are watching from heaven.

Hebrews 12 follows Hebrews 11, the great “Hall of Fame” of believers. The “witnesses” the writer is talking about are those who have gone before us who have endured. These are folks sitting in the grandstands in heaven, watching you down on the playing field.

Others are watching to see what you’ll do next.

Sometimes our kids are watching


A mom had invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?” I wouldn’t know what to say,” she replied. “Just say what you hear Mommy say,” the mom said. The daughter bowed her head and said: “Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?

It may be that your trial is not about you at all, but about them – the people that are watching.

The hard thing is that for each of us, our favorite subject is … “me”. It’s hard for us to think outside the box and realize that perhaps the reason we’re going through a difficult time is for the sake of the people watching us.


After the very first Passover, the Egyptians finally let the Israelites go. As the Israelites left, they began to head east. Then the Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army out to bring the Israelites back. The Israelites found themselves trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.
God would be doing an amazing thing in parting the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to go through on dry land, and then when Pharaoh’s army followed, drowning them in the sea.
This was a “trial” where God would certainly be showing His people the Israelites how powerful He was and that He was able to take care of them.
But that wasn’t all there was to it,

(Exo 14:18 KJV) And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

Yahweh wanted the Egyptians to know who He was.

The whole episode at the Red Sea was just as much about showing the Egyptians who God was as it was delivering God’s people.

2. Lighten the load

(Heb 12:1 KJV) …let us lay aside every weight …

weightogkos – whatever is prominent, bulk; hence a burden, weight, encumbrance

Sometimes when the going gets tough, you need to lighten the load a bit. You don’t have to quit the race, but just lighten the load. We don’t need to walk away from the Lord, but perhaps we can let go of a few things.


Aron Ralston is probably not a name you know, but you may have heard of his story. A few weeks ago, he had been climbing through a remote canyon in Utah when a huge 800 pound bolder shifted and pinned his right hand. He tried all sorts of things. He tried pushing against the rock. He tried rigging ropes and pullies to move the rock. He tried carving the rock away with a knife to get his hand freed. Nothing worked. He had some water in a canteen, a couple of burritos, and a couple of candy bars with him. After five days he had run out of food and water and figured he only had one option left. He could have given up and stayed pinned to the rock where he would have died, or he could cut is arm off. He decided his arm had to go. Using his penknife, he amputated his right arm at the wrist. After amputating his arm, he still had to get himself down to the canyon floor and hike 8 miles before he was picked up by a rescue helicopter and taken to the hospital. He will be fitted soon with an artificial arm.

Sound a little drastic? Yet it was the only way that Aron could have survived.

Some of us have a hard time saying the word “no”.

What happens is that we get so caught up in doing so many things, that we don’t have the time to spend on the things that are most important. Perhaps we might need to consider lightening the load.

3. Turn around

(Heb 12:1 KJV) …and the sin which doth so easily beset us …

(Wuest) that sin which so deftly and cleverly places itself in an entangling way around us

It may be that God has been trying to get your attention and make you turn your life around. Perhaps you’ve been running right for a steep cliff and you stubbornly won’t turn around.

For some of us, it sometimes takes something like a two-by-four upside the head to get our attention.


According to a radio report, a Junior High School in Oregon was faced with a unique problem. A number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of little lip prints. Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every day. To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. He proceeded to take out a long-handled brush, dip it into the nearest toilet and scrub the mirror. Since then there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

If you’re caught in a sin, does God have your attention? He wants you to turn around.

Even Job, though his difficulty did not come because he had sinned, he learned through his time of complaining that he had some areas of his life he needed to work on.

(Job 42:5-6 KJV) I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. {6} Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Maybe your actions aren’t things you need to turn around, but perhaps your attitude is.


4. Embrace the trial

(Heb 12:1 KJV) …and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

raceagon – the contest for a prize at the Greek games; any struggle or contest; a battle; we get the word “agony” from this.

patiencehupomone (“under” + “remain”) – endurance; It means to “remain under” the trial. In the NT it is the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.

If trials refine us and make us better, we shouldn’t be running from them, but running with them. We ought to welcome the “agony”.

I’ve been watching my own reactions this week when difficult things arise. My natural tendency is to run from the pain, not run with it.


A Black, Jagged, Gaping Wound

In one of Ralph Conner’s books he tells a story of Gwen. Gwen was a wild, willful lassie and one who had always been accustomed to having her own way. Then one day she met with a terrible accident which crippled her for life. She became very rebellious and in the murmuring state she was visited by the Sky Pilot, as the missionary among the mountaineers was termed. He told her the parable of the canyon. “At first there were no canyons, but only the broad open prairie. One day the Master of the Prairie, walking over his great lawns, where were only grasses, asked the prairie, ‘Where are your flowers?’ and the Prairie said, ‘Master I have no seeds.’ “Then he spoke to the birds, and they carried seeds of every kind of flower and strewed them far and wide, and soon the prairie bloomed with crocuses and roses and buffalo beans and the yellow crowfoot and the wild sunflowers and the red lilies all summer long. Then the Master came and was well pleased; but he missed the flowers he loved best of all, and he said to the Prairie: ‘Where are the clematis and the columbine, the sweet violets and the wind-flowers, and all the ferns and flowering shrubs?’ “And again he spoke to the birds, and again they carried all the seeds and scattered them far and wide. But, again, when the Master came, he could not find the flowers he loved best of all, and he said: “’Where are those my sweetest flowers?’ and the Prairie cried sorrowfully: “’Oh, Master, I cannot keep the flowers, for the winds sweep fiercely, and the sun beats upon my breast, and they wither up and fly away.’ “Then the Master spoke to the Lightning, and with one swift blow the Lightning cleft the Prairie to the heart. And the Prairie rocked and groaned in agony, and for many a day moaned bitterly over the black, jagged, gaping wound. “But the river poured its waters through the cleft, and carried down deep black mould, and once more the birds carried seeds and strewed them in the canyon. And after a long time the rough rocks were decked out with soft mosses and trailing vines, and all the nooks were hung with clematis and columbine, and great elms lifted their huge tops high up into the sunlight, and down about their feet clustered the low cedars and balsams, and everywhere the violets and wind-flower and maiden-hair grew and bloomed, till the canyon became the Master’s favorite place for rest and peace and joy. Then the Sky Pilot read to her: “The fruit—I’ll read ‘flowers’—of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness—and some of these grow only in the canyon.” “Which are the canyon flowers?” asked Gwen softly, and the Pilot answered: “Gentleness, meekness, long-suffering; but though the others, love, joy, peace, bloom in the open, yet never with so rich a bloom and so sweet a perfume as in the canyon.” For a long time Gwen lay quite still, and then said wistfully, while her lips trembled: “There are no flowers in my canyon, but only jagged rocks.” “Some day they will bloom, Gwen dear; the Master will find them, and we, too shall see them.”

