Sunday School Lesson – “The Prodigal Son” Luke 15:11-24

Photo: Pixabay/pumukel

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 15:11-24 (KJV, Public Domain)

Man’s failure and God’s redemptive work is the whole story of the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation; from the Fall to last words of Christ in the Bible that state, “Surely I come quickly,” (Rev. 22:20), God has sought a relationship with mankind that would eventually lead into eternity.  No other story in the Bible demonstrates this sought for relationship better than that of the Prodigal Son.

In it, we see the rebellion of man.  But, also in it, we see the love of the Father looking for His lost child.  One’s eternity will be predicated on if one made the same choice as the Prodigal – to turn back to the Father, repent and rest in His love, and let Him restore.

The Prodigal’s Request

Luke 15:11-12 “And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.”

The Pharisee’s had a propensity for thinking they knew better than Jesus.  Many of Jesus’ actions were frowned upon by them.  Little did they know His mission was to seek and to save them that are lost, (Luke 19:10).  To do this, He often stepped out of the box most in His time would not.  Their comfort zone didn’t allow them to spend time with the baser sorts of the world and when Jesus did, He was talked about and misunderstood.  His motives were of pure love and showing mankind there was a better way.  He didn’t mind teaching to any who had an ear to hear including “publicans and sinners,” (Luke 15:1-2).

His focus was to teach them, as well as the religious elite, the Father loves the world (John 3:16) and the salvation He seeks to give and the relationship He wants to have is extended to all mankind.  Every human life is valuable to Him; therefore, He will rejoice when even just one of those lost ones becomes found.

To demonstrate this, He told stories we have come to know as parables.  These heavenly nuggets of truth illustratively depict the Father’s desire to be in constant communion with us.  When that bond between Father and creation was broken by sin, His love was not, and He celebrates with all of heaven the one who turns back to Him.

Before reaching the story of the prodigal son, Jesus told two lost and found stories regarding sheep and a coin (see Luke 15:3-10).  These are things, property if you will, who have no eternal value in them.  Once they have expired their use here on earth that’s all there is.  There is no soul to worry about in these “objects” for eternity.  Yet, people get really upset when property is messed with; when things that can be replaced disappear.

Jesus knows His audience.  He knows the value they put on these “things.”  He knows when a disappeared object is restored and found happiness soon follows.  To bring it all into perspective He adds in Luke 15:7, 10 the joy that all of heaven experiences “over one sinner that repenteth.”  Some get happy over found objects, but heaven rejoices over found people.  Unlike those objects, people have eternal value.  They do have souls to worry about and when one is restored in proper fellowship with the Father – oh, what a day that will be!

Priming the pump, if you will, with those parables, Jesus further explains in more detail using human relationships, something not as easily dismissed as a story of a sheep or a coin.  He tells of a father and his two sons, one of which is dubbed forever as the prodigal.

What made him a prodigal?  His reckless lifestyle of squandering money and resources to please his immediate pleasure of the flesh to live lavishly made him so.  Not wanting to wait until his father died, one day the younger of the two boys, the prodigal son, went to his father and said, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me,” (Luke 15:12a).  To some modernist, this may not seem like a big deal.  Nowadays, some like to give out portions of inheritance so that they can see their kids enjoy what would have been left to them.

But, in Jesus’ day, this was an insult.  His father was apparently still alive and very vibrant in health.  He had many years ahead of him and was nowhere near to being on his death bed.  But this selfish son couldn’t wait that long.   He wanted his portion now.  Pushing forth in this manner was not only a disrespectful sentiment toward his own father, but he was seeking to usurp the tradition of the older son receiving first.  According to law, the older son would also receive a double portion because of his firstborn status (see Deut. 21:17).

The Bible doesn’t go into detail about the father’s reactions.  Was he taken aback by the younger son’s request?  Did something in his behavior lead the father to believe this day was coming?  We don’t know.  But we do know surprisingly the father agreed to the request and “he divided unto them his living,” (Luke 15:12).  With the word “them” included, we can only assume that both sons at that time received their inheritance.

