As the parent of a student, you know the disconnect that often occurs between what teenagers say they believe and the way they live throughout their lives. Adolescents, like all Christ-followers, fight the constant temptation of falling into the trap of saying one thing while doing another. The Book of James clearly addresses this issue.
James puts forth a simple idea: our actions should match our beliefs. This is what it means to live a vivid faith through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In light of this, we are really excited to be launching a new series this week in ignition. We’ll be digging into the book of James rooted in a study from youthministry360 entitled Vivid: A 6-lesson Study on the Book of James. This study will challenge students to evaluate their faith and their actions, to identify where the two don’t match up, and to make the necessary changes to live a life of a vivid faith. During the next six weeks your child will learn about:
- the struggle with sin that lives in every Christ-follower
- the danger of showing favoritism to those who are easy to like
- the importance of spiritual fruit in our lives
- the power of words
- the futility of trying to love the world and God
- the importance of submitting to God’s leadership
You’ll be receiving follow-up reminders from me as we teach these topics. We want to equip you with overviews of what we talked about as well as some follow-up suggestions you and your student might use to continue this important conversation.
We want to be known as a student ministry who leads students to live a vivid faith, standing as a powerful witness to a watching world.
Our students have immeasurable influence and present-day potential. Let’s unleash them as brilliant lights into this dark and hurting world!
Do you have a tendency to blame God when things don’t turn out the way you want?
Do you trust that He will be with you and help you get through this time? Why or why not?
Do you wish He would just change the situation, when sometimes nothing seems to change?
Take a moment, open your bible, connect with God.
Read Psalm 23.
And re-read it.
Today take some time to sit with God and be honest about whether or not you really believe having faith in Him will get you through those hard times.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand . . . Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” Psalm 40:1-2, 11-12
Have you ever felt like the guy (King David, FYI) who wrote the psalm above?
Sometimes our troubles are so many we can’t even count them. We can’t even see because it seems like everything is going horrible wrong. Our courage to face a new day is spent. It’s during these times we beg God to be with us. All we can do is ask Him to show us His love and steady our feet on the road as we go forward. In short, sometimes all we have is to cling to Him that He will be with us no matter what.
Do you believe (like King David) that God will be at your side to get you through the tough times? Why or why not?
Read the rest of Psalm 40.
What are you doing to hold onto God during your bad times?
Just for fun... U2 (one of my FAV bands of all time) has put this Psalm to music. Check out one of their original performances at the amazing Red Rocks venue:
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Hebrews 5:7
Have you ever cried yourself to sleep? If not have you ever been so angry you wanted to punch something, or screamed into a pillow in your room? Think for a moment, “When things are going wrong, what do you do?” Do you scream, hit someone, or take it out on a friend or sibling? You know, Jesus Himself expressed a lot of emotion when HE experienced a tough time.
Stop and think for a moment about all that was going on with Jesus at this moment. He was about to be arrested, beat up, spit at, bullied, teased, whipped, and nailed to a cross. After all of that He was going to die a painful death being treated like a criminal when He had done nothing wrong. If you knew all of this was about to happen, how would you feel?No, stop for a moment, close your eyes and think about how you would feel.
It’s fair that Jesus really didn’t want it to happen and that He needed to talk to God about it.
Can you relate when things are going bad for you? Do you want God to “fix” it? At the very least to you want things to change? Are you honest with God during those times about how you are feeling? Why or why not?
Something to think about . . .
- Do you tell God on a regular basis how you are feeling about life? Why or why not? Have you ever thought about how He wants to hear from us, and all that we are thinking and feeling?
- Jesus showed us that it’s alright to tell God anything we are thinking or feeling. God also showed us that He helped Jesus deal through His feelings. Do you believe God can help you through the tough times better when you are honest with Him? Why or why not?
Your challenge today is to simply meditate on this thought:
What evidence do you see in your life that you are remaining in Jesus?
After all, Jesus said if we remain in Him, we bear much fruit. The idea of bearing fruit is a way of saying, “our lives will show a lot of evidence that we’re staying totally dialed in to God.”
So, look at your life. What evidence is there that Jesus is working in and through you? Think about two or three specific ways. Now, here’s the hard question: if there is not a lot of fruit in your life, don’t you have to ask if you’re truly remaining close to Christ?
Spend some time in prayer today talking with God about this concept. Listen to Him as He points out any aspects of your life where you are distant from Him.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2
If a plant could talk, what do you think it would say about being pruned? (You know what pruning is, right? It’s trimming branches and leaves so that a shrub or plant can either take a desired shape, or so that it might grow more effectively.) So, what do you think?
What would a plant say about being pruned?
If we had to guess, you can bet the plants didn’t like it all that much.
Getting part of you cut off is probably a bummer. But here’s the deal: Chances are, the plants would recognize that pruning is good for them. It allows them to grow healthier. It prevents disease. It encourages new growth. And so while pruning means that some of the plant is cut off, new, healthy growth takes its place.
Can you see the parallel in your life?
Jesus says that God prunes you, just like a gardener prunes a shrub. God knows the things in your life that keep you from following Him wholeheartedly. And so God, being a loving gardener, removes those aspects of your life to help you follow Him more.
Pruning isn’t fun. But we have to know that God prunes us because He loves us. Whatever it is He cuts away, we can trust that it was keeping us from being fully devoted to Him.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
When your phone’s battery dies, what is your phone good for? Really, not a whole lot. You can take the most technologically advanced smartphone on the market and without a battery, it’s about as useful as a brick. We’re kind of the same way.
Disconnected from God, our potential to make a true impact in this world is pretty much zero.
What Jesus said in John 15:5 should make us think about a power source. With Jesus as our power source we have all we need to be used by Him to do awesome things in this world. But if we don’t stay plugged-in to Him, we’ll find that we’ll have no ability to impact the world for Christ. It’s not enough to just say we know Jesus. We have to remain in Him to be used by Him.
So what does it mean to “remain” in Jesus?
Easy. We’re to continue to seek Him out. To be close to Him through prayer and through meeting Him in the Bible. We’re to think about Jesus and His ways. Remaining in Jesus means keeping Him as the top priority of our thoughts and affections.
Remaining in Jesus? It’s a crucial part of your identity as a Christ-follower.