Half Truths Leader Guide: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say

Half Truths Leader Guide: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say

by Adam Hamilton

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Half Truths Leader Guide: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say by Adam Hamilton

They are simple phrases. They sound Christian—like something you might find in the Bible. We’ve all heard these words. Maybe we’ve said them. They capture some element of truth, yet they miss the point in important ways.

Join Adam Hamilton in this 5-week Bible study to search for the whole truth by comparing common Christian clichés with the wisdom found in
Scripture. The clichés include:

  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • God won’t give you more than you can handle.
  • God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
  • Love the sinner, hate the sin.

The Leader Guide contains everything needed to guide a group through the
5-week study, including session plans and discussion questions, as well as multiple format options. The guide centers around the book, videos,
and Scripture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501813900
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 04/12/2016
Series: Half Truths Series
Edition description: Leaders Gu
Pages: 64
Sales rank: 790,920
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Adam Hamilton is senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, one of the fastest growing, most highly visible churches in the country. The Church Report named Hamilton’s congregation the most influential mainline church in America, and he preached at the National Prayer Service as part of the presidential inauguration festivities in 2013 and was appointed to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Hamilton is the best-selling and award-winning author of Creed, Half Truths, The Call, The Journey, The Way, 24 Hours That Changed the World, John, Revival, Not a Silent Night, Enough, When Christians Get It Wrong, and Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, all published by Abingdon Press. Learn more about Adam Hamilton at AdamHamilton.org.

Read an Excerpt

Half Truths Leader Guide

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say

By Martha Bettis Gee

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2016 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5018-1391-7



Planning the Session

Session Goals

As a result of conversations and activities connected with this session, group members should begin to:

• examine the ways this half truth does not capture the truth of the Bible;

• embrace an understanding of a sovereign God who gives freedom and works through people for good.

Biblical Foundation

[Then Moses said to the Israelites,] "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days."

— Deuteronomy 30:19-20a NRSV

Special Preparation

• In advance of the session, cut some newspaper clippings or download and print current Internet news stories about disasters resulting from weather events, crimes such as mass shootings, upheavals resulting in mass migrations of refugees, and the like. Have available enough stories for every two anticipated participants. Following the session, collect these news accounts from participants and set them aside to revisit in Session 3.

• On a large sheet of paper or a board, print John Wesley's Covenant Prayer, included at the end of the book chapter but also below as the closing prayer for this session.

• Decide if you will do any of the optional activities. For "Picturing God," you will need four large sheets of paper and colored markers. For "Explore the Concept of Dominion," you will need a large sheet of paper or a board and a marker and several versions of the Bible.

Getting Started

Opening Activity

As group members arrive, welcome them to the study. If anyone did not bring a notebook or an electronic device such as a tablet or laptop for journaling, provide a notebook or paper and pen or pencil.

Gather together. If group members are not familiar with one another, provide nametags and allow a few moments for introductions. Form pairs and distribute a news account to each pair. Allow a minute or two for pairs to read over their accounts. In the large group, invite one or two volunteers briefly to summarize the information in their account, describing the event and what happened as a result.

On a large piece of paper or a board, print "Everything happens for a reason." Ask participants to indicate with a show of hands if they have ever had someone say this to them, or if they themselves have said it. Then ask them to consider in silence the following:

• How, if at all, do I believe the events in my news account fit into God's plan?

Call the group's attention to the book introduction. If they have not already read it, ask them to scan the information quickly. Ask:

• How does Adam Hamilton define biblical half truths?

Tell the group that in this study, they will have the opportunity to examine five popular statements that, though we may accept them as truth, actually represent half truths. Today's session addresses the statement, "Everything happens for a reason."

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, we yearn for deeper insights into your loving intent for humankind. We struggle to reconcile the difficult and painful parts of living with a God who loves us and desires an abundant life for us. Guide us as we seek to better understand your truth. Amen.

Learning Together

Video Study and Discussion

Briefly introduce Adam Hamilton, the book author and video presenter. Adam Hamilton is senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. He writes and teaches on life's tough questions, the doubts with which we all wrestle, and the challenging issues we face today. He likes to explore the "gray" areas that present themselves between the Bible's teachings and our life experiences. Participants can learn more about Hamilton and his other books at www.AdamHamilton.org.

Adam Hamilton introduces us to statements many Christians commonly use that he suggests are actually half truths. The first half truth he discusses is "Everything happens for a reason."

• What are some situations you can name where you or someone else, responded by asserting that everything happens for a reason?

• Hamilton points out similar aphorisms: "It's all part of God's plan" or "It was God's will." How do you respond to the understanding that painful, tragic, or evil occurrences are a part of God's plan for the world?

