Contemporary Worship Online (8/2)
Background Notes Dumb Idea #9: A Valley Means a Wrong Turn --- Thrive Group Notes Message August 2, 2020
Remind your group members to bring a Bible with them to your Thrive Group. This will be particularly important this week. There is value in opening the Bible together with others...and making use of them as we seek to live lives of following Jesus.
What do you remember, like to talk about, hold on to, want more of? Isn’t it mountain top experiences? When we go to college? When we take a trip? When we get married? When we go to a camp or a retreat and are engaging with our spiritual lives? In every case, aren’t we looking for the mountain tops?
And don’t we sometimes think of our lives in those terms? It’s almost like “if things went the way they were supposed to, everyrthing would always be mountain tops”.
But life has plenty of valleys too. Valleys are when things aren’t so good. Things are not so vital or passionate or significant?
God had long stretches of time in which he was at work in the lives of his people. And the stretches of time were not all mountain tops for his people. The children of Israel were in Egypt for centuries, first as honored guests and then as slaves. When God set his people free from slavery in Egypt, they ended up in the wilderness for 40 years. We Christians love to quote Jeremiah 29. 11, which tells us about the plans that God has for his people -- plans to give us a hope and a future. But we forget that 1 verse before, the Lord talks about the 70 years of exile in Babylon that would come first.
Mountain top experiences are great. But valley experiences are a part of life, too. They come into our life for multiple reasons. Sometimes they come because we messed up, and we are bearing the consequences. Sometimes they come, as best we can tell, because God has sent them -- he has something special to do. Other times, we can’t quite be sure of what’s going on. It all seems to be a mystery.
One thing that is important: to not conclude that “A valley means a wrong turn” -- or necessarily means a wrong turn! Or that the goal is to “get out of this as soon as possible!” God is at work in all manner of situations. Maybe “everything happens for a reason” is too simple. But God is present and at work in all situations!
Thrive Group Conversation Dumb Idea #9: A Valley Means a Wrong Turn --- Thrive Group Notes Message August 2, 2020
There is more material here than you will be able to cover. Read the questions, and consider which you will use. In particular, this week calls on you to look at three passages of Scripture. Bibles will be necessary. You will need to give more time to reading those passages and reflecting together on what they tell us about valleys. I encourage you not to shortchange the experience. This is different than other weeks in the amount of Scripture to consider.
1. Use conversation starter/ice-breakers (5-10 min) to get your group talking. We want to build connections and relationships with each other. Shorter here this week.
2. Share with your group: “So listen to this: ‘A valley means a wrong turn’ -- or ‘A valley probably means a wrong turn.’ Prior to hearing the sermon or thinking about this, would you have agreed or disagreed? And why?
3. Here’s the scene: you are in a valley. It appears to be a long-term one. In fact, there seems to be no reason to anticipate any change any time soon.
Are you supposed to persevere in such a setting, or is this a sign that you made a wrong turn and you shouldn’t even be in this situation?
Larry Osborne writes of people who are convinced that “a long-term valley could never be a part of God’s long-term plan” for our lives. “I’m not talking about the kinds of valleys and trials that are completely out of our control -- the medical issues, tragedies, and injustices that we can do nothing about except suck it up, trust God, and endure. I’m talking about the kinds of valleys we can avoid or wiggle out of if we so choose.
“From my friends’ perspective only a fool would stay in that kind of valley. They assumed that God’s leading always takes us to the mountaintop. They realized there would be occasional hardships along the way But they believed it would always be incidental, a short but necessary part of the process. Faced with a lingering valley, especially one with no apparent end in sight, they automatically assumed it meant a wrong turn. They were sure it should be gotten out of as soon as possible, no matter what it took to do so.
“Now obviously, some valleys are the result of a wrong-turn. Both the Old and the New Testaments warn of the consequences that come from our sinful and foolish decisions. But the idea that every long-term valley is a mistake and shoud automatically be wiggled out of is a fallacy. It’s based on a spiritual urban legend that can’t stand up to scrutiny: the belief that God only leads us to the mountaintop and that long term valleys always mean a wrong turn. It ignores the long history of God’s dealings with his people and the clear teaching of Scripture.”
There are three basic kinds of valleys. If a valley is a long- stretch of challenge and sometimes of hardship, there are different kinds. Getting a sense of the kind of valley you are experiencing makes a huge difference in how you understand it, process it and respond to it.
There are the “I messed up” valleys. I’m in this valley because of something I did.
There are the “God sent me here” valleys. I obeyed, but it’s still a valley. What now?
There are the mystery valleys -- “who knows why” valleys. We can’t figure out the reason.
4. Have you ever found yourself in a valley that you knew was a “God sent me here” valley?
If so, how did you know it was a “God sent me here” valley?
How did you respond when things got tough?
What did you learn?
5. Read Exodus 14. 1-31. Encourage group members to listen and read along, and maybe even take notes along the way. (This will be true of the next passages as well.) Write down every insight you can find in this passage about “God sent me here” valleys.
6. Read 2 Samuel 11. 1-- 12. 20 and Proverbs 19. 3. Then write down any inshts you find in these passages about “I messed up” valleys.
7. Read Judges 10. 10-16.
Does God’s response in this passage surprise you?
Can you think of a time when you’ve seen God respond this way in your life or the life of a friend? If so, what happened?
8. Where does the “Covid-19/2020” valley fit in? We might be able to make some good guesses about where the devil is at work, but how about the Lord? Do you see his work in your life? In our lives?
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