“Go the Distance”
Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
Unlikely Leaders - Ch. 12
From Saul to Paul Persecutor to Disciple
Unlikely Leaders - Ch. 13
How God Educated Paul
Unlikely Leaders - Ch. 14
The Gospel Goes to the Gentiles
Saul’s work of destruction was so thorough that Jesus had to arrest him, change his name, and set him on a different road—a road with a purpose.
We either establish or destroy the Christian church family and our identification as followers of Jesus. Like Saul, we can get caught up in damaging behaviors that weaken our faith and our influence. When we have the light of Jesus in our lives, transformation takes place. We go from spiritual darkness to light. Paul would not have had any power to share the Gospel without the Holy Spirit. The Light we need is found in the Bible as the Holy Spirit helps us to understand the messages God has for us. As we read, seeds of truth are planted in our lives and good fruit is the result.
A MUSTARD SEED
Supplies: Mustard seeds (available on Amazon.com) or photos of mustard seeds; photo of a mustard tree.
Saul lived and breathed hate towards people who believed in Jesus. Sin was like a weed seed in his life that sprouted, grew, and took over—producing bad actions. The Bible talks about having faith the size of a mustard seed, which will make nothing impossible for us (Matthew 17:20). Saul’s encounter with Jesus changed him and a seed of faith spouted in his life. Take a look at mustard seeds and the photo of a mustard tree—it is such a small seed that grows into a tree. Just like God gives the seed power to grow, He also wants our faith in Him to help us grow.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Read each Bible passage, then discuss the questions. If you are still worshiping from home, consider discussing one or more of the questions on social media, in a Zoom meeting, or in a group chat with friends.
Whose Team Are You On?
Read Luke Matthew 12:30 (NIV).
30 “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.”
Live by Faith
Read Galatians 2:20 (NIV).
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Turn the Light On
Read 1 John 1:5-7 (NIV).
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Jesus—are you for Him or against Him? Every one of us is a sinner, even those of us who try to “be good.” Like Saul, we each have a conversion story that testifies that we have decided to follow Jesus. Maybe you have made the choice to be a Christian (Christ-follower), or maybe you are on a journey with Him and still struggling to fully commit. Maybe you don’t know enough about Jesus to want to follow Him. Whatever your unique story is right at this moment, get some inspiration from the story of Saul becoming Paul. Jesus wants you to be saved from your sins just as much as He wanted Saul, so watch for His instructions and His call on your life. He offers the best life!
Consider applying what you learned in this week’s lesson by doing one or all of these activities:
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
Say “The Damascus Road” and most Christians quickly recognize the miraculous conversion story of Saul/Paul. But many also have additional baggage added to the story, which leads to expectations few realize.
For example, his parents named him “Saul” at birth—the same name from the same tribe (Benjamin) as King Saul in the Old Testament. Many think that God changed his name to “Paul” because of the Damascus Road conversion—a change in name because of the change in direction. But the first time Luke used the new name “Paul” wasn’t until Luke 13, and our story comes in Luke 9. “Paul” is the Roman version of the Jewish name “Saul” and one of Saul’s/Paul’s parents was Jewish while the other was Roman. Having two names was common in Saul’s/Paul’s day. It seems Paul became the preferred name when Saul/Paul turned his focus toward the Gentiles rather than the Jews.
Another expectation many have draws on the dramatic experience of God blinding Saul with light and audibly speaking from heaven. Should the youth in your Sabbath School have something equally dramatic for their conversion to be valid? Most people don’t experience a major turn-around like Saul. But most people aren’t actively persecuting Christ-followers. And most young people follow a similar trajectory as their parents rather than having a sensational testimony all their own. The Christian sociologist Christian Smith indicated this when reporting his 10-year longitudinal study called NSYR (National Study of Youth and Religion—see youthandreligion.nd.edu). This means that most of your youth probably don’t have a personal version of a “Damascus Road” experience. Do you? Should you? Should they? Some think they need to try a worldly or hedonistic lifestyle so they can have a dramatic turn-around conversion story like Saul, but Saul wasn’t partying when he persecuted Christians. He was persecuting, not playing!
