Doubting God’s Goodness (Ephesians 6:10-12)

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Interacting with the Sermon
Synopsis of the Sermon
      Rich Nathan preached this weekend on doubting God’s goodness.  In the verses from Ephesians, Paul encourages the early Christians to be “strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” by clothing themselves with God’s character qualities.  By doing so, they possess the strength to take a stand against the devil.  Paul reminds his reader in vs. 12 that their struggle is not against people but against the “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  The passage goes on to compare the act of assuming God’s character by putting on armor as if one preparing for battle.  Rich made the point – When we look at the suffering of this world played against the backdrop of spiritual warfare, things make a great deal of sense.  Humans and all of creation are in the middle of a war.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to be different from the world.  Our fulfillment is not in the  “American dream” where we are pampered and have no hassles or stresses.  Rich plainly stated, “we are not on vacation, we are fighting a war”.  This war is against an enemy whose sole purpose is seeking and destroying everything that God loves.  Our God loves the world.  The enemy wants to destroy everything in the world.  That includes you- your character, your reputation, your marriage, your health, and your kids.  We know that when Christ died on the cross, it was to overthrow the kingdom of Satan (Col 2: 13-15) and this war will not be complete until he returns (1 Cor 15: 24-26).  Until then, we must rely on God’s power where God’s creation is under attack.
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.
·      What are one or two things from this weekend’s sermon that really stood out to you?
·      Share a time when you felt really cared for?  Perhaps the circumstance was unexpected or you found the person who was caring for you to be inexpected.  Did these person(s) actions make you think differently of them?   
·      How might the situation have gone if you had not been cared for?  How did being cared for make a difference?  How did it change things?  How did it change you?  How did it help you?
Scripture Study
Study Goal: The purpose of this study is to recognize the war being waged against all that God loves including our own lives.  At the end of this study, you will have discussed how following Jesus is like one going to war and how we may know God’s goodness as he desires to give us strength and power to stand against the enemy’s attacks.  
Context: The Letter of 2 Timothy presupposes that Timothy, a leader in the church in Ephesus, has been entrusted to keep the church in Ephesus on track in Paul’s absence.  Earlier in the book, Paul describes the extremely desperate situations he endured including being arrested in Asia Minor – where no one came to his aid since they were apparently ashamed of his imprisonment.  Paul writes to encourage Timothy to remain brave no matter what opposition he might face and to stay on track with their original mission of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ no matter the circumstances, and in doing so, Paul is confident he will receive God’s goodness.
Read 2 Timothy 4: 1-7
1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage —with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
·      Paul knows how difficult Timothy’s task will be as overseer in Ephesus. But he also knows the judgment of the Lord—the reward for the faithful.  What instructions does Paul give Timothy in v. 2?  In what way is Timothy to follow through with these instructions?  Why might it be significant that Timothy is told to carry out Paul’s instructions in a particular way?
·      What warning does Paul give Timothy in vv. 4 and 5?  In his sermon, Rich mentioned how the enemy will often use humans to bring about evil.  Paul specifically states, “For the time will come” as if he is predicting what will happen in the Ephesian church and as if he has seen something like this before.  Could Paul have seen the enemy use these same tactics before in other churches?  Share a way you have seen the enemy work in ways that were predictable.  What are ways we can protect ourselves from the predictable patterns of the enemy?
·      Paul provides specific instruction to Timothy in how he must act despite what evil is surrounding him.  Paul states, “But you…” as though Timothy must be radically different than the world around him, even if he (Timothy) is the only one.  What specific instruction does Paul give?  What authority does Paul have to give such bold instructions based on vv. 6 and 7? 
·      Paul calls God “the judge” (v. 1) and “the righteous judge” (v. 8).  Knowing these qualities of God, what comfort might this have given to Timothy during difficult times?
·      Judges are necessary when complex conflict is unable to be resolved by individual parties involved.  Only then, is a judge necessary for intervention and resolution.  Yet, Paul remains confident of the Lord’s reward when God judges.  What does this imply about God’s character?
            Read 2 Timothy 4: 17-18
17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
·      Paul uses powerful imagery in these two verses to describe a war being placed against him and the church.  In these verses, Paul goes on to describe the character of God despite the the attack he faced.  Paul lived a life of constant struggle marked with imprisonment, torture, and his peers being put to death based on what they believed.  What might Paul mean by “the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength?” 
·      Paul describes being delivered from the “lion’s mouth” and rescued from “EVERY evil attack.”  Who is on the attack?  Who is the aggressor in this fight?  Who is trying to take more territory? 
·      Paul describes God as being in action during Paul’s struggle.  He says the Lord “stood at my side,” “gave me strength,” “delivered,” “rescued,” and “will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.”  Describe the significance of this imagery and how it demonstrates God’s goodness.
            In Closing, Read Psalm 34

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
                    15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
                   and his ears are attentive to their cry;
               16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
                   to blot out their name from the earth.
                   17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
                   he delivers them from all their troubles.
              18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
                  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
                 19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
                  but the Lord delivers him from them all;
             20 he protects all his bones,
                 not one of them will be broken.
                21 Evil will slay the wicked;
                 the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
            22 The Lordwill rescue his servants;
                no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Ministry Application

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.
  If you’re finding yourself in the war and feeling like you need God as your rescuer – try to share openly and honestly with a few others about where things are REALLY at. 
  How is the war going for you? Are you clear that humans are not the enemy? The enemy is Satan.   Are you clear that you are not able to fight on your own? You need to be in partnership with God and then you will know God as your rescuer.  As we begin to see God in this way, we are then able to feel and see God’s goodness in our life
  What can we do to trust that God is good?  A soldier would not risk his life if he did not have confidence in his leader’s power to win the battle.  Our God is not just our leader in this war, he is our Father who has good plans for us.  How do we, who are in the middle of a battle, trust that our Father has good plans for us?
  How often do you pray for power in your life?  For strength to stand, and to withstand the assault that you are under?  How often do you pray for the release of God’s power in a situation where you see someone under assault?  How often do you pray for a release of God’s strength and power in a situation where you see what God loves being under attack?  (Leaders, ask your group these questions and then take time to pray God’s release of power where your members are under attack.) 
  Are you having difficulty trusting the goodness of God?  God wants to minister to you and show you the love He has for you.  God cares about all areas of your life but he wants to start with your heart.  Take time during prayer to ask for healing in ways you have been hurt and in ways you find it difficult to trust his goodness for you.  God wants to give you faith in the difficulty.  God wants for you to trust him.