THINK: Are you looking out for yourself-doing what's best for you? Plenty of influential people will tell you to do just that-to put your own goals and dreams first, ahead of anyone or anything else. On one level, that might sound like reasonable encouragement-to achieve your full potential. But too often, true love and loyalty are lost in selfish pursuits. Rare is the person who puts his or her own interests aside for the good of others. But God rewards such rare devotion with extraordinary purpose. Ruth was willing to put aside her individual hopes and dreams in order to build a life around her relationship with a mother-in-law whom she loved and refused to leave when tragedy struck. Tragedy and loss are inevitable aspects of life, but they don't have to ruin us or rob us of purpose. Ruth is a prime example of how love and loyalty can turn hurt into hope and bring triumph out of tragedy. Her life can inspire us to remain true through troubles, to put others' needs first, and to trust God with the outcome.
RESPOND: How does the book of Ruth portray hope during troubled times? (See 1:1 and 2:12 notes.) Why do godly people experience tragedy and adversity, and how can God produce good through such times? (See 1:3 note.) What disadvantages did Naomi have at the beginning of this book? (See 1:5 note.) Why did Naomi feel she was facing hardship, and how is this similar to the feeling many people experience during tough times? (See 1:13 note.) What inspired Ruth to remain loyal to Naomi? (See 1:16 note.) What was extraordinary about Ruth's love and loyalty to her mother-in-law? After moving to Bethlehem, how did Ruth continue to demonstrate character, humility, diligence and responsibility? (See 2:2 note.) In what ways did Boaz demonstrate his character? (See 2:4 note.) How did Naomi's perspective change throughout the book of Ruth? (See 2:20 first note.) What or who is a "kinsman-redeemer"? (See 2:20 second note and 3:12 note.) In what way did Boaz become a "redeemer" for Ruth and her family? (See 4:10 note.) How did Jesus Christ fulfill the role of Kinsman-Redeemer for us? In what ways did God reward Ruth for her love and loyalty to family and to God? (See 4:17 note.) What can you learn from Ruth's example?
PRAY: Give God thanks for His love, hope, care and guidance through tough times. Thank Him for remaining faithful to you, even when you struggle with doubts. Thank Jesus for being your friend and Redeemer. Ask God to help you be a person of love and loyalty to Him, to fellow believers and to others whom you can influence for Christ.
ACT: Who has been a "Ruth" to you during a time of loss or loneliness? When have you been like Ruth for someone hurting or in need? Think of someone who inspired or encouraged you in the past. If the person is living, write a note thanking him or her for the encouragement. Then find a specific and practical way to follow this person's example, encouraging someone else the way you've been encouraged. Also, consider how you can make a difference in an elderly person's life this week. Possibilities include mowing a lawn, visiting a nursing home, sending a card, making a call, praying with someone at church, or allowing yourself to be mentored by someone you respect.