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You're Only Human Study Guide 4: Why Does Change Take So Long?

Community Group Study Guide — Why Does Change Take So Long?
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Study Information:
If you are a follower of Jesus you probably experienced a pretty big change in your life when you put your faith in Christ. Likely you experienced a renewed sense of hope and love from God and that was followed with some life change. Many of us experience letting go of certain sins pretty quickly. However, you also likely have certain sins that stick pretty close to you that are hard to shake. For example maybe you were able to give up bad language, lust and reacting in excessive anger; but you struggle with the sin of gossip in a way that feels impossible to shake. Why doesn’t God just change it all in an instant? Why does it seem to be a process? How come it is so difficult sometimes?

When we struggle with sin and have a hard time seeing growth we can be tempted to think that God is irritated and impatient with us. But what if he is more committed to our sanctification process than we are? What if there is something God is doing through that difficult work? Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6 that God will complete the good work he began in us. He could do it now, but will complete it “on the day of Christ Jesus.” What we see is that God is not in the hurry we may be in and is at work in the process of our growth in holiness. 

Some people love the process of something, but many of us just want results! Think of cooking for example, some of us love to cook and enjoy taking our time and even find it to be therapeutic; others just want the meal. Our society has wired us for impatience and to think that speed is the highest virtue. We are microwave using, fast food buying, content streaming, lane hopping on the freeway, wired for instant gratification people. God seems to love the process of our spiritual transformation and how it pushes us to grow in our awareness of our need for him. To explore this we will look at Paul’s “thorn in his flesh” and how the Lord gives grace to us in weakness. 

God’s Grace is Sufficient
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul gets real about his suffering and hardship in 2 Corinthians 11-12. The epistle as a whole discusses suffering and the hardship of the Christian life with a view towards a hope in God. If were to think of anyone as “advanced” or “crushing it” in the Christian life it would be someone like Paul who had intellect, courage and the ability to bring the gospel to a variety of cultural backgrounds. Paul also had tremendous life transformation having gone from persecuting the church to being persecuted for proclaiming Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul talked about a hidden hardship he faced (his thorn) that was given to him to bring him close to Jesus. There was work that God was doing on Paul’s spiritual life that required weakness and hardship. We do not know what this thorn was specifically but the text tells us that it was in his flesh and was a messenger from Satan. So it was a mixture of physical hardship and spiritual warfare. What we can see from the text is that it was something Paul wanted to have removed from him, but God kept it for a purpose. Rather than instantly changing Paul, God works through this process of spiritual hardship to prove to him that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Weakness in the text here does not overtly refer to his human limits; likely weakness is a combination of his suffering, inability to change himself completely and his need for God’s grace. 

Many of us are results focused and want to just get from point A to B as quickly as we can, but God often takes us through a process even though he could do something instantly. In that process we get to grow in communion and relationship with God and come to the end of ourselves so we have to full trust and rely on him. During those seasons we get to be humble and drawn near to God so that we depend on his grace. 

Depending on God for Spiritual Growth
Philippians 1:6
In the book of Philippians Paul assured the church that God does not abandon the work he began in us, but will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ. Our future is one of glory and freedom from sin, but right now we’re in between our justification and glorification and experience the process of sanctification which is becoming more and more like Christ in our thoughts, attitudes and actions. It is important to hear this, God does not want us to stay stuck in our sin. Please do not hear that sin is “ok” or that God is happy with it. Paul throughout the book of Romans asked the rhetorical question “should we sin more so grace abounds?” and his answer was always “by no means!” However there is a hidden benefit in our fight against sin and our pursuit of being like Jesus in what we say, think and do… and that hidden benefit is that we grow in our understanding and our experience of our need for God.

The goal of Christian faith has always been to grow in love and communion with God rather than self-improvement. The gospel is not a self-help tool, rather it is good news about how we can be reconciled to God, and his love for us and his commitment to our growth and our good. 

As you think about your humanness, your limits and your struggle with sin, be reminded that God is limitless and that he is at work in all of this so that we’d find our joy in him and truly need him. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Are you a process person or a results person? Why do you think you tend to favor one over the other?

Do you think our culture is overly focused on speed and ease? How does that impact how people approach following Jesus?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Why wouldn’t God remove the thorn from Paul and what did God produce in Paul from all the sufferings, hardships and weakness? 

What areas of your life are pushing you to depend on God more right now?