RELENTLESS: Pursuing Christ At All Costs

Session 4: Braving Persecution

 

PREP

What We Want Students to Learn: That students would see persecution not as something to complain about, but would instead see it as a compliment that they are living a godly life.

 

Main Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-19

 

Session Snapshot: There is a tendency to recoil from persecution. When we face any kind of ridicule because of our faith, we can want to shrink and withdraw. This is human nature. But it doesn’t make it the right response. In this passage, Peter writes that our response should be the exact opposite. We should rejoice when we’re persecuted. Why? Because when we experience persecution for our faith, we identify with Jesus. We experience what He experienced. Peter calls this a blessing, and urges us to glorify God as a result. This lesson will help challenge your students to embrace a bold, and joyous attitude in the face of persecution.

The Details

Who wrote this book?

1 Peter was written by Peter, one of Jesus’ most trusted disciples and one of the key leaders of the growing movement of Christ-followers. Peter was one of Jesus’ “inner three,” along with James and John. This was the group within the disciples who saw Jesus pour specific attention into their lives. Peter was present, or at the center, of several key moments in the narratives of the Gospels and of Acts. And

 

When was the book written?

The ESV Study Bible notes that Peter’s first letter should probably be dated during the reign of Nero (a.d. 54–68), in part because Peter references Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13, which is almost certainly a reference to Rome. Those who hold to this particular date believe Peter wrote the letter from Rome, sometime in 62–63 AD.

 

What was the purpose for its writing?

1 Peter was written to a people under persecution, likely under the reign of Nero. Peter calls the Church to persevere under trials because eternal life awaits them. He encourages them that God’s promises to His people will endure and should be the basis of their hope.

 

The Main Point

The main point of this passage is found in verses 12 and 13. Here Peter encourages Christ-followers not to be surprised by persecution, as if this is something that is unusual. Instead, he challenges them to see persecution as something to be celebrated, not because there is anything joyful or good about the trials themselves, but because the trials identify us with Jesus. Sharing with Christ in His sufferings is something to rejoice in.

 

The Takeaway

Your students will be challenged to begin to be bold in the face of persecution, rejoicing in the trials they face for their faith. The human reaction is to slink away from persecution. Peter calls us to a different reaction: celebration and joy.

 

Lesson Plan

The Lesson Plan contains three elements: an introductory activity called Getting Started; the Bible study section called Digging In; and an application-focused segment called Wrapping Up.

  • Student Book Pages
    • This lesson will utilize pages 29-33 in the RELENTLESS Student Book.
    • This activity will use pages 29 and 30.
      • To access the leader’s version of the Student Book, see the download section of your RELENTLESS lesson 4 web page.

 

Start

FIRST, have a student read the introduction on page 29. Explain to students that this final lesson is going to be a time where you dig in to a topic you’ve already talked about: persecution. You’re going to look at it from a few different angles and see how it really impacts your ability to live a relentless faith.

 

THEN, explain that you’re going to start with a basic discussion about persecution and what it looks like. Direct students’ attention to page 30. Read or have them begin reading the case studies there. Read all of them in succession.

 

Case Study 1

In February of 2015, 21 Coptic Christians were murdered by ISIS operatives for their faith. The murders were videotaped and broadcast around the world. In April of 2015, another large group of Christians were murdered by ISIS, and again, their deaths were videotaped and broadcast. All in all, ISIS has persecuted thousands upon thousands of Christians in the Middle East. Some have been murdered, and others kidnapped, while still others were forced to pay a tax.

 

Case Study 2

In September, 2015, Muslim extremists burned seven churches in northwestern Tanzania. The extremists have repeatedly threatened Christians in the Bukoba district and want to “reduce” the number of churches in the area, says one pastor. Two churches were completely gutted. Pastor Vedasto Athanas of Living Water International Church stated that his 70-member church lost everything, including musical instruments and all of their chairs.

Source: http://www.persecution.com/public/newsroom.aspx?story_ID=%3d373838&featuredstory_ID=%3d353230

 

 

Case Study 3

At a school in the Midwestern United States, two teenagers experienced persecution. The first student was made fun of in class for believing that God was the creator of all things. While his teacher tried to steer the subject in a different direction, several students made ridiculing comments about the young man’s faith. Later that day, a girl was told she wouldn’t be invited to a spend-the-night party that weekend. She was told she was no fun because, due to her faith, she refused to watch the R-rated movies the other girls were watching.

