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Paced by the Spirit (Week 3)

Energy for the Race

“I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to another. All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he wishes with the army of heaven and with those who inhabit the earth.”

Energy for the Race

“I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to another. All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he wishes with the army of heaven and with those who inhabit the earth.”

                      Daniel 4:34b-35b

Although I have absolutely no experience with long distance races myself, I do have a daughter who has run in two marathons and many shorter races, which gives me some experience by osmosis or something! I know that it is wise to run with a group progressing at the same pace. If a runner starts too fast, she grows so tired that she cannot complete the race. If she runs too slowly, her time will not be her best. As I watched my daughter run in the marathon, I noticed pacers amidst the runners holding signs with the pace time so that those wishing to run at that speed could stay up.

As one running in God’s race, Paul was paced by the Spirit. We, too, must learn to listen and follow the leading of the Spirit in our lives so that we complete the race well by his pacing.

Day One Study

Last week we read about Paul’s first missionary journey. After some time in Antioch, he went down to Jerusalem for an important meeting (c. 48 A.D.). If you have time to read about it, do the Extra Training optional study for today. When the meeting was over, Paul returned to Antioch where he soon headed off on another missionary journey, which occurred between 48-52 A.D.

Extra Training: Acts 15 summarizes an early meeting of church leaders to deal with theological issues that had arisen from the gentiles coming to faith in Jesus. Read Acts 15:1-35. Then, read any commentary or notes you have on this event, popularly known as the Jerusalem Council. Note Paul’s role.

Read Acts 15:36-41. Note the chart of the second journey at the end of this week’s lesson. Be sure and fill it in as we go along if that is helpful to you.

    1. What was Paul’s goal for this second journey (15:36)?

    2. Compare Acts 13:5, 13 with Acts 15:37-39. What was the problem with John Mark? State the arguments you can think of on both sides of this disagreement. How would you have felt if you had been Paul or Barnabas?

    3. Read the parable in Mt. 25:14-30. A parable is a story with a primary point. What is the main teaching that Jesus emphasized in this parable, and how does it apply to the debate over John Mark?

    4. Sharing question: Have you ever worked on something with someone who proved unfaithful to the task? What was your response—one similar to Paul’s or to Barnabas’? Why? Or you may have been the one who was unfaithful. If so, share your story.

    5. What was Paul and Barnabas’ solution to the conflict? How can this compromise be seen as a positive?

This same John Mark is the one who eventually wrote the gospel named for him! God used Barnabas to give Mark a second chance.

    6. Responding to God: Think of a specific time you failed God or others. Thank him for being a God of second chances, a God of grace that gives us blessings that we do not deserve. Write your prayer or thoughts below.

Day Two Study

Read Acts 16:1-5. Make notes on your chart of the Second Journey.

We learn in these verses that Paul circumcised Timothy. God required all Jewish boys to be circumcised at eight days of age (Gen. 17:9-14).

Extra Training: Read in your resources about circumcision and its significance to the Jews.

    7. Read these verses and consider what you learn about the relationship of those who follow Jesus to circumcision: Gal. 2:1-5; Gal. 6:15; 1 Cor. 9:19-23. Write down your insights as to why Paul would have circumcised Timothy before taking him along on the journey.

    8. Sharing question: Have you ever given up a right or a desire in order to share your faith with others? If so, tell your group what it was and the situation that required your sacrifice.

Read Acts 16:6-10.

Note that in Acts 16:10 the pronoun changes from “they” to “we”. Most scholars see this as an indication that Luke joined Paul and his party at this point. As you read the rest of Acts, you can follow Luke’s presence by noting his use of these words.

    9. In what ways did God’s Spirit pace Paul at this point of the journey?

    10. Sharing question: Think of a time when God’s Spirit clearly led you. How did he do that? Did he use his word, other believers, circumstances, prayer? Share the story with your group.

    11. Responding to God: If you are in a situation right now where you need God’s guidance to pace you in your run for him, talk to him about it right now. Give him the freedom to guide you however he chooses to do so. Talk to him about the specific ways you will look for his will, spending time seeking him.

Day Three Study

Read Acts 16:11-40, the story of what happened in Philippi, Paul’s next stop. Enter your notes on the chart.

Extra Training: Research the ancient area of Macedonia through maps and other Bible resources.

    12. The record of what happened in Philippi follows a common pattern for many stops on the journey: Paul’s seizure, the charges, and the reaction. Summarize each of these areas from this story.

    13. Describe the opposition to Paul and Silas in Philippi. What motivated those who accused them? How did Paul and Silas use the Roman legal system to their advantage?

    14. Sharing question: What is the lesson for you from this story? What part of it most sticks out to you? Why?

    15. Sharing question: Think of your friends, co-workers, and family members who do not share or understand your faith. What threatens them about you or what you believe? How should you handle it? Can you handle it differently or not?

    16. Responding to God: Ask God to show you how to love those who oppose you or your faith. Write down the thoughts you have.

Day Four Study

The Spirit continued to pace Paul’s journey. Read Acts 17:1-10.

    17. How do you see the Spirit pace Paul’s stay in Thessalonica?

Read Acts 17:10-15, and fill in your chart from this chapter.

    18. What put Paul on pace to leave Berea?

Sometimes we give Satan all the blame when things go wrong; it could not possibly be God’s will or plan! What about this situation with Paul? Was Satan solely responsible for the opposition that required his quick exit from Berea?

    19. Look up these verses as you consider God’s sovereignty over Paul’s travels, even the persecution and the hardships. Write down the things over which God rules, according to these verses.

        a. 1 Sam. 2:6-10

        b. Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6

        c. Dan. 4:17, 34-35 (Hope you’re learning your verses!)

