Discussion starter for youth groups
Redeemed Revolutionary (Story 1 – Mexico)
Politics. Addiction. Brawling. These were some of the key words that would be used to sum up the life of Dan Donato in 1918. Sound familiar? Over 100 years on, and it’s evident that some things remain the same – political division polarises communities, addiction continues to wreck homes and you only need to turn on the news to see the latest disputes within society being reported. Thankfully, God has remained the same too. He was the same in 1918 as he is today, and as He will be in another 100 years’ time! Our world will always be riddled with hardship, caused by our own sin and the sins of others. However, our lives can be transformed and redeemed if we just stop in our tracks, like Dan did, and take time to recognise the goodness of God.
Think about some of the attributes of God. Why should we be thankful God remains the same yesterday, today and forever?
Are there areas of your local community that need God’s transformation? Or areas of your own life?
Cooking with Gas (Story 2 – Pakistan)
Did I lock the door? Have I left my phone charging on the counter? Let’s face it – we’ve all had moments like Rupert, where we’ve had to turn back and double-check we’ve not left a fire or theft hazard! At the time, it seems like a real inconvenience, but this amazing story shows that God can use our mundane, seemingly unplanned detours into divine interactions with others. We may never find out the end result when it comes to encounters like our story today. What we do know is that God used us in that particular moment to do his work – He can be trusted with the rest! Think of encounters you may have had in the past where you’ve been able to share your faith and of ways in which your faith and belief in Jesus could be raised in conversation with non-believers.
Can you think of examples in the Bible when things looked bleak, but God was using these circumstances for His purposes, or remember times in your life when this has been the case?
While we can’t know God’s full plan, think of ways in which we can give thanks for what God has shared with us, through the Bible.
Faithful Through Persecution (Story 3 – Greece)
Reading today’s story about persecution in Greece may seem like a far cry from the society we find ourselves living in. Thankfully we do not have police barging into our church services and confiscating our Bibles. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all plain sailing in our Christian lives either. As time goes on, antagonism towards Christianity has increased, which can make it difficult for us to be vocal about our beliefs and share the reasons for choosing to follow Jesus. The testimonies of Theofanis and Anthoula should encourage us to pray for persecuted countries around the world, but it should also reassure us that God will be our strength during times of trial we may also face. Do you think it was easy for Theofanis and Anthoula to remain faithful to God in the face of great adversity? Discuss areas in society where opposition towards Christianity can be seen.
God was faithful to Theofanis and Anthoula through their perseverance. What is your natural reaction to persecution? Would it be perseverance?
How can we as Christians better prepare for opposition or persecution?
From Sadness to Joy (Story 4 – Central Africa)
Sadness and joy aren’t two words that are often put together in the same sentence. Often, in times of great sadness it is impossible to see what good can come from the circumstances we or others may find ourselves in. However, Ian’s testimony in Central Africa shows how God was able to take a devastating loss for John and transform it into something joyful. But what is joy, and how do we experience it as a Christian? Taking the example of John again, there’s no doubt that he would have continued to face difficulties in his life after finding his faith in Jesus. Joy isn’t a false happiness that eradicates all hardship from our lives. Rather, joy is a deep-rooted pleasure and contentment, based on who Jesus is, rather than the hard times we face. No matter how difficult or sad life can be, we can be assured that God is ever present, and can help us find joy in the hardest of times.
Are there times in your life where you have felt joy in the midst of sadness?
Discuss some of the reasons we have to be joyful as Christians.
A Bid for a Building (Story 5 – Chad)
Our story from today is a fantastic example of God’s provision, and how this can often be different to what we hope to receive from Him. In Chad, John had his heart set on obtaining a specific area of land in the city, only to be told that the church would not be permitted to purchase it. It can be discouraging when plans do not work out, especially when they have been created with furthering God’s kingdom in mind. However, this is not the end of the story. God provided John with another building opportunity that was even bigger and better than John’s original plan and removed the obstacles of attending auctions and bidding wars in addition. Thankfully, God can see ahead into our future, and knows what’s best for each of us, and is able to provide for us in abundance.
Think back to a time in your life where your plans and hopes were dashed. Consider the alternative that was provided, and whether this benefitted you more in the long run?
What is our reaction when our plans don’t seem to work out at all? What should our attitude be?
What do the Scriptures say about God’s plans?
In Need of a Saviour (Story 6 – Poland)
Oh, to be perfect. A saying often heard but a state that will never be achieved. No matter how hard we try, perfect will never be an achievable goal for us because of sin. We live in a fallen world full of sin, from the littlest fib told, to the taking of another’s life, as well as everything in between! Helene Rosenberg was never going to be popular in Poland, telling people about the seriousness of sin and even now, it’s a topic that’s difficult to raise with others, especially non-believers who do not recognise Jesus for who he really is. However, the depth of God’s love, and Jesus’s sacrifice for us cannot be fully understood without highlighting the severity of our sin.
Have you ever thought that sin is overrated and not as serious as the Bible says? Why might we want to think that?
Discuss sensitive and creative ways to talk or communicate with others about sin.
Jungle Fever (Story 7 – India)
From our story today, it is apparent that Thomas Heelis’s faith in Jesus came at a great cost to himself – in his time, money and physical health. Think of the most important things in your life – your faith, family, studies, or maybe a treasured possession. In order to achieve the best outcome in life, it’s essential to invest your time, effort and sometimes money into causes that are worthy to you. It can be easy to forget that God has provided every good thing, and we are only able to enjoy these things because they’ve been given freely to us, at a great cost to God himself.
What are some of the (good) things given by God that we can begin to treasure more than the Giver?
Discuss ways in which we can honour God, by sacrificing some of our time, effort or money.
Lost Sheep (Story 8 – Pakistan)
Today’s story is one example of many, of mission partners who live in a majority Muslim country (or other faiths too). The amazing testimony of Robbie and Jean Orr show that, despite the obstacles they both faced, they were still able to have meaningful conversations with people they were in contact with and show them the love of Jesus – a love that had not been shared with them before. From their story, it’s evident that only a few decided to turn away from their old faith and follow Jesus instead. However, how encouraging to know that heaven rejoices over each individual who commits their life to God. It can be easy to fall into the ‘numbers’ trap, measuring success in evangelism by the number of people saved. God has created each of us uniquely and is overjoyed by each and every personal commitment to him.
How discouraging do you think it would be at times for Christians living in these areas, where they are in the minority?
Do you think Robbie and Jean Orr were successful in sharing the gospel with others in Pakistan? Why?
A Clean Sweep (Story 9 – Peru)
‘Actions speak louder than words’ is the phrase that comes to mind after reading today’s story. Cleaning, sweeping and painting don’t seem like tasks that would attract a lot of attention, and yet, local people continued to stop and wonder. Why do you think this was the case? Serving others and showing love in action can give opportunities to share the good news of Jesus. To show love and care for our world and others around us can highlight the goodness of God to others. His love should inspire us to live a life where others come first, and menial tasks are not beneath us.
Have you ever had an experience where your actions have led to enquiries about your faith?
What are some ways we could serve others today?
Strange Story (Story 10 – Baltistan)
Have you ever used the excuse ‘it was just a little white lie’ in your life before? As tough as it can be to admit, we’re probably all guilty of lying at some point in our life. Lies can range from making up an excuse to avoid a chore, all the way to using lies as a way of getting out of trouble. While motives may be different for each scenario, they both have one thing in common – they are both sinful, and God hates lies, regardless of how big or little they are. Our story today also shows that lies can have a big impact on other people too. Rozee did not think of how her decision to ‘skip work’ could negatively affect the medical clinic, and probably did not expect any consequences – I mean, she was only going to a wedding, right? Yet our actions reveal who we believe God to be, and our view of God determines our view of other people and also our view of sin. God is intrinsically holy and loves and knows all that he has created. And so sin is not a small list of things God is likely to notice and we need to be careful about in case we anger him. Rather it is something God hates because it contradicts who He is, and inevitably has a negative impact on his creation or one of his creatures – even perhaps on the person committing the sin.
Have you ever told a lie that’s ended up hurting others? What was the impact?
Why should we take sin seriously?
How can we honour God in our lives?
Walking Humbly with God (Story 11 – Pakistan)
Liz’s visit to Yusaf is a true lesson in humility, and sacrificial hospitality to others. What Yusaf served to Liz would seem like such a meagre feast to many of us. And yet, it was everything to him, and made the difference between whether him and his family would eat for the rest of the day. Have you ever experienced sacrificial giving like this from others? By society’s standards, Yusaf would likely not be considered successful. He had a humble home, scraping by to make ends meet and didn’t have the ‘dream life’ that many people seem to chase. However, our Bible story today shows that Jesus values the sacrifice of the poor widow and Yusaf’s, way more than the contributions of others who had more. True success isn’t how much we can earn. Rather, it’s about striving to live like Jesus did and how much we are willing to give to others, even sometimes at a cost to ourselves.
Discuss different ways in which you could sacrificially give to others. Does this only concern money, or are there other ways to give sacrificially?
Think of examples of Biblical stories that are about sacrifice? How do they mirror Jesus’ sacrifice for us?
Make a Joyful Noise (Story 12 – Asia)
Think of your favourite song. Now, start humming it, and try and see if you can stop your toe from tapping. You may be dancing already as you read this. Now, imagine never being able to dance, or hum, or even sing your favourite song because it is forbidden. It seems bleak, right? That makes the outcome of today’s story even more special. When the kids from the School for the Deaf were allowed to express themselves and be joyous without any fear of reprimand, the joy was contagious and felt almost tangible! So much so, that an unbelieving carer, despite the language barrier, wanted to know the God that the children were praising. Joy is infectious. It can change the direction of another person’s day in an instant. When it comes to praising God and sharing our faith, it can be the catalyst that can bring others to a relationship with Jesus.
What is your favourite way to praise God?
Read Luke 19: 28-40 How do these verses mirror today’s story? What does Jesus promise will happen if He isn’t praised by people?