11 Aug Discussion Guide: The Trial Of Your Life Week 2
Take the first few minutes of your time together to listen to what God is doing in one another’s lives and pray for any specific needs people in your group may have.
This week we continue in our study through the Book of Acts in a series titled “The Trial of Your Life.” As the Book of Acts shifts its focus to the missionary travels of the Apostle Paul and all the obstacles, persecution and trials he faces in spreading the Gospel we will follow along by discussing how we too can be faithful to the call of the Gospel amidst the pressures and obstacles of our own culture as well.
What was your biggest fear as a kid?
Judith Weissman, Research Manager at NYU Langone Medical Center
“Mental illness is on the rise. Suicide is on the rise. And access to care for the mentally ill is getting worse,”
Based on a report done by U.S. News, the U.S. ranked third in the world for unipolar depressive disorders, just after India and China.
Despite living in one of the most secure nations, in one of the most technologically advanced and stable times in history, why do you think anti-depressants are the most prescribed medications and the suicide rate has risen by 60% over the last 20 years in America?
What would you say are some fears people in our culture face?
If you were to really search your own heart, and evaluate your own actions, what would you say tends to be your greatest fear?
How does that fear affect your relationships, your thought life, and your walk with Jesus?
Fear is like a drop of motor oil in a gallon of water, it only takes a little bit to contaminate the whole supply. And, the slightest presence of anxiety and fear and mistrust can affect every area of our lives. It keeps us from intimacy with others for fear of being let down, disappointed, or mistreated. It keeps us from taking healthy risks and trying new things for fear of the unknown. It keeps us from doing our best at work for fear of our best not being good enough. It keeps us from sharing our faith for fear of rejection. It keeps us from pursing God for fear of condemnation, or fear of having to give up control of our lives. Fear is a prison for the mind as it takes captive every thought and forces it through the filter of self-preservation.
“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.””
Moses had been up on Mount Sanai for longer than anticipated and the Israelites had grown anxious about what might have happened to him. Had Moses abandoned them? Had God abandoned them? They were alone in the wilderness with dozens of powerful nations surrounding the area. In fear they began to demand a savior, a god they could look to for their deliverance.
What things do we, and others, tend to look to overcome or get rid of our fears?
Money, sex, drugs, alcohol, power, promotion, success, material possessions, social media acceptance, diets, appearance, exercise, relationships, job security, a better house in a better neighborhood, a nicer car, public opinion, etc.
Why do you think we tend to look to those things? And how do those things then affect other areas of our lives?
Do these “functional saviors” (idols) have the power to deliver us from our fears? Why or why not?
In Romans 11:36-12:1 Paul tells us that, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
In this passage Paul gives us a glimpse into how the human heart works. We will all give something or someone the position of glory in our lives, that most prominent position in our hearts. Whatever it is that is seated in that position in our hearts we will dedicate ourselves to and sacrifice for the sake of, because that is the thing we are actually worshipping in our spirit. And, what we tend to put in that place of glory is largely, if not completely, influenced by what we most fear. We go through life trying to avoid our “functional hells” by looking to our “functional saviors.” If my greatest fear is poverty or lack, then money becomes my savior. If my greatest fear is loneliness or rejection then a relationship with someone who makes me feel important becomes my savior. If my greatest fear is not being beautiful then the diet, gym or surgery becomes my savior.
And, as Adam and Eve found out in the Garden, those “functional saviors,” those false gods, those idols, will never, and in fact can never, actually deliver what they promise. Oh, they can calm the anxiety for a time, but the fear remains and when it rears its ugly head again it does so with a greater fervency as the lie continues to resonate in our minds that we’re still not enough, we need more of that god. This is why a person who fears poverty can never make enough money. The person who fears loneliness can never find the one who makes them feel complete. The person who feels ugly can never lose enough wait or stop having the surgeries. These false gods demand everything from you and give you nothing but hopelessness and despair in return.
1 John 4:17-19
We love because he first loved us. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”
What does John say is able to overcome our fears?
How does Jesus’ love for us conquer our fears?
Some would say the opposite of love is hate. But in reality the opposite of love is fear. See, fear is ultimately rooted in the loss of something, and because we are made in the image and likeness of a Triune God and therefore designed for relationships, our greatest loss is the loss of relationship, the loss of love. Just about everything we do in life is done asking the questions, “How will this make me look in the eyes of others?” We tend to do the things we feel will give us security in relationships with others and avoid doing the things we feel will risk our relationships with others. All along we live with the anxiety and insecurity of “being found out” and rejected when people see our true colors.
But, those fears and anxieties are put to rest, thrown down and conquered when you come to realize the Most Important Being in the Universe, the God in whose image you are made, the King of kings has said He loves you regardless of what you can or cannot do, regardless of what you have or have not done. When you look to Jesus, His bloody sacrifice and triumphant resurrection, and you see in His eyes the unconditional, passionate love He has for you then every other voice and every other opinion pales in comparison. In the same way that your spouse’s opinion, or your best friend’s opinion, carries more weight than the opinion of the person bagging your groceries at HEB, so Jesus’ Words towards you are infinitely more weighty than any others. And, when I understand that this love Jesus has for me is eternal, it’s a never leaving never forsaking kind of love then that means I have the thing I most desire in an endless supply and there’s nothing this world can offer to either add or take away from the love of God I have in Christ Jesus. This is what Romans 8 is all about. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” This is why in Philippians 4 Paul says he can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Paul was content no matter what his circumstance because he knew two amazing truths: First, Jesus love for him was neither determined or implicated by what he was going through. Second, every circumstance Paul faced only served to provide the opportunity to see more clearly and experience more deeply this unending love Christ had given him.
How does Jesus’ call for us to love others with that same kind of love conquer our fears?
How can our loving one another with that love help to conquer our fears?
Is there an area in your life where you need to repent of fear and trust in the love of God as revealed in Jesus our Messiah? Let’s take a moment to pray for one another regarding those areas.