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5 Easy Ways to Wreck Your Life

Week 4: Be God

Week 4: Be God

You might think you’re already an expert on wrecking your life, but over the course of five weeks, we’ve been helping you take it to the next level!  We’ve examined five excellent ways to totally ruin your life!

For some, this series has served as a precautionary tale, but for most of us, it has been about how we can travel the road to recovery.  Throughout this series we’ve drawn on the journal of the wisest man ever to live: King Solomon.                                                               


Introduction

Solomon’s life can be summed up as “The Tale of 2 Lives.”

In the first part of his life, he followed God.  He was a successful leader, a wise leader, and he was the envy of other leaders and kings of his day.

In the second part of his life, he followed himself.  He became his own god.  In doing so, he wrecked his life, his marriages, his family, and his nation.

  • Pastor Mark Batterson is fond of saying that we make a few major decisions throughout our lives and then spend the rest of our lives managing those decisions.  What is one pivotal decision you made in life, and what has its impact been?  If you were baptized last weekend, share what led you to make that decision.


Understanding

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 12:1-8.

Here Solomon uses a lot of poetic language to say that before you get old, before your mind get fuzzy and your knees weak, don’t let your life journal be full of regret and shame like mine was.  Remember your Creator and live a better story while you’re still young.

  • When is one time when you decided to live a better story?

  • In the Old Testament, we read a lot about people who built altars to God as a way to remember what He had done in their lives. What is one thing you could do each day—in addition to prayer and Bible study—that would be a way of remembering God?

The word “remember” here means more than recalling facts or thinking about God, to “remember” God is to obey Him.  We obey God because He is God, because he is so much bigger and greater than we are, but we also obey God because—as we’ve seen throughout this series—our lives are better when we obey Him, when we let God be God.  When we try to be God like Solomon did, we wreck our lives.

  • How much does a desire to obey God impact your daily decisions?

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 12:9-14.

Solomon made many observations about life in Ecclesiastes. He noted the joys of life and the tragedies. He pointed out the futility of human pursuits as an end in themselves. Pleasure, wealth, sexuality, work, and all other human activities are meaningless apart from pursuing God.

In these closing verses, Solomon writes his conclusion, he gives his bottom line.  The goal of life is to fear God and keep His commands. And these commands are inseparable.

In Ecclesiastes 12:13, the command to fear God is elevated to the supreme principle of life. Fearing God doesn’t mean walking around scared that God will harm us if we displease Him.  Fearing God is the attitude of a follower of Jesus who recognizes the truth of who God is and gives Him the honor He deserves by obeying His commands.  Nothing dishonors God more than when we willfully disregard what He has asked of us.

This level of obedience is the example that Jesus set for us. By leaving heaven and coming to earth to be a sacrifice for us, Jesus demonstrated that obedience is rooted in love for God and worship of Him. When we obey God, we’re following Jesus’ example.

  • If you know God but don’t obey Him, what does that say about the way you view God and your relationship with Him?

Have a volunteer read Philippians 2:1-8

Here Paul, the man who started many of the earliest churches, reminds us that Jesus is the ultimate example of humility and obedience. That Jesus, even though He is God, he submitted himself to the will of God the Father, and humbled himself by becoming a human—setting aside all of the rights and privileges that come with being God—and sacrificing His life to heal the broken relationship between God and people.

  • What do you think it was like for Jesus to leave heaven and become human? What did He give up in doing so?

  • What would our lives look like if obeying God were our a primary focus rather than a secondary concern?


Application

  • What is one change you plan to make as a result of this message?  How can this group help you make it?


Activity

At the beginning of his message, Gene shared the importance of remaining humble, gentle, unified, and peaceful as followers of Jesus, in spite of any differences we may have or frustrations we may feel as a result of the recent election. (Ephesians 4:2-3)  He also talked about the importance of praying for those who are in power.

Spend a few minutes now praying for God to bring unity to our country and—even more importantly—to the Church.  Ask God to heal racial, political, and socio-economic divides.  Also ask that He would be with President-elect Trump, that God would give him wisdom and discernment and that He would draw the new president into a close relationship with Jesus.

