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.)
Most of us at times “find rest” from everyday stress in a wide range of activities—taking a nap, binge-watching a favorite show, watching our favorite sports team, shopping, listening to chosen music, and the like. What are the more serious issues for which those everyday sources of rest do not work very well if at all? When do you, like the psalmist, find it essential to “find rest in God only”?
Pastor William Willimon wrote, “The Bible’s issue is invariably idolatry (‘Who is the god who is there?’) [In Jeremiah 2,] God accuses Israel of idolatry, or forsaking the Creator, who has steadfastly loved Israel. Forsaking that love, that ‘fountain of living water,’ people instead dig their own wells, seeking water that is self-derived.”* How has committing yourself to the living God drawn you away from things that “aren’t really gods at all” that you might have followed?
Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “The temptations we all face, day by day… may be very different from those of Jesus, but they have exactly the same point. They are not simply trying to entice us into committing this or that sin. They are trying to distract us, to turn us aside, from the path of servanthood to which our baptism has commissioned us.”** What has helped you to recognize the larger life consequences of what you may want to rationalize as just “this or that sin”?
Martha and her sister Mary had "if-only" questions for Jesus—“if only” he had done things differently, they thought, things would be better. Jesus made seven "I am" statements in the gospel of John (we’ll study them more next week). His words to Martha are probably the most cherished of those statements: "I am the resurrection and the life… everyone who believes in me will never die." Jesus has many ways of bringing good news, hope, and new possibilities into the mess and grief of life. He asks us for trust, as he did Martha and Mary. Often our “if-only” questions, like theirs, reflect our time-limited, earth-bound understanding. We face the question Jesus asked Martha: "Do you believe this?" How easy or hard do you find it to trust that Jesus is working for your good, even when what you wish would happen doesn’t?
* William Willimon, study note on Jeremiah 2:13 in The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible. HarperSanFrancisco, 2005, p. 1085.
** N. T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–15. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 27.
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