Date: September 4, 2022
Faith on Display in Hard Times
The Point: God uses trials to mature your faith.
Get Into the Study
After discussing Question #2, share this story:
While the conflict between Russia and Ukraine dominated the headlines in February 2022, the war continues with much less publicity. As of August 2022, the United Nations reported that there had been 5,514 civilian deaths. Even though we don’t hear about it as much, the war continues.
Most of the world had never heard of Volodymyr Zelenskyy until Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Yet within days of the conflict, the Ukrainian president emerged as an inspiring example for much of the world due to his surprising bravery. Facing what seemed to be insurmountable odds, his persevering leadership has provided his country with more than just survival; they have shocked the world with their strength. Much of their resolve is credited to the bold and brave leadership of their fearless head of state. When offered the opportunity to evacuate the country and save himself, Zelenskyy refused by stating, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Ask: What was so surprising about his boldness in the face of such opposition?
When he became president in 2019, he probably never imagined the challenging circumstances that awaited him. How many people would have reconsidered running for president if they had known what would happen with Russia three years later?
Just like President Zelenskyy, none of us know what the future holds. Unexpected events and unwelcomed challenges are around every imaginable corner. How have you seen God grow your faith during challenging times?
In today’s session, we will read how James teaches how God uses trials to mature our faith.
For more about Zelenskyy’s story or remarks, go to: https://nationalpost.com/news/world/i-need-ammunition-not-a-ride-zelensky-turns-down-u-s-evacuation-offer.
For updated death tolls, you can visit: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1293492/ukraine-war-casualties/
Get Into the Study [Option from Adult Leader Guide, p. 17]
In advance, play a video illustrating someone learning an important lesson through a tough experience. Then ask Question #1.
Study the Bible [Option from Adult Leader Guide, p. 22]
In advance, search for the story of Horatio Spafford who wrote “It Is Well with My Soul” and print copies of the hymn. Although this hymn is familiar, approach it differently by making it personal. Share Spafford’s story of tragedy-inspired faith, and then invite members to share their experiences with trials. Conclude by having the group sing the hymn.
Live It Out
Share the following news story as you conclude your session.
A previously unknown self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh was discovered last month. The painting is hidden behind layers of glue and cardboard on the back of the canvas for “Head of a Peasant Woman,” another work of Van Gogh’s. The self-portrait was revealed when experts took an x-ray of the primary painting in preparation for an upcoming exhibit.
The self-portrait was always there, but it took a new way of looking at the painting to reveal the man behind the painting. Although Van Gogh’s self-portrait is still hidden behind glue and cardboard, visitors to the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh can view the x-ray image. This shift in perspective allows museumgoers to see what was hidden from previous viewers of the painting.
We too can benefit from a shift in perspective. We don’t always know how God is working through our trials and difficulties, but we can have confidence that He is there. The realization that God is at work strengthening our faith, can help us experience joy even in the most difficult situations.
We don’t need x-ray technology to see God at work in trying times, but we may need a change of perspective.
Ask: What has helped you find the proper perspective in times of trial? How can we help each other keep the proper perspective in times of trial?
Invite the group to review the Live It Out section and each choose one application for this week.
Nikki Wilbanks grew up in Tennessee before heading to California to study literature at Pepperdine University. She enjoyed a decade-long career as a commercial real estate appraiser in Southern California, where she met her husband. Back in Tennessee now, she loves being a writer and mom. She is an active member at Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
- What’s an important lesson you’ve learned after working through a problem?
- When have you had first-hand experience of the saying, “no pain, no gain”?
- When have you had an “I wish I had known back then what I know now” moment?
- In what way does our response to trials demonstrate our faith?
- When has your faith been tested in a big way?
- What are some common trials you see in today’s culture?
- How are wisdom and endurance related?
- What are some obstacles to seeking God’s wisdom?
- How can believers prepare now to have unwavering faith during trials that might come tomorrow?
- What are the challenges of wealth from a spiritual perspective?
- Why is humility important to our faith?
- How does a view of eternity change the way you respond to trials?
For Those in Your Group
Send the following link to your group members as either a teaser before the group meets or as a follow-up thought:
This article complements the study. Share this link with your group members.
Click here for a 20-minute podcast for both the group member and the leader.