Key Scriptures: 1 Samuel 10, 13, 14:24-46, 15, 16:14-21, 18:1-16, 19, 20, 21-26, Proverbs 28:13, Romans 3;23, 2 Peter 2:22, Proverbs 26:11, Proverbs 11:14, James 1:5, 1 Peter 5:8, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Psalm 145:13-16, Proverbs 3:5-8, 2 Kings 20:12-18, 2 Kings 13:14-19
Guiding Question: How does God want us to react when we fail or are rejected?
Optional Introductory Activity: Bring in enough origami or decorative paper for each student to have two sheets. Give each student two sheets of the paper as you begin teaching. Explain to them that you want to teach them how to do a complex origami figure. (This website has lots of ideas. Choose one that will be complicated for the students you are teaching.) Emphasize that it is important they follow instructions perfectly. Depending up on their personalities (you don’t want to overly stress students who may suffer from anxiety or low self esteem.). You may want to spend a good minute emphasizing how important it is that all of the figures are perfect.
Give the instructions verbally and do not repeat any instruction. If students are following instructions well, make it more difficult by giving steps more quickly, etc. The goal is to have as many students as possible “fail” making the origami figure. Point out that no one created the origami figure perfectly. If they respond with excuses, tell them it doesn’t matter what excuses they may think they have, they failed at the assignment. Let them sit quietly for a few seconds. Ask them how they feel about having failed the assignment – even after you had explained how important perfection was.
Have students suggest ideas for how they can recover from this failure. You may want to jot down their ideas to refer back to later. Be prepared to give printed instructions to any student that becomes determined to re-do the activity (after class).
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) How does it feel when you have failed at something or you are rejected by someone? Why do you think rejection and failure can make us feel that way? There are quite a few people in the Bible who had a lot of potential, but failed miserably to do the things God wanted them to do with that potential. Perhaps one of the best known is King Saul.
When we first meet Saul, he’s evidently a tall, good looking young man. Read 1 Samuel 10. What are some of the things God did to reassure Saul that He would be with him as he became the first king?. Isn’t it interesting that even though God gave Saul several signs and gave him the gift of the Holy Spirit (Since Christianity hadn’t started yet, God only gave the Holy Spirit to some people for specific reasons during this time. Now every Christian receives the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism.) In spite of the reassurances of Samuel and these signs and gift from God, Saul still is found hiding amongst the supplies as the people are waiting to make him their first king. At this point in time, what kind of potential should Saul have had as the future King of Israel? Why?
Even though Saul had the potential with the help of God to be a great king, he begins making bad choices and failing very quickly. Read 1 Samuel 13. How did Saul fail in this story? What were the consequences for his failure to obey the instructions Samuel had given him? Sometimes, there are earthly consequences when we fail, whether the failure was a innocent mistake or a sin. What are some mistakes or sins that have earthly consequences? (Encourage them to think of mistakes like spilling milk, as well as sins. You only need a couple of examples of each. If students seem confused about the difference between a mistakes and sins, this will be addressed in depth later in the lesson. At this point, merely correct the category of their example.)
Saul doesn’t stop making mistakes after this incident, even though the earthly consequence was significant. Read 1 Samuel 14:24-46. What mistake does Saul make in this story? What mistake would he have made had the men with him not stopped him? Why do you think Saul was willing to make these poor choices? Sometimes our failures are the result of our own impetuousness. We promise things without considering whether or not we can or should actually do them. Had we taken a moment to think before speaking or acting, we might realize it would be best not to say or do those things and save ourselves from the failure that would have resulted. Can you think of an example you have seen when your or someone else’s impetuousness caused them to experience failure? (Be prepared to give a couple of examples if students can’t think of any.)
You would think after losing the rights for his descendants to rule Israel and almost killing his own son, you would think Saul would be a little more careful. Read 1 Samuel 15. What mistakes did Saul make and what were the consequences for his failure? Why do you think Saul lied to Samuel about what he had done? Sometimes we try to convince ourselves and others that we didn’t fail. We may even lie in hopes that others won’t notice our failures. Why do we sometimes attempt to deceive ourselves and others when we fail? Why is that a poor strategy for dealing with failure?
At this point, God no longer wanted Saul to lead God’s people on earth – the Israelites. Read 1 Samuel 16:14-21. Notice that as soon as David was anointed the future king, the Holy Spirit left Saul and entered David. Not only that, God sent a harmful spirit to torment Saul. While we don’t know exactly what that was or how Saul was tormented, we know that it was stressful enough that Saul couldn’t sleep unless David played the lyre for him. Why do you think God sometimes allows us to receive major earthly consequences when we sin? It may seem like Saul didn’t really sin when he made all of those poor choices. It is important to remember though that any time we disobey God, we sin.
We have general instructions in the Bible now, but then God gave his instructions to Saul through Samuel. Those personal instructions were to obeyed, and when they weren’t, Saul was guilty of sinning. Mistakes are things like spilling your milk or tripping and breaking something. Sins are disobeying God’s commands – and by extension disobeying our parents and other authorities as long as their rules for us do not violate God’s rules. our disobedience is a form of rebellion and separates us from God – unless God forgives us of those sins.
in 1 Samuel 18-26, we see Saul lose all perspective on obeying God. Who knows what God would have done had Saul changed, but instead of trying to be more godly, Saul begins to try and kill David – even to the point of chasing after him for several years. Read Proverbs 28:13. This verse was written after Saul had died, but what advice does this verse give that Saul should have used during his life? What can happen if we admit our mistakes and sins?
