Study Guide: Living in the Never-Ending Story.

Sunday May 26, 2019 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this fifth installment of our Take Heart series, we explore what it means to be encouraged in one solid truth: that God's love for us is unceasing and he is present with us in the midst of incredible brokenness. Discouragement can come when we have a broken picture of God, but we can be encouraged that God always looks like Jesus and Christ crucified. But first, we need to understand the difference between believing something and experiencing something.

Extended Summary:

In order for us to be truly, deeply encouraged we need to let truths about God “get inside of us”. What Greg means by this is that the truth becomes part of our core identity and becomes almost second nature to us. Allowing truth to get inside of us helps us slow down and go deeper and internalize the truth so that we can be encouraged.

This begins with us changing the way we think about what we believe. We don’t merely believe, we walk in truth, we live in a truth and we allow truth to get inside of us. Greg points us to the 3rd epistle of John.

3 John 3-4
It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Theologian and author C.S. Lewis gives us a picture of how to look at something and then look along it. “Looking at” is from an outsider perspective, “looking along” is inside, right next to it.

Lewis recounts his experience of seeing a sunbeam through a hole in the roof of a toolshed. If he stood beside the sunbeam and examined it, he thought of it in terms of its hue and its brightness. Then he stepped within the sunbeam and in doing so, he began to experience the effects which cannot be perfectly quantified. Lewis gives us a warning about faith, we shouldn’t just settle for “looking at” the beauty of God, (the sunbeam) it is not sufficient for gaining a complete knowledge. We need to experience it, “looking along.” And Greg wants us to experience deep encouragement from God in this “looking along” kind of way.

When we are experiencing our faith, our beliefs, they should come alive. Our encouragement should become real for us.

Greg the encourages us to strengthen our practice of imaginative prayer: renewing our mind with the truth of our identity, God’s character, our wholeness and the beauty of heaven on a regular basis, SO THAT we can live out that truth, beauty, and wholeness in our everyday lives.

So, what is the infallible truth we can practice in our prayer time? The truth that can we can look along, get inside and receive never-ending encouragement.

Romans 8:18
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

The sufferings of this world are nothing compared to the glory God has for us. God’s love, provision and care for us is far greater than the sufferings our world. Every horrible thing, every terrible circumstance, everything that we fear– God’s glory is greater. What is God’s glory? His presence and his closeness to us in the midst of this broken world. God’s glory is the sunbeam we can look along!

When we feel discouraged, we can practice renewing our minds with this truth and prayerfully imagine God’s presence with us in the midst of it. This one truth can combat every discouragement we have. We just need to let him form our imaginations.

Reflection Questions:

1: What is discouraging you right now?

2: Reflect on a truth you “look at” versus a truth you “look along”. How are they different? Reflect on your energy level about both truths.

3: What does your imaginative prayer life look like? Take five minutes and spend some time “visiting heaven.” Imagine what it looks and feels like to be in the presence of God, experiencing his glory.

4: Spend some time praying for the present suffering of this world and asking God to be present with those in need.