Killing What's Killing You | Week 1: Comparison

Day 1: Put to death comparison and envy.

Romans 8:12-13
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

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As followers of Jesus, one of the several kinds of emotional “webs” we often walk into is comparison or envy. Our sinful nature urges us to go along with the pattern of the world and compare ourselves to others, but the result is discontent with whom we are and what we have. Often, we want to clean up these “webs,” but we actually need to kill the spider, or get to the root of comparison and envy, to find resolution.

As believers, we have no obligation to keep dealing with comparison and envy, since God already gives us our value and status. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can experience transformation by putting comparison and envy to death.

Today, ask God to show you in what ways you can put comparison and envy to death in your life. As you meet with your group this week, ask for prayer and input about practical ways to put comparison and envy to death in your particular circumstances.

Day 2: Superior or inferior.

2 Corinthians 10:12
Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!

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When we try to develop a sense of value or gain status through comparison, one of two things will inevitably happen: We will either feel superior about ourselves, making us aloof, arrogant, and condescending, or we will feel inferior to others, making us needy and insecure.

When we compare ourselves and feel either superior or inferior to others, we take our eyes off of whom God made us to be and what he uniquely put us on this planet to do. Comparison diminishes our understanding of how God sees us.

Today, ask God to show how comparison has distorted your view of who God made you to be and to restore a right view of self.

Day 3: Fighting for first place.

John 20:1-4
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

John 20:8
Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed...

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While many Bible passages teach us the ideal response to envy and comparison, many of the accounts included in the Bible show how things really played out in the lives of Jesus’ followers and how Jesus wanted them to put envy and comparison to death…but they often failed. Two of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter and John, are the perfect example of the struggle with comparison, as they constantly fought to be “first place” with Jesus, even to the point of racing to be the first one to Jesus’ tomb.

If you feel like you’re a failure because you’re struggling with comparison and envy, don’t give up hope. Jesus included two such people in his inner circle.

Today, ask God to strengthen you through the Holy Spirit to continue putting comparison and envy to death, and not to give up when you struggle or fail.

Day 4: What is that to you?

John 21:7
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore.

John 21:20-22
Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

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Right before this passage, Jesus and Peter took a walk. During their one-on-one time, Jesus restores Peter back to ministry, after Peter had denied him three times. That would have been the perfect ending to this story, but it’s where comparison and envy appear in Peter’s life. He asks, “But what about John?” – the other disciple he always competed with and compared himself to. Peter reveals the emotional web he was too often trapped in.

Jesus’ response to Peter is what he would say to us today: What is that to you? As for you, follow me… run your race… be who I made you and died for you to be.

The sooner we stop comparing ourselves to others and forming our value based off of these comparisons, the sooner we’ll see ourselves the way God sees us – and the sooner we will get busy doing what he made us to do!

Today, ask God to bring to mind the question “What is that to you?” whenever the temptation to compare arises. Post this question somewhere visible if a physical reminder would be helpful.

Day 5: Keep your eyes fixed ahead.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

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If you run in a race, it is wise to not look to the right or to the left. If you do, you may trip and fall. Instead, it is best to keep your eyes fixed straight ahead of you, toward the goal. When Jesus asked Peter, “What is that to you?”, it was another way of saying “Run your race – the race I have planned for you. Your mission isn’t to be someone else.”

Dealing with envy and comparison presents each of us with important questions: Why do I feel the need to compare myself with others? What is it that I want? Where am I looking for fulfillment? Where do I think validation comes from? Whose opinion of me matters most to me?

For followers of Jesus, all of these questions find their answer in him and who he says you are. Through the power of the Spirit, let him kill the comparison and envy that have been killing you.

What are some practical steps you can take to end the pull of comparison on your life and increase the importance of God’s opinion of you? Ask God to help you apply those steps today.

Killing What's Killing You | WEEK 2: Worry/Fear

Day 1: Fear not!

Romans 8:13
But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

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As believers, another spiritual and emotional web we are often trapped in is worry. If worry is the web, the spider spinning that web is most often fear. Worry is a preoccupation with what might happen, usually in the future. It always robs us of something in the present.

Did you know the most common biblical command is “Fear not”? It is repeated 365 times throughout scripture, likely because God knew this would be the number one issue in each of our hearts. After all, there is something to worry and be afraid about every single day.

As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, equipping us not to fear. Through his power, we can experience transformation by learning how to trust God and not give in to worry and fear.

Today, ask God to show you the ways you can put worry and fear to death in your life. As you meet with your group this week, ask for input about practical ways to do so and for prayer in this area.

Day 2: The hiding hero.

