Intersection of Life and Faith

Powerful Lessons from Unexpected Sources in the Bible

  • Kristi Woods
  • 2018 11 Oct
Powerful Lessons from Unexpected Sources in the Bible

Sometimes powerful lessons rise from the least expected people in the Bible. We may feel like glossing over seldom-mentioned folks or ones making poor choices, but what if we take a deeper look at these stories? What if God provides good amid the bad? What if He offers us a powerful lesson?

Here are 9 powerful lessons from unexpected sources in the Bible.

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, and didn’t know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!” which is to say, “Teacher!” (John 20:14-16 WEB)

    Mary Magdalene encountered the Messiah. She followed him as he ministered on earth and stood alongside his mother as he hung on the cross. She watched Jesus die. But after he rose from the dead, Mary failed to recognize him. This woman who knew Jesus, one who had walked alongside him, suddenly stood unaware.

    But then Jesus spoke, and Mary heard. She recognized her Savior.

    Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of a trial and we wonder where Jesus is. We don’t “see” him in circumstances, and we wonder if we missed him altogether. But then he “speaks” and we realize Jesus was there, right beside us, all along.

    Perhaps it’s a Bible verse taking us deeper in meaning, a Sunday sermon targeting our need, wisdom from the Holy Spirit at an unexpected time, or the words of a fellow Christian falling perfectly. As followers of Jesus, we recognize his voice, and we can rest assured that he stands near.

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    2. A Powerful Lesson from Anna

    There was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and she had been a widow for about eighty-four years), who didn’t depart from the temple, worshiping with fastings and petitions night and day. Coming up at that very hour, she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).

    Two things pop out in this passage concerning Anna. First, her devotion to worship will cause a jaw to hang low. She worshiped day and night, valuing God in a deep and authentic way that encourages all.

    Second, Anna overflowed with thanksgiving. She recognized the Messiah and immediately gave thanks. Power rests in thanksgiving—for Anna and for us. 

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    3. A Powerful Lesson from the Magi

    They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Being warned in a dream that they shouldn’t return to Herod, they went back to their own country another way (Matthew 2:11-12 WEB).

    This passage concerning the Magi is high on my list of Bible favorites. Why? Because it’s evidence of men hearing God, and it’s a succinct yet beautiful story of people being saved from evil. God is still in the business of saving folks from evil—even today.

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    4. A Powerful Lesson from Naaman & His Servants

    Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall come again to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry, and went away, and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leper.’ Aren’t Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them, and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. His servants came near, and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had asked you do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? How much rather then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?’” (2 Kings 5:10-13 WEB).

    I relate to Naaman. Sometimes I get a little “uppity” and need a healthy spiritual gut check. Naaman needed one, too.

    His anger—resulting possibly from pride or unmet expectations—took Naaman to a place of frustration and rage. Words from his servants, however, helped set him back in the center of God’s will. Their honesty caused Naaman to rethink and react accordingly. As a result, he found healing.

    Sometimes our walk with God comes with a giant set of expectations or a litany of items on a list. Perhaps ours, like Naaman’s, is a simple “wash and be clean” situation instead.    

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    5. A Powerful Lesson from the Well-to-do Woman from Shunem

    So she went, and came to the man of God to Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her afar off, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Behold, there is the Shunammite. Please run now to meet her, and ask her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with your child?’”
    She answered, “It is well”
    (2 Kings 4:25-26 WEB).

    The situation wasn’t well—not in human terms. Her son, a promise from God, was dead. But the well-to-do woman held onto hope, setting her prized son back into the hands of God. He answered by raising the boy from the dead.

    Sometimes circumstances swirl and attempt to catapult our thoughts toward hopelessness. But God is God. We’re wise to remember His promises of hope and set situations in his hands.  

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    6. A Powerful Lesson from Judas

    Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said, “What are you willing to give me, that I should deliver him to you?” They weighed out for him thirty pieces of silver. From that time he sought opportunity to betray him (Matthew 26:15-16 WEB).

    His name often brings a sneer, the word “traitor”, or a headshake. But there’s a lesson among the story of Judas for us: Even followers of Christ, disciples and those in leadership, fall prey to temptation.

    We’re wise to cover our leaders, friends, family, those across the aisle, and ourselves in prayer—because any can fall.

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    7. A Powerful Lesson from the Rich Young Man

    And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 10:21-22 WEB).

    Was he afraid to set his trust in Jesus? Did he believe in what he saw (his riches) more than the hope of heaven? Opportunity knocked for the rich young man. He chose not to answer, walking away from Jesus due to material “things.” How sad; he missed true richness.

    Jesus loves us. Hope in him proves rich, and this passage is reinforcement. Will we, like the rich young man, allow possessions to intercept our hope for heaven? Or will we set our trust with Jesus?

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    8. A Powerful Lesson from Eliab

    Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride, and the naughtiness of your heart; for you have come down that you might see the battle” (1 Samuel 17:28 WEB).

    How easy it is to make assumptions. Eliab felt confident he knew David’s heart, and he spouted words of anger as a result.

    Only God knows the motivations within the heart. Why not take our tough situations to God in prayer versus stewing in bitterness or rage like Eliab, making assumptions that are likely off-target?

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  • 1. A Powerful Lesson from Mary Magdalene

    9. A Powerful Lesson from Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem

    For they all would have made us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened from the work, that it not be done.” But now, strengthen my hands (Nehemiah 6:9 WEB).

    Sometimes we answer God’s call to build—a ministry, an outreach, a project, or faith. We see the vision and get excited. And like Nehemiah, we begin the arduous process of building. But then we hear internal chatter building or the voice of others saying, “Can you really do this?”, “Who do you think you are?”, or “This is too hard. Just stop.”  Those words of intimidation come from the enemy—the one who longs to see the plans of God thwarted.

    Nehemiah knew the plans God had for him—but so did his adversaries Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. They went to great length to intimidate and frustrate Nehemiah, but their efforts fell short. Why? Because their eyes weren’t on God and Nehemiah’s were. With a focus on God Almighty, we can build as he calls us to build. We can overcome intimidation and other spoils thrown at us from evil.

    Never underestimate the power of people in the Bible and the lessons they offer. Even the little-mentioned and “bad” guys—unexpected sources in the Bible—offer powerful lessons to help us grow in faith and bring glory to God.

    Kristi Woods, writer and speaker, is passionate about women walking deeper with God. She clicks words of encouragement at and is published in both Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions and Military Families as well as on Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today. Kristi, her husband, and their three children survived a nomadic, military lifestyle, and have set roots in Oklahoma. Connect with Kristi here: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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