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Taking Responsibility for Your Life Participant's Guide
By Andy Stanley
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2011North Point Ministries, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Let the Blames Begin
Irresponsibility isn't a difficult concept to grasp. It's simply when I don't take responsibility for whatever I'm responsible for.
While irresponsibility is easy to spot in others, it's almost impossible to see in the mirror. In some ways our entire culture is becoming less and less responsible; increasingly in our day, irresponsibility is almost celebrated. People have even discovered ways to profit from their irresponsibility. In such an environment, irresponsibility thrives.
Some people will even claim, in effect, "I have the right to be irresponsible—I can do and say whatever I want. No one has the right to hold me accountable. And others are responsible to clean up whatever messes I create through my irresponsibility."
Deep down, we all know how damaging irresponsibility is. If that's something we can change ... shouldn't we?
What to you are the most glaring examples of irresponsibility in our culture today?
Why is this rampant irresponsibility so troubling? Why does it matter?
For Session 1 of the Video
Am I taking responsibility for my life ... really?"
Irresponsibility—whether it's in our family, our workplace, our church, our community, or our nation—is contagious. That's especially so when we see people getting away with being irresponsible, and even being rewarded for it.
Whenever anyone acts irresponsibly, somebody has to come along and shoulder the burden of his or her irresponsibility.
Irresponsibility isn't a solo thing; it always impacts whoever's connected to the person who's irresponsible. Irresponsibility is ultimately a community matter, a family matter, a corporate matter.
All of us at times want to shirk our responsibilities. But followers of Jesus know that they must not do this, because they're ultimately accountable to their heavenly Father. Christians should be the most responsible people on the planet, since they understand the connectedness of their families and communities and culture.
In the Bible, the early chapters of Genesis show us when irresponsibility was introduced into the human race. We read in Genesis 1 that God gave responsibility for the earth's care to the man and woman he had created. Along with that responsibility, he gave them a single prohibition to stay away from a certain tree. This was before humankind sinned and many centuries before God gave his people the Ten Commandments. In the beginning, there was just one rule and a lot of responsibility.
Again, God designed us to be responsible. We know this intuitively. We're happiest when we're being responsible.
In Genesis, we see that as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, they threw off their accountability to God. They felt ashamed and tried to hide from him.
God confronted Adam first about this; he was holding Adam accountable. Adam could have responded, "Yes, I take full responsibility for everything. Do with me as you will." But instead he blamed Eve—who said it wasn't her fault either. The blame game began.
Irresponsibility always creates conflict—not only interpersonal conflict, but conflict within us as we try to hide our guilt.
Our culture is full of people who live every single day with the weight of shame and guilt over the irresponsible behavior that they've blamed their way out of and for which no one has held them accountable.
1. "Am I taking responsibility for my life ... really?" At this point in your life, how would you answer that question?
2. Do you ever feel you have a right to be irresponsible, that you can do and say whatever you want and no one can hold you accountable? When are you most tempted to feel this way, and why?
3. As you look at others around you, in what ways do you see irresponsibility being rewarded? How does this affect you?
4. In what significant ways have you experienced the truth that we're happiest when we're doing a good job at something we're responsible for?
5. What do you consider to be your most significant areas of responsibility in life?
6. How have you seen personally that irresponsibility creates conflict—both within ourselves and with others around us? If so, what have you learned from this?
Having responsibilities is God's design for us, and we're most fulfilled when we're managing that responsibility well.
In a group or community of any size, when people are taking responsibility seriously, lots of rules aren't needed.
Whenever someone is irresponsible, that irresponsibility eventually becomes someone else's responsibility. Our irresponsibility always impacts others.
Think about Andy's suggested assignments in this week's teaching. First, listen to your words. In any area of life, do you try to shift responsibility off yourself?
Second, as you experience relational conflict at work, at home, or with neighbors or friends—whenever you run into relational conflict of any sort—think of a circle that represents all the blame for that conflict. Then ask yourself, "What part of it am I ultimately responsible for?"
CHANGING YOUR MIND
As a reminder of the way God designed us for taking responsibility, reflect on the amazing truth of these words spoken by God to our first human parents:
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 1:28
PREPARATION FOR SESSION 2
To help you prepare for Session 2, use these suggested devotions during the week leading up to your small group meeting.
In the New Testament, read Galatians 6:1–10. Focus especially on verses 1 and 2. What do we learn here about our obligations toward others?
Read Galatians 6:1–10. Today, think especially about verses 3 and 4. What do we learn here about comparing ourselves with others and about self-deception?
Look over Galatians 6:1–10 again. Reflect especially on verse 5. What do we learn here about our obligations toward ourselves?
Read Galatians 6:1–10, and today focus especially on verses 7 and 8. How does God emphasize the truth that people reap what they sow? How do you emphasize the importance of that principle coming through in this passage?
Read Galatians 6:1–10. Look closely at verses 9 and 10. How do these verses communicate the advantage we receive from reaping what we sow? And what does our "sowing" involve, according to this passage?
By God's design, we're happiest when we're doing a good job at managing the responsibilities we've been given. When we're irresponsible, that's bad news not only for us, but also for others. Our irresponsibility always impacts those who are connected to us.
Excerpted from Taking Responsibility for Your Life Participant's Guide by Andy Stanley. Copyright © 2011 by North Point Ministries, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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