Accepting God’s forgiveness frees us to forgive others rather than holding grudges. Forgiveness isn’t fair, but it’s freeing.
Read the Student Lesson as well as the Teacher's Guide. This will provide everything you need to teach the Youth Sabbath School lesson.
This is an icebreaker designed to get people focused as you begin Youth Sabbath School.
Have your participants stand in a circle, whether you have 2-6 people or 10-15 people. If you have a large Youth Sabbath School of more than 15 people, divide them into groups of no more than 15 each.
The goal of this rhythm-based game is to repeat the same three words one at a time around the circle, with someone saying a word with each downbeat of the rhythm. These three words (and the correct order) are “zip,” “zap,” and “zop.” The leader starts by folding their hands together as if in prayer, then pointing them both at someone else standing in the circle. They will say, “Zip!” and it will now be the next person’s turn.
The person they pointed to will fold their hands next, point to someone else in the circle, and say, “Zap!” Then whoever they pointed to will fold and point their hands at someone else, saying, “Zop!” and the cycle will start all over again. This continues until somebody messes up by saying the wrong word or pausing too long (you can be as strict about this as you like). When somebody does mess up, they step outside of the circle and the last person to say a word correctly starts the sequence again from “Zap!”
Continue until you’re down to one person—the Zip, Zap, Zop champion! If you have time, you can invite everyone back to the circle and start anew.
The following is a list of six ways you can hurt someone else. Choose the one you would most prefer to ask forgiveness for doing. Feel free to think of a specific example within any of these categories, as well as an example of someone to ask forgiveness for doing it to. Here is the list:
Asking someone to forgive you puts you in a vulnerable position because they can say either yes or no, and you’re at their mercy. That person might not be ready or willing to forgive you. In fact, it could even escalate things in your relationship. Furthermore, the person might not know that you have wronged them, and this could tip them off!
After you’ve thought through this, including how you would apologize and ask forgiveness for doing this particular thing, practice it with another person. This might be awkward to do, but perhaps not as difficult as making a real apology to someone you have actually wronged in your life.
You can reverse this process by considering what you would do if someone were to approach you and ask forgiveness for wronging you in one of these six ways. How would you respond? If you truly forgive someone, you lose the power you have over that person. Plus, you may be the one who ends up covering the cost of what they did wrong, especially if it involves something you can’t replace quickly or at all. In many situations, this can be very difficult to do.
Practice forgiving someone for doing something like this with your partner. When you’re done, try to think of real people you may need to ask forgiveness from—or give forgiveness to—in your own life!
TRANSITION: As we consider our lesson for today, keep in mind that forgiveness is an important topic and has been ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden. As we come to the close of the first book in the Bible, we’re going to see an amazing and moving example of forgiveness. All of us should strive to practice this same magnanimity today.
This is a short video clip you can show your Youth Sabbath School to illustrate this week’s topic, plus a few follow-up questions to spark discussion afterwards.
If you want, you can also create a video clip instead and use the video recommended below as inspiration. In this case, it should illustrate forgiveness—something that’s been a major topic since sin entered our world. Jesus spoke about it and practiced it. God has communicated it throughout Earth’s history. Joseph did it when his brothers came to him for food. Can you come up with some current examples and feature them in your video? Don’t forget to think of some follow-up questions to ask afterwards!
Note: For a feature-length example of the power of forgiveness, see Les Miserables. Note how the bishop’s decision to forgive Jean Valjean sets the stage for him to lead a whole new life in the rest of the film.
This emotional 4-minute clip ends with a moving quotation from someone killed during the Virginia Tech shooting. After the video ends, ask your participants the discussion questions provided below (or create your own if you prefer).
Before the youth of today were born, the country of Rwanda experienced a genocide in which two clans, the Hutus and Tutsis, killed each other because of tribal prejudice. What seemed to have been a thing of the past erupted in a moment. Approximately 800,000 people were brutally killed in 100 days, most of them hacked to death by machetes. If one of your family members had been among those killed, would you be able to forgive their killers? You can YouTube many videos on this subject. Here’s a short, 2-minute one.
These are more approaches to the same topic featured in the Teacher’s Guide, but just a different way of looking at it. Expect activities to illustrate the topic followed by some questions.
BASED ON GENESIS 41:54-56; 42-50
If I asked you to describe this past week, at least from your perspective, in just one word, what would you choose? Would it be something simple like “good” or “okay?” Would it be something on the negative side like “bad” or “awful?” How about a more ambiguous word like “interesting?” Was there one event or circumstance that colored the entire week for you, or would you describe your week as “uneventful?”
