(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)
What is Your MVP?
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.
The quest for “wisdom” gripped the Hebrew sages who wrote and collected these proverbs. Central to the wisdom they saw in action in human lives was the reality that God’s purpose, not just human wishes, must define a person’s life. It is vital, they said, to shape our life purpose around God’s.
Luke 8:4-8, 11-15
In this parable, Jesus metaphorically described various states of the human heart (soil), and how each one affects our ability to listen to and accept God’s word (seed). Living within God’s purpose means cultivating an open, “good soil” heart. When we do that, “concerns, riches, and pleasures of life” won’t be able to crowd out the good fruit God is at work to bear in us.
Jesus focused on the biggest choice all of us are called to make in life—the choice of our ultimate, governing loyalty. Wealth in and of itself is value neutral, but Jesus said that making it the center of life is not. He taught that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and added, “You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Using hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point, as in “That bag weighs a ton”), Jesus was warning us against worry, not against planning. He promised that if we make it our highest purpose and priority to “desire first and foremost God’s kingdom,” then God will work with us to attend to the other needs we face—and to distinguish “needs” from “wants.”
1 Timothy 6:5-11, 17-19
The apostle Paul had obviously known people who’d lost faith and caused themselves “a lot of pain” by loving money too much. He urged Timothy to “run away” from that damaging view of life’s purpose, and to actively pursue the higher purposes of “righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.” Living that way, he said, allows anyone to take hold of “what is truly life.”
2 Timothy 2:1-10
The upbeat, joyous tone of these verses stood out against the setting in which Paul wrote them. He was Rome’s prisoner (verse 9), probably chained at all times to a guard’s arm, yet he wrote about “strength,” “good news,” and “eternal glory.” Paul’s purpose had never been comfort, safety or social status. He lived to serve God, to share God’s word—a word no one could lock up! So no one could lock up Paul’s spirit, either. As scholar William Barclay wrote, “Paul was quite certain that the Roman government could never find a prison which could contain the word of God. It is one of the facts of history that if human effort could have wiped out Christianity, it would have perished long ago; but men cannot kill that which is immortal.”
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, we want you be the center, focus and purpose of our lives, with righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness as our standards. We want to shed our worries and fears by serving you, rather that the things of this world. May we truly hear your word, accept your instruction and become the good soil for the harvest that will surely follow. Amen.
Does advertising tempt us to live lives that are too focused on “stuff,” rather than other, more important parts of life? Do people pay a price when they accumulate too much “stuff”? What price might they pay?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read Proverbs 19:20-23. If we are to “Listen to advice and accept discipline,” from whom does it come? Why would we be “wise” to do so? How do you recognize the “Lord’s purpose” in your life? How can we grow wiser? Do we tend to lead our lives based more on our own plans or on God’s? If on our own plan, how can we intentionally change that pattern? What does “The fear of the Lord” mean to you?
Read Luke 8:4-8, 11-15. If we think of our life as an investment, what are we investing in? Is it making more money, acquiring homes, cars, clothes, hobbies? What is the return on those investments? Are those things simply types of idols? What if we choose to serve God with our lives…what is the return on that? If we choose to serve God, does that mean a monk’s life? If not, what does it mean to you? If we choose a life of serving God, does that mean that we must live without home, cars, food and clothes? Explain.
Read Matthew 6:19-24. What treasures can we store in heaven? Are our eyes “healthy” when we see things that we simply must own for ourselves? What are the risks of allowing ourselves to be tempted by all the “stuff” that draws our eye? If we do tend to bend to those temptations, what is the “darkness” inside that follows? We all have to have money to live normal lives, but at what stage could we be viewed as “serving” money? If we were to go too far with money, how would that cause us to “hate” God?
Read Matthew 6:25-34. Repeatedly, the Bible says not to worry. Do you find that easier said than done? How can we avoid needless worry? Do we tend to exaggerate our concerns? Do we tend to worry about things before they are a real threat? Is planning the same thing as worrying? Do we sometimes worry about the loss of things we want, as opposed to what we need? When we find ourselves worrying, what steps can we take to relax and “chill out”? Does worrying really do anything constructive? Does it do any harm? “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for… Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Do these verses ever come to your mind when you’re stressed about the future? Do they help?
Read 1 Timothy 6:5-11, 17-19. Most of us in America live in the “land of milk and honey.” Does that tend to make us too focused on material things, rather than on God? When we look at our hopes and dreams, does “the market,” government, or our retirement fund ever threaten to take God’s place as the focus of our faith? In what ways? Can those things let us down? In verse 19, what is the “coming age” Paul mentioned? Can we focus on the higher purposes of “righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness” and still make our plans for decent homes, food, clothes, etc.?
