Our life is a story enfolded in the epic story of God. Stories are all around us. They move us, make us feel alive, and inspire us.
Jesus was a master communicator. He used objects, humor, current events, historical reference, and poetry. But most of all, he told stories. He knew that people remember stories. He realized that they were a way to reach people where they were living, help them see themselves in that story, and gain a greater understanding about life: life with God, life with each other.
What is one experience that you’ve had in the last year or two that has caused you to grow as a person?
Have a volunteer read John 15:8
When we flourish and grow towards our God-given potential, it makes God smile and throws a huge floodlight on His greatness.
God wants to shape us into His best version of us. He desires us to be fully alive with joy, passion and gratitude. He wants to grow us into people that produce fruit with our lives and make a difference in this world.
One of the ways we grow is through His Word, the Bible. He uses the teaching of His word to change, sharpen, encourage, and convict us.
Has something you’ve read in the Bible ever impacted you in a significant way? If so, how did it impact you and how is your life different as a result?
In Matthew 13, Jesus is teaching a large crowd. The crowd grows so big He has to get into a boat off the shore and use the bank as an amphitheater. He tells a story all about sowing seeds, cultivation, different types of soil, and how that impacts our growth.
Have a volunteer read Matthew 13:3-17
Jesus describes four types of soil that the seed fell on in this passage:
The Path – This is where there is no soil and the seed had nowhere to land.
Rocky Soil – Here the seed plants but without roots it quickly dies.
Thorns and Weeds – The seed is planted but thorns choke the plants out.
Good Soil – The seed plants, puts down deep roots and thrives.
What kind of thorny or rocky experiences keep God’s teachings from taking root in our lives?
Many times, Jesus would use parables and not give the explanation but, in this story, we get to see what He’s talking about.
Have a volunteer read Matthew 13:18-23.
We read that the seed here represents the Word of God and the farmer is the person teaching it. What would happen if every time each of us were in an environment where we had the opportunity to learn God’s Word, we would begin by saying this simple prayer, “God, as You teach, let me be teachable.”
How can you be more like the one who received the seed on good soil? Share what would good soil look like in your life.
Have a volunteer read Colossians 2:7.
Roots are so fascinating because the majority of the time, they are unseen. They lie beneath the surface, but the role roots play is essential. The roots are what hold the nutrients in, allowing life to grow and flourish above ground.
If we are going to flourish, we have to allow the word of God to break through the surface of our lives and go deep within us. This happens when we engage with God’s Word every day and draw nourishment from Him.
Have a volunteer read Ephesians 3:17.
No matter what happens in life, you will grow and flourish because your roots run deep.
What is your approach to engaging with the Bible? Is it a regular part of your day? Is there anything you think you might need to change about how you engage with God’s Word?
Have volunteers read Colossians 3:16 and James 1:22-25.
Mike shared an approach to reading God’s Word using the words Relax, Reflect and Respond to guide us.
Relax in His character. When we know God’s character and heart towards us, we can relax in His unfailing love and hang on to His every word as life-giving truth.
Reflect by asking God “What are you trying to teach me? What’s in this that I need to hear?“
Respond by asking God “What do I need to do with this?” Other questions include “What are you asking me to do?” or “How should I respond to this? “
Then apply it to your life and do what it says.
Through Jesus’ telling of this story we see how life changing God’s Word is. We can choose to improve our soil when we cultivate it through humility and fertilize it by practicing gratitude every day. Plant yourself by the river everyday and let your roots go down deep into His love. Set aside some time every day this week to relax, reflect, and respond. See just how God will throw some Miracle Gro on your life and you will begin to flourish from the inside out in ways you never thought you could.
This week, as you’re reading the Bible, use Mike’s “Relax, Reflect, Respond” approach. Write down anything you think God might be saying to you or asking you to do.
If you’re not currently reading the Bible regularly, download the YouVersion app and pick a Bible reading plan. Try to read the Bible at least four times over the next week, even if it’s only for 5 minutes each time.
In January, we are launching an initiative to help Eastsiders develop solid faith foundations. We are developing four small group curriculum, the first of which is called Engage with God. It is all about helping us know God like Mike talked about and like Jesus did. Consider using it as a group to experience the joy, passion, and gratitude that God wants to help each of us develop in our lives.
Pair off and spend time praying for:
God to reveal the condition of your heart and soil.
Discipline to set aside time each day this week to relax, reflect and respond.
To cultivate deep roots that will see you through the ups and downs of life.
The strength to seek out healing you might personally need emotionally, physically and/or spiritually.