I’m going to give you a sheet of paper and about 60 seconds to reflect on your past week. Think about what word you’d use to describe how it went for you. When you’re done, post your paper on the wall. Here we go!
Hand out a sheet of paper and a marker to each person. Encourage the participants’ reflections. If they need coaching to come up with more descriptive words, have some ready, such as “colorful,” “frustrating,” “boring,” “melancholy,” “satisfying,” “celebratory,” “routine,” “foundational,” “wasted,” “puzzling,” etc. After 60 seconds is up, have them write down the word they chose on their paper and post it on a wall you’ve designated. Feel free to participate yourself too, especially if there are only a few people in your group. If you have only one or two people, give each person two pieces of paper and ask them to write one positive and one negative word to describe their week—sort of like looking at two sides of the same coin. Once all the participants have posted their papers, you have the option of opening the floor so they can give more of an explanation than just one word, or you can just leave the words as they are and move to the next part of the lesson.
Today we conclude our study of the first book of the Bible. The last dozen or so chapters of this 50-chapter book are about one Bible character that most Christians have probably heard about since their childhood. His story has intrigue and lots of extremes, including tragedy and triumph, setbacks and advances, and irony and supernatural interventions.
It’s the story of Joseph, a person who some people would consider Jacob’s eleventh son, but who Jacob treated like the firstborn—a position in the family that would give him substantial inheritance and possibly make him the father of God’s nation and eventually God’s Messiah, who would rule and bless the entire world. A lot was at stake—more than you may remember from the few, isolated stories people told you when you were children.
But first let’s take a moment to revisit the beginning of Joseph’s story. Childbearing and creating an heir to carry the family into the next generation was very important at the time, and Joseph’s birth brought extra joy to Jacob because his mother, Rachel, was Jacob’s favorite wife. Despite already having ten sons by the time Joseph was born, Jacob decided to make Joseph his heir. It didn’t take long for the older brothers to realize this and understand the implications. How long do you think it took Joseph to realize he had such a favored status? How long do you think it took him to understand the prejudice his brothers had against him?
Now it’s your turn to think about another part of Joseph’s story. Take a moment to reflect and recall what other events happened in his life up to this point. This could include the dreams he had about his brothers and his parents, his brothers’ decision to throw him into a pit and sell him into slavery, etc. What comes to mind for you?
Give the participants a few moments to reflect and then ask them to share. Encourage others to comment on whatever new aspect of Joseph’s story someone brings up.
If your participants have a hard time coming up with other events in Joseph’s life, give individuals or groups of two a chapter to read and then ask them to report on that part of Joseph’s story to the rest of the group. Good chapters to assign include Genesis 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, and 44. If you have only one or two people in your Youth Sabbath School, assign one chapter to someone and have them report about it, then assign another chapter to someone else. As the leader of a small group, take part by assigning a chapter to yourself as well and make a report about it just like the others.
At the start of today’s lesson, we wrote single words on sheets of paper and posted them on the wall. The word we wrote described our past week. I’m going to give each of you several more sheets of paper now. As we continue talking about Joseph, I’d like for you to think of a word that describes Joseph, at least at that time in his life. As the word comes to mind for you, just write it on your paper and feel free to get up and add it to the wall. You might come up with another word a little later. Let’s start by sharing a segment of Joseph’s life and then considering a one-word description for Joseph you could post.
As the leader, facilitate participants sharing one portion of Joseph’s life, either from their memory or from reading one of the Genesis chapters already mentioned. Then help them come up with a one-word description of Joseph based on that segment from his life. For example, when his brothers came to Egypt to buy food, Joseph treated them harshly. He threw them in jail for three days and then kept Simeon there until the brothers would return with their youngest brother. What word would you pick to describe Joseph in this segment? Testing? Revengeful? Yearning? Generous? Manipulative? Powerful? Uncertain? Forceful? At other parts of the Joseph story you can read about Joseph being intelligent, good-looking, hard-working, wise, a good planner, respected, generous, and even humble.
Do this with several segments from the story of Joseph, but be sure you save time for the finale in Genesis 45 where Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.
By the time we get to Genesis 45, we can organize Joseph’s story into three different timelines.
