Focus 1 (of 4) - Adulthood is Worthwhile

Focus 1 (of 4) - Adulthood is Worthwhile

Part 1 of the Spotlight series "Adulthood in a Certain Light" 
Consider this ice breaker question to get started.
What is your favorite knock-knock joke?
Let’s talk about competence.
Listen to this audio clip when you’re ready to begin today’s Spotlight.
(And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)
Start to think about what competence looks like.
The internet is full of lists like “Life Skills Every Adult Should Master Before 30” or “Here are the 33 Life Skills Your Teen Needs to Know to Adult.” (Here’s one of the things adults should know: Internet lists are mostly trash.) These lists—regardless of their individual value—collectively nod to the idea that adults can do certain things somewhat independently, that is, without direct assistance.
That being said, no single list can contain the competencies of adulthood, because the true definition of “competent” is God himself. God is competent and he is competence. If it can be done, he can do it, and if he needs to, he does.
Try to predict these lists.
Have each group member predict one thing that will be on one of the lists. Take a look and see who got it right.

Switch from childhood to adulthood.
Adulthood is marked by self-sufficient competence in the areas of skill, wisdom, and purpose. Britannica defines it as “the period in the human lifespan in which full physical and intellectual maturity have been attained.”

How is that definition different from childhood?

  • Childhood teaches you how to be dependent because, as a child, you are dependent. Children (especially at the beginning) can do nothing for themselves and are wholly dependent.

The change from childhood to adulthood is referred to as development. What is being developed at that time?

  • The body literally develops.
  • Competence develops. (It’s important that competence doesn’t develop until after a person experiences the good truth of dependence.) With a foundation of dependence, a person can start to contribute.
Welcome Perspective
Adulthood is good because, in it, one develops competencies.
Trust the God who brings people into adulthood.
Start by reading Psalm 8 together.
Now, consider how would you answer these questions?

  • Where are you, right now?
  • Are you where you want to be?
  • Are you where you thought you’d be?

Growing up in this world—where it’s easy to see the ways sin’s brokenness hurts people’s lives—can be a motivational roller coaster. Some days you feel like it can all be okay if everyone can just “get it together,” and you’re super motivated to help make that happen. Other days, though, you feel like it’s all a bit too much—too broken, too complicated, too far gone.

Psalm 8 begins and ends with the words: “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”—but some days it feels more like “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth?”

Despite sin’s brokenness, God has a praiseworthy, majestic plan, and he is working it. It just doesn’t seem that way because this plan doesn’t work the way a human being would expect it to, especially one’s who live in a world where sin screams the opposite of God’s plan every day.

Listen to this song to consider this further.

The song “I Have Prepared You for This” by Him & Her Worship feels this. It is the cry of a heart that pursues its own way and realizes it needs God’s guiding hand. As you listen to it, notice the way the songwriter’s pain is heard and met by God’s unconditional love and invitation to trust.
Could it be that all this time
when I was focused on my life
I should have had my vision fixed on you?

“I Have Prepared You for This,” Him & Her Worship
Accept it: adults are basically just old babies—and that’s OK!
Adulthood isn’t as much about being “done with childhood” as it is about seeing what God is going to do with the child he made. Very kindly, very creatively, God enhances the skills, wisdom, and purpose of each person. This enhancement grows into competence.

Themes of competence (+ its building blocks: those gifts of skill, wisdom, and purpose) and responsibility come out in the central portion of Psalm 8:

You have made [humankind] a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Psalm 8:5–8

If you read these words and feel a little unworthy of having “everything under your feet,” you’re not alone, but you also may be missing what God is doing here.

It’s quite remarkable—in fact, it’s the kind of thing that might make a person say “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name!”—and all the hope in it is summed up very nicely in The Bible Project’s visual commentary on Psalm 8.

Watch the commentary via the video below.
Say it in song

“It” being “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Adulthood is worthwhile because God has chosen to use it to do his good, loving, providential actions. You’ll think more about this in the Learn section, but before you go there, pause to praise the God who came up with a system so beautiful it could include every person.
Worship Perspective
The development of skill, wisdom, and purpose is God loving you.
Find something for yourself, for God, and for others.
The video below is the first of four videos you’ll see in this series that explore the first nine chapters of Proverbs. Each explore those chapters in view of the theme for the Spotlight.

As you watch, notice that the verses from chapter one are about what you gain in the “growth-into-wisdom” process. Chapter two expands things to God, and the single verse included from chapter three is about how you apply your wisdom to other people.
Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.
(That’s how the Bible translation called “The Message” puts it. Here’s how a more common translation, the “New International Version [NIV],” puts it):

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
Proverbs 3:27

Simple poll: Which translation of this verse do you currently like more—Message or NIV? (There’s no wrong answer here! They both bring good things to the table.)

If the two translations are side-by-side, you start to see that “When it is in your power to act, your hand is God’s hand” for the person you act towards.
Discuss the idea that “your hand is God’s hand” using the following questions:

  • God’s hand always does good things. What does your hand have to be doing in order to be God’s hand? In other words, at what point could it cease to be God’s hand?
  • The Bible says that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45)” Some people have suggested that you’re only doing God’s work when you’re doing work that is directly church- or religion-related. This is not true. How does Matthew 5:45 show that this is false? How else would you explain that “God’s work” is not limited to “church work”?

