SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
As part of the freedom we experience in Christ, our attitude and our sense of gratitude are no longer bound to our circumstances. We are free from external circumstances determining the posture of our heart and perspective of life. In Philippians 4:2-9, the apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of viewing our lives as part of a larger story, and as such, we have the choice to rejoice and be grateful no matter what.
GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
1. What is the happiest moment of your life?
2. Have you ever gone through a difficult situation in your life and yet experienced the freedom to be joyful and grateful? Briefly share your experience.
3. As you have grown in your knowledge of Jesus, how have your reactions towards adversity changed?
4. As a young girl or boy, what were your favorite movies? Did you ever role-play with your friends and pretended to be part of that story?
5. How have you experienced Christ’s freedom in this past week? Have you become more aware of these freedoms?
INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
1. Briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Briefly explain.
2. Read Acts 16:16-34
“16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.”
• Briefly explain Paul’s interaction with the slave girl. (vv. 16-18) What was this girl declaring about Paul and the rest of the men? Why would this upset Paul? Why was he willing to sacrifice his well-being to free this girl?
• What was Paul and Silas’ response to being severely flogged and thrown into prison? (v.25) Have you ever experienced a similar response to adverse circumstances in your life? Briefly share your experience.
• What was the “greater story” taking place in this moment of Paul and Silas’ life? For what purpose did God allow them to be imprisoned? Have you ever been in a situation where you freely chose to suffer for a greater good? Briefly share your experience.
• What impact do you think Paul and Silas’ worship had on the rest of the prisoners? As one of those prisoners, what would your perception of Paul and Silas had been before the earthquake occurred? How about after the earthquake?
• What was the jailer’s reaction once he realized Paul and Silas were still there? (vv. 29-30). How did he know Paul and Silas knew the way to salvation? What does this tell you about the effect our worship and praise can have on other people?
• As a result of Paul and Silas’ actions, how many lives were impacted for the kingdom of God? Have you ever had the privilege to impact someone’s life for Christ through your pain and suffering? Briefly share your experience.
3. In his sermon, Andy reminds us that even though we are part of a larger story, our joy and gratitude should also be rooted in real life.
• What blessings in your life speak of a greater story?
• What patterns of God’s activity can you recognize in your life?
• Are you free to rejoice and give thanks in your day-to-day life?
• Take time in your small group to share and pray for each other.