This week's Small Group Guide is composed of questions from this week's GPS Guide. The questions relate to the Scripture for that particular day. You can download the full week's GPS as a printable document for the context of each question below (in the printable version, the recommended small group questions are marked with a special bullet point).
Football players must follow the coach's instructions. The entire team needs to be "all in" to achieve victory. Christians, too, have coaches and leaders who help to guide us toward a winning life. Who are some of the mentors, pastors and other examples who have guided you in directions that have made you more successful in running to win the heavenly prize?
The city of Ephesus held temples of many pagan gods and cults. Paul’s list of so many powers of darkness in verse 12 spoke, as scholar Clinton Arnold put it, to “believers [who] came to the Lord from a background in magic, astrology, witchcraft, goddess worship, and various mystery cults.”* What forces in today’s world make it hardest for you to hold fast to your commitment to God? Which parts of God’s armor have been most important to you in pushing back the darkness in your own life, and in the lives of others?
Verse 2 (“think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy”) might sound like idealistic, “ivory tower” thinking. But James led the early Christian church in Jerusalem. He saw some of his fellow believers killed and many others driven away by persecution (cf. Acts 7:54-8:2). He knew first-hand about tests and trials. In what ways have you found God’s deep joy even in trials? How, if you stay connected with God, can your hardest times help you develop inner strength and endurance?
Peter said we must “make every effort” to build these positive traits into our life. Scholar William Barclay wrote, “We do not earn salvation, but we have to bend every energy towards the Christian objective of a lovely life.... Life is at its noblest and best when our effort co-operates with God’s grace to produce the necessary loveliness.”** What daily choices are you making to allow God’s power to build a beautiful character in you? As you review Peter’s list of qualities which make up a “winning” character for eternity, which of the qualities do you see most present in your life today? Reflect on how those qualities got there—have you always had them? In what ways have you cooperated with God to cultivate them? What light does that cast on how you can work with God to add the remaining traits to your character?
** Clinton Arnold comments on Ephesians in Clinton Arnold, gen. ed. Romans to Philemon: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002, p. 336.
** William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Letters of James and Peter (Revised Edition). Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, page 300.
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