1. What forces in life tempt us, or work at taking away, our peace, joy, faith and love? What resources do we have access to that help us to cultivate the blessings of faith, peace, joy and love in our lives?
Faith is serious business. In faith we come into contact with forces every day that can take away our peace, joy, faith, and love. It is a daily struggle for us to turn away from temptations and towards God. What forces in life tempt us, or work at taking away, our peace, joy, faith and love? What resources do we have access to that help us to cultivate the blessings of faith, peace, joy and love in our lives, rather than giving into temptations?
2. Below, sins of commission and sins of omission are defined. Why is it important to think not only about sins we commit but ways that we can sin by omitting certain actions or thoughts? Which of these sins of omission or commission are more often a struggle in your own life?
In Wesley’s sermon, he points to different ways that darkness comes upon us, leading us into a wilderness state. One of the primary ways that “inward darkness” is caused is through sin. Sins of commission are sins we commit that distance us from God – for example, stealing, gossiping, hating another. These sins have an immediate effect on our relationship with God. Yet, sins of omission are possible, too. These sins are things we neglect to do. Wesley gives examples of sins of omission which include neglecting private prayer and neglecting to rebuke or correct a friend when they are sinning. While we didn’t “do” anything wrong per se, we did not choose to do right, either. While sins of commission have an immediate effect on our relationship with God, sins of omission may take longer to have an impact on our relationship with God. Why is it important to reflect on and wrestle with, not only sins we commit, but ways that we can sin by omitting certain actions or thoughts? Which of these, sins of omission or commission, are more often a struggle in your own life?
3. What promises does God make to us when we’re in the wilderness?
When we are in the wilderness state, feeling surrounded by and lost in darkness, we may feel alone. Yet, even in the wilderness, God does not desert us. When we are in the midst of darkness, we are called to turn towards God, who is patient, who gives us strength, who promises to forgive us when we give into temptation. As you ponder times in your life when you’ve been in the wilderness, think about what promises God makes to us when we’re in the wilderness.
4. How does your idea of the wilderness change when you realize it isn’t something we can avoid, but a place we will go through?
We will find times when we are faced with darkness and temptation, and it is not something we can avoid. It is a part of life. Even Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). And as Wesley points out at the beginning of his sermon, when the Hebrew people were delivered from slavery in Egypt, they didn’t immediately enter the promised land, but instead spent much time in the wilderness. While we often think of the wilderness as a dark place we should avoid, it is instead a dark place that awakens our souls and calls us to turn towards God. For some people, it is even a place necessary for people to travel through, to bring them back into relationship with God.