The questions in this small group guide relate to the sermon from April 18, 2021. If your group has not had a chance to listen to the full sermon related to this discussion guide, they can find it in our sermon library. Rev. Adam Hamilton preached this week’s sermon.
Lord God, the world we live in seems drastically changed, and we just don’t like some of the changes. We need your presence to help us grow in resilience and maturity. Through the wisdom you offer us, help us to emerge from this crisis better, not bitter. Amen.
- Read Romans 1:3-5. Pastor Adam said, “Paul assumes there will be suffering in this life. This is a universal truth–there will be adversity, difficulty, hardship and suffering. These are not God’s will, but they are a part of living. And adversity and suffering either make us better or worse….We become bitter, resentful, negative or hopeless. Or we find these same circumstances produce in us, as Paul has said, endurance, character and hope. This happens by faith–by our trusting in God–and by the work of the Holy Spirit.” When, if ever, has the cycle of trouble, endurance, character, and hope brought you a sense of God’s love being “poured out” in your heart? Paul also wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). How can you open your heart to let God fill you to overflowing with hope?
- Read Isaiah 40:26-31. Have there been times during the last year when you have felt like the Israelites in Isaiah 40:27: “My way is hidden from the LORD, my God ignores my predicament”? Are there parts of your life right now that tug at you to feel that way? In what ways can you rebuild trust in the Creator who “doesn’t grow tired or weary” of caring for you?
- Read Jeremiah 29:12-14. In what ways was the quality of the Israelites’ connection with God essential to them being able to live as good stewards even in exile? What do you believe it would mean for you to seek God “with all your heart”? How might that change your ways of caring for the planet (April 22 is Earth Day), and of caring for others, both those close to you and all people who cross your path each day?
- Read Galatians 6:1-10. Scholar N. T. Wright wrote about Galatians 6, “You want to fulfill the law, do you? Very well: but let it be the law of the Messiah!…the ‘law’ in view here is the law of giving oneself in love and humility to serve others. This, rather than showy behavior which highlights one or two individuals, will be the sign that they are really ‘spiritual’.” * How have other Christ-followers helped you carry your burdens during the last year? When has Jesus moved you to help carry another’s burden in his gentle way? How have you as a group helped to carry one another’s burdens?
- Read John 14:25-27, 15:1-5. Jesus told his followers that he was leaving them his peace. But that peace depended on maintaining a firm connection to Jesus through his Spirit’s presence with them, in the same way a branch on a grapevine (a common sight in that area) could only flourish and bear fruit if it remained connected to the vine. Scholar William Barclay wrote, “The peace which the world offers us is the peace of escape, the peace which comes from the avoidance of trouble and from refusing to face things. The peace which Jesus offers us is the peace of conquest. No experience of life can ever take it from us and no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can ever make it less. It is independent of outward circumstances.” ** In what ways during the past year have you experienced the difference between the peace Jesus gives and the types of peace the world offers? What spiritual practices have helped you, as individuals and as a group, to most fully live into Jesus’ call to stay constantly linked with him?
- Pastor Adam said, “If you don’t learn from your suffering–divorce, job loss, illness, from life’s challenges, you have missed out on the gift of adversity. In a survey of church members this week we asked you what lessons you learned so far during COVID. Here were your top four answers:
1. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted (89%)
2. I need to do things that bring me joy (86%)
3. I need to make more time for relationships (82%)
4. I can be resilient and adaptable (81%)….
Let’s remember Pope Francis’ words: ‘The basic rule of a crisis is that you don’t come out of it the same. If you get through it, you come out better or worse, but never the same.’ *** How have you changed? Will you be better or worse after the pandemic?”
Lord God, we hear and read about so many agencies or forces that shape our world for good or ill. Teach us to trust that, sometimes in very quiet ways, your great power is always working for the good of your world, for our good. Thank you for inviting us to partner with you in that work. Amen.
* N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 76.
** William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John—Volume 2, Chapters 8–21, (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 171.
*** Francis, Pope; Ivereigh, Austen. Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future (pp. 42-43). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.