Sometimes life gets busy and you wake up realizing you forgot something. So sorry for the delay in posting this session. I’m trusting God’s timing is always perfect. Thank you for joining us for our session on Faith’s Building Blocks.—Stacy
David’s words found in Psalm 139 reveal the heart of our study Unfolding Enough. His words reflect the understanding God knows all, understands all, and always looks inward to the heart. David, a man after God’s own heart, was not perfect in his personal life, nor in his leading of God’s people. Yet he was called “a man after God’s own heart.”
What comes to mind when you consider David’s life?
David’s life was full of trouble. He was overlooked by his own father and hated by the king he served faithfully. It was one battle after another to fulfill the call God had on his life. Once fully established as king he fell to the pull of lust. Committed adultery and murder to keep his sin under wraps. His actions as man and king were far from perfect.
Read Acts 13:22
- How is David described in this verse?
- What does it say David will do?
God is not looking for perfection, nor sinlessness. God is looking for those whose hearts are turned toward Him. Those who seek to know God through relationship rather than religion.
Understanding who we are in God and coming to know His true nature are essential parts of every Believer’s journey. And like any journey it takes time to unfold.
Merriam Webster defines unfold as
- :to open the folds of, expand, unwrap, reveal
- :to make clear by gradual disclosure
- :blossom, develop
- :to open gradually
Learning to know God and know who we are in God happens gradually. God reveals himself little by little and our faith blossoms. As we listen closely, God becomes the gift we unwrap layer after layer and our spiritual lives expand. This sanctifying grace works in and through us to transform us into women (and men) after God’s own heart.
Read Psalm 139:1-4
In The Message Eugene Peterson paraphrases Psalm 139:1-4 as
God, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
Early in our spiritual formation we come to know God as omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. In other words, God is all-powerful, ever-present, and all-knowing. David’s words in Psalm 139 speak to this understanding. God knows us from the inside out. He is aware of our going and coming, our daily activities, our circumstances and actions.
- How do you feel when you consider God knows the outward things of your life?
God’s knowing doesn’t end there. We serve an intimate God who not only knows the outward but the innermost working of our souls.
- What emotions do you sense when you consider God knows your feelings, motives, and thoughts?
Much of my early walk with Christ was based on sin management. I tried to follow Jesus’ teaching and the ways of God I learned from Scripture. I wanted to get it right. I wanted to be good. I desired to be perfect in my actions and thought life. I worked hard at it, but it was never enough. I knew it, and God certainly knew it.
I understood myself as a failure in God’s sight. Reading David’s words sent me running and hiding in fear. If God knew my thoughts and feelings, how could He ever love me? How would He accept a heart like mine?
Accepting this all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing God is the beginning of our faith journey. Learning how and why a God of this nature would choose us is the gradual unfolding of who God is and who we are in God.
Recall our five building blocks of faith from the introduction: connection, conversation, curiosity, community, and story. Let’s spend the remainder of our time together looking at the life of Jesus in relation to these.
When we as Believers are living in a place of not enough, it impacts the way we approach spiritual disciplines. We read about another’s success of obedience and determine to make it a part of our spiritual life. We hear about the latest prayer technique or way to study the Bible and instantly try to make it part of our quiet time. Some work for a time while others leave us feeling unsuccessful in the process.
- What spiritual practices have you attempted in the past?
- Which ones worked? Why?
- Which ones did you give up after a while?
- How did you feel in the giving up?
God created each of us in His image. We are all unique in our personalities and tendencies. It makes sense our relationship with God would be unique as well. Attempting spiritual disciplines to help us feel like we are enough never works. We are often left feeling farther away from God than before we started. Understanding God created each of us with a rhythm of spiritual life can help us practice spiritual disciplines with a focus of growing closer to God.
In our study this week we considered Jesus’ life and His understanding of rhythm.
Read John 2:1-4
- What did you recognize in Jesus’ answer to His mother at the wedding in Cana?
- What does Jesus’ answer reveal about His understanding of rhythm?
Jesus’ words and actions reveal His understanding of the words we find in Ecclesiastes.
