Signs & Wonders: Week 4

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

This quote is from a book titled "We Bought A Zoo" written by Benjamin Mee that was published in 2008 and later turned into a movie in 2011.  The story recounts the true events of one family's purchase and management of a local zoo despite not having any experience in doing so.  You can imagine that there was a fair amount of fear and trepidation associated with this effort; fear of failure, fear of danger, fear for animals being cared for...just to name a few.  But from a different perspective, this undertaking also took a fair amount of courage.

Now, courage can be defined as the choice and willingness to confront fear, danger, pain, uncertainty, or intimidation.  The word inspires epic visions of heros venturing forth to address danger on some great perilous journey.  However, courage is so much more interesting than that because of the special uniqueness that each of us have as individuals.  

Ice Breaker:  Share a time in your life where you had to muster courage.  Was it difficult?  What was the factor that pushed you forward?  

So far in this Signs and Wonders series, we have looked at the quiet presence of the Spirit, listening to the nudges that presence leads us in, and discerning that those nudges are from God.  This week,we are looking at the courage it takes to follow through on those nudges.  Sometimes, God leads us to a path that requires a leap of faith with trusting Him in our lives and it's good to reflect on our own willingness to follow through.  Our own courage depends on who we are and God knows us better than anyone.  First, let's start with a prayer.

Opening Prayer

Hey God, we gather together today to talk about the courage it can take to follow your guidance.  We praise and thank you for the gift of your presence in our lives, especially when facing the unknown.  Please bless our conversation, guard our hearts, and guide us in a way that opens our eyes to your love and grace.  In your name we pray Lord, Amen.

The reading this week is from the Book of Isaiah.  In this selection of verses, God is showing His support to people who have turned away from Him and are facing significant threats from neighboring countries seeking war.  God knows it will take courage to follow through on His plans.  

The Head

Read Isaiah 41:10-13 (CEB)

10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

11 All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.

12 Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them.  Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.

13 For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

God is comforting people who have turned away from Him.  He is seeking to inspire confidence and to show support towards people who waver in faith.  What does this say about the very nature of God?

Verse 13 could be considered a thematic war cry for much of life.  To paraphrase:  Don't be afraid, because I, the true God of all things, love you and want to help.  What does this say about God's intent for his relationship with people?      

God's "right hand" is a common theme in the Bible that signifies a special place of honor.  It's a way for God to signify where he places His people in creation.  With that in mind, how does knowing that He places us in a place of honor influence your understanding of these verses?  

The Heart  

There are interesting aspects about the Book of Isaiah.  For example, we know that the words and prophecies contained in this book were meant to resonate.  People who study the Bible can locate at least 46 times Isaiah referenced things that happened to Jesus, to those around Jesus and to the first Christians which was hundreds of years after Isaiah wrote them.  We should also reflect on these words as they are one of God's ways that He communicates with us even today.  

So, if God uses the Spirit to quietly nudge us and He is the one who supports and helps us, what could those words in Isaiah inspire in terms of courage?  

What are some things that frighten us in terms of God's plans?

Sometimes we realize that the path forward contains many  unknowns.  What steps could we consider when struggling with those unknowns?  What plans could we pursue as believers?

The Hands

First, circling back to any lists we made or any thoughts we have had about the Spirit nudging us these past few weeks, have you identified any recent nudges that may take courage?   If you have, share your thoughts with the group and maybe utilize the steps you formulated when considering unknowns above.  Does this help with the nudge?  You may need some time to consider all the moving parts and that is alright.  But most important, remember to pray about it.

Which leads us to the next part in this section.  Did you realize that Jesus knew of our need to constantly pray about courage?  In fact, he placed this need in the best prayer we know as believers; The Lord's Prayer.  Jesus knew we would struggle.  By saying "And lead us not into temptation" (in this case, the temptation of fear), "but deliver us from evil" this was Jesus's way to continually remind us to, in part, pray for courage.  Amen!  So friends, let's close this meeting with the Lord's Prayer.

Closing Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

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