(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
“Hey, I just met you and this is crazy…”
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
Luke 5:1-11, 27-32
This week’s GPS readings will look at a variety of people who heard God’s call in a variety of ways. They began at many different stations in life. One “calling” story we read and hear about often is this one in which Jesus called his first disciples. The story was straightforward: Jesus invited them to “Follow me,” and they dropped everything else and followed him.
Jeremiah was a prophet for forty years or more. It was a hard, lonely ministry, preaching that his wayward, wicked countrymen could no longer count on God’s protection, that Babylon would conquer Jerusalem. But at the start, Jeremiah’s concern was simpler: he felt too young to deliver God’s message. God’s assurance to him was one Paul echoed much later to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-3, 3:10-4:4
The book of Jonah offers a thought-provoking view of God’s patience and persistence, and on how we sometimes respond to God’s call. (If you can, read the whole story—it’s short.) Some readers imagine that Jonah feared the people of Nineveh, Israel’s long-standing enemies. But in the story Jonah confessed that he actually feared God’s mercy, that he didn’t want God to forgive the people he preached to (Jonah 4:2).
Joshua 2:1-21; Matthew 1:5
We learned in the Aug. 26 sermon (“Violence and God in the Bible”) that the Israelites (like other Middle Eastern people) saw it as their God-given duty to kill every person in the cities they conquered. But Rahab, in ways the story leaves to our imagination, had come to believe in the power of Israel’s God. She shielded two Hebrew spies, on condition that the Israelites spare her and her family when (not “if”) Jericho fell. Joshua honored the bargain. Matthew gave the story its final twist, recording that Rahab became an ancestor of Jesus himself!
1 Samuel 16:1-13
We’ve learned in the past that in Bible times people needed shepherds, but did not highly respect or value them. So if a family’s youngest son was their shepherd that suggested that the boy was a bit of an outcast. In this story, it seemed that David’s father would have been just as glad for Samuel to not even know he had another son. But God was at work—God saw David’s heart, and through Samuel called him to become Israel’s greatest king.
Saul (later called Paul) didn’t do anything halfway. He was, he testified later, positive that the story of Jesus was a lie that threatened the faith he’d loved all his life, and that he must fight it (cf. Acts 26:9). Then Jesus himself met him on the road to Damascus, and everything changed. All the energy and creativity he had poured into hating Jesus’ followers he now poured into sharing the awesome news that Jesus was alive, loved every person, and had a calling even for a persecutor like him. The light that shone on Paul when Jesus called him continues to shine on us and on our world today.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from www.cor.org/guide.
Heavenly Father, we may feel reluctant when you call, yet we pray that we may answer. If we are fearful, give us courage. If we make excuses, answer us with words of conviction. If we feel inadequate, give us an unquenchable desire to heed your call and trust your power working through us. Bless us in our service to you. Amen.
Do you think it is easier or harder for younger people to grasp the “calling” that is right for them than it was for you? Do you see changing careers as more or less common than it used to be? Is there a difference between a career and a calling? If so, what?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
- Read Luke 5:1-11, 27-32. In these stories, Jesus called two men to become his disciples. One was Simon, later renamed Peter and the other was Levi, also known as Matthew. One was a poor fisherman and the other was a tax collector, an outcast and a sinner (in the opinion of his community). What reason might Jesus have had to call these two men to be disciples? Would they have felt qualified? Do you ever feel unqualified to follow Christ? Based on these stories, should you? Is there any danger in seeing ourselves as fully qualified to be disciples? What experiences earlier in your life might have prepared you to accept Christ later on? Was your decision at one distinct point in time, or did it happen gradually?
- Read Jeremiah 1:4-8. Jeremiah thought he was too young to become a prophet of God. Did God think Jeremiah was too young? Should age be a factor in serving God? Jeremiah was afraid of what “they” might think. Have most of us had similar thoughts about what others would think? What was God’s response to Jeremiah’s concern about what others might think and do? Jeremiah was coming up with excuses, resisting God’s call. How do we tend to do the same thing when we feel called to serve him? Must we always say “yes” to everything we are asked to do that is related to God and the church? How do you decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?
- Read Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-3, 3:10-4:4. Is this story a history lesson? Should it matter to us whether or not Jonah was actually swallowed by a huge fish? What does this story say to us apart from whether all its details are historical or not? How well did God’s plan work out? Was Jonah initially happy with the outcome? Do you think he ever got over it and saw things God’s way? Will we always be happy with the results of God’s call to us? Will we ever come around?
- Read Joshua 2:1-21; Matthew 1:5. From what you saw in the first reading, do you think God called Rahab? What was her “profession”? What do you learn from that fact? What reasons might Rahab have had to turn toward the Hebrew God and away from her own people? In the second reading, Matthew said that Rahab, the former prostitute, was one of Christ’s human ancestors. What do you make of that? Do we tend to “write off” some people from some religions, races or backgrounds as non-participants in God’s plan and his kingdom? Should we?
- Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Do you think the words about not looking on ourward appearances mean that David, Jesse’s youngest son, was ugly? Why else might Jesse have been surprised that God would choose David to be anointed as king? What is it that God examines when choosing his servants? How do you feel about God’s manner of choosing? Do you think we could elect our government leaders in the same way? What is more important–outward charisma or inner character? Although Samuel was already a prophet, God “called” him to anoint a new king. How did Samuel respond? Does that surprise you? Do you think you have a good “heart”? How do you seek to ensure that it remains good?
