(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)
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 apostle Paul set a high standard for the way Christians go about our daily lives. Our “appropriate service” to God, he wrote to the Christians in Rome, is to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice.” It was true in his day, as in ours, that that approach to life was not a part of the culture’s “common sense.” To live it out would take inner transformation, not conformity to the world’s values and practices.
When we think, sometimes wistfully, about discerning God’s “good and pleasing and mature” will for our life (cf. Romans 12:2), we may think in terms of visions or dramatic, “out of the blue” messages. Paul believed realistic self-assessment could direct God’s people to God’s will. God’s will, he seemed to say, is that you primarily do what you’re gifted to do: “If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching.”
2 Chronicles 15:1-8
Leadership is always hard work, but it’s particularly demanding if the leader needs to lead people to change directions. In the history of Israel’s up-and-down walk with God, King Asa was a leader who the writer of Chronicles said produced an “up” period. It was hard work, involving a lot of finding and removing of shrines to foreign idols (read on to 2 Chronicles 15:9-12), but the prophet Azariah assured him that it was worthwhile.
Paul was travelling to Jerusalem. He and his companions carried an offering from the Gentile Christians of Greece, eager to help their impoverished companions in the faith in Jerusalem. But Paul was also sure that arrest and prison awaited him in Jerusalem. Saying farewell to the elders in Ephesus, he carefully recounted how he had done the work God called him to do, and sketched the tasks he trusted them to carry on when he was gone.
This passage (and its close parallel in Colossians 3:22-4:1) make us very ill at ease. Paul did not “endorse” slavery, but he did take it as a fact in the Roman Empire. Unlike most ancient writers, he said masters must serve God, too, even in how they treated their slaves. (To see this even more clearly, study the little letter to Philemon.) But most slaves did not have the option of freeing themselves, and Paul said even slaves, in their awful work situation, could work “as though you were serving the Lord.”
Our study of work, as God designed and assigns it, moves back and forth from the personal and particular to the divine and the global. As members of God’s diverse, far-flung family, each of us makes a unique personal contribution to the work of carrying out God’s mission—no one else can do exactly what we do in exactly the way we do it. And yet, as Jesus laid it out for his disciples, the overarching mission, God’s divine commission that directs all of the work we do, is clear. We are, all of us in our unique ways, to make disciples.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, we willingly “sign up” to work at carrying out your commission, but we know we can only be effective if you walk with us. Fill us with your spirit when we face challenges as we go about our work for you. We offer ourselves to you and we commit to being “living sacrifices” offered to you. Amen
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
Which job, paid or unpaid, has been the most fulfilling to you? What have you learned from that experience?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.
Read Romans 12:1-2. In general, is America a “conforming“ society? Within your church, do you imagine that the congregation is generally a “conforming” society? In what ways can you and other Christians become less “conforming” and more “transforming”? If we transform ourselves, what are the possible effects upon those around us? How can we become more like the “living sacrifices” Paul was talking about?
Read Romans 12:3-8. Do you feel as if you know what gifts God has given to you? What tools have you used, in school, church, your workplace, or from other sources to help you with realistic self-assessment? Is it okay for us to feel good about our gifts? Is it possible for us to expand our gifts? What did Paul mean when he said, “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think”? How do you use your gifts to express God’s love for others?
Read 2 Chronicles 15:1-8. The ways of the world took their toll on God’s people, and it took a lot of work to repair the damage done. How does the world of today take a similar toll on faith? What kind of work is required to repair that damage? King Asa’s leadership was critical to the work of that time. How important is leadership today? Who provides leadership within the church? What forms does this leadership take? At the time of King Asa, the people weren’t seeking God. Are we seeking God earnestly, or do we tend to stroll through life without thinking much about him? How can we keep him foremost in our thoughts and lives?
Read Acts 20:17-35. Paul called each of us to “shepherd God’s church.” How do you interpret this? In what ways are we to “protect our flock”? Do Paul’s warnings apply mostly to the church of that time, or do they still apply today? Are you a spiritual shepherd to anyone? How do you go about this task? Is your shepherding welcome and well received? In what ways is giving more blessed than receiving? How can this adage be shown to be true in marriage, family and work?
Read Ephesians 6:5-9. This is one of the more controversial sections of the Bible, but, beyond the issue of slavery, it has an important message for each of us. Some of us find ourselves in a job that makes us feel a bit like slaves, often due to the attitudes of the people we work for. Some of us are in managerial positions that could make us feel a little like masters over others. If we feel like slaves, how can Paul’s guidance be applied to our work life? How could it affect our life and the lives of others? If we are in managerial positions, how can Paul’s guidance be applied to our work life? How could it affect our life and the lives of others?
Read Matthew 28:16-20. Do you feel that you, like the eleven disciples, are called by Jesus himself to go out and make disciples, or is this strictly a job for ordained ministers? Does this task seem a bit overwhelming to you? What have you ever done, even in a small way, to carry out this mission? Did you feel that, as Jesus promised, he was there with you in that work? Did it make you feel a bit more fulfilled?
From last week: This last week, did you jot down the main force or forces that led you to choose the kind of work (paid or unpaid) you currently do? Did you compare how your current work meets both requirements a) and b) in Buechner’s quote about vocation?
