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lesson five

JANUARY 23–29

The Controversy

Continues

“And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work” (Neh. 2:18, NKJV).

to me. So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands

Matt. 10:33

Introduction

sabbath

JANUARY 23

“How’s That Christian Life Working Out for Ya?”

Jesus’ statement, “It is finished” (John 19:30) can be confusing. Yet even so, we can understand that it means the Lord did His part. Under- standing what He did at the cross and the power that is available to us as a result is pivotal to comprehending our role in salvation. When I think about what Christ did for me, I think of three things: (1) He loved me so much that He died on the cross, thus raising the value of my life to “price- less”; (2) when I accept Jesus as my Savior, Satan can no longer accuse me and get away with it; (3) I have ready access to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our role in the great controversy is not a passive one.

Something amazing happens when we act upon what we believe. For example, by believing in God’s power, David defeated Goliath, Esther delivered the Jews, and Abraham became the father of many nations. Standing up for one’s beliefs must have been hard in the past. But what about now? Now we are faced with deceptions so clever that if we are not abiding in Christ, we will lose battle after battle. These battles have much to do with the mind and the multitude of influences that daily bom- bard us. As a Christian parent, my role in the great controversy is not a passive one. I’m often concerned about television shows, school curricu- lums, staying at hotels—what? Did I say staying at hotels? Yes, because recently we returned from a resort for families with children where almost all the children had a wand they waved to see how it would affect various objects. I was grateful that our room wasn’t situated near any of the talking mirrors or paintings that would respond when a wand was fluttered at it. On our last day there, I found a Bible far back on the second shelf of the nightstand. When my husband saw it, he said, “I wonder how long that will last here.” The reality of his words saddened me. What used to be indisputably wrong is now right. Facts substantiated by the Bible no longer influence the lives of many Christians. It seems we don’t want to offend anyone. These times call for courage, single- mindedness, and an unswerving faith in Christ. Yes, it is finished, but we must believe that it is and live like it is. Our role in the great controversy is not a passive one. We must unite our weakness to His strength. We must allow Him to make us conquerors over evil. This week, we will look at how the battle for our minds continues and how our daily choices can make a difference in turning back the tide of evil.

Zelinda Sealy-Scavella, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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sunday

JANUARY 24

Logos

On the Winning Side

Genesis 3;

Josh. 24:15;

1 Kings 18:21;

2 Kings 1;

Esther 3, 4; 8:11–14; 9; Rev. 12:7–9, 11–17

Overcome Evil With Good (Genesis 3; Rev. 12:7–9, 11–17)

In the beginning, there existed harmony.Then one day, everything changed. It started with an arrogant angel whose thoughts led him in the wrong direction. Before anyone knew it, he had concocted a plan to fight the King of heaven. This led to a cosmic battle between the good angels and the rebel angels, which resulted in one-third of the angels being banished from heaven. 1 It was also the beginning of the great controversy between good and evil. Yet what Satan intended for evil, God overturned for good through His chosen people. What Joseph said to his brothers confirms that God can make good come of evil: “ ‘But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive’ ” (Gen. 50:20, NKJV).

The choice ultimately lies with you and me.

“Judging of Joseph from the general temper of human nature, they thought he would now avenge himself on those who hated and injured him without cause. Not being able to resist, or to flee away, they attempted to soften him by humbling themselves. They pleaded with him as the servants of Jacob’s God. He directs them not to fear him, but to fear God; to humble themselves be- fore the Lord, and to seek the Divine forgiveness. He assures them of his own kindness to them. See what an excellent spirit Joseph was of, and learn of him to render good for evil.” 2

Faith Under Fire (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 1)

Because of sin, we have diseases, kidnappings, murders, genocides, and other atrocities that occur daily. How easily we could despair! Yet history tells us of people who stared evil in the eye and remained strong through the power of God. Elijah boldly faced a ruler who wanted him dead. He did not second-guess himself when he told the king that it would surely rain. He did not mince words when, with bold confidence, he proclaimed that he was a man of God and thus could ask the Lord to send down fire from heaven. Likewise, each of us can have the assurance that when the Holy Spirit guides us, all fears will disappear, enabling us to stand boldly for truth. “When God’s people come to the place where they have the same spirit as Elijah had, when they are as earnest, as active, as courageous, as willing to persevere in prayer, as dauntless in the face of the Lord, and as eager to answer the calls of the Lord, then God’s work will quickly be finished and Jesus will return to receive His own.” 3

