Preaching a 40-minute sermon is sometimes easier than leading a 15-minute discussion; delivering a monologue is easier than initiating dialogue! Try this four-step method the next time you are to lead a discussion.
Step 1: Illustrate. Tell a story. The right story has power. It can reel in the wandering mind, bring the soul to attention, and impress upon the heart a thought to last a lifetime—all in a moment.
Step 2: Quote. Plant your story in an environment of credibility. Quotations and passages from authoritative, respected sources not only provide this environment, but also anchor the listener to your story.
Step 3: Reflect. Throw out a few questions to provoke thinking and start and start a discussion.
Step 4: Apply. Invite the participants to incorporate into their lives the story and the quotations they have reflected on.
Now, let’s try this method using the topic Forces of Habit.
Illustrate. “On the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, a giant Sequoia lies rotting. It was a growing sapling when Christ walked the shores of Galilee. When Columbus discovered America, it was reaching maturity; during the America Civil War, it looked down from lofty heights. The tree seemed destined to live many more centuries. Then, a few years ago, a tiny beetle started to burrow into its bark and lay eggs that would produce other beetles. It seemed like an unequal battle at first, but the few beetles multiplied into hundreds, then into thousands, and finally into millions. First they attacked the bark, then they worked deeper into the trunk, and finally, they were eating the very heart and strength of that magnificent forest giant. Then one day, the rains came, the winds blew, and lightening flashed. And after withstanding the elements for centuries, the giant tree fell. Not because of the elements, but because of the weakening effects of those tiny beetles.
“Bad habits do the same to people. They slowly take a toll until the day comes when the person falls like that giant tree.”—Zig Ziglar
Quote. “The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning, because now God’s life is in him; so he can’t keep on sinning, for this new life has been born into and controls him—he has been born again” (1 John 3:9, TLB).
“Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about” (Phil. 4:8, TLB),.
“Sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny” (an old proverb).
Reflect. Why is it hard to admit that we are doing something wrong? What role does confession play in the breaking of a bad habit? What confidence does Jesus’ death on the cross give us? What should we do with our evil desires? How do we nail our desires to the cross? What specific differences might we expect if our lives were Spirit-controlled?
Apply. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process—you can’t be filled with the Spirit today and expect the supply to last a lifetime. Translated most accurately, the Greek verb, be filled (as in Eph. 5:18), would read be always being filled. Having once had an experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit is not nearly as important as being filled with the Holy Spirit today. We need to make a conscious, rational decision to yield to Christ’s control. And when we do so, the Holy Spirit’s power will be released. As we continue yielding, He will fill every part of us.
What can you do today to be open to whatever the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life? What steps will you take this week to break a habit that keeps you from growing? With the Spirit in control, how do you see yourself thinking and acting?