(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)
Getting Out of the Office
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.
Proverbs 16:3, 8-9, 11
The Hebrew sages who compiled Proverbs wrote down general truths about how life works much of the time. (Other books, like Job, were the counterpoint, reminders that life doesn’t always work as neatly as we’d like.) “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” had to be qualified a bit. Verse 8 showed that some plans (e.g. making profits unrighteously) just couldn’t be “committed to the Lord.” It was important to define “succeed” on God’s terms: “Better a little with righteousness than great profits without justice.”
Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-4
Most Israelites saw Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, as an undesirable town where their worst enemies lived. When God first called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah resisted. He “fled from the presence of the Lord” toward Tarshish, in Spain, as far from Nineveh as he could get. Though Jonah denied his calling, God remained persistent. When He called Jonah, for the second time, to travel to Nineveh, the prophet obeyed. He left his comfort zone to pursue God’s plans for him.
Jonah 3:5, 9-10, 4:1-5, 10-11
When Jonah grudgingly went to Nineveh, he still had hopes. His entire message was, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). He wanted to see Nineveh flattened! The Hebrew Scriptures preserved this story, not to endorse Jonah’s spirit, but rather, through God’s challenge to the sulking prophet at the end, to show that God’s love truly extends to the whole world.
Acts 16:13-15, 23-34
A dealer in purple cloth (a rare and royal item in New Testament times) would have been a wealthy merchant. A jailer, on the other hand, was not much in the social order—he was probably paid the minimum Rome could get away with, and seen as a contaminated person who dealt with “social scum.” But God’s love reached out to both people—and changed not just one individual, but that person’s entire household.
God’s work, God’s mission, has always been global in its scope. But God’s wisdom has always gone about this global work in local, personal ways. The letter to the Colossian Christians said God’s grace was “bearing fruit and growing in the whole world,” and then immediately shifted gears to say, “You learned it from Epaphras” (a seldom-named associate of the apostle Paul). God’s “secret:” bearing fruit in the whole world, one person at a time.
Psalm 90 was a poem that reflected on how fragile and temporary our human life seems (cf. Psalm 90:3-6). In and of itself, that can be a deeply depressing reality, making life and work seem pointless. But the perspective of this hopeful Israelite hymn stretched well beyond the boundaries of this life. Its final prayer focused on our eternal God, and asked God to make our work have such positive impact that it would last, not just for a few years but for eternity.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Almighty God, you built us to work. Guide us, individually and together, to the work of greatest significance you are calling us to do. And, Lord God, by your power at work through us, make the work of our hands last. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
How do you hope you will be remembered after your death? What are your hopes for the next life?
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 Proverbs 16:3, 8-9, 11. Without putting your own “spin” on it, how would you say success is usually measured in America today? From a Christian perspective, how are we to measure our “success” in life? In your workplace experience, has the general perspective on this question conflicted with the Christian perspective? How have you been made to feel conflicted on this question? Have you ever felt that God has intervened during times of this kind of conflict?
Read Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-4. God demanded that Jonah leave his “comfort zone” and travel to Nineveh, the unfamiliar city of his peoples’ greatest enemy. How would you define your work-related comfort zone? What makes this seem so comfortable? What might make getting out of our comfort zones a positive thing to do? Why might God ask us to face our fears of the unknown and leave our comfort zones? How might confronting new situations become real opportunities and enhance our lives?
Read Jonah 3:5, 9-10, 4:1-5, 10-11. Jonah successfully preached God’s message. Did Jonah believe that message? Do we, as Christians, always believe in the messages we preach? What causes us to – sometimes – fail to really believe? Considering the peoples of this world whom we consider to be our greatest enemies (e.g. North Koreans, Chinese, or extremist Muslims) would you be happy to be sent by God to preach his message to them, knowing that, as a result, God truly might bless them and restore their countries and their lives? How can we become more in step with God’s love for the entire world? Would you even want to?
Read Acts 16:13-15, 23-34. What is the common link between these two passages? What is the striking difference between the passages? Would Lydia and the jailer be seen as friends or enemies of the disciples? Why were their entire households affected by the messages of God? Were those godly messages delivered in the same way and in the same form? Did the members of your household play any role in your journey to faith in Jesus? When the jailer asked “How can I get out of this mess” the answer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” Why is that simple answer so utterly complete? Why isn’t a more “complete” theology a better answer?
Read Colossians 1:3-10. How does the phrase, “Think globally, act locally” seem to be reflected the spread of Christianity? In what ways does the faith of individual Christians “bear fruit”? How can the fruit of an ordinary, lone Christian affect the entire world? How have you seen your faith bear Christian fruit (you aren’t being prideful by encouraging others with this kind of testimony!)? Does your faith seem to be growing? Do you have faith partners who are growing right along with you?
Read Psalm 90:13-17. What aspects of your own life will last beyond your years? How might those aspects be picked up by others and carried even further? As you consider this, how important is the time you spend here on earth – to you and to God? How could this kind of perspective give far more meaning to those people who don’t know Christ? How long will edifices like Trump Tower last? How many of the seven wonders of the ancient world still exist? Ultimately, how can we make our individual lives important and worth living?
From last week: This last week, did you prayerfully consider whether you are serving God in all the ways God is calling you to? Did you find some opportunity to do something that offered something of yourself to others as a “living sacrifice”? Please share with your group how this turned out.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, June 22, 2014:
Nigel Marsh, business leader, speaker and author of several books on the matters of work and life shares that “There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” A great majority of us are stuck at work, living these lives of quiet screaming desperation…which is exactly how the man sitting outside the pool of Bethesda felt.
