March 4 & 5, 2016
Late Night Bible Study
EQUIP to STAND: DEFEND the FAITH
Written by Steve Laughman
Notes to the Leader:
This guide is meant to help you lead the youth through the late night Bible study which is intended to be held in the host homes after the big evening session. Some churches choose to go back to their home church and do this as a large group. Others will use this material on the Wednesday night prior to or after the event or possibly even for Sunday School. Feel free to use it as you see fit. Our hope is that your group will be able to connect what they hear at the large group rally with this material which will be shared in a much smaller group. We want this to be an interactive time- just you and a bunch of kids talking about God.
I have included a suggested outline and some illustrations and activities. Use what works for you and throw out what doesn’t.
- Make sure everyone knows each other before you start. It will help with the discussion. If your group is larger, personal introductions may not be necessary, but at least take a couple of minutes to encourage them to get to know the ones sitting near them.
- Don’t start the lesson as soon as you get back to the house, but don’t wait until midnight either. Give everyone time to get comfortable and hang out a little. You do want to set a time when they should be ready to sit down and do the study.
- Establish a few ground rules. For this time to be effective, you want as few interruptions as possible. Everyone should go to the restroom first and put their cell phones away. They can catch up their texting later after the Bible study.
- Be relaxed and give the students the freedom to ask questions and express their opinions, but always bring it back to the Word.
- Don’t just read the material to the students. Much of what is written here is meant for your eyes only as background and suggestions. Incorporate what is written into your own teaching style. Feel free to look to outside sources for more information if you need it.
- Don’t let it drag on. Keep the Bible study moving so that you aren’t boring them to death. Each group is different, but 30-40 minutes is about as long as you can expect their attention to last, especially this late at night.
- Allow time between the Bible study and bed time for students that may want to talk more to come to you and talk. This could be the most productive time of the weekend. If you have students from more than one church, keep the youth leaders from each church informed of any issues that are brought to your attention.
- Have Fun!
Introduction & Background Information
Read Scripture –
- Look at Suffering as a Blessing
- Make up your Mind that Christ is Lord
- Prepare a Defense
- Take the High Road
Introduction & Background Information
Depending on the age of your students, they will be at differing points of maturity when it comes to making their own decisions. Middle Schoolers are just figuring out that they have choices in some areas and that those choices have consequences, both good and bad. High Schoolers have more responsibility and are more aware that they are the ones making their own decisions. The College Students in your group are well aware that their success depends on their own effort. Of course, this is a sliding scale depending on a number of factors.
Why does this matter? Because this study is really about owning one’s faith. Until a student (or adult) realizes that their life is a representation of what Christ Followers look like, then they will not be confronted about what they believe. In other words, if a person is not living for Christ, then chances are they won’t be asked to give a defense for their faith. For this reason, many Christian coast through and don’t ever get real about their walk with Christ. We live in fear that someone may ask us about what we believe, so we act like we don’t believe in anything.
Your challenge is two-fold. First it is to help students become confident in what they believe so that they can defend their faith when asked. Second, it is to encourage them to live their lives in such a way that people have no choice but to ask what they believe.
Peter wrote to the church, people who had already committed their lives to Jesus. He wrote to encourage them to live holy lives that demanded people take notice. Then he encouraged them to be ready with an answer when people wanted to know more about their faith. This lesson is above all a message of encouragement. Make sure that your students know that you want them to be successful witnesses for their faith. This is a chance for you to celebrate the wins and pick up those who might not quite be where they need to be.
At the end of this lesson you will find two pages of statements followed by the numbers “1, 2, 3.” The name of the game is “This is why I believe…” Make copies of these pages and cut them into strips so that there is only one statement on each strip. Fold them up and put them into a hat or bag. It is OK if you have more students than you do strips of paper. This is really just to get the kids thinking and talking.
Have volunteers stand up and take one strip out of the bag. They have exactly 42 seconds to give three reasons why they believe the statement to be true. In order to have time to finish the lesson, don’t take time to discuss the issues once each one is done or you will be stuck on this all night.
Some of the statements are about their faith and others are just silly things. The idea is to point out that we all have reasons for believing certain things. Some of those reasons are rooted in truth and others are not. Talk about how our Christian faith is built on a firm foundation and can be trusted to be true. Emphasize the importance of each of us understanding not only what we believe, but why we believe it.
