4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:4-5, 11 NIV)
It would be easy to allow despair and gloom to take hold of our small groups and Bible studies in light of the violence around the world. It would be easy to allow anxiety to paralyze us over the events in the past few weeks as we saw on the TV screen the tragic events in Ferguson and NY. I see Christians with different views of these events that prompted anger, hatred and verbal violence on Facebook. The same may be happening in some of your Bible study groups. Please hear me say that God always wants us to stand up for what may be injustices. We, however, should never allow ourselves to be overly focused to the point that we become less than what Jesus expects in our attitudes and behavior.
Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us that, 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. We have an obligation to the class to focus on abiding in Christ, bearing fruit and transforming lives. Here are some ways we can allow Christ’s joy be in us.
Bible study is about abiding in Christ. Let your focus be on your group and what Christ wants.
Pray for families on both sides of a tragic experience. When we pray for all people involved, we are less likely to make one group out to be villains. God may lead us to express in tangible ways God’s love to families on both sides affected by tragedy.
Focus on the lives of your group and lesson. Events in the news can monopolize your Bible study and you will miss out on what God is doing with individuals in the group. Acknowledge tragedy, pray for the families and see if God has a tangible way to help. Then move on to the lesson.
Recognize your attitude as the teacher matters. Dr. Joey Faucette and Mike Van Vranken in Faith Positive in a Negative World shares a wonderful illustration about our attitudes. Joey and his four year old daughter set up a bird feeder in their back yard in the winter to watch the pretty birds come to eat. Soon the squirrels began to take over the feeder. Soon Joey began reminding his daughter to look for the squirrels at the feeder, so he could get rid of them. Each day he would remind her. One day she said these wise words, “Daddy, we used to look out the window for pretty birds. Now we look for ugly squirrels.” Joey realized all of the joy of the bird feeder was gone. (If you want to know about this book and a special program for business professionals in your church, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Last week I had the chance to teach the Roma Pastors in Romania. The Roma people have been marginalized by the Romanians. Many cannot find jobs. Most of the Roma pastors are not paid by their congregation, because their congregational members can’t afford to give much. Yet the Roma pastors are filled with joy. At every break they would pull out the guitar and accordion and play and sing praises to God. Our world’s state and life’s circumstances do not determine their joy. Their joy comes in abiding in Christ and sharing that joy with others.
May we grasp hold of this concept and let it spread!