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Divine Providence (Esther 3, 4; 8:11–14; 9)

When God calls His people, there is absolutely nothing that can stand in their way. When He called Esther to stand up for her people, she may have felt that it was a huge undertaking for her. Yet she did not panic. Instead, she took immediate action. She instructed Mordecai: “ ‘Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!’ ” (Esther 4:16, NKJV). What would have been a tragedy for the Jewish nation became a victory instead. Once Haman was out of power and Mordecai was reinstated, the royal decree was accommodated to allow for the Jews to fight back under attack. Thus, they became victors instead of victims (Esther 8:11–14; 9). God used one “insignificant” young woman to drastically alter events.

“Choose Ye This Day

.”(Josh. 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21)

How will this story end? It is up to us to decide how the great controversy will play out in our own lives. Will we, like Elijah and Esther, be able to stand for the King of all kings even in the face of death? Or will we be like the Israelites, who silently submitted to a heathen king’s commandment instead of speaking up for their Lord? God wants to work mightily through us to overthrow Satan’s efforts to de- stroy us. He sent His Son, who chose to die on the cross in order to save us from the utter destruction of sin. Yet we do have a role to play in the great con- troversy. We must decide what we will do with the freedom God has given us. We do not have to fall subject to the devil’s wicked schemes. We can say No to the devil and Yes to Jesus. Elijah posed a question, which is posed to us today:

“ ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal then follow him’ ” (1 Kings 18:21, NKJV). The choice ultimately lies with you and me. “It is important to take a stand for the Lord. If we just drift along with whatever is pleasant and easy, we will someday discover that we have been worshiping a false god—ourselves.” 4

REACT

What can we learn from the lives of Joseph, Elijah, and Esther when it comes to demonstrating faith in God when we have to take a stand for Him?

1. See The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 2nd ed., vol. 7, p. 808.

2. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, s.v. “Genesis 50:15-21,” accessed Decem-

ber 23, 2104, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/genesis/50.htm.

3. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 2nd ed., vol. 2, p. 821.

4. The Life Application® Study Bible, New International Version, s.v. “1 Kings 18:21.”

Alexandra Yeboah, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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monday

JANUARY 25

Testimony

“Without Faith, It Is Im- possible to Please God”

1 Kings 19:9–18

“Not until Elijah had learned to trust wholly in God could he complete his work for those who had been seduced into Baal worship. The signal triumph on the heights of Carmel had opened the way for still greater victories; yet from the wonderful opportunities opening before him, Elijah had been turned away by the threat of Jezebel. The man of God must be made to understand the weakness of his present position as compared with the vantage ground the Lord would have him occupy.” 1

“God will watch over them for good.”

I must hold on to God in absolute faith if I will stand where He would have me. Self-effort alone will not sustain me. I need the faith of Jesus and faith in Jesus. “All who in that evil day would fearlessly serve God according to the dictates of conscience, will need courage, firmness, and a knowledge of God and His word; for those who are true to God will be persecuted, their motives will be impugned, their best efforts misinterpreted, and their names cast out as evil. Satan will work with all his deceptive power to influence the heart and becloud the understanding, to make evil appear good, and good evil. The stronger and purer the faith of God’s people, and the firmer their determination to obey Him, the more fiercely will Satan strive to stir up against them the rage of those who, while claiming to be righteous, trample upon the law of God. It will require the firmest trust, the most heroic purpose, to hold fast the faith once delivered to the “God desires His people to prepare for the soon-coming crisis. Prepared or unprepared, they must all meet it; and those only who have brought their lives into conformity to the divine standard, will stand firm at that time of test and trial. When every other trust fails, then it will be seen who have an abiding trust in Jehovah. And while the enemies of truth are on every side, watching the Lord’s servants for evil, God will watch over them for good. He will be to them as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” 2

REACT

1. Is the faith of Jesus and the faith in Jesus different? (see Rev. 14:9–12).

2. How do the quotes above magnify Hebrews 10:32–39?

3. David and Elijah failed because they lost of sight of God. Find Bible prom-

ises that will sustain you in times of temptation and persecution.

1. Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 167. 2. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 431.

Gabrielle A. Baker, Gassaway, West Virginia, U.S.A.

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1 Cor. 1:27; James 2:5

Evidence

A New Militia

tuesday

JANUARY 26

One night in April 2014, 276 girls were kidnapped from their school by an extreme religious group. The girls were told that the kidnappers were mem- bers of the army, but they soon realized they had been misled. Some of the girls made harrowing escapes to safety. One of them escaped by jumping

off the truck that was transporting them to the group’s camp. Later, she re- counted how disappointed she felt when one of her friends lied about being

a Christian. “I was shocked and feeling so bad,” Saa said. “I was thinking, if

they killed us at that time, what would that girl say to the Lord in heaven?”*

“Evil” spelled backwards is “live.”

Although books, such as Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath, attempt

to question whether or not certain biblical characters were as disadvantaged

as some Christians believe, we see throughout Scripture that God constantly uses the humble to do great work for Him. David, Esther, Hezekiah, Elijah, and Nehemiah are only a few examples. In addition to these biblical heroes, there are also people like John Wycliffe, Hannah Whitall Smith, John Huss, Lottie Moon, Martin Luther, and Ellen White. They all made great sacrifices when it came to fighting the war between good and evil. And yet, the controversy continues. There is still work to be done. We all have a role to play. Let us not deny God in earth’s desperate time of need. What will we say to our Lord in heaven if we do not participate in this great controversy? Interestingly enough, “evil” spelled backwards is “live.” Evil kills and de- stroys (1 Pet. 5:8). God is looking for His own militia, an army that will turn evil on its head, defeat it once and for all, and allow God’s people to live in peace. God can use us too, if we let Him. He doesn’t call the qualified. Instead, He qualifies the called. And if, as part of God’s army, we work hand in hand with Him, we will shout “Hallelujah” in praise of a God who ultimately puts the controversy to rest and offers His people life everlasting.

REACT

1. What is your role in the great controversy? What will you say to our Lord

in heaven when He returns? 2. What assurance do we have that we, like David, Esther, Hezekiah, Eli-

jah, and Nehemiah, can overcome evil?

* Howard LaFranchi, “How a Nigerian School Girl Escaped Boko Haram: Is Washington Still Con- cerned?” Christian Science Monitor, September 14, 2014, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-

Policy/2014/0920/How-a-Nigerian-school-girl-escaped-Boko-Haram-Is-Washington-still-concerned.

Simone Samuels, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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wednesday

JANUARY 27

How-to

Neh. 2:18;

Eph. 6:7;

James 5:20

God Can Use Anyone

The Bible is filled with examples of how God can use anyone to conquer the forces of evil. Consider Nehemiah. A lowly cupbearer for King Artaxerxes of Babylon, he was an unlikely choice to restore Judah and its people after years of Babylonian exile. But despite great opposition from enemies of other nations and rebellion from among his own people, he and his countrymen success- fully rebuilt the long-destroyed walls of Jerusalem in a record 52 days. Here are some critical lessons we can learn from Nehemiah.

He did not hesitate, despite the risks involved.

Choose the winning side (Eph. 6:11). In the great controversy between good and evil, there is only one such side—God’s. Like Nehemiah, choosing and remaining on the winning side is the only way to assure our success in this life and in the life to come. This is a choice we must make every day. Our allegiance to God will grow as we get to know Him through His Word. Be a model worker (Eph. 6:7). Whatever your position, always remember you are in service to God, not man. Nehemiah’s excellent work earned him favor with King Artaxerxes. Thus, when the king saw Nehemiah’s distress over Judah, he readily gave him his blessing to return to Judah for a time and pro- vided assistance in the gathering materials needed to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Similarly, when we do our best at any task, we can earn the favor of people in high places, making us more effective workers for God (Prov. 22:29). Think beyond yourself (Neh. 2:11–18). When God called Nehemiah to help his people, he did not hesitate, despite the risks involved. Nehemiah was so concerned for his people, who’d forgotten God after years of oppression, that he gave up years of his life (over a decade) to govern them and to restore their strength as a nation. We also must be self-sacrificing if we want to fight against evil in our lives and in the lives of others. “Pray without ceasing”(1 Thess. 5:17). Through fervent prayer and fasting, Nehemiah resolved to undertake the huge task of reestablishing Judah both physically and politically. And when enemies conspired to attack Jerusalem, Nehemiah turned to prayer as his first line of defense. When faced with seem- ingly insurmountable challenges, we also must surrender to the true Source of our strength (2 Chron. 20:12).

REACT

1. What steps can you take to strengthen your prayer life? 2. Has God been calling you to do something that you have been avoiding because of fear? Seek the Lord’s guidance, and ponder your next move.

Christelle Agboka, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Isa. 53:4

Opinion

thursday

JANUARY 28

Unknown Answer— Known Solution

While checking the student forum of my university, I came across a post that rattled my peace. A young woman shared her story of being raped. I was floored. I couldn’t come to grips that in my perfect little world such events could take place. I questioned God for days, shaking my head in disbelief every time the thought resurfaced, cringing at the possibility that something similar could happen to my friends, family, or even me!

I cannot bear the pain of another.

Ellen G. White said that no one can explain evil.* I agree with her. But what do I, as a Christian, tell others? What am I to tell the young woman who was raped and lived to tell the tale? How do I explain it to the man or child who watched someone from a terrorist organization execute a family member? Isaiah 53:4 says, “[Jesus] took up our pain and bore our suffering” (NIV). Have you ever seen someone do something painful, like give someone a shot at a doctor’s office? Or while someone took a hard fall, did you brace yourself or close your eyes? Maybe you’ve told a friend who has lost a loved one that you know how she or he feels. The truth is, though, we cannot truly understand how someone feels. We can only comprehend the situation based on our own experiences. I cannot bear the pain of another. But Isaiah 53:4 says that Jesus did. He took up our pain. When He hung on the cross, He felt everything. He knows how I felt when I lost my grandparent and when I fell off my bike for the first time. He felt the burning pain one gets when the most unexplainable grief hits too close to home. He felt the fear of those trapped in gas chambers during the Holocaust. He felt the pain of the victims and family members of those who lost their lives on 9/11. Jesus felt the despair of the Israelites when they were enslaved in Egypt. The Bible says that He took all of our pain: past, present, and future. He felt it. Jesus does not want to end sin to clear His name. He wants to end sin so our pain will be no more. When I view the great controversy from that per- spective, I can rest assured, knowing that Jesus wants to destroy evil once and for all for my sake.

REACT

1. How can answering the mysterious question of evil take us off track? 2. How can we show the love of God to people who feel overcome by evil?

* Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 493.

Brittany Hudson, Cocoyea Village, San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago

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friday

JANUARY 29

Exploration

Standing Firm

1 Kings 18:21;

2 Kings 1;

Esther 3, 4; Daniel 3

CONCLUDE

When we compare the lives of David, Elijah, Hezekiah, Esther, and Ne- hemiah, similar themes surface: God is able to use “insignificant” people to turn back the tide of evil; and, despite tremendous obstacles, we don’t need to buckle under overwhelming evil. Instead, we can stand firm in the power of God, who is faithful to His covenant promises that are fulfilled for us in Jesus. When we endure in His might, we will see that the forces of evil are not powerful enough to prevail. The focus, and the challenge, is for us to rejoice in His deliverance.

CONSIDER

• Taking a walk through a park or woods. Look for an old gnarled tree that has seen a lot of years and bad weather. Stand or sit under it. Lean against it. Feel its strength against your back and consider what it means to stand firm in God’s power.

• Reading about women and men in history who stood firm for what they believed in at Biography Online, http://www.biographyonline.net /humanitarian/anti-slavery-movement.html. How do they inspire you?

• Interviewing someone in your church or community who, by standing firm for God, has made a positive difference in specific ways (creat- ing better housing for the poor; establishing food banks; etc.). Dis- cover what motivates this person. Ask if you can work alongside him or her for a day and ascertain how you can apply to your life what you learned from this person.

• Singing along to “Dare to Be a Daniel” at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm /d/a/daretobe.htm.

CONNECT

Daniel 3. Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 479–490; 503–513. Elizabeth Fletcher, “Clever Queen, Foolish King,” Women in the Bible,

http://www.womeninthebible.net/1.14.Esther.htm.

Lyn Brewer, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.

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