“I am going there to prepare a place for you. If I go and do that, I will come back. And I will take you to be with me. Then you will also be where I am” (John 14:2, 3).*
On a map or globe, help the older children find Sudan and Uganda. People in these countries have been living with the threat of war. They badly need something to give them hope. What could give you hope when (1) you’ve been sick for days? (2) you’ve been asked to clean up a very messy room? (3) you’ve been big-time bad and you’re about to be punished?
Samuel woke up to the sounds of distant gunfire. He propped himself up on one elbow and squinted to see what was happening in his village. Just as Samuel was about to yell out, his brother, Daniel, jammed his hand over Samuel’s mouth.
“Shhhh!” Daniel warned. Then he motioned for Samuel to stay down and follow him.
As they crawled along the damp ground Samuel’s mind drifted to the events that had happened earlier that day. Men from a neighboring village in the south of Sudan had fled to his village with the news that rebel soldiers had attacked them, killing many.
“Escape quickly before the same thing happens here,” they warned.
Samuel’s dad was leaving with the other men. They would distract the soldiers away from the village so their families could escape safely. “Don’t make a sound; stay together; and stay in the long grass,” he instructed the family. “Head for the refugee camp over the border in Uganda.”
As Samuel followed his mother and brother through the tall grass he was so afraid he wanted to cry. But he didn’t dare. He was 9 years old and not a crybaby. Besides, his dad needed him and Daniel to be strong for their mom and sister.
To keep up his courage, Samuel tried to remember his father’s last words: “I will come and find you soon. And we’ll build a new home, where we can live in peace.” Samuel knew that to stay safe he must trust his dad and follow his instructions. But it was the thought of a new home with his father that kept back his tears and gave him hope.
Jesus and the disciples had become very close friends. The twelve believed Jesus was the promised Messiah who would rule Israel and bring peace to the whole world. But now, at their Passover feast, which should have been a celebration, the disciples were sad and afraid. Instead of making plans to set up His kingdom, Jesus talked about being caught by the authorities and being put to death. This was awful.
But Jesus was leaving them with a very important promise. It’s a promise for us too! He said, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. If I go and do that, I will come back. And I will take you to be with me. Then you will also be where I am.”
When we come to know and love Jesus, we can’t help looking forward to His return. Sometimes we may get impatient and wonder, Why is He taking so long? But you can be sure that Jesus will come back for us. The promise of Jesus’ return for us is what we call “the blessed hope.”
We, like Jesus’ disciples and Samuel in our story, are homeless. This world is not our home. Home is with Jesus. He is coming back to take us and our families to His home in heaven. Though troubles come our way, we find joy in looking forward to heaven. Jesus gives us hope.
1. Read John 14:1-3. What two things does Jesus tell us to do so we can face our problems and find hope?
2. What promises does Jesus make in verse 3?
3. What do we call Jesus’ promise that He will come back and take us to heaven?
Tape paper to a long wall; ask the children to show in words and drawings what they imagine it will be like to see Jesus coming back for His people to take them home with Him.
When Your Boat Is About to Sink
“May the God who gives hope fill you with great joy. May you have perfect peace as you trust in him. May the power of the Holy Spirit fill you with hope” (Rom. 15:13).
Read the memory verse together and sing Scripture praise songs. Ask two volunteers to pray.
Kelly and Justin huddled in their playroom as the rain pelted the sides and roof of their house.
“I don’t like this rain,” Justin said. “It’s been raining for days!”
“Well,” Kelly replied, “perhaps someone needs the rain more than we need to be dry right now.”
“But I still don’t like this rain,” Justin said. “There’s just been too much of it, and for too long.”
Flashes of lightning lit up the dark sky. A huge clap of thunder made Scooter, their cat, jump in fright. Kelly’s and Justin’s scared shrieks brought their mother running in.
“Why are you scared?” she asked. “You’re safe inside the house. Besides, your daddy and I are here to protect you.” Kelly and Justin tried to explain about the tiresome rain.
