Derailed by a Failure of Nerve (Exodus 32)

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 Interacting with the Sermon
Synopsis of the Sermon
The United States along with the rest of the world is living in an age of anxiety. The events of 9/11 were for us shattering, changing things forever. We now live with a constant sense of terror and terrorism. There are economic shock waves across the globe, threatening our jobs, our finances, our homes and our futures. The speed of change we experience today—socially and technologically—is totally unique to the 21st century and only adds to our anxiety. We are overwhelmed by information and data. We cannot keep up! Nothing feels stable or reliable upon which we can stand.  In times of great anxiety, like today, the temptation is to look for easy answers and quick fixes.
Aaron was a leader in a time of anxiety and like other weak leaders, he looked for a quick fix to pressures and problems. When the people grew impatient for Moses to return from Mt. Sinai and demanded that Aaron do something, he made them a golden calf. We today are no different. We grow tired of waiting on God to solve our problems. We want a solution and we want it now. We look for quick fixes and as a result, are taken in by “leaders” who promise us fast and easy answers to complex issues. Aaron, like other weak leaders, was more concerned about pleasing the people than pleasing God. We see his focus was always on “the people, the people, the people.” When our primary concern is pleasing people, we most likely will not speak the truth, draw the line and hold others accountable. In contrast to Aaron, Moses was a strong leader with nerve. He was willing to confront the people and destroy their false solution. Finally, weak leaders like Aaron blame other people for the problem. In contrast, Moses didn’t blame the people—in fact Moses prayed for the people. Jesus, who is the greatest Leader of all, surpassed both Aaron and Moses. He is our great High Priest and our perfect Substitute. What is most needed today, in the world and in the church, are leaders with nerve—leaders like Jesus.
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?
·      Do you see yourself in the story of Aaron? If so, in what ways? Describe some of your “weaknesses.” How do you feel the Lord may be calling you to change—to develop some nerve?
Scripture Study
Study Goal: Failure of nerve did not characterize the Apostle Paul’s leadership. As a result, he did not derail, but finished the job God called him to do. There is much we can learn from his example to help us as we face problems, challenges and opposition. May we, like Paul, finish what God has called us to do!
Context: 2 Timothy is one of three “pastoral” letters Paul wrote to individuals concerning the care of the church. These letters were written near the end of Paul’s life—probably during his last imprisonment at Rome. They are loaded with instructions and exhortations, warnings and encouragements. Timothy, the recipient of both 1 & 2 Timothy, was a young apprentice of Paul’s who had accompanied him on missionary travels. Paul had left Timothy in charge at the church in Ephesus as he traveled on to Macedonia because of problems there. Timothy was from both Greek and Jewish backgrounds and had been greatly influenced by the faith of his Jewish mother. He therefore, was familiar with the scripture (our Old Testament) which was customarily taught to young Jewish boys. Despite Timothy’s age, Paul essentially urges him not to have a “failure of nerve” but to lead the church at Ephesus with diligence, following Paul’s example.
Read 2 Timothy 3:10-17
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Cross references:
·      Take a moment to refer back to Acts 13-14 to review Paul’s experiences there. What does Paul want Timothy to consider, as he faces challenges as the pastor/leader of the church at Ephesus? What does this tell you about the things God may expect from us as believers and leaders? Think back over your Christian life. Whose example has been most inspiring to you and why? Consider your situation now. Who in your life may be looking to you as an example? What are some of the things you would want them to consider about you? What perhaps are some things you’d prefer they ignore?
·      According to v.12-13, what should we expect when we faithfully follow after Jesus? What kind of people did Paul warn Timothy to expect to encounter that may give him trouble? What kinds of people give you the most trouble and why?
·      What do you think Paul meant by “persecution?” What are some examples of persecution today? Do you believe you have experienced persecution for being a Christian? Describe. List the things in this passage Paul says that are encouragements to us when we encounter persecution—things that give us strength/help us to not “lose our nerve.”
·      Paul squarely points Timothy to the bible as key to success (vv.14-17). Why do you think Paul does this? How does Paul instruct Timothy to use the scripture? We are all very familiar with using the scripture for teaching purposes. Share some examples from your own life of how you (or someone you know) have used the scripture to rebuke someone? To correct someone? To train someone?
·      Paul concludes this section by telling Timothy that the scripture will “thoroughly equip” him. What do you think that means? How the scripture thoroughly equip us and how have you experienced this in your own life?

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.
  • Perhaps there is a specific situation/relationship in your life right now where you are on the verge of “failing to have nerve.” Maybe it is with a family member, or someone at work or in your class at school or a close friend. What choices are you facing in this situation? What does the scripture have to say to your specific situation? What do you believe God wants you to do—how can you be a Moses and not an Aaron in your situation?
  • Perhaps you see a pattern in your life—certain kinds of people tend to intimidate you, causing you to lose your nerve and make weak and disastrous decisions. Can you identify a pattern and describe the reason for your feelings of intimidation? If Paul were writing a letter to you, what do you imagine would be some of his words of encouragement?