Read the Scripture – 1 Peter 3:13-17
You may want to read all of 1 Peter 3 as you are studying to put these verses into context. Verse 13 asks a good question: “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?” As an introduction to this passage, ask the students that question. You may also want to ask:
- Are we in any real danger of being harmed here in America?
- What does it mean to be “zealous”?
- Are we genuinely zealous for our faith?
The discussion will probably move toward the concept that if we were more zealous for our faith, then we would probably face more harm. This is exactly what happens in some countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith. Remind the students that there are places in the world where openly sharing one’s Christian faith can result in imprisonment, torture and even death. What would it be like to live in those conditions? Would we be more or less likely to live boldly for Jesus?
1. Look at Suffering as a Blessing (vs. 14)
Notice what Peter says about suffering. He acknowledges that the people he is writing to are not in immediate danger of being persecuted. However, there is always the possibility that it will come. The Holy Spirit may have revealed to him that persecution was coming for these believers, and he wanted to make sure they had the right perspective on the matter before it happens.
He tells them that if they should suffer for the sake of righteousness (or because they are doing the right things) then they are blessed. Often we think of blessing in terms of material things or good feelings that we receive from God. We think we are blessed if everything goes our way or if God answers a prayer the way we want him to. Peter tells us that suffering is a blessing when that suffering is the result of doing the right thing.
Illustration: During the Civil Rights movement, young black Americans intentionally sat at the lunch counters in stores that only served white customers. It is hard to imagine this kind of thing today, but this was reality for our country not too many years ago. These brave people knew that it was not only within their rights as American citizens, but that it was also morally right for all people to be treated with respect and dignity. Theirs was not necessarily a religious conviction, but a moral one. They suffered for doing what was right. Many were arrested, called names, told to leave, disrespected, and even beaten. Although their sufferings were not pleasant by any stretch, they were suffering for doing what was right, so they continued to take this stand (or sit) until things changed. They saw their temporary suffering as a statement that affirmed the righteousness of their actions.
As believers today, we tend to look at any inconvenience as too difficult to overcome. If someone makes fun of us for doing what is right, we consider doing what is wrong. If taking a stand is seen as controversial, we are content to remain silent. Peter reminds us that we are to do the right thing, regardless of the results. If those results are hurtful, then consider it a blessing that your right actions were affirmed.
2. Make up your Mind that Christ is Lord (vs. 15a)
The word “sanctify” means to make holy or set apart. In other words, when Peter writes “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts”, what he means is that we are to settle it in our hearts that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Master of our lives.
When we were kids, we might have made a promise by saying “cross my heart and hope to die.” That sounds a little morbid, but what it meant was that our promise was settled in our heart and we had no intention of breaking it. When we settle the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord, what we are saying is that He is in charge of our decision making, that His priorities are my priorities, and that there is nothing that can change that.
Many students are at the age when they are just beginning to make their own decisions about life. Up to this point many of their choices were limited to what Mom and Dad allowed. Their parents’ control over the influences in their lives grows smaller as they get older, to the point that they realize that they get to decide what they will believe. This can be exciting, but also scary. Young people should ask themselves the questions:
- Have I determined that Jesus Christ is my Lord?
- Or am I the Lord of my own life?
- Who makes my decisions, Jesus or me?
Giving up control, especially when we are just getting to know what that feels like, is very hard. However, until we do give up control and allow Jesus to be Lord, we will resist any action that may lead to suffering. When the rubber meets the road, we won’t be strong enough to stand firm if we have not first determined that Jesus is Lord in our lives.
But, when we sanctify Him as Lord, we have nothing to fear. Trouble is to be expected, but it is not to be feared.
3. Prepare a Defense (vs. 15b)
Once we have determined to make Jesus Lord in all areas of life, there is still more work to be done. That is just the foundation. The Christian faith is rich in wisdom and understanding. Our beliefs fly in the face of worldly thinking. The world says “live for yourself, whatever it takes, winning is everything, etc.” The Bible says things like “die to yourself, take up your cross, put others before yourself, without love I am nothing.” Because our faith and worldview is so different, it will cause others to question us. They will accuse us of judgment and hate when we stand for God’s standards. Sometimes they will resent us and not even know why.
