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A Life Worth Rewarding Parts 1 & 2

 

A Life Worth Rewarding, Part 1


What can you do to be sure your life pleases Christ until your last days? To answer that question, let’s look at a familiar passage of Scripture: the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus gives clear instructions on how to please God. In this first part of a two-part study, we’ll focus on the wisdom found in Matthew chapter six.

A. Perform works of righteousness in secret.

Humans long for the accolades and praise of others. As believers, we might expect to be known and appreciated for our financial gifts, effective intercession, or capable leadership.

In Jesus’ day, religious leaders made a show of public prayer, alms giving, and fasting.

  • Are you guilty of acting “spiritual” to gain the praise of other people? If so, how?
  • List at least two practical ways you can apply Christ’s teaching.

B. Follow Jesus’ pattern of meaningful prayer.

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). As a result, He gave them what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer.”

  • Aside from praying in secret, what other admonition did Jesus give regarding prayer (Matt. 6:7) ?

Common pagan practice at the time called for repetitive, meaningless prayers to increase the chances that the gods would answer requests. Mindless repetition differs from persistence in prayer, something Jesus commended (Luke 18:1-8).

  • What can believers always expect from prayer (Phil. 4:6-7)?

It’s easy to read the Lord’s Prayer but ignore its meaning. To help you focus on the four principal sections of the prayer, paraphrase it in your own words (Matt. 6: 9-13).

For example: (v. 9) Our amazing heavenly Father, You deserve to be praised!

Jesus may have intended that His disciples follow the general pattern of this prayer rather than recite it word for word.

  • How does the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer contrast with your approach to praying?
  • Is God leading you to adjust how you pray? If so, how?
  • Why do you think Jesus emphasized “forgiveness” in verse 14?
  • If there are believers whom you haven’t forgiven for an offense—whether it was against you or someone else—pause and ask God for the grace to forgive them now.

C. Keep money in its rightful place.

What we do with our money reveals what we value. So our perspective on wealth is an important indicator of our walk with God.

  • How do you think we store up treasures in heaven (vv. 19-20)?
  • Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v. 21). Where does your “treasure” go (time, energy, money, and thoughts)? Examine your lifestyle, and list a few of your priorities.
  • Based on your list, are you “investing” in eternal or temporary goals right now?
  • Why is it impossible to be equally passionate about wealth and the Lord (v. 24)?
  • If your priorities are off track, or could use some improvement, write about how you can make them right.

D. Trust God instead of being anxious.

Another indicator of spiritual health is emotional peace.

  • Why did Jesus say we shouldn’t be anxious (v. 25-26)?
  • What does worry accomplish, according to Jesus (v. 27)?

As believers, we still need to be responsible. Our role is to do our part, and trust the Father to take care of the rest.

  • What worries you? What is your responsibility in the situation, and what is the Lord’s?

Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). At times, a believer may seek God’s glory wholeheartedly and yet still experience loss and heartache. He or she may lose money, a relationship, prestige, or health.

  • Why are these losses not a breach of the promise Christ gave us in vv. 31-33?
  • Think through your worries about the future. What concerns do you need to commit to the Lord (Matt. 6:34)?

Closing: A life that pleases God might not be the easiest. But in the light of eternity, it will be the best. Obey the Father until your last days, and trust Him to reward you when the time is right.

Prayer: Father, thank You for blessing us with Your Word so we may know how to live. Help us be faithful even when no one is watching, so that we may be pleasing to You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(By Cr. Charles F. Stanley of In Touch Ministries, Inc.)

 

Life Worth Rewarding, Part 2

 

Are you prepared for your eternal future? How can you be sure? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives clear, timeless instructions on how to structure your life. In this second part of our study, let’s examine what Matthew 7 has to say about a life that pleases God.

A.  Use wisdom in your relationships with others

1.  Correct others only after examining yourself.

Read Matthew 7:1-5.

  • Why do you think the Bible warns us about judging others?
  • Read Romans 2:1. Think about the most recent judgment you made of another person. In what way was this verse true for you?

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say we should never judge. In verse 5, he mentions that if we repent of our own sins, we can help others by pointing out their blind spots.

2.  Use prudence in sharing your beliefs.

Read Matthew 7:6. In Jesus’ day, dogs and pigs were considered lowly creatures. Often ungodly people were likened to these animals to suggest a sense of unworthiness. Jesus’ point here is that if someone has rejected the gospel, we are foolish to reveal the precious things of the faith to them.

  • The analogy says the dogs and pigs “will trample [what is holy] under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7: 6). What does this mean for us today?
  • How do you decide if someone can be trusted with the “treasures” of your faith?

B.  Live in light of the truth that God is good and loves humankind.

1.  Boldly and persistently ask the Lord for what you need.

Read Matthew 7:7-11. The words ask, seek and find in Greek could be translated as “keep on asking,” “keep on seeking,” and “keep on finding.”

  • Does this describe how you pray? Why or why not?
  • Some believers question the promise in Matthew 7:7 because they experience unanswered prayer. How does the analogy of a good father with a son (vv. 9-11) illuminate your understanding of Matthew 7:7?
  • In the past, how has God protected or blessed you through unanswered prayer?
  • What are you currently asking of God that has so far remained unanswered? Recommit to trusting that He will respond.

2.  Treat others with kindness, even if they don’t deserve it.

Because our heavenly Father is gracious to bless us with things we haven’t earned, we should treat others well too (Matt. 5:43-45).

  • Other faiths have the Golden Rule in negative form: “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.” How is Jesus’ command more challenging (Matt. 7:12)?
  • How might you fulfill the Golden Rule toward someone who recently wronged you?

C.  Establish your faith and life on Christ’s instruction.

1.  Determine to walk closely with the Lord.

Read Matthew 7:13-14. Jesus compared our life with Him to a journey along a narrow path.

  • Why is this analogy an effective description of the Christian life?
  • Ultimately, why is it worth the effort to walk God’s narrow path?

2.  Examine the character, not just the teaching, of your spiritual leaders.

  • How can you tell a godly leader from a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15-20)?
  • What do you think Jesus means by “fruit”?

Jesus describes two other methods of determining true spirituality: 1) obedience to God’s will (v. 21) and 2) a personal relationship with Him (v.23).

  • Why are demonstrations of spiritual power not necessarily a sign of genuine connection with God (Matt. 21-23)?

3.  Build your life on the Word of God.

Read Matthew 7:24-27. Every believer should both listen to and apply the truth. It is the foundation of the Christian life.

  • Upon what else do people build their lives?
  • Why do you think Jesus compared these things to a home’s unsteady foundation?
  • What are you tempted to make your foundation, other than Jesus Christ?

The apostle James compared Scripture to a mirror in which a person can see his or her faults (James 1:22-25).

  • After doing this study, in what area of life do you see a need to apply the Word’s teaching? Explain.

Closing: Following God’s Word prepares us to spend eternity in His presence and also blesses us in the present. Allow Christ to reveal whatever adjustments in your life are necessary.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank You for Scripture, which so clearly tells us how to live. Help me put aside the world, my sin, and my selfishness to live in such a way that I will know Your fullest blessing now and throughout eternity. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(By Dr. Charles F. Stanley of In Touch Ministries, Inc.)