Thursday, December 06, 2007

A SEASON OF CHANGE: The bitter with the sweet

Here is my most recent small group curriculum. While doing the will of God has eternal and temporal benefits, it can also be tough at times. This study begins by pointing out how both Mary and Jesus deal with this reality. It ends with the call to live by the Spirit and to deny (kill) the desires of our flesh.

Big Idea:
A life lived for Christ is filled with triumph, hope, joy, peace, and love. However, being a follower of Christ can also be a tough road to travel because we live in a broken world.

Following Jesus doesn’t mean that life will be perfect and that everyone will like you - no more bitter, only sweet. Rather, Jesus said that some people will actually hate you because you live for him. Yes, things get better because of Christ, but things can also get more uncomfortable because of him. Take Mary for instance, Mary is a metaphor of the bittersweet reality of life, especially when you invite Jesus into your life. Mary’s life teaches us that obedience takes courage as we trust God and accept life’s sudden turns and unexpected demands. Her experience demonstrates that when we accept Christ, there is a sense in which both the bitter and the sweet are intensified. For Mary, when she said, “May it be to me as you have said,” it meant: (1) an untimely pregnancy, (2) a controversial pregnancy, and (3) giving life to and loving a child who will die. Likewise, Jesus responded to his calling to be the world’s sacrifice and accepted the bitter with the sweet when he stated, “not my will, but yours (Father God) be done. We must have the same deep conviction, attitude, and spirit of Mary and of Jesus. We must follow God and obey him in the good times and also when it gets uncomfortable and when it hurts. That’s our calling and the reward is great.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Luke 1:26-38

What was Mary’s response? Did Mary ask for all the details to be made known to her before saying yes to God? When God calls us, do we respond like Mary with a willing attitude even before having all of our questions answered?

Matthew 26:36-46
Did Jesus the man, his flesh, want to be beaten and die? Even so, how did he respond? Can you just say OK? Can you just say, “not my will, but yours be done?” If we want the Holy Spirit within us to win the fight, what are some strategies for strengthening the Spirit and weakening our flesh?

Philippians 4:6-9
What things does Paul recommend we do in order to follow God even when it gets tough and we want to worry? What promises do we see in these passages that can encourage us to follow when it hurts?

Taking Action: Take inventory of your life and honestly answer the question, “do I follow God’s will instead of my own in every area of my life?” Examine whether you respond to the calling of the Holy Spirit verses the desires of your flesh. Study Romans 8:8-17 and Galatians 5:22-26.

1 comment:

Milton Stanley said...

Eric, I hear tell today is your birthday. Hope it's blessed, and I'll be praying that the year ahead is one in which you grow ever nearer to our Lord Jesus Christ.