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An Heroic Ministry
Verse of the day
YWI - working with...
YWI is pleased to work in association with
Fuller Youth Institute, US
Sophia Network, UK
Before you start
MEETING AIM: To understand that acceptance by God comes from faith and conviction, not personal effort – and examining the story of Abraham from Romans 4.
BACKGROUND PREPARATION: Display on the wall seven posters, each containing one of these messages: ‘1. Conviction isn't a matter of feelings but action. TRUE: 3 FALSE: 4’; ‘2. God accepts us because of our hard work and blameless record. TRUE: 4 FALSE: 5’; ‘3. Circumcision makes you right with God. TRUE: 1 FALSE: 2’; ‘4. Abraham was a friend of God because he had earned the right to be. TRUE: 6 FALSE: 7’; ‘5. Conviction is a risky business. TRUE: 4 FALSE: 2’; ‘6. One step leads to another.’; ‘7. Three giraffes make one leopard.’ If you have a large group, put up several copies of each.
Trust me, I'm a youth leader (10 mins)
Pick a volunteer. Show the group three identical boxes. Say: ‘There's a chocolate bar hidden in one box. It's yours if you guess the right one. Pick whichever you like, but if you trust me you'll pick Box One.’ Then let the volunteer choose. The chocolate is actually in Box Two.
Try again (with a different volunteer if the first one chose correctly!). Say: ‘If you trust me you'll pick Box Two.’ This time the chocolate really is where you say. Try again – ‘If you trust me you'll pick Box Three’. This time the chocolate can be anywhere you like.
Say: how did the volunteer get the chocolate? Not by brilliant deduction or hard work – just by deciding whether to trust you. Read Romans 4:1-5 and say: it's like that with God – he didn't accept Abraham because Abraham was morally or intellectually amazing, but because Abraham decided God was trustworthy, and believed what he said. Paul says here: it's the same for us. It isn't our achievements, but our conviction, that God values.
Risky business (7 mins)
Now read vv 18-19. Say: ‘just believing’ might sound easy, but conviction is a risky business. It involves believing things that may look incredible to others – and risking being wrong. Captain Scott believed he could reach the South Pole and get back safely. Robert the Bruce believed he could take on the English and win. Venus and Serena Williams' father believed his two daughters could be tennis greats. Ask: who else can you think of who risked everything for their convictions? (Examples if they need prompting might be: Nelson Mandela? Martin Luther King? Lewis Hamilton?...) Ask: what are Christians risking when they trust God? What did Abraham risk?
Sweaty palms and perseverance (8 mins)
Stand a blindfolded group member at one end of the room, position a friend he trusts at the other, and scatter furniture around in the middle. Ask the friend to guide the blindfolded person safely to his end by shouting instructions. Only problem: everyone else can also shout misleading, off-putting instructions. Can he make the journey without accidents, by tuning in to the voice he can trust?
Afterwards discuss what happened and ask the blindfolded person how it felt. Say: we won't always feel confident or positive – but the important thing with conviction isn't how we feel. It's whether we keep on going! Soldiers charging into battle may feel terrified; bravery isn't a matter of their feelings, but their conduct. Our faith isn't measured by the emotions it produces, but the actions it leads to. Read out verses 20-21.
You could also illustrate this point by reading part of the story Major Ed Rush tells about a pilot trusting his instruments, at http://www.mach1ministries.com/Carrier.htm.
KEY POINT: We don't earn God's acceptance; we just have to trust him. This sounds easy, but it's risky and won't always feel instinctively right.
You're not that special (10 mins)
Now read verses 9-13. Explain that circumcision made Jews feel they had an unbreakable deal with God that no other nation possessed. So what is Paul saying about circumcision? How important is it in building a relationship with God? (Answer: not at all – it was a sign that God had already accepted Abraham because of his faith and conviction!)
So what would Abraham say to these three people? (You could read out these statements, pin them up for people to walk around and read, or give a copy to small groups for discussion.)
Discuss ideas. Point out: Each is making the same mistake as conceited Jews were: assuming that God's estimate of us depends on who we are. It doesn't ! God's not interested in who you are – but in who you trust. Read verse 14 and verse 16.
One step at a time (10 mins)
Now play a game with the posters on the walls. Say: start at No 1, and when you choose the correct answer, it will direct you to another poster number. Continue until you've been round six posters (if you get some answers wrong, you'll know because you won't be able to complete properly) then come and tell me the key phrase from the final poster. There will be a small prize.
The final phrase is ‘One step leads to another’. After rewarding the winners, say: that's a final thing about conviction. It grows. The more you step out in faith trusting God's goodness, the more you realize you can trust him even further. Read v 20 again – that's what happened to Abraham.
KEY POINT: Trusting the right person is the key to God's accepting us. And the more we trust him, the stronger our conviction grows that we can trust him with absolutely anything.
No previous conviction? (5 mins)
Take some time in silence to think over the state of our own convictions. Just how far are we prepared to trust God? How much have we learned recently about trusting him further? In which situations are we tempted to fly by sight and not ‘trust the instruments’?
Pray together, asking God to give you the faith to live simply, boldly and powerfully as Abraham did. And as a result, to know the reliability of God.
Notes for adapting
For younger groups… Instead of asking them to brainstorm stories of conviction (in ‘Risky Business’), recount several examples and ask them to discuss in small groups: Whose convictions were wrong? Whose were right? What would we have done in those circumstances?
For older groups… In ‘One step at a time’, brainstorm their memories of Abraham's life story. How did his faith keep growing? What risks did he learn to take with God? When was his faith most strongly tested? How could all this work out in our Christian experience today?
For unchurched young people… To demonstrate the risks of trusting someone untrustworthy, show this video clip: http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/33926/ .
For churched young people… In ‘Sweaty palms and perseverance’, get three people to act out impromptu the parable in Matthew 21:28-30, then ask: what does this tell us about conviction, feelings and action?
John Allan is a regular contributor to Youthwork International and is based at Belmont Chapel, Exeter.
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