 

NEXT, when you’ve finished reading these, lead students in a discussion. Ask:

  • What are your responses when you read the first two? What words and/or emotions come to mind?
    • Answers will vary
  • When you read the third one immediately after the first two, does it feel like it belongs? Or does it feel out of place?
    • Answers will vary. Let students answer as they will and explain themselves.
  • Does the third case study depict persecution?
    • Answer: This will hopefully spark some interesting debate. Resist from providing a definitive answer until your students have had a chance to really respond to the question, and dialogue some on their thoughts.

 

FINALLY, wrap up the discussion and transition to the Digging In activity by saying something like:

  • Persecution is relative to your context. Christian persecution will look differently in a country like the US than it will in a country like Iran. Anytime your faith in Christ is the reason you experience some sort of prejudice or mistreatment, its persecution. We need to always be prayerfully mindful of what our brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing around the world. In many countries, Christ-followers face death and/or torture for their faith. For us it may look different. But it’s still persecution. And it doesn’t make it feel any better when we experience it. Let’s take a closer look at how we should approach the persecution we face.

 

Digging In

  • Student Book Pages
    • This activity will utilize pages 31 and 32 in the RELENTLESS Student Book.

 

  • Additional Instructions
    • You’ll want to make sure students have something to write with, and a Bible or Bible app.

 

FIRST, direct students’ attention to the top of page 31 and have them turn to 1 Peter 4:12-19. Explain that this will be your last time to dig-in to Scripture as a small group. Remind students that Peter has been the source of all of your small group Bible study, and this session is no different. When students have found 1 Peter 4, read or have a student read verses 12-19. Then, go back and work through verses 12-13 using the prompts on page 31. Ask:

  • Summarize the message of these verses in your own words.
    • Obviously, answers will vary. Make sure they grasp the idea that persecution shouldn’t come as a surprise for us. And that Peter says our reaction should be to rejoice. Make sure they grasp at least these two points.
  • There is a natural reaction when it comes to experiencing persecution. What is it?
    • Answers will vary. But get students to see that no one enjoys persecution. And they shouldn’t. It’s unpleasant at best, harmful at worst. Our natural reaction is to avoid it, minimize it, or otherwise run from it.
  • Peter encourages us to have a different reaction than our natural one. What reaction is this?
    • Answer: Maybe the most remarkable reaction of all: joy.

 

Explain to students that Peter gives an important reason for rejoicing. Say something like:

  • Peter isn’t some weirdo who enjoys tough times. He says that we should rejoice because when we’re persecuted we are identified with Jesus. We get treated the same way He got treated. And it leads to God’s glory. Pretty cool stuff, right?

 

THEN, continue to transition to the next sub-header, looking back at verses 14-16. Ask:

  • Can you list a few examples of what Peter means when he says, “insulted for the name of Christ”? What does that look like in your world?
    • Answers will vary. Help students come up with real things a 21st century Christ-follower may experience.
  • There’s a difference in having a rough day where maybe you have some folks treat you unfairly, and “suffering as a Christian.” What’s the difference?
    • Answer: Some people are just unpleasant and can make our lives miserable, not because of our faith, but just because they’re not nice people. This isn’t persecution. Furthermore, sometimes situations work together to lead us to have a bad day. Again, not persecution; just bad luck. The kind of persecution Peter is talking about is when you’re specifically targeted because of your faith.
  • Peter says that we should never be ashamed of our faith, but should “glorify God” that we’re identified as His followers. Why is this sometimes hard to do?
    • Answers will vary.

 

NEXT, focus on verses 17-18, using the questions on page 32 to help you dig-in to the passage. Ask:

  • These verses are kind of tricky to understand. Take a crack at summarizing the meaning of these verses in your own words.
    • Answer: Allow students to attempt a summary. If you need to, provide an explanation as follows. One day, Christ will return to usher in His eternal reign. Part of this return is what the Bible calls the final judgment. At this time, the Bible tells us that people will be judged based on their sin. Those who have come to a saving relationship with Christ will have His righteousness count for them; they will be saved through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Those who do not have a saving relationship with Jesus will be judged for their sins, and their guilt will earn them eternal separation from God.
  • Why do we sometimes lose site of how amazing it is that we can go from “ungodly sinners” to “righteous” in God’s eyes simply through faith in Jesus?
    • Answers will vary.
  • These verses are a warning and a reminder for those of us who have experienced a saving relationship with Christ. But they’re also a powerful reminder about those who don’t know Jesus. In what way should these verses motivate you to share the Gospel?
    • Answer: Peter reminds us of the reality of God’s final judgment. One day, everyone who has rejected God will find themselves separated from Him for eternity. We should be heartbroken for our friends and acquaintances who may not know Christ.