• What does Hamilton say about how sovereigns operate in ruling their people? How does this help us understand the sovereignty of God?

• Hamilton suggests that we need to be attentive to the whisper of God's voice in making us aware of what needs to be done. Can you name a time when you responded to a nudge from God?

Bible Study and Discussion

Invite a volunteer to read aloud the session's Scripture focus, Deuteronomy 30:19-20a, which is shown above and at the beginning of book Chapter 1. Set the scene for the scripture: through Moses, God has led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, where they have wandered for forty years. As they prepare to enter the Promised Land, Moses, an old man facing death, reiterates the law for the people and reminds them of God's expectations. Ask:

• What are the choices Moses lays before the people?

• What do these choices imply to you about the statement "Everything happens for a reason"?

Book Study and Discussion

Review Critiques

If they have not already done so, ask participants to read over quickly the information in the first five paragraphs of the book chapter. Note that three critiques are offered of the idea that everything happens for a reason. Form small groups of three. In each group, assign to each person one of the three critiques of the idea that are offered. Ask participants to read over briefly the information in the chapter about their assigned critique. Then ask each group member to summarize that critique for the other two in the group. Back in the large group, ask participants to discuss the following:

• What implications does Hamilton suggest about each critique?

• Does each of the three critiques make sense to you? If not, why?

Revisit the news accounts from the opening activity. Ask volunteers to explain how the view that everything happens for a reason applies to the events in the news. Encourage them to evaluate each event using one or more of the critiques in the book chapter.

Explore Contrasting Views

Ask volunteers to define briefly the theological concepts of God's providence and sovereignty. Point out the contrasting ways in which Christians interpret these two concepts: some picture God as micromanager, while others view God as an absentee landlord. If they have not already done so, invite the group to scan the information quickly under the heading "Calvinism and Theological Determinism." Discuss some of the following:

• How did John Calvin understand the sovereignty of God?

• What was Calvin's understanding of how the grace of God operates?

• The concept of predestination has experienced a recent resurgence. What does Hamilton suggest is the reason that many people have embraced this concept? Does his explanation make sense to you? Why or why not?

• What do you think about Hamilton's understanding of how God operates? Are there problems you can identify in this view? If so, what?

• How can we reconcile the concept of predestination with the understanding that humankind has dominion over creation? Or with the understanding that we have been created with the capacity for making choices?

Invite the group to review the information under the heading "Deism and the Hands-Off God." Discuss some of the following:

• How does Hamilton define deism? What does he identify as the problem with this view of God?

• He observes that God does sometimes intervene in the affairs of this world in miraculous ways. Would you agree? Why or why not? Can you name an event that you consider to represent a miraculous intervention?

• What does Hamilton suggest we do to make ourselves receptive to God's working in and through us?

• Have you ever experienced God's nudges in your life? If so, how, and in what circumstances? How did you respond?

Call the attention of participants to the information under the heading, "God Is Sovereign, Gives Freedom, and Works Through People." Note the Facebook meme that begins, "Everything happens for a reason, but ..." Based on their reading of the text, invite volunteers to complete the meme with their own endings. Discuss the following:

• Hamilton observes that in looking back on the most painful experiences of his life, he can see how God used them to bring about something good and beautiful. What do you think of this view? Has this been your experience, or not?

More Activities (Optional)

Picturing God

Form two smaller groups. Give each group a large sheet of paper and colored markers. Assign to one group the image of God as micromanager and to the other group the image of God as absentee landlord. Ask each group to flesh out their assigned image, illustrating the image by drawing what this God would look like, or by using symbols, words, or phrases to illustrate it. After allowing a few minutes for groups to work, ask them to show their work and describe how this God would act. Discuss:

• If God can be described as a micromanager, what is the role of human beings in their relationship to God?

• If God is like an absentee landlord, what is our role, and how do we relate to God?

Then ask the group to describe a sovereign God who gives freedom and works through people. Invite both groups to illustrate this God on another large sheet of paper, using drawings, words, or phrases.

Explore the Concept of Dominion

Distribute to participants several different versions of the Bible (or download and print several versions of Genesis 1 from a website such as www.BibleGateway.com). Invite volunteers to read aloud Genesis 1:26-28 from their assigned version. On a large sheet of paper or a board, print the words used in each version for "have dominion over." Discuss:

• Hamilton believes we have been given the gift of dominion. What does that communicate to you? Are there other words from other translations that expand or amplify that meaning for you?

• He says that part of what it means to be human is the freedom to choose our own actions. How do you respond to that? What advantages or disadvantages does it suggest?

