Read an Excerpt
Living in God's PowerFinding God's Strength for Life's Challenges
By Bill Hybels Kevin Harney Sherry Harney
ZondervanCopyright © 1998 Willow Creek Association
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSession 1
Some years ago I heard a story of a fifty-six-year-old woman from Africa who faced adversity that most of us could barely imagine. Her nation was going through yet another famine, and she, in complete despondency, finally got a coupon from World Vision (a Christian relief agency) for a bag of rice. If she walked from her village to a feeding center in another city and traded the small piece of paper for a large bag of rice, she could probably stay alive for thirty days, until she had a chance to get another coupon.
The woman stood in line for much of the day and finally got her bag of rice. She walked around the city, and at one point, put her bag down to tend to something. She looked away for only a moment, but when she turned back, her bag of rice was gone-stolen. At that instant she realized that for the next thirty days she would face stomach-gnawing hunger and potential starvation. There would be no extra ticket or second bag of rice. To understand the full scope of this woman's suffering, you need to know that she had lost her husband and children in a previous famine. This is adversity beyond imagination.
We might not face famine, but adversity can come pounding down on us in many different ways. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that most of your small group members have felt or will feel the painful blow of adversity. It may come in the form of a financial, relational, or emotional beating. It may come from a stranger or from those closest to you. It may come slowly or out of the clear blue sky. But in the middle of our darkest moments, Jesus says, "Take courage. There is still hope. There is still a power that can sustain you during times of unbelievable tragedy and adversity." We all need to hear these words of encouragement.
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 Choose one of the areas below and describe a time you faced adversity in that area:
In the home
In the marketplace
In a friendship
In the church
In some other area of life
What helped you make it through this time?
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read Isaiah 43:1-3
2 In light of this passage, how would you respond to each of these statements:
If you live a good life and are faithful to God, you will never face suffering or adversity.
When I go through hard times, I have a feeling that God has deserted me in my time of greatest need.
3 Isaiah speaks of "waters," "rivers," and "fire." What is he talking about?
What is God doing while we are going through adversities?
What are some of the "waters," "rivers," and "fires" you are facing right now?
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "What You Believe"
WHAT YOU BELIEVE
If we are going to overcome the adversities of this life, we must know what we believe. False beliefs can poison our thinking and weigh down our hearts. When facing the struggles of life, some basic beliefs must be firmly implanted in our minds or we are bound to get in trouble. Here are four essential beliefs for overcoming adversity:
1. God is not the author of evil. (James 1:12-18; Psalm 5:4)
2. God limits the severity of what we suffer and gives us power to overcome our adversity. (Philippians 4:13; 1 John 4:4; 1 Corinthians 10:13)
3. God is completely available in the middle of our troubles. He never leaves us alone to deal with them on our own. (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 23)
4. God is committed to bringing good out of the hardships of our lives. (Romans 8:28)
4 Why is each of these beliefs essential to overcoming adversity?
5 Take each belief and turn it around. If it was not true, what implications would this have on how we face adversity?
Read Snapshot "How You Grieve"
HOW YOU GRIEVE
If you are going to live as an overcomer, you have to know how to grieve. Some of us have never learned to allow ourselves to feel the deep and terrible sadness over the adversity we face. We don't feel free to tell God about it, to sob and weep over it, to cry until the tears run dry, and then to repeat the process as often as necessary.
Some of us lose sight of the fact that there is a tomorrow and there is a good God who rules over it. First Thessalonians 4:13 says some of us grieve as though there were no hope. But there is coming a day when there will be no more sadness, darkness, tragedy, or tears. There is hope as long as God is on the throne, as long as the resurrected Christ is available for relationship, and as long as the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. With this knowledge, we need to learn to grieve over the tragedies that have come our way, and then to move ahead with our lives.
6 Describe a time when you went through suffering and were able to grieve and pour your heart out to God.
How did the process of grieving help you heal?
7 Describe a time of struggle or adversity you have faced when you did not fully pour out your grief and sorrow.
What kept you from grieving?
Would you be willing to express your sorrow and grief about this adversity to your group?
Read Snapshot "Who You Lean On"
WHO YOU LEAN ON
Sometimes overcomers learn how to walk in victory when they find a few trusted friends they can lean on. When Jesus was drawing near the end of His life, He did not want to be alone. He took His three closest friends (Peter, James, and John) to a garden and asked them to keep watch with Him. He knew He was facing the cross and He needed a few friends around Him in His time of adversity. If Jesus needed people to lean on, who are we to think we can make it on our own?
8 What area of struggle or adversity have you been trying to face alone?
How can your group members pray for you and offer you support?
9 Discuss a person who you are aware is going through a time of adversity. What can you do as a small group to offer practical help, encouragement, and support?
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
Take time in the coming week to memorize and think deeply about the following passages:
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Time for Grief
Commit to setting aside two half-hour sections of time in the coming week for dealing with unfinished grieving. Use this time to pour out your heart to God. Identify areas in which you still hold heartache and pain over adversity you have faced in your life. You may want to journal or to pray silently or out loud. Let any emotion surface that is within you; don't fear tears, anger, or frustration. God knows you inside and out and He can handle your emotions.
Excerpted from Living in God's Power by Bill Hybels Kevin Harney Sherry Harney Copyright © 1998 by Willow Creek Association. Excerpted by permission.
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