From birth to age 17, Joseph lived at home with his family. He received the royal treatment from his dad and even a couple of dreams from God that put him in a higher status than the rest of his brothers. This is the age range most of you are probably at right now. However, things changed pretty drastically for Joseph after this point—probably much more than they’ll change for you! (Though who knows, right?)
From ages 17-30, Joseph experienced the opposite in terms of status. He went from being Jacob’s favorite son to being a slave. He worked hard and became a high-ranking member of Potiphar’s estate, but then Potiphar’s wife made false accusations against him and had him thrown in jail. Eventually he worked his way up to being the jailer’s right hand man, but then the butler and the baker came along with dreams they needed him to interpret. With God’s help he interpreted these dreams correctly, but then one of them—the butler—went free while Joseph was left behind—still stuck in prison.
From age 30 to maybe 39 or 40, Joseph’s life went in the opposite direction yet again. The Pharaoh of Egypt had had two dreams that Joseph interpreted correctly, and now all of Egypt was looking to him as their savior. The Pharaoh even appointed Joseph as the prime minister of all Egypt—the most powerful nation at that time in history. Joseph got married and had two sons of his own, naming them Manasseh (meaning “causing to forget”) and Ephraim (meaning “fruitful”). It sounds like Joseph’s life couldn’t get any better at this point!
Then Joseph’s brothers came back into his life. The setup couldn’t have been any better for him! He didn’t need his father to protect or provide for him now. Pharaoh gave Joseph full reign and power. Of course his brothers never suspected that Joseph would be the prime minister of Egypt. They didn’t recognize him either, though Joseph immediately recognized them.
While the brothers were quick to remember their ill treatment of Joseph thirteen years earlier (see Genesis 42:21), Joseph had a completely different response. He hadn’t necessarily been looking for his brothers, but here they were in Egypt anyway. He desired to be reunited with them, so he tested them first. His initial reactions to seeing them may seem harsh, but Joseph eventually balanced it by showing his generosity (Genesis 42:25; 43:16) and the close emotional ties he still had with his family of origin (Genesis 43:30-31).
Here’s the word I choose to describe Joseph. I’m picking the part of the story found in Genesis 45, when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. I can’t help but think that if I were in Joseph’s shoes, I would definitely want to lord my new position of power over them and give them a taste of their own medicine. It’s truly amazing that Joseph chose to treat his brothers kindly and forgive them. Here’s my word for Joseph at this moment in his life: magnanimous.
I don’t use that word very often, do you? Either I don’t see it very often or I don’t even consider it. Synonyms of it include generous, big-hearted, kind, liberal, bountiful, and noble. The definition of it is “generous or forgiving, especially toward a rival or less powerful person.”
Write “Magnanimous” on a piece of paper and post it on the wall.
This is how I would like to treat others. Is it the way you would like to treat others too? In the New Testament we can find an amazing example of forgiveness in what Jesus prayed while he was being nailed to the cross: “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). But what we see in today’s lesson is an Old Testament example of someone being magnanimous—the attitude and actions Joseph had toward the same brothers who sold him into Egyptian slavery. The question we need to ask ourselves now is this: How can we treat others this way too, especially when they don’t deserve it?
The answer takes us beyond what is natural to what is supernatural. In part of his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described the natural, sinful way for humans to treat each other. Matthew 5:46-47 (NLT) reads, “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
That’s how we humans relate to each other, isn’t it? If you want me to treat you well, you’d better treat me well first! If you treat me poorly, you can be sure I’ll pay you back! The highest we seem to get is “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth.”
The exclamation point Jesus added comes in the next verse: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NLT). That clearly takes us beyond the natural and to the supernatural. To be like our Father in heaven means we need our Father in heaven to be in us. And that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit provides for us. It’s not just a matter of Jacob’s ladder reaching from heaven to earth. God comes and lives within us through the Holy Spirit! We can live supernaturally and treat others the way Jesus (and Joseph) did not by trying to be better, but by asking God to live in us and then flow out from us.
I like the way the New English Bible translated that last verse. It reads, “There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds” (Matthew 5:48 NEB).
Provide a single sheet with the word “Magnanimous” and these verses on it for the participants to take with them as a reminder to live out this divine attitude in the coming week.
Today we identified a single word to describe our past week. Then we spent time coming up with single words to describe Joseph. That was difficult because people change over time, and Joseph’s life often shifted from one extreme to the other. The word “magnanimous” illustrates a godly characteristic that demonstrates God’s goodness and forgiveness in contrast to what we deserve. Our challenge is to live a magnanimous life by allowing to God live through us, the same way he did through Joseph.
