Dr. Steve Stephens
Dr. Steve Stephens - How to Build a Great Life
Weekly Lists
An excerpt from
Lists to Live By: The First Collection: For Everything that Really Matters

 

WHAT IS SUCCESS?
 
To laugh often and love much;
 
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
 
To earn the approval of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
 
To appreciate beauty;
 
To find the best in others;
 
To give of one's self;
 
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
 
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
 
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived...
 
This it to have succeeded.
 
 
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
POET, ESSAVIST, AND PHILOSOPHER

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Risking Faith Study Guide

This study guide is meant to accompany Dr. Steve Stephen's book, "Risking Faith." Use this study guide for personal use.

Click a link below to jump to that chapter/day.

 
Introduction: Let the Adventure Begin

Day 1: Beyond the Edge
Day 2: Beyond Fear
Day 3: Beyond Comprehension
Day 4: Beyond the Visible
Day 5: Beyond the Possible
Day 6: Setting Sail
Day 7: Ruthless Honesty
Day 8: Selfless Humility
Day 9: Desperate Confession
Day 10: Facing Reality
Day 11: The Wonder of Seeing God
Day 12: The Wonder of Beauty
Day 13: The Wonder of Mystery and Miracles
Day 14: The Wonder of Puzzles and Paradox
Day 15: The Wonder of Surprise
Day 16: How Wonderful!
Day 17: God’s Country
Day 18: Solitude
Day 19: Stillness
Day 20: Silence
Day 21: Life in the Wilderness
Day 22: Trouble Happens
Day 23: A Refined Character
Day 24: A Deeper Compassion
Day 25: A Reminder of Humanity
Day 26: A Drivenness to Prayer
Day 27: A Story to Tell
Day 28: Benefits and Blessings
Day 29: Embracing Adversity
Day 30: Deep Water
Day 31: Seeking God
Day 32: Finding God
Day 33: Knowing God
Day 34: Walking with God
Day 35: Embracing God
Day 36: Living in the Depths
Day 37: Acceptance
Day 38: Compassion
Day 39: Outreach
Day 40: Gift Giving
Epilogue: Let’s Go


Introduction

Let the Adventure Begin

1. What does the word Christian mean to you?

2. Are there times that the way people use the word Christian make you feel uncomfortable, angry, or embarrassed?

3. What churches or clichés or theologies or popular authors have disappointed you lately? Why? What did you do about it?

4. Which of the following are most important to you right now?
Which do you long to do today?
• Look at God’s creation.
• Listen for God’s voice.
• Study God’s Word.
• Feel God’s heartbeat.
• Celebrate God’s goodness.
• Embrace God’s lessons.
• Wonder at God’s mysteries.
• Accept God’s ways.
• Dance with God’s grace.
• Love with God’s passion.

5. When do you feel closest to God, or in the words of Teresa of Avila, when do you feel “that God is on this journey too”?


Sail Beyond

Day 1: Beyond the Edge

1. What worries or fears grip you most when you are ready to embark on a real adventure?

2. What is the greatest adventure you’ve ever experienced? What made it such a great adventure? How did it change you?

3. In what ways is your faith an adventure? In what ways is your faith far too convenient and comfortable? Are you satisfied with your faith? Why or why not?

4. What does it mean to be otherworldly? What are the pros and cons of being like this?

5. In what ways is your faith ordinary? In what ways is it extraordinary? Does any of this really matter?

Discuss Day 1 in the forum


Day 2: Beyond Fear

1. What are your greatest fears in life? When have you been most afraid in the past? How have these fears limited you?

2. What are you afraid God might ask of you if you fully jump into him?

3. When have you been most afraid of . . .
• Failure?
• discomfort?
• rejection?
• disappointment?
• embarrassment?
• the unknown?

4. How do you move beyond fear? How and when have you done this before? What was the result?

5. When you read Habakkuk 3:16-19, what strikes you about Habakkuk’s experience? If you knew you were about to experience attack or loss or failure, how would you deal with it? How did this man move beyond his own fear?

Discuss Day 2 in the forum 


Day 3: Beyond Comprehension

1. What are three things that appear to be beyond your comprehension?

2. How do you feel about and ultimately deal with things that are beyond your understanding?

3. What does it say about you to have to admit that there is much you do not, and possibly cannot, understand? How hard is this to admit to yourself? to others?

4. Why do certain people feel driven to try to understand everything or have an answer to every question or provide an explanation for every problem? Who do you know who is like this? Are you like this? Why or why not?

5. If you could ask God three questions and he would directly answer you, what would you ask?

6. What do you think C. S. Lewis meant when he said, “The best is perhaps what we understand least”?

Discuss Day 3 in the forum 


Day 4: Beyond the Visible

1. What sort of things do you believe in even though you have never seen them? Why can you believe these things without seeing them? What are the limits of vision?

