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Running in Community (Week 6)

Energy for the Race

“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.”

    1 Thessalonians 5:14

    Energy for the Race

    “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.”

      1 Thessalonians 5:14

    My daughter ran in the Chicago marathon in October 2007. The weather that day was extremely hot, over 90°--too hot to run so far! Because the organizers were caught off guard, many water stations ran out of water, leaving runners in danger of dehydration. My daughter was participating with her boyfriend, who is now her husband. At one point he got overheated and had to rest for a time; she stayed with him for a while to make sure that he was okay before she headed out alone.

    The race of the Christian life must be run in community; we are there to encourage and care for the other runners around us. That is part of our race! Paul used his letters and his visits as primary tools of support for other believers. As we read from his letters, think about your responsibility for your own community of faith.

    Day One Study

    At the end of last week’s study we left Paul in Jerusalem on his third missionary journey. We are going to take a break in the chronology of his travels this week to study from his letters. Most of those we’ll consider were written before he arrived in Jerusalem.

    Today we will look at the way Paul encouraged believers by correcting them in the truth.

    Read Galatians 1:6-10.

      1. What seems to be the problem with the people in the church in Galatia?

    Read Gal. 4:19; 5:1-7.

      2. What insights do you have into Paul’s concern for these believers being deceived?

    Extra Training: Read the entire book of Galatians considering Paul’s concern for the truth and its impact in their church.

    Read Gal. 3:1-14.

      3. Write down any insights that you have into Paul correcting these believers by presenting the truth that we come to God through faith and not through our works. What methods did he use? What did he stress? (Review Gal. 4:19-20 and Gal. 5:10-11 as you consider his methods.)

      4. Look at the following verses, considering why truth is important. Why should we be concerned for those who believe something not true? Write down your insights.

          a. 2 Tim. 2:16-18

          b. 2 Tim. 3:13-16

          c. John 8:31-32

          d. John 17:14-21

      5. Sharing question: In what situations would you help another believer understand truth instead of what she believes? If you have presented truth as part of your care and concern for someone, share the story. It may have been a simple reminder of truth for someone struggling to believe.

      6. Responding to God: Write out your prayer below, asking God to give you the courage to support and encourage others when wrong thinking about God, etc. is affecting their walk and lives.

    Day Two Study

    Yesterday we saw that Paul was concerned for truth and was willing to correct those who believed wrongly. It was one means of caring for other runners. Today we will look at another way that Paul supported other runners.

    Read Romans 14:13-15:6.

      7. How did Paul encourage the Romans to support and care for others?

      8. How does this parallel what Paul wrote in Phil. 2:3-11?

    Read 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1.

      9. Compare what Paul says here to what he said in Rom. 14.

    Extra Training: Read 1 Cor. 9:1-11:1 as a whole so that you get the entire context. Note how Paul modeled this attitude.

      10. Sharing question: Think of some of the rights we enjoy in our country. What right could you give up in order to better show your love for others? Is there anything you can sacrifice in order to reach another person for Jesus? What about things that you may not call rights, but things that you enjoy—your own time, your possessions, your privileges? Explain your answer.

      11. Responding to God: If you were clueless as to an answer to the previous question, pray for God to show you something specific in your life. If you did, pray for the grace to give up that right. Write down your thoughts.

    Days Three and Four Study (Do what you can on Day 3 and finish on Day 4.)

    I think we all enjoy saying positive words to others! It gets a bit more difficult when we have to rebuke someone if we are to truly care for them. Somehow we want that to be someone else’s job; however, God has given us the care of the community of faith and we are responsible to love them enough to tell them that they are going in the wrong direction. Let’s look at it in Paul’s letters.

    Read 1 Cor. 5:1-13.

      12. What sin in this man (1 Cor. 5:1) and what sin in the church itself (1 Cor. 5:2) did Paul admonish? Why was he so concerned about it (1 Cor. 5:6)?

    Extra Training: Read Jesus’ principles for rebuking another believer in Matt. 7:1-5; 18:15-20. Feel free to read any commentary on these passages. You may be interested in the Peacemaker Ministries website for help with such situations.6

    Read Galatians 2:11-14.