BASED ON GENESIS 37, 39, 45, 50
One of the most succinct verses of the Bible that describes the Gospel well, even shorter than John 3:16, is the verse found in Romans 6:23. It reads, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NLT).
Here’s my paraphrase: Sin has a payoff, and it’s death! Eternal life comes as a gift, and you get this gift from Jesus.
In some ways, the lure of sin is ludicrous! We have so much evidence that it causes nothing but pain and hurt and misery. However, all of us still have a tendency toward sin, and it shows itself in the selfish actions we do and results in misery for others as well as ourselves.
God said as much in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:17). Since that time, every human being has demonstrated it. But God also set in place the antidote to sin. His son Jesus would not only restore what Adam and Eve lost (Genesis 3:15 and Romans 5:12-21), but also give us the opportunity to be part of his restoration! We can do this one-on-one, especially where we have hurt others. But we can also help in the restoration of things we didn’t destroy too. In Bible times, Jacob had the opportunity to restore his relationship with Esau—the estranged brother he had stolen the birthright from so long ago. That is an example of taking part in the restoration of something you have destroyed. But Jacob also had the opportunity to do good for others in the land of Canaan—a place where people sought power and dominion over others (see Genesis 14:1-14).
We can see the same dynamic of sin/selfishness and the opportunity for restoration/forgiveness in the life of Joseph. Most of us can relate to having an annoying sibling or a friend who can bug us sometimes. That’s pretty normal. Human relationships always result in hurt one way or other, usually because of selfish or sinful reasons. However, the gift of forgiveness enables us to put strained relationships back on the right pathway. Sin hurts, but forgiveness heals.
We know that selfishness is a malady with which we’re born. It plays itself out in so many different ways. As we mature, we either develop boundaries or stops for this natural selfishness, or we create more sophisticated ways to still seek the best for ourselves. Some people just move forward with their selfish tendencies going unchecked, giving little or no thought to anyone else. Such people may become powerful by doing this, but they destroy everywhere they go.
You would think that forgiveness would be the world’s preferred practice. Forgiveness heals; forgiveness restores. The need for it is everywhere—in families and friendships, in schools and churches, in government and business, in sports and entertainment, in individuals and groups. Where can we get this forgiveness so we can pass it along to these places where it’s so desperately needed?
Set up a relay for transporting water from one bucket to another via a small cup. There are several variations of this activity. Pick the way you want to do it or adapt it to fit your situation. The goal is to get as much of the water from one bucket (or trash can) on one side of the room into a different bucket (or trash can) on the other side of the room. But you can’t just dump the water from one bucket into the second bucket. If you have a large group of more than ten people, divide them into multiple teams and give each one its own setup of buckets (trash cans) and water to transport. You’ll need more cups as well.
One way of transporting the water is for individuals to dip a cup in the full bucket and quickly carry their water to the empty bucket and deposit it there. If they move too fast, they are likely to lose some of the water by spilling it, and water loss makes the process longer. Once a person completes this step, they tag the next person in line, who follows the same procedure. Expect to cycle through the process several times.
Another way of transporting the water is to have a line of participants, side-by-side, each with an empty cup. The first person dips their cup into the full bucket and then transports the water by pouring it into the cup of the person next to them. That person then transfers what they received into the cup of the next person in the line, and so on until the last person in the line dumps the water they receive into the empty bucket. Of course some of the water may be lost in the process.
You’re racing against time. Give the participants a certain amount of time, such as 2 minutes or 4 minutes or even 5 minutes (probably not longer than that) to see how much of the water they can transport from the full bucket to the empty bucket. Feel free to draw a line or put a down piece of painter’s tape to mark the goal for how much water can be transported in the time given. You may want to test this in advance to see what is even possible in the amount of time you’ll give the participants.
Another option is to increase your group size by drawing from others to form another team that competes against the youth. This could be adults who are wandering about the hallways or church lobby during Sabbath School, or maybe another Sabbath School group of younger children. This would take some coordination with other Sabbath School leaders.
When the time is up or the goal has been achieved, whichever comes first, clean up your mess and then gather to debrief with questions such as the ones below.
Perhaps one of the reasons people are reticent to forgive is because it means letting go of a grudge. Holding a grudge against someone often allows us to feel superior to them or to tell others about how bad they are compared to us. This can prevent us from ever having a good relationship with that person again, but for a lot of people the trade-off is worth it!
