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Rethink Your Thinking

I was a pastor in my twenties and in over my head. I knew I needed help, so I called Jake, my former college roommate, and asked him to move to Chicago and join me. I knew that he had a calling on his life and a sincere passion for God. Jake was very gifted and eager to serve, but he struggled with the voices from his past. He grew up in a broken household with parents who fought through multiple divorces. The scars of dysfunction manifested in Jake in a hypersensitive conscience and a sense of inadequacy that bombarded him with guilt and accusations any time he stepped into new opportunities.

Jake started out with enthusiasm in his new ministry role. But soon he began to experience unhealthy guilt and chronic feelings of condemnation. Jake and I had long talks about his struggle but nothing seemed to help. After several months the pressure was more than he could bear. Unannounced, he packed up his grey Ford Escort and tried to escape Chicago. On his way out of the city he was struck with a sudden pain in his side that forced him to pull his car to the side of the road. He sensed God was trying to get his attention, but was determined to run anyway. He made his way onto the expressway and drove about forty-five minutes outside of Chicago when abruptly his car broke down. He managed to turn the car around and barely make it back to the city. The mechanic that looked at his engine commented, “It must have been God that kept this car running, because this engine is shot.” Jake returned to Chicago discouraged and disappointed.

Often what drives us to the paralyzing cave of isolation, frustration, and fear are the voices in our head that speak to us about our identity and destiny. The message becomes a script that we repeat to ourselves like a bad recording, over and over, until it becomes our new reality. Jake’s story is not so different from what Elijah experienced. Elijah tried to define his future by his present circumstances. When fear set in he ran. The Bible gives hope for those of us who are bombarded by fear. Let’s discover how God broke through Elijah’s fear.

DISCUSS
Have you ever thought, “If only I was thinner…If only I made more money…If only I had a better family support…If only I wasn’t always sick?” If you can, share with the group how you think your situation would change if your circumstances were different?

Read 1 Kings 19:3-11

  • Have you ever faced a situation or circumstance that triggered feelings of fear, doubt, or anger? Maybe your spouse or friend said something that caused you to recall a past hurt or fear. Perhaps you or someone you know have been fired from a job, been diagnosed with cancer, or lost a loved one. We all have those points in our lives that cause us to spiral into fear or anger. What triggered Elijah to run? Do you know of any triggers in your life that cause you to stop walking in faith?
  • Verse 4 gives a dark picture of how Elijah was processing the events that he had just gone through. He had a lot of time to rehash some of the details. What or whom do you think Elijah was focusing on?
  • As we read verse 10 we can quickly see that Elijah continued to have a pretty bleak vision for his future. This great prophet was plagued with cloudy vision. Fear can do that to us; it can blind us from the Truth. Are there people in your life that have faced some pretty bleak circumstances, but instead of caving into the fear they were able to see things supernaturally? What did you notice was different in their lives?

What we think has a powerful effect on what we do. We shouldn’t allow fear-based messages to blare their broadcast in our minds. We can take steps to break the recording.

ACTIVITY
Purpose: To understand how our fear-based thinking can prevent us from walking into our calling. Every person that is stuck must answer the question that Elijah was confronted with in verse 9, “What are you doing here?” Grab a piece a paper and holding it width wise, draw a straight line across it. See this line as your timeline and start to plot out your story. Include memorable events both good and bad. As you look at your personal timeline begin to ask yourself: What event has caused faulty thinking in my life (i.e. fear-based or victim-based thinking)? If you know, write down some of the distorted thoughts.

It takes time and discipline but you can restart your thinking by filling your life with grace-filled truth. Below are some Scriptures that you can write down on an index card and place on your dashboard or bathroom mirror. Feel free to jot down your own.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 John 5:18
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.

Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Isaiah 26:3-4, Psalm 26:2-3

  • When have you felt discouraged by your inability to silence negative or fearful thoughts? According to these verses, what is God’s solution?
  • What does God’s Word have the power to do?
  • God asked Elijah a question not because he needed more information. God already had a plan in place. He wanted Elijah to search his heart. At times we can focus on our circumstances and loose sight of God’s agenda. Are there areas in your life that you need to lean on God more?

REFLECT
With which statement do you find yourself agreeing most:

  1. I have a hard time keeping my circumstances from dictating my thinking.
  2. I believe God can change my perspective but I have a hard time practicing the discipline of meditating on God’s Word.
  3. I have seen the power of meditating on the Word of God and its ability to renew my thoughts.

PRAY
God promises to give you strength and grace. Depend on him, and he will redeem you from your faulty thinking. Ask him for strength each time you’re bombarded with distorted thoughts and allow the voice of God to be louder in your life.

REMEMBER
Hebrews 3:1
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

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