 

THEN, focus on verse 19. Ask:

  • If we’re honest, “suffer according to God’s will” is a tricky phrase to deal with at times. God’s plans are perfect. Yet, why do you think He might allow us to go through persecution?
    • Answers will vary. Help students see that throughout the Bible, God allows people to experience persecution in order to strengthen their faith, and their reliance on Him. Furthermore, God is glorified when we persevere through persecution.
  • What does trusting in God have to do with persevering through tough times?
    • Answers will vary.
  • “While doing good” is all about keeping focused on God’s mission. Why is it tempting to let persecution get in the way of doing God’s will?
    • Answers will vary. We can get weary of dealing with it. We can want to shrink away so that we stop getting persecuted. But God wants us to remain a part of His mission. We have to stay strong.

 

FINALLY, remind students that persecution is a part of being a Christ-follower. Say something like:

  • We’re called to be strong in the midst of persecution. It’s a vital part of living a relentless faith. Now, we shouldn’t go looking for it. We should live our lives as much as we can at peace with others. But if we’re living a relentless faith, standing up for our convictions and for the name of Christ, persecution will find us. The test of our faith is how we respond in those moments.

 

If there are no more thoughts or questions, transition into the Wrapping Up section.

 

 Home Stretch

  • Student Book Pages
    • This activity will utilize pages 33 and 34 in the RELENTLESS Student Book.

 

  • Additional Instructions
    • None

 

FIRST, instruct students to turn to page 33. Explain to them that you’re going to see what they remember about your time in Small Group. The idea is to end your final session with a review of what you’ve learned that serves as a challenge to embrace a relentless faith.

 

Walk through each question on page 33, seeing how much your students can recall. Use the answers below to guide your discussion.

 

Session 1: Praising God

  • Summarize what Session 1 was all about.
    • Answer: You looked at 1 Peter 1:3-9, and learned that praising God, even in the midst of tough times, is the only right response once we truly comprehend the salvation He has purchased for us.
  • What is one change you can make that will allow you to be more intentional in praising God in the next few weeks?
    • Answers will vary. But help them identify practical, realistic goals.

 

Session 2: Personal Evangelism

  • Do you recall what Session 2 was about?
    • Answer: You looked at Acts 2:22-41 and learned that we should passionately embrace the call to share with others the message of Jesus’ redemptive, saving work, leading them to Christ as a result.
  • You have the ability to lead people toward Christ with your actions and words. What will it take for you to embrace this call?
    • Answers will vary. But as much as possible, don’t let students off the hook here. Challenge them to make real changes in order to make a greater Gospel impact in their worlds.

 

Session 3: Bold In Prayer

  • Recall what you remember about Session 3. What was the heart of the message?
    • Answer: Through studying Acts 4:23-31, you learned that prayer is the key to staying motivated to be on mission with God, especially in the midst of persecution.
  • What are three changes you can make in your routine to become more consistent in your prayer life?
    • Answers will vary. But, again, the goal is to help them identify behaviors or actions they will actually follow through with.

 

Session 4: Braving Persecution

  • Summarize what you just learned in one or two sentences.
    • Answers will vary.
  • If you’re not facing persecution, what does it say about the kind of faith your living out?
    • Answer: This is a final challenge that will hopefully serve to convict your students. The basics idea is that, if they are truly living a Christ-like life, they will at some point experience persecution. If they’ve never been made uncomfortable for their faith, it’s fair to ask if they are truly living as Christ-followers, or are they going with the crowd.

 

FINALLY, spend the last minute or so of your group time by reading page 34 to students. Ask if they have any questions or additional comments. Inform students of the devotions located on pages 35-42 in their Relentless Student Books. Provide them with a schedule or some structure as to when you would like for them to work through them.

  • The fourth devotion is on page 41 and works in concert with this lesson.

 

 Printable PDF 

Lesson_4_Leaders_Guide