2. What keeps us so bound to our five senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting) and so skeptical of all that can’t be experienced through these senses? What would life be like if you somehow lost all five of these senses?

3. ?Why does the author write, “Everything seen originates in what is unseen, for the invisible is the real power behind the visible”? Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

4. Why do most of us embrace the idea that “seeing is believing”? In what ways might the idea that “believing is seeing” be a more accurate truth?

5. What strikes you most about the story of Jesus and the blind man in Mark 8:22-26? When are you most blind? Is it ever possible for you to see clearly on this planet? Explain.

Discuss Day 4 in the forum


Day 5: Beyond the Possible

1. What three things have you experienced or heard about that seemed impossible?

2. What causes you to struggle with or keeps you from believing in impossibilities? Under what circumstances might impossibilities be true?

3. What causes you to explain away, ridicule, or dismiss impossibilities? What are some examples of times you have done this?

4. If you truly believed in the reality of miracles and impossibilities, how would you live your life differently? What new things would you explore? What new dreams would you dream? What new risks would you take?

5. What impossibility have you embraced in the past, and what happened? How did this change you as a person? How did it change your life? your faith? your perception of God?

Discuss Day 5 in the forum 


Day 6: Setting Sail

1. When was the last time you resisted God? Why? How did you resist him? What ultimately happened?

2. What keeps you from setting sail beyond the ordinary? What do you imagine might happen if you moved beyond the safe harbors and familiar shorelines into the open seas? Do you know anyone who has taken this risk? What was the outcome?

3. Why would Jesus encourage you to seek the narrow gate and the difficult road? What are the risks and benefits of such a journey?

4. What do you think God is calling you to find beyond your current faith? What is keeping you from doing this? What would help you to cut the moorings and set sail?

5. Which of the following is the hardest for you to sail beyond?
• fear
• comprehension
• the visible
• the possible

6. Sir Francis Drake prayed, “Disturb us, O Lord.” In what area does God most need to disturb you?

Discuss Day 6 in the forum


Get Real

Day 7: Ruthless Honesty

1. What are the limits of your powerlessness? When have you felt the most small and powerless? What do these feelings do to you?

2. Which of the following areas do you find it easiest to relate to honestly? Why?
• finiteness
• mortality
• imperfection
• incompletion
• sinfulness
• fragility
• fearfulness
• brokenness

3. Why is it hard for you to be totally honest about your weaknesses and failures? How would others respond and relate to you if they knew your dark side or deepest secrets?

4. What does Paul mean when he wrote this about God: “My power works best in weakness”? Have you ever seen a situation where this proved true?

5. Why does the Bible almost always show a flaw in each of its heroes? What does this say about people? What does this say about you?

Discuss Day 7 in the forum 


Day 8: Selfless Humility

1. What are you most proud of (accomplishments, abilities, acquisitions, and attributes)?

2. What exactly is humility? Do you know anyone who is humble? What are some examples of their humility? When have you been humble? What keeps you from being humble more often?

3. Which of the following traps are you most likely to fall into? How often do you fall into these traps?
• advertise your deeds
• defend your position
• cherish your opinions
• repeat your words
• cling to your rights
• dwell on your appearance
• worry about your reputation
• compare your strengths
• fear your weaknesses

4. What is it that makes humility such a powerful quality? How can it change your life? your relationships? your work? your faith?

5. What stands out in your mind when you read Philippians 2:3-8? In what ways can you demonstrate humility this week?

Discuss Day 8 in the forum 


Day 9: Desperate Confession

1. What exactly is sin? Why do people react so negatively to the word sin and the concept of sin?

2. What is the first sin you remember committing? What sin from your past do you find still haunts or embarrasses you? What ongoing sin do you find most difficult to shake? How have you stumbled this week?

3. What does confession accomplish? How does it impact or change you? When was the last time you confessed something? Is confession easy or hard? Why?

4. Which of the following seven aspects of confession are most significant to you?
• Conviction: admitting that what I have said, done, or thought was wrong
• Comprehension: understanding the impact of my failures and feeling genuine, heartfelt regret for how I have hurt God, others, and myself
• Communication: verbalizing my failure to God honestly without justification, defensiveness, or blame
• Cleansing: asking God to forgive me and give me a new start
• Change: determining that I will not repeat the failure and setting up a plan to facilitate change
• Correction: making repairs or restitution to those I have wronged, thus reminding myself that sin hurts
• Celebration: rejoicing at the chance to make a fresh start and having a strong sense of gratitude and love toward God

5. When Ruth Haley Barton wrote, “Let desperation do its good work,” what is she talking about? How is confession related to desperation, freedom, excitement, and good works?

