Synopsis of the Sermon
Pastor Rich began by asking a couple of questions, “what is a parent’s responsibility concerning their children? And how do you know if you’ve succeeded as a parent? While there are many areas of life parents give energy for and offer wisdom to their kids, Pastor Rich focused his message on encouraging a child’s spiritual life. The Bible has two words for life – bios = biological life and zoe = spiritual life.
First off, our children need models and the means of modeling should not be “do as I say”, but “do as I do”. This was the example of Paul (1 Tim 1:4-5, 2 Tim 2:10-14), but 1 Sam 3:1-2 Eli, as a father, failed the test of modeling. He “ran out of gas” spiritually. Rich encouraged us (parents) to finish the race well (Acts 20:24, 1 Cor 9:24, 2 Tim 4:7). The most basic parenting rule is “maintain your own spiritual life”!
The next point made was the importance of listening to God. Eli actually did this well (1 Sam 3:9-10) when he encouraged and cultivated Samuel’s spiritual life by helping him listen to God’s voice. Listening to God is a central theme of the Bible (Deut 6:4, Ps 81:8 & v.11, Jer 6:19-20). To listen to God, we must slow down and be quiet. The greatest obstacle to hearing God in the 21st century is simple busyness. We were encouraged to take time to slow down and listen to God even if it’s just 5 minutes. Try employing Samuel’s simple prayer in 1 Sam 3:9 – “speak, Lord, you servant is listening”.
Finally, as quote from Christian Smith’s seminal study on teens called Souls in Transition – there are five main factors that contribute to sustained Christian faith in the teen years: 1) strong parental faith, 2) a teen who has personal spiritual experiences, 3) a teen who frequently prays and reads the Bible, 4) a teen who has their questions about faith thoughtfully answered, 5) a teen who has many adults in their church to turn to for help and support. How might we help stand in the gap for our kids?
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?
- Did your parents do anything well to encourage your faith? If so, please share briefly.
Read Psalm 130 (NIV)
A song of ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
Context You might notice this psalm has the header “a song of ascents”. This psalm is part of a collection of psalms that would have been read, most likely out loud, as pilgrims made the journey up to Jerusalem for the main festivals and holy days, as well as when they would travel to the temple to offer sacrifices. Therefore, Psalm 130 would have been read by the everyday traveler and the common man or woman. This is not an extraordinary text that was meant for the super passionate or spiritually mature alone. Psalm 130 expresses the spiritual needs of anyone actively on the journey to find and meet with God. In this study we will review the practice of waiting on God – particularly ending with a chance to be silent together and listen to God’s verse. The psalms of Ascent have been written about extensively, and one particular book to check out is Eugene Peterson’s A long obedience in the same direction.
- Rich asked a simple question in the message, when was the last time you had space in your life to sit quietly and listen for God to speak? If it’s recent, please describe that time and how you prepared for it. If it’s been a long while, why do you avoid or resist silence?
- (vv 1-2) In what spiritual condition does the psalmist find him/herself? The opening reveals an intense desire and need for God – how would you describe your longing for God over the last weeks or months? Strong and significant or hollow and faint?
- What do you make of this following quote:
Ruth Haley Barton writes in Sacred Rhythms… “it is your desire for God and your capacity to reach for more of God than you have right now that is the deepest essence of who you are. There is a place within each one of us that is spiritual in nature [ZOE], the place where God’s Spirit witnesses with our spirit about our truest identity. Here God’s Spirit dwells with our spirit, and here our truest desires make themselves known. From this place we cry out to God for deeper union with him and with others. (Pg 24)
- Have you been neglecting the true state of your heart? Your true identity in Christ?
- (vv. 3-4) What does the psalmist call to mind about God? How does this help orient one’s heart toward the Lord?
- (vv. 5-6) Verses 3-4 put the spiritual seeker in a humble, yet anticipatory, posture to meet with God. Now this hunger for God is fully expressed. What imagery is evoked in these verses? Has anyone every experienced a sleepless night where you’re awake waiting for the day to start – can you relate to the “watchmen waiting for the morning”? What other emotions might the realities of “night” bring up in you?
- Do you see that it’s the LORD the psalmist is waiting for and in whom he/she puts their trust? Not a particular outcome. How do we orient our hearts toward the LORD, and not in the things (as good as they might be) that the Lord gives?
- (v. 7-8) Now, we read a prayer for the whole community of Israel to hope in the LORD. Make this your prayer together as a small group – that your whole community would “put their hope in the Lord”.
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.
- In an effort to foster a deeper hunger and capacity to wait for the Lord, try the following exercise. At this point invite everyone to participate in waiting silently on the LORD for 5-10 minutes. Silence allows us to free ourselves from the addiction to and distraction of noise so we can be totally present to the Lord. “…Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
First, invite the Spirit and pray together briefly. Second, set a timer so you don’t cut it short and don’t go too long. Maybe even bring paper and pens so that people can write down anything the Lord speaks.
Next instruct the group how to enter into a silent space with God…for example – “intentionally place themselves in the presence of God and become quiet. As you become quiet what do you hear: your breath, your heart, and cars on the road, distracting thoughts? Let the noise go. Continue to let the quiet deepen. Be with God. Gently return to God by repeating “Here I am ~ I wait for you”…Listen for His voice, His thoughts…
If there is time, come back together and share what happened during the exercise. What is it like for you? What distracts you?
Encourage each other to spend 5-10 minutes each day this next week in silence with God. Next week ask, “What did you find out about quieting your soul?”
Consider exploring further with the books Invitation to Solitude and Silence or Sacred Rhythms both by Ruth Haley Barton or The awakened Heart by Gerald May.