Please share with the group whatever you discovered.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, June 15, 2014:
We started this series two weeks ago establishing that work is a gift given to us from the beginning of time. In Genesis we were created in God’s image. God formed us and shaped us and then he blessed us with the task of bearing that image by going to work. God says, “Be fruitful.”
In the Gospels Jesus told his disciples the same sort of thing. He said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you, to bear fruit, fruit that will last!” And then he shows us the way: “Those who believe in me will also do the works that I do and in fact, will do greater woks than these.” (John 14:12)
In Matthew, Jesus takes it a step further saying, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Our work is the primary way we can become the people God created us to be, as God’s craftsmanship. Our work is to do the things that God does through our jobs and occupations as doctors, lawyers, pastors or clerks, but really everywhere we go.
In that way, work is also the primary way for us to change the world by drawing others to the perfect love of God by shining our light. When we work, people should hopefully meet God, or at least see the light of Christ, in us. In that way, our work necessarily involves other people. And so last week, we spent time focusing on the way we view the people around us, our coworkers, our employees, even our bosses. We asked the question, “How are you making the people around you better?”
Work is central to our ability to live as the people God created us to be and it’s the primary way to live out our faith by drawing others toward a deeper understanding of who God is…
But what if you are out of work? What if you’re searching for work?…
I shared with you earlier that I had a chance to connect with Elizabeth Allen. She leads a job seekers prayer and support group because God has called her to this kind of work, but she has also experienced job loss and shattered dreams before. As she was living into what she felt like was her entrepreneurial dream, there was this moment when everything came crashing down around her. This was a time filled with grief, despair, and personal mourning. One of the most difficult seasons of her life she said, and yet she also described it as a time of quietness, testing and trust. It gave God an opportunity to do his best work. It was a time for her to remember who God is and who God was calling her to be. In that moment she started praying, throwing her life into God’s hands. If you’re stuck in the darkness, feeling hopeless, go to God in prayer.
Once she started praying she began doing the things that God does, serving others, loving others, volunteering, as painful and as scary as that was. If you’re walking through darkness, get out and begin doing the things that God does, go and serve, volunteer, connect, love others in sacrificial kinds of ways.
Then of course, Elizabeth started sharing her experience with others. She began speaking and sharing her story, and then leading and coaching others to do the same. She started leading seminars as to how she approaches employment and the search for it based on her experiences. She was going through it, putting one foot in front of the next, praying, sharing, serving and loving others….
The idea of work takes on a whole new meaning when you know who you serve and how all things are possible through him, because of him.
Looking for work is difficult, being stuck in these places of darkness, or loneliness, or frustration can be difficult, but in the middle of this struggle is where God does his best work. This is where we experience the fullness of God’s life and love….
in order to experience the fullness of those promises we have to be willing to go through it, to endure, to persevere…to keep moving. For these are the things that Christ does for us…he loves us and never leaves us. Christ remains steadfast, even when we turned away and had forsaken him, he reached out his everlasting arms toward us…When we’re looking for work, meaning or purpose…we must persevere in the same way. We must run the same race. We must go through it. The author of Hebrews reminds us saying, “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
In order to live into the promise of a future filled hope. In order to find the work you are looking for, you must depend upon God. Remember, knowing that through Christ Jesus we are able to do all things.
How do you define a “good job”?
Too many people focus on salary as the sole definition of a good job. A great income opens many doors if used properly – savings for the future, a higher standard of living, an opportunity for giving and so on.But what good is that higher standard of living and savings for the future if you’re living a significant chunk of your adult life in a state of unhappiness?
Given the experience of many, it can be argued the following factors are some of the important ones:
– Sufficient pay: This means enough to meet all my family’s needs and a little extra for giving, saving and playing.
– The work itself: If you’re going to spend eight hours (at least) per weekday engaged in an activity, one’s personal happiness is going to hinge significantly on how personally enjoyable the work is. Monotony is a killer.
– Flexibility of time: The more flexible the hours, the better. Every time you miss something important with your family, it’s an opportunity that never comes back and it’s a trust that can never be recovered.
– Peers: Are you respected by your coworkers? Do you have a good relationship with them? Can anyone argue that this isn’t important to having a good job?
-Management: Being respected, appreciated and receiving some autonomy in how the work is done can be very rewarding.
-Ongoing education/Advancement: Opportunities to learn new skills help reassure you that you are growing and improving yourself. Couple that with opportunties for advancement and you are on the right path.
-Good Benefits: Good health coverage can be a big plus when a family member gets sick.
-Decent environment: To some, this is more important than to others.
In the end, ask yourself this simple question: how much sustained misery is an extra dollar worth to you? Perhaps such misery isn’t worth it, particularly when you consider the multitude of methods a person can use to shave their spending without really altering their lifestyle.
Maybe you’d rather live frugally without a miserable job than have a few nicer things and spend all of your time loathing your work. Something suggests that when people step back and take a serious look at their lives, many people will feel the same way. Unfortunately, part of the human condition is focusing on what we don’t have, rather than on the blessings we do have.
During this next week, prayerfully consider whether you are serving God in all of the ways God is calling you to. Try to find some opportunity to do something that will offer something of yourself to others as a “living sacrifice”. Next week, share with your group how this turned out.