To work through this session, it may help read through the devotionals that go with this study, especially the “Lay It Town Today” pieces. You can find them in bits and pieces under the following names:
Lay Down Your Independence
Lay Down Your Strength
Lay Down Your Reputation
Lay Down Your Possessions
Lay Down Your Relationships
Laying Down Your Day (15 minutes)
Make sure everyone has a name tag and something to write with. Then say something like: Think of something you’re especially proud of—for example, an accomplishment, an award you won, a title or position at work that you earned, or that major purchase you could finally make. Write it down on your name tag, but don’t show anyone else yet.
Give everyone up to a minute to write.
OK now, very quickly, peel the backs off of your name tags and slap them over your hearts where everyone can see them. And then, let’s talk.
1. Why did you choose that thing? And why are you so proud of it?
2. Looking back now, where was (or wasn’t) God as you worked toward obtaining or achieving that thing?
God has given us great gifts throughout our lives. But we need to remember that that’s what they are—gifts. Even our greatest accomplishments in this life are the result of how God has gifted us, and how faithful we’ve been to that gifting. That’s why this week has been all about laying down our kingdoms—which, after all, are only the kingdoms God’s let us have. As we lay down our kingdoms, we open ourselves further to God’s kingdom work in our lives. Let’s dig more into that right now.
Laying Down the Word (25 minutes)
Read the following passage from Day 3, and then discuss the questions afterward.
“[O]ne of the biggest reasons that God calls us to lay down our reputations…. is [that it’s] a way of securing and encasing ourselves in a human love that, even when genuine, is less than God’s love for us.
“Thomas Merton, in his book New Seeds of Contemplation, described it as ‘winding experiences around myself… like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.’”
3. When have you seen a person or group get too wrapped in his/her/their reputation? (No “bashing” permitted; just explain the situation, from your perspective.)
4. When have you been guilty of getting wrapped up in how others see you—or on the other hand, felt like “an invisible body”? How did (or does) focusing on that separate you from God and how He sees you?
In Day 2, we examined the example of Abraham. We observed how God had to deal with Abraham’s natural strength—and the image he tried to maintain before others—before Abraham could receive the even greater gifts God wanted to give him. We’re not going to re-read Abraham’s story today, but let’s reflect again on it as we discuss these questions:
5. Why do we rely on our own strength instead of God’s when it comes to the challenges we face? Put another way: Why do so often so go the “Ishmael route” rather than the “Isaac route”?
6. When have you found yourself tempted to go the “Ishmael route” lately? Why? How have you responded so far to that situation, both positively and negatively? What still needs to be laid down before God in that situation?
Read Matthew 19:25-30, and then discuss:
7. Think again about the situation(s) you’re facing right now. What seems impossible to you right now—and maybe, therefore, seems like it must be also impossible to God?
8. How do Jesus’ promises assure you otherwise? How can you live in those promises, rather than in what you believe?
Laying Down Your Life (20 minutes)
Have group members get into subgroups of three or four.
Have someone read the quote from Day 4 below, then talk about your “Lay It Down Today” assignments from this past week. Which assignments did you find most useful or interesting? Which were more difficult, or harder to connect with? In each case, why? Go on to discuss the questions below. Take 15 minutes to talk together in your subgroups, and then take a few more minutes to pray together about what you’ve shared. Once you’re done, remain quiet until everyone else is finished. May God bless you as you submit your lives ever further to Jesus, and discover His love and freedom as you do.
“We do not serve a God of either/or, but a God of both/and—if we’re willing to surrender all of our tiny little kingdoms and properties and belongings to Him. God must rule over the things He’s given us, and be the one who determines how they’re used.”
9. Which part of your kingdom—your independence, strength, reputation, possessions, relationships—is the hardest for you to lay down before Jesus? Why?
10. What would laying it down look like, in your case? What could Jesus do with that? What are you afraid He might (or might not) do if you took that step of faith?