I love the outdoors anytime I can get out and experience the beauty of God’s creation. I feel like I am really living life the way we are supposed to.
1. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being “more outdoors the better”), how do you feel about being in the outdoors? Why?
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to try my hand at fly fishing. A friend of mine who is an avid fly fisher invited me to spend a few days with him and a couple of other experienced fly fishermen at his cabin up north. It was an opportunity I was grateful to experience; however, I was not “hooked” on the sport. One thing I will say was I was exhausted after spending all day walking the river mainly because I kept having to walk back upstream to have my friend help me with the fly rod.
Whether you appreciate the outdoors or not, you know what it is like trying to move upstream against a current. If you are trying to paddle a canoe it is always easier to go with the current than it is against the current.
2. In today’s culture do you ever feel like you are moving more against the current than with it? If so, when was the most recent time?
Read John 15:18-20, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ’A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
I want to talk about being persecuted for “righteousness’ sake,” which is what Jesus often talked about. When we do right or live in a certain way it is a reminder to those that do not walk in the light that they are wrong. Their conviction does not come from those who are “righteous” or at least it should not. The conviction comes from the Holy Spirit and moral consciousness. Conviction is normal, but the persecution is a reaction of the sin nature. When you live a life in a way that is countercultural or “righteous” you will stand out and you may experience some level of persecution.
3. Have you had a time where your behavior was noticed by someone as different?
Read Matthew 5:10-11, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
In Matthew 5:11, the emphasis makes a shift from “blessed are those” (verse 10) to “blessed are you.” No matter the level or degree of persecution for your beliefs it is personal. At the core, the attacks or the persecution are because of your faith; however, the impact is directed personally and can be painful. Jesus identifies insults, slander, and false accusations as some of the types of attacks you might receive because of your faith.
4. What other kinds of persecutions have you seen, experienced, or heard about?
5. How do you typically feel and react to that level of persecution?
Read Matthew 5:12, ”Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
6. How does Jesus say we should respond to the persecution?
The natural reaction to persecution is not to “rejoice and be glad.” Rather it is to defend, counter, and retaliate. Jesus does not call us to do as the world does but to live a life that is countercultural. When we live countercultural we disrupt in a way that makes people stop and take notice. Though it seems backward, Jesus calls us to live in a way that people take notice in a positive way.
7. In Matthew 5:12, Jesus promises a reward. What is the reward?
Not only do we not know specifically the reward, but we also have to wait. The reward is a heavenly reward which means not something we will experience on Earth or even directly change the degree of persecution. We may continue to experience the persecution, but the reward is in knowing that our Heavenly Father knows we are faithful and promises to grant us favor.
“Count it all joy, my brothers,
when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.”