Monday, October 19, 2009

Contentment: Think About What You Have, Not What You Don't Have (Genesis 2-3)

Preparation: The following notes and ideas are solely for you to use as you prepare to teach this week. Feel free to use them as you wish or don’t use them at all!

Observations from the story:

Genesis 2-3 is the story of God’s ideal creation and man’s role in ruining it. Within this story is a powerful lesson about relying on God’s provision instead of desiring the things we don’t have.

1. Genesis 2 – What Adam and Eve had…

  • A complete creation – With the creation of Eve, everything that had been made was deemed “good” by God. No better assessment could be made than for the ultimate being to give full approval. Everything necessary to sustain life (not just life, but the life God intended) was present. Adam and Eve had at their fingertips an abundance of all they could ever need.

  • An ideal living space – God placed Adam and Eve in the garden he had created for them. This was the first custom made home. God provided trees that were good for food, but were also pleasing to look at. God did not just provide a utilitarian system by which to sustain living organisms, He was an artist perfectly combining form and function to create the best possible living environment for His image bearers. He provided a river to flow through the garden, sustaining the plants, the animals, and the people. He provided the Tree of Life (check out Revelation 22 for an interesting description of the Tree of Life).

  • A Clear Purpose – God’s expectations for Adam and Eve were very simple. They were to be his representatives to the new creation. He called them His “image-bearers” and He instructed them to rule over the earth and over the creatures on the earth. Their job was not to be tyrants, but rather they were to be stewards, caring for creation in the same way God would. Along with the responsibility, He gave Adam authority over the animals, even allowing Adam to name them.

  • Freedom with Guidelines – God provided the ideal freedom to Adam and Eve in that he identified the limitations of their freedom. Not only did God give Adam and Eve permission to eat from all the trees in the garden, He encouraged them to “freely eat”. The only guideline he gave them was that they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which He explained would result in death. This is the ideal type of freedom for humans.

  • An Ideal Relationship – The crown of creation was the woman. She was the completion of the man. Together they were the ideal image of God. Just as God is a three-in-one unity with diversity, the man and the woman became a two-in-one unity with diversity. Genesis 2:24 describes this relationship as two people who have become “one flesh”. Verse 25 says they were “naked, and they felt no shame”. Their oneness was the ideal intimacy. They had nothing to hide from one another, they were completely open and honest with one another. Their relationship is the type of relationship we all desire and pursue.

  • Summary: Adam and Eve were given everything they could possible need and desire. Nothing that was necessary for their health, happiness, and fulfillment had been withheld.

2. Genesis 3 – What Adam and Eve Didn’t Have…

  • Essentially, there was nothing they didn’t have (except one tree).

  • Unfortunately, they focused on the one thing they didn’t have instead of the many amazing things they had.

3. What Happened?

  • Much can be said about the role of the serpent in deceiving Eve. Many lessons can be learned from this passage about deception and how to handle temptation (It is an interesting study to cross-reference the temptations Jesus faced with the approach the serpent took tempting Eve).

  • The decision Adam and Eve ultimately made was a result of choosing to focus their attention on the one thing they didn’t have .

    • The fruit they weren’t to eat was “pleasing to the eye and good for food”(3:6) -- Ironically part of the rational that Eve used for eating the forbidden fruit was also true of all the other trees. Genesis 2:9 says that all the trees were pleasing to the eye and good for food. When we take our eyes off God’s provision, we quickly lose perspective of how great His provision is. As our eyes wander to the things we haven’t been given, it doesn’t take long for the thing God has given us to lose our luster. Ultimately, our perspective can shift so that we mistakenly believe the things we don’t have are more desirable than what we possess, even though God has promised to always provide us with what we need.

  • Ignoring God’s overwhelming and generous provisions for them, they chose to be “self-reliant” and look-out for their own welfare. Once Adam and Eve decided that they knew their needs better than God did, they were on a one-way path toward destruction. Choosing to pursue their wrong-headed desires instead of relying on God’s gifts led them into separation from God, and loss of their ideal home, job, and relationship with each other.

