Read an Excerpt
Developing a Heart for GodLife-Changing Lessons from the Wisdom Books
By John Ortberg Kevin Harney Sherry Harney
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Willow Creek Association
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSession 1
David: Developing a Heart for God
2 Samuel 6:1-22; 11:1-17; 12:1-9
David experienced many victories in battle. He had accomplishments, wealth, and the praise of people. But when all was said and done, David seemed to be at his best when he was in the furnace of the desert. The dry air would crack his lips; the heat would drain his energy; yet in this arid place of desolate silence, David met with God. In the desert he wrote many of the psalms, he spoke to God, and he learned.
Rarely do God's people ask to be placed in the desert. It would seem masochistic to ask God for such an experience. Yet God often led his people to this place of training, discipline, refining, and preparation. Besides David, Moses spent time in the desert, and so did the nation of Israel. Even Jesus, who never sinned, was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days.
Sometimes God leads those he loves through a season of desert wandering. But when he does this, it is always with a purpose. When we find ourselves in the desert, we need to look to God and ask, "What can I learn in this place?" We need to avoid the natural reaction of running away. We need to learn, as David did, that God does some of his best work when we are in the desert.
Looking at Life
1. Tell about a desert experience you have faced and how God strengthened you and changed you through it. How would our lives be different if we never faced wilderness times?
Learning from the Word Read: 2 Samuel 6:1-22
The ark of the covenant was the closest thing Israel had to a throne for God. Over the mercy seat, on the ark, the presence of God was said to dwell. It was a sacred reminder to Israel that God was with them. David knew that the ark belonged in Jerusalem. As a result, he got a group together and went down to get the ark from the house of Abinadab. Just to give you a sense of how important this was to David, he chose thirty thousand men to accompany him to retrieve the ark. After a long journey getting the ark back to Jerusalem, an incredible party broke out.
Picture Mardi Gras, the Rose Parade, and New Year's Eve in Times Square all rolled into one! The celebration that accompanied the return of the ark was huge! God's presence could be felt and seen. A party erupted and rolled through Jerusalem. In a public setting, David was swept into worship. With all his might he began to express his praise and thanks to God. It was full-body, full-contact, no-holds-barred worship.
2. Imagine you were a citizen in Jerusalem when David came in dancing before the ark with all his might. How do you think you would have responded?
What might some of the conversations around dinner tables in Jerusalem have sounded like that night?
3. What keeps you from expressing yourself with passionate abandon in worship?
4. What helps you express yourself freely in worship?
Read: 2 Samuel 11:1-17
Temptation: Who Is on the Throne?
David notices Bathsheba, a beautiful woman, bathing a couple of rooftops over from the palace. He sends his servants to bring her to the palace. David is clearly warned that she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite. It is important to know that Uriah was one of David's most faithful warriors, named among David's legendary thirty mighty men (1 Chronicles 11:41). He was with David during his desert years, serving the king and fighting at his side.
Knowing all of this, David still brings Bathsheba to the palace and sleeps with her. In one moment of temptation and weakness, David changes the course of his life. This one choice set off a chain reaction of coveting, adultery, lying, and murder - and even cost the lives of some innocent soldiers in David's army!
5. As you read this story of David's temptation and the various sinful actions that followed, at what points along the way could he have stopped this downward spiral?
How do you see one sin leading to another in a domino effect?
6. It has been said that three areas of greatest potential for sin are:
Areas we have sinned in the past
Areas we believe we will never sin
Areas of life where there is a pattern of sin in our family
Why is each of these areas a point of potential temptation in our lives?
7. When you feel temptation setting in, what helps you resist it and say no?
It is not temptation itself that grieves God; he is displeased when we give in to temptation. Charles Stanley
Read: 2 Samuel 12:1-9
The Ministry of Nathan
As king, David could have spoken one word and had Nathan executed. Nathan's willingness to confront David with his sin was a bold and risky step. Yet he courageously and lovingly called sin exactly what it was. He did this because he spoke for God and God never sugarcoats sin. Nathan's job was to call David to a higher standard - God's standard - and because he did, David's heart finally broke and he came to a place of humble confession and repentance. Nathan's ministry put a relationship at risk. But it is a ministry we all need to be ready to receive when God sends a "Nathan" to call us to confession and repentance.
8. At the end of David's life, how do you think each of these people would respond to this statement: "Sin is no big deal! I can do what I want and it won't impact others or hurt me!"
The unnamed child of their infidelity
Sin will always take you farther than you want to go, cost you more than you want to pay, and keep you longer than you want to stay. Author Unknown
9. Nathan became God's tool to help David see sin in his life and to lovingly bring him to a place of humble repentance. Why is it important to have a "Nathan" in our lives?
Who is a "Nathan" in your life, and why do you appreciate this person?
10. Sometimes, when a person falls into temptation and gets caught in a pattern of sin, others look on from the sidelines and say, "I saw that coming!" They knew what was going on, but never spoke a word of warning! What keeps us from speaking up when we see sin and potential danger creeping into the life of another follower of Christ?
Take a few minutes of silence for personal reflection ...
As a follower of Christ, honestly confess other things that have taken God's place on the throne, then reinvite God to rule and reign in every area of your life.
Take time to respond to these closing questions:
We are all tempted to let people and things crowd God off the throne. It can be a person who has become more important to us than God. It can be a hobby, sport, or personal interest that capitalizes on our time and becomes our first love. It can be a habit we know is self-destructive, but we just can't seem to resist. If you had to identify one thing that is most prone to end up on the throne of your life (other than God), what is it? What can you do to keep it off the throne, and how can your small group members pray for you in this area?
Sin is deceitful and our hearts are skilled at ignoring it. Yet, God wants to lead us to a place of seeing, admitting, and confessing our sin. This process can't begin until we identify the places of hidden sin in our lives. Psalm 139:23 - 24 says: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Close your small group with prayer, asking God to:
Search your hearts
Uncover hidden sin
Give strength to go in the way everlasting
Truth in Action
David tried to worship God with all his might. What would it look like if you took some steps forward as a worshiper? What risks might you take?
Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and church in new and fresh ways. Pray about taking risks as his worshiper. Seek to let your outward expressions of worship be consistent with what is happening in your heart. Seek to worship in a way that is a natural and free expression of the activity of the Holy Spirit inside of you.
You may want to begin by singing praise with all your might when you are driving down the road, standing in the shower, or worshiping with God's people. Maybe you have wanted to lift your hands in worship for a long time but have always resisted because you fear what others might think. The next time you sense the Spirit prompting you to lift your hands, begin by simply turning them upward in your lap. Let your outward posture match what is happening in the depth of your heart. Begin taking steps of responsiveness to God's leading in worship.
Excerpted from Developing a Heart for God by John Ortberg Kevin Harney Sherry Harney Copyright © 2003 by Willow Creek Association. Excerpted by permission.
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