Discuss Day 9 in the forum


Day 10: Facing Reality

1. What weaknesses, failures, or mistakes do you tend to try to cover up? What are you afraid might happen if these were exposed?

2. What people in your life are the hardest to admit your failures to? Why is this the case? Who is the safest? What makes them safe?

3. What keeps you from being 100 percent honest with God? When have you slipped into denial, defensiveness, or simply avoidance regarding desperate vulnerability before God?

4. What do you think of Jeremiah’s declaration that “the human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked”? When have you seen this to be true? What explains those times when it does not appear to be true?

5. How does facing the dark and dirty side of your own internal state actually help you to be
• healthier?
• stronger?
• more compassionate?
• more hopeful?
• safer?
• closer to God?

Discuss Day 10 in the forum 


Discover the Wonder

Day 11: The Wonder of Seeing God

1. Where and when is it easiest for you to see the wonder of God? Has it gotten easier or harder as you’ve grown older?

2. Do you think it’s possible to have faith if you are unable to see the wonder of God? Why or why not?

3. What keeps you from opening your eyes or opening your heart to God’s amazing character? What keeps those around you from opening their eyes or opening their hearts to his amazing character? How can you open yourself up? How can you help other people open up?

4. Do you agree with the author when he writes, “God is everywhere and his mark is on everything”? When and where might this not be true? What have you experienced in the past few days that might confirm the author’s words?

5. In what ways does a supernatural faith add the following to your life?
• excitement
• joy
• awe
• amazement
• mystery
• miracles
• surprises
• salvation

Discuss Day 11 in the forum 


Day 12: The Wonder of Beauty

1. What aspect of nature’s beauty is the most impressive to you? Where and when have you been the most aware of this beauty? How does this impact you? How does it impact your attitude? your life? your faith? your closeness to God?

2. What does nature’s beauty tell you about God? Why would God create such beauty?

3. What did David mean when he wrote, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God”? And what did Isaiah mean when he said, “The whole earth is filled with his glory”?

4. How does God use each of your five senses to express beauty?
• seeing
• hearing
• touching
• tasting
• smelling
What is one of your most beautiful memories from each of these senses?

5. What can you do today or tomorrow to help you be more aware of God’s creation and the beauty that is constantly surrounding you? What would keep you from experiencing this beauty? What would help you embrace it and fully soak it in?

Discuss Day 12 in the forum 


Day 13: The Wonder of Mystery and Miracles

1. What are the greatest mysteries and unanswered questions of your life that you are currently facing? When does this frustrate you the most? How do you cope with it?

2. When friends ask you about mysteries and perplexing questions, what do you say? What is the hardest question you’ve ever been asked? How do you process mysteries that seem unfathomable or questions that seem unanswerable? How do you relax and make peace with these situations?

3. What in your life tends to blind you to all the mysteries and miracles that surround you every day? What is it that makes most people uncomfortable with mysteries and miracles?

4. What do mysteries and miracles tell you about
• who God is?
• how God works?
• how God interacts with people?
• how you see life?
• what God is doing in you?
• what God wants to do in you?
• what real faith is?

5. What are three miracles, no matter how small, that have happened to you or someone you know in the past week?

Discuss Day 13 in the forum


Day 14: The Wonder of Puzzles and Paradox

1. In what ways does life seem to be a puzzle to you? What are the advantages and benefits of life being a puzzle?

2. In what ways does faith seem to be a puzzle to you? Why did God make certain things so confusing and complicated?

3. Do you agree or disagree with the author when he writes, “God seems to like paradox. He loves to turn certainty and conventions upside down”? What does this seem to say about God?

4. How do you respond when people say there seem to be paradoxes or contradictions in the Bible? What are some examples of these potential contradictions?

5. How are the following paradoxes true in your life?
• Give so you will receive.
• Die to self, so you will live.
• Be silent, so you will speak wisely.
• Be last, so you will be first.
• Wait, so you will move forward.
• Surrender, so you will have victory.
• Accept weakness, so you will be strong.
• Flee temptation, so you will stand firm.
• Fight, so you will have peace.
• Suffer, so you will celebrate.
• Forgive, so you will be forgiven.
• Be childlike, so you will be mature.
Which of these strike you as something you’d like to work on in order to
have a healthier life and a more genuine faith?

Discuss Day 14 in the forum


Day 15: The Wonder of Surprise

1. Do you like surprises? Why or why not? What is the greatest surprise you’ve ever experienced? How did you respond? Why do some people seem to love surprises while other people like things to be more predictable?

2. How can God be consistent and dependable and yet full of surprises? What are some ways God surprises you? What are some ways God has surprised people you know?

