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The Shepherd’s Crucible. Would you rather escape the fire, simply survive it, or actually be refined?

Our GOOD WORD discussions for the next three months focus on the difficult times in life and how these difficulties are used by God and experienced by humans. Hence the title for the quarter’s lessons, “The Refiner’s Fire.”

For Discussion:

  1. When faced with the prospect of being “refined,” would you rather escape the fire, simply survive it, or actually be refined?
  2. Psalm 23. If one takes Psalm 23 as a road map of the experiences through which the shepherd leads the sheep, the following list results:
    1. “Lying down in green pastures.”
    2. “Led by the still waters.”
    3. “Restoration of the soul.”
    4. “Led in the paths of righteousness.”
    5. “The valley of the shadow of death.”
    6. “A table in the presence of enemies.”
    7. “The head anointed with oil”
    8. “The overflowing cup.”
    9. “Dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.”
    Of that list, “the valley of the shadow of death” and “a table in the presence of enemies” are potentially most troubling. Does the good shepherd actually lead the sheep through the lush and peaceful as well as through the difficult and threatening? Why wouldn’t the good shepherd lead the sheep away from the hard things?

    Is the Valley of the Shadow an inevitable part of the life of every sheep?

    Is the presence of enemies inevitable? Can the enemies be present for just cause as well as simply from envy? In terms of the shepherd’s crucible, how would the experience differ if the enemies were attacking from envy (as they attacked Jesus) rather than because we had stirred up their anger by unjust and unfair treatment?

  3. Romans 12:18-21. Quoting Proverbs 25:21, Paul admonishes believers to treat their enemies well: Give them food and drink. But his tag line is potentially troubling, for treating them well means heaping “coals of fire” on their head. Is it possible that these “coals of fire” are sometimes intended as a subtle way of embarrassing the enemy? Is that what Jesus had in mind when he said: “Love your enemies”?

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