In week two of Stretch Marks, Bryan continued preaching from Acts to show us that God’s goals are different than ours. We aim to reach our goals. But to God, reaching for Him is the goal.
1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
-We live in a culture that’s all about reaching goals. But we have to be careful because we can do a great job at reaching the wrong goal. The accuracy of the goal itself is more important than the achievement. Before we get to work on our goals, we have to make sure we have the right ones.
-God has goals for our lives. Jesus clearly stated the goal of the enterprise of the kingdom of God in Matthew 28. God’s goal is to grow the church. We need to examine ourselves and make sure our goals align with God’s goal.
-In Acts 4, Peter and John were doing their best to achieve the goal of heaven. The direct consequence of proclaiming the gospel and growing the church was for them to be thrown in prison. As they reached for God’s goal, they found themselves in a tight place. But Peter seized the opportunity in a tight place and preached Jesus.
-Our best growth occurs in some tight places. If we make the right moves in tight places, there’s no limit to what God can do in our lives. God is all about completing His goals in our lives, but so often we don’t participate in the process.
We won’t reach for the goal if we let these 3 LIEs stop us:
-We often don’t reach for all God has for us because of our limitations. The early church in Acts had all sorts of limitations, but God did miraculous things through them. We tend to see our limitation as a lid. But the early church saw their limitation as a launching pad. God wants to use what we don’t have to get us to see what He does have.
-It’s not that God calls us to like our limitations. But He calls us to embrace them. Real life has limitations, and the reason we’re scared of them is because we haven’t fully grasped the unstoppable nature of the gospel. The power of the gospel is stronger than any limitation the world can impose on us.
-God can’t show His limitless nature unless He shows us our limited nature. That’s why our biggest opportunity for growth is in the gap between our goals and our gift. When our goals exceed our gift, that’s when God shows up. He reveals Himself in the stretch, when we can’t do it ourselves and when we don’t feel ready or competent.
-We need to embrace our limits so that God can exceed them. Some of the most prevailing work of God happens when the people of God are thrown in prison. This is because it’s when we feel like we can’t move that God moves in the most miraculous ways.
-The religious leaders threatened Peter and John, and tried to intimidate them into not preaching Jesus again. The moment we embrace the goal God gives us, the enemy will use the tactic of intimidation to stop us from reaching for it. Intimidation is when anything that opposes the power of God in our life tells us that we can’t do what God told us to do. The voice of intimidation in our heads says, “Don’t try that again...” or “Who do you think you are?”
-Our culture is all about making a good impression. But God’s goal for us is not that we’d make a good impression. It’s that we’d make a great impact. When we get stressed out about what kind of impression we’re making, we lose our ability to make a real impact. When we make life about impact for God’s kingdom, we are freed from being intimidated by the enemy and by what people think of us. We need to stop getting intimidated by things that Jesus nailed to the cross. The things we’re intimidated by are the things Jesus died to put under our feet.
-When Jesus told His disciples about going to the cross, they argued with Him. The cross didn’t meet their expectations. But they didn’t realize that the cross was what God would use to save the world. Every unmet expectation we have is an opportunity. We need to see let-downs as set-ups for God to move in mighty ways.
REACHING = THE GOAL
-In Acts 4:3, the religious leaders seized Peter and John while Peter was in the middle of preaching. Peter wasn’t around to see that 2,000 people came to Christ that day. He was in prison. As Bryan said, “Sometimes the last one to see your growth is you.” We need to remember that we’re doing better than we think we are.
-There’s an interesting difference between God’s goals and our goals. Our goals are all about arriving at something. But from God’s perspective, reaching = the goal. To God, the stretch is the goal. He doesn’t want us to grasp something. He wants us to continue to reach for Him and all He has for us. In reaching for God, we succeed even if we fall flat on our face. He just wants us to keep reaching, so that He can show up in the stretch.
“What’s the Goal?” Start your group by having everyone fill in the following sentences: My goal in elementary school was to ______.
My goal in high school was to ______.
My goal last year was to ______.
INTRO: REACHING THE GOAL
• Team Stretch. Last week, the closing activity involved picking someone in your Life Group to share for 3-5 minutes on how God is stretching their faith. Open your discussion time by having them share.
