Synopsis of the Sermon
Have you ever had a life experience that made you question whether or not you wanted to continue on with God? A significant loss perhaps–something that caused you to feel the price for discipleship had gotten too high! That is what is happening in John 6. What we see in this passage is that God tests us. In fact, God tests people all the time. In the bible there are over 200 examples of God testing people. God tested Adam and Eve, and they failed. God tested Abraham, and he passed. God tested Joseph, and he passed, but tested David and he failed. God tested Ruth, Esther and Daniel, and they all passed. We can be sure that God will also test us.
There are different kinds of tests. There is the test of companionship–will you still be my friend if I don’t give you what you want. We see this test in Job 1:8-11 where Satan tells God that the only reason Job is faithful is because God gives him everything he wants. (God then tests Job with probably some of the severest testing in the entire bible.)
There is the test of calling, where God calls us to something but we are presented with an attractive alternative–something that won’t cost us as must as following the Lord.
Then there is the test of confusion, where we simply do not understand God, what He means and why He is doing what He is doing. We see this in the narrative of John 6. Those listening to Jesus talk about bread, and His flesh and His blood are becoming more and more confused. Has God ever done something that you find downright confusing–something that leaves you asking, “Why God?” To be puzzling and mysterious is part of the nature of being God. There is a difference when we are faced with confusion between DEMANDING understanding and DESIRING it. Prov. 3:5-6 instructs us to trust God even when our own understanding may be lacking. And in 2 Cor. 4:8, Paul actually gives us permission to be “perplexed.”
Finally there is the test of cost–the price of following Jesus has just become too high for us. In John 6, Jesus warns them that if they are offended by the notion of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, they will find themselves even more offended when He is one day “lifted up” and crucified on the cross! So the question to us becomes, “Do you want to leave, too?” We wrongly assume that the longer we walk with the Lord the easier it will get. But suddenly, the cost increases, the incline becomes steeper and we are not sure we want to continue.
In conclusion, those who have truly tasted and experienced the goodness and love of the Lord will return, despite the hurt, the confusion, the unanswered questions and the cost.
How appropriate in a week following the deadly mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, when our nation is reeling and grieving and asking why, that we turn to the scriptures to learn how through the ages the people of God have dealt with the hard tests of life.
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?
- Which of the tests from this week’s sermon seemed most relevant to your life right now and why? Which test do you feel is the hardest or has been the hardest to “pass?” Explain.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-12
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
Paul wrote extensively to the church at Corinth, mostly because of their need for correction and instruction. He visited them and had a special concern for their wellbeing. The passage we are looking at here is in the heart of this letter, perhaps the most important section. Paul is describing the true nature of the Christian life–with all of its ups and downs, sufferings and rewards. He does this to set them (and us) straight–to help us dis-spell myths and embrace truth about what it really means to follow Jesus.
- Paul begins this section by declaring “we do not lose heart.” What does it mean to you to “lose heart?” List all the reasons Paul gives in verses 1-6 for why we should not lose heart. Which one is the most meaningful to you personally right now and why?
- How does Paul describe the Christian life in verse 7? Jars of clay were common, everyday pots used in the first century for almost any household purpose, but they were easily broken–very fragile. What do you think Paul is getting at here by using this imagery to describe us? Paul always means to encourage in his letters, so how is this encouraging to us?
- How does Paul describe the average Christian life in verse 8-9? How does this differ from many popular Christian messages today of victory and prosperity? Which part of this description best describes how you feel right now and why?
- Paul concludes this section of the letter by talking about the “death of Jesus” and the “life of Jesus.” [The death of Jesus is His suffering and death. Jesus told us that following Him meant we would follow in His footsteps and pick up OUR cross, too! The life of Jesus is His resurrection! It is only when we truly share in Jesus’ suffering by experiencing our own suffering that we can then experience the resurrection power of His life in us. It is why we can be hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and even struck down but we will not be destroyed–we will not “lost heart!”] What do you think these two phrases refer to? In verse 10 Paul says we always carry with us the death of Jesus so that His life may be revealed in us. What do you think he means? Have you ever experienced this apparent “contradiction”–that while facing hardships and sufferings and tests, you have God’s joy and peace and assurance inside you? Describe.
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.
- It is likely that many in the group are facing tests in their lives and they feel overwhelmed–perplexed, hard pressed, even struck down. Allow people to share and then invite the Holy Spirit to come and impart comfort, truth, strength and life in the midst of the “death.” Remind the group that we are the jars of clay–He is the treasure.