Judges 6:11-13
Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.

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Gideon is listed as one of the heroes of the faith, yet he doesn’t look like much of a hero where his story begins in Judges 6. Gideon’s people, the nation of Israel, were being attacked and overpowered by the Midianite nation, causing all of them to flee or hide. Gideon was no different. In fact, when an angel from the Lord called him to save his country, he was hiding in a winepress!

Gideon was filled with fear, and it showed up in his angry questions and a final conclusion: “Why are we going through this? Why hasn’t God intervened on our behalf like he did for our grandparents? God has abandoned us.” Despite his fear and anger, God listened to Gideon and still called him to become Israel’s hero.

Today, ask God to show you how fear and worry have caused anger to grow in your life. Express your thoughts to him, and ask him to kill the spider of fear in your life.

Day 3: The insecure hero.

Judges 6:14-17
Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me.”

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Another way fear manifests itself is through insecurity. We see this in Gideon’s story—after all, he was hiding in a pit when the angel appeared to him, and he didn’t believe God could use him since he was the youngest member of the weakest family in his tribe!

Even though God sent an angel directly to Gideon to call him to be his nation’s hero, fear and insecurity caused him to seek to avoid the responsibility. God did not give up on Gideon, promising to be with him through it all, and still Gideon tried to control the situation by asking God for a sign. Eventually, Gideon was able to let go of his fears and step into faith.

Today, ask God to help you recognize fear in the form of insecurity and control issues in your life and to strengthen you by the Holy Spirit to put it to death.

Day 4: The invitation to walk by faith.

Exodus 14:13-14
But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Philippians 4:6
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

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The invitation to walk by faith is an invitation to step into our fears, but with the strength God provides. We lean upon God to overcome fear, worry, anger, insecurity, and control issues.

When we begin to feel fear pressing down on us, it is critical that we regularly reflect upon what we are building our lives on, if we are living within God’s intentions for us, and that we focus on God’s promises to us rather than the problems we face.

Today, ask God to show you how to develop a routine that helps you focus on his promises rather than the problems of your day.

Day 5: In the face of fear.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Psalm 56:3-4
But when I am afraid,
    I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
    I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me?

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What we believe about God shows up when we are afraid, just as Gideon’s fear revealed how angry he was with God and how insecure he felt about his calling. Thankfully, through God’s strength, Gideon was eventually able to kill fear and worry to save his people from their enemies!

While experiencing worry and fear is normal, as followers of Jesus, we do not have to live worried and fearful lives. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, when we detect them, we can stand our ground, pray for peace, object to the lies that increase fear, and trust God. By doing so, we too will be empowered to fulfill the purpose God has placed on our lives.

Do you need to stand your ground against fear and worry, pray for peace, object to a lie, or focus on increasing your trust in God? Ask him to show you what to do in the face of fear.

Killing What's Killing You | WEEK 3: ANGER/BITTERNESS

Day 1: Bitterness is an emotional cancer.

Hebrews 12:15
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Proverbs 14:10
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.

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Anger isn’t wrong. It’s an honest, healthy emotion. But unresolved, unforgiven anger and resentment built up over time results in bitterness. Bitterness hardens your heart. Bitterness is an emotional cancer.

Are you bitter, maybe because of something that happened a long time ago that you can’t do anything about? Or, maybe you were betrayed by someone you trusted? Or, perhaps you were overlooked or marginalized in some way?

Today, ask God to reveal any unresolved and unforgiven anger and resentment in your life that could lead to or has turned to bitterness. As you meet with your group this week, ask for prayer in this area.

Day 2: The root of all anger.

James 4:1-2
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.

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Matthew 26:47-53
And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”

Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear. “

Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?

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The root of all anger is that I wanted something, but didn’t get it. It could have been something good, deserved, decent. But it didn’t come.

In the intersection of expectation and reality, each of us has a choice: Am I going to get angry, or am I willing to work through my anger in a healthy way so that it doesn’t turn into bitterness?

Today, ask God to help you continually choose to work through anger in healthy ways over harboring bitterness in your heart.

Day 3: Jesus offers a way out of anger.

Matthew 16:21-25
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

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Jesus gives us a description of anger that sheds light on it:  When we get angry, we are looking at things through a limited perspective. Jesus reminds us in this passage that God has a view of the circumstances of our lives that we don’t have.

Today, ask God to help you trust the circumstances of your life to him, leaning into him and choosing his way. In this way, you can break free from the grasps of anger, so it doesn’t turn into bitterness.

Day 4: Anger that precedes bitterness.