Beloved, when you come to your canyon, remember!


A Prisoner for Christ - James Peterson’s Story

The letter was addressed to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles-and its contents left the board flabbergasted. It was from an inmate asking for permission to turn down his parole-and stay in prison. The story behind that letter is a remarkable tale of one man’s radical obedience to Christ. James Peterson was locked up two years ago, convicted of embezzlement. James knew he needed to turn his life around, and last July he signed up for a Prison Fellowship program called the InnerChange Freedom Initiative. It’s a new program at the Jester II Prison in Sugar Land, Texas, and its goal is nothing less than the transformation of inmates’ hearts. Some 80 volunteer inmates-thieves, murderers, and drug dealers- get up at 5:30 A.M. each day for devotions. They spend the day working and attending classes to develop their life skills and spiritual maturity. Evenings are devoted to discipleship seminars that run until 10 P.M. Later in the program, inmates must perform community service, and they’re encouraged to apologize and make restitution to their victims. Each inmate is matched with a church volunteer who mentors him during his remaining time in prison and during the final stage of the program-his first six months after release. James was scheduled to complete the in-prison portion of InnerChange in January of 1999. But then the parole board recommended that he be allowed to leave prison in April of this year. What an opportunity! Like any inmate, James desperately wanted to go home. But he also knew that if he left before completing the InnerChange program, he would likely fall right back into the patterns of behavior that had led to his incarceration. And leaving could jeopardize our program, because we need the full two years to work with these men and prove that it makes a difference to recidivism rates. James spent weeks praying about the matter. InnerChange had been featured on ABC, CBS, and in the New York Times. James knew that the whole world was watching and that our witness was in the balance. Then James made his decision: to spend an additional 10 months in prison to finish the work that God had begun in him. As James put it, “There is nothing I want more than to be back in the outside world with my daughter Lucy.” But, he said, “I realized that this was an opportunity to . . . become a living [witness] to Jesus Christ for my brothers and to the [watching] world. Every day after April that I wake up here at Jester II, inside the razor wire fences, I will be crucifying my selfish wants and desires. I will be able to say to my brothers that I am here because InnerChange and my brothers here are important to me. “I consider it an honor,” James wrote, “to stay here with them until I complete [my] commitment.” What a tremendous act of obedience. I know what it’s like to be in prison. Every day is agony. But here is a man who was given his parole and turned it down because he has learned what obedience to Christ is.

(c) 1998 Prison Fellowship Ministries

(Luke 22:39-48 KJV)  And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. {40} And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. {41} And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, {42} Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. {43} And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. {44} And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. {45} And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, {46} And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. {47} And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. {48} But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

Jesus was in “agony” in the garden.

agonyagonia – a struggle for victory; gymnastic exercise, wrestling; of severe mental struggles and emotions, agony, anguish.  It’s a word that’s based on the word used in Hebrews 12:1 (“race”).

Most of us want to sleep through Gethsemane. 

Jesus prayed and asked if it were possible for the “agony” to be over.  Yet in the end He gave Himself to going through the agony.

Gethsemane is where you learn to embrace your cross.

5. Put your eyes on Jesus

(Heb 12:2-3 KJV) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

He is our example to follow.

He knew that He must go to the cross so He could pay for our sins. And He endured all that came with it. All because He loved you.

You have a choice of what you focus on. God wants you looking to Jesus.


(Mat 14:22-33 KJV) And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. {23} And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. {24} But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. {25} And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. {26} And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. {27} But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. {28} And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. {29} And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. {30} But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. {31} And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? {32} And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. {33} Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

When Peter’s eyes were on Jesus, he could walk on water. He was able to survive the storm. But when Peter’s eyes got focused on the wind and the waves, he began to sink.
What are you eyes focused on?
Are they on the One who has power over the wind and the waves?

Don’t look to Jesus thinking that He’s going to “stop” the wind and the waves. That’s not the point. That’s a false expectation. God isn’t just a big “storm stopper”.

He didn’t stop the wind and the waves until He got Peter back to the ship.

After Jesus got a hold of Peter, He still had to teach Peter to trust Him during the storm.

How do I do this?  Spend time with God – get the manna from heaven

(Deu 8:2-3 KJV) And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. {3} And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

One of the lessons God was trying to teach Israel in the wilderness was that they needed more than what they thought they did. They thought they just needed bread, but God showed them through their trials that what they needed was God. They needed all that God had for them. They needed all that came from God’s mouth.

Manna came in the morning. Manna only lasted for a day. You had to go out and get the manna.
Jesus said the He was the “Bread of Life”. God wants to feed us on His Word.