Week Three | When You Are Not Happy with the Hand You Have Been Dealt
- Time for everyone to come clean. What’s your favorite card or board game and why do you like it?
- For the benefit of those who might be joining us for the first time this session, who would like to describe one significant discovery you’ve made in the first two sessions that is already making a difference in your life?
- Jon gave a few of the highlights from the biography of Joseph in the Old Testament (not the Joseph who was married to Mary, the mother of Jesus). The details are actually found in Genesis 37—45. By way of group review, who can remember an event or factoid about Joseph’ life?
- Think about the “hand” Joseph ended up holding the day before he was summoned to Pharaoh’s palace. He had been betrayed out of jealousy and then sold into slavery by his brothers, earned great responsibility in his master’s house only to be abused and then falsely blamed by the master’s wife, rejected and imprisoned by the master, made himself useful in prison and helped other prisoners only with lack of gratitude to be forgotten. What kinds of similar situations tend to make you want to “fold” your hand and quit the game? Have others gotten credit for what you did. Have you been blamed unjustly for things before? Have you helped others who just moved on without a word of thanks? Have things happened in your life that were unfair or unjust or just not right?
- What do you think kept Joseph going even against all the odds?
- The story Joseph seems to say that if you don’t give up all will workout in this life. It did for Joseph. Do you think that is always the case?
(You can explore the following Bible passages behind the teaching for this session as a group—if there is time—or on your own between sessions.)
WHEN GOD SEEMS TO SAY ‘NO’ TO YOUR PRAYER REQUEST. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
The apostle Paul is often considered the closest thing to the Christian Superman. And yet a glimpse into his daily life reveals a hand that apparently wasn’t all that easy to live with. Plus, AS God’s ambassador to the Gentiles, Paul led a hard life full of resistance, hostility and abuse. God miraculously intervened many times but not in this instance.
We’ve never figured out what Paul’s specific problem was, but what were the negative effects of this “thorn” on him that this passage talks about?
- Following Paul’s example, is it OK to ask God to remove things from our lives that make things difficult or painful? Why did God let Paul ask and then say “No” to his request?
- What lessons about “playing the hand we’ve been dealt” does this passage give us? What do you think “my grace is enough” means for you
WHEN LIFE ENDS PAINFULLY OR UNJUSTLY FOR SOMEONE. LUKE 16:19-17:10
When we are thinking about the kind of “hand” our lives represent, one of the temptations is to remember all the occasions when we wish we could have experienced a miracle, but nothing happened. Perhaps someone we loved died unexpectedly. Or we were treated unfairly with no recourse. Or someone was hurt unjustly with no fair outcome. And we wonder where God is when a story ends badly here on earth.
THE second point about God’s presence meaning we may be down but not out may sometimes not ring true.
- In this parable, what image does Jesus give us of Lazarus after his life on earth is over? Where is he? What does this say to us when ‘justice is not served’ here on earth? What does God say about this in Romans 12:19?
- Where is the rich man? Is Jesus condemning wealth? (Was Abraham rich in his lifetime?) Why is the rich man lost in this story? What did he do or not do?
- With Joseph, Paul and Lazarus we see three different outcomes. Joseph had harrowing trials but persevered, eventually a happy ending to his life. Paul sometimes saw God’s miraculous provision, but when God said “no” he was content with God’s grace in his life. Lazarus lived and died in utter poverty trusting God. How would you describe your own plan of response to a disappointing or devastating hand in life? How’s your approach the same or different compared to one of these three? When it comes to sustaining hope that keeps you going, what place or role does God have in your life? According to God’s promises where are all three of these men right now? How does that give you hope?
- When you think of your present relationship with Christ, how can the rest of the group be praying for you this week as you seek to give yourself more fully to God’s plan (which always includes the possibility of a Joseph-like prison one day and palace the next) in your life?