• What was your favorite part of this weekʼs sermon?
• Bryan talked about three LIEs that stop us from stretching for the goals God has for us (Limitation, Intimidation, and Expectation). Which lie do you struggle with the most?
As your Life Group begins to share, ask a few follow-up questions to help them apply this week’s message to their lives.
• What are your top three life goals?
• "You can make excellent time heading in the wrong direction.” Do you think your goals line up with the goals God has for you?
• When Peter and John reached for the right goal, they ended up in prison. When we start reaching for God’s goal for us, we can end up in a tight spot. What challenges have you faced in reaching for your goals?
• Do you have goals that you have given up on? What has stopped you from reaching for the goals God has given you?
• What do you see as the biggest limitation to achieving your goals?
• The reason we’re afraid of limitation is because we haven’t fully grasped the unstoppable nature of the gospel. Share a time when you have seen God’s power exceed your limitations.
• Our biggest opportunity for growth is in the gap between our goal and our gift. Are you reaching for things you can achieve on your own, or do your goals have a gap that only God can fill?
• Do you have a dream or a goal that you’ve been scared to pray for because it seems beyond your limits? Take 2 minutes to allow your group members to silently pray the prayers they’ve been scared to ask God for.
• Intimidation is when any voice tells us that we can’t do what God called us to do. What are the sources of intimidation in your life?
• God’s goal is not for us to make a good impression, but a great impact. In what situations do you find yourself more focused on impressing people than on making an impact for God’s kingdom?
• The enemy uses intimidation to stop us from obeying God by using the lie that the opposition we face is stronger than us. But Jesus defeated all the enemy’s works on the cross. What is something that’s been intimidating you that you need to tell, “You can’t hold me back anymore?”
• “Your fears may be loud, but that doesn’t mean they’re real.” Take time to have each person reject the fears that have intimidated them and declare the truth God says about them.
• Make a goal to do one thing this week that you've been too intimidated to do before. Whether itʼs a conversation you need to have or someone you need to pray for, commit to making the stretch.
• Every unmet expectation is an opportunity. What is a disappointment you are facing right now? How could this let-down be a set-up for God to move in your life?
• When life fails our expectations, we can either complain about it or call out the potential for God to work in that situation. How can you change your language about a situation that’s been getting you down?
REACHING = THE GOAL
• Bryan preached, “Sometimes the last one to see your growth is you.” Have your group members encourage each other by sharing the ways that they’ve seen each other grow in their faith.
• God isn’t so much interested in our achieving a goal as He is in our continually reaching for Him. He’s all about relationship. Do you find yourself more focused on doing things for God or on seeking His presence?
• God’s goal is for us to just keep reaching for Him. How can you stretch yourself to reach for a deeper relationship with Christ this week?
WHAT’S YOUR NEXT STEP
Help your Group identify and take their next steps with Jesus. Pray with them and for them. Ask them about their next steps later this week.
Are you a 100% sure there you will spend eternity?
Today may be the day you need to make the stretch to take your first step into a new relationship with Jesus Christ. Stretch out to him, trust in Him and receive Him as your Savior your life
Are you allowing your limitation to dictate your goals? Your Next Step maybe to give your the lie limitations to God and allow him to through them to accomplish more than you could ever dream.
Are you allowing the lie of intimidation hinder God’s call. You Next Step maybe to give up your fears to God an allow him to grow your faith beyond your fears.
Are you allowing the failure of your expectation to be an opportunity for God to work? You next Step maybe to look at your failed expectations as an opportunity for God to do something amazing and not allow them to hold you back.
Are you reaching? If not your next step is to step out of your comfort zone and reach forward in faith to allow God to stretch you.
Team Stretch. Close your discussion time with a time of prayer. Then, before your Life Group leaves, pick one person to share something with the Life Group the next time you meet. Ask them to prepare a 3 to 5 minute summary of how God is stretching their faith right now. They can reference how the previous week’s sermon spoke to them, share something they read in the Bible this week that helped them, or anything else they choose. They will share after the icebreaker of your next Life Group meeting.