Message: All I Do Is Win . . .
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Sam Millen
Live Wonder: Jessyka Albert
Live Adventure: Jessyka Albert
Live Purpose: Jason Calvert
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Acts 9:1–9 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Did you notice when Jesus spoke, He asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) Timothy J. Keller draws attention to this in a sermon on this passage as he muses on why Saul didn’t argue, “How can I be persecuting you? You are speaking from Heaven! I’m not persecuting you. I’m persecuting them.” The point is that Jesus identified so closely with His followers that there was no distinction. Saul, writing later as the Apostle Paul, would describe believers as the “body of Christ.”
Jesus doesn’t just identify with His followers who are persecuted for His name’s sake. He identifies with all who are going through difficulties. If you are enduring hardship, Jesus identifies with you. I believe Jesus identifies the most with those whose suffering is the greatest. He understands how we feel and experiences our pain and sorrow as His own. Regarding offering assistance to those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers (foreigners/immigrants), naked, sick, or prisoners, Jesus explains, “Truly, I say to you, as you did (or did not) do it to one of the least of these, you did (or did not) do it to me” (Matthew 25:40, 45).
I don’t know why Jesus doesn’t always miraculously remove suffering from our lives, or at least why He doesn’t do so more often. I can point to a few moments in my life when something shifted deep inside me. Watching a 19-year-old cancer patient die as his lungs slowly filled with fluid, his eyes desperately crying out for help, his mother screaming hysterically—I am no longer the same, and not in a good way. I am still angry just thinking about it years later. There was nothing anyone could do. As a pastor, a friend, or just a fellow human being, had I possessed a magic wand, I would have waved it long before then. But that’s not how Jesus seems to operate.
This world can be a cold, harsh, evil place—and Jesus knows it. He knows it more fully and personally than anyone else. He is the only one to have stared at the fullest darkness and horror of evil and come out on the other side.
Recalibrate: What would happen if we saw those who suffer as resembling Jesus more fully?
Respond: Offer assistance to someone in need today. No strings attached.
Research: Read Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved (2018), by Kate Bowler.
Share with your child about how much you hate to see them in pain, whether they’re sick, have scraped a knee, or are just very sad. Tell them that God felt the same way about Jesus on the cross and feels the same way about us when we’re hurting. Thank Jesus today that He never leaves our side when we are hurt or sad.
When was the last time you fell down and scraped your elbow or knee? Did your parents ignore you? Or did they hug you and get you a Band-aid? Jesus never ignores you when you are hurting. Pray and thank Jesus for never leaving your side.
When you think of the word “cliques” what comes to mind? If you could choose to be in any clique on the planet, which would you choose? Why? It’s interesting, Jesus could actually do just that. It’s fascinating to see in this story who Jesus chose to hang out with. Jesus actually identified with the persecuted. He specifically said, "Why are you persecuting Me?" Now Jesus literally was in heaven at this point. One would think Jesus, the Son, would be sittin’ pretty safe. But He personally identified Himself as the one being hurt, imprisoned, lorded over, suppressed, and bullied. Why is that? Because His people were the image of God? Because He loved them? Maybe it was because His Spirit was actually with and in them. Reality check—which victims of injustice exist today with whom Jesus could identify? Whom do you look down upon either in person or on social media—whether consciously or subconsciously? Do we ever put people in chains? What would it look like to set them free?