This session is based upon the following past devotionals—refer back, or forge ahead at yr discretion (the one place you’ll need to re-read is hyperlinked):
Lay Down Your Anxiety
Lay Down Your Doubt
Lay Down Your Goals
Lay Down Your Expectations
Lay Down Your Fears
• beanbags, stress balls, or other soft items that can be tossed around—two for every group of four or five
Laying Down Your Day (10 minutes)
Have everyone get into subgroups of four to five. (If your group is less than eight people, stay together.) Give each subgroup two beanbags (or whatever items you’re using).
I’m sure everyone’s experienced a certain amount of tension today, so let’s de-stress a bit before going any further. A couple of you are holding beanbags. Take a few moments to squeeze them. Let out some of that stress…. that’s it!
Now, toss your beanbag to someone else so he or she can squeeze it. But don’t give any clue who you’re going to toss it to next. Keep squeezing and tossing your beanbags around for the next minute, then we’ll move on.
After a minute, have subgroups discuss the following questions:
1. When have you felt like you’ve had more things thrown at you than you could handle? How do you normally respond when that happens?
2. Is all stress bad? Why or why not?
Allow five minutes for discussion, and then bring subgroups back together. Ask for volunteers to share a few of their answers.
There are plenty of poor ways to respond when we’re feeling stressed or anxious— anger, negative talk, withdrawing from others, turning to bad habits or addictions…. The list goes on, and we’re all too familiar with it—and for that matter, so are the people who we subject to our responses. So today, we’re going to focus more on the kind of perspective God desires us to have as we face the things that come at us—or for that matter, the things that haven’t yet happened that we’re already worried about.
Laying Down the Word (30 minutes)
Read the following passage, and then read Matthew 6:25-34. Discuss the questions that follow.
“God intervenes in our lives when He’s supposed to, at our time of deepest need—not when we think He ought to show up, or when it would be easiest for us. Those who constantly take faith-filled risks live in 11:59. The rest of us would do well to remember that 11:59 might, in fact, be the best place to live our lives.”
3. What usually makes you more anxious, things that are currently happening or things you think are about to happen? Why do you think that is?
4. Think again about your responses to those situations. What are those responses saying to God (maybe even verbally) about your ability to trust that He’ll “clothe” you with whatever you need in that moment?
5. When have you had an “11:59 moment”—when you’ve said, “OK God, I give up,” and then God addressed those things you were so concerned about (or at least your anxiety over them)? Talk about it a little.
Take turns reading Luke 19:12b-26. Then read the following passage, and discuss the questions that follow:
“God wants to create new things through us, not just give us control over things (and kingdoms) we already know. But we can only prepare to receive them by remaining obedient to the King we already have, and by remaining faithful to His kingdom and the things He’s already entrusted to us….
“So stop expecting too much from yourself spiritually, or otherwise. Stop expecting instant regeneration, or instant success. Trust in God as you once did. Don’t try to anticipate His moves before He’s made them. Allow Him to grow you at His pace, instead of thinking you can run out ahead.”
6. Which servant in our Luke passage do you feel more like right now? How come?
7. What’s your reaction to the idea that God wants to create new things in your life, and will in fact reward you for your current faithfulness?
8. Where are you trying to push God for an answer to a “crisis” you’re facing right now, or an area you’re tired of being “stuck” in? How’s that working? Based on your reading and discussion this week, what do you think God’s been trying to tell you?
It’s worth remembering that our ability to trust God with our futures doesn’t just affecting us—it also affects our responses to the world around us. The more we try to protect ourselves, the less room we have in our lives for both God and others. Let’s close by spending some time with the “others” piece.
Laying Down Your Life (20 minutes)
Ask for a volunteer to read 1 John 4:18. Then, read the following passage and discuss the question afterward:
“Whether it’s a pre-emptive strike or a full-scale retreat, we’ll do just about anything to avoid the hard work of loving others. But the way to God is through loving others…. Even the difficult matters in our lives are signs of God’s love for us. When we can place ourselves before those circumstances, neither shrinking back not attacking, the perfect love of God can become fully manifest in us.”
9. In what tangible ways does God’s love removes fear, anxiety, and stress from our lives? When have you experienced this truth?
10. How being freed from fear, anxiety, and stress, in turn, free you to love others the way God intends? Try to come up with some concrete examples—either present, past, or future.
During our last session together, we paired up with others in the group who we would stay accountable to for the remainder of this study. Get back in your pairs now. Give yourselves enough room that you can talk confidentially and/or not interrupt another pair’s discussion.
Give everyone time to pair up. If people are absent, help stragglers to get with another pair for the rest of this session. Again, it’s OK to have a triad, but have no more than three people together.
In your pairs, review Paul’s “remedy to fear” from 2 Timothy, here. Spend up to five minutes discussing which of the items in this bullet list are speaking to you the loudest right now, and why. Keep it to your one or two top items each.
After you’re done sharing, spend another few minutes praying for one another about what you’ve shared. And again, set aside a time each week when you can touch base with one another. Once you’re done those things, remain quiet and give the other pairs a chance to wrap up. May God bless each of you this week, as you trust Him with whatever your future brings—this week and beyond.