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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
In this week’s sermon, pastor Rich continued in his life together series, this time drawing from 2 Timothy chapter 4 and speaking on the topic of loneliness. In Paul’s letter we get a sense of the kind of loneliness that Paul was dealing with as a result of the circumstances of his life and ministry. It is a very personal letter. First exhorting Timothy to preach the truth of the gospel, but then, reaching out to Timothy expressing his personal experiences of loneliness. We can often deal with circumstances that make us lonely, that are not unlike the kinds that Paul was dealing with. Paul was going through a transitional time in his life, many of his friends had left or gone on to other place to do ministry, he had to deal with issues of betrayel as well as feeling a general sense of isolation that preaching the gospel can cause. These are all ways that caused Paul and can cause us to feel a sense of loneliness. But there are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with circumstances like this. We can escape into addictions, entertainment or materialism or, as Paul does in this text, we can reach out and engage with others or participate in something constructive, especially reading and spending time with the Lord. All of these things can combat feelings of isolation or loneliness and reinforce the truth that God is present with us always even if we can’t feel it.
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.
•Was there anything Rich said in his sermon that stood out to you? Briefly share.
•Has there ever been a time when you felt particularly isolated or lonely? What were the circumstances surrounding that time?
•What are some friendships that you have that you really draw strength from?
Ecclesiastes 4: 4-12(TNIV):
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 5 Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves.
6 Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: 8 There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil,yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business!
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 0 If they fall down they can help each other up. But pity those who fall and have no one to help them up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Context – At its core Ecclesiastes is searching for the key to the meaning of life. The teacher finds in his life that humans are limited in their perspective and only God knows the whole truth of things. God alone holds the key and we must trust Him. Although marked with pessimism, the book of Ecclesiastes has another strand that holds forth the possibility of joy, faith and assurance of God’s goodness. Ecclesiastes is a great reminder of the daily need to submit and surrender our lives to the Lord and let go of our personal ambitions to conform with the ambitions of God. In Chapter 4 we see some of life’s hardships but also that companionship and trust in the Lord is extremely worthwhile.
•v. 4 – What do these verses say about our motivations and personal achievements? How can envy damage relationships? How can our ambitions lead us to isolation and loneliness? What does “holy ambition” look like? How should we treat our neighbors? How can our ambitions be less self centered and more pleasing to the Lord as well as more beneficial for those around us?
•v. 6 – Think about your own life and all the activities you take part in. Do you feel like both of your hands are filled with toil or do you have one hand free and available to the Lord and to your community? What kinds of things have filled your hands and prevent you from being available to lend a hand to those around you?
•v. 8 – A man is without family and friends, yet is very wealthy and successful. Are we wrong to want to be successful and have ambition? What is the difference between having ambition that is pleasing to the Lord and ambition that goes against the will of God? How does this look in your life? Do you ever feel like you are neglecting friends and family for something less significant? How can we achieve a healthy balance of hard work and deep relationships?
•Vv. 9-12 – Summarize all the ways that two are better then one. What plagues those who are alone? Are there any behaviors or regularly occurring circumstances that make you feel lonely and isolated? What about those times gives you a sense of loneliness? Think back to Rich’s sermon as well as your own personal experiences. What are some ways that we can overcome these times of loneliness?
•What kinds of relationships do you have in your life, which embody verses 9-12? How can you continue to foster the health and growth of those relationships?
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.
•As a group, take some time to meditate in silence about God and after several moments take time to share any words or pictures people may have received from the Lord.
•In what ways do you feel like you are not submitting to God’s will for your life and instead, pursuing your own ideas of success and achievement? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal those places and receive prayer for the desire to submit those areas of striving to the Lord.
• What thoughts and behaviors do you engage in that make you vulnerable to loneliness? Ask the Lord to curb these tendencies and give you a significant desire to pursue community.