"Discovering Daily Disciplines"
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.
The Great Controversy
(Love Under Fire) Chapter 37
Our Only Safeguard
Few of us would say no to a lasting and meaningful relationship with God—at least not consciously. But what are we willing to do to make it happen?
In this lesson we will be focusing on the importance of spiritual disciplines, with a focus on introducing students to a variety of different disciplines that are encouraged in Scripture.
OPENING ACTIVITY: PING PONG BALL BLOW
Supplies needed: two ping pong balls, a marker, and a table or other hard, flat surface.
Separate your group into 2 teams with 3-4 players each. If you have a large group, use multiple tables and create a bracket (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bracket_(tournament)) so teams can play all the other teams. Teams may not use any part of their body to touch the ball or the table. Place the balls (one marked with the marker) in the middle of the table and when you say “Go,” teams will try to keep their ball on the table. If your ball is the last on the table your team gets a point. First team to 3 points wins. If your group is small, have them switch up teams and play again if time permits.
Very few people like the word discipline. Here is how Merriam-Webster defines it as a noun:
“1a: control gained by enforcing obedience or order; 1b: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior; 1c: self-control; 2: punishment; 3: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character; 4: a field of study; 5: a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity.”
Often when we think of discipline, we think of the part of the definition which is controlling and punitive. But today as we talk about spiritual disciplines, we will be looking at some of the other parts of that description that imply self-restraint, ignoring impulses, and creating habits and routines. Because when we think about it, the word discipline comes from the word disciple (or maybe it’s the other way around, it doesn’t matter) and the two words are intertwined. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you will need to have some discipline.
Unlike spiritual gifts or fruits of the spirit there is no list of spiritual disciplines in Scripture, but everything we talk about today will have a basis in Scripture.
Hebrew’s 12:11 is a great starting place for why we should focus on spiritual disciplines.
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Modern theologians have split spiritual disciplines into 3 categories: inward, outward, and corporate. Today we will look at two disciplines from each area. At the end of the lesson I hope you will be inspired to add one or more of these disciplines to your devotional time and worship of God.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Two Inward Disciplines: Prayer and Fasting
Read Luke 11:1.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
As we look at the spiritual discipline of prayer let’s start with this text. I’m assuming that the disciples of Jesus had prayed before. I would maybe even assume that they prayed often. So why would they ask Jesus to teach them to pray? Let’s talk about that as a group.
I hope that your discussion covered the fact that we can always be continuing to learn and grow in our ability to pray. I know that in my relationships, especially long-term ones like with my spouse or children, I am always learning (or unfortunately sometimes ignoring) better ways to be in conversation with them and communicate well. It is the same with our prayer life. Praying is opening our heart to God in relationship.
I would suggest that several things change. We change. Our attitudes and expectations change. God changes the course of events sometimes because of prayers. Our prayers matter to Him—think Moses and Jonah.
Have you every fasted? I think often we have made a lot of different reasons for fasting: fasting from social media, our devices, etc. But I wonder if the good, old-fashioned food fast happens anymore and why we would do it?
First of all, fasting should be all about God. If your reason for fasting is other than God, then you are not practicing a spiritual discipline. Fasting, more than any other discipline, helps us realize what controls us and helps remind us of our creator God.
My favorite fasting verse is Matthew 4:1, 2. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus to the wilderness to get tempted by the devil. (That’s a whole Bible study right there.) Look how Jesus prepares for the temptation.
1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
No, you don’t have to fast for that long. As a group talk about Jesus’ fast.
Two Outward Disciplines: Solitude and Submission
Solitude is an interesting concept in our world. Why would we practice solitude when one of the biggest challenges facing teenagers is loneliness? Because solitude is very different from loneliness! In fact, Jesus calls us from loneliness into solitude. What the discipline of solitude teaches us is an inner solitude and silence that counters the loneliness and noise that fills most of our lives. Jesus practiced solitude frequently.
Read Mark 6:31.
31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
This practice is maybe one of the most abused and misused. In the text below we will look at self-denial. We are much more comfortable with self-fulfillment and self-actualization. We tend to run away from self-denial. Before we read our text, remember that self-denial is not self-hatred, it is simply a way of coming to understand that we do not have to always get our way. Happiness is not dependent on getting what we want!
Read Mark 8:34.
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Two Corporate Disciplines: Confession and Celebration
The last two spiritual disciplines we will focus on this week are called corporate because they are things we do together as believers. The previous four things are things we work on as individuals with help from the Holy Spirit. Corporate disciplines we do as a body of believers, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Why is this a corporate discipline? Isn’t grace just between us and God? The answer is yes. Does the Bible also ask us to confess our sins to one another? The answer is also yes. Read these two verses and use the questions below to discuss.
Read 1 Timothy 2:5.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.
Read James 5:16.
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
I wanted to end on this discipline. So, congratulations if you made it this far today! (Seriously, this is like a whole month’s worth of Sabbath School in one week.) But this is a discipline we often neglect at church! Why don’t we celebrate more? Shouldn’t church be the place where there are the biggest parties and the widest smiles? The Bible says the joy of the Lord is our strength!
So many Psalms are praise and celebration for what God has done. But often in our worship we mistake reverence as boring. Without this discipline, all of the others will fade away! You can’t keep doing something if it doesn’t lead to joy, especially spiritual practices, because God is the biggest celebrator of all! It is in His nature to celebrate, so it is in ours as well because we are made in His image.
