The questions in this small group guide relate to the sermon from May 9, 2021. If your group has not had a chance to listen to the full sermon related to this discussion guide, they can find it in our sermon library. Rev. Adam Hamilton preached this week’s sermon.
Lord God, thank you for our group, one place where we have the chance to learn and share about what it means to live a faithful life, a life that is worthy of the love and grace you offer us. Thank you for joining us in this study. Please guide our thoughts and bring home to us the lessons that are most important for us to learn. Amen.
1. Pastor Adam said, “FAITHFULNESS is a major theme in this letter–the word appears five times in chapter three alone. For Paul, faithfulness means steadfastness in the face of adversity. It also means obedience, trustworthiness and even, quite literally, being full of faith. In chapter two of 1 Thessalonians Paul reminds them that, while with them, he urged them, ‘To live lives worthy of the God who is calling you into his own kingdom and glory.’ Both faithfulness and living a life worthy of one’s call as a disciple of Jesus mean much the same thing and Paul uses both of these words or phrases throughout his letters.” In what ways can a parent (mother or father) be “faithful” to the child or children they bring into the world? How is that similar to or different from faithfulness in other relationships, including our relationship with God?
2. Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5. Paul said he sent Timothy to Thessalonica “to strengthen and encourage you in your faithfulness.” Timothy’s visit was not to “inspect” the new Christians with a critical eye, but to help them on their spiritual journey. How can you as a group “strengthen and encourage” one another? Who are other people in your life God has sent you to with a mission “to strengthen and encourage”?
3. Read 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10. Paul said he prayed “to complete whatever you still need for your faith.” After 12 months and more of pandemic hardships, we’d like to think this was the ultimate—surely our faith is as “complete” as we’ll ever need it to be. (Of course, we might also have thought that after the great recession more than ten years ago.) Paul’s prayer reflected the spiritual reality that “faith needs to grow with every day, with each new trial or test.”* How does this group help you keep your faith growing every day? What other practices or resources beyond the group also help?
4. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-4. For people raised in the Greco-Roman culture, learning “how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way” was a new idea, not something they just assumed had any connection with serving God. In what ways is our culture different from that? In what ways is it similar? But Paul did not write from a puritanical stance, as some Christians through the centuries have. He did not intend this to say God forbade all sexual expression (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1-9). In what ways is it as harmful to treat all sexual activity as wrong as it is to treat no sexual activity as wrong?
5. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12. Paul saw believers as a family, not just an “organization.” “This ‘brotherly love’ presupposes the close ties within the spiritual family of God…. At conversion, believers become lifelong pupils as the Spirit bears inner witness to the love within the Christian family (cf. Ro 5:5; Gal 5:22). No external stimulus is necessary; mutual love among Christians is an inbred quality….further progress remained a goal for them (3:12). Paul particularizes v.1…: “we urge you, brothers, to do so even more.” More love is always possible for Christians because the ultimate example of Christ himself (Jn 13:34; 15:12) is infinite and can only be approached, never fully reached.”** In what ways are you included in God’s “family,” not just a church “corporation”? How can you extend that to other family members you may not yet know?
6. Pastor Adam said, “Paul concludes this section with these words: ‘You don’t need us to write about loving your brothers and sisters because God has already taught you to love each other. In fact, you are doing loving deeds for all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. Now we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do so even more.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). Paul ends by reminding them it's all about love. While Jesus called God Father, and Scripture repeatedly refers to God in this way, often it is mothers who paint for us the most powerful picture of what love looks like. Not all mothers get this, and all mothers fail at some point. But I want to conclude on this Mother’s Day weekend by inviting you to think about a mother’s love, as a picture of God’s love, as a picture of what it means to please God, of what faithfulness looks like, of what it looks like to live a life worthy of God.” Did your mother play that kind of role in your life? If not, was there someone else who provided care and nurturing for you? How has “motherly” caring shaped your life?
Lord Jesus, what a challenge it is to hear your call through the apostle to “live a life worthy of you.” We know ourselves too well to think we always live up to that—and you know us even better than we know ourselves! But as we leave this time together, we value your promise that you go with us every day, every moment of the week ahead. And we commit ourselves to continue opening our hearts and minds to your Spirit to guide us into lives that are ever more worthy of your great salvation. Amen.
* Wright, N.T. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone) . Westminster John Knox Press, p. 113. Kindle Edition.
** Robert L. Thomas on 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged: New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994, p. 861.
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