This year will be full of opportunities to respond to other people’s poor decisions, unkind words, and unwise actions. But what if we didn’t wait for the moment of those events to see what our response would be? What if we prepared for our inevitable stresses by practicing Jesus’ upside-down way of living? This week, we’ll explore what it means to really put Christlike characters into action and prepare to share God’s love at every opportunity.
Groups Discussion Guide
Take a few minutes to chat as a group! Are there any new faces in the group? Get to know them. How did everyone’s Christmas and New Year holidays go?
After your time of connecting, begin your meeting with prayer.
Key Verse for the Week
*Read this verse, then encourage the practice of memorization throughout the week.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls”
**When practiced consistently, memorizing Bible verses can be an important spiritual practice that centers your mind around the truth that God has given us.
- How are you feeling about 2024 so far? Are you hopeful, concerned, or doubtful? Reflect on the past few years and compare that to how you feel about 2024.
- 2024 is an election year. During the last election year, 2020, we were in the middle of a global pandemic, dealing with various sociopolitical conflicts, tensions, and controversies.
- Take a moment and discuss with your group. How did you handle what was happening in the world at that time?
- How did you reflect Jesus’ life and teachings well through your thoughts as well as your actions? How did you not?
- How did this affect your outlook on the following years?
- How do you think we can approach this year with a hopeful and positive attitude?
Each new year always brings new challenges, many of which are fueled by uncertainty, which can cause stress. Add onto this that the year 2024 may potentially have some specifically challenging situations politically, socially, or even personally for some. Thankfully, Jesus has given us some guidelines to build a foundation for how to think and act this year, both in how we prepare ourselves to live and how we can react to those around us who may live or think differently than us.
This leads us to our big idea for this week:
Big idea for the week:
We should let Jesus change our lives this year and
reprogram our negative responses into love with Jesus’ help.
Go around your group and have someone read each of the following verses, then discuss the connected questions.
Read Matthew 5:1-9
These verses are from a section referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” It was one of Jesus’ first major sermons in his ministry. Pastor Jason, in the introduction of this series, talked about how this specific section is referred to as “The Beatitudes”, which translates to “the blessedness”, meaning this section is what Jesus taught will make you blessed by God if you do them.
- Why do you think Jesus chose to start his first public sermon this way?
- Which of these characteristics or “beatitudes”, as they are called (humility, gentleness, purity, peace, etc), are easy, and which are difficult?
- Why do you think Jesus taught that these characteristics are so important to being a follower of God?
- How do you react to being offended? How does that match up to what Jesus taught in these verses?
1 Peter 3:8-9
- When you are stressed, which character traits arise in your life that affect others negatively? How can you reprogram yourself to react with love instead?
- What does it look like to trust in God when difficult circumstances come? Why is it important that people see you living this way?
- Why is it so difficult to love people who don’t love you back? How can we bless these people in a sacrificial way instead?
Based on the verses we just read, there are some things that we can do in response. Take a moment to discuss these questions as a group to decide what your personal action steps for the week can be:
- Which beatitude is going to be difficult to practice this year? How will you try to live this way anyway?
- What would it take for you to be more practically and sacrificially loving this year? Will you do this? How can your group help?
- What practices can we as a group put into place this year that will help you follow the teachings of Jesus better?
Read the first section with your group, then read the verse out loud to the group (or as a group), and finally, move to the Prayer and Verses section:
The start of each year comes with its own challenges and difficulties, but thankfully you have a community of people around you right now that can help navigate them. We also have the words of believers who have come before us to help give us encouragement and guidance.
To close our time, we’re going to read 1 Peter 1:3-9 out loud. This section was written by the Apostle Peter, one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus, as an encouragement to the Christians who were scattered throughout different Roman provinces in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). His main point is for his listeners (and, by extension, us) to trust God and endure in faith in Jesus because he is faithful to us and to keep his promise to us. We can also be encouraged with these same words:
Read 1 Peter 1:3-9 below:
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”
Prayer and Verses
Ask for prayer requests and conclude your time with prayer, then share the Key Verse for the Week and Daily Devotional Verses below with the group.
Daily Devotional Verses
Use the S.O.A.P. method to reflect on the verses below:
Scripture: Read the verses several times. Reading out loud can be helpful as well.
Observation: What can you see about the scripture you read?
Application: What does God want you to believe, do, or feel based on what you have read?
Prayer: This is a chance to talk to God about what you have read and ask him for help in living out what you’ve learned.
Day 1: Matthew 5:38-48
Day 2: 2 Corinthians 13:11
Day 3: Psalm 46:1-11
Day 4: Romans 12:17
Day 5: James 2:14-17
Day 6: Proverbs 16:32
Key Verse for the Week
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls”