Acts, chapters 12-14

“[…] They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them outside their boundaries. […] And the disciples continued to be filled with joy and holy spirit.”
~Acts 13:50,52

Jesus had foretold the type of joy his disciples would reap on account of persecution:
“Happy are you whenever men hate you, […] and denounce your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for look! your reward is great in heaven […].” (Luke 6:22,23)
Paul and Barnabas were physically thrown out of Antioch of Pisidia by “God-fearing” women and prominent men after only about one week of preaching there.
But the many Greek-speaking new disciples were happy despite the opposition because they knew they had God’s spirit. (1 Pet. 4:14)
While some modern day Christians enjoy more freedom of worship than others, all of us undergo various trials to our faith.
Whatever we are experiencing, if we endure with a positive attitude, we will also be blessed with a feeling of joy. (Jas. 1:2,3)

Luke, chapters 21 & 22

“From now on the Son of man will be seated at the powerful right hand of God.”
~Luke 22:69

Jesus kept a positive outlook throughout his trials, even knowing he was about to be executed.
He could have focused on the immediate pain and humiliation, the recent betrayal of his friends, or the impending agony he was about to endure on account of the sins of others.
Instead of doubting his father’s will, he proudly announced his solid hope of being reunited with his father before the ungodly violent audience of men who held his immediate fate in their hands.
More evidence of Jesus’ optimism comes from the words he told Peter even while knowing Peter would deny knowing him:
“[…] And you, once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
Jesus never doubted the good in Peter’s heart and openly assured him of it.
This leads me to ask myself if I am as open to seeing the good in others and offering reassurance.
Do I focus on the moment so much that I lose sight of what really matters, like my standing before God?
A hopeful attitude can turn a painful situation into a blessing.

Luke, chapters 14-16

“[…] For this son of mine was dead but has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they started to enjoy themselves.”
~Luke 15:24

In the illustration of the prodigal son, neither the repentant son nor his compassionate father dwell on the bitter past.
They focus on the present and rejoice in each other’s company.
When someone who wronged us, insulted us or even ruined our name and reputation, comes back humbly ready to make amends, are we able to bury the past?
Or what if we are like the prodigal son who squandered everything valuable and lost all sense of self-worth?
Do we trust in Jehovah’s mercy and let him heal us emotionally and spiritually, letting him use us to do his will again? Or do we resist his holy spirit and stubbornly hold on to negativity, even against ourselves?
Jesus’ illustration shows us the wisdom of focusing on the present and moving past sadness and anger. (Lu. 15:11-32)

Mark, chapters 13 & 14

“Let her alone. Why do you try to make trouble for her? She did a fine deed toward me.”
~Mark 14:6

Mary’s strong appreciation for spiritual things has always impressed me.
Myself coming from a culture that, like ancient Jewish culture, assigns value to a woman based on how industrious she is within the home, and personally not being inclined to cook, I have always easily identified with Mary’s personality.
On the occasion in which Jesus taught at their home, Mary was picked on by her sister, Martha, for sitting at Jesus’ feet instead of helping her serve. (Luke 10:38-40)
Now, five days before his death, Mary takes an extremely costly bottle of genuine nard and pours it on Jesus’ hair and feet.
This time she is criticized by Jesus’ own disciples. (Matt. 26:6-9; John 12:2-5)
According to the Jewish Talmud, women were not supposed to be well-versed in spiritual matters, and we are not aware of any precedents of women closely following a prophet. (Sotah 3:4)
Still, Mary set an excellent example of being spiritually conscientious and maintaining a balanced view of material things, all while not letting others’ negativity discourage her.

Mark, chapters 11 & 12

“When you stand praying, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in the heavens may also forgive you your trespasses.”
~Mark 11:25

It can be particularly difficult to forgive others when we consider their sins to be much graver than anything we ourselves have ever done.
Jehovah himself has standards for forgiveness.
For instance, Jehovah expects wrongdoers to repent in order to receive his forgiveness. (Luke 17:3,4; Acts 8:22)
But even if we cannot know the heart condition of someone who has wronged us, forgiving them is key to achieving inner peace. (Eph. 4:31,32)
What’s more, Jesus taught that we should not judge others and that we should pray for our enemies. (Matt. 5:44; 7:1,2)
It helps to remember that the person, like us, was born imperfect. (Ro. 3:23)
The Bible encourages Christians to try to conquer evil with good, and to leave matters that are beyond us in God’s hands. (Ro. 12:17-21)
And we do well to keep a humble view of ourselves, knowing that Jehovah “has not dealt with us according to our sins.” (Ps. 103:10-12)

Mark, chapters 3 & 4

“Why are you so afraid? Do you not yet have any faith?”
~Mark 4:40

Jesus did not expect his disciples to shut down a storm at sea on command, the way he had.
But he did expect them to remain calm.
Some problems life throws at us can make us feel powerless and we can become so anxious that we become ungrounded from our faith and spiritual routine.
We should have faith that Jehovah and Jesus look out for us regardless of what happens.
When we pray, God gives us the power and soundness of mind to face our obstacles. (2 Co. 4:7)
And we trust that nothing can permanently harm those who are in God’s love. (Ro. 8:38,39)

Jonah, chapters 1-4

“And I said, ‘I have been driven away from your sight!
How will I gaze again upon your holy temple?’”

~Jonah 2:4

As Jonah sank to the depths of the ocean within the belly of the fish, his main concern was not the loss of his own life, his reputation nor material things.
He was not overcome by anxiety to the point of losing his mind or his priorities.
Jonah was deeply grieved because he would no longer be able to gaze upon Jehovah’s temple, the center for true worship.
When we are under great emotional stress, do we value our spiritual privileges above all else? (Ps. 84:10)
We may wonder if our presence before God makes any difference in the vast sea of humanity, but Jonah’s story demonstrates God cares about every one of us at the individual level. (Jon. 4:11)
No one can take any other person’s place before God to render another’s worship. (Matt. 22:37)
In that sense, we are each valuable and irreplaceable. (Jon. 2:9)