Extra Training: Use any resources available to read about God’s sovereignty.

    20. Sharing question: Do you tend to think that you are outside of God’s will when things go wrong? If so, how would you have handled Paul’s adventures? Would you have left and returned home? On the other hand, you may accept God’s sovereignty of even the hard things, believing them to be part of his plan to pace you and move you along in your race as well as fulfill your life purpose. If so, how do you do that when you face real problems and hardships? What keeps you believing?

    21. Responding to God: Consider one specific circumstance in your life right now. Write a prayer or poem entrusting it to the sovereign hand of the God who loves you. Write it below.

Day Five Study

Paul went alone to Athens (Acts 17:14-15). Read about it in Acts 17:16-34.

    22. How did Paul approach the Greeks in Athens differently from the way he had approached the Jews in his travels? Look back at these verses: Acts 9:22; 13:13-41 (skim, looking for general approaches); and Acts 17:1-3. Consider how he approached the Jews in these 3 passages and how his message is different in Athens. Write down your insights.

    23. What does Paul’s approach to different cultural and religious groups teach you about sharing Jesus with different people in your life?

    24. Sharing question: List 2-4 people you know who are not Christ-followers. Write down beside each name what you know about their backgrounds—educational, religious, social, etc. If you were to apply Paul’s principles of evangelism to them, how would you approach each one differently? Ask your group for help with specifics if you are unsure.

    25. Responding to God: Ask God for opportunities to talk about your faith to each one of these people listed in the previous question. Pray for insight. Draw a picture of you sharing with these friends. Pray for them to have open hearts.

After leaving Athens, Paul continued his second journey through Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea, and Jerusalem; then, he returned to Antioch in Acts 18:22, in approximately 52 A.D.

Fill in your chart from today’s verses.

Extra Training: Read Acts 18:1-22 which takes you to the end of this second journey.

Sometimes it’s hard to see what God is doing when circumstances change and we face difficult times. Although unable to do so at the time, Ann can now look back and see God’s sovereign hand moving her on.

Story of a Real Runner: Ann

I am from a small town in Texas and grew up with the notion that you graduated from high school and maybe went to college. Then you got married. I had dated the same guy all through high school and for two years in college, so I assumed that we would get married eventually. I was deeply hurt when he announced after our sophomore year that we should date other people over the summer. He had gotten a job in the city where we attended college, and I was going back to our home town. I was still hoping that after the summer, we would get back together. After all, we had dated for six years.

In late July I received a “Dear Ann” letter stating that he had met someone else, and that they would be getting married in August! To say the least, I was devastated. I returned all of his personal items that I still had and burned his pictures, but my heart was truly broken. How could God have allowed this to happen? He had truly closed the door on that relationship.

I returned to college that fall, and tried to get on with my life. I dated several people and eventually met a special person. We dated for two years and were married. Eventually we moved to Dallas for his job and to raise our family. Shortly after moving to Dallas, I was invited by an acquaintance to a Christian Women’s Luncheon where women shared their testimonies about how trusting Christ as their Savior had changed their lives. One of those who gave her testimony was the wife of my husband’s cousin. My acquaintance soon became my friend and mentor who led me to the Lord. We signed our children up for Five – Day Clubs and Vacation Bible Schools at several churches the next summer. We had a weekly children’s Bible study group for our children and one other family with stories and songs. Our children trusted Christ and eventually our husbands joined the family of God. Though our paths seldom cross now, she was one of the tools God used to lead me to Christ.

It has been many years since God intervened and put me on the path that eventually led me to Him through his son, Jesus Christ. He knew all along what his plans for me were, and what it would take to get me where he wanted me to be. I am thankful that He changed the direction of my life so many years ago.

Moms Running the Race (by Susan)

Pacing is definitely a difficult issue for me. Even when I seek God’s direction and want to do his will, I have a tendency to get ahead of the Spirit’s leading by using my own creativity, ideas, and hard work to try to accomplish God’s will. I may try to accomplish God’s will in my own human strength or in my own timing.

I think this is particularly hard in my role as a mom. I am a natural “fixer.” If one of my children had a problem, particularly when they were younger, I wanted to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

My trying to fix everything reveals more about my theology than I would like for it to. If I really believe God is sovereign, that he is in control, and that He wants the best for his children, why is it so difficult for me to trust him with a problem? Why is it so difficult for me to accept his timing? Do I really want God’s best in the long run or do I just want everything fixed in the short term?

What about you? What do you do when one of your children has a problem? Are you praying for wisdom and seeking godly counsel in order to know his direction? Are you looking at God’s word to see how it applies to your specific situation? Are you waiting on the Lord and not running ahead of the Spirit’s leading as you work toward a solution?

Action Step: Identify one particular situation or problem with one of your children for which you need the direction and pacing of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to show you his will and his timing as you walk through the situation. Ask him to help you trust him in the circumstance and to help you not take matters into your own hands. Thank him in advance for his answer. Write out your prayer below.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Place Visited

Acts Verses

Outcome of the visit

Syria & Cilicia

Acts 15:41

 

Derbe & Lystra

Acts 16:1-5

 

Region of Phrygia & Galatia

Acts 16:6

 

Region of Mysia

Acts 16:7-8

 

Troas

Acts 16:8-10

 

Philippi

Acts 16:12-40

 

Thessalonica

Acts 17:1-9

 

Berea

Acts 17:10-14

 

Athens

Acts 17:15-34

 

Corinth

Acts 18:1-18

 

Cenchrea

Acts 18:18

 

Ephesus

Acts 18:19-21

 

Caesarea & Jerusalem

Acts 18:22

 

Antioch

Acts 18:22

 

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit), Spiritual Life, Discipleship, Character Study, Leadership, Curriculum