Read 2 Timothy 2:1-10. Paul said that we should teach the Gospel to those who would teach others. What does that say about our responsibilities as Christians? He said we should expect and accept any price we pay for being Christ’s followers. Today, what prices (if any) do we ever have to pay for following Christ? Do we ever try to avoid the critical voices of non-religious people? Hypothetically, if a government destroyed all the Bibles, who would God expect to carry the heart of the Gospel message forward? Can the word of God ever truly die?
From last week: Did you consider giving something up that you do for yourself and replace it with something you could do for others? How did this work out for you and for others?
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, November 11, 2012:
We’ll begin by looking at the importance of having a clear MVP—a clear MISSION, VISION AND PLAN, and we’ll briefly end by speaking of financial success….
For years when I teach on leadership I’ve taught church and business leaders the importance of having a clear MVP. This is essential for success in for-profit businesses, in non-profit organizations, in the military and in sports. But it struck me several years ago that this is also important for success in marriage, in our relationships with others, in our faith and even our finances.
So, I’d like to begin by asking you, “What’s your MVP?” Do you have a clear mission, vision and plan for your life?…
I was listening to a song this week by a group called Fun. The song is called “Some Nights.” The song stopped me in my tracks because it seemed so honest. The band sings, “Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for…What do I stand for? Most nights, I don’t know…So this is it? I sold my soul for this? Washed my hands of that for this? I miss my mom and dad for this?”
Clarifying your purpose, seeing the things you’ll pursue with your life in the light of it, and developing a plan to realize your visions is an important part of figuring out what you stand for. And one way that you express what you stand for is through what you’re willing to give to….
That leads me back to our scripture passage for today. Paul gives us a picture of what success looks like in life, and how it relates to our finances. Listen to what Paul tells Timothy to instruct those who are rich in this life (and, by first century standards, nearly all of us are rich): “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
He’s given us a vision, based upon our mission, that we are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. This is what success looks like. Being rich was not a sin in Paul’s eyes, provided one’s focus was not on money and it was earned honestly and justly. John Wesley said the same. He taught the early Methodists to earn all that they could, and to save all that they could, but he also taught them to “give all that you can.” The question Paul had was, “So what is your money for?” Of course we care for our family, but even in our finances our mission and vision are meant to come through.
For LaVon and me, turning in our annual commitment card is one expression of our MVP. It is a sign of what we stand for. And it is one way in which we seek to be generous and willing to share so that we may “take hold of the life that really is life.” In the area of finances, that’s what success looks like.
Accumulating “stuff” and shopaholics
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”― Dave Ramsey
Some people can’t stop shopping. Compulsive shoppers get caught in a vicious cycle of anxiety. They experience endorphin-fuelled highs, euphoria, and excitement while shopping until they literally drop. When they’ve maxed out their credit cards and bought all they can possibly carry, they must stop shopping…for the moment.
Often these shopaholics buy things they don’t need or really want, including seriously over-buying gifts for others. Guilt quickly replaces the “high” they experienced while shopping. They find it difficult or impossible to face their spouse or significant other with what they have done and with all they have purchased. This guilt leads to secretive behavior. Those unnecessary purchases get hidden away in some manner.
Hidden away or not, these unnecessary purchases have already caused a problem in the compulsive shopper’s life. As the guilt weighs heavily on the person, it triggers the emotional problems forcing them out to shop. Debt has been increased, often to serious financial instability. And trying to keep all of the shopping and hiding of purchases takes a big toll on relationships with others.
Why does someone compulsively shop? It isn’t known for certain what triggers the behavior, but there are various suspect causes. Some people experience a strong need to feel special and somehow shopping satisfies that, temporarily. Some people shop to combat loneliness, depression, or anger. Some people believe that shopping will somehow change them for the better. There is also a belief that the behavior can have roots in early experience such as an emotionally deprived child or teenager unconsciously replacing what they need with objects.
What are common results of compulsively shopping? This kind of shopper will start changing their shopping habits. Instead of shopping with others, they will shop in secret. Personal or family debt increases, and sometimes these shopaholics will have secret credit card accounts. And relationships with family members, friends, and at work become strained.
What are signs for family members or friends to watch out for in shopaholic behavior?
Spending well beyond the budget
Compulsive buying of more than one particular item, buying three or more of the item
Heavily shopping at more than just Christmas time, and way too much at Christmas time
Having secret credit card accounts
Emotionally and physically isolating themselves from others
Why do we struggle to say no to spending?
– We focus on instant gratification.
– Spending is a lot more fun than saving.
– We think the buyer’s high will last. It doesn’t…and remorse often enters the picture.
– Spending is a habit. Ever try to break one? It’s haaaard.
– We treat shopping as a recreational activity and put little thought into spending.
– Culturally we’re taught that we need more and more stuff, the latest product, this season’s “in” pair of shoes.
This week, watch your buying practices carefully. Once your find yourself about to buy something you really don’t need, dig down and find the discipline to avoid the purchase and consider making a special donation in God’s name to your church or a worthy charity. Next week, tell your story to the group.