quote: on love, trials, and endurance

The blessing is not in being delivered from the trial, but is something found within and through the trial by means of the practice of endurance. …

An elderly man, bereaved of his wife, said: “It must be that the Lord still has something for me to do, else why has he left me here?” And someone replied, “He has not left you to do anything except to love him still.”

John R.W. Stott

LIFE group discussion guide: love is a battlefield – being strong in the Lord (2)

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Aug. 31) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To explore the meaning of, preparation for, and engagement in spiritual warfare.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• … Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him. (Mark 1.12-13 The Message)

• Jesus … full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.” [Deut. 8.3]

Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world. The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”[Deut. 6.13]

The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.” [Psalm 91.11-12] Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God.” [Deut. 6.16] After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity. (Luke 4.1-13 CEB)

• Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2.18 NIV)

• … one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved. (James 1.14-16 NRSV)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Which “tempts” you more: chocolate or vanilla?

2. Name a book, movie, or song that speaks of temptation?

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. There are three accounts of Jesus’ temptation (Matt. 4.1-11; Mk. 1.1-12; Lk. 4.1-13). Differences?

2. Read Hebrews 4.14-16. How does this passage relate to the texts above?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. Is there a difference between being “tested” and being “tempted,” a trial and a temptation?

2. What exactly is “temptation” and what makes it so hard to resist?

3. Scripture says Jesus never sinned. But, what if he had sinned; could he still save us? Explain.

4. One confides in you as to their need to resist a big temptation. How do you respond/advise?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Think of temptations you have, by God’s grace, fended off. Note what enabled the victory.

2. Set up a daily smartphone reminder to prompt you to pray about a specific temptation.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Application, Bible interpretation, preaching & teaching: 1 Triangle, 3 Corners, 4 T’s

“Every word of the Bible was written at a certain time and in a certain context. Even the most recent of those times and the nearest of those contexts is at a great distance from us in time and space. Thus, when we read the Bible, we have to determine how those words apply to us today in our very different times and very different contexts. It is not always a simple task. We have all seen situations—and many of us have caused situations—where we have been sloppy in going from the text to today.”

Church, ministry & U.S. trends: MissionTrends: 4 Trends for Churches to Consider

“The next 20 years are going to be a challenge for convictional Christians and churches in many places. … 1. The Word “Christian” Will Become Less Used and More Clear. … 2. The Nominals Will Increasingly become Nones. … 3. Christians Will Increasingly Change Cultural Tactics. … 4. More Robust Churches will Result from the Death of Nominalism.”

Fulfillment, leadership, satisfaction & work: Why You Hate Work

“The way we’re working isn’t working.”

Leadership: 7 of the Hardest Paradigms I Had to Learn to be an Effective Leader

“I had to develop the ability to say no more than I get to say yes. … I have to live with sometimes being unpopular. … I have to move forward sometimes in uncertainty. … I had to get comfortable challenging mediocrity. … I had to lower my pride and admit I can often be wrong. … I had to come to a reality that I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything. … I had to realize that sometimes the best thing to put on my calendar is rest.”

Short term missions: 24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short-Term Missionaries Would Quit Doing …

“… Talk more than you listen. …”

Temptation & testing: A Test and a Temptation—Can You Tell the Difference?

“Both God and Satan perform tests on you and me. These road tests reveal how the rubber meets the road in our Christian lives. But the two tests have two completely different goals. Can you tell the difference?”

links: this went thru my mind

 

 

Bible reading: 3 Biggest Reasons Bible Reading is Down

“Bible reading is down because people read it in fragments, a-historically, and in isolation.”

Christianity, communication, disagreement, influence, love, relationships & words: Civil Religion Can We Talk? [essential reading]

“… we need to assume goodwill and generosity on the part of others, no matter how wrong we might thing they are. For the sake of having better conversations, and for the pursuit of truth, we have to be able to admit we don’t have it all, After all, if we want to be heard, we have to learn how to listen. So what do you say, Can we talk?”

Culture, history & the United States: I Hope We Never Become a ‘Christian Nation’ Again

* “In reality, Christianity in America may not have the same political, social, and corporate authority it did in the past, but Jesus never intended to spread the gospel message through political strength or domineering control. The problem with people claiming that America used to be a Christian nation is that, well, it never was.”

Creation, nature & stewardship: Stewardship: Being in and Working with Creation

“We use the world’s resources, but the trick is to use them wisely, and with a careful, conservative sense of balance. That’s the difficulty of stewardship. When we use up resources — the resources God gave us — with abandon and without care, the results aren’t pretty. We can never really grow it back. That’s the thing about nature; we can manage it well, but we can’t create it from scratch. Only God can do that. Stewardship is the balanced middle way — it’s not ‘use it up and move on to the next,’ but it’s also not untouched nature for nature’s sake.”