The Prodigal’s Riotous Living

Luke 15:13-14 “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.”

Not wasting much time, “not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living,” (Luke 15:13).  As if his original demanding of an early inheritance was not offensive and dishonorable enough, this rebellious son took all that was now his and left.

He took his father’s hard-earned money and resources which he spent a lifetime accumulating and put a huge distance between himself and his family.  Instead of loving the father more for what he had received and cleaving to him, he sowed seeds of division.  Acting like a spoiled brat (as one would call him today), he separated himself from the reach of his father and his jurisdiction, and off he went “into a far country,” (Luke 15:13). 

Reading the text, we see this younger son’s wrong lifestyle and choices caught up with him.  Judging by the robe, ring, and feast later given at the end of the parable, I am supposing his father to have been a man of considerable wealth.  Meaning his portion of inheritance was no chump change.  He had to have arrived at that far country with a considerable sum of money.  With one wrong decision leading to another, and then another, extravagantly spending here and there, he squandered his money and “wasted his substance with riotous living,” (Luke 15:13). 

His irresponsibility went far beyond just misspending and purchasing items without regard.  His lifestyle knew no restraint.  The son exposed himself to a free for all, anything goes pattern of behavior, he was not privy to under his father’s roof.  He may not have to answer to his father any longer but, life and the choices he made, will demand one.  Eventually, what he sowed he is going to reap (Gal. 6:7) and he will begin to understand the real impact of his actions.

With a famine befalling the country and no longer with the privilege of money and friends at his disposal, “he began to be in want,” (Luke 15:14).  Never in his life did he ever have to go without, but now just the basics of life eluded him, and he was destitute.  He was poor beyond measure.  One can lack money and still have some sort of familial support or a soul to confide in and depend upon.  He had none. His lifestyle didn’t promote the faithfulness of human support to see him through his difficult ordeal.  Any friends he had probably came and went with his money.  Now, his situation is about to get even more desperate.

The Prodigal Hits Rock Bottom

Luke 15:15-16 “And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.”

And, as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”  With that, “he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine,” (Luke 15:15).  Becoming a citizen of a country means you agree to be one of them now.  You agree to abide by and uphold their laws and traditions.  Depending on the country you could be asked to totally acclimate to their culture and give up all previous markers of identity that made you, you.

In his desperation, he felt he had no choice.  He was starving and without residence and he needed to secure employment just to live.  Being in no position to negotiate, he had to take what he could even if it was something totally against his upbringing.  He had to feed the swine (Luke 15:15).  The Jewish people do not eat or deal with anything pig related.  To them, these unclean creatures were the lowest of the low, and yet his employment now causes him to care for them.

If his situation couldn’t get any lower, we read his desperation was teetering on the side of despair and total hopelessness.  With no dignity left, and without regard to propriety, he began to desire the slop the pigs were eating: “he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave until him,” (Luke 15:16).  This is what one calls a rock-bottom scenario.  He was about as down as down could get.

How was he to come out of this?

The Prodigal Returns, Repents and is Restored

Luke 15:17-24 “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

After the reality of a situation so bad he was willing to eat the slop of pigs, the prodigal son was hit with an even bigger dose of reality.  His destructive lifestyle had taught him a lesson or two the hard way: 1) The grass is not always greener on the other side, and 2) What he had, to begin with, was not so bad after all.  This is one of those moments when the obvious is made clear and people say if it was a snake it would have bit you.

Therefore, he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to eat and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants,” (Luke 15:17-19). 

