Connect Group Study

Week 1

Dare To Thrive - When Expected To Conform

Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart. Proverbs 17:3 (NLT)

You’re a teenager whose whole community has just been taken captive. You and your three closest friends now serve the leader of the captors. You’re away from your parents for the first time, your entire way of living has been changed along with your name and even your diet. The pressure to go along with what the king wants you to do is overwhelming. How will you withstand it? This is the story of Daniel, who, as a teenager, was so confident in who God had made him to be that he resolved not to conform. How did he do it?  Let’s Talk It Over.

Read Daniel 1:8-19 together. Discuss how Daniel exhibited good character while being pressured to conform.

If you do your job well, you will work for a ruler and never be a slaveProverbs 22:29 (CEV)
1. If you asked a coworker to describe your work style or reputation, what do you believe they would share with you? What would you want coworkers to say about your work? 

Don’t demand an audience with the king or push for a place among the great. Proverbs 25:6 (NLT)
2. Describe a time when someone was pushy or belligerent in their demands to you. How did that make you feel? Now, talk about a time when someone had a humble attitude. Which one were you more interested in fulfilling and why?

We reject all shameful and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know that. 2 Corinthians 4:2 (NLT)
3. What behaviors in this verse are we encouraged to embrace and how do they help guard against being deceitful or manipulative? 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
4. When you have a new idea or project to present, how can applying these verses help you be successful in making your argument?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)
5. How can knowing God’s promises help you to hold on in the face of apparent failure?

Week 2

Dare To Thrive - When Your Beliefs Are Belittled

Icebreaker: Share a time when you stood up for something you believed in.

Most people don’t care what you believe. But there are a vocal few who want to belittle your faith. Daniel gives us an example of someone who was programmed against God’s teaching for three years, yet grew in God’s wisdom and understanding so his advice was ten times better than all the king’s other advisors. Proverbs 23:23 (CEV) tells us to “invest in truth and wisdom, discipline and good sense, and don’t part with them.” We need to be lifelong learners and remember that God will reward us. Let’s learn more about how to have an unshakable faith.

Goal:  Learn how to grow in wisdom and understanding so our faith is strong when we are challenged and need to defend our beliefs.

Start with God - the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.  Proverbs 1:7 (MSG)
1.Starting with God requires that you read the Bible to acquire wisdom and learning.  How can you set yourself up to take a stand for God?  Have you ever been belittled because of your beliefs and how did you defend your faith in God?

2. How could arguing with a skeptic harm the message of the Gospel? Why can being a listening ear and an understanding presence help them understand God’s love? What needs to be transformed in your life so that you can live a good life to silence those who condemn the gospel?

Your commandments give me great understanding. It’s no wonder I can see and hate every false way of life.  Psalm 119:104 (NLT)
3. Reflect on a time you encountered the living Christ through the Scriptures. Do you remember what you were reading at the time? How does Scripture help you know (not intellectually, but in your heart) about Jesus or about yourself

Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.  1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
4. If bad company corrupts good character, then it follows that we should choose “good company” as our best friends. What poor choices about friends have you made in your life?   Did it change your character?

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another . . .  Hebrews 10:25a (NIV)
5.How have Connect Groups or small groups brought strength & encouragement to your personal life and walk with the Lord?

Week 3

Dare To Thrive - Lessons From The Furnace

Hollywood and sports teams give us plenty of people to idolize. Social media shows us how to make ourselves appear greater than we are. But God tells us he is to have first place in our lives. When confronted with social pressure to conform to the world’s standards, God is there to defend us when we believe in him and declare our allegiance to him. Let’s did a little deeper into the story of the Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace.

I have refined you but not in the way silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.  Isaiah 48:10 (NLT)
1.Since God is more concerned about our character than our comfort, we sometimes find ourselves in the furnace of suffering. Share a time when your character was tested by suffering.  What part of your character could God be building through this?

Then the king said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who sent his angel to rescue his servants. They trusted in him. They defied my command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God."  Daniel 3:28
2. Who or what would you be willing to die for? When have you been forced to make the unpleasant choice of doing what is right before God or conforming to social pressure? How do you feel now about your choice?

Each of us must be careful how we build (our lives), because Christ is the only solid foundation. Whatever we build on that foundation will be tested by fire . . . If what we built is left standing, we will be rewarded! But if what we’ve built is burned up by the fire, we will lose our reward. Yet we will be saved, like someone escaping from flames. 1 Corinthians 3:10b-15
3. What steps are you taking to build a life on a foundation that can be tested by fire?  What direction should you take now to make sure you will collect your rewards in heaven?

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we worship is able to save us.  Daniel 3:17a
4. Reflect on a time of trouble, difficulty or oppression in your life. How did God empower you to bear up under it or rescue you from it? Who have you told about what God did in your life?

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we worship is able to save us. And he will save us from your power, O king. But even if God doesn’t save us, we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar lost his temper, and his face turned red with anger at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual.  Daniel 3:17-19
5. The king’s face was distorted with his anger. How does your character compare to these three men when confronted with an angry attack? How can you strengthen your character for the next time?