The NIV’s phrase “when it is in your power to act” sounds an awful lot like a combination of competence and responsibility. In other words, “do not withhold good” when you are able and responsible for doing something helpful.
Discuss the “power to act” using the following questions

  • Name three ways that God’s act of offering his only son, Jesus, to save the world is a powerful example of someone having the “power to act” and using it.
  • The Message says that this action is done for someone who “deserves help,” and the NIV says that it’s for “those to whom it is due.” How is doing something good for someone who deserves it the opposite of what God did when he gave Jesus to die for your sins?
Call it what it is: vocation.

The word vocation simply means “calling.” A vocation is that which God has called an individual to do. Most people have multiple vocations, and vocations are known to change.

A ton, ton, ton of great writing exists on vocation. (If you’re looking for a book recommendation on this, Gene Edward Veith’s “God at Work” is fantastic.) Martin Luther moved the conversation around vocation forward as he fought with priests and monks about whether or not farm work was as important as monastery work. Other authors have continued the conversation.
Use the following excerpts from Dr. Mark Paustian’s paper “Unleashing Our Calling” for further discussion.

Before moving on, try to make sure everyone in your group understands the highlighted sections.

The greater challenge may lie in convincing people that they really serve God in their vocations, by simply fulfilling the tasks that their callings daily present to them. It will be counterintuitive to many Christians to think that they serve God while performing activities that are identical to those of unbelievers who are in a similar station. No one has yet discovered a Christian way to shingle a roof. Students don’t learn Hebrew by praying—I’ve seen it tried—but by drilling grammar and vocables, the same as at the university; and if learning Hebrew is part of your vocation, then this is what God wants you to do.

Luther wrote, “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

Tell a Christian banker that he does his Christian duty, not by putting stained glass in his office building, but by executing fair deals and making prudent investment decisions on behalf of his clients, because God loves good ethics and sound business. The requirements of each vocation reveal what God’s will is and how to work with him.

Meanwhile, we are “in the world, not of the world,” performing the same functions as unbelievers in the kingdom of God’s left hand. We inhabit the same spaces, but live in the foreignness of our thoughts, looking forward to another country, a heavenly one. We work in close proximity with pagans but with an inner distance, nurturing that other point of view like inhabiting a different world, that kingdom of grace and God’s right hand, in which angels are always watching over us and the Father has his face always turned toward us, for Jesus’ sake.
Learn Perspective
Through vocation, you find meaning for yourself and with God and others.
Find one way to be proactive in your vocations.
Follow the steps of this activity to gain one immediately actionable way to heed your callings.

  1. Think through the past week. What did you do? Whom did you work for? Whom did you serve? Who was dependent on you for something? 
  2. Choose any one of the answers you gave to Question 1. (For example, I created a Spotlight.) Share the one you’ve chosen with your group.
  3. Articulate, in one sentence, how that work is a version of “your hand is God’s hand.” 
  4. Go back to Question 1, but this time, add to it: What did you do that you normally don’t think is part of God’s work?
  5. Articulate, in one sentence, how that work is a version of “your hand is God’s hand.”
Make it sacred—but not necessarily “religious.”
There’s a bit of a tightrope walk to learn as a Christian…

  1. enjoys the fact that God has called them but 
  2. grapples with the reality that what God has called them to do can be simple and temporal.

Paustian makes note of this as well, warning of the danger of putting the “veneer of Christianity” on your vocation:

To withdraw from our duties in the world would be sin. To feel that the works one finds at hand are not worthy of us—“to do nothing because it is not everything”—is arrogance. To witness to clients and give bad tax advice is counterproductive to both credibility and God’s intimate care. What good is a farmer singing hymns on his tractor and ruining the field?

In the second century, Justin Martyr grew up over the hill from Galilee; he notes that the plows made by Joseph and Jesus were still in use in his day. Those must have been some plows. Those who replace such God-honoring attention to the task with a legalistic veneer of Christianity and a manufactured religiosity “drip their false religion on everything they do,” never content to let anything be what it is, merely earthly.

Mark Paustian, “Unleashing Our Calling”
Discuss this using the following example:

A Spotlight Focus Group that meets on Thursdays at 7:00pm wants to serve at the Tiny House Village on 125th and Aurora. They prepare a pancake breakfast one February Saturday. One group member brings napkins with Bible verses on them, and after the event, the management at the Tiny House Village asks that plain napkins be used in the future. The group member is pretty upset and gives a five-minute #rant about it at group the following Thursday.

What can be said to help that group member?
Feel free to submit a prayer request by filling out the below form.

Prayer Requests

Serve Perspective
Through skill and wisdom, caring becomes proactive, not just reactive.
Pray for your competence.
Follow these steps for today’s closing song…

  1. First, grab a paper and pencil or note-taking app.
  2. Press play below to listen to Bob Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody.
  3. While listening, write a prayer for your own vocation.

“It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
Sing along with (or listen to) this song to close out this Spotlight.
Feel free to sing along or simply listen. Do what makes you comfortable—but do whatever helps you focus on the song's meaning best.
Farewell Perspective
Skill, wisdom, stature: these are gifts that give adults the “power to act.”
Let's wrap things up by taking a look at what's Current at Illume.
Tap on the buttons in the frame below to see what’s currently happening at Illume—information on everything from current and upcoming online content to live events and opportunities to serve in the community can all be found here.

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