There is a time for everything,
And a season for every activity under heavens…
Being a member of the Godhead, Jesus’s timeline is all of history from beginning to end — the past, present, and not yet. There was a set time established by the Father for Him to begin His season of ministry on earth.
God created time, but is not bound by it. Yet, He uses timing and seasons to work out His wonders in the world. To reveal Himself and His ways to those He loves.
Read Mark 1:35
- In Mark’s gospel, Jesus went off to pray. What do you think drew Jesus away?
- What do Jesus’ actions reveal about His heart?
Jesus, fully man, started His day acknowledging His dependence on the Father. In the dark, not knowing what the day would hold, He sought God alone, without distraction. He revealed His need to be in the Father’s Light before the world began its influence.
What did you notice about your daily life? Can you describe the season you find yourself in currently? What about the season you find yourself in draws you closer to God?
Living a life of not enough dictated how I approached my relationship with God. If I was experiencing a season of good feelings and good circumstances then my relationship with God seemed the same. Good seasons meant I was in tune with God and the blessings were a confirmation I was getting it right.
Hard, painful, rough seasons signified I was doing something wrong. It drove me to pray differently or put some spiritual practice into place that might miraculously pluck me from the dark time quickly.
The truth is seasons come and go. Times of joy couple with periods of darkness. Every person in Scripture, including Jesus, experiences both because both are needed for our growth. There is a time for everything under heaven and living enough embraces each season with a quiet understanding: God is working in me.
A final note on practicing spiritual disciplines. At the heart of the practices in this study and all spiritual disciplines is the desire to know God in ways that extend far beyond how we feel, what we think, or what we do. Don’t get caught up in perfecting the discipline, but rather in the growing closer to God.
Some of our greatest learning comes in recognition of our failure in the practice. Don’t give up. God is abundantly gracious and is blessed by our desire to obey, not our ability to perform.
One spiritual practice essential to faith is prayer.
Jesus lived a prayerful life. In John 17 Jesus prayed for His disciples. In the eleventh chapter of Luke, Jesus answered the disciples request to teach them how to pray. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus taught how not to pray. But Jesus did more than teach about prayer. He prayed. Many times in Scripture Jesus quietly crept away to spend time in conversation with God.
Read Mark 14:36
- What name did Jesus use for God in His personal prayer time?
- What does this reveal about their relationship?
Galatians 4:6 describes the sons and daughters of God crying out the same name for God Jesus used. Our best translations for the name “Abba” is Daddy. Not father or sir or Dad, but Daddy.
Jesus’ relationship with the Father is one of intimacy. Close, personal, accessable, and filled with love.
- What name do you often use for God when you pray?
- Have you ever called God Abba or Daddy? Why or why not?
The name I use most often in prayer is Father God. But there have been times of spontaneous prayer where I’ve called Him Dad.
Every time it happens I’m surprised. It’s a name which clearly comes from the Spirit because my flesh is always appalled when I use such familiarity with God
Prayer like learning to talk is a developmental process. Jesus’ teaching about prayer reveals He spent His life connecting to God in conversation. What we have in the Scriptures shows us a spiritually mature way to pray. Jesus’ prayer life is the result of years of acquiring language.
Like a baby learning to connect in conversation, we first learn to pray by listening. When we skip the stage and move straight to talking it can leaves us with an upside-down understanding of prayer. We must learn to crawl before we walk. We must learn to listen before we speak. Prayer is not a means to get God to do what we want, it is a conversation bringing us into Holy Presence.
- On a scale from one to ten, one being an infant and ten being mature, how would you rate your own prayer life?
- What are your earliest memories of prayer?
- Did you begin learning to pray by listening?
- Is listening a part of your prayer life today?
Read John 20:24-25
- What was Thomas’ response to the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection?
- What questions does Thomas’ response reveal?
Imagine Thomas at this point. All he believed about Jesus, all he experienced in the time he spent with Him, the relationship he had with Him was in question. Was Jesus really who He said he was? Did I get it all wrong? How does this line up with what I’ve been raised to believe? Maybe I was blind to the truth? What in the world do I do now?
We use the phrase “doubting Thomas” in a negative way today. Let’s consider God’s response to Thomas’ doubt.