When you do forgive a person for what they’ve done to you, you release all of that anger. Until you do this your relationship with them will remain stuck, and since relationships are like living organisms, they will die without forgiveness. It’s only a matter of time before every relationship you have will need forgiveness.
But who pays for forgiveness? Sometimes it can have a hefty cost. Let’s use money as an example. What if someone steals $1 from you and then asks for forgiveness? If they pay you back, was it just a loan? If they say they’re sorry but they don’t offer restitution by paying you back, are they really sorry? Does $1 matter to you? If not, what about $100? What if the person who stole it from you already spent it by the time they apologize and can’t give it back to you? Will you hold a probationary forgiveness that isn’t fully permanent until they return the $100 to you in full? Let’s the up the ante on more time—what if someone were to steal $1,000 from you? How ready would you be to forgive someone for doing that?
In real life, people do more than just steal money. Sometimes there are more nuanced ways of wronging someone. Say you and someone else both try out for a spot on your team at school. What if they get it and you don’t, leaving you off the team? Did they steal from you, or does it just feel that way? Would that leave you with hard against both that person and the coach? What if someone got a higher score on a test than you, but you knew they had cheated? Can restitution even be made in that situation? Would that person even be asking for forgiveness? Would you forgive them if they decided to ask you for it?
Restitution isn’t even possible in some situations. What if someone ruins your reputation? Can you ever get that back? Could you ever forgive someone for doing something like that? If so, why? If not, why not?
Let’s take a moment to consider a real-life situation where someone did something wrong and needed forgiveness.
Give the participants some time to think of an example. Keep in mind that this can be a very personal question for some people and might make them feel vulnerable. As the leader, you can control the discussion by offering an example yourself. If you reveal private affairs, this could turn into little more than gossiping; one good option would be a public example your Sabbath School will be familiar with. Just make sure that whatever it is will help your youth apply this lesson to their personal lives. Don’t encourage the participants to share personal stories of their own unless there is a high level of trust in this group and you have all made a commitment beforehand to confidentiality.
When it comes to paying the cost of forgiveness, usually it’s the person who was wronged who ends up paying it. And that’s another reason why people so often choose not to forgive. If someone else wronged you, why should you be the one to pay to make things right? If the person gets away with it, doesn’t that make it extortion? If you are the one who chooses to give forgiveness to them, then it’s considered a gift.
If you try to be fair when you’re deciding whether to forgive someone, you simply won’t be able to do it. Forgiveness isn’t fair. Forgiveness is a gift. Forgiveness with fanfare is just another way of holding something against another person; true forgiveness helps you move on and live a happier, healthier life.
The true source of forgiveness is God. Remember the activity we did earlier where we carried water from one bucket to the other? Well, to pass forgiveness onto the other people, we need to get it from God first. We might lose some along the way when it gets really hard to forgive someone, but we can always go to him for more.
At the heart of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is this potentially startling phrase: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” If you’ve prayed this prayer, you are saying, “God, forgive me the same amount I forgive others.” Do you really want God to answer that prayer? I don’t! I want God to be more forgiving of me than I am of others. But that misses the point, doesn’t it? God wants us to forgive others just as he has forgiven us.
If you want another example of this, read the parable of the unforgiving servant found in Matthew 18:23-35.
As humans born with a sinful nature, we will always need to ask for, and give others, forgiveness. God is the source of that forgiveness. He restores what sin destroys. When we pass along to others the forgiveness God has given us, we join him in restoring this broken world. When we fail to go to God for that forgiveness, we won’t have any to pass along to others. When we accept it or give it to other people, we move forward in our relationships with God and with others rather than dying in place. Our world may be broken, but God we can be part of God’s job in restoring it.
BASED ON GENESIS 45:3-15; 50:14-21
Have you ever heard the idea that God works out everything in our lives for good? Maybe what you’ve heard sounded more like, “No matter what happens, God’s in control and will make sure everything turns out right in the end.”
It’s certainly possible for people to say something like this when they’re feeling desperate or are hoping that even in their current situation they’re not out of God’s reach. This can be a way of reassuring ourselves that God is in control of our lives even when it feels like we aren’t. But is it a fact, or just a statement of faith?
Despite the topsy-turvy story of his life, Joseph described his horrific years as not only in God’s purview, but as part of God’s plan. He makes this statement twice in the last few chapters of Genesis.
