Discipleship : Meeting 3
DISCUSS the disciple’s fasting experience. What did they do? What was their experience like? What difficulties did they face or rewards did they receive?
DISCUSS the following questions from the Sabbath as Self-Denial essay:
1. After reading about “Sabbath,” what are your feelings about it? Have you ever tried to do a sabbath-rest?
2. Adele Calhoun says, “Sadly, everything about us works against slowing down.” What difficulties, responsibilities, or compulsions make it hard for you to slow down and rest?
3. How is taking a sabbath a form of Downward Mobility? In what ways could this be considered a practice of self-denial?
4. Jesus said that the sabbath was made for us, not the other way around (Mark 2:27). What would be evidence in your life that what Jesus said is true? How are you actively resting?
5. If you could design the perfect sabbath day, how would it go? What are those activities that would be most restful and life-giving for you?
6. If you do not think that you do too much, maybe you have the opposite problem? If so, how could you incorporate more meaningful work into your life so that you can enjoy the times of rest more?
7. What other questions do you still have about sabbathing?
ASSIGNMENT: In preparation for your next meeting, plan a time for Sabbath. This does not have to be a full 24 hours and does not have to be on Sunday, but try to plan a time that you can spend with family, friends, and/or alone with God to enjoy resting. Don’t try to do too much, especially if you have never taken a sabbath before. Be sure to adjust your schedule ahead of time in order to protect your scheduled Sabbath.
Also, read the “Gratitude” essay by Jake Thurston located below. Come ready to discuss with your disciple.
By Jake Thurston & Jesse Skidmore
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1-2)
“Be joyful always; pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by
prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is a very encouraging verse until something devastating happens. It’s easy to “be joyful always, pray continuously,” and “give thanks in all circumstances” when everything is going swell, you’re feeling good about your life, or you’re forced to say what you’re thankful for when you’re gathered around for the annual Thanksgiving meal at your Grandma Judie’s house. But when something absolutely catastrophic happens—the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, uncertainty of the future—is it truly possible to be joyful always?
Gratitude isn’t an action or emotion we express when we get something nice. It’s not based on material possessions or pleasant circumstances. In fact, it has hardly anything to do with ourselves at all, but everything to do with God. Gratitude, in its deepest sense, is not driven towards the fulfillment of our desires or counting our blessings, but seeing God’s hand at work in every corner of our lives, no matter how big or small, beneficial or catastrophic it may be.
Gratitude is self-denial. But how?
Anytime we’re not grateful for something, it’s normally because we think we deserve something better, and miss out on all the other blessings in our life as a result. “I’m not grateful for my iPhone because I want an iPhone X,” but you forget that you have an iPhone. “I’m not grateful with my job because I deserve a raise,” but you forget that you have a job to begin with. “I’m not grateful about my life because I want out of debt,” but you forget that you have a life filled with people who love you.
Our inability to be grateful is a sign of our entitlement, and any ounce of entitlement squashes any chance of self-denial. We can’t make ourselves lesser if we think we deserve something better.
This is why Paul urges us to pray continuously. He recognizes that life is going to get hard with its rollercoaster of good times and bad times. He’s not telling us to be ignorant of our unfortunate circumstances, or not to yearn for healing and better things. But there is a massive difference in being entitled to better circumstances and praying for better circumstances. One tells God you’re discontent and deserve something better. The other tells God you can’t do this on your own and need him to help you out.
When we approach everything that life throws at us through prayer, we are continually seeing God at work in it. And when we see that God is at work, then we will be much less likely to be entitled to something better and trust that he’ll work something out. Then, and only then, will we be able to be grateful and joyful always, because our hope isn’t based on what we deserve, but who God is.
Adele Calhoun says, “Thanksgiving is possible not because everything goes perfectly but because God is present.” When God, not our circumstances, is our focus, then all of life—even the hard times—become surprisingly sweet.
What are you grateful for? What are your blessings in the midst of your trials? How can you give God praise for who he is and what he’s doing, right here, right now? The more you answer these questions, the more joyful your life will be. Guaranteed.