Discouragement, encouragement, ministry & support: 5 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

“As a pastor of a local church for over twenty-five years, I had my share of buildups and letdowns. Sometimes I recall the discouraging times more. I know that I was not supposed to get down because of people and circumstances, but it happens. I also know that the people who discouraged me did not always mean to do so. But it happened. The purpose of this post is to let you in on a few things to avoid (unless you want to discourage your pastor). If you are bent on discouraging him or her, here are 5 surefire ways of doing so.”

God, suffering, tests, and trials: God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle. I Guarantee It. [essential reading]

“There’s a certain phrase I’ve come to really dislike. … ‘God will never give you more than you can handle’ is the phrase I’m referring to.”

Parenting: Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

“It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while.”

Parenting & social media: Destroying Your Child’s Heart – One FB Picture At A Time

“Public shaming is awful and is nothing less than societally sanctioned parental bullying. Especially harmful to the young people against whom it is used as a weapon, the ramifications will resonate throughout their lives. They aren’t as tough as we pretend we are.”

Social media: 5 Reasons Social Media is Dangerous For Me [required reading]

“I went on an internet fast recently – I spent 40 days without logging on to anything. Here is what I learned about how I had allowed social media to change me over the years.”

this went thru my mind

 

Culture wars: The Cost of Waging the Culture War (part 1 & 2) by K. Rex Butts

* “I speak only for myself but if having a society where the laws reflect Christian beliefs and values means giving up the way of Christ, count me out. I believe in and follow Jesus, not a political movement that has hijacked the name ‘Christianity’ for its cause.”

* “What if instead of trying to force a vision of community based upon Christian values on the American society, what if Christians would simply love the American society regardless of what it becomes?”

Faith & works: Faith That Works: On the Meaning of “Works” by Jay Guin

“… is Romans almost entirely about an issue that no longer matters?”

History & the Mormons: The Mormons Sit Out the Civil War by John G. Turner

“A long war against the Confederacy, [Brigham] Young hoped, would distract the Union government from meddling in Utah affairs and finally leave the Mormons to govern themselves.”

Parenting: 10 Signs Your Kids Are Overscheduled

“We’ve all heard about the signs to look out for if your kid is using drugs—the glassy eyes, spending less time with friends and family, apathy towards everything—but what if the culprit isn’t pills but programming—and too much of it? … How do you know if your kid is too busy? Watch for these signs …”

Poverty: Defined as a Problem …

“… its really hard when you realize that you are regarded as ‘a problem’ by lots of people. It affects your self-understanding.”

Tests, temptations & trials: 3 “Weights” God Uses to Develop Spiritual Muscles by Ron Edmonson

“… my faith building has not always been that pleasant of an experience. As I’ve observed,God seems to use …”

how to think about life 101

“My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy.” (James 1:2 CEB)

“Why this? Why me? Why now?”

Those are the questions that possess us at the moment. We’re muttering to heaven and to ourself, “It’s just not supposed to be this way.” Life’s not a beach anymore. We want a clear, rational explanation for all of this that has thrown us off the road to happiness and we’d like to have that answer right now, thank you very much.

That’s when coming down the same road, James happens to see us down off in a deep ditch. Stopping to throw us a line to winch us out, he offers us a whole new perspective on things.

It’s not about getting an answer to those questions. We’ll die before we get complete answers to them. Life wasn’t meant to be about forever pondering your problems and thinking about your happiness. It’s about trusting that God has your best interest at heart no matter the situation you’re in. Our life here isn’t meant to be free of things that test our faith. Rather, our loving Father regularly allows our trust in him to be tested by what comes our way. Those tests help us answer the questions we do better to ask.

Who do I trust? How long will I last? Who and what is my life ultimately about?

James certainly has a challenging word for us, doesn’t he? It’s not an answer to all of the questions we ask, but it is the complete answer to the one question we must have answered.

“What do I do now?”

Trust God, not your feelings. Hold onto the line he throws you, not the pain of your problems. Set your mind on climbing up the slope to him, instead of squatting down and swearing over your troubles. For life with him is the beach.

My brothers and sisters, regard whatever tests you run into in life as opportunities for peace of mind flowing from trust in God (James 1:2 DSV)

Heavenly Father, your goodness is what gets me through this life. Help me to not lose sight of you or that truth. Come what may, may I be found on the way of genuine, ongoing reliance on you. In the name of your Son, my Lord and Savior, I pray. Amen.