WEEK 5: STAGING YOUR CELEBRATION
Pastor Don preached week five of Stretch Marks on how to celebrate the stages of our growth. Even though we’re not perfect, God is always staging something in our lives we can use to celebrate His goodness.
-In Nehemiah 8, the Israelites are gathering to celebrate the completion of the rebuild of Jerusalem’s walls. They built a stage for Ezra to stand upon and read from the book of the Law. As he read, the people begin to weep, presumably because of their inability to live up to the standards within. However, Nehemiah urges them not to weep, reminding them that the joy of the Lord is their strength. Instead of weeping, they ought to celebrate what God has done in allowing them to rebuild the walls, to eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks, and share with those who would otherwise go without.
Pastor Don opened his sermon by addressing the tension between celebration and correction. For some of us, celebration doesn’t come naturally. Yet without it, our tendency to correct will only wear people out. Likewise, without correction, our tendency to celebrate others will never challenge them to reach their fullest potential.
Pastor Don offered four stages of celebration that we can use to stretch our ability to praise God:
1. BUILD IT UP
- Just as Nehemiah built up the walls of Jerusalem to physically protect the city, a stage was built for Ezra to read God’s Word to celebrate and spiritually protect the people.
- As Pastor Don preached, we must build up a foundation for our lives, both physically and spiritually. Our lives aren’t all-physical or all-spiritual; we must balance the two.
- In today’s culture, it’s easy to long after success but hesitate to make the sacrifice necessary to realize it.
- Every day is an opportunity to allow God to build something up in our lives. When we make the effort and sacrifice to build up a foundation in Christ, we have an opportunity to celebrate what God is continually doing in our lives.
2. BREAK IT DOWN
- When the Israelites gathered to celebrate, there was still plenty of work to be done. There was an infrastructure within the walls that needed to be rebuilt, but in the moment, they took the chance to celebrate their progress.
- If we never learn to celebrate our starts, we’ll never be able to sustain our momentum. If all we ever celebrate is our conclusions, it will grow increasingly difficult to celebrate the stages of progress that led up to the end result. -Pastor Don challenged us to look at our lives and say, “I may not be where I want to go, but thank God I’ve made it this far.”
- By breaking down the stages of our celebration, we can find the strength to keep going.
3. PICK A POINT
- The day the Israelites chose to celebrate wasn’t significant in its own right; they simply picked a point of progress that they wanted to celebrate.
- Likewise, we don’t have to wait for a specific day or a substantial reason to celebrate; we can celebrate the small victories God allows to experience each and every day. Psalm 118:24 reminds us, “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.”
- If we want to walk by faith, we sometimes have to simply pick a point to focus on and say, “I’m going to celebrate where I’m at and then keep going.”
4. TURN IT OUT
- When Nehemiah encouraged the people to celebrate, he told them to eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks. “And,” he said, “send some to those who have nothing prepared.”
- Sometimes, when we feel like we need to be encouraged, joy can actually be found by encouraging others.
- As Pastor Don preached, “There’s nothing the devil hates more than when you celebrate someone else when you yourself need to be celebrated.”
- We don’t always know why we’re experiencing pain. However, God is working in all of it for the good of those who love Him. The very fact that we’re struggling is a sign that God’s building a stage for us to proclaim His power to the world around us. Our perspective shifts when we take our sorrows and turn it out for the good of others.
- The same way Ezra spoke from his platform, God is giving each of us a platform to encourage and reveal Himself to people who have yet to experience Him.
“Simple Celebration.” Start your Life Group with a simple celebration of today. Ask everyone in your Life Group to finish the following sentence: “Today, I am grateful that I _____.”
- Watch this week's sermon recap with your Life Group. What stood out to you from this week's message?
- This week's sermon was based out of Exodus 14, a well-known passage of Scripture that depicts Moses parting the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape the Egyptians, who had once held them captive as slaves. What new perspective on this passage did you gain from this weekend?
- As your Life Group begins to share, ask a few follow-up questions to help them apply this week’s message to their lives.
BUILD IT UP
- Which comes easier to you, celebration or correction? Why?
- Growing up, what made you feel celebrated or "built up"? What did that teach you about yourself?
- Pastor Don talked about the importance of always building something in your life. What are you trying to build into your life right now?
- How do you incorporate spiritual disciplines like prayer and reading the Bible into this process?
BREAK IT DOWN
- Name someone you look up to as having built a strong spiritual foundation for their life. Break it down. What sacrifices did they make to get where they are today?
- Living for God requires sacrifice. What sacrifices have you made or are trying to make?
- We don't have to wait to celebrate our conclusions, we can celebrate the stages. How would you describe the stage of life you're in today?
- What is there to celebrate about this stage?
- Pastor Don preached, “Don’t celebrate in a way that sabotages your progress.” What thoughts, habits, or people do you need to stay away from to keep yourself from breaking down your own celebration?
PICK A POINT
- Pastor Don spoke about the control we have over the interior design of our hearts. Give an example of someone you know has the ability to maintain a grateful heart, despite being surrounded by negativity.
- As Ezra read from the Law, the people wept over their inability to live up to it. Do you ever find yourself discouraged because you're not where you want to be?
- Nehemiah encouraged them not to weep, but to rejoice because the joy of the Lord is their strength. Ask your Life Group to finish this sentence: I may not be perfect, but thank God I _____.
- Pastor Don challenged us to see that the pain God brings us through actually builds a stage for us to celebrate His strength in our lives. What would it look like for you to take what God is doing in your life to begin helping someone else?
TURN IT OUT
- When you're feeling discouraged, how do you treat the people closest to you?
- If you're discouraged and someone close to you is discouraged, what do you do? Do you encourage them or wait for them to encourage you?
- When Nehemiah encouraged the people to celebrate, he told them to send some of the choice foods to those who didn't have any. Talk about a time when you set out to help someone else, but it actually wound up helping you.
- What are some simple ways you can celebrate the people you interact with on a daily basis? Set a goal to focus on one of these actions this week.
- How can your Life Group "turn it out" and help others?
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
Do you have a solid foundation? Your Next Step may be to attend the Foundations class to refresh or discover what it means to walk in a healthy relationship with Christ.
Are you allowing frustration to hinder your success? You Next Step maybe breakdown the success and blessing God is giving you and learn to celebrate your progress with gratitude.
Are you is going through trials or under strain? You next Step maybe to realize that it through pain sometimes that we discover more of the character of God that increase our love and deepens our relationship with him.
Are you always looking to be blessed? Your next Step is to discover ways to serve opportunities to serve others and enjoy being a blessing to others.