SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
The sermon opens with a cultural analysis about how Americans view marriage and divorce – Pastor Rich says we live in an uncommitted age. He introduces a concept called “expressive individualism”. The sermon focuses on Ruth, but highlights 2 other major characters in Ruth’s story to illustrate commitment. Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, runs from his commitments. We might run from commitments because: our circumstances are hard; our relationships are fragile; or our feelings are paramount. Naomi complains about her commitments but not to God. There is a place in scripture for bringing complaints to God (consider Job). Ruth models commitment. She clings to Naomi. A committed person understands that to live well, they need to understand that endurance is a call, and that difficulties are a part of life, God empowers us to keep commitments. We need to regularly pray about commitments. And we need prayer and accountability from community to keep our commitment.
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. In the midst of fulfilling a commitment to someone, have you ever found yourself wanting to quit? How did you deal with those feelings?
2. When you think about the word “commitment” is there a person that comes to mind? If so, who is that person and why do you perceive him/her as a committed person ?
3. How important is commitment in our culture today? Where do you see a high value placed on commitment and where do you see a relatively low value placed on commitment? What does that say about our culture? Are you in-step or out-of-step with our culture’s prevailing values and practices?
INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
1. In 5 minutes or less, 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? Explain.
2. Read 1 Peter 4: 12 – 19
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
• “Do not be surprised.” (v. 12) The KJV version says “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial.” This suggests trials are part of Christian living. What does this mean to you? Why do we experience fiery ordeals? How does this connect us to Jesus? Have there been times in your own life where you have experienced fiery ordeals? Share.
• What are the three ways we ought to respond to fiery ideals? (vv. 12-13) How do these responses, in your opinion, help us stay committed to the cause of Christ when facing difficult circumstances?
• The New American Standard Bible (NASB) tells us to “Keep on rejoicing.” (v. 13) Is Christian joy based on circumstances? If not, what is it based on? What does it mean for us to “share the sufferings of Christ? How is the sharing of the suffering of Christ described in Peter’s letter? (I Peter 1: 18 – 19; 2: 21-24; 3:18)
• Did you notice that the suffering may come in the form of verbal insults, and that verbal suffering is real? (vv. 14) Perhaps you can think of a time when you were insulted because of your faith in Christ. With this in mind, what do you think it means that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you?” (v. 14) Do you think this is significant in helping us to maintain our commitments? Discuss.
• The text provides instructions for how we are to suffer as Christians. (vv. 15-16) How can we avoid feeling ashamed when the time of suffering comes? (v. 16)
• What do vv. 17-18 say about judgment and salvation? What are those who reject the gospel called? In contrast to the “ungodly and the sinner”, what does the faith of the believer look like? What are we to keep doing?
• If you are a believer, in the end what can you be sure your commitment to do good leads to? (I Peter 4:19, 3:17; 2: 21, Revelation 6: 9 – 11; Matthew 16:21; Luke 13:33, John 7:30 Acts 9: 15-16; 14: 21-22).
3. In the sermon, Pastor Rich shared “we never experience the joys and sweetness that God wants to bring in our lives by quitting..” As we approach this Holiday season, there may be persons in your group who are exhausted from the rigors of the year, or may be in need of encouragement, wisdom, and strength. Still others may be convicted by the quality of their commitment to God, relationships, or even other responsibilities. During your prayer time, encourage one another to share and invite the Holy Spirit to minister in these respective areas. Remind them that the reason we have small groups here at Vineyard is for them to be in an environment where they can turn to someone and seek prayer and support.