When we gather as a group, these are some ways we ensure the best group discussion:
We make the circle safe by staying honest and transparent - leave the masks at the door.
We keep it inside the circle. Each person’s story is theirs alone to share.
We look to the Bible for wisdom and truth, and work together to let it shape how we see the world.
We don’t try to fix each other in front of each other or give unsolicited advice. We lovingly save hard conversations for private moments.
We respect each others’ time by starting and ending when we say we will.
We believe that in Jesus Christ, there is hope for everyone.
We will never be PERFECT people, but we can be FREE people... free from hiding, free from fear, free from resentment, free from our pasts, free from whatever may be holding us down. One of the promises that Jesus gives us is that He came to set us free!
This week we talked about the chain of fear. It comes in uninvited and takes up too much space. Max Lucado says that “When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god…” But Jesus wants to teach us another way - a way where there is peace instead of anxiety, and trust instead of fear. The storm is the same - but we can be different.
Remember, the questions are not a checklist to be completed, or in the perfect order! They’re simply guardrails to help you have a natural discussion about what we learned on Sunday.
Mike listed a number of fears at the beginning of his message. What are some fears (real or funny) that you have experienced or have had to work to overcome?
Mike said fear is an ever-present reality that we need to break the chains of.
Share how you have seen fear keep you from experiencing or doing something that you wanted or needed to do.
Share a time when you have faced or overcome a fear and experienced something you almost missed out on.
Anxious for Nothing VS Stressed about Everything
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) reads:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Mike shared that we often live these verses in the following way instead (the Mike Hickerson translation):
“Stress out about everything, big stuff, little stuff, things you can’t control, things you wish you could, things that might come true and things that could never possibly happen. In every situation, see it as an opportunity to gripe to other people about how bad you’ve got it and how everyone else is cruising through life. Allow your envy and self-preoccupation to blow the problem out of proportion. Above all, never talk to God about it. He doesn’t give a rip. And if you continue on this path, the anxiety that transcends all human understanding will give you ulcers, heart disease, headaches, joint pain, and lousy relationships. So… rejoice and be glad.”
How can you relate to either of these versions of Philippians 4?
Think about a time you experienced either one of those versions. What did that experience teach you about the relationships between fear and faith?
Observations on Fear
Read Matthew 8:23-27 for context on the next few questions.
Getting on board with Jesus doesn’t mean we’ll have sunny skies
The disciples followed Jesus, got on the boat and immediately were in a life-threatening storm. Followers of Jesus lose jobs, fight temptations and battle fear just like anyone else.
Has there been a time on your spiritual journey that you’ve expected God to take away the storms of your life? Where do you think that expectation came from?
What have you learned about this reality that followers of Jesus still experience the storms of life? How has that reality challenged or grown your faith?
What sets us apart is not the absence of storms, but how we weather them
Jesus never promised us that He would help us avoid storms - but He did promise to be with us in the storm.
If you can, share about different ways you’ve weathered storms, either with faith or without faith. What has brought you actual peace in the midst of a storm?
How does trusting that God is with you in the middle of a storm change the way you weather it?
Fear always calls into question the character of God
When we get into a storm, it’s easy to think, “God must not care, because if He did, He would _____…”
When have you found yourself thinking something like this? How did that question affect your fear or anxiety?
Why is this such a dangerous question to ask in the middle of a storm?
you don’t want to follow a god that would do what * you * would do
That phrase is dangerous because it puts us above God. It puts our morality, our ethics, our understanding, and our love above God’s. And that is not a place we want to be.
And it’s not because God is on a cosmic power trip - not at all, actually. And it’s not because God doesn’t want us making moral, ethical, loving decisions - he actually has a deep desire for us to more fully understand what is good and bad.
But the big questions, where does that understanding come from?
Part of the reason we say something like “If God loved me, then He would _____” is because we don’t believe He understands or cares about how bad our situation is. Then because He doesn’t know or care about how bad it is, of course he’s “not doing anything about it”…
But that is exactly why present circumstances can never define God’s character - when we forget to look past the present storm, we miss something that changes everything:
God hated our suffering so much, he was willing to sacrifice himself so that we could be free from sin and death forever.
So God doesn’t care LESS than I do about my suffering - he actually cares MORE than I do.
And He’s not doing LESS than I’d do - he actually already DID MORE than I could ever do.
God is playing the long game, and he wanted to break the chains of sin and selfishness that bind us at the deepest levels - not just make our lives a little rosier on the outside.
Good circumstances don’t make a person more like Jesus - they do nothing to solve the root issue of our sin and selfishness. Only a self-sacrificing savior that changes us from the inside out can do that.
First Jesus speaks to his disciples, then he speaks to the storm
Jesus is calm in the midst of the chaos; He is a non-anxious presence in the boat with us. Perfect love casts out fear. Jesus is busy calming the storm in us before calming the storm around us.
When in a storm, what do you naturally try to control first - the chaos around you or the chaos in you?
How can we partner with God in the midst of a storm to intentionally focus more on the storm in you before worrying about the storm around you?
Brennan Manning said, “Trust is being convinced of the reliability of God.”
Where do you need to apply faith (trust) to fear in your life currently? How can you practically grow your “convinced-ness” of the reliability of God?
“read the bible more” isn’t just a sunday school answer…
Sometimes it feels like “I should probably read the Bible more” is a bit of a cop-out answer. But it’s also true… But why? Why would reading the Bible more actually help us in this area or any other?
The bible is a record of what people have been able to expect of God throughout history.
Now THAT is helpful. We often expect things from God that he has never promised us or anyone else. And when we expect the wrong things, we look for the wrong things - and then we MISS what God was trying to give us the whole time.
When followers of Jesus don’t know something - they find it out. When they’re confused - they learn. And they usually do it together.
This is a good chance to drive toward specifics in your conversation and talk about what the group can learn together to fill in those “convinced-ness” gaps. Talk about how you can build together a more robust understanding of what we can expect from God based on who the Bible says He is and how He has helped people throughout history.