Start the Bible study with the opening question, and then pray together for the Holy Spirit to communicate God’s message to each one in the group as your read and listen for God’s message and put yourself into the story found in Acts 9:1-18.
The Damascus Road
What is a dangerous road or path near the place where you live?
Read Acts 9:1-18.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
1. Why was Saul so active in persecuting Christ’s followers?
2. What happened to Saul on the road to Damascus?
3. If you had been in Saul’s group, how would you have responded?
4. If you had been Ananias, what would be your response to God’s vision?
5. For what has God chosen you (compare vs. 15)?
6. What happened to Saul when Ananias came to him?
7. Who is someone you would never expect to become a follower of Jesus because that would require a major miracle?
8. How important is a “Damascus Road” experience for followers of Jesus?
The supernatural intervention of Christ in Saul’s life on the Damascus Road thrills people of all ages (unless you’ve grown calloused to it). Few changes could be as radical as this one. Did you identify more with Saul or Ananias in this story? What if you were one of the bystanders? Does something such as this dramatic episode have anything to do with your life? Have you had a “Damascus Road” experience of some type? Some do, but most who grow up going to Sabbath School don’t have a breathtaking conversion story. Remember that miracles happen with different intensities, not just spectacular ones. Praise God for miracles of all types—the obvious as well as the not-so-obvious. We’ll see all types as we continue studying God’s actions as recorded in the book of Acts, as well as God’s actions in our lives.
Here are three application ideas for you to “live out” the Bible passage we studied for this week’s Youth Sabbath School. Choose one or more and challenge participants to put them into action. You may choose to adapt them to fit your specific situation and people.
Saul could pin-point his conversion experience, but most people who grow up in the Adventist church can’t.
When Jesus grabbed Saul’s attention on the road to Damascus, in addition to calling him by name with a specific message, the bright light blinded Saul. Instead of riding triumphantly into Damascus, he had to be led by others as a follower. He had no idea how long he would be blind—maybe the rest of his life. Jesus told him he would be told what to do. It turned out to be three days until Ananias came and healed Saul and then baptized him. What did Saul do during that time? According to Acts 9:12 Jesus gave Saul a vision of Ananias coming to heal him. What else happened during that time?
This Sabbath is February 12. In just two days—on Monday, February 14—people in many places will be celebrating Valentine’s Day. Most people think of romantic love for that day. Giving your heart to someone means a lot, or at least it should. Jesus, the originator of love, has given you His heart and life. He asks you to give Him your heart as well. What is your response?
Let’s Talk About Jesus
By Steve Case
Want some small group discussion starters? Use these prompts to get your group going.
Steve Case draws on his love for Scripture, personal experiences, and training by taking a passage of Scripture and offering questions that draw out the meanings that lead to personal applications of the Bible.
You won’t find pat answers or cookie-cutter spirituality. Instead, you’ll discover new possibilities to engage with familiar and not-so-familiar portions of God’s Word, interact with God and others, and wrestle with how to live as a follower of Jesus Christ here and now.
Small group leaders will appreciate the content and flexibility of these Bible studies. Use this resource to make copies for others in your group or provide this wire-bound book for each person. Tap into the portion that includes keys for leading small groups and prayer possibilities.
If you want to talk about Jesus, here’s a great way to begin the conversation.
Love reading? Use your reading and acting skills to bring joy to children and seniors. Create a funding page, select a few books, go live on Instagram, Facebook, or broadcast on YouTube.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Express your appreciation and encourage people on the front lines. Use your imagination to create encouraging cards for essential workers.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help feed the hungry. Give your canned food drive a twist. Build and display structures with the cans to encourage people to give.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help children transition to a new home with dignity. Purchase and decorate duffle bags for children who are placed into foster care. Place items such as towels and personal hygiene items in the bags.
Cost: $25.00 – partner with a business to defray costs
5. Appreciation Gift Bags for Essential Workers & Teachers / Hero Candy Bars Say thanks in a fun way. Make appreciation bags with food or care items for teachers, essential workers, hospital staff, first responders, etc.
Cost: Less than $5.00