“Oh, don’t let the rain ruin your whole day,” Mom said. “Hey, remember that time it rained on our camping trip and we just snuggled together in the tent and told stories, ate popcorn, and played Uno? Why don’t you make a tent in your playroom and I’ll make some popcorn. You figure out what games to play.” Later as the family relaxed together Dad turned their thoughts back to Jesus and His closest friends.
Often the disciples saw Jesus do miracles, and when He told them about our heavenly Father’s love and care, their hearts glowed with joy. Yet, much like what happened with Kelly and Justin, one day a storm really got to the disciples.
They were on the Sea of Galilee after a long day of watching Jesus heal the sick. Feeling tired after helping people all day, Jesus just wanted to be someplace quiet with the disciples. He asked them to take Him in their boat across the Sea of Galilee. He was soon asleep.
But suddenly a storm blew up and frightened these grown men. The boat was filling with water and about to sink. Jesus would have slept soundly through the whole thing but for their fearful shouts: “Lord! Save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matt. 8:25).
Jesus wasn’t panicked: “Your faith is so small! Why are you so afraid?” He asked. Then He got up and ordered the winds and the waves to be still. The surface of the lake became completely calm (verse 26). They had been safe all along because Jesus was there.
Today, if we know Jesus, if we invite Him to live in us, we too are safe in Him. Having Jesus with us brings joy and peace no matter what our storm may be.
There’s a wise saying that can help us in stormy situations: “Don’t tell God how big your storm is; tell the storm how big your God is.” Retelling stories of God’s power and care for us gives us courage. Ask the children to share a story about a time when they were afraid and God took away their fear. Get things started by telling a story from your own experience.
Say Romans 15:13 together. How does this verse answer the following questions?
1. Why can we be happy and at peace even when our storm is frightening?
2. Why should the disciples have not been afraid in their storm?
3. What will you remember when you feel scared or sad?
Have the children create bookmarks with words from the memory gem written on them. Tell them to keep the bookmark as a reminder of the joy and peace they have in Christ.
Trusting in God’s Promises
“The Scriptures give us strength to go on. They cheer us up and give us hope” (Rom. 15:4).
Ask students to name people they know they can trust. Make a list of no more than five people. For instance: teachers, parents, police, etc. Read the list one name at a time so the children can vote on the one they trust most.
It was Sabbath night at the Bartlett’s house. Mom had invited the whole Pathfinder Club over. After supper all the kids had to go into the next room with Mr. O’Connor.
“Listen up!” he told everyone. “When you hear a knock on the door, one person gets to go back and take an airplane ride.”
After a short wait the children heard the knock but nobody wanted to be first to go. Finally, Sylvia Bartlett agreed to go.
“This board on the floor will be your airplane,” Mom explained. “Stand on it and get ready.” As Sylvia stepped onto the board her mother tied a blindfold over her eyes. Suddenly Sylvia felt wobbly.
“Don’t worry,” her dad said. “Put your hand on my head. Are you ready?” Feeling her father close, Sylvia gave the OK. Slowly she felt herself rising off the ground. The board was a bit shaky beneath her feet and she was losing contact with her dad. This must be high, she thought.
“Watch out for the ceiling,” her mother called. Sylvia’s head touched something hard just as her mother yelled, “Jump! Sylvia, jump! I’ve got you covered!”
Sylvia froze. The ceiling is a long way to jump from. “Trust me,” her dad yelled. “It’s OK to jump.” After a long pause Sylvia jumped and instantly she was standing on the floor. She had never been higher than one foot above the ground. Her parents had made it seem like she was higher by making the board wobble, by her father bending his head down, and by having Mrs. O’Connor hold a book just above Sylvia’s head.
The other children found it even harder to jump than Sylvia did. And Mr. O’Connor found it hardest of all. “Are you crazy?” he yelled. “I could break my neck!”
Thinking later about the “airplane” ride, everyone agreed: Trusting is hard to do. But Sylvia thought it hadn’t been so hard for her because she knew her parents could be trusted.
Can you imagine being Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego (Dan. 3)? They were hostages in a foreign country, slaves to the king of that country and bound by his laws. But when that king decided to build a golden image to himself and have all his subjects bow down to worship it, these three Hebrew young men knew that they couldn’t do it. They also knew that not doing it would get them in deep trouble if they were reported. They chose to trust God anyway.
