“Search me…and lead me”, Class 2 | Preparing for 2024 | Thames Valley churches of Christ, December 2023, Malcolm Cox
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NRSV)
2024 is round the corner. We have the opportunity to prepare spiritually for the upcoming 12 months. Just as we reflect on the past year, looking forward with faith and intentionality can deepen our relationship with God and guide our journey ahead. In Philippians 3:14, Paul encourages us to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” In this class, we’ll explore two ideas to help you and your group prepare spiritually for the next 12 months.
We are going to do this today by looking at two sets of words that come up more than once in Scripture: Grace, mercy and peace; faith, hope and love.
- Relationship with God
It is healthy to focus on our relationship with God before we attempt to achieve anything for him. Has God been getting your attention in an area of connection with him? Consider the three words grace, mercy and peace. We see them grouped together three times in the New Testament. The references are below:
“To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.”
(1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2 John 1:3 NRSV)
Paul and John wish for their readers to experience God’s grace, mercy and peace. These divine gifts come from God and Jesus. The world is in desperate need of grace, mercy and peace these days! Our groups need them, and we need them personally. These qualities are not things we can manufacture ourselves. They are donated to us by a generous God. Are you enjoying God’s grace? Are you experiencing his mercy? Are you wrapped up securely in his peace? These questions are relevant because we struggle with fear, guilt and anxiety.
Do you sense that your group could grow in experiencing one of these gifts? What about you yourself? Might it be a good idea to make one of these areas a focus of prayer and Bible study for you and/or your group? Perhaps you could take some special time to pray about God’s grace, his mercy and his peace.
- Areas of Growth
Once we have looked at our relationship with God, we are ready to think about growing in the way that we express that relationship with God in how we live. Let’s consider another grouping of three words that comes up three times in the New Testament. These are the words faith, hope and love. The references are below:
“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”
(1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8)
These three words connect to our relationship with God as well as our activities in the world. However, I would like to focus on their outward expression as written in 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Once we have a good grasp on the grace, mercy and peace of God in Christ, we have a full fuel tank to supply our life of discipleship. That discipleship is expressed in work, labour and endurance inspired by faith, hope and love.
The questions to discuss in your group could be, “Our works of faith in 2024 could look like…”, “Our labours of love in 2024 could look like…”, “Our endurance inspired by hope in 2024 could look like…” Take some time to pray and brainstorm together with God as to how you can excel in loving labours, faithful works, and hope-filled endurance. Are these areas worthy of Bible study and focused prayer?
It appears to be rare that God gives an individual or any group specificity of vision and tasks to be undertaken in the year ahead. Instead, what we tend to see is that when people are inspired by the grace, mercy and peace of God, and then, from that firm foundation, they set themselves devotedly to working by faith, labouring by love, and enduring by hope, God reveals his will and his plans at his time and place of choosing.
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)
God bless, Malcolm