• Hamilton also notes that even amoral decisions — those that are not moral decisions — have consequences. He gives as an example his love of riding a motorcycle, with the attendant freedom to risk injury or death. What examples from your own life could conceivably result in consequences to yourself or others?

Engage in a Deeper Exploration of Theological Determinism

Engage the group in a "fishbowl discussion" as a way to examine theological determinism in John Calvin's thought. Place four chairs in the center of the room. Give participants a few minutes to read over the description of Calvin's thought in the book chapter. Ask for a volunteer to take the role of John Calvin. Then ask two other volunteers to take the roles of people who have questions for Calvin about his views. Seat these three people in the chairs. Tell the rest of the group that at any time, they can take the fourth chair in order to join the discussion, ask a question, or raise a point, then they will get up so someone else can take the seat. After allowing a few minutes for the roleplay, debrief with the group. Discuss:

• Calvin believed that everything that happens is fixed by God's decree. How do you reconcile this view with the idea of humanity's free will?

• How do you respond to the idea that you were predestined to be among the elect, or not? If you believe this, how might it affect the way you live your life?

Wrapping Up

Closing Activity

Invite participants to make observations or raise lingering questions they may have about the "half truth" that everything happens for a reason.

Recall for the group that in the opening activity they discussed whether they had ever had someone say to them "Everything happens for a reason" or if they themselves had ever said it. Ask:

• What were the circumstances when someone said it to you, or when you yourself said it? What additional thoughts or feelings do you have about the expression following this group session?

Note that often this half truth is elicited in painful situations, where someone is suffering because of a loss or deep disappointment. Ask a volunteer to read from the book the quotation retired pastor Ray Firestone shared about suffering. Ask someone else to read from the book the words written by the mother of the boy named Austin, regarding what happened to her son and how it affected her faith. Ask:

• In a time of suffering or sorrow, if you had had the opportunity to offer different words, or to hear them, what would those words be?

• How would you attempt to frame a response reflecting a deeper understanding of God's sovereignty, human freedom, and the consequences of our choices?

Encourage participants to note these questions in their journals and reflect on them in the coming week. Also ask that they read Chapter 2 before the next session.

Closing Prayer

Chapter 1 closes with John Wesley's Covenant Prayer, a prayer of surrender used by British Methodists in a covenant service on the first weekend of the New Year. Invite the group to join you in offering this prayer together:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.



Planning the Session

Session Goals

As a result of conversations and activities connected with this session, group members should begin to:

• examine the ways this half truth does not capture the truth of the Bible;

• embrace an understanding of a loving God who helps us even when we cannot help ourselves.

Biblical Foundation

The helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan. ... O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed.

Psalm 10:14b, 17-18a NRSV

In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. ... He reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of mighty waters.

Psalm 18:6, 16 NRSV

I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 NRSV

Special Preparation

• On a large sheet of paper or a board, print the following:

* Pray about it.

* Prepare a résumé.

* Network with friends and former colleagues who know my skill set.

* Actively look for job openings online.

* Submit applications, along with a cover letter, to indicate my skills and qualifications.

Prepare for interviews by dressing well and researching the company.

• If you choose to do an optional activity, gather the necessary materials. For both activities, participants may need writing paper and pens (or they may use their journals to take notes). For the activity "Go Beyond Thoughts and Prayers," you will need a large piece of paper or a board and markers.

Getting Started

Opening Activity

Welcome group members and introduce any who are new to the group. Form pairs, and ask pairs to generate quickly a list of the Ten Commandments without referring to their Bibles or smartphones. After allowing a minute or two, ask each pair to name a commandment until all ten have been named. Then call the group's attention to the fact that in the beginning of Chapter 2, Adam Hamilton recalls a segment of The Tonight Show in which Jay Leno asked people on the street to name one of the Ten Commandments. Ask:

• What "commandment" that is not a commandment did many people name? (God helps those who help themselves.)

Tell participants that in this session they will examine this common saying, often erroneously thought to be in the Bible, and explore some ways in which it is true, as well as some other ways in which it is absolutely untrue.

Opening Prayer

God, we give thanks that you are always with us, sustaining us with your love. Be with us now as we seek to discern the deeper truth of your Word. In the name of Jesus Christ, who became flesh and dwelt among us. Amen.

Learning Together

Video Study and Discussion

Adam Hamilton explores the saying "God helps those who help themselves," which is often erroneously thought to be in the Bible.


Excerpted from Half Truths Leader Guide by Martha Bettis Gee. Copyright © 2016 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


To the Leader,
1. Everything Happens for a Reason,
2. God Helps Those Who Help Themselves,
3. God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle,
4. God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It,
5. Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin,

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