So they told the king, “Our God will save us. And if He doesn’t, we still can’t bow down to your statue.”
As the fiery furnace was being stoked for them, all they could do was trust in God’s promises to save them. That’s all they had to go on. And sure enough, God did save them!
The Old Testament is full of promises that these three friends would have known and trusted. Let’s do a sword drill and find some of them. [The children pair up, readers with nonreaders. At your call, “Draw your swords!” the students raise their Bibles and wait for you to call a Scripture reference from the list below. The first child to find the verse stands up and reads it out loud. Repeat until all texts are read.]
1 Samuel 14:6 (last part); Psalm 71:5; Psalm 118:6, 7; Proverbs 3:26; Jeremiah 17:7
1. Read Romans 15:4. Do you agree with this text after reading the texts in our sword drill?
2. Which of the sword drill texts gives you hope?
William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, started this Christian movement to take hope to the neediest people in London. He started his mission with no money, and no expectations of earning money. The people he worked for were the poorest of the poor. God blessed his mission, which today is known everywhere.
On his deathbed William Booth left a message that gives us all hope: “The promises . . . of God . . . are sure . . . are sure . . . if you will only believe.” Yes, we can truly trust God’s promises.
Guided by the Holy Spirit
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Then you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
The Bible tells us that once we are saved, God gives us the power to share His love with others. Let’s make a list of all the ways we can let others know about Jesus’ love and His soon return.
Four-year-old Mariana entered the radio studio with her parents after lunch. As they entered, her mom bent down to get the mail that had been dropped through the mail slot onto the floor. As her mom sorted through the mail she said, “Look, Mariana, all the mail today is addressed to you!”
“Really? Who is writing to me?” asked Mariana.
When Mariana was just 3 years old she became the youngest radio speaker for Adventist World Radio. Mariana and her parents broadcast the gospel to the people in Venezuela, in the Spanish language.
“Tell me what the letters say, Mommy,” Mariana pleaded.
“This one is from a child day-care center here in Puerto Ordaz,” said Mother. “They say that they tune in every day to The Children’s Hour. The teacher writes, ‘We love listening to you as you talk about Jesus’ love. The children look forward to it every day.’”
“See, Mariana,” said Dad. “The Holy Spirit can use us whatever our age.”
Did you know that you don’t have to be an adult to share God’s love with others? Remember the story of Samuel (1 Sam. 3)? He was a great prophet of the Lord. Samuel didn’t wait until he grew up to serve the Lord. He worked in the Temple as a boy. And, he was sleeping inside the Temple one night when God called him!
Have you ever heard the story of Naaman? He was a great soldier in an army that fought against Israel. But he got leprosy, which is a horrible disease that means you have to live alone, away from everyone. Once when his army fought Israel, they brought back a young girl who became a servant for his wife. We don’t even know the girl’s name. But when she learned how sick Naaman was, she told his wife that if he would go to see the prophet Elisha, he would be able to pray to God for healing. Naaman traveled back to Israel to see Elisha. Because he listened to the servant girl and obeyed the prophet’s instructions, God made him well!
Helping others to know about God’s love doesn’t just mean you have to be able to speak about it on the radio. A little girl named Donna took her Bible picture book to the nursing home where her daddy worked. After school she went from chair to chair in the sun room, telling Bible stories to the old folk and sharing God’s love with them. God spoke to hearts through Donna.
1. Can you name three people who have helped you know more about God? How did they do it?
2. Can you think of someone you know who needs to know about God? How can you help them?
3. Read Acts 1:8. What does witnessing mean? And whose help should we pray for before we talk to others about God?
Think of someone in your church who is sick or who lives alone. Have the children make cards to cheer that person. Then see if you can deliver the cards together or put them in the mail.
Set Apart for God
“And what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:11b).
Point out Vietnam on a map or globe. Let the children know that all around the world, God has children who want to please Him and who want to be ready when Jesus comes.