Saul got into a destructive cycle of sinful behavior and mistakes. Read Proverbs 11:14, 26:11, 2 Peter 2:22, James 1:5, Psalm 145:13-16 and Proverbs 3:5-8. What are some strategies to help us avoid sinning or making preventable mistakes that we find in these verses? Which ones have you tried? Why are these strategies helpful?
It is important to remember that even if we try really hard, every person that lives (except for Jesus) sins. (Romans 3:23) In fact, the Bible warns us that Satan actively tries to tempt us to sin. Read 1 Peter 5:8. How does Peter describe Satan? Why does he warn us to be watchful? How can we be watchful so we are not easily tricked by Satan?
In the Bible, we can find stories about people who sinned and about who people who made seemingly innocent mistakes. While all of them had earthly consequences, as far as we know, only one had eternal consequences. Read the scriptures about these four people. What was their mistake or sin? Which was it, a mistake or a sin? What were the earthly consequences for their choice? What if anything did the person do to try and recover from their mistake or sin?
- Hezekiah 2 Kings 20:12-18. Hezekiah made a mistake by showing his enemies the riches of his kingdom. That motivated them to eventually come and fight the Israel in an attempt to recover the riches. Note that Hezekiah seemed relatively unconcerned about the earthly consequences since they would not occur in his lifetime. It appears to be a selfish response – especially since his descendants and the people of his kingdom would suffer greatly for his costly mistake.
- Jehoash 2 Kings 13:14-19. This seems like a rather odd little story. How could Jehoash possibly have known how many times to strike the arrows in order for his enemy to be completely defeated? Although the story doesn’t tell us, what strategy could Jehoash have sued that may have prevented him from making this costly mistake? We don’t know for sure, but what if he had asked how many times God wanted him to strike with the arrows or how many times he should strike them? Perhaps, he would have gotten the advice he needed to avoid his mistake.
- Peter Matthew 26:69-75 and John 21:15-17. Peter sinned by denying Christ, if for no other reason than he lied. Denying Jesus is something Peter should never have done…after all he should have realized by now that Jesus was God’s Son. How does Peter react, when he realizes what he has just done? How does the conversation he has with Jesus later reconcile him to Jesus?
- Judas Matthew 26:14-16, 47-56 and 27:1-10. Judas did the unthinkable by agreeing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. It was obviously sinful because it led to the death of Jesus. How did Judas attempt to recover from his failure at first? When that didn’t go as he had hoped, what did he do? Sometimes people fail so miserably that they believe dying is the only way to solve the problems they have created. Judas forgot something important that Peter discovered. If Judas had stayed alive and repented of his sins, Jesus would have forgiven him. By killing himself, Judas deprived himself of the opportunity to recover from his failure.
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Give students paper and pens and have a large sheet of paper the entire class can see. Ask students to define the difference between mistakes and sins. Write “Sin” on one half of the paper and “Mistake” on the other. (Students should make their own mini chart on the paper you provided.0 Have students write examples of each category. You may need to help them decide whether something is a mistake or a sin – especially if their Bible knowledge is minimal. (You may want to consider providing applicable Bible verses – especially if they believe a sin is merely a mistake.)
Ask students to provide possible strategies for avoiding making mistakes or sinning in the first place. Be prepared to provide ideas or guidance if they struggle or have strategies that aren’t helpful. If someone gives a poor strategy, it is important to avoid embarrassing the student, while still teaching the class why that particular strategy is unhelpful or even harmful. You may also need to add parameters around some of their suggestions. If, for example, they suggest getting advice, discussing who might give the most helpful and godly advice is crucial. Don’t assume they automatically know to whom they should go for the best advice (in general).
Under each category, have students provide potential strategies for recovering from failures or rejection. These may vary, but for both they should include recognizing and admitting the failure, repenting…which includes apologizing to God (for sins) and any people impacted (both). Under sins, it is important to add that repentance also includes making an effort to turn from that sin and not commit it again. For mistakes, some were unpreventable, but they may want to analyze it to see if they can do something to keep it from happening again…like keeping the milk towards the center of the table so its more difficult to accidentally knock over. In both cases, students should attempt to make right anything their sin or mistake damaged or destroyed. This isn’t always possible, but point out how Zacchaeus attempted to make restitution for over collecting taxes (most likely stealing the money for himself).
Depending upon the students in our class, it may be necessary to explain the role of baptism in the forgiveness of sins and how Christians receive forgiveness when they sin after baptism. Students may also want to add more secular strategies like crying, exercise or talking to someone. Feel free to add these to the list as suggestions, while starring the biblical requirements as mandatory when attempting to recover from the failure of sinning.
Depending upon the students in your class, you may want to add a list of strategies that should never be used in an attempt to recover from failures. These might include things like lying, substance abuse, self harm, etc. A rare student may suggest therapy or medication as a good or bad strategy. Merely remind students that whenever they get advice or help it is important to double check it by scripture to make sure the advice is godly before following it and to only use medication provided by a doctor and agreed upon with their parents or guardians. (Some secular therapists have been known to give ungodly or sinful advice.)
Application Challenge: Read through the scriptures from the lesson. Think about the last time you failed at something. Was it a mistake or a sin? What did you do to attempt to recover from it? Did those strategies seem to work well? What will you do the next time you sin or make a mistake? If you make a mistake or sin this week, look at the lists from class and use helpful strategies in an attempt to recover from your failure.