Christmas or not, we are all eager for God to step into our lives and to give us the gifts we know he wants to give us. But what if God has already given you a gift, but it was one you didn’t ask for, and didn’t want?
If you’re the group discussion leader, have everyone open to this page on their mobile device. Be sure to take turn reading questions and verses together. Remind everyone that this discussion is based on the Sunday message embedded above.
On Sunday, I wore an ugly Christmas hat with flashy lights. It was an intentionally bad gift. Have you ever received a “bad gift?”
Paul had to deal with a gift from God that he didn’t really want to deal with.
2 Corinthians 12:7
So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
Paul’s experiences were far broader than just this… In being faithful to God’s call on his life, and to spreading the gospel, Paul dealt with a lot of difficulties, didn’t he?
2 Corinthians 11:23-30
I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.
How does Paul’s experience sync up with the idea that Jesus makes you “healthy, wealthy, and good looking?”
Why do contemporary Christians equate suffering with the absence of God, when the apostles themselves seemed to approach it from the opposite perspective?
Paul says he would “boast about the things that show how weak I am…” In other words, he saw these things as gifts from God, so he decided to “Wear it proud.” What does that mean? Is that the way we respond to adversity?
From prison, Paul writes the following words:
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Knowing what he had been going through, how do you think the intent of this verse differs from the common misuse of it?
Could we have already received gifts from God that we think of as bad?
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.