Nho was a 12-year-old boy living in Ho Chi Minh City. He and his parents were Christians. Even though Vietnam is not a Christian country, Nho grew up learning about Jesus’ love. Soon he accepted Jesus as his Savior. He was eager to study everything he could about God’s Word, and he wanted to please God.
One day while Nho was playing with the family’s shortwave radio, he came across a station he had never heard before. The station examined Bible texts closely and explained truths the Bible taught.
Nho was intrigued and began listening regularly. He thought he was a pretty good student of God’s Word. He enjoyed doing his Sunday lessons and looking up Bible verses and memorizing them. One day the Bible radio program talked of something he had never heard before.
After the program was over, Nho went directly to the kitchen where his mom was working. “Mom,” he said, “have you ever heard that God wants people to keep the seventh day as the Sabbath, and not Sunday, the first day of the week?”
“No, never,” said Mother. “But why do you worry about a day? We are saved by what Jesus did for us, not stuff we do. If the day we worship on is important to Jesus, then, of course, we should pay attention. We love Him and want to please Him. But remember, son, we do not save ourselves by our religious works. Jesus does the saving. That’s what makes being a Christian different than being a Buddhist or Hindu, or any of the other religions.”
“Yes, but aren’t we supposed to grow in our salvation? And as we learn more about God’s will, shouldn’t we follow it?” Nho asked. “And how come we have never heard of this in our church?”
“I don’t know, Nho,” said Mother. “Why don’t we look up the Scripture verses that the Bible teacher on the radio gave to support his teaching about the Sabbath? We can pray and ask God to show us what to do.”
When Jesus was on earth, He loved little children. Lots of the important religious leaders back then didn’t make time for little children. So when mothers brought their children to see Jesus, the disciples would try to send them away. But one time Jesus noticed this and told the disciples, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. God’s kingdom belongs to people like them. What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who will not receive God’s kingdom like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14, 15).
Then a young rich man, seeing this, fell at Jesus’ feet and asked how he could have eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. But the young man said he had been doing that since he was a little boy. Jesus knew it was true and felt tenderness for him. But Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have. Give the money to those who are poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21).
Nho wasn’t an Adventist when he first started listening to Adventist World Radio; he didn’t keep the Sabbath yet. But he was living a holy life—he had accepted Jesus to be first in his life. He was God’s child trying to live God’s way. And God sets apart people like that as His people—that’s what it means to be holy.
1. What is it about little children that would make Jesus say that the kingdom of God belongs to people who are like them? [They love Him and trust Him.]
2. Jesus said only God is good. So how can you and I be “good”? [When we are set apart for God, we are covered by His goodness.]
3. Is obeying God’s commandments enough? Why not? What else is important to God?
Make a large drawing of a tree, but omit leaves and blossoms. Have those cut out separately and distribute them to the children along with markers. Ask them to list one characteristic of holiness on each leaf or blossom. Then have them go up to the tree and add their leaves/blossoms to the branches. When all the leaves/blossoms are added to the tree, explain that the tree represents Jesus, who is the one who makes us holy. Without the tree there are no branches or blossoming leaves. Jesus is like the tree, nurturing as we cling to Him.
Surrendered to Jesus
“Lead a life of love, just as Christ did. He loved us. He gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2).
Ask the children if they have any trinkets or money or even their shoes and socks that they would surrender to you right now. Let them know that this isn’t a temporary surrender; it is for keeps. Any takers? Giving something up can be easy—if it doesn’t mean all that much to you! But surrendering a favorite item is much tougher.
Mia was a young girl who had very long, beautiful hair. All the other girls at school admired her hair. Several said they wished they could have hair like hers.
One day, though, Mia had to make a decision. Would she hold on to her hair, or would she donate it to help another little girl?
Amber, a friend of Mia’s, had become very sick and had missed a lot of school. Mia asked her teacher, Miss Lee, about Amber.
“I talked to Amber’s mom yesterday,” Miss Lee explained, “and she told me that she’s going to homeschool Amber. She’s too sick to return to school right now.”
“What’s wrong?” the students wanted to know.
It turned out that Amber had lymphoma, a type of cancer. The doctors were hopeful that Amber would fully recover. But her medicine was making her feel too weak to come back to school. Besides, Amber was sensitive because the medicine was making her hair fall out.
