1. When you were a child, who was the person you loved and trusted the most? What was it about this person that won your trust? If you didn’t have someone like that, share what that was like for you.
Read 1 John 4:7-12
2. According to v.9-10, exactly what has God done to express his love for? On a scale of 1 (so what?) to 10 (I’m fully impacted), how big a deal is that to you right now? Explain.
3. What does God’s act of love tell you about what it means to love someone?
4. Three times in this passage, the Apostle John tells his readers to “love one another.” As you think about your network of relationships (family, friends, work, school, church, community, etc.) what does living “love one another” look like for you?
5. Each of us has people in our network of relationships that we find difficult to get along with. Loving people we don’t like isn’t easy. What does loving the unlovely mean for you? How can we love those we find difficult to like?
6. As we don’t automatically have enough love in us to love the unlovely, we must find and plug into the true source of love, Jesus Christ Himself. We can love because we have been loved by Him. We love to the degree that we are truly convinced we are loved – we give the kind of love we ourselves have received. Discuss.
7. If you have trouble experiencing God’s love, what do you think gets in the way? What do you think could help you become a more loving person?
8. Read Romans 5:8 (NLT): “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Jesus loved us and gave Himself for the forgiveness of our sins when we were unlovely. How does this encourage you to love those who may be unlovely in your life?
9. Take a moment to pray for yourself (and others in your group) asking God to help each person know the depth of His love, and to be conduits of this love to others, particularly those who you find challenging to love.
10. What do you sense God has been saying to you through this study? What are you going to do about it?
- In your experience, what makes a relationship difficult and what makes it easy?
- What part do you play in a good relationship?
Read James 3:13-18
- What does this text have to do with good and bad relationships?
- According to v.14 and v.16 what disposition of my heart destroys any good relationship?
- How do you recognize jealousy and selfish ambition in yourself and others?
- What can you do against your own jealousy and selfish ambition?
- What are prerequisites for a good relationship (v.17)?
- How can I cultivate this “wisdom from above” in my heart?
- Where is God calling me to be a peacemaker?
- Describe your best friend and why they are your closest friend.
- Respond to the statement, “Real, enduring friendships are forged over time.”
- What is so meaningful about truly being known and truly knowing one another?
- Read: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 NIV). What quality in friendship is this proverb highlighting? Why do we value so highly those who are dedicated to us and stay faithful to us?
- Read: “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9 NIV). What quality in friendship is this proverb highlighting? What makes consideration so meaningful to us? How does it act as a key element of a strong friendship?
- Read: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13 NIV). Friends who can’t keep secrets won’t be friends for very long. Describe your experiences, both good and bad, with friends and secret-keeping. Why is confidentiality critical to building friendships that endure?
- Read: “An honest answer is the sign of a true friendship” (Proverbs 24:26 GN). How can we speak the truth in love to each other more effectively and freely? What happens when we speak truth without love, or are loving without being truthful? How would each scenario affect a friendship?
- Read: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). When iron sharpens iron, there’s friction which produces heat, and often sparks fly. How is “sharpening” good for forging a friendship that endures?
- Read: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17 NIV). Describe a situation where a close friend was there for you when you needed him/her. Talk about the importance of dependability in a friendship.
- If we want a friend with these qualities, we have to be a friend with these qualities. In what area are you feeling challenged? What are some of the challenges of cultivating an enduring friendship? In what way is Jesus our model?
- What do you sense God has been saying to you through this study? What are you going to do about it?
- Share an experience where you were in conversation with someone but got the feeling that they weren’t really listening. How did it make you feel? Why do we value being listened to?
- One well-known author stated: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Have you found this to be true? How?
- What do you feel are some of the barriers in giving people our attention, in actively listening when they are sharing?
Read: James 1:19-27
- How would you summarize these verses in terms of what God desires from us? What stands out in particular to you?
- How can being quick to listen and slow to speak help us be slow to become angry (v.19)? Why is it important to seek to understand before seeking to be understood? How could putting v.19 into practice this week impact your relationships with others?
- How have you experienced the truth that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (v.20)?
- James tells us that God’s Word was planted in us. What weeds can choke that Word and keep it from growing (v.21)? Explain.
- In your own words explain how the person who merely listens is different from the one who puts God’s Word into practice (v.22-25). Why is there a tendency for some believers to listen to and yet not follow God’s Word? How can we avoid this tendency in our lives?
- According to v.26-27, how do people who think they are religious differ from those who have a living faith in Jesus?
- How can you listen better to others this week?
- What do you sense God has been saying to you through this study? What are you going to do about it?
All of us come across people every day that are incredibly fascinating. They can be humorous, intelligent, wise, kind, generous, joy-filled, etc. Occasionally, you will meet someone who “pops” out as being just a little different, they reflect a love and genuine concern for others that is out of the ordinary. Paul mentions a young man named Timothy who was this kind of person in Philippians 2:20-21.
- Read the passage and reflect on Paul’s description of Timothy. What was it that set Timothy apart from everyone else?