      13. Whom did Paul reprove this time? In light of what you read in Galatians on Day One of this week’s study (see #2 and #3), why was he so concerned with these actions, especially by these particular people?

      14. Write down your insights into how the following verses apply to rebuke:

          a. Gal. 6:1

          b. Eph. 4:25

          c. Col. 3:16-17

          d. 1 Thess. 5:14 (Your weekly verse!)

          e. Psalm 141:5 a, b

      15. Responding to God: Pray Psalm 141:5 a, b in the previous question (e) for yourself. Write out the verses putting your name in them.

    The purpose of rebuking a brother or sister is restoration. In love we rebuke so the person turns around and goes in a positive direction, God’s direction.

    Read 2 Cor. 7:6-12. The letter Paul mentions (v.8) is missing; therefore, we are not certain about the specifics of the rebuke.

      16. What connection did Paul’s previous letter of reprimand have to their restoration?

      17. Read Rom. 2:3-4. In this section of Romans Paul reveals the sin of those who consider themselves “good”, at least much better than others. Consider v. 4. How should we look like God when we attempt to restore others?

      18. Sharing question: Has anyone ever reprimanded you in love for your words or actions (someone other than your mom or dad)? How did you receive it? Or perhaps you had to go to someone you loved and rebuke her. What was most difficult about it? How did she receive your words? Tell the story without sharing the specifics, including the identity of the other person.

      19. Responding to God: Ask God to move you to love someone enough to go to her and help restore her to fellowship with God. If there is someone right now in your life who needs a word of truth in love, pray for her. Then, act on that prayer. You may want to get the prayer support of other mature believers before you go. Journal about this.

      20. Sharing question: Write down what God showed you in the previous question and share it with your group. If you went to this person, share in general what happened. If you have not gone, share your plans and make yourself accountable to the group to follow through.

    Day Five Study

    This week we have considered how Paul supported and loved those in the community of faith. He could have easily gone off to other cities and forgotten those left behind; instead, he continued to check on them himself or through others, and he wrote letters of encouragement as needed. Paul fulfilled his responsibility to the community. Today, we will look at one more way that he encouraged them.

    Read Romans 16:3-16.

      21. In what ways did Paul support and encourage believers in this passage?

      22. Compare Colossians 4:7-15, and write down your insights.

    Extra Training: Read 1 Thess. 1:2-10; 2 Thess. 1:3-4; Philemon 1:4-7 and consider how Paul encouraged these believers in a similar way.

      23. Sharing question: In what ways have others encouraged and cared for you? What has been most helpful?

      24. Write a note of encouragement right now to someone who ministers to you!

      25. Responding to God: Spend several minutes silently before God. Ask him to show you someone else who needs your encouragement today. Perhaps there is someone in your small group of women doing this study that needs support or care. Does she need to hear truth, perhaps a reminder that God does truly love her when she doesn’t believe it? Does she need a loving rebuke? Does she need you to give up something for her—time, money, possessions? Does she need you to simply write or call her, letting her know that you remember where she is in her race? Ask God for insight, and then respond accordingly.

      26. Sharing question: Share with your group what you did after God spoke to you.

    This week we have two wonderful stories, both from missionaries. First is the story of a woman who went through a very difficult period. In the midst of her struggle to trust God, a friend gave her some simple encouragement that spurred her on in her race. Our second story is from a missionary who believed that she was called in community to speak truth to another believer out of love.

    Story of a Real Runner: Rose

    Five years ago, while going through menopause, I had the hardest six months of my life. My daughter got engaged, and we began planning a big wedding. Then, my son was diagnosed with a mental illness. Then, my mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease with less than six months to live. Then my husband had emergency surgery. Then two young men, whom my husband and I had practically raised, began a heated doctrinal controversy in the church. Then, the church purchased a building, but neighbors brought a lawsuit against us. I was so angry at God, not that He didn’t have the right to bring any one of these experiences into my life, but that He sovereignly chose to do it all within a six month period! I doubted His Word; hadn’t He had given me more than I could bear?

    I wish I could say that I prayed and talked things through with Him like I had in other difficult moments, but I didn’t want to pray! However, I did not try to hide the fact that I was spiritually arid. So other people prayed for me. Because of their prayers, the Holy Spirit got through to me and renewed my thought life. My turning point came when, in a prosaic conversation with a friend, I suddenly began to weep for no apparent reason. I felt embarrassed and apologetic, but she said, “With all you have been going through, you need a good cry.” It was God who arranged for me to finally break down with a friend who has the gift of mercy. She said very little, but what she did say were definitely words the Lord had given her. From that point on, I was ready to honestly express my feelings to God. Once our dialogue was re-established, it didn’t take long before I asked Him to forgive me for my lack of faith and bring me to a new level of experience and relationship with Him even if that involved further pain. It became a daily choice I had to make.

    The hot flashes and mood swings lasted another two years; the wedding was beautiful, but it was sad to give our girl away; my son still has a mental illness; my mother died; the two young men left the church in protest; the church lost one court case and has another pending; my husband got hernias from moving the church too soon after his operation and had to have further surgery! The only miracle that happened during those six months happened in me.

    Story of a Real Runner: Gloria

    We first met Mary when we were serving in Bolivia in 1982 (just weeks after our 26 year old son died in an accident). Mary, along with her husband accepted the Lord shortly after we met. After a few years of enjoying wealth and the "good life", however her life, marriage, and health all went to pieces.

    As God works, although we were then living in the U.S., we "happened" to be visiting Bolivia at various times of crisis in her life. I was able to talk very openly with Mary because she knew I loved her and wanted God's best for her life. At times this meant calling her attention to things in her life that were not God-honoring. God was my only source of wisdom in knowing what to say and do, and she never resented what I said. We always prayed together.

    The years past and she and her husband were divorced. I kept assuring Mary of my love and God's unconditional love for her. She started growing in her Christian faith, had a deep hunger for the Lord and His Word and continued to grow spiritually by leaps and bounds.  God allowed our close relationship to continue, at times by email, phone, skype or she would come and visit us. In March she flew us to Costa Rica, where she is living, so that Dave could perform the religious ceremony of her son's wedding (he and his wife are dynamic Christians). What a joy and privilege that was!

    Mary came to the place in her life where she knew God was calling her to serve Him; the more she heard about Wycliffe Bible Translators (more from others than from us), she wanted to get involved in getting God's Word to people in their heart language. In a miraculous way, she is now employed by our International Administration to be a full-time consultant/administrator specifically in the "Last Language Initiative" recently launched.  She is thrilled and rejoicing in this exciting area of ministry. We are also excited...and so thankful!  God is indeed faithful. Let's remember to not give up on anyone but keep trusting HIM, even for the impossible.

    Moms Running the Race (by Susan)

    Paul’s example of pouring out his heart and life in ministry is a model for all believers but especially for moms. We are called to teach and share the truth with our children. We give up our rights and sometimes things we enjoy in order to fulfill our calling as moms. We learn to speak the truth in love to our children and to others. We also learn to encourage our children and let them know that we are there for them.

    I have written out a series of questions for moms based on this lesson. Ask yourself the following as you think about the implications of this lesson.

    Are you teaching your children the truth? Are you helping them learn to be discerning and to compare/contrast what they hear with the word of God?

    Are you adjusting your schedule and priorities in order to do what God has called you to do as a mom?

    Are you speaking the truth in love to your children? Will they learn from you how to be truthful without being antagonistic or argumentative?

    Are you encouraging your children and looking for things they are doing well?

    What about your husband? Are you adjusting your schedule and priorities to meet his needs? Are you honest with him? Are you encouraging him and thanking him for his provision, his leadership, and his faithfulness to you and to your children?

    Action step: Select one of the questions above and write out something you can do to improve in an area of weakness. For example, “I will look for something each day for which I can thank my husband (or children) in order to encourage them.”

Related Topics: Fellowship, Character Study, Curriculum

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