“If she’s worried about that, she can wear a wig, can’t she?” one of the boys asked. This led to a discussion about the difficulty of finding a wig that was just right for a child.
Mia knew her hair would make a good wig for Amber. All she would have to do was get a haircut, and her long, beautiful hair would be used to help someone else.
It was a difficult decision. But Mia did it because she knew that people who love Jesus are people who surrender everything to Him. They surrender themselves so God can use them to help others.
One day as Jesus was teaching the crowds, He started talking about how hard it was to enter God’s kingdom. In fact, He said that a camel could get through the eye of a needle easier than a rich person could get into heaven. This shocked the disciples because everyone knew that rich people could get anything they wanted.
They asked one another, “Who can get into heaven, then?” Then Jesus told them that for a person it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. This upset Peter. He blurted out, “But we have left everything to follow You!”
Jesus let Peter know that God valued his sacrifice. He explained that in the kingdom of heaven the twelve apostles would have a special place. And everyone—including you and me—who has surrendered all for Jesus will receive a hundred times more in heaven as well as a life that lasts forever.
Sometimes, as Christians, we’re asked to do something more than just getting a haircut. Jesus asks us to totally surrender ourselves to Him and trust Him with our lives. People who surrender everything to Jesus don’t regret it, because Jesus gives them so much in return. We have the hope of living forever in the most wonderful place we could possibly imagine.
1. What did Jesus surrender for us? (Phil. 2:5-11)
2. What do you have that you can give God to bless others and bring joy to Him? [They should include talents and resources that they have, such as cheerfulness, time, etc.]
3. What else might God be asking you to surrender to Him today?
Ask for children to pair up and stand one behind the other, the tallest at the back and both facing forward. Once they are in position, explain that the child in front takes a short step forward, stands rigid, and then falls backward when you call “Ready to fall? Fall.” The child standing behind is to hold out his or her arms and catch the child in front of him or her. Afterward, have the children tell how they felt about this activity. Point out that it is easier to surrender ourselves when we know the other person. That’s why it is important to read the Bible and pray every day. That helps us stay fully surrendered to Jesus.
Keeping On Going
“Blessed is the man who keeps on going when times are hard” (James 1:12).
Ask the children if they know what it means to endure—to keep on going even when the going is tough. What have they endured at the doctor’s office? at a swim meet? in church?
“How on earth are we ever going to do all this?” Jasper asked Gretchen as they stared at the blanket of fallen leaves that covered their front lawn. “We just raked the yard last week, and here we are with even more leaves than before!”
“Well,” Gretchen replied, “someone has to keep the yard tidy.”
Jasper sighed. His sister was right. But this was so much work: raking the leaves into piles and then bagging every pile for pickup. Jasper would much rather play football with his friends. “If only I had superpowers,” he moaned.
“Well you don’t!” Gretchen shot back. “But you do have a rake. Let’s start using it. And then keep on going!”
As Jesus returned to heaven to be with His Father, He knew that Satan was going to try to undo His work on earth. He knew that His followers would need God’s help to stand up to Satan, who roams the earth like a roaring lion seeking to devour us.
Let’s look at Ephesians 6:13-18 and see what the apostle Paul tells us about how to hold our ground against Satan’s attacks.
Notice, we are not to go off in our own strength to try to pick a fight with Satan. We must put on the armor of God and stand firm. By the way, what do we stand on? The Rock Christ Jesus. Why does the Rock give us confidence? Because at the cross Jesus already won the battle against Satan. And Jesus is on our side.
What armor do we wear to help us stand firm? The belt of truth, the breastplate of Christ’s goodness, and the shoes of readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. What else do verses 16 and 17 say is part of the armor? And when we get that armor on, look what verse 18 tells us to do next—to pray, and keep on praying.
Raking up a yard full of leaves might seem easy by comparison to battling Satan. At least yard work comes to an end, but the battle with Satan keeps going on until Jesus comes. But wait! There’s a bright side. We don’t battle alone; Jesus is right beside us. And James 1:12 tells us: “Blessed is the man who keeps on going when times are hard. After he has come through them, he will receive a crown. The crown is life itself. God has promised it to those who love him.”