- Take a moment to reflect on someone in your world who truly values other people. This may not be someone in the spotlight, most likely it’s someone just going about their day, yet they have an “others-focused” life!
- What is it that they do?
- What do you think motivates them to live this way?
- Everyone needs a “Timothy” in their world. If you have one, you are blessed. However, everyone can seek to be a genuine encourager to someone. Who has come across your path that needs someone in their corner? If you think about it for a bit you will realize it could easily be you!
- Take some time this week to reflect on the blessings God has given you in your life. Write them down.
- If you have been blessed by God with his peace and His presence, then you have been blessed to be a blessing. Who is someone in your world that you can bless this week? Ask God to open your eyes to see, then open your heart to respond!
- Take some time to sit, reflect and ask God to put someone on your heart to whom you can be a blessing. Beware, He may just surprise you!
- What destroys good relationships?
- Can you remember an occasion where your words or actions have destroyed a relationship? What happened? What were the consequences?
- Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). What does this mean? How can you do that?
Read Matthew 18:21-22
- What issue does Peter bring before Jesus? What does his answer imply?
- If you consider that rabbis suggested to forgive at least three times, Peter is already aiming high by suggesting seven times. How is Jesus answering Peter’s question and what does He mean by his answer?
Read Matthew 18:23-34
- The story is certainly not factual because the amount of debt owed is simply unrealistic. Jesus tells this parable to make a point. What is it that Jesus wants to say? Consider also that with this parable Jesus explains how the kingship of God operates (v.23).
- What does it mean to forgive according to this parable?
- How does this parable relate to Peter’s question in v.21?
- How do you understand v.35? See also Matthew 6:12,14-15.
- In light of this Bible study who do you need to forgive? Why? Remember: to forgive does not mean to forget nor does it mean to reconcile.
1. What is one thing you’ve secretly wished all your life you could do? What’s keeping you from doing it?
2. Who in your life played a pivotal role in your coming to faith? Who has been very influential in your spiritual formation? Why? What qualities did they model for you?
Read: Philippians 2:19-30
3. If you had to give a character reference for Timothy or Epaphroditus, what would you say? How do they illustrate Php. 2:1-4?
4. Which of the challenges the believers at Philippi were facing (1:17; 2:3; 3:2; 4:3) would Timothy and Epaphroditus be most suited to deal with?
5. Timothy and Epaphroditus serve as models to pattern our lives after particularly in focusing on the needs of others. How did each of them do that? How would your perspective change if you asked yourself, “Who can I serve?” every time you walked into a room?
6. Timothy and Epaphroditus also teach us to give ourselves to causes that are worth dying for. What does it mean to “give away” our life for a godly cause? Give examples of people you know who have put service to God (or others) before their own security. How has the example of their life impacted you?
7. Another quality the men Paul mentions model for us is to become someone people trust. Timothy was a proven servant who developed a reputation built on integrity and who kept his promises (his actions matched his words, no matter the cost). From Paul’s comments regarding Timothy’s trustworthy character (v.20), what can we conclude about the life choices Timothy made? How can we become trustworthy? Who do you trust and why?
8. 1 Corinthians 1:10 (Mes) says: “You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.” Learning to work well with others is critical to life together. Based on the above verse, what does Paul say is essential for being a team player? Discuss ways to build these characteristics into the group you are a part of.
9. Who are the models of humility and service you can look up to today, as Paul looks to Timothy and Epaphroditus? How do they challenge you to grow?
- Describe an activity that you thought would be great fun (like an evening out or a vacation) that you planned in advance in detail, but everything that could go wrong did.
Read: Philippians 2:1-11
- What two essential behaviors are discussed in these verses that are at the root of happiness? What specifically did Jesus do that exemplified these behaviors? How many examples did you find?
- After reading v.2 one more time, what are the four different kinds of harmony identified in this verse? Which of these do you find easy to embrace in your relationships and how you feel about them? Which ones do you have a more difficult time with? What could you do to develop these?
- Galatians 5:19-21 says: “Our self-indulgent nature shows itself…in conflict, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, causing divisions among people and the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group.” In light of these verses, consider your own life and relationships and any recent conflicts you have experienced. Did you consider your own self-indulgent nature as a contributing factor to the conflict? Talk about how our human nature destroys our harmony. Talk about how this impacts your happiness and the happiness of others.
- After reading v.3 again, think about what is meant by “giving more honor to others than to yourself” (NCV). If you went through a full day with this as the theme of your day, would you do anything different? Would your interactions with others be different? When someone shows that they value you, how do you respond to them?
- Read v.9-11 again and reflect on how God the Father has exalted Jesus? What is the significance of this? What effect does our full realization of Christ’s eternal position in heaven have on our beliefs and actions on earth today? What will our reward on earth and in heaven be for this?
- Jesus modeled harmony and humility. Describe how you will model these in your life. What makes this difficult?
- What one thing from this brief study do you sense God saying to you? How can you apply it to your life this week?