Separate the participants into two groups and have them focus on one statement each. If you have a large Youth Sabbath School, divide the participants into smaller groups of 2-3 people each and give half of them the first passage and the other half the second passage.
We can find the first statement in Genesis 45:4-8 and the second in Genesis 50:19-21. When Joseph made the first one, he was revealing to his brothers that even though they’d sold him into slavery so many years ago, he was now the prime minister of Egypt. When he made the second one, his father, Jacob, had just passed away and his children were burying him back in Canaan. Joseph’s brothers feared that he might have been waiting that whole time to exact his revenge on them, and now that their father was gone he was going to do it.
Here’s Genesis 45:4-8 (NCV):
5 Now don’t be worried or angry with yourselves because you sold me here. God sent me here ahead of you to save people’s lives. 6 No food has grown on the land for two years now, and there will be five more years without planting or harvest. 7 So God sent me here ahead of you to make sure you have some descendants left on earth and to keep you alive in an amazing way. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. God has made me the highest officer of the king of Egypt. I am in charge of his palace, and I am the master of all the land of Egypt.
And here is Genesis 50:19-21 (GNT):
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don't be afraid; I can't put myself in the place of God. 20 You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened. 21 You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts.
Give participants time (4-8 minutes) to read and discuss what this passage meant at the time it was given, and what it means for us today.
While many people find peace of mind in believing that God is in control, others find the idea troubling. Many people see all the calamity, hurt, and natural catastrophes on earth and take it to mean God doesn’t care about the current conditions on earth. The explanation that Satan is the one responsible for all this evil seems to satisfy some people, but not all.
Admittedly, we can only see things from our own perspective. A toddler can only think about what they want or need right now, but an adult can think about what that child’s future will be like months or even years down the road. In the same way, our eternal God has a different perspective than our limited lifetime on earth can give us. But does having that long-term outlook cause him to ignore what’s important to us in this moment?
One of the reasons we follow leaders is because we believe they have a clue about what lies ahead of us. If someone can see something around the corner that you can’t, you’re more likely to follow their instruction. Leaders often have experience that enables them to anticipate things before they happen.
Some people are prophets, and have received special insight from God about what will happen in the future. If that’s true, then God must know what’s in our future. Some people might counter by saying, “God knows the general future, but not my specific future.” However, our individual lives can still be influenced by any kind of future—whether it’s general or specific.
I have a little snack for all who came to Youth Sabbath School today. I’m wondering, do you want the snack? Some people are easy to please, or are always hungry, so any snack is fine with them. But others are more discriminating. It might depend on whether or not they’re hungry right now. Maybe it depends on what the snack is.
Who knows what the snack is for today? Do you think I know what the snack is?
Be sure to have something different than what you might usually provide. If the participants guess what it is, ask them why they chose that for their guess. Try to get several guesses.
What it turns out to be might depend on whether or not I purchased or prepared the snack myself. It might depend on if I asked someone to help me but gave them specific instructions on what to buy, or if the person told me what they obtained for our snacks today.
Another way is to get a sneak peak. The snacks aren’t in our Youth Sabbath School room right now. So we need someone who is able to see what we can’t see right now if we want to see those snacks. I have a phone I can use to video chat with someone who has our snacks right now. With this, we can get a video image of what the snack is—we can see in this room something that isn’t even in this room. And that’s just with our limited technology. Do you really think we have better technology than God? If that’s what you think, your god is way too small!
Place the call and let just one person see what the snack is. Point out that the person with the information is like a prophet because they have a message that others don’t have. They can choose to keep that information to themselves or they can share it with others. Let them choose. Eventually, have the snacks brought in to the Youth Sabbath School room and enjoy them!
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20?” What does it mean?
Solicit responses from the participants.
If 20/20 is considered perfect eyesight, then that phrase means that we can see and understand things better when we look back than when we look ahead. That’s part of our human limitation. In sports, it might seem obvious ahead of time that one team is more likely to win than the other, but you never know until the game is over. If it was a sure outcome from the start, people wouldn’t play.