3. G. K. Chesterton wrote that “this world is a wild and startling place.” In what ways do you agree or disagree with this statement?

4. How does God surprise us by defying our labels or leaping beyond our categories? Why is it at times so hard to pin God down, while at other times he appears perfectly clear?

5. What are some of the greatest surprises that people in the Bible experienced? (For some examples see Exodus 3:1-6; Judges 6:11-14; 1 Samuel 17:32-51; 2 Kings 4:1-7; Mark 4:35-41). How did these surprises impact their relationship with God? How did they change their lives?

Discuss Day 15 in the forum 


Day 16: How Wonderful!

1. In what ways has your life been filled with wonders? Try to list ten of them. Was this easy or hard? Why is it so easy to forget the wonders we have experienced?

2. Do you agree or disagree with the author when he writes, “God has miraculously infused every moment and experience, every object and person, with some form of wonder.” Are there any exceptions to this statement? Why or why not?

3. How can you more effectively marvel, celebrate, talk about, and plunge into the incredible wonders God provides? How would this change you as a person? How would it change various aspects of your life, such as work, relationships, hobbies, interests, and responsibilities?

4. In reading Ezekiel 1, how do you think such images of wonder would have impacted you? What would you have thought, felt, or done?

5. What wonder is sitting before you right now, at this very moment? How are you going to respond to it?

Discuss Day 16 in the forum 


Go to the Desert

Day 17: God’s Country

1. How much time have you spent in a desert? When and where? How would you describe that experience? Is it a place you would like to return to?

2. Why would people go to the desert? What drew the following people into the desert?
• Cain
• Hagar
• Moses
• David
• Elijah
• Jonah
• Jesus
• Paul
How did their desert experiences affect them?

3. What do you think Dan Allender meant when he wrote, “In the desert we trust God or die”?

4. How does the desert cause us to trust God? hear him? face him? know him?

5. How is the desert innately different from most of the places you find yourself? Why is the discomfort in the desert so important? What does the desert tell you about yourself? What does it tell you about life?

6. How does God use the solitude, stillness, and silence of the desert to shape you—your beliefs, your emotions, your expectations, your dreams, and your faith? What happens in each of those areas if there is no desert?

Discuss Day 17 in the forum 


Day 18: Solitude

1. When is it that people are the most stressful or overwhelming to you? How often do you feel like you need an escape from people? What do you do to get such an escape?

2. Where is your favorite place to seek a bit of solitude? What do you like to do when you’ve snuck away to this peaceful place? How do you feel after some time spent in solitude?

3. What does it say to you that even Jesus needed a quiet and solitary place? What do you think he did there? Why was this so important to him?

4. Do you agree with Saint Isaac of Syria, who said, “No one can approach God without withdrawing from the world”? Must you approach God first or withdraw from the world first? How can we fully withdraw from the world, even if it’s for just a few minutes?

5. Which of the following do you consider the greatest benefits of solitude?
• distractions are abandoned
• truth is pondered
• deceptions are exposed
• priorities are evaluated
• humility is learned
• purpose is discovered
• peace is embraced
• faith is deepened
Which of these do you struggle with most?

Discuss Day 18 in the forum 


Day 19: Stillness

1. Why does our culture seem to move so fast with so much to do? How do you slow things down so you can catch your breath? What do you need to cross out of your life, if just for a little while, in order to calm your spirit?

2. What part of your life is the hardest to slow down?
• your body
• your mind
• your emotions
• your expectations
• your work
• your friends
• your schedule
• your responsibilities
• your opportunities
• your dreams

3. Why is it so hard for you to find stillness? What is the cost of slowing down? What is the cost of not slowing down?

4. If peace and stillness go hand in hand, what do the following verses mean to you?
• Psalm 23:2
• Psalm 34:14
• Proverbs 14:30
• Philippians 4:7
• 2 Peter 3:14
How can you incorporate peace and stillness into your everyday, hectic life?

5. How does the old saying “Still waters run deep” relate to having a stronger, more meaningful, and more authentic faith?

Discuss Day 19 in the forum


Day 20: Silence

1. Why is the world so loud? How does this steady bombardment of noise impact you? Where does most of this noise come from? Why is it unhealthy for our bodies, hearts, and spirits?

2. How do you feel when all is silent? When is this uncomfortable? When is it refreshing? What do you tend to think or do when surrounded by this quiet?

3. Do you agree with G. B. Duncan, who wrote, “God still comes where he can find someone quiet enough to listen”? When are you quiet enough to listen? What have you heard God say to you?

4. How does God speak to you? When and where have you felt the strongest direction from him? What did you do? How did it all turn out? When have you felt the most silence from God? How did this feel? How did it impact you?