Week 3: Isolate Yourself and Reject Wisdom

Week 3: Isolate Yourself and Reject Wisdom

You might think you’re already an expert on wrecking your life, but over the course of five weeks, we’re going to help you take it to the next level!  We’ll be examining five excellent ways to totally ruin your life!

For some, this series will serve as a precautionary tale, but for most of us, it will be about how we can travel the road to recovery.  Throughout this series, we’ll draw on the journal of the wisest man ever to live: King Solomon.


Introduction

This week, Gene tackled two ways to wreck your life:

  1. Isolate yourself.  Cut yourself off from meaningful relationships and don’t let anyone speak into your life.

  2. Reject wisdom.  Prioritize money or fame or success or pleasure over wisdom.

  • How did you meet your best friend?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 13:20.

Solomon was smart, rich, handsome, powerful, and universally famous, a king’s king, the envy of nations, and yet he was the poster child of loneliness.  He had all kinds of parties, the adoration of millions of fans, 700 wives, and 300 mistresses.  Yet he was lonely.

History has seen some great partnerships: Woody had Buzz, Fred Flintstone had Barney Rubble, Batman had Robin, Laverne had Shirley, Zach had Screech, Jordan had Pippen.

But when you think about Solomon, there’s no one else who comes to mind.  Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “It’s lonely at the top”?  In reality, it doesn’t even matter if you’re at the top.  All of us at one point or another think, “No one gets what I deal with. It’s lonely where I am.”

The truth is, we flourish when we’re connected to others. We languish when we aren’t.

  • Have you ever intentionally or unintentionally isolated yourself?  What was the result?

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 4:7-12.

What Solomon wrote thousands of years ago is confirmed by contemporary research.

People who have bad health habits such as smoking, a poor diet, physical inactivity, etc. but have strong social ties live significantly longer than people who have great health habits but are isolated.

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported a study that indicated that those with strong emotional connections did four times better fighting off illness than those who were more isolated.  These people were less susceptible to colds, had fewer viruses, and produced significantly less mucous than relationally isolated people.

  • What impact have those closest to you had on your life?

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 9:17-10:2.

There’s an interesting shift that occurs in Solomon’s writing style when you get to Ecclesiastes 7.  After telling us all these ways he wrecked his life, he reverts back to the writing style of his earlier writings that we find in the book of Proverbs.

He again shares nuggets of wisdom and tells us that wisdom, which comes from God, is a gift better than any other.

Proverbs says that folly is bound up in the heart of a child. In other words, we are all born with a case of the follies, we all are born with a bent toward foolishness, so Solomon says, do whatever you have to do to get wisdom.

  • Share a funny, foolish story from your childhood with the group.

Have volunteers read Proverbs 3:13-15, 4:5-8.

It’s like Solomon is saying that attaining wisdom is better than winning the lottery, discovering a buried treasure, or investing in Apple a decade ago.

If you’re a little unsure about that, think about people who have been raised by wise dads, dads who just seem to know when to encourage, when to coach, when to give a well-timed hug, and when to correct firmly.  How much healthier and happier are they than those whose dads were pretty foolish?

If we’re honest, some of us would have to admit that life has been pretty good. It’s been one long elevator ride to the top.  For those of us who fall into that camp, we must cultivate the gift of wisdom that God wants to give us to keep us steady, to keep from losing our spiritual equilibrium.  To keep our feet on the ground as God gives us blessings.

And some of us have had the opposite experience, whether because life dealt us a bad hand or because we’ve made mistakes and errors in judgment that have royally messed up our lives.  And those of us with that experience need God’s gift of wisdom all the more.

So how do you get wisdom?  It’s not complicated.  There are two things to do.

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 1:7.

You walk with God.  You decide to follow Jesus, which is more than making a decision to intellectually believe in Jesus.  That’s certainly where it starts, but then it continues with the following part, the time spent in prayer and in God’s word, the pursuit of Christlikeness, the desire to live in the way that Jesus taught us to live.

  • What is one area of your life that you need to surrender to God? Schedule? Family? Work? Finances?

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 13:20

When you walk with people, you become like them.  Spend your time with foolish people, and you’ll start making bad decisions.  Spend your time with wise people, and you’ll start making wise decisions.