If you apply this idea to your life, then what you see in the moment isn’t 20/20. It will take time for what you’re experiencing now to make sense. That is why you need to have faith in God right now—you need to trust God in the present even when the present doesn’t make sense to you. During this time, it might help you to pray something like, “God, this makes absolutely no sense to me right now. I believe that you’re a good God and that you work all things out for good, but it certainly doesn’t look like that right now. I’m feeling like Joseph did when his brothers sold him into slavery or when he was thrown in the dungeon. I’m not feeling like Joseph did when he was prime minister of Egypt. Please give me the patience and the faith to trust you when I don’t understand my current situation. Please help this difficult time to shape me and help me become more like you. And I’ll say out loud, right now, that I’m going to trust you in this time even though it doesn’t make sense to me. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Instead of following the natural human instinct to pay his brothers back with evil for the evil they’d done to him, Joseph chose to see his painful, unfair, calamitous experiences as something that helped to shape his life and his character, and helped prepare him for what still lay ahead of him. Even if Satan did cause his sinful, jealous brothers to sell him into slavery, God took those evil attitudes and actions and overruled them for good, even saving the very people who tried to eliminate Joseph. This serves as an Old Testament example of Jesus who saves those who try to eliminate him.
Let these spark ideas for ways you can move from talk to action and live out the lesson in a practical way this week. The following applications relate to the corresponding Bible study guide options for this lesson above.
Take this sheet of paper with the definition and synonyms for the word “magnanimous” and post it on your wall at home. Use this as a prompt this week to ask God to live in you and help you be magnanimous toward others. You simply can’t do that without God. Also, when you see someone else being magnanimous this week, thank God and verbalize your appreciation to that person for what God is doing through them.
Sin Destroys; Forgiveness Restores
Take some time to meditate and ask God to bring to mind someone you have wronged and haven’t asked for or received forgiveness from. Before you seek any forgiveness from humans, you should always ask God to forgive you first. Once you’ve done this, ask God to give you wisdom, humility, and tact, and then reach out to the person you have wronged. Deliver your apology and request their forgiveness.
If what God brings to mind is something you haven’t forgiven someone else for doing, go to that person and offer your forgiveness. Keep in mind that many people who have wronged others will often feel defensive about it or try to blame other people for what they’re responsible for themselves. Remember that the important thing is to forgive that person, not assign blame.
What in the World Is God Doing?
Find somebody at your church who is older than you and ask them to tell you a story about a difficult time in their life when it seemed like God wasn’t taking care of them and it was hard to trust him. Ask them if that perspective changed with time, and if it did, how much time it took. Ask them if it is easier for them to trust God now or if it was easier to trust him before this difficult time happened to them.
This is a bonus just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your youth leadership. You may already know this idea, have learned it through trial and error, or just need a quick reminder.
Identifying a need for change is one thing, but making it happen is a whole other thing. Lead by example—be the change you want to see in others. Early adopters will follow you quickly and those already following you are likely to continue to do so. Late adopters will be, well, late. And those who aren’t following you already will need to see a good reason to start now. Instead of starting with trying to change others, demonstrate the change yourself!
Here’s a question from a real teen and a response from a youth pastor. This might be a question your teens are asking too. Use the response to springboard into a discussion about this topic with your Youth Sabbath School participants.
Question: Why is it that when I need something really badly, and it’s something good, and God knows I need it—He waits so long to give it to me?
Answer: Why does God wait so long? Several possible scenarios come to mind:
A few Bible texts come to mind, also. Check these out:
“I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking to me about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” (Isaiah 65:24, NLT).
“Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock. Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11, TEV).
“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!” (John 16:23, 24, Message).
“You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure” (James 4:2, 3, NLT).
When I consider your question and then read these passages of Scripture, I’m left wondering why praying doesn’t seem to work for you. Then I realize that it doesn’t always seem to work for me, either. I don’t always get what I want from God when I want it—money, friends, power, prestige—all kinds of good things.
My prayer life reveals how shallow and selfish I am. But after God listens to my requests, He’s eager to change my heart and desires so that I start praying for the things He desires for me.
If you don’t have a clue what those things might be for you, try praying the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Try praying these portions of each of these three chapters:
Matthew 5:3-12—ask God to make you poor, sad, humble, eager to do what’s right, full of mercy for others, pure on the inside, a peacemaker, and then to be treated unfairly to the point of being persecuted. If that isn’t enough, jump to verses 44-48.
Matthew 6:9-13—ask God just to answer these items.
Matthew 7:12—start doing it as much and as fast as you can.
Praying this way won’t be easy. Few worthwhile things are. But I’m discovering that prayer includes asking God for what we want; but it’s more about asking God to change us for good than merely to satisfy us for the short term.