Creating space for God in our relationship choices

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1 Creating space for God in our relationship choices Summary The aim of this study is to help us think about whether we are truly letting God guide us in our lives and relationship. It looks at the barriers that may be holding us back from God s desire. It unpacks how we can start creating space for him and how we can begin to let him truly guide us. Often Christians can limit God, and think that Christianity is only about setting aside some time to pray and read the Bible, and be nice to people. Is that really it? Can we reduce this God, who sacrificed everything, who left his glory and comfort in order to die on a cross, who promises us a fulfilling life if we surrender it all to him, to a being who wants us to give him a few hours of our week to pray and smile at people? This study is about helping us think beyond the limitations we may of put on him so we can begin to apply his eternal truths to all of our relationships. Notes for the leader of the Study These notes are the basic outline, feel free to stick to them, add to them, use more relevant illustrations to your context, etc. Please note that this study is designed ideally, but not exclusively, for a group setting with lots of discussion. These are the notes for the person leading. This talk begins to challenge and break down concepts, other talks like talk three begins to explore what principles we can start living by instead. So be aware that this talk will raise further questions. Introduction Often, we can be left feeling spiritually dry, or feel like we could be doing more for God. We may even sometimes think that we have been short- changed by the preacher who promised us this amazing love and life changing power when we became a Christian. Sometimes the reality doesn't live up to the hype. In fact, we can sometimes feel nothing but guilt and shame as we journey along with God, and we can feel like we are letting him down. Often, we want to give God everything. We are so grateful for his cross and realise we are lost without him. We want to have a life that honours him, but things go can stale. We would love to bring him into our university choice, career choice, dating choice, lifestyle choice, but we don t always know how to apply his Word to what we are facing today. The Bible does not talk about dating, or how to pick the right job, so we rely on praying and hoping he tells us something, or just doing what feels right. But how do we know if we heard correctly? How can we be sure that what we are doing is right? We sometimes end up doing what others are doing, or what simply looks fun, and hope that along the way God will some how make it work. 1

2 More to Offer But maybe God can give us more guidance, maybe he is offering us something more and we just don t realise it. Maybe his Word, which was written in the past, and his Spirit, can help us navigate through these choices. Maybe it begins with us reflecting on how we think and how much space we truly make for God. Have we misunderstood what seeking him and coming into his presence means? Let me tell you a true story about a conversation between a woman and her church leader: There was once a woman in a church who went to her church leader and said that her Faith had gone stale. She felt like she was no longer progressing in her Christianity and she could not understand why. She said to her church leader that she goes to Sunday services in the morning and evening, she goes to mid- week bible study groups, she is in a prayer group, she serves when there is a community outreach events, she goes to the prayer and prophecy nights at church; she does everything and feels she makes space for God. She said I have done everything and it feels like I have received everything God has to offer. I have taken it all and now there is nothing left to grow me. The church leader responded with a very wise comment, saying Well that's your problem, you have taken everything, but what are you giving to God? How are you surrendering, trusting and loving him more? What do you think about this story? How do we sometimes turn into consumer Christians? Think about how you act. How you approach worship, Bible studies, etc. Is the perspective this leader gave different to your attitude? Does it matter? Listen to/look at the lyrics to I will offer up my Life by Matt Redman (or a similar and more relevant song to your context that is about surrender). Ask them to discuss: What does this song about surrendering mean to you? Why do you sing it? Imagine there is a box in front of you, and this box represents your life. Imagine you have decided, consciously or subconsciously, that you are only going to rely on your self for money because you don t want to be a burden to anyone or learn to trust God with your finances. This is a decision and a rule for your life. Throw an item in the box - this represents your decision and takes up space in the box. Imagine you have decided, consciously or subconsciously, to only worship God with a certain style of worship music. You just can t connect with other types, even though God is still glorious and deserves praise. Now throw another item in the box that ll take up some more space. Now let s say you have decided that you want a certain job, and because it isn t working for the church there is no obvious Christian way to do this job. Without realising it you are looking to the wisdom of the world, and just going along with the flow because you don t know how to apply God s word to this career. Now throw another item in the box that ll take up some more space. Now imagine going to God and asking for more guidance, for more revelation, for more faith to follow him, asking him to give us more. But if the box is already filled with items, if we have already decided on rules and ways to live our lives, then there is a limited amount of space God can occupy. 2

