01 Nov Discussion Guide: Such A Time As This – Week 1
Before We Get Started
For our discussion today we will be using the sermon series discussion guides. If you would like to follow along you can access this discussion guide on the website at mosaicchurchaustin.com and then select “community group resources” in the menu options.
Because the main goal of our time together is to establish relationships and learn how to walk with one another in all that God has called us to be and do, we’d like to begin by praying for one another. So, does anyone have anything you’d like us to pray for, or anything to share regarding how you’ve seen God moving in your life that we can celebrate together.
This Week’s Topic
Today we begin a new series that will take us through one of the most interesting books and stories in the Old Testament; the story of Esther. Over the next few weeks we will see how God sovereignly orchestrates painful, scary, and difficult circumstances to actually bring about the deliverance of His people. If there were ever a time where we were needing to be reminded of that Truth, 2020 is it. So, I want to encourage us all to jump in and contribute to the discussion as we let Scripture remind us that what the enemy meant for evil, God has purposed for good, and that He is allowing us to experience what we are experiencing this year because He has a good and loving purpose for our lives, and has called us for…Such a Time as This.
God’s sovereign goodness in the midst of the world’s finite brokenness.
Cori Ten Boom, Reflecting on her experience in the Nazi concentration camp
“Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work he will give us to do… This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person he puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only he can see.”
Have you ever seen God use a bad situation or circumstance to do something powerful in, or through, your life?
Why do you think God allows, and uses, those kinds of moments in our lives?
Does the fact that God is working through those moments take away the pain, or the anger, or the need to mourn that loss? Why is it important t remember that?
We often ask and how a good God can allow so much pain and brokenness in our lives or in our world. What we seem to forget is that our God is a God who Himself has suffered immensely. He suffered betrayal when Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the Garden. He suffered heartbreak as He watched that choice decimate the beautiful creation He had made. He was angry as Cain murdered Abel. He was frustrated as the “thoughts of man were only evil all the time,” and as humanity refused to listen to Noah’s cry to repent. He suffered time and time again as Israel continually turned their back on Him and worshipped false idols. And then, He came in the flesh to suffer in our place and on our behalf, falsely accused, abandoned, tortured, and eventually murdered on a Roman cross.
The suffering and pain we experience, if we will let it, actually provide a window into the very heart of God. When we get our eyes off of ourselves and what we feel we are missing or lacking, and instead ask the Holy Spirit to show us how our experience points us to the heart of God then that pain, though not taken away, is redeemed to provide a moment of intimacy and worship with God. When Melissa and I (Brett) suffered our first miscarriage it was the pain of that moment that God used to build confidence in my heart regarding His love for us. In that moment of pain God said to me, “My heart breaks with yours my son. Death was never part of my design. But, I am with you in your pain, don’t forget I also know what it feels like to lose a child and I did so willingly so that I could have you back.”
When I recently got my fingers caught in my wood router and shredded them up like hamburger meat, as I asked God to take the pain away, He gently responded, “I will, but first I want you to think about what it must have been like to feel that kind of pain continuously for 9 hours while hanging on a cross. That’s what I was willing to go through for you.”
You see, when we focus on our pain from the perspective of what it’s taking from us, or how undeserved we think it might be, then we grow bitter and angry because our comfort and pleasure and security (our little idols) are being stripped from us. But, when we redirect our gaze from our pain to what it is teaching us about God’s goodness and love for us then we grow better and find joy in the midst of those moments because God’s love is poured out for us through the picture f the Gospel it provides.
We should still be angry and frustrated and mourn the pain and loss we experience, not because God is taking something from us, but because sin has broken the world God intended us to live in and has robbed us of God’s perfect design, at least for a while, but that mourning and frustration should ultimately lead us to the celebration of what God has done through Christ that guarantees that, even if it’s not in that moment, there is a time coming with all things will be redeemed and made new.
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.””
How can that kind of perspective of God’s purpose in our pain empower us to stand in opposition to the forces and powers of darkness in our world?
What might the consequences be to such opposition? What might the consequences be if we don’t stand against those kinds of things?
When we no longer fear pain or suffering, but instead embrace it as God’s invitation to better know His heart, then we can stand in opposition to the wickedness and darkness in our world with boldness and confidence because we know that whatever pain those things might cause in ur lives as a consequence to our opposing them simply serves to make us stronger and more secure in God’s love for us. It was this mindset that made the Apostle Paul the most dangerous man in the Roman empire. As he stood in opposition to Caesar there was nothing Rome could do to shut him up. If they threw him in prison he simply worshiped God for the chance to identify with the suffering of Christ and then lead all the prisoners and jailers to faith in Jesus. If they threatened to kill him he rejoiced in the fact that he was going to be with Jesus.
It was this same mindset that one of my biggest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., walked in during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. It is what fueled him to continually get back up time and time again when others threatened him, imprisoned him, and attempted to take his life. When talking about the risk and potential pain and consequences of standing in opposition to the forces of evil that continually sought to treat him, and the black community, as less than human, Dr. King pointed to the parable of the Good Samaritan. In describing that story Dr. King said, “When the priest and the Levite saw the man in need they asked themselves the question, “If I stop to help this man, what might happen to me?” But when the Samaritan saw the man in need he reversed the question and asked, “If I do NOT stop to help this man, what might happen to him?””
When we can stand in opposition to the forces of darkness with a bold and courageous joy, then we can get our eyes off of the consequences we might face for acting and pay more attention to the consequences others will face if we don’s act.
“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!””
How does remembering Jesus on the cross, and what God accomplished through that, help stabilize us and keep us focused on God’s purposes in the midst of our own difficult situations?
Are you currently experiencing hardship, difficulty, or struggle? If so, what might God be up to, and how might your perception need to change?