The Bible teaches that we have a hope living in us. His name is Jesus. He is the hope for this world and by the power of the Holy Spirit, He is present in our lives. If you know Him, people will notice. It may bother them. It may anger them. It may confuse them. And when it does, they will most likely confront you. And when they ask you about this hope that is in you, what will you say?
This verse tells us that we should have a defense prepared. We are to know not only what we believe, but why we believe it. People make the mistake sometimes of saying that we have to just accept things on faith, thinking that means that we have no real evidence for it. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith is not about things that only exist in the imaginary. Faith is about things that are just as real as you and me, but may not be seen right now. It is an assurance. It is evidence. The Bible gives us more than enough evidence for belief if we care to study it and find the evidence for the Christian faith.
If a student decided he or she wanted to learn how to fly a plane, he would study things like lift and drag, the physics of an airplane, and flying techniques. He or she would learn what all the instruments mean and how to make the plane do what he or she wanted. Lessons from a professional pilot would be required. Many practice flights and take-offs and landings would take place. All of this would be necessary before he or she would dare take that solo flight. The test would come when he or she got into that plane and had to manage it on their own. When it comes to the Christian life, we want to just into the cockpit and take off without ever studying what it takes to be a pilot. We want to do it on our own without the help of those who have been doing it for years. We must take seriously this process called the Christian life, because lives are at stake.
4. Take the High Road (vs. 16-17)
Verse 15 closes with these words “yet with gentleness and reverence.” As believers, we will be confronted. But we are not to be intentionally confrontational or hateful. Many people have turned their back on God and His church because Christians acted very ungodly. Let us be the ones who lovingly share our faith and make that defense with a gentle spirit and an attitude of respect for those who do not yet believe.
Verses 16 and 17 are about being consistent in our walk. If we make a defense for our faith, then we must be careful to practice what we preach. The last thing we want to do is stand for God and then give someone a reason to accuse us of not living right. The key is to keep a short account with God. When we fail (and we will) we are to go to God in humble repentance and ask Him to make things right again. That way, when people accuse us, we are able to remain blameless.
I remember being in grade school and being called a “goody two shoes.” I’m not really sure where this insult originated, but it never really made sense to me. It is like making fun of someone for getting good grades. It makes no sense, but it still happens.
Peter says that it puts the accuser to shame when they accuse us and their accusations prove to be wrong. The best defense of the Christian life is living a holy, righteous life. If you want people to truly believe what you believe, then show them that you really believe it by the way you live.
There is so much more to defending the faith than what we have talked about here. History is full of stories of martyrs for the faith who stood firm in the face of suffering. Christians have been tortured and killed in ways too gruesome to imagine. Early church father Tertullian famously said “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” This means that when Christians stand for their faith, even to the point of death, the church thrives. He was speaking from a historical perspective, because he had witnessed that this actually happened.
We have not observed that kind of move of God among the American church in our lifetimes. Maybe this generation will be the ones who stand for what is right so strongly that the world takes notice and the persecution comes. When that happens, the church will thrive.
Leader, be sure to have a time of decision after the lesson is completed. You have given them a lot to think about and work through. It may take a while for them to process how this works out in their own life. On the other hand, some of them may see an immediate area where they need to surrender. Be sure to share enough of the gospel so that if you have any students who are not saved, they will have heard the good news. Make sure all the students know that you are available if they need to talk and that you want to know if there are any decisions made. Also challenge them to make those decisions public at both EQUIP large group and in their own church. Close in prayer.
Thank you for taking the time to disciple young people. Our hope and expectation is to have students saved at EQUIP and we know that most of the decision will probably happen in the homes. I will be praying that God blesses us with the opportunity to see young people saved and others challenged to live a life of greater faith for Him.
This is why I believe…The Bible is God’s Word to man.
This is why I believe…I must forgive those who hurt me.
This is why I believe…Jesus’ resurrection was real.
This is why I believe…Sex should be saved for marriage.
This is why I believe…I will go to heaven when I die.
This is why I believe… Jesus is the only way to God.
This is why I believe…Superman is better than Batman.
This is why I believe…peanut butter is the greatest invention ever.
This is why I believe…carnival games are a waste of money.
This is why I believe…bowling is easier than tennis.
This is why I believe…people with red hair are attractive.
This is why I believe…my gender is smarter than the opposite sex.