1. What must we stand firm against?
2. What pieces of armor do we wear?
3. Why are we sure of success?
Have the children draw a huge shield on a sheet of paper. Inside the shield have them write the memory gem. They can hang this up in their room as a reminder that Jesus will keep them going.
God’s Favorite Person
“But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Some years ago a loving, old woman died. All the church people turned up at the funeral. Because the old woman always worshipped alone, the members thought she had no family. But at the funeral they were stunned to discover that she had several grandchildren. Each grandchild was given a chance to tell what they liked best about their grandmother. It came out that Grandma had loved each child so much that each thought she was Grandma’s favorite.
Matthew and Steve were in trouble, and there was no easy way out. While they were playing Matthew hit a fly ball out of their yard and right through Mr. Johnson’s living room window. “Uh-oh!” the boys chorused in horror.
Their first urge was to run away before old man Johnson came out. But it was Steve’s ball and he wanted it back. Besides, they had to go on living in the cul-de-sac; they had to be good neighbors.
“I’ll go talk to Mr. Johnson,” Matthew said.
“I’ll come too,” Steve offered.
Ringing the doorbell and waiting wasn’t easy for the boys. What would they say? After a few minutes Mrs. Johnson answered the door. She’d been working in her garden out back and hadn’t heard the commotion. Amazingly, Mrs. Johnson stayed cool as the boys apologized for the window.
“That’s brave of you to admit your wrong,” Mrs. Johnson said. “Why don’t you come in for a minute?” Soon the boys found themselves seated in the kitchen enjoying Mrs. Johnson’s home-baked cookies and a glass of milk.
“We’re very sorry about the window,” Steve said for a third time. “Please forgive us.”
“Don’t worry,” Mrs. Johnson said, “we were about to replace that old window in the living room. But you boys might want to find another place for your game, OK? Oh, and here’s your ball.”
Mrs. Johnson showed grace that day, and her two favorite neighbor boys still remember her for it.
One day Jesus told a story about a son who was mad at his dad (Luke 15:11-32). He didn’t want a life of hard work and responsibility on the farm. He just wanted out of there. He couldn’t wait to get his inheritance after his father’s death as was usually done. He wanted his share now so that he could go and live it up.
The dad knew he didn’t have to give his son a cent. But he gave him what he wanted, anyway. So the son went off and partied, spending all his money. Then there came some dry years followed by famine. Times were really tough. Food costs were high, and the foolish son was now out of money. In order to eat, this Jewish boy had to work with pigs! He was so hungry that he was ready to eat the garbage they were eating. Then he came to his senses.
He remembered that on his father’s farm even the day laborers ate decent food. So he decided to go and apologize to his father. He knew he didn’t deserve to be his son anymore. But, he hoped that his dad would hire him as a servant.
While the boy was still way down the road his father saw him coming and ran out to meet him. He wouldn’t hear any talk of calling him a servant. He took him back—as a son. He lavished him with love and restored him as an heir even though he didn’t deserve it.
That’s grace. God is giving us what we don’t deserve. God is loving us like we are His favorite person. God is never reminding us of our sins, but wrapping us in His arms of love. That’s what grace does.
Would you be willing to die in place of a sick relative? Very few people would. But while we were sinners and didn’t even know God, Jesus died for us. He did it because each one of us is His favorite person. He does not want us to die a forever death for our sins. Now, because He died on the cross and came back to life, we have forgiveness and life forever with Him. That’s grace. We are people of grace, waiting for Jesus to come.
1. If we sin, what steps can we take to make things right?
2. What is grace? Grace is God . . . (doing what?)
3. List three ways God has shown you grace this week—three undeserved blessings.
Help the children write notes to older people in their church, telling them about God’s grace. The notes might include Romans 5:8. Collect the notes and share them with the whole church through the church bulletin (or church newsletter) or by reading them in church.
*All Bible texts in these eight readings are from the Holy Bible, New International Reader’s Version. Copyright © 1985, 1996, 1998 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Jean Kellner is a development specialist for Adventist World Radio, with headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.