Sundays | 9am & 10:30am | The Woodlands, TX

How to Make the Most of Your Life: Romans 8:14-17

Part 6 of 7: Thriving Through Suffering
John Witte

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”—Romans 8:14–17 (ESV)

Sunday’s message will resonate with everyone in your Group. Suffering is on full display in Ukraine and seems to worsen every day. We see staggering images of unthinkable horror on the evening news and worry about our sensibilities as we begin to numb to it. Like school shootings, war has become too familiar, too routine.

Icebreaker: Ask the Group to talk about the first war they remember as a child. Which one was it? What were their impressions? What are their most vivid memories? Please note that some members might have lost a loved one to war as a child. Allow plenty of time for discussion.

When Jesus first called his disciples, he told them they would suffer for him. What a strange way to invite followership! Jesus said their willingness to suffer with him was the key to making the most of their lives. The same is true for us, and that calls for a radical redefinition of what it means to make the most of one’s life. Our list of priorities is often wrong and requires adjustment. We must:
1. Focus beyond that which we can see.
2. Seize moments that will never come our way again.
3. Act on our new priorities.
4. Walk in the Spirit so our wants don’t overwhelm us.
5. And today, we add - Make sure our priorities can survive and help us thrive in the face of suffering.

Would your list survive suffering and even help you thrive in it? It’s a legitimate question because most of our lists are designed to prevent suffering, not make room for it, and certainly not help us thrive.

Think about your life and your current orientation. If tomorrow the United States was faced with a situation like that in Ukraine, how would you fare? Would your list survive and help you thrive in the face of suffering, or would it wither to nothing?

Paul’s letter to the Romans is about avoiding sin and handling suffering. In today’s verses, Paul says we have two choices: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8.5). The flesh and the Spirit indicate two orientations toward life, whether we live in The Woodlands, the number one place to live in America, or Ukraine, the last place on earth anyone would want to live right now.

We all orientate our lives around something. Work, children, addictions, money, church, your hobby, physical beauty, strength, and even things that don’t matter.

To function in life requires orientation, and your list reveals yours.

Paul said we could orientate our lives and our list around the flesh or the Spirit. The flesh is self-reliant for the goal of self-gratification. A list orientated to the flesh cannot survive nor help you to thrive in the face of suffering. Christ-followers don’t have to orientate themselves around the flesh. We can live according to the Spirit by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. We do this by listening to the word, worshiping the Lord, living in community with other believers, talking about life from God’s point of view, and making decisions based on His guidance.

This isn’t easy, even when we become believers. Why? One thing that makes it difficult to orientate our lives to the Spirit is suffering itself. It is precisely when we face suffering that we often look to the flesh for a way to escape. This is an option every believer has. We can orientate our lives and list around the flesh, or we can orientate our lives and list around the Spirit. The former will cause us to flee suffering at all costs, and the latter will lead us to embrace Jesus.

Group Discussion Questions
  1. Talk about your current stage of life. Are you just beginning as a young adult, do you have children at home, are you an empty nester or retired? What are your current life priorities?
  2. In the sermon, John Witte said most of our priorities are in place to avoid suffering. What does that mean?
  3. What happens to our priorities when suffering disrupts our life? Has that happened to you? How?
  4. What effect has suffering had on your faith?
  5. In the sermon, we heard it is possible to thrive in the face of suffering. Do you agree with that? Why or why not?
  6. What would you say to the Christians of Ukraine right now if you could?
  7. Close your Small Group meeting with an extended season of prayer for the suffering. Make special note of anyone in the Group who is suffering. Pray for the people of Ukraine.
Posted in