He might not have been shackled by his work, but he certainly was stuck. Everything was passing him by, people, opportunities, life. In John 5 we read: Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew, Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. In these [porticoes] lay many invalids – blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. (John 5:2-9)
The first thing to notice about this story is that the verse does not specify this man’s illness. The root of this man’s suffering was not known. All we know is that he has been stuck or has felt stuck in the same place for “Thirty-eight years.” Many biblical scholars look at this number and think about it as an indication of permanence. Whatever affliction this man was suffering from felt permanent, meaning this man felt helpless, if not permanently hopeless.
Every time I read about this story, I can’t get past this number. I think what must it be like to feel stuck for 38 years. I mean this is longer than I have been alive and kicking on this earth. I can’t remember what happened thirty-eight years ago. And yet, for 38 years, this man felt like he couldn’t move. He was stuck.
But no matter how stuck he felt, this story reminds us that Jesus meets us in our darkest moments. He meets us with his life and hope and peace. Longing to heal this man, Jesus walks right up to him…and asks him, “Do you want to be made well?”
Do you want to be made well? Rather than offering a simple ‘Yes,’ this man gets defensive. Every time I try to get up to do great things or to go great places, other people cut in front of me. I don’t have anybody to help me, nobody loves me. Instead of answering Jesus’ question, he bemoans his predicament. He cries out, I’m stuck here.
Jesus takes a moment, looks at this man, and responds to his complaint with three direct imperatives. He calls him out of death and calls in into life, saying, Rise. Take up your mat. Walk. Through these words, Jesus offers him life, he sets him free and equips him to become the person he was created to be, to do the things that God does, to reflect God’s image everywhere he goes. “Rise. Take up your mat, and Walk,” he says. Immediately, this man does as Jesus commands and for the first time in 38 years begins to live fully into the future without fear….
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I spent time speaking with a group of entrepreneurs turned CEO’s.…one place they all came together was in the area of life and risk. They said, life is too short to wait it out. Life is too short to not take any risks, or not stand up, pick up your mat and walk. Don’t wait for life to happen, but make changes now, take risks now, step out now. One of the things they shared with me was that our faith sets us free to get up and get going, and to run with perseverance the race set before us keeping our eyes on the one who gives us the ability to do the things he did, even greater things. So take risks, trusting in Jesus, who meets us in our paralysis. Start working.
I thought that was great advice, but I wanted to clarify. What does that look like? Does that look like quitting your stable job, to pursue your dreams, as crazy as they might seem? They said, “No, that means you to take time to find life outside of work.” Develop and discover your passions. Take risks and live beyond your job in a way that offers you an outlet toward the life that really is life. Get active and dive into the world around you.
So I asked them, where do you find life, where are you the most energized? Not one of them offered up the phrase ‘at work.’ None of them mentioned their companies. Though they couldn’t imagine life without their work, when they thought about where they felt most alive, they all mentioned things outside of their work, things like their children, their family, their friends, they mentioned those moments in coffee shops where they wrote down all of the thoughts and dreams. They talked about the times when they built zombie forts in the woods with all the neighborhood kids, they talked about pouring energy into their friends as they journeyed through life, or watching baseball…well, that was mine….
I have found that this looks different for everyone of us, because God gifts us and equips us….
Dive into the world around you, don’t wait, but live into the world around you in a way that glorifies God by the work you do…you could blog about your life, shine shoes, switch careers, or simply serve in the church, just get going…start serving. Get up, take up your mat, and walk.
It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you are doing something. Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
How do you “get away from the office”?
The daily grind of work can cause us to forget what’s really important in our walk of faith. How can we, even for a few moments, get away from the office and regain some perspective? This article, excerpted from Everyday Health just might be the prescription:
6 Ways to Take a Mental Vacation Note – try these things without allowing distractions like mobile phones nearby!
Read a book in bed. This is a great escape and can leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready to face whatever is outside your bedroom door. Your bed is warm, cozy, comfortable, and a peaceful place for you. It feels luxurious, and getting lost in a good book is a perfect way to forget, then refocus, your own thoughts.
Visualize relaxation. Steal a few quiet moments to close your eyes and think of an image that relaxes you — such as the warm sun on your skin and the sound of the ocean, a big country field sprinkled with flowers, or a trickling stream. Think back to a time when you felt peaceful and relaxed, and focus on releasing the tension from your toes to your head.
Look at pictures from a happy time. Pull out snapshots from a photo album of a family vacation or a fun dinner with friends. Reflect on your memories of that occasion, and what made it so enjoyable. Spend a few quiet moments reminiscing, and you’ll find yourself more relaxed.
Look out a window. Distract yourself by focusing on something other than what’s stressing you. Grab a steaming cup of coffee or tea, close the door, and take a mental break. Do a little people watching, appreciate any birds within view, or enjoy some fluffy clouds rolling by.
Allow yourself to daydream for a few minutes.
Listen to a relaxation CD. Invest in a couple of these CDs for a short daily escape. You may like to hear chirping birds, rolling waves, or gentle rain — whatever your choice, closing your eyes and listening to these soothing sounds while doing some deep breathing can help you relax and de-stress.
Take a walk. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress because it’s a great escape for your mind. Head out for a quiet early morning walk or lace up your sneakers on your lunch break. Walking along a trail, waterfront, or other peaceful place when possible may offer even more relaxation.
Treat yourself to a 5-, 10-, or 20-minute mental vacation each day and train your body to relax and reduce stress — you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after taking just a few luxurious moments all to yourself.
For a similar article see the July issue of Real Simple magazine.
During this next week, prayerfully consider whether you are allowing yourself to be sucked into the vortex of the daily grind at work, unable to focus on what’s more important to your faith life. Find ways to excape the never-ending emails, text messages and phone calls, even for a few minutes at a time. Ask God to help you achieve greater balance to your life and to make your life at work more meaningful for him. Next week, share with your group how this turned out.