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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
In this week’s sermon, Pastor Rich Nathan introduced us to seemingly ordinary and marginal people who surprised almost everyone by their amazing contributions. The story of Ehud from Judges 3 is no different. The book of Judges reveals an important pattern in the life of Israel and Pastor Rich offers these two mnemonic aids – (4 R’s) Israel’s Rebellion, God’s Retribution, Israel’s Repentance, God’s Rescue or (4 S’s) Israel’s Sin, Israel’s Subjection, Israel’s Supplication, Israel’s Salvation. Whatever device you use to remember the cycle – the fact is that Israel is on a life-deadening, boring, predictable treadmill of rebellion, and repentance, and rebellion and repentance. Like Israel, we get stuck on sin’s treadmill and the only way off is to “walk out repentance” – right foot, left foot, etc. In Judges 3 we see God grabbing Israel’s attention by allowing King Eglon (a picture of depravity) to rule over them. This was painful, yet God uses painful and humbling circumstances to raise our dependence on Him and off of everything else – Like Paul (2 Cor 12). Pain can increase our longing for God and our assurance that we belong to Him. Pain can also align us with the Gospel, ultimately with Christ. Through unification with Christ, God’s Grace can invade our lives (Rom 5:20-21). Judges 3 ends by revealing Ehud, disabled and seemingly weak, as God’s unexpected deliverer. The lesson is God doesn’t heal us and then use us. Rather, he uses us precisely at the time we feel most weak, when we feel like we have nothing to say, that’s when God uses us to powerfully share our faith. When we feel like all these people are so much smarter than us, they’re more educated that us, when we feel utterly intimidated, that’s precisely the time the power of God will rest on you
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.
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.
•Can you share a story of when you were used by God at a weak moment in your life? Please share briefly.
•Has anything inspired you recently or motivated your passions in an unexpected way? Please share briefly.
•Share briefly a story or a verse that you regularly use as a source of strength through difficult circumstances.
Read Acts 9:10-19 Study Summary:
John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, once said, “we’re all just change in God’s pocket – he can spend us as he likes”. No matter who we are or where we come from, God can use us for mighty and powerful purposes. Ananias is an example of such a man. His simple, yet brave, act of obedience altered the course of history through the future witness of the Apostle Paul. Every day, God leads us in big and small ways and call us toward obedience. While we may never fully understand all the plans and purposes of why God leads us, we’ll certainly never know unless we obey Him.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Context: Read all of Acts 9. Paul is still Saul at the beginning of Ch. 9 – “the hard-line, fanatical, ultra-nationalist, super-orthodox, Pharisaic Jew” (NT Wright). He appears earlier at Stephen’s stoning, end of Ch. 7, and in an unprecedented move the High Priest gives authority to the radical young Pharisee to “stamp out” Christ-believing Jews, even in foreign countries. Saul marches off to Damascus, roughly a 140-mile 2 week journey, to arrest Christians. Step into the narrative of the story – he’s zealous for the Lord, “breathing murderous threats”, leading a Jewish jihad, when just outside the city (v. 3) Jesus powerfully invades his life. Consider Paul’s mindset and attitude, imagine the buzz surrounding his bold actions back in Jerusalem and in Damascus (Christ-believing Jews in Damascus knew Saul was coming – vv.13-14).
•This passage may provide an opportunity to have one or two people share briefly their first encounter with Jesus. Was it similar to Saul’s? Was it as surprising and revolutionary for their life? Share briefly.
•v. 10 What do we learn about Ananias? It’s hard to believe any Christians actually remained in Damascus because Saul was coming, but Ananias did. What does that tell you about him? What might you have done?
o Can you think of a time when you could anticipate a confrontation was coming your way – either in school, at work, with a friend or neighbor – because of your faith in Christ, or because you had taken a stand on some controversial issue? Focus on what you wanted to do and what you felt God wanted you to do? Share briefly. Is there is situation you’re currently in where you feel that conflict?
oHow does Ananias respond to God’s voice? (Hint: “yes”, “Here I am Lord”). Do you notice an openness and responsiveness to God’s voice? How would you rate yourself on your openness to God’s voice? Are you in a place, and does your life have space, to hear God speak? Briefly, share something recent God has been revealing to you.
•vv.11-14 What does Jesus ask Ananias to do? Is there any doubt about the task? What’s Ananias’ response? Modern day parallel – a religiously devout Muslim (or Hindu) man moves into your neighborhood and you’ve heard from everyone that he hates Christians and people are scared and suspicious oh his behavior…God tells you to go to into his house to talk with him – how rational is this request? What are some things that might seem un-rational to you, but as a follower of Jesus, Christ might ask of you? What about making your faith public? Ministry to immigrants? Prison ministry? Missions? Working with the homeless or those who are trafficked?
o Notice Ananias’ dialogue with God. When you pray – do you have a dialogue or a monologue with God? Are you quiet and then respond to what God is doing to saying? Is it wrong to question God? How might that kind of prayer affect your prayer life? If it’s already present – what does it practically look like for you?
•vv. 15-16 Bonhoeffer wrote – “when Christ calls someone, He bids them come and die” – so it was with Saul, so it was with Ananias. So it is with you too. What has God spoken to you about where there was no answer, but “okay Lord”?
•vv 17-19 What does Ananias say to Saul when he sees him? Ananias treats Saul like he’s part of the family…while Ananias had special revelation about Saul, he still had a choice about his demeanor and words. What can we learn from his approach? Does it matter how we live-out God’s call on our lives with others?
Conclusion: Ananias had no idea the impact this one act of obedience would have on the history of the world…nor do we know all the implications of our faithful actions when God moves us to act. Regardless, God uses ordinary people to make massive impact. God can use your seemingly small act of obedience to potentially alter the course of History.
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
•Is there anything you believe God is asking of you? Pray with someone for faithful obedience. If there is any fear or doubt about God’s call, confess it to another and pray with someone about those issues.
•Are you struggling to hear God’s voice? Pray with someone for the Holy Spirit to open your ears and heart. Be will to have God confront things in your life that may be blocking his voice.