READ: Ezra 7-8
THINK: How do you prepare for a big task or trip? Do you map out the plan, gather supplies, take proper precautions and make every effort to get the most of your time and effort? That's all good and can help to make your endeavor worthwhile. But how do you prepare to accomplish God's purposes? Following His plan isn't an isolated event-it's a way of life. The preparation is ongoing. Ezra understood that and was ready to lead because he had prepared well in advance by devoting himself to studying, obeying and teaching God's Word (7:10). He was determined to follow God's plans, not his own. He wanted to practice godly character, not promote selfish interests. Ezra knew that basing his life on the principles and practices of God's Word is crucial for spiritual success.
RESPOND: Who led the return of the Jewish captives described in chapters 7-8? (See 7:1 note.) What did Ezra recognize as the reason for his success (7:6,9,28)? (See 7:6 note.) What personal disciplines did Ezra devote himself to, and how did this affect him and Israel (7:10)? Why is devotion to God's Word crucial for spiritual success? (See 7:6 note, subpoints 1–3.) How is Ezra a good example in handling and responding to God's Word? (See 7:10 note.) What kind of favor did King Artaxerxes show toward Ezra, and why was the king favorable to God's purposes (7:11- 26)? Who gave Ezra favor with the king (7:27-28)? Why is it appropriate to pray for favor and influence with leaders- including those who don't follow God? What is a "fast," and what purposes does it serve for God's people? (See 8:21 first note and 8:23 note.) Why was it important for the people to humble themselves before going to Jerusalem (8:21)? Why is it appropriate to pray for God's guidance and protection on a journey? (See 8:21 second note.)
PRAY: Give God thanks for being your source of help. Pray for insight as you study His Word and discipline as you apply it. Pray for guidance in sharing insights from God's Word with others who need encouragement. Pray for favor and influence with leaders at your school, at work and in your community. Pray for protection on an upcoming trip.
ACT: As you may have started recently, continue to carry your Bible throughout the day. Try reading from Proverbs during free time, and look for ways to immediately apply what you learn. Do something practical to help or show appreciation to a leader outside of church-perhaps a teacher or boss-to earn their respect, trust and favor.
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