It’s amazing how a humiliating and humbling experience can open one’s eyes to true blessings that were already there.  In his coming to himself moment, his eyes were opened to many things: 1) His eyes were opened to the fact that even the servants in his father’s house were better off than him right now.  While living there did he ever stop and think about their work or appreciate the fact that he had servants to help care for his home and livelihood, dependable people who worked hard to make sure everything was cared for?  He knew that right now they were not in want as he was.  He was perishing with hunger.  Though a son by birth, they fared better than he at this moment; 2) His eyes were opened to his sin.  He realized, not just for the sake of needing food and roof over his head, that he had wronged his father.  His foray out into the world made him realize his blunder.  Notice also, he readily admitted that he had not only wronged his father but heaven as well.  Sin impacts one’s relationships with people and God; 3) His eyes were opened to his now unworthy state.  Claiming his early inheritance and distancing himself from his father meant he wanted no more dealings with him.  He knows he could be disowned from the privilege of being called “son.”  Yet, he is willing, if his father is willing, to secure employment there and work as a “hired servant.”

He sought a complete turnaround in the life he messed up.  With great resolve to get back to where he belongs, “he arose and came to his father,” (Luke 15:20).   Little did he know, despite his selfish behavior his father never stopped loving him and never stopped looking for him.  “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him,” (Luke 15:20). 

This is that type of rejoicing we see in the two previous parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin made even more alive by the returning of the lost son.  The father who is representing our heavenly Father has compassion and rejoices over the repentance of the lost.  As I stated at the beginning of this article, this has been the whole story of the Bible.  Man’s lost state meets with God’s compassionate redemption.  Wow!!

Every time someone leaves the world of sin behind and comes back to the Father, He is overjoyed.  Heaven is singing and shouting praises.  People matter to God.  Lost people are loved by God.  His strongest desire is to see them come back home in His loving arms where they belong.  What an eye-opening picture this parable presents.

The son readily admitted his failure to his father and confessed his sins (see Luke 15:21).  Thinking to come back as a servant, how big his eyes must have gotten when he heard the command, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry,” (Luke 15:22-24). 

Instead of disowning him and putting him to work, the father received him with joy and restored his position as his son (signified by adorning him with the best robe, ring, and shoes – all markers of his position in the family).  This went way beyond his farthest dream could imagine when he was hungering and wishing for at least some pig slop to eat.  He was totally restored!

This is God’s end desire for all, including the lost.  He wants to welcome them home and put on them the identifying markers that they are His child and they are restored.  Those that are spiritually dead He wants to make alive once more.  If one finds themselves currently in a prodigal state of living, without hesitation I plead with you to turn back to our heavenly Father and let Him restore you. Experience His compassion of salvation offered through our Lord Jesus Christ.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – The Prodigal Son

Suggested Activities:

Object Lesson: “Three Wishes” (Here you will find a great object lesson/lesson introduction including group activities such as “Balloon Art” and “Prodigal Son Puppet.”  Enjoy!)

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

Draw the Scene: The Prodigal Son Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: The Prodigal Son Memory Verse

Prodigal Son Welcome Home Party Hat: When the lost son came home his father celebrated.  Simply print the PDF (whichever version you like best  I couldn’t decide which one I liked more, so I leave it up to you: Prodigal Son Party Hat  or Prodigal Son Party Hat 2 (both options are shown at the bottom) with verse onto cardstock. Color and decorate. I added a little pom pom on the top.  Another option is to glue pom poms all over instead of coloring the stars if you wish.  The only limit is your and your student’s imagination.  Punch holes in the side and string with yarn.  There you have it.  Enjoy!

PARTY HAT 1 WITH SMALLER PIG FACE

PARTY HAT 2 WITH LARGER PIG FACE

Word Search: The Prodigal Son Word Search  Answers: The Prodigal Son Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Prodigal Son Crossword  Answers: The Prodigal Son Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Prodigal Son Word Scramble  Answers: The Prodigal Son Word Scramble Answers

Related Activities:

“Prodigal Son Activities”

“Parable: Prodigal Son” (Awesome lesson ideas and printables your students are sure to love.  Enjoy!)

“Paper Bag Pig Puppet”

“Pig Mask”

“The Prodigal Son Pig Pen Craft” (Great, demonstrative lesson idea for the students to learn more about the prodigal son’s wrong choices.  Scroll down to craft and enjoy!)

