Finding Your Place in the Bigger Story
A lesson for youth on freedom and significance
Tonight (10/14/2009) I’m leading our youth group,and want to start talking about “The Bigger Story.” This is actually much more than just what could be accomplished in a single night, much less even in an hour a week, once a week, for any period of time, so tonight I just want to start cracking the door open… seeing where they are, what their expectations and hopes are to what the future holds, and how they came to that “conslusion.” Are we aiming to be what the world has planned for us, what we feel we can accomplish, or what God has specifically designed us to be? That’s not all that hard to answer on a surface level, but down deep, who am I really LIVING as if I’m going to be when I “get big?”
ICE BREAKER – What do you want to be?
- Give each person in the group two card to write on. On the first card, have them write their name, and answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Let them know the question is not meant to ask “what kind of job do you want?” or “where do you want to live,” but “what do you want to be?” It is a very subjective question, and they should open their mind to dreams they might really have in their hearts. On the second card, simply have them write their name on the top of the card.
- Collect all the cards. Set aside the cards with names/answers on them.
- Mix up and redistribute the cards with just names, so that each person gets a card with someone else’s name on it. Without talking or getting input from the person, have each teen write down what they think that person has the potential to be (what they “could be”), based on talents, personality, skills, etc. Make it known that any negative or even sarcastic cards will be thrown right out. This is to be a positive experience.
- Collect the remaining cards.
- Now, put the cards together by name. Read both answers, one given by the person about themself and the other given by someone else about the person. Have the teens guess who wrote which answer.
Follow up questions:
- What kind of expectations do we have of ourselves?
- What kindof expectations does the world have for us?
- Our friends?
- Our family?
- Our church?
- What about GOD? What kind of things do you think matter to Him about your future?
- What is it about your life right now that is preparing you to be who God may be preparing you to be 5 years, 10 years, 40 years from now? Can we know?
THE BIGGER STORY – Is there more to “who we are” than we can see?
Talk for a few minutes about common expectations of teenagers.
- What kinds of expectations are put on you by peers, parents, teachers, etc.?
- What kind of expectations do you put on yourself?
- How many of these are in fact helpful?
- In your own experience, what holds you back? Is it more of a lack of ability, focusing on the wrong thing, or is it a lack of someone “believing in you?”
REAL LIFE EXAMPLES – What holds us back?
Show the video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngzyhnkT_jY
So… who is Jason Mac? Is he a boy “dealing” with autism? Or is he something more… perhaps even, a basketball player?
Talk about real life examples of people “held back” by low expectations. Do you know anyone like this? Perhaps their parents didn’t think they were coordinated enough for a sport, or they didn’t think themselves smart enough to try that honors class, or someone hiring for a particular job didn’t hire them because they didn’t “look” right.
- What does this do to your own attitude, when someone else tells you – out loud or figuratively – “you don’t have what it takes.”
- Do you try to prove them wrong? Do you give up and lower your own expectations? Do you just go a different direction?
- Where does “dedication” come from?
I’ve had my eyes opened during the past several years to what I’m now calling “The Bigger Story.” The idea that every day, no matter what I do, carries much more significance than I’d care to give it. How I speak to someone who I honestly could care less about. My facial expressions. My words. My actions. They all matter. At the same time, though, I can’t “rely” on myself or others to prove that I have what it takes. It just won’t happen. I can’t “make myself” be who I think I need to be. I can’t prove myself, to myself. My wife can’t prove it to me. My friends can’t give it to me. My paren’t can’t, didn’t, and won’t give it to me. I just can’t “succeed” enough to prove it.
- Have you been there?
- What kinds of things do you look to for validation? For comfort?
- What does the Bible say about this? Is there a model?
Let’s look at the story of Jesus. Throughout His life on earth, he led a group of disciples and proclaimed God’s message with authority. That concept of “with authority” means that not only is he “serious,” but that he can back it up. How could one person – even if He was God – be so confident? Was Jesus just “special” because he was God and man? Or did he have something we don’t backing him up? Did he have something in his life that “proved” to him that he “has what it takes?”
- Answer the question… what experiences did Jesus have in His life to give him that confidence and assurance to speak with power and authority?
From Matthew 3:13-17: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”“
Talk about the significance of this event. Were these words from God the father for Jesus, or for the people present at the baptism? Maybe a little of both, but think about it, what would it mean for you to have God, your true Father, put his hand on your shoulder and say, “______, I’m proud of you. You are my child. You are my son, my daughter. I love you. I’m happy with you. I want you to succeed, and I’m going to help you.”
There are opportunities all around us to receive this affirmation. Many times, though, it just doesn’t happen. A big part of it, in my understaning, is to come through fathers, through men. Not because a mother or a woman can’t encourage you, can’t tell you how great you are… but there’s something about hearing it from a dad. And that’s missing in a lot of our lives, isn’t it? We have dads who are physically gone – death, divorice, whatever… we have dads who are just “distant” – be it work, their own fears and inadequacies… I know, I’m learning… being a parent, being a father, demands something of you, and if you didn’t get it yourself, you’ll have a terrible time giving it to someone else. And that’s what I believe this event did for Jesus. It was that moment in time he could look back to when he suffered, when he was opposed, and say, “No. That’s not true. I am not who you say you are. I am The Son Of God.”
What was very next story recorded after Jesus’ baptism? It was his temptation. You know, out in the desert.
Matthew 4: 1-11: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ” ‘He will command his angels concerning you,and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
- How did the affirmation from Jesus’ father in the previous verses prepare him for this time?
- Have you had an experience where God build your confidence, and then it was tested shortly after? How did you fare?
Go back to the beginning of the lesson. Is your perspective of what the future holds, of who you might even be able to be today, limited by thoughts of inadaquacy, by thoughts that you can’t succeed, that you aren’t loved, that you don’t have what it takes? We talked about this whole concept of “being fathered by God” a long time ago now, but its so core to all of this I think we have to come back to it, over and over. It’s where our true strength comes from. It’s where our identity is forged.
Think for a minute about what you wrote down originally. About who you want to be. Is that really who you want to be, or is there more. Do you feel like you’re being held in a box, by yourself, by others, by God? How do you get out? How do you break free? And what does that look like in real life? We’ll never know until we quit trying to live up to false expectations, until we stop trying to please people or even prove ourselves to God. We won’t know until we give up, lose control, and let God take not only the reigns, but also the map.
Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.