This doesn’t mean that we cut off everyone who we would consider a negative influence.   God calls us to be a positive influence on others.  But those we draw closest to, those whose counsel we listen to, those should be wise people.

  • Who is one person who is a positive influence who you need to spend more time with?  Who is one person who you need to intentionally be a positive influence on?


Application

Make a plan to engage with those two people—the one who is the positive influence on you and the one who you need to be a positive influence on.

Text each of them now to figure out a time to go to lunch or a ball game, to have them over for dinner or whatever else would make sense based on your relationship with each of them.

Week 2 : Let Success Consume You

Week 2 : Let Success Consume You

You might think you’re already an expert on wrecking your life, but over the course of five weeks, we’re going to help you take it to the next level!  We’ll be examining five excellent ways to totally ruin your life!

For some, this series will serve as a precautionary tale, but for most of us, it will be about how we can travel the road to recovery.  Throughout this series, we’ll draw on the journal of the wisest man ever to live: King Solomon.


Introduction

Success can be a good thing, but when that drive to succeed consumes you, it can wreck your life.  It happens when you trade a good thing—success in your career—for more important things, like your relationships with your kids, your marriage, or your relationship with God.

  • What are some signs in your own life that you may be prioritizing success over more important things?


What happened to Solomon?

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 2:17-23.

Solomon was successful, but it didn’t turn out how he hoped.  He had a very strained relationship with his sons.  His boys got everything growing up, except an engaged dad and Godly character.

When Solomon dies they end up tearing the kingdom of Israel apart.  You can hear the regret in his words, like he almost knows it’s going to happen.

Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, has won four Super Bowls, married a super model, and is incredibly wealthy. In an interview with 60 Minutes following his third Super Bowl win he said:

I’m making more money than I thought I ever could make playing football.  Why do I have thre Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater for me?  I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey man, this is what is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think… “It’s got to be more than this.”  I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.

The interviewer asked him what the answer is, and Tom responded, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.”

  • Why do you think the drive to succeed is so strong? Do you agree with the idea that success will not ultimately satisfy?


LIE: My Success Defines My Identity

If you believe this lie, three things will happen.

1. You’ll be consumed by winning.

You think, if I could just be successful at… then I’ll be seen as….

  • If I could just be successful at work, then I’ll be seen as important.

  • If I could just be successful at school, then I’ll be seen as admirable.

  • If I could just be successful at making money, then I’ll be secure.

Parker Palmer writes about being offered the presidency of a large educational institution.  Because it was a step up the ladder for a teacher and writer, he was ready to say yes, but first he called some friends to help him pray and discern if this was God’s call for him.

Their first questions were easy to answer, then someone asked, “What would you enjoy most about being president?”

After a long pause he said, “Well, I wouldn’t like to quit teaching. I wouldn’t like the politics involved. I wouldn’t like fund-raising.”

“But what would you like?”

Now there was an even longer pause and he said, “I would like to have my picture in the paper with the word ‘president’ under it.”

One of his friends responded, “Parker, couldn’t you find an easier way to get your picture in the paper.”

  • What are you currently trying to be successful at?  How do you know that it’s something you really even want?

2. You’ll get caught in the comparison trap.

Your neighbor gets a Mercedes, so you need a Porsche.  Your co-worker goes to Paris on vacation, so you need to take a grand European tour.  Your friends all have the newest iPhone, so you need one too.

When we believe that our success defines our identity, it’s not enough to be rich, pretty, smart, etc., we have to be rich-er, pretti-er, smart-er.  And once we are, we need to be the rich-est, pretti-est, smart-est.

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 4:4.

Solomon, who was the richest and smartest said, “Yeah, that whole comparing yourself to others thing?  Meaningless.”

  • How are you tempted to compare yourself to others?

3. You’ll compromise your character.

If success is the most important thing to you, you’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead.

  • Cheat on that test?  Sure, it doesn’t hurt anyone.

  • Cover up a major problem with your house to sell it for more money?  Well, you know, it’s buyer beware.

  • Lie to make a business deal go through?  Uh, it’s not that bad, everyone does it.

It doesn’t take long before all of the things you thought about yourself—that you’re trustworthy, that you’re the kind of person people want to do business with, that you’re a good role model for your kids—none of it is true.

