Bible insights from your friends at La Jolla Lutheran Church

Some hardships bring great blessings

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Some situations that we would like to avoid are putting us in the position to receive great blessings.

Monday Proverbs 18:16 (NRSV)
A gift opens doors; it gives access to the great.

When have you given a gift that opened doors?
What doors do you need opened today?
Are there any gifts or relationships that would help?
What gifts might be appropriate to give today?

Tuesday Romans 8:28 (NRSV)
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

If you haven’t memorized this verse yet, take some time today to read it multiple times and commit it to memory.

Notice that the verse doesn’t promise that all things are good. The Bible is very clear that there are accidents, misfortunes and evil actions that are not what God desires for us.

But Paul’s statement to the Romans makes an amazing promise: no matter what our life is like, all of it -- including the accidents, misfortunes, evil and sin -- will work together for good.

It may be hard to picture some bad events in your life co-operating with the good in your life to bring a blessing, but Paul says that will happen.

When have you had something bad in your life be transformed over time into something good?

Wednesday Luke23:26 (NRSV)
As they led [Jesus] away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Simon was probably going to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. He didn’t intend to bump into history. But he was seized by guards and forced to carry the cross of Jesus. Two thousand years later we still remember this event in his life.

By the time Simon saw Jesus, Jesus had been flogged, a practice of torture that left a person nearly but not quite dead. Jesus had been treated as false royalty by a jeering group that put a crown of thorns on his head. Jesus no longer had the strength to carry the cross on his own, and tradition says he fell several times on the way to his execution.

Many of the paintings of Simon helping Jesus show Jesus walking tall in a white robe. That would not be likely. It’s far more likely that Jesus was barely able to stand. He was probably stumbling from the loss of blood and finding it difficult to focus because of the searing pain of his wounds. If he was wearing a robe, the blood soaking into the fabric would probably be visible to all.

If you had been Simon, what would you have felt when the guards seized you?
What would you have thought as you carried the cross behind Jesus to a place of execution?

Thursday Mark 15:21 (NRSV)
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.

We don’t know anything about Simon of Cyrene other than this verse in Mark and the companion verse in Luke. But these verses give us a clue: both Simon and his sons were known to the Christian community 50 years after this event, when the gospel accounts began to be written down. It’s likely that this one encounter with Jesus was life-transformative for Simon of Cyrene and his family, since he and his sons are still known by name 50 years later. Simon didn’t just disappear into the crowd (as, for instance, the rich young ruler did, when he didn’t want to give up what he had to follow Jesus).

What in your life so far has lasting value?
What events of your life might be remembered after you are gone?

Friday Matthew 25:31-40 (NRSV)
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

When someone helps us when all hope is gone, we remember. It’s likely that Jesus has a strong affection for Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for Jesus when Jesus was too weak to carry it himself.

In the story Jesus tells in Matthew 25, he indicates that you can still walk with him today, helping him just like Simon of Cyrene did. When you help people who do not have enough, Jesus credits it as if you helped Jesus himself.

Whose burdens of others have you lifted this week?
As you think about the past few months, are you satisfied with the level of help you are giving to others or do you want to step it up, for their sake, and for Jesus’ sake, and for your own sake?

Saturday Micah 6:8 (NRSV)
[God] has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

What are you doing to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?

What will you do different next week because of Jesus?
What do you need help with?