Icebreaker: Name a time (which could include ongoing circumstances) when life didn’t turn out as you’d hoped it would.
1. Prayerfully read 2 Cor. 12:1–10.
2. According to 12:7, why might Paul have been tempted to boast? (In Paul’s day it was common to speak of three heavens. The first was where the birds fly; the second was where the moon and stars are; and the third was where God dwells.)
3. What did God do to keep Paul from being prideful about his great spiritual experiences? (The word “messenger” could also be translated “angel.” We are not totally sure which Paul meant. But either way, it is clear that even what Satan intended for evil, God used for good.)
4. Three explanations are often given for the meaning of “thorn in the flesh.” Some say it was a physical ailment, such as bad eyesight. Others say it might have been a great temptation. Still others say it was persecution and opposition. Most commentators assume it is a literal physical ailment, based on Galatians 4:15. What do you consider the greatest “thorn in the flesh” in your own life?
5. Paul prayed three times that God would take away his difficulty. What was God’s response? (Grace is unmerited favor or enabling strength from God.)
6. God told Paul “no” three times. What does this say to those who teach that all Christians who are truly walking with God will have disease-free, trouble-free lives?
7. Share a time or circumstance in your life when you felt weak but found God’s grace sufficient.
8. What was Paul’s resulting response to God’s words?
9. List areas of your life in which you are having to depend on God to prove Himself strong in the face of your weakness.
10. Take a moment to pray through these areas of your life, asking for grace to endure and to glorify God through your weakness.
11. List areas in your life in which you are sometimes prideful. (This can include the pride of false humility.)
12. Read 1 Peter 5:5–6. To whom does God give grace? Take a few moments to repent of pride and ask Him to give you grace.
13. Prayerfully read 2 Cor. 1:3–7. What word is repeated?
14. Share a situation in which you received God’s comfort.
15. How can you use your past and present difficulties to comfort others?
16. What changes in your thoughts and heart would take place if you truly believed the principles taught here?
17. Who do you know who is currently experiencing a difficulty that you understand from personal experience? What will you do this week to comfort that person with Christ’s comfort?
18. Why do you think it’s important to God that we be broken but usable?
19. Read Hebrews 4:14–16. What command is given? Take a moment to do what it says.
20. Read Phil. 3:3–6. List Paul’s accomplishments.
21. Now read Phil. 3:6, 8. What worth does Paul assign to his abilities and background? (Note that Paul uses the vulgar word for “dung” to make his point. In Paul’s day that word referred to both excrement and the part of the sacrifice that was thrown away.)
22. What abilities and experiences are sometimes the source of your pride and even identity?
23. What is the only thing Paul considers “worthy”?
The topic of our study has been our worth in Christ.
Read Ephesians 1:1–14. Do you know who you are?