5. When you listen to God, which of the following are the most important aspects to focus on?
• patience
• expectancy
• focus
• excitement
• open-mindedness
• courage
What other aspects would you add to this list?

Discuss Day 20 in the forum 


Day 21: Life in the Wilderness

1. What happens in the desert? How does it leave its mark on you? In what ways are you different after spending time in the wilderness of solitude, stillness, or silence?

2. In what ways is the desert
• a holy place?
• an oasis of wisdom?
• a spark of clarity?
• a tough teacher?
• a well of refreshment?
• a source of enlightenment?
• a purifier of the soul?

3. How can the desert provide a realization of who you are, a compassion for others, and a connection with God? When has the desert provided each one of these for you? Which was the hardest to do? Why?

4. What do you think it would be like if you actually moved into a desert and lived there for years at a time? In what ways do you agree or disagree with Saint Anthony’s statement that only in the desert can you “always have God before your eyes”?

5. How is God calling you into the desert? Where and when would you be willing to meet him there? What excuses would keep you from meeting him there? Are these excuses legitimate?

Discuss Day 21 in the forum 


Welcome Hardships

Day 22: Trouble Happens

1. How and why would anyone consider troubles “an opportunity for great joy”? Why is the concept of embracing hardship as a positive thing such a foreign concept to most people? How difficult is this for you to fully accept?

2. How do you react to the following concepts from the Bible?
• This world is full of trouble.
• We need not be fearful of trouble.
• Trouble will crush us only if we let it.
• Trouble is temporary.
• God walks beside us through every trouble.
• Every trouble holds potential for growth.
Which of these are the hardest and the easiest to accept?

3. What is your typical reaction to troubles, hardships, and pain? Does this reaction help or hinder you from coping with difficulty? Does it make your situation better or worse?

4. What troubles have you faced because of your own mistakes, miscalculations, sins, or foolishness? What troubles happened to you through no fault of your own? How do you respond differently to these two types of trouble?

5. Would you agree with C. H. Spurgeon’s belief that many “owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties”? Can you think of any examples of this?

Discuss Day 22 in the forum 


Day 23: A Refined Character

1. How have hardships improved who you are? In what ways have they cleansed and purified your soul? What have you done in the past that might have blocked your hardships from having their greatest positive impact on you?

2. In what ways has adversity taught you patience? When has it been most difficult to have patience? What is the result of impatience in response to adversity and on your attitude toward the adversity?

3. How have difficulties brought you wisdom and maturity? What specific lessons have you learned and what experiences have you endured that came through tough times? How have these lessons and experiences improved you as a person?

4. When have hardships required courage? In what ways were you able to face your difficulties, and in what ways did fear creep in? What is the relationship between courage and faith when times get tough?

5. When you read Solomon’s words about God testing the heart through the refiner’s fire, how does this make you feel? Does it feel fair or right or compassionate that God would value character over comfort? How does this process allow God to refine and mold who we are and what we want to be?

Discuss Day 23 in the forum 


Day 24: A Deeper Compassion

1. How would you rate yourself in terms of compassion for others in difficult situations? In which of the following areas do you see yourself as the most compassionate and the least compassionate?
• physical pain or limitations
• loss of a loved one
• emotional struggles
• financial hardships
• social rejection, alienation, or prejudice
• victims of crime, circumstances, or childhood trauma
• sins and/or foolish choices

2. Have your own adversities made you more or less compassionate toward others? Why and in what ways? How do you reach out and show your compassion? How does reaching out impact you?

3. How did Jesus show compassion to those he met? For example:
• the crowd (Matthew 15:32-38)
• the children (Matthew 19:13-15)
• the two blind men (Matthew 20:29-33)
• Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
• the woman at the well (John 4:4-26)
• the woman to be stoned (John 8:1-11)
• Lazarus (John 11:1-44)
• his accusers (Luke 23:33-34)
How has God shown you compassion?

4. Why is it valuable and important for you to show compassion? What is the negative impact on you if you refuse to reach out?

5. How could you encourage and motivate others to be more compassionate? What do you think keeps most people from compassion?

Discuss Day 24 in the forum 


Day 25: A Reminder of Humanity

1. How do difficulties remind you of your humanity? Which of the following areas of hardship are the most painful and difficult for you? Why?
• physical
• emotional
• cognitive
• social
• spiritual

2. Do you agree with Norman Vincent Peale that “loneliness lurks in the shadow of adversity”? Have you ever felt this sort of loneliness? How did you cope with it? What helped it to end?

3. How hard is it for you to seek help when times get tough? What keeps you from seeking help from others? When is the last time you humbled yourself and asked for help? Whom did you ask? What was their response?