3 If the box is filled with stuff already, it can only fit in a few more items. If decisions have been made consciously or subconsciously about areas of our life, God s wisdom, desire and will in our lives can only take up a limited section. That s why the church leader asked that woman how much are you giving. We are told that a life with God is the best, and that's true. So we make time for him and have a deep deep desire to follow him and try to surrender more and trust him more. But it can get stale. Our relationship with him can seem like it s stuck. We pray for our relationships with our friends and others to be transformed, but then it can be quite hard to reach this reality. It s worth asking; do we just take without truly making room for God in our lives? Are we limiting what he can do, only giving him a bit of space in our lives, then wondering why this thing called Christianity isn t fulfilling us? God wants to give us life and life to the full. He is the King of love, grace and forgiveness and is building a wonderful Kingdom that he wants us to be part of. We know this; we want to seek him more because he is good. But when our lives do not reflect this promise and truth, it may be worth asking if our box is filled with items that stop us taking hold of a truly God- centred existence. How does what we have just shared make you feel? Are there areas in your life where you would love to make room for God, but the Bible gives no obvious answers so you struggle to know how? What items are in your box? Jesus and Surrender Making space for God begins with surrendering to him. Surrendering our plans, our control, our self- sufficiency. This is not easy, and it will be easier to do this in some areas of our lives compared to others. But emptying the box means putting God first all the time, not just on a Sunday, not just in some relationships, not just in spiritual stuff but in the secular day- to- day stuff too. Read Mark 14:32-36 So often as Christians we fast- forward to the happy ending. Jesus was resurrected so we can skip over this bit. We can overlook the truth: Jesus did not want to die! The God of love and grace got scared. The text makes it clear that he was panicking and was deeply distressed. In the NIV it says his soul is overwhelmed with sorrow. Jesus prays take this cup from me. He is asking God if he can avoid the cross. He wanted God to change his fate. BUT Jesus did go to the cross in the end, despite the fear, Yet not what I will, but what you will. He let go of his desires, his feelings, his control and surrendered everything to God. Jesus, who had a throne in heaven, all praise and glory, stepped out of his comfort zone down to earth to do something, which, at this point, scared and terrified him. He gave it all to God. He did not say, why can t we do this plan I came up with earlier, or bless this idea instead ; he surrendered. It is not easy, but he made space for God s will. Scary, but that is true faith. 3