Galatians 5:19-20
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division…

Proverbs 14:17
Short-tempered people do foolish things, and schemers are hated.

Ephesians 4:26
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…

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Whether it’s an outburst of anger, revenge or the “silent treatment,” all forms of anger are not much fun to receive (or give!) and they’re rarely helpful.

Today, ask God to reveal any places in your life where anger may be taking root in your heart. Ask him for help taking out the trash of anger and bitterness in your heart so that freedom can flourish.

Day 5: Free to live and love.

Galatians 2:20
The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” and Jesus responded, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!”

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Forgiveness is not saying, “it’s no big deal.” Forgiveness is putting an unhealthy emotion to death. Forgiveness is not a feeling, but a choice to say: I forgive you the way God has forgiven me.

We keep wanting to change our circumstances and God keeps wanting to change us. Today, ask God to help you lean into him, continually choosing forgiveness and his way so you can have a heart that’s free to live and love.

Killing What's Killing You | Week 4: Guilt/Shame

Day 1: Conviction brings an awareness of sin.

2 Corinthians 7:10
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

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The word for healthy guilt is “conviction.” Conviction is healthy guilt from God’s perspective that should work in our lives like the “check engine” light in your car. It’s an indicator that something could be going wrong. 

Is God showing you an area of your life that needs change? Is there a character issue that needs to be addressed? Do you have any relationships that need attention? Any attitudes that need adjustment? 

God convicts us because he wants to heal us. Because of Jesus, we have the power to change – to kill what’s killing us and be free.

Today, ask God to reveal an area of your life that needs attention. Ask him what to do about it and commit to doing it by the power he supplies. As you meet with your group this week, share how God is moving in your life, and ask for prayer and encouragement.

Day 2: Hiding turns healthy guilt into unhealthy shame.

John 4:4-9
He had to go through Samaria on the way. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” 

John 4:16-18
“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

John 4:27-29
Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”

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Jesus knew how to speak words that produced healthy and life-giving conviction in people’s life without shaming them. The woman at the well was hiding in the shame of her past. She needed to be loved. She needed to be valued. She needed to be rescued. Jesus did all of those things while still speaking truth into her life.

Like the woman at the well, we tend to hide instead of bringing things out into the open. But hiding always turns our healthy guilt into unhealthy shame. Jesus loves and rescues us by calling us out and speaking the truth without shaming us.

Is there an area of your life where healthy guilt has turned into an unhealthy shame? Today, bring it to Jesus and be free. He took our shame on the cross so we could live in freedom.

Day 3: The presence of Jesus brings radical change.

Luke 19:1-3
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 

Luke 19:7
But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Luke 19:8-10
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

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Zacchaeus was a tax collector who had become rich by cheating people. Everyone hated him.  Religious people avoided him. But Jesus invited himself over to his house for dinner! The very presence of Jesus brought about radical change in Zacchaeus’s life—he committed to giving back to the poor and making things right with those he had cheated. 

The presence and power of Jesus changes us. He saves us from our guilt and shame and offers us a new way of living—a way of freedom, power, and love. 

Today, thank Jesus for his power and presence in your life, and allow this reality to change you and shape how you live.

Day 4: Sin no longer defines us.

Isaiah 54:4
Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.

Hebrews 12:2
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

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If healthy guilt looks like conviction, shame always feels like condemnation. Guilt is feeling bad about what we’ve done. Shame is feeling bad about who we are.

But our struggles with sin don’t define us. We are treasured children of the Most High God. The cross of Jesus proves that our sin is more serious than we ever thought. But it also proves that we’re loved more than we could ever imagine.

Shame doesn’t get the last word. Jesus took on shame to set us free and restore what it’s taken from us. We don’t have make up for our shortfalls by performing, pleasing, proving, or perfecting. We’re worthy because Jesus is worthy. We’re enough because Jesus is enough. 

Sin no longer defines you, and shame no longer controls your future. Your sin and shame were nailed to the cross! Today, praise and thank Jesus for what he’s done for you, and rest in his finished work.

Day 5: Jesus destroyed our shame on the cross.

Proverbs 28:13
People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. 

Psalm 32:1-5
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

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When God convicts us that something in our life needs to change, we can cover up or come clean. Covering up and hiding just turns healthy guilt into crushing shame. There is no healing in hiding.

But if we let Jesus handle our secrets, he’ll also take care of our shame. Jesus went to the cross to destroy our shame. His healing comes when we’re honest about who we are. His grace is a gift we receive when we come clean.

Is there anything in your life that you’ve been hiding? Is there any area where God is prompting you to come clean? Today, bring it to him and receive his healing grace.