SERIES INTRODUCTION

When you can’t let go of stuff, it will eat you up – physically, emotionally and more importantly spiritually. Last year we challenged people to just LET IT GO. Now, as we continue this series, ask yourself what else are you holding on to?

  • Share a story about a time when someone else’s kindness impacted you.


SERMON GUIDE

Many of us are trapped by our past.  Maybe we did something wrong.  Maybe something wrong was done to us.  Or maybe we just faced some unlucky circumstances.  But regardless of the cause, it’s all too common for something in our past to keep us from moving forward.

  • What is something in your past that has kept you trapped? If you’ve been able to work through it, how did you do it?  If you’re still trapped by it, what do you think is keeping you from being able to work through it?

Have a volunteer read Acts 16:16-34.

  • What sorts of lessons do you think the jailer learned—and we can learn—from Paul and Silas?

The jailer in this story was desperate.  In the ancient world a jailer who let his prisoners escape would likely be executed.  When an earthquake caused the prison doors to swing open, the jailer couldn’t see past what had just happened.  The problem seemed too huge, too insurmountable, and he almost certainly couldn’t see a way out.

  • How might you be able to give the things you’re facing over to God so that He can help you find a way out?

Fortunately, Paul and Silas catch the jailer before he kills himself.  They intervene, keeping him from making a mistake he literally can’t come back from.

We all need people in our lives who are looking out for us, people who we can trust with the things we’re afraid to tell anyone, and people who will step in and intervene when we need them, people who will encourage us… or challenge us… when we need it.

  • Who are one or two people in your life who are looking out for you? How did you develop such a close relationship with them?  If you don’t feel like you have anyone like that right now, what is one step you could take to begin developing deeper relationships with others?

It’s tough to say what’s crazier, an earthquake opening all of the jail cells or the fact that none of the prisoners ran away.  Taken together, these things captivate the jailer’s attention and lead him to the life-changing question, “What must I do to be saved?”

  • What is an event in your life that has been catalytic for your own spiritual journey?

Of course, their answer is to believe in Jesus.  And the kind of belief they meant wasn’t just an intellectual belief.  They meant not only to believe intellectually but to actually trust Jesus, to trust his teachings and his plan.

When we truly trust someone, it shapes the way we act.  If your parents advise you not to take a particular job and you trust them, you don’t take it.  If you trust your own judgment more than theirs, you take the job anyway.

It’s the same with Jesus.  If we trust him, we’ll make decisions according to his plan.  We’ll move from cutting corners to operating with integrity, from gossiping to speaking well of people, from lying to truth-telling, from greed to generosity, from self-centeredness to love.

We see the jailer do this.  He washes Paul and Silas’ wounds, gets baptized along with his family, and then prepares a meal for Paul and Silas.  He didn’t just intellectually assent to the idea that there’s this Jesus guy and then continue on as before.  His belief, his trust, changed what he did.

Note to Leaders: One of the key responsibilities of a small group leader is to identify a spiritual next step for each member of your group and to help them take those steps.  This next question is designed to help facilitate that process. You may want to write down the steps that people mention and think through how the group can rally around each person to help them take that step.

  • In what area of your life do you think you need to make a change to better live according to God’s way of doing things?  How can the group help you make that change?


PAIR OFF

Have each group member pair off with another person of the same gender.  Each pair is responsible for following up with each other for the remainder of the semester to see how things are going with their spiritual next step and encourage each other to continue moving forward.