- Read Acts 9:1-22. Who was this man called Saul? Was he called? What about Ananias—was he called by God? How did he respond to that call? How did God’s calling to Saul turn out? How would you “rate” Paul’s work with regard to his impact on the world? Did Paul or Ananias know how things would work out when they were first called? Could they possibly have predicted the impact this would have? What does this say to you about “calls” that you might have?
From last week: Did you memorize at least one passage of the Bible? Would you be willing to recite it now? Why did you choose this particular passage? How hard was this for you and did you learn anything?
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Chrostek’s sermon, September 23, 2012:
In Matthew 4 Jesus called four fishermen…James and John, Peter and Andrew: “As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” – Matthew 4:18-20
Our God is a God who calls fishermen by saying “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of people,” but He doesn’t stop there. Anna Carter Florence says, “God calls others as well, reaching them where they are, doing what they know how to day, speaking to them in terms they can understand…
God calls farmers in this world by saying…Follow me, farmers, and I will make you farm for people!
Follow me; all you bankers and tellers, and I will make you bank human life!
Follow me, builders, and I will make you builders of God’s house!
Follow me, shopkeepers, and I will make you keepers of God’s shop!
Follow me, clowns and comedians, and I will make you fools for God!
Follow me, landscape workers, and I will make you landscapers of life!
Follow me, all of you seamstresses and tailors, and I will make you sew our lives as well as our garments!
Follow me, you cooks, chefs, butchers and bakers, and I will make you season and leaven and serve and preserve more than food!
Follow me, you insurance agents, and I will make you insure God’s agency!
Follow me, you instrumentalists, and I will make you instrumental to other!
Follow me, you friends, you parents, you children, you siblings, you neighbors, you strangers, you hosts and guests, and I will make you all these things—to every other human being!
For a moment, I want you to consider your job, the work you do to make a living. If you’re a student…think about your life at school…if you’re an athlete, think about your life on the playing field…if you’re a retiree think about whatever role people use to identify with you. This is the role, there is the place, this is the avenue through which Jesus calls you to live out a life of Christian discipleship.
Dallas Willard writes, “One of the clearest ways possible of focusing on our discipleship to Jesus is through our work. To be a disciple of Jesus is, crucially, to be learning from Jesus how to do your job as Jesus himself would do it. New Testament language for this is to do it ‘in the name’ of Jesus. Isaiah would say that we are to live ‘in the light’ of Christ, just as Christ would have lived.”
In order to follow Jesus…in order to be considered a disciple of Christ we do need to let go of who we are to focus on following Christ. We need to lay aside our nets full of fish for the purpose of simply catching fish, instead we need to look for ways to use our nets full of fish to glorify God, to shed the light of Christ upon every person we touch, to magnify the Lord with our life and with our song, to change the world by extravagant and sacrificial generosity in the midst of our vocation.
God doesn’t always call us to abandon our life’s work to be a disciple. God simply calls us to do whatever it is we do in a way that glorifies God…
How Can You Be Sure of God’s Calling?
Do you open your mailbox one day and find a mysterious letter with your calling written on it? Is God’s calling spoken to you in a booming voice from heaven, telling you exactly what to do? How do you discover it? How can you be sure of it?
Any time we want to hear from God, the method is the same: praying, reading the Bible, meditating, talking with godly friends, and patient listening.
God equips each of us with unique spiritual gifts to help us in our calling. A good list is found in Romans 12:6-8 (NIV):
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
We don’t recognize our calling overnight; rather, God reveals it to us gradually over the years. As we use our talents and gifts to serve others, we discover certain types of work that feel right. They bring us a deep sense of fulfillment and happiness. They feel so natural and good that we know this is what we were meant to do.
Sometimes we can put God’s calling into words, or it may be as simple as saying, “I feel led to help people.”
Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45, NIV).
If you take that attitude, you’ll not only discover your calling, but you’ll do it passionately for the rest of your life.
Your Job is Not Your Calling
You may be surprised to learn that your job is not your calling, and here’s why. Most of us change jobs during the course of our life. We may even change careers. If you’re in a church-sponsored ministry, even that ministry can end. We will all retire someday. Your job is not your calling, no matter how much it may allow you to serve other people.
Your job is an instrument that helps you carry out your calling. A mechanic may have tools that help him change a set of spark plugs, but if those tools break or get stolen, he gets another set so he can get back to work. Your job may be closely wrapped up in your calling or it may not. Sometimes all your job does is put food on the table, which gives you the freedom to go about your calling in a separate area.
We often use our job or career to measure our success. If we make a lot of money, we consider ourselves successful. But God is not concerned with money. He is concerned with how you’re doing at the task he has given you.
As you’re playing your part in advancing the kingdom of heaven, you may be financially rich or poor. You may be just getting by in paying your bills, but God will give you everything you need to accomplish your calling.
Here’s the important thing to remember: Jobs and careers come and go. Your calling, your God-appointed mission in life, stays with you until the moment you are called home to heaven.
This week consider your life and ask yourself what you do in service to God. You may be surprised at how much or how little you really do. If you do many things, make a list and consider whether or not your efforts are properly focused. If you discovered that you do little or nothing, make a commitment to do something, either within or outside the church. In either case, pray over this effort. Next week, without sharing specifics, share with the group whatever you learned.