“Teaching Kids Forgiveness/Prodigal Son” (This is an easy and awesome craft idea your students are sure to enjoy that reiterates the true nature of this lesson.  Enjoy!)

“The Prodigal Son Pictures for this lesson” (These pictures help tell the story of this lesson. Enjoy!)

“The Prodigal Son Flipchart”

“The Lost Son Comes Home PDF Storybook”

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No matter what yesterday was like, today is a new day.

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No matter what yesterday was like, today is a new day.

Today is a day to start over.

Today is a day to take a fresh breath in and realize there is great potential up ahead.

Today is a gift from above, with mercies we have never seen before.

There’s something wonderful about today.

I thank God for this new day.

“Be Near Me, Lord Jesus”

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“Keep on believing!”

What are you believing God for today? Let’s
make it clear, God is not our magic wish
granting genie whom we run to whenever we
want something. But, He is faithful to keep
every word He promised.

Keep believing. Keep hoping. Never sway at
the promises of God. Abraham “staggered
not at the promise of God through unbelief;
but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;”
(Romans 4:20). Staggering moves one away
from the source of belief, while hope draws him
nearer. Sometimes the wait is long (Abraham
waited 25 years for a son), but in the end,
the blessing that will come from faithfully
holding on will pay off.

“There is an expected end!”

For God’s people, there is an expected end!
Whether it was for the captives of old, or for
those struggling through the murky mess of
today, there is hope at the end of everything
we face.

How your story started out, or even in what it
is speaking today does not determine how it
will end. With hope, we keep we keep our
eyes and our hearts lifted to the One who
knows the beginning from the end, and we
plant our faith in Him.

 

“You, my friend, are the soil to His good gift and it must grow.”

 

Photo: Pixabay/Pexels

Here’s the thing, I had nothing to write about.  No particular topic jumped out at me or piqued my interest.  All I know is I had nothing to say, but the urge in me to write wouldn’t let go.  I wanted to write something…

With the dawning of that thought I realized when God puts a gift, a seed of talent in you, whether you feel particularly inspired or not, the gift in you demands to be heard, noticed, and shared with the world.

It’s just like that.  In each of us there dwell the possibilities that He knows you can do something with it.  This is God we are talking about.  He knows our downsitting and our uprising.  He knows our thoughts afar off (Psalm 139:2), and He most definitely knows what dwells in your innermost being because He placed it there.

You, my friend, are the soil to His good gift and it must grow.  It demands it.  It wants to poke its head through the surface that has been keeping it dark and hidden to experience the day with the sun shining on it.  Staying buried, it dies and becomes unprofitable.  Allowed to break through, it becomes more than you ever dreamed it could be.  It flowers.  From that flower comes more seed that will produce more offspring, if you will, of the same gift.

Don’t let moments of the uninspired make you believe you have nothing there.  It’s in you!  Let it grow!  Therefore, I write…

What passion is burning inside from the gift He placed in you?  What will you do with it?  Let it grow and watch the possibilities come to life.

“Neglect not the gift that is in thee…” 1 Timothy 4:14

“… Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee… For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7

 

 

“REACH FOR YOUR FUTURE!”

REACH FOR YOUR FUTURE! “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,” – Philippians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭

Sunday School Lesson – “The Christian Race” Hebrews 12:1-13

 

Photo: Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Hebrews 12:1-13 (KJV, Public Domain)

On your marks.  Get set.  Go!  Once you have accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Savior you have officially entered the Christian race.  The prize is before you and the contests are around you, and the only way to make it to the finish line is by focusing on He who paved the way before you.  The struggles may seem hard at times, but Jesus promised, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” (Matthew 24:13).

Endurance is the key and although troubles seem to catch us off guard, we are reminded that we are not the only ones suffering; we are not alone in our pursuit to live like Christ and yet face adversity.  Others have gone before us, including our Lord.  Let their testimony encourage the weary and faint of heart to press on through the contentions of this life that we may gain the crown of life in the next.

Our Focus

Hebrews 12:1-4 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

In the chapter prior to this, we have some of the greatest sources of encouragement recorded not only in God’s Word but in the world.  We have, as the people of God, dubbed it the Hall of Fame of Faith; and, rightfully so.  In that chapter, we see a concentrated version of God’s mighty acts performed through and for those who followed hard after Him in faith.  Their stories are amazing, and their examples are a testimony of how to do life while still holding on to the promises of God; how to make it to the end even when some personally didn’t see the fulfillment of said promises.

These people who have gone before us can testify that the road wasn’t always easy.  They can tell their story of how they tried to do the work of God and people acted adversely toward them and did not respond the way they had hoped, or the trials they faced on the way to their particular promise were heavy at times.  They can let the cat out of the bag about how they were mistreated, used and abused because their desire was to fulfill the call of God on their lives.  They are a “great cloud of witnesses” that can testify and say, “I’ve been there and done that.  Just hold on to God’s unchanging hand and He will see you through.”

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.”  Most Olympians and accomplished runners in any race strive to enter the competition with as little baggage as possible.  Clothing is kept to a minimum, as much as decency will allow.  Preparations for physical strength and the shedding of unwanted weight that can prove to be a hindrance were made before one foot touches the starters block.

Why?  To give the athlete the best possible chance of winning.

Jesus wants us to make it to the end of our race.  He wants us to come in victorious as the winners He knows we are in Him.  That can’t happen if we allow people, and stuff, and sin bog us down.  The feet that were meant to run like they had wings attached rather sink as if stones were wrapped around their ankles.  Therefore, the author of Hebrews commands us to “lay aside” everything that wants to hold us back; everything that stands as an obstacle to our spiritual success; everything that works against our salvation preventing us from experiencing the fullness of joy we have in Christ Jesus.

Those in this world compete for trophies, but our competition in our Christian race is for a prize this world can’t offer.  We must do as Paul instructed and, “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14).  We can’t do that carrying the extra “weight” of worries and “sin” of this world.

“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”  Notice the word “us” written here.  That word is inclusive and tells us that we all have our own race to run that is “set before us.”  The track I am on may not look like yours, but we’re still in this together, each running the course that’s ahead of them.  The things I fight with may not be the same for you, but we are altogether battling against things that try to stop our progression in Christ.

This was especially true for the original readers of this letter who were suffering through times of persecution and hardship.  I can imagine some lying awake at night or hiding out in some undisclosed location wondering about the promises of God through the murkiness of the pain they were experiencing.  I don’t care what anybody tells you, nobody likes to experience troubles, but the soul that can hold on will see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It may not shine as you supposed it would, but it will be there nonetheless as a testimony to the glory of God working in your life as well.

But, to continue this course, in spite of it all, requires “patience;” endurance.  Going back to the picture of an athlete preparing for the competition, they stretch their bodies past normal limits in order to condition it for the race.  They add on extra time and additional boundaries to push past in order to get their endurance and stamina up so that they can power through the most difficult times.  They mold, shape, and work their bodies to be fit for the fight.

Here, the writer is giving us the same advice in the spiritual.  We must purposely trust God and push past some stuff we see now to build up our faith and give us the strength to make it to the end.  We will never be able to power through the competitions of this life if we don’t allow our faith muscles to be conditioned for the battle.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”  Jesus, once again, stands as our perfect example of not only how to run the race but how to endure during the process, and one thing I wrote about in a previous article was His “Focus Shift” (I encourage you to read the entire article).  Jesus, while going through the worse thing He could ever possibly endure, didn’t dwell on His current situation or even the enemies at hand, He was more concerned about the welfare of others; He gained a heavenly perspective for souls and salvation that we can only hope to emulate as we look to Him.

Through the trials and tribulations we may face in our own race, we are told to gain a new perspective as well; we are told to shift our focus from ourselves and look to Jesus.  In His life and His obedience, He has gone the road before us to show us how to live and walk in accordance with the Father’s will and never give up.

He is the “author and finisher of our faith.”  He is the originator and completer of our faith.  He is our soul’s pioneer, if you will (a word you often hear referenced when discussing this topic).  He went before us into uncharted territory to gain heavenly ground for each one of us.  Jesus Christ has secured everything we need under the faith umbrella to live this life the way God is calling us to live.

 “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”  The cross and the process of dying on the cross were ugly.  But, the results that would come from the cross were beautiful and brought joy to the heart of our Savior.  One of my favorite articles written is titled “Reap Rejoicing.”  In that I wrote:

“No one could ever put into words the pain of what it felt like to hang on that cross and bear the sins of the world.  But, as He hung there, with blood pouring down, He was in the gathering process.  That’s why He couldn’t come down because even as He was nailed and left to die, He with great sorrow and tears, was working at gathering that would eventually lead to rejoicing.

What a clear head and frame of mind our Lord kept through it all.  Most of us would have went into survival mode under such duress, thinking of self.  Jesus went to survival mode, too.  Not for Himself rather, “To seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10, KJV).”

Therefore, He “endured” the course before Him with “joy” for souls like us and becomes our prime example of how to follow the path of faith.  As the “author and finisher of our faith;” the beginning and end – He showed us how to run our race.

“Despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The cross was just not about pain, but it was about “shame.”  Jesus hung on the cross naked – shame!  Jesus took on the curse of sin for humanity – shame!  Jesus was abused, beaten, and tossed about as nobody worth considering; just another criminal – shame!  Yet, He took any and all shame that would seek to bind us.  He didn’t give in to the pull to turn tail and run.  He took it all on Himself and completed fully the work of the cross and is “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  He finished His race and gained His reward and lives forever to show us how to do it.

“Consider him!”  He “endured!”  He was wrongfully accused and wrongfully abused due to the “contradiction of sinners against himself.”  Jesus spoke rightly when He said, “He that is not with me is against me…” (Matthew 12:30), and at the time of the cross His body bore the marks of their opposition and hatred toward Him – yet, He still refused to give up.  Even when the taunting tongues said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him,” (Matthew 27:42); He held on and endured the cross until He gave up the ghost and ascended on high.

“Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”  Why are we continually told to look to Jesus, to fix our spiritual gaze upon Him and consider all that He went through?  Because His legacy becomes a testament to how one should run this Christian race.  His story becomes a well of strength from which we can draw encouragement from.  His experience becomes the energy that we need to motivate us to press on despite all the adversity that tries to mount attacks against us; that try to move us from our faith.  “But they that wait upon the LORD,” the Bible tells us, “shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,” (Isaiah 40:31).  Consider Jesus that you yourselves to don’t faint in the process of running the race.

When we discussed the previous chapter, the Hall of Fame of faith, in that we see Moses’ character in taking a stand against sin: “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,” (Hebrews 11:25).  Standing for one’s faith usually brings about persecution and affliction such as what the readers of this letter were facing.  How far are they willing to go in order to stand for their faith?  There are many in the body of Christ who have borne the harsh ravages of persecution on their own bodies, and even their lives.  There are many who gave all to follow Jesus.  The encouragement is for these readers to stir up their minds, gain strength from the stories of those devoted lives, keep pushing forth, and don’t give up!

Our Discipline

Hebrews 12:5-11 “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

“Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him… if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.”  “Chastening” or discipline is part of what we must go through in order to grow and mature in Christ as need be.  There will be times of suffering as we continue to walk our path to go higher in Him.  There will be times when the road traveled will seem like we’re fighting an uphill battle.  There will be times of pain and hardships, but as Romans reminds us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28).

Keep in mind, how we view something as working out for good and how God views it could look very different.  Something that may bring us sadness now, God may see a better benefit down the road for our good.  When God looks into the meat of our lives, He’s looking beyond the here and now and the tool that is often used is discipline.

Discipline is rarely seen as being pleasant.  Whether it refers to the bringing of one’s body under subjection for the benefit of exercising and preparing for a race; or, if it is for correction to set one’s course on a right path – hardship in this life is rarely a welcomed companion.

But we are told not to “despise” it as we are reminded that Jesus, the author of our faith, didn’t mount Calvary’s cross by bypassing suffering (see also Proverbs 3:11 and Job 5:17).  He faced it head-on as the Son of God who would redeem mankind from their sins.  Now, we are referred to as sons and daughters of God, and as such should we not take it all in stride when the Father’s molding of our lives involves things we would rather not endure?  Yet, endure we must for one will never reach the finish line of any competition by dropping out.  It’s pushing through despite the pain and the struggle that allows us to reach our eternal reward in victory.

For when God chastens, His only motivation is “love.”  Proverbs 3:12 verifies this by telling us, “For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”  Parents don’t want to see their children hurting or sad over a situation no more than God does.  But there are some things that parents can’t allow their children to pursue because, in the end, it will be to their ruin.

God wants us where He is.  He “scourgeth even son whom he receiveth.”  He is our ultimate prize at the end of this race, but we will never get there if we allow the cumbrances of this world to deviate us off that path.  God steps in and corrects the steps we take that we may gain the richer rewards of heaven rather than settle for the less than this world has to offer.  He beckons us to follow the discipline and not to give up.  Allow it to mold you and work for your good to bring about a better end.

Did He not say in Jeremiah, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end?” (29:11). Those words of promise were spoken as the people endured the discipline of captivity.  God always, always, always has the greater good of His people in mind despite what it currently looks like.  Therefore, run the race and “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” (2 Timothy 2:3).  Subject yourselves “unto the Father of spirits, and live!”  His correction in our lives is for our good!

He does it for “our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”  Anything we face in this world cannot compare to the joy that we have in Him and the glory that lay ahead eternally.  One can only be a participator of that joy and glory if they are “partakers of his holiness.”  “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

God wants holiness in our lives and in our worship.  I love a message that pronounces blessings just as much as the next person, but without holiness, it means absolutely nothing in His sight.  We need to come back to the central theme of holiness because the LORD requires nothing less.  It is for our profit and if discipline is what it takes to get us there, then God will have His way because you and I are treasured that much that He wants you to be where He is.

No, it’s not “joyous” at the time of receiving said correction and discipline, but “afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”  There have been times when correction was probably necessary for our own lives, growing up or as an adult.  And no, we don’t like it but, we can thank God for where the correction keeps us from.  The paths of sin and wrong choices that could have kept us walking a road that yielded anything but “righteousness.”  It could have kept us bound in sin.

Children don’t usually rejoice due to correction and discipline.  When parents send a correction in the way of a child it is to prepare them for life up ahead.  When God sends discipline for each of us, we become like trees fit (trained, “exercised thereby”) due to pruning to prepare us to yield “fruit” that will carry over into eternity.

Our Race

Hebrews 12:12-13 “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”

Be encouraged through it all!  Get in there and run this Christian race!  Don’t let defeat win.  Don’t let the hardships knock you out of place, robbing you of the goal at the end.  If you feel down, get back up, strengthen yourself, and keep on running that your soul may be “healed.”  Jesus is waiting at the finish line.

We can be so easily swayed this way and that with the moving of our circumstances and our emotions and just plain old life itself.  But Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith;” our perfect example, never let anything sway Him from the righteous path.  He never let anything drag Him off course from where God wanted Him to be.  As a matter of fact, He repeatedly let us know “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me,” (John 6:38).  And yes, He suffered through it all, but suffering didn’t win, and discouragement didn’t stand a chance against the will of God planted so deeply in Him, ergo He ran His race unhindered.

The writer of Hebrews is teaching his readers and us the same valuable life lesson.  Everything will not always seem to work in our favor (despite the barrage of popular messages that tell otherwise), but “make straight paths for your feet;” look past the obstacles that try to obstruct your view from the finish line and stay wholly focused on Him who is our spiritual forerunner.  Follow His lead who endured already and “ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established,” (Proverbs 4:26).

Remember, others are watching your race so run that they too may be encouraged to keep going and not be “turned out of the way.”  May they press on to receive healing for their souls as well.

Sometimes the things we deal with get hard.  Trials and tribulations are nothing to sneeze at, but we must make the decision to respond the way Jesus did and to not let it frustrate us from everything that God has for us and want us to do.  If you keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, you can make it to the end of your Christian race.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – The Christian Faith 

Suggested Activities:

Object Lesson: “Run the Race Object Lesson”

Video Links: 

“Running the Race Youtube Video/Skit Guys”

“Derek Redmond Inspiration Video/Never Give Up”

Adult Journal Page: The Christian Race

Kid’s Journal Page: The Christian Race

Blank Journal Pages (to cover what points you prefer to bring out):  Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

Draw the Scene: The Christian Race Draw the Scene

How Many Words: The Christian Race How Many Words

Memory Verse: The Christian Race Memory Verse

 

Word Search: The Christian Race Word Search  Answers: The Christian Race Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Christian Race Crossword  Answers: The Christian Race Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Christian Race Word Scramble  Answers: The Christian Race Word Scramble Answers

“Perseverance” (opening Marshmallow Toss activity)

“What the Olympics can teach us about Christianity”

“Pressing for the Prize” 

 

“No matter what we face…”

No matter what we face, we don’t face it alone.
Through every possible hardship, through
every possible scenario, God is with us. Not
only is He with us, but He is watching over His
people and protecting them.

Sometimes things may seem to be too much to
deal with – overwhelming, in fact. Sometimes
the fire and the flood before us or coming after
us can seem scary and dangerous. But God
is here for His people. He promises, “I will
never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5)
Lean into the promises God and His strength
and He will see you through the difficult times.

“Getting to the Other Side with Jesus!”

Photo: Pixabay

Getting to the other side, isn’t that what we all want to do?  All we want to do is be opposite of where we are now.  Standing on the edge of one shore with a whole mess of stormy ocean in between, all our hearts yearn to do is get through this mess safely and plant our feet on the shore of peace that stands waiting to receive us after navigating the tumultuous oceans in between.

But, it’s that whole mess of raging ocean in between that’s the problem.  Sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes the waves are so high and terrible, the view of the shore is obscured.  Sometimes they crash so violently that I can’t help cry out with the disciples, “Lord, save us!” (Matthew 8:25).  The situation is hard and we are desperate and screaming for deliverance!

The Lord hears, and He questions them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).  For the disciples, Jesus wanted to know, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25).

Let’s face it, like the disciples, sometimes it’s hard to see past what is before you right now.  With fearsome events swirling around, and disaster seemingly imminent, “seeing” a positive end to this rise is very difficult.  But, God never asked us to see the better end.  He asks us to hold on, in faith, and trust that He will get us to the other side.

Four times we are told in His word, “The just shall live by faith,” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).  And, in 2 Corinthians we are told, “We walk by faith, not by sight,” (5:7).  Yet, no matter how much we hear or read these encouraging words from Scripture, when it comes our time to be in the boat tossed about on the raging seas, many are ready to abandon ship because they just can’t see the way to the other side.  But, abandoning ship doesn’t get you to the other side.  It only leaves you treading water in the middle of the waves.

I don’t scoff at the disciples for waking Jesus, because if you don’t know how to get through the storm safely, and if you are having trouble navigating the ferocious winds in your life, it’s best to lean on Jesus in the middle of the storm.  It’s best to speak to the one who cannot only see you safely to the other side but quiet the mess in between (Matthew 8:26).  If your goal is the other side, Jesus is your way.  Trust that if you are riding with Him, you will arrive safely on that shore of peace because Jesus never fails.

“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.”  – Psalm 107:29

“Pray, and let God worry.” – Martin Luther

The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” – Psalm 34:17

““When you can’t see God’s hand, trust His heart.”  – Emily Freeman

“The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” – Nahum 1:7