4. Do you think God sometimes uses adversity to move us from independence and isolation to dependence and community? Why would he do this? Do you think he might also use adversity to undermine our pride and self-sufficiency?

5. In what ways have difficulties helped to deepen and strengthen your faith? When in your life have hard times forced you to turn to God, simply because there seemed no other place to go? How would you have handled your difficulties without God?

Discuss Day 25 in the forum 


Day 26: A Drivenness to Prayer

1. When in your life have you been most motivated to pray? What motivated you? What impact did prayer have on the situation? on you? on your faith?

2. Why do so many people agree with the importance of prayer, yet most people don’t pray as much as they think they should? What keeps you from praying more in your everyday life?

3. Do you know anyone who really takes prayer seriously? What is their prayer life like? What motivates them? What are their prayers like? When do they pray the strongest?

4. If the book of Psalms was the prayer book of the Old Testament, what psalm touches you the most? (Some that have most touched others are 19, 23, 27, 40, 51, 63, 86, 90, 100, 139). What psalm seems to draw you closest to God and express the feelings of your heart?

5. In what ways does prayer seem to move people from a position of pain and hopelessness to a place of joy and hope? How has this happened to you or someone you know? In what ways does it also seem to transport one from trouble to thankfulness? How is this possible?

Discuss Day 26 in the forum 


Day 27: A Story to Tell

1. What story of adversity have you heard or read that has impacted you deeply? How did that person deal with their struggles, and where did his or her journey take them?

2. What stories of adversity have your parents or grandparents told? How did they cope with their hard times? What sort of legacy have they passed down to you?

3. Have you ever thought through your own personal stories of adversity? Use these questions to help you.
• What was your hardship?
• When did it happen?
• What did you feel?
• How did you respond?
• What did God do?
• What did you learn?
• How has it made you who you are today?

4. To whom have you told your story? What are people’s reactions? What makes it easy or hard to be vulnerable with your difficulties?

5. How might your story be used to help encourage, motivate, teach, or provide hope to others? Whom would you be willing to share your story with in the next week?

Discuss Day 27 in the forum


Day 28: Benefits and Blessings

1. How hard is it for you to see hardships as having benefits and blessings? What specific difficulty have you experienced that seems to have no redeeming value? How do you cope with this? What do you say to yourself about it?

2. How do you process the following statement by the author: “Welcoming hardship is rooted in a deep trust that God truly cares”? What do you do when God seems silent and distant in the midst of your hardship?

3. Which of the following distractions do you hear in your head about your troubles?
• This is not fair.
• This is not right.
• I am worthless.
• I cannot survive this.
• God doesn’t care about me.
• Nobody cares about me.
• God did this to me.
• I can handle this on my own.
Which of these is the hardest to fight off?

4. In what ways might there be a conflict between character versus comfort, holiness versus happiness, and sacrifice versus security? When have you personally experienced such a conflict? What happened? Why can’t God always give us both?

5. What scares you most about potential difficulties and hardships in the future? What would be your worst possible adversity?

Discuss Day 28 in the forum 


Day 29: Embracing Adversity

1. What would your life be like if there were never any challenges, pain, or difficulties? In what ways would this not be healthy? In what ways would this block your growth?

2. In what ways is pain a powerful teacher that provides wonderful opportunities? Name three opportunities pain has provided for you.

3. When has your adversity caused you to reach up to God, and when has it caused you to reach out for help? How have your struggles given your life meaning, direction, and even beauty?

4. If God reflected your life through a tapestry using strands of positive and negative events, what would it look like? When have there been more positive strands than negative ones? How do negatives highlight the positives? Why do you think he is weaving your tapestry the way he is? What are the easiest and hardest images of colors to accept in your tapestry?

5. Would you agree with Saint Ignatius that those risking faith need not wish for health, wealth, honor, or a long life? Why or why not? How do you joyfully accept whatever God gives you, whether it is positive or negative?

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Plunge Deeply

Day 30: Deep Water

1. When you are at the edge of a lake or a pool, do you dive in or tiptoe in? Why do you use your method and not the other? How do you feel once you’ve gotten in, and how do you feel after you’ve been in the water awhile?

2. How is plunging into water like plunging into God? Why is there a call to go deeper? What are the benefits and the risks? Is deeper really better?

3. Which of the following have you discovered by going deeper?
• Wonder: You absorb and enjoy the miraculous.
• Courage: You step out and take risks.
• Honesty: You face your limitations and weaknesses.
• Humility: You give others priority over yourself.
• Patience: You calmly wait for God’s timing.
• Compassion: You accept and love everyone.
• Contentment: You relax with everything about God.
Which of these seems to be the most elusive?