Read John 20:26-28
- How did Jesus respond to Thomas’ doubt?
- What questions did Jesus answer?
Doubt is not an indication of little faith, nor is it sinful. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of doubt is “to call into question the truth.” Jesus’ response to Thomas helps us recognize God is faithful to answer our questions about truth.
- What questions do you have about faith?
- Where do you go for answers?
Read John 20:29
- What is God’s promise to those who have never seen, nor will see Jesus in the flesh?
When we approach God’s Word with curiosity, even doubt at times, God blesses us by growing our faith. We may not find the exact answer we are looking for in the moment. There are times we may have to set the question aside until later or maybe forever. Faith is not built on answered questions, but the One who is the answer to all questions.
God was, is, and always will be a community.
Read Genesis 1:26-27
- Who is the “us” referred to in Genesis?
- What does it reveal about God?
The church calls the community of God the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. A finite description to describe an infinite God. And our minds wonder. How can one thing be three and three things be one?
Consider the quote below:
Trinity maps the country in which we know and receive and obey God. It is not the country itself, but a map of the country. And a most useful map it is, for God is vast and various, working visibly and invisibly. Left to ourselves we often get lost in blind alleys, get tangled up in thickets, and don’t have a clue to where we are. The map locates us.
—Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places
Our understanding of God is mapped out in the community of God. Believers describe this community as Father, Son, Spirit. Some use the words Creator, Redeemer, Counselor. Still others might say Sovereign, Brother, Healer. All help us to locate who we are and who God is. Yet none are complete on their own. Not one word or even a group of words are God Himself. Maps are only meant to show us the way, point us in the direction of God, but the map is not God.
This week we explored the early church in Acts 2:42-47.
- What was your impression of the community?
- Would you consider joining this type of community today?
While we may not live this way today, the early church teaches us that Believers are meant to live in community with God and others. It is the way a Believer lives daily, not just an hour on Sunday morning.
- What communities help you grow towards God? Why?
Whether a community is encouraging and nurturing or difficult and challenging, whether it’s thirty people or two, there is the potential to draw us closer to God. When we remember He is with us in the story, sovereign in this particular time, place, and season, He can use it to grow us in the knowledge and grace of Jesus.
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my savior all the day long
Fanny Jane Crosby, Blessed Assurance
I heard an old, old story
How a savior came from glory
How he made the lame to walk again
And he caused the blind to see.
E.M. Bartlett, Victory In Jesus
Tell me the stories of Jesus.
William H. Parker, Tell Me The Stories of Jesus
If I told you my story
You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go
And if I told you my story
You would hear Love that never gave up
And if I told you my story
You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine
Big Daddy Weave, My Story
Imagine the Ten Commandments without Moses, the Beatitudes without Jesus, or the Church without Peter and the others. All of faith is surrounded and drenched in story. This journey of faith is not a list of rules or commands to follow, but a story to be lived. God’s story. Our story.
- Why do you believe God works in the context of story?
Story is vital to our relationship with God and others. It is what makes us human. Before God’s Word was written, story was the primary way families shared their understanding of God and each other.
Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9
- How were the Israelites supposed to share God’s law?
God’s law was supposed to shared in daily living. His way encompasses the way of life and the Israelites were not to miss an opportunity to share it with their children, those they met on the street, and those who entered their homes.
Read Matthew 28:16-20
- What did Jesus tell the disciples to do?
Throughout history God’s love and law was shared in story. Parents teaching children, teachers instructing disciples, friends sharing in community. Without the telling there would be no story.
- How are you at sharing God’s story?
- What about your own story?
- What happens when we refuse to tell our story?
Yes, faith is personal but rarely private. It’s not about revealing all the intimate details of your relationship with God. Though at times He may call us to share a specific incident. Nor does it have to be some against all odds experience that impresses the masses. Though there are some.
Living enough is embracing your story in the context of God’s story. It’s knowing every single story has purpose, and the purpose is to love God and glorify Him with your life. As we love God more and more, we recognize our story’s place in the world. Sharing our stories is how we love others and reveal God’s love to them.
This week we’ll look at the story of Esther and our own tendency to consider our worthiness when we approach the throne room of God.