SESSION 1GROWING DEEPER
Recently Dee asked me to run a half marathon with her-a race that would
take place in a few months. Although I wanted so much to run the race
with her, experience the excitement of being in a marathon, and spend time
with her, my initial answer to her was no. I went home thinking about why.
Why didn't I want to run this race? Eventually the reason became clear: I
wasn't willing to do what it would take beforehand to run the race well. I
wasn't willing to pay the cost of time and training in my schedule. I have
other priorities that are more important to me.
I face the same decision every day in my spiritual life. If I really want to
know Jesus Christ intimately, it takes time, energy, and the decision to let the
Holy Spirit be in control of my life. Frankly, there are many days when I don't
feel like sweating that hard! The only reason I drag out those spiritual running
shoes one more time is that I've had glimpses of the prize-knowing
Jesus. Experiencing the prize motivates me to do the tough training.
CONNECTING WITH GOD'S FAMILY 10 min.
In order to support each other in our spiritual growth, we need
to build strong connections with each other. One way we do this is
by continually sharing pieces of our lives. As we do so, keep in mind
that each of us is a work in progress and that God can work in each
of our lives. Please share your answer to question 1 below. Try to
limit your story to about a minute so we'll have plenty of time for
the rest of the study.
1. Think of a season in your life when you felt that you were really
growing spiritually. What were some of the ingredients that
helped you grow?
2. It's important for every group to agree on a set of shared values.
If your group doesn't already have an agreement (sometimes
called a covenant), turn to page 69. Even if you've been
together for some time and your values are clear, the Purpose-Driven
Group Agreement can help your group achieve greater
health and balance. We recommend that you especially consider
rotating group leadership, setting up spiritual partners, and introducing purpose teams into the group. Simply go over
the values and expectations listed in the agreement to be sure
everyone in the group understands and accepts them. Make
any necessary decisions about such issues as refreshments and
GROWING TO BE LIKE CHRIST 20-30 min.
The Bible describes the goal of our lives in various ways: to be
transformed into Christ's likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18) or to
become complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
If that's the goal, what's the process by which we get there? The
writer to the Hebrews compares the Christian life to a race:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of
witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin
that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the
race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author
and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured
the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of
the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition
from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 12:1-3
3. In this passage, what qualities do a race and the Christian life
have in common?
4. Salvation is a free gift from God through Jesus Christ. You
don't have to earn it; you just believe. Yet a race involves effort.
How do you fit together these two truths-salvation as a gift
and the Christian life as a race?
5. Greek athletes stripped down to nothing for a race so that
nothing would hinder them as they ran. (Luckily, today we
have spandex!) So when verse 1 says, "throw off everything,"
it means everything that could potentially hinder you. What are
some of the sins that can entangle you and keep you from running
the race of Christ well?
6. Even things that aren't sins can be hindrances in your race.
Money, career goals, time commitments-anything can be a
hindrance if you hold it more dearly than Jesus Christ. What
is one thing that hinders your spiritual growth?
7. Why is fixing your eyes on Jesus (verse 2) so essential?
8. Jesus focused on "the joy set before him." What joy is set before
you when you finish your race? (See, for example, Hebrews
12:22-24; Philippians 3:20-21; Isaiah 25:6-9.)
9. There are many spiritual practices that will help you stay
focused and grow deeper in your walk with Jesus. Over the next
five weeks we will review more fully each of the aspects below.
Quickly pair up with someone (men with men, women with
women) you'd enjoy connecting with, and answer the following
question: Which one or two aspects listed below would you
like to focus on in this season of your walk with Jesus? Why?
Prayer Personal time with God
Bible study Accountability
Surrendering to Journaling
the Holy Spirit
We grow in our walk with God when we experience life
together with another Christian friend or in a small group. For
the next six weeks, would you be willing to connect briefly (in
the group, by E-mail, or by telephone) to encourage another
person's spiritual growth? Ask this person now (or during the
upcoming week) if you can fill this role.
SHARING YOUR LIFE MISSION EVERY DAY 10 min.
10. We're not meant to run the race alone. It's always more motivating
to run with a pack of other runners. We need the support
of fellow runners. You probably know someone who is
struggling to run the Christian race alone. Pull an open chair
into the circle of your group. This chair represents someone
you could invite to join your group.
Who could that person be? Think about family members, friends, neighbors, parents of your kids' friends, church members, coworkers, and the persons who share your hobbies. Take
a moment now to prayerfully list one or two names, and then
share the names with your group.
• making the call this week. Why not?-over 50 percent of
those invited to a small group say yes! You may even want
to invite him or her to ride with you.
• calling your church office to get the names of new members, and inviting new members who live near you to visit
• serving your group by praying for and welcoming new
people to your group.
SURRENDERING YOUR LIFE FOR GOD'S PLEASURE 15-30 min.
You're not running the race alone! You're surrounded by a
cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1)-the generations of faithful men
and women who have gone before you. You also have fellow group
members who want to support you.
11. On page 83 you'll find a list of brief passages for daily devotions
-five per week for the six weeks of this study. If you've
never spent daily time with God, this is an easy way to begin.
Would you consider taking on this habit for the duration of
this study? See page 86 for a sample journal page you can use
as a guide for your daily devotions.
If you're already consistent in daily devotions, consider
acquiring the habit of Scripture memory. Six memory verses
are provided on page 82-one verse per week. Would you consider
accepting the challenge to memorize one verse per week
and hide God's Word in your heart? We urge you to pair up
with another person for encouragement and accountability.
12. In order to allow more prayer time for everyone, quickly gather
into small circles of three or four people. Allow everyone to
answer this question: "How can we pray for you this week?"
Share personal concerns, as well as some specific ways you
would like God to help you throw off things that hinder you
from running your race.
Take some time to pray for these requests in your small circles.
Anyone who isn't used to praying aloud should feel free to
offer prayers in silence. Or, if you're new to prayer and you're
feeling brave, try praying just one sentence: "Thank you, God, for" Be sure to have one person write down your requests
and share them later with the group or leaders.
Hebrews 12 encourages believers to endure hardships and keep running
the Christian life. Runners would agree that a cheering crowd, the right
equipment, and a clear goal help them press through the pain and cross the
Such a great cloud of witnesses. Competitors in a race often feel motivated
by the presence of spectators. The writer here refers not just to spectators
but to actual "witnesses" who attest to the validity of our race. In chapter
11, he lists many faithful men and women who lived and died in faith. He
wants his readers to imagine generations of past runners cheering them on.
Perseverance. Endurance. The commitment to remain under some kind
of pressure rather than try to escape it. In session 6 you'll look at James 1:3
and see that endurance produces proven character. Responding to difficulties
with persistent faith, not scrambling to get out from under hardships, is
what produces proven character.
The joy set before him. Jesus looked forward to the joy of returning to
his Father and the joy of seeing us freed and restored to our Father. We endure
the race because of the great reward that is ahead of us-the joy of the
Fix our eyes. To look away from one thing and to concentrate on
another. The idea is to look away from all other distractions and look solely
at Jesus, the one who invented and perfected the race.
For Further Study on the topic of the Christian life as a race, see
Philippians 3:12-14; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Galatians 5:7; Acts
20:24; 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
Weekly Memory Verse: Matthew 6:33
The Purpose-Driven Life Reading Plan: Day 22