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Quarter At A Glance
by Larry Shallenberger
Our times are marked by dramatic changes in how we relate to each other, both as individuals and as communities. The days of tight-knit neighborhoods are a distant memory in many parts of the world. Families transplant themselves cross-country. A single mouse-click can dissolve an online friendship. Marriages often don’t last. The new normal frequently comes at the price of loyalty and permanence, qualities the authors of the Scriptures might have referred to as “faithfulness.”
A God Worth Knowing
The word faithfulness simply doesn’t have much currency in our time. Before we fault cultural shifts for our fragile relationships, we should recall the opening pages of Scripture. Sin’s curse disrupted all relationships, especially our relationship with God. Alienated from God, humanity hatched countless false religions throughout the world, each searching for truth about the Creator.
Against that backdrop of confusion, alienation, and idolatry, God revealed himself and his desire to enter into a faithful relationship with the people he created.
Unfaithful people struggle to trust others, so God’s first task was to establish himself as worthy of humanity’s confidence. God reveals himself throughout history as one whose faithfulness never fails. We see God keep a promise to Abraham by blessing his nephew (Genesis 19:29). We watch God lead his people out of slavery to the border of the promised land, only to see them prove unfaithful. God forgave their betrayal and kept his word (Numbers 14:20–25). God consistently demonstrates his loyalty to his people, no matter how many times they fail him.
Faithfulness Demands Faithfulness
God unilaterally reveals himself as true, the God to whom we can take the risk of attaching our hopes. But the invitation requires that we begin to take steps to reciprocate that loyalty. Those steps don’t make us worthy of his faithfulness, but they show that we trust his faithfulness.
God’s expects his people to practice faithfulness in our relationships with him. Moses uses the metaphor of a contract between a king and his people to show what the give-and-take of a faithful relationship between God and his people looks like (Deuteronomy 4:1–8, 12, 13). Later, a fugitive prophet and a starving widow are brought together by God (1 Kings 17:8–16). Together they learn to demonstrate faithfulness to God.
Faithfulness Transforms Character
We can’t sustain faithfulness toward God on our own. The Old Testament witnesses to cycles of God’s people violating the terms of the covenant, God’s imposing judgment, people’s repentance, and restoration. The prophets longed for the day when God would equip his people with a new heart that would allow them to sustain a steadfast relationship with their God. The third unit in this quarter focuses on four New Testament accounts that show this prophecy coming to pass. Christlike character was being formed in his people. Paul tells the people to examine themselves to see whether this transformation was actually occurring (2 Corinthians 13:1–9). Meanwhile, Paul’s colleague Peter taught his congregations that a faithful relationship with God required holy living and goodness (2 Peter 1:1–15).
As we work through this quarter, may we be encouraged that our faithful God chooses to enter into a relationship with us that makes us more like him.
Unit 1: God Is Faithful
Lesson 1, September 1 - Faithful During Distress - Genesis 19:1, 4, 5, 15–26, 29
Lesson 2, September 8 - Faithful During Grief - 1 Samuel 1:9–20
Lesson 3, September 15 - Faithful During Uncertainty - Exodus 16:1–15
Lesson 4, September 22 - Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness - Numbers 13:1, 2, 17, 18, 25–28; 14:1
Lesson 5, September 29 - Faithful in Consequences - Numbers 14:10b–20
Unit 2: Responses to God’s Faithfulness
Lesson 6, October 6 - Obedient Faith - Deuteronomy 4:1–8, 12, 13
Lesson 7, October 13 - Active Faith - 1 Kings 17:8–16
Lesson 8, October 20 - Humble Faith - Luke 7:1–10
Lesson 9, October 27 - Grateful Faith - Luke 7:37–48
Unit 3: Faith Leads to Holy Living
Lesson 10, November 3 - Faith That Is Tested - 2 Corinthians 13:1–11
Lesson 11, November 10 - Faith That Sets an Example - 1 Thessalonians 1:2–10
Lesson 12, November 17 - Faith That Is Focused - 1 Peter 1:13–25
Lesson 13, November 24 - Faith That Escapes Corruption - 2 Peter 1:1–15
Diligent study of these lessons will not only bless you spiritually, but also aid you in discovering God's plan for your own life.
-John Alva Owston