4. What Does This Mean for Us?

The following are some simple statements to consider as you seek to discover some applicational principles from this passage:

  • Sin takes root when we choose to look away(or reject) God’s provision.

  • Whether it is the serpent deceiving us, or us deceiving ourselves, we choose to fixate on what we do not have rather than what we do. This often requires us to have a “puffed-up” view of ourselves as we consider ourselves as deserving of more than we truly are.

  • Saying, “I deserve it” is a sure sign that we are on the cusp of sin.

  • Contentment is never having to say, “I deserve it.”

  • The more I “count my blessings”, the less I’ll worry about what I don’t have.

Central Theme of Lesson: Think About What You Have, Not What You Don’t Have!

Sharing Life:

  • Remember, everyone should at least know everyone else’s names. Take some time to make sure this is the case before you move on.

  • Ask the group members if any of them have a “story” to share from the past week. If appropriate, take a moment to pray for the “life situations” of the group members as they are revealed (remember, you’ll take more time later for group prayer).

  • Have as many people as possible answer the following question: Describe the most perfect meal you can imagine. What are the most “tempting” elements of the meal?

Formative Time:

This time is designed to be a discussion driven lesson, every question can be answered by one or several students. You may need to supplement or change these questions as necessary for your group. You are free to use these questions in any way that you deem appropriate for your group.

  • What place on earth do you think is closest to being like the Garden of Eden?

    • Since this is a somewhat subjective question, people may need a minute to think about it. Be prepared to give your own answer first, however, if someone has an answer immediately, let them kick off the discussion. If necessary, ask follow-up questions to the different members who answer (Have you been there? Give us descriptive details about that place…)

  • In chapter two, what is the most appealing element of God’s creation? Why?

    • If needed, point out the different aspects of creation that are described in chapter two (the Garden, the trees for food, the river, the animals, God’s instructions, Adam’s responsibility…)

  • Which of the following words best describes God’s initial creation. Why?

    • Complete

    • Ideal

    • Perfect

    • Good

    • Unbelievable

  • Which of the serpent’s arguments do you think made the most sense to Eve? Why?

    • “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”

    • “You will not surely die”

    • “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

  • Read Genesis 2:9 and Genesis 3:6. What do you think made the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so much more appealing than the other trees?

    • The only difference was the acquisition of knowledge. Apparently, the desire to have more knowledge was what drove Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit. Point out that the knowledge gained by eating the fruit was apparently something God didn’t think Adam and Eve needed.

  • Why do you think Adam and Eve were attracted to something God hadn’t given them? What are some of the things we are attracted to that God has not given to us?

    • Depending on the discussion, this might be a good place to talk about what it means to covet, and how “chasing” the things God hasn’t given us can distract our attention from the things God has given us and wants us to have.

  • Why do you think Adam and Eve lost sight of all the good things God had provided for them?

    • Talk about our tendency to take our eyes off God’s provision when we start to focus on all the things we don’t have. Discuss how illogical it was for Adam and Eve to give up all the things God had provided just to get the one thing He hadn’t.

  • What good things has God provided for you that you tend to lose sight of?

  • What is a simple step you can take this week to pursue the development of contentment in your life?

Developmental Time:

  • Ask the group members if anyone would like to share something they’ve been doing differently in their life recently that demonstrates spiritual growth. Encourage each other to set “formative” goals for the coming week.

  • Take time for group members to share prayer requests.

  • Pray for the given requests. Try to vary the way you do prayer time from week to week so it is more than just “vain repetitions”. Some ideas are:

    • One person prays

    • Pray for each request as it is given

    • Sentence prayers around the circle

    • Partner (or threes) prayer

    • Silent Prayer

    • Have group members write prayers out and then read them.

    • Etc… (you’re creative!)

  • Remind group members of their commitment for the week and encourage them to carry it out!

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