  • When is one time you made the hard choice not to cut corners?  What was the result?  Are you glad you made that decision in spite of the difficulties it may have caused you?


TRUTH: My Identity Determines my Success

Our identity, our worth and value, is rooted in two things.

The first is that we are created in God’s image.  We reflect the glory and wonder of God, and each of us does that in a slightly different an unique way.

The second is that Jesus—the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God and God Himself—loved us enough to come to earth and die a horrible death so that we could have a relationship with God.

If we could truly internalize these two things, we would not feel the need to be successful in order to have value.

  • Practically speaking, how would your life look different if you internalized the truth of your identity as someone created in the image of God and loved by God?


Application

Beginning to apply this lesson is simple.  Find one practical way you can prioritize the things that are most important—family, friends, and a relationship with God—over success this week.

At the end of the week, spend five minutes reflecting and journaling on how this felt.  Did it feel good?  Was it a painful challenge to say reprioritize the success you’ve been striving for?

 

Week 1 : Let Pleasure Drive You

Week 1 : Let Pleasure Drive You

You might think you’re already an expert on wrecking your life, but over the next five weeks, we’re going to help you take it to the next level!  We’ll be examining five excellent ways to totally ruin your life!

For some, this series will serve as a precautionary tale, but for most of us, it will be about how we can travel the road to recovery.  Throughout this series, we’ll draw on the journal of the wisest man ever to live: King Solomon.


Introduction

God wants everyone to enjoy life.  He gives us boundaries not to stop us from having fun, but so that we can live life to the fullest.  However, when we ignore those boundaries and pursue pleasure our own way, we often find ourselves spiraling downward.

  • What are some things that you have learned the hard way?

 

What happened to Solomon?

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 12:11-14

At the end of Ecclesiastes Solomon gives us a glimpse into something he learned the hard way.  He wraps up his journal by warning readers that there's consequence to not following God.  He urges people not to follow in his footsteps but rather to follow God’s path.

In 1 Kings 2-3 we learn that Solomon was the fortunate son of King David and Bathsheba.  When he took over his father’s kingdom, God asked what He could do for Solomon. Solomon requested wisdom to better govern and rule the people (2 Chronicles 1).

  • If God offered to answer one prayer, what would you ask Him?

If I just...

God was pleased that Solomon did not ask for money or fame, so he not only granted Solomon’s request for wisdom, God made him wealthy and famous as well.  Solomon shared his wisdom with the world in the books of Song of Songs and Proverbs.

The unfortunate reality is that sometimes it’s easier to give advice than follow it.  Solomon failed to make wise decisions in his own life, deciding to pursue pleasure rather than pursue God.

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 and 2:1.

Solomon uses the word meaningless 38 times in Ecclesiastes.  As he reflects on his life, he realizes that all of the time and energy and effort he spent on pursuing pleasure was futile.

We’re all tempted to think that if we were able to finally get something that we really want, our lives would be so much better.

  • What “If I just…” tempts you?  If I were just married, my life would be complete. If I just made a little more money, I wouldn’t be so stressed.  If I just had a house... If I just had a better job…  If I just had kids…  If my kids would just move out…  If… If… If...


All of Life’s Pleasures

Have volunteers read 1 Kings 11:1-4 and Ecclesiastes 2:2-11.

Solomon tried it all.  He spent years trying sex and alcohol and laughter and houses and business and music, but ultimately, none of it satisfied. None of it filled the void that he felt inside.  He realized that all of that effort for all of those years was meaningless.

  • If you could go back in time and teach your 20 year old self one lesson, what would it be?


Application

The truth is that the only thing that will satisfy is a relationship with Jesus.  God created us to have a relationship with Him.  When humankind sinned, we broke that relationship, leaving us empty and unfulfilled, but God reached out, sending Jesus to restore that broken relationship and fill the void that exists inside each of us.

Some of us have not yet decided to follow Jesus and allow Him to restore that broken relationship.  Others of us have made that decision, but even still we all to some degree rely on pleasure to satisfy us.

  • What is one practical thing you can do this week to begin rooting your happiness more in a relationship with God and less in pleasure?