Lesson 10

Discipleship Under Pressure

(Acts 1, John 12 & 21, Luke 9)
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Introduction: You think you have it bad? Last week I heard a speaker who was a 14 year-old boy in Rwanda in 1994. His father was from one rival tribe and his mother from the other. His mother died of cancer and his father left the country taking him along. When other tribe refugees noticed that the boy looked like his mother's tribe, they told the father they would kill his son. Sent back to Rwanda, the boy was robbed of all his possessions. His family home taken by strangers. Did I mention that he thought he would be killed about six times? He is now 27 and a citizen of France. This boy was the victim of more crimes than a small town in America would experience in a year! When I was a kid my most traumatic event was acne. Let's jump into our lesson and discover disciples who experienced pressure and disappointment.

  1. Crushed Hope


    1. Read Acts 1:1-3. Imagine that you were one of the disciples who had left your business and followed Jesus for more than three years. When Jesus is killed, what are your feelings?


      1. When Jesus rises from the dead, how have your feelings changed?


      2. Look carefully at verse 3. What does Jesus have in mind? (He is making sure the disciples believe that He has really been resurrected. He is giving them what should (now) be clear instructions about the Kingdom of God.)


    2. Read Acts 1:6. Why would Jesus' disciples ask Him such a thing?


      1. How did they miss the point of the 40 days of proof and teaching?


      2. How about you? Is it possible that you have plans and dreams that resist the clearest teachings of the Bible?


    3. Read Acts 1:7-8. Is Jesus answering part of the desire of their hearts? (The disciples' desire was for power. Jesus says that they will receive real power from the Holy Spirit, not from an earthly kingdom.)


      1. When you are under pressure, is it because you have the wrong goals?


      2. Do you consider the power available to you from the Holy Spirit? Or, are you mostly depending on your own power?


      3. This week I received an e-mail from a very highly educated man who I have represented for decades in a series of cases. His cases are finally coming to an end and we were reminiscing about the past. I attributed my success in litigation to God's working in my life. He firmly denied that and said the credit belonged to me. I thought "How wrong he is." God has much work to do on my attitude, but at least (I hope!) I understand my place.


      4. Do these verses in Acts teach us we should avoid trying to obtain political power in a modern democracy? (Read Psalms 75:6-7 and Romans 13:6. Any competent Bible student understands the importance of context. Jesus and His disciples had no ability to vote. Any earthly power for them would come by force, by revolution. Jesus' goal was to change hearts, and hearts are not changed by governments. Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that God is interested and involved in who governs. Voters in a democracy fail to use one of their available talents, they fail in their partnership with God, if they do not use their informed vote to install moral men and women in government office.)


  2. Insulted Love


    1. Read John 12:1-2. Imagine the feelings of Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, towards Jesus. How much do you think they loved Him?


      1. What was Martha doing to show that she loved Jesus? (Serving.)


    2. Read John 12:3-5. How much do you earn in a year? Take that amount and tell me whether you would spend it on foot and hair perfume?


      1. If your answer is "no," (as it surely is, unless you have rocks for brains), is Judas right?


    3. Read John 12:6. Now do you think Judas was wrong? (This has to do with his corrupt morals. He had the wrong motive.)


      1. Let's change things a bit. Assume James complained - James who had no interest in this other than the poor? Would James be right in complaining?


      2. You know the "starving orphan" pictures? Imagine that you could feed 100 starving orphans for a year if you just donated your annual income to them. So choose, hair and foot perfume or 100 starving orphans?


      3. Now imagine you are Mary, who just killed 100 starving orphans for hair and foot perfume. You never thought about this when you bought the perfume, and now James/Judas has pointed this out in front of everyone. How do you feel now?


    4. Read John 12:7-8. I'm getting to be an old man. I won't be around forever. I would love to purchase a Bentley Continental GT. Am I authorized by Jesus (I assure you I'm not authorized by my wife) to buy that car? It seems more practical to me than hair and foot perfume, and should last longer. What do you say? (What motive would I have to buy the Bentley? Because I love me (just like Judas). People would be impressed by my Bentley. They would know I was "somebody." Mary loved Jesus. This gift was selfless. If you are doing something because you love Jesus, even if it is foolish (and I think this perfume purchase is), Jesus will intervene on your behalf.)


      1. What lesson has Mary taught us about friends and family? (Do good things for them now, while they are alive to realize it.)


  3. Insulted Master


    1. Read Luke 9:51-52. Jesus may not have had a home, but He had advance men to make the proper overnight arrangements. Why? (Because this was Samaria. Those people did not welcome Jews. Probably Jesus would have to pay something to stay.)


    2. Read Luke 9:53. Why would the people care about Jesus' destination? (He was not coming to see them. He was just passing through. Worse, He was heading towards the Jewish capital.)


    3. Read Luke 9:54. Isn't this the standard remedy? Reject Jesus and get destroyed by fire?


      1. What do you think about this suggestion?


    4. Read Luke 9:55-56. What did Jesus think of this suggestion?


      1. Let's skip ahead to the next chapter. Read Luke 10:10-12. This is Jesus speaking. Why should He rebuke James and John for suggesting that fire burn up a city that rejected Jesus when Jesus says that is the fate of places that reject the disciples? (Look again at Luke 9:54. The disciples wanted to know if they should be the agents of revenge. God will punish sin with fire. The difference between these two texts is timing and roles. This is God's work in God's time.)


        1. What lesson do we learn when we are under pressure in life? When we want to get revenge? (Leave the punishment to God.)


  4. Failure Under Pressure


    1. Probably the most difficult time in Peter's life surrounded the arrest and trial of Jesus. Peter had promised Jesus that he was willing die rather than disown Jesus ( Mark 14:31), and that he would remain faithful to Jesus even if all others left ( Matthew 26:33). In that context, when Peter thought he was in danger of being arrested, he denied Jesus three times, denying even that he knew Jesus. ( Matthew 26:69-75). Read John 21:15. What do you think is important about Jesus' question? (He does not show anger towards Peter. But, He does cover the same ground. Will Peter still contend that He is more faithful than others?)


      1. What kind of answer does Peter give? (He gives the right answer. No bragging. Just a love response.)


      2. Peter has miserably failed Jesus. Is he now outside the ministry? (No. Jesus gives him the commission to "feed My lambs.")


      3. What about you? Have you failed Jesus when pressure came? Have you denied Him? Jesus forgives and loves and accepts into His work those who have previously failed under pressure.


        1. Would Jesus have told Peter to "feed My lambs" if Peter had answered "Yes, I love you more than these?"


    2. Friend, pressure comes from all kinds of sources. Sometimes it comes because we have the wrong goals, sometimes it comes from insults, sometimes it comes when we are doing the right thing and sometimes when we miserably fail. Jesus is there to carry our burden in every case. Will you let Him?


  5. Next week: More Lessons in Discipleship.

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