Read Nehemiah 8:9-10.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
For your next youth retreat weekend, plan a portion of that retreat to practice some spiritual disciplines you might not have been aware of or that are underused in your youth group. Invite some seasoned disciples (an elder, pastor, youth director) who model those disciplines to come and guide you on the retreat!
Or, you might commit to meeting during the week to practice these disciplines. Do one each month. Can you imagine, for example, coming to the church and practicing solitude? I’ve done it and it’s an amazing experience!
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.
Daniel quickly rose to power in the new administration of the Medes and Persians. King Darius was extremely impressed with him and planned to set him over all the other officials in the kingdom. Daniel “distinguished himself” among the other officials because of his “exceptional qualities,” literally, “An exceptional spirit was in him.”
Because the king planned to set Daniel over all the satraps and administrators, the jealousy of some of the other officials was aroused. They began to examine Daniel’s governmental activities to discover some flaw in his character or professional ability in order to bring a charge against him to the king, but none was found. Daniel handled his duties in a faithful manner. He was neither politically corrupt nor negligent in the performance of his work.
A further marked feature of this new outbreak of hostility against the kingdom of God is the way the guile of governors and satraps both contrasts with and illuminates the integrity of Daniel’s character.
Their efforts to disqualify him only underlined his outstanding qualifications for high honor:
“But they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him” (Dan. 6:4).
In all his relationships he had been faithful; in relationship to the law he had been faultless. Furthermore, in his devotion to the Lord they knew that he was utterly predictable. They realized that the only way to destroy Daniel was by manufacturing a conflict between the “law of his God” (Dan. 6:5) and the law of their land.
Finally, these jealous officials decided that there was only one area in which they might find a conflict between Daniel and the Persian government, namely, in the area of his religion. They hoped that there might be something in Daniel’s religious beliefs (“the law of his God”) that might disqualify him from serving in Darius’s court. Daniel was a strict monotheist, and therefore they planned to ensnare him by forcing him to refuse to worship the gods of Persia. Thus, Daniel’s choice would be to obey “the law of his God” or the law of man.
Two facts concerning Daniel’s religious life are evident from our text. First, Daniel’s religious convictions were not hidden. The old prophet was not a secret disciple but a man who was not ashamed to let others know that his allegiance was to the God of Israel. He therefore continued his spiritual disciplines regardless of what others thought of him. Second, Daniel’s commitment was such that he would not compromise even in the face of punishment or death. Daniel remained resolute in the midst of exceptional pressure; he lived his faith.
Can you share a personal “Catch 22,” “Between a rock and a hard place” story with your class?
Read Daniel 6:3-10.
3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.
10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
1. After reading Daniel 6:3-10 how would you describe Daniel?
2. What is the real reason for jealousy in Daniel 6:3-10?
3. What was the conspiracy that Daniel’s coworkers set up?
4. What was the evil plot these vile men concocted Dan. 6:5-7?
5. What did King Darius do with the proposal of these wicked men?
6. How did Daniel respond to the law King Darius decreed?
7. In what ways are you standing for what you believe amid temptations?
8. How are your personal spiritual disciplines offering you strength?
The text states that Daniel’s custom was to pray and give thanks to God three times a day. When this law was passed, he did not change his religious behavior, nor did he hide it. Daniel was a man of courage and conviction who was willing to stand for God, even if it meant death. Daniel decided that he would not relinquish his faith and the evidence of that faith. We are called upon to have this kind of disciplined faith, a faith that can be tested and tried, yet be firm and resolute.
Daniel prayed three times a day, supposedly at morning, midday, and evening (Ps 55:17). The old statesman was a man of prayer and is an example of the importance of that discipline for modern believers. Building spiritual disciplines is paramount to each believer owning their faith in God, thus becoming His disciples.
Below, you will find some application activities to interface with this lesson. These are simply to provide ideas for your usage, or to invite you to imagine and create some of your own, as you impact the lives of teens for God’s glory.
By Vandeon Griffin, Tracy Wood, and Armando Miranda
The #ONETEAM CHALLENGE is a 21-day devotional written by leaders for leaders. As co-laborers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church commissioned to lead and serve the youth and young adult generation, we share the burdens and triumphs of ministry.
In this devotional, we will walk together through scripture and journey through the lessons of life and ministry. Daily, you will be challenged with reflective questions and to share your affirmations on social media to encourage and inspire others. We are #ONETEAM!
Birthday in a Box
Spread birthday joy at shelters. Collect and assemble birthday candles, cake mix, frosting, decorations, plates, cups, napkins, and a simple toy or two in a box. Decorate the box.
Cost: Less than $10.00
Sock Collection for Homeless
Give the item most requested at homeless shelters. Collect and donate white crew socks for men, women, and children.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Paper Bag Decorating for Meals on Wheels / Food Bank Snack Pack
Add pizzazz to lunch for seniors. In addition to receiving the hot portion of the meal in a tray, Meals on Wheels recipients get the cold portion in a lunch bag. Add life to their meals by decorating lunch bags. Simply buy paper lunch bags and use your creativity, crayons, markers, stickers, or any art materials you have on hand.
Cost: Less than $5.00