4 Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear. Meg Cabot, The Princess Diaries Read Mark 8:27-35 We read about Jesus telling his disciples to pick up their cross. Peter just called Jesus the Messiah, which is great and a good thing that he realised it. Yet he had an idea in his head that the Messiah would not suffer and die. He wanted The Messiah to act in a certain way; this part of his life was limited with a specific expectation. So when Jesus told him something different, he didn t like it and he tried to change it (Mark 8:31-32). But Jesus rebukes Peter, and goes on to say following him is indeed about surrendering to his ways, even if it doesn t fit our ideas. He tells his disciples to pick up their cross and lay down their lives. At this point, the disciples haven t experienced or understood the resurrection. Jesus has not risen yet and in their minds the cross meant dying at the hand of the Romans with no happy ending. When Jesus tells them to pick up their cross, he is asking for a radical sacrifice. Many Christians do truly want to put God at the centre, they want to know him more, but they think they can achieve it by holding onto the rules and path they have set out themselves for their lives. They think they can achieve it by building relationships based on what they want to do, on their feelings, on what their culture does, but Jesus calls for us to let go of our lives if we want to truly find life. Can we sometimes forget Jesus sacrifice because of the resurrection? Do we see the cross as an example to follow, an example of sacrifice given to God, or do we limit it to only something God did for us? Do we sometimes make plans and ask God to bless them instead of asking him to reveal his plan to us? Do we sometimes try to let God guide us in some areas, then rely on other guidance in other areas, like relationships, and find ourselves unfulfilled? Relationships and Surrender This talk has been pretty heavy up untill now. You may feel a bit overwhelmed, but this talk isn t about giving you a to do list, or giving you a guilt trip. It s about taking a step back and reflecting on our Christian walk. Reminding ourselves that God is the King and has our best intentions at heart. This talk is about finding ways to take hold of that truth. Now of course there are times when life gets hard, there are times when we are seeking God and for some other reason it feels like a struggle, but sometimes we feel stale because we have limited his influence in our lives. We can t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. This is about us remembering how great God is and how great it was when we first gave our lives to him, whether that happened instantly or over time. It is about saying how can we make more room for that transforming love. This is exciting: it is an opportunity to connect more with God, to clean out the box and let him occupy more space. 4

5 Doing relationships better doesn t begin with some fancy formula, or some clever talk, but with us realising that we have limited God and his influence. Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 Now there is a lot that could be said about this verse and we won t have time to explore it all. And this verse is not just referring to romantic relationships, it could be applied to some business and political relationships, and some unhelpful friendships too. However, what Paul is emphasising is that sometimes people have relationships which can influence us, and that influence can come from a source of ungodliness. If we have decided to go out with someone, and that someone could be from the church or not, whose life and focused isn t on God, then we have put an item in the box and placed something in our lives that will limit God. Now we aren t saying that you should only date perfect people. We aren t saying that you should only chat up people who are 100% Jesus focused. But if we begin to get close to someone who causes us to seek God less and do things we don t want to do, we need to understand that this area of our life will become harder to surrender to God. His guidance and desires for us in that area will be harder for us to achieve, and he will not be able to bless us as much as he wants to. Does this idea make sense to you? Are we too quick to make decisions about relationships and then ask God to bless it instead of listening? Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 This passage can make some of us feel guilty, but please remember that this is part of a wider Biblical teaching that says God is loving, full of grace and forgiveness. But what this passage does demonstrate is that God does not expect us to just live for ourselves any more. In our choices, in our intimate relationships, God expects us to remember his sacrifice; that he died for us and brought us with the price of Jesus. In the same way we should remember that we cannot live for ourselves anymore; we have the Holy Spirit in us and we need to sacrifice some of our desires and honour God in our choices. This should not lead to guilt, which it often can, but to excitement. God wants us to represent him, he wants us to build his kingdom with him; that's an amazing calling. So we need to take this seriously and reflect on the places in our lives where we are making decisions without him. 5

6 Do you find it strange or good that God cares about your romantic relationships? Why? Do you think it is easy or hard to put God at the centre of our romantic choices? Why? How much do you trust God? How much do you want to trust him? Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) Conclusion If we have decided to get a girl/boyfriend, and we want the relationship to look a specific way, and decide we want to get married no matter what, when we ask God to give us revelation and guidance we may have marginalised him so much that we are unable to reach for what he has planned. This is true of all areas of our lives. This is an invitation: when God reached out to you and asked you to become a Christian, whether you responded at a specific point or over time, he wanted the best for you. He still wants the best for you. He wants you to enjoy life, build his kingdom and draw close to him. So think about what is your life, what s in your box, and ask God to help you make space for more faith in him, more trust in him, and more guidance in your life and relationships. Response Have time for a response. Do whatever you think is relevant. You could get them to write down things that think are taking up space in their box. Then get them to place it in a real life box, and then symbolically remove the pieces of paper from the box and get rid of them/burn them and pray that this acts represents a next chapter of surrender in their lives. Or you could all worship to a song about surrendering. 6

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