STUDY | Spend the week studying Luke 1:1–80. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group.
PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Never doubt God’s ability to do the impossible.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
Every Christian has doubts at some point. We may doubt God’s ability or willingness to intervene in an area. Is God really good? Does He care? Will He come through for me? Or we look at ourselves and doubt. Can I get through this? Will I ever change? Do I really believe?
This week your group will discuss what it means to give Jesus your doubts. Zechariah and Mary had their doubts, but God showed them that you should never doubt God’s ability to do the impossible.
Q: Recall a time when you had doubts about God or yourself. Share your experience and what you learned from it with the group.
Q: How would you describe the differences between doubt and faith?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
A PROMISE - GOD DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE
There was a priest named Zechariah. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have no children, and they are advanced in years. One day the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the temple. The angel comes with a message—Elizabeth will bear a son! Not only that, but this son will be a messenger of God, preparing the way for the Messiah. But Zechariah doubts out loud, “How can this be?” Because he doubted, Zechariah is made mute until his son is born.
Gabriel then visits Mary. She is troubled when the angel greets her, but Gabriel comes with good news. She has found favor with God, and God will give her a son. This son will be the Son of the Most High, a king who will sit on David’s throne forever. Perplexed, Mary asks, “How can this be, since I’m a virgin?” To this, Gabriel tells her how God’s Spirit will come upon her and give her a child. Mary replies, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let all this be according to your plan.”
READ: Read Luke 1:1–38. Compare Gabriel’s encounters with Zechariah and Mary. How are they alike? How are they different?
Q: Why does God rebuke doubt?
A SONG - MARY’S RESPONSE
Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. When Mary arrives, Elizabeth is so excited, she cries out, “You and the child in you are blessed! When I heard you coming, I felt my baby leap for joy inside me.” How does Mary respond? With a song. She praises God and thanks Him that through her all generations will be blessed. Her joy overflows as she remembers God’s compassion, mercy, and faithfulness to His people. And she looks forward to God doing the same for her.
Q: Read Luke 1:39–56. What attributes of God do you see in Mary’s song?
A PROPHECY - ZECHARIAH’S RESPONSE
When Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son is born, they name him John. After John is circumcised, Zechariah’s speech returns. Immediately, this proud father starts blessing God and prophesying. Zechariah declares that John’s purpose in life will be to prepare the way for the Lord. John will point the way to a Savior who will rescue God’s people from their sin.
Q: Read Luke 1:57–80. Based on Zechariah’s prophesy, how would you describe his view of God in one word or phrase?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
DEALING WITH DOUBTS
Zechariah and Mary can teach us a lot about doubt. They didn’t deny or try to hide their doubts. They were honest and expressed them. Faith and doubt aren’t mutually exclusive. That is, it’s possible to have faith and doubts at the same time. Our perspective is severely limited. When you doubt, don’t deny it. Define it, and declare it before a God who’s big enough to handle your doubts.
Q: Why do we deny or try to hide our doubts? What are we afraid of?
Q: Take a moment to write any doubts you currently have. Do they have a theme? Are they focused in a certain area?
SEARCHING FOR TRUTH
Mary’s song and Zechariah’s prophesy reveal their heart for God and their knowledge of His truth. Doubt makes us question God’s character and actions. Doubt tends to give us spiritual amnesia. We forget who God is and how He has shown up in our lives in the past.
The best way to respond to doubt is with truth. Go on a quest for God’s truth. Pray through Scripture. Read passages that remind you that God is good and works for our good. Preach God’s truth to yourself. Allow God to speak His truth into your life.
Q: What are the benefits of searching for truth together in community?
Q: Name one thing you can do this week to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness towards you.
STANDING IN FAITH
How did Zechariah and Mary respond to God when He confirmed things to them? They stood in faith. They gave God the glory and praised Him for His work. When you get confirmation from God, thank Him. Take a stand and believe that God will always be true to His Word. Even when answers don’t come in your preferred timing, you can trust that God wants to give you confidence in Him in exchange for your doubts.
Q: Where in life is it hard for you to stand in faith? Why?
Q: What makes you joyful this Christmas season? What praiseworthy things have you seen God do this past year?
Speak with the Father and define your doubts, whatever they may be. Ask God for wisdom and faith to believe. Remember God’s promise to give generously what we need when we ask in faith (see Matthew 7:7–11; James 1:5–8).
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Psalm 42 and consider the ways the psalmist deals with his doubt.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
A Story of Joy
The prelude to Jesus’ birth, which was declared as “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10), reveals Zechariah and Mary expressing their overwhelming joy before God. A joyful heart that praises God and celebrates His work is a great defense against doubt.
More on the Messenger Gabriel
Gabriel is an archangel and, along with Michael, one of only two angels named in the Bible. “Gabriel interpreted Daniel’s vision (Daniel 8:16), gave Daniel the prophecy of 70 weeks (Daniel 9:21), and announced the births of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19) and Jesus (Luke 1:26).”1
Jewish Rite of Circumcision
It was Jewish custom for sons to be circumcised eight days after birth (Genesis 17:12; 21:4; Leviticus 12:3). While children were often named after birth, Abram received a new name (“Abraham”) after he was circumcised (see Genesis 17:5, 23–24). It’s likely that John and Jesus being named after circumcision connects them to God’s covenant promise to Abraham.2
Doubt’s Deadly Trap
Paul Tripp sees doubt as a trap, because it leads us to question God’s character. In the following excerpt, Tripp explains what effect doubt has and how to respond to it:
“If you no longer believe that God is loving, faithful, and gracious, you won't run to Him for hope and peace. Instead, you'll seek out earthly saviors who will provide the supposed rest and comfort you think you need (this could be drugs, people, television, food, or a host of other numbing agents).
“Here's what you always need to remember: you can trust the character of God because He sent Jesus to die for you, even when you were still His opponent. You don't have to doubt the character of the Father because He gave His Son for your hardened heart.”3
1. H. Daniel Zacharias, “Gabriel the Archangel,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
2. D. A. Carson, “The Gospels and Acts,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2069.
3. Paul Tripp, “The Trap of Doubt,” Paul Tripp Ministries, April 2, 2014, https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/the-trap-of-doubt (accessed December 4, 2017).