4. What exactly keeps you from going deeper? When was the last time you felt the pull to go deeper? What was the strongest factor that kept you from going as deep as you could? How can you deal with this factor the next time you feel stuck in the shallows?

5. How is a deep life different from a shallow one? Why are most people satisfied with staying near the surface? How hard is it to join with A. B. Simpson, who prayed, “Save me from a shallow experience”?

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Day 31: Seeking God

1. Where was it easiest for you to find God when you were a kid? when you were a teenager? as an adult?

2. When has it been the hardest for you to find God? What do you think kept him so hidden? How did it feel to not be able to find him? What did you do? How did he ultimately break through to you?

3. How do you seek God? How do people you know or have read about seek God? What happens when you finally find God?

4. What do you think Hosea meant when he said, “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD”? How do you do this? What makes your heart hard? What makes your heart soft?

5. In what ways are there glimpses of God’s character beneath every single thing? In what ways can you find the following beneath each thing?
• a secret
• a lesson
• a beauty
• a truth

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Day 32: Finding God

1. In what ways is God constantly baiting, prodding, and luring you to him? When is this most likely to work with you? When is it least likely to work?

2. Would you agree with the statement, “There must be at least a hundred ways to find God”? In what ways can the following help people find God?
• nature
• prayer
• community
• music
• serving others
• solitude
• rituals
• celebration
• creativity
• hard work
• sacrifice
• compassion

3. What happens when we stop seeking God? When is it that he may stop seeking us? Have there been times in your life when you stopped seeking God? Why? What was the result?

4. How is everything you experience an opportunity to draw closer to God? How can you take better advantage of each of these opportunities? How can you help others take advantage of these opportunities?

5. What will help you see life through new eyes and approach life with a new heart? How might this change all you do?

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Day 33: Knowing God

1. What do you know about God? How do you know this? What is it that makes God, God?

2. When you ponder God, what thoughts and feelings and sensations do you experience? How have these changed over the years? Why do you think this is the case?

3. What is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God? Why are both important? How do you do each of these? Which do you trust more? Why?

4. How is knowing God a process? How do you start such a process? How do you keep focused on the process? How does knowing God allow you to let go and relax?

5. What did Paul mean when he wrote, “You will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (Colossians 1:10)? In what ways do you grow as you know God? How do you learn to know God better and better?

6. In what ways does knowing God help you to
• trust him
• respect him
• reach out
• love him
• lean on him
• fear him
• follow him
• listen to him

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Day 34: Walking with God

1. What negative experiences have you had with Christians? How did these make you feel? What did you do about it? How often do bad Christians happen to good people? Can you think of an example when you were one of these bad Christians?

2. Which of the following aspects of being a Christian are you?
• a talker
• a goer
• a believer
• a doer
• a walker
Which are the easiest and the hardest for you? Which are the most important and the least important? Why is it important to incorporate all five areas into your life?

3. How is knowing God’s face, mind, heart, voice, and hands basic to walking with God? Which aspects of God do you relate to best? Which aspect do you desire to know better this week? How will you go about doing this?

4. Do you know someone who truly walks with God? How do they do it? How long have they been doing it? How can you start to follow their example?

5. What do the following verses tell you about walking with God?
• Deuteronomy 26:17
• Joshua 22:5
• Isaiah 2:3
• Jeremiah 6:16
• Micah 6:8
• John 8:12

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Day 35: Embracing God

1. What do you think David Swartz meant when he wrote, “Those who embrace God are in for the ride of their life”? Do you think this statement is true? Why or why not?

2. Do you agree with the author when he writes, “The more we embrace God, the more our souls are transformed”? Has this been true for you? How do you embrace God? How does this transform your soul?

3. How does this transformation shape, season, and strengthen your
• thoughts?
• feelings?
• choices?
• priorities?
• vision?
• hearing?
What else might it shape, season, and strengthen?

4. How is embracing God related to loving him? How do you show that you love him? Jesus tells us to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). How do you do this in each of these individual areas?

5. How does loving God make you bigger and better and brighter?

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Day 36: Living in the Depths

1. In what ways does plunging deep bring you closer to God? In what ways is it exciting and positive and fulfilling? In what ways does it bring freedom to your soul? In what ways does it bring you joy and contentment?

2. How does closeness to God define who you are and all you experience? Why is this important? How does this impact
• your thinking?
• your feelings?
• your dreams?
• your activities?
• your relationships?

3. When Paul said that in God “we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28), what was he talking about? How do you do this? How do you maintain this? When in your life has this been most true? When hasn’t it been true?

4. What keeps you from living in the depths? What specific things have tried to keep you at the surface during the past couple of days? How do you resist or fight or manage these things?

