Throughout the course of this retreat, you’ve been exposed to—and sometimes thrown into in—just a few of the spiritual disciplines. (And if you haven’t, check out the previous three entries below.) But the fact is, every spiritual discipline is a form of worship. It’s a way of being intentional about recognizing God’s “worth-ship.” As you’ve hopefully experienced, they get us out of our own way so we can see and appreciate God for who he is.
In this final session, we’re going to focus more on worship in the more “conventional,” outward sense, as well as use the above disciplines, with Revelation as our guide. We need to always remember that our lives are prep time for eternity. Right now, we’re being prepared to live forever in God’s presence. Just thinking about that should help us view our lives differently. Thus, we’ll also consider what God still has in store for us here—how we can serve the world he’s placed us in, for his sake. So let’s begin to pick up our new life in Jesus, put it on, and walk it out.
Take fifteen minutes to think and journal on these questions:
- Out of the activities you’ve done during this retreat—study, prayer, silence, confession, “alone time with God” (and fellowship and service, if you’ve been with a group)—which have helped you connect with God the most? Why do you think that is?
- Which disciplines would like to do more often? How can you become more deliberate about doing so?
- Think about a meaningful time or season of worship (of any kind), or of closeness to God, that you’ve experienced. What made that time so meaningful? What did it feel like? How did it affect your thoughts and actions?
- How has your idea of what worship is (and isn’t) changed over the course of your Christian life? How has your own approach to worship before God changed, as a result?
Leaders: Take twenty minutes for this as a group. If you have ten people or fewer, do this initial discussion time together; if more than ten, use your subgroups. Give a few minutes’ warning when your twenty minutes is almost up, and regain everyone’s attention when you’re ready to move on.
Read Revelation 7:9–8:3. Then read it again. Once more, if you need to, to get the whole picture of what’s taking place here. Then move on.
We’re not going to observe an entire half-hour of silence, but we are going to take a few more minutes to just sit and be silent before God. Close your eyes, and put yourself in the middle of this passage. Go from being an observer to a participant, because that’s what you’ll be one day. Meditate on this passage until you can truly see yourself there. Once you’re ready to leave the scene, take at least ten more minutes to reflect on these questions:
- How did you feel as you reflected on this scene? Were you excited? Uncomfortable? Scared? Or did you have a hard time resonating with it at all? In any case, why?
- Regardless of your answer, how does (or should) knowing our eternal future with Jesus help us make worship—however we do it—a higher priority in our lives?
- How easy is it for you to accept the idea that you’re created for God’s pleasure—and that God delights in growing you even further? Explain.
Leaders: Encourage group members to read through Revelation 7:9–8:3 as many times as they need to, in order to get the picture here. Then, move on to the instructions in the next paragraph. Ask everyone to be totally silent for the next five minutes, imagining themselves in the midst of this passage. When five minutes are up, have everyone get back into their subgroups. Give everyone fifteen minutes to debrief their experience and to discuss the questions that follow. Again, give a heads-up when a few minutes remain. Ask for volunteers from each subgroup to share their answers and insights afterward.
Before you move on to the next section, spend some time worshipping God, in whatever form you’re comfortable doing it. But do something audible and visible before God—maybe even shout, cry, and fall on your face. Get ready to become a part of what you’ve just experienced in Revelation 7.
Leaders: After your discussion time, take a worship break. Take at least fifteen minutes to sing, pray, praise—whatever comes most naturally to your group. Encourage group members to be audibly and visibly expressive in their worship during this time.
Then, read Revelation 21:1–7, 21:10–22:5. Read it as many times as you need to for the images here to sink in. Then think once more about the people you’ve reflected on during the course of this retreat. Consider this: They, too, with be with you for eternity. In fact, you’re going to spend eternity with every believer who’s ever walked the earth. Then, take fifteen minutes to reflect on these questions:
- How can remembering your destination enable you to begin living eternal life more fully right now?
- Where is it most apparent to you that you’re not yet “one who conquers”? How can the One who has conquered help you in that battle?
- Even more important than you: Who are the “conquered” in your life right now? Who needs joy? Healing? Comfort? A sense of God’s presence? Refreshing? A sense of their value to God? How could God use you to help bring that to them? Be specific.
Leaders: Get back into your subgroups, and take twenty minutes for this next section. Take turns reading this passage, twice around, and then discuss the questions that follow. Give subgroups a heads-up when a few minutes remain. Afterward, ask people to share their answers and insights. Encourage as many responses to that last question as possible, but don’t force anyone to answer.
Take at least fifteen minutes to pray in response to that last question. Ask God to build upon and expand the vision he’s begun to place upon your heart. Ask him to guide you to those people that either you can come alongside or who can come alongside you, or both, depending on your situation.
Try to have an extended time of worship between you and God to close your retreat time. Pray, sing, talk… give whatever you can give to God. When you feel you’ve done that, thank God once more for your time together, and then get back out there—because eternal life starts now.
Leaders: You can either do this section as an entire group or in your subgroups, depending on your size. If you do get into subgroups, bring everyone back together after fifteen minutes and close your prayer time together. Then, spend at least fifteen more minutes in worship. Again, encourage group members to be audibly and visibly expressive. If you need to sing or pray or anything else longer, do it. Let the Spirit do his full work in your midst, and don’t end your time together until you’re satisfied you’ve allowed that to happen fully.