5. Thomas Merton wrote, “Without a life of the spirit, our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory.” Do you agree or disagree with this? Why or why not? When is it that your life feels the most unsubstantial or illusory? What can you do about this?

Discuss Day 36 in the forum 


Give Back

Day 37: Acceptance

1. What people in your life are hardest to accept? What is it about them that makes you uncomfortable or unable to relax? What do you tell yourself about them that keeps you from totally accepting them?

2. How do you think God looks on these people? How would Jesus treat them? What would he say to them?

3. Why do you think people can be so cruel? What is it that causes you to ignore, mistreat, or misjudge others? Whom have you done this to lately? How do you think it impacted them? What valid excuses are there to treat others poorly?

4. What do the following verses say about God’s love and acceptance?
• Hosea 2:23
• John 3:16
• Romans 8:38-39
• I John 4:16
What will help you to be more like God by being more loving and accepting?

5. Who in your past have you hurt and/or shown the least acceptance? As you look back on how you treated them, how do you feel? Why did you treat them so badly? If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Discuss Day 37 in the forum 


Day 38: Compassion

1. How important is compassion to a risking faith? Why? Do you think churches make too big or too little an issue of compassion in today’s culture? What sort of limits should there be on compassion?

2. What are five practical applications in everyday life of Jesus’ words, “You must be compassionate” (Luke 6:36) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)? What is a current opportunity you have to be compassionate and show love? What keeps you from doing it? When can you do it?

3. Which of the following do you agree with? What order would you put them in if you were to list them from most important to least important? Why?
• People are more important appearance.
• Relationships are more important than rules.
• Generosity is more than accumulation.
• Love is more important than being right.

4. How is compassion different from love? How are both of these concepts related to acceptance? Which of these is the hardest to do? Which of these have you done in the last week? How?

5. In what ways is it “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)? What is an example of how you have given in the past week?

Discuss Day 38 in the forum


Day 39: Outreach

1. As you think about the needs that surround you in your sphere of influence, what comes to mind? What could you do to meet some of these needs?

2. What is it that keeps you from being more outward focused? Do you know anyone who is strongly outward focused? What is it that they do to meet the needs of those around them?

3. How tough is it on you when someone interrupts your activities or throws off your schedule? When has this happened lately? What did you do? How did this make you feel?

4. Do you know anyone it is easy to love and show compassion to? What makes them lovable? Who is more difficult to reach out to? Why?

5. Which of the following are easiest to care about and meet their needs? How would you order these from easiest to hardest? Why?
• the poor
• the needy
• the weak
• the widows and orphans
• the children
• the foreigners
What would be something you could do for each of these groups? 

Discuss Day 39 in the forum 


Day 40: Gift Giving

1. In what ways can you “always be a little kinder than necessary”? When was the last time you were kinder than necessary? What was the response of the receiver?

2. What types of gifts do you give people?
• quality time
• encouragement
• compliments
• conversation
• food
• full attention
• assistance
• physical gifts
• physical touch
• kindness
• inclusion
• money
Which of the above have you given recently? Which of the above are you best at giving?

3. As you reach out to others, which of these commitments are the most important? Why?
• Be positive: You will search for something good in every person you meet.
• Be patient: You will refuse to get frustrated with others.
• Be peaceable: You will avoid unnecessary conflicts and make peace wherever you go.
• Be proactive: You will reach out to help others every opportunity you get.
• Be polite: You will show kindness to all you meet.
• Be prayerful: You will pray for those who are in the midst of hard times.
• Be protective: You will stand up for those who are being taken advantage of.

4. Do you know someone who could benefit from your reaching out and giving them some sort of gift in the next two days? What would you like to give them?

5. What is the most powerful gift someone has given you? What was the story behind it? How did it make you feel? What is the most powerful gift you could give? Whom would you give it to? Why?

Discuss Day 40 in the forum


Epilogue: Let’s Go

1. What exactly is faith? When you think of the word faith, what comes to mind? What is risking faith? What sorts of images does it conjure in your mind?

2. In what ways is faith
• unsafe?
• wild?
• wonderful?
• supernatural?
• mysterious?
• extraordinary?
What words would you use to describe your faith as it is right now? Why?
What words would you use to describe what you wish your faith would be like?

3. What sort of risks did the following Biblical figures take?
• Noah
• Abraham
• Moses
• Joshua
• Gideon
• David
• Ruth
• Daniel
• Esther
• Peter
Which of these people do you want to be like? Why?

4. What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)? What sorts of risks are involved if you took this verse seriously and actually did what it said? What do you think would happen? How would your life be different?

5. If you were going to start an adventure, where would you start? What would be your very first risk? What is keeping you from starting today?


 
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