Kids sometimes learn best by example. As we talk about definitions of “faith”, it can sometimes still seem to be a confusing term. We want to make sure our faith is in the right thing—in the trustworthiness of God alone. But how does that play out in practical daily life?
There are a lot of conflicting distractions and directions that tug at their attention, especially in times of transition, like back to school time. One of the great principles of faith is that it looks forward to promises to come. Faith is not based on what we do or what we see, but who God is. This lesson aims to remind students that our hope is fixed on God, and that He is our compass and guide no matter what. We get anxious or confused, but He is our ultimate audience. As examples, we will take a look at some key figures that the Bible lists as leading examples of living out faith.
Lesson focus: We can look at examples in Scripture to learn about faith in action, and contemplate how our lives demonstrate faith when we look to God for hope and help.
Passage: Hebrews 11:1-12:3, essentially
Target Audience: Pre-k through fifth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Round cardboard cut-outs (or construction paper); yarn; decorative materials; cotton candy; caramel/peanut butter; names and descriptions of Bible characters.
Faith Sunday School Lesson (Hebrews 11:1-12:3)
Lesson Opening: There are always several great ways to illustrate or exemplify faith, but here are a few potential kick-offs to get students thinking about the meaning of faith:
- “Do you trust me?” Tell students that they will need to go through various actions (stand on one foot, spin around twelve times, hop around the room, etc.) of your choosing. Explain that there is a prize at the end, which will be great…but don’t describe what the prize is. Do kids still want to participate, not knowing the exact prize?
- Faith heroes memory game: this is a great introduction for this particular lesson, and can be done a couple of ways…if you are able to write names and brief descriptions of these “Hebrews heroes” on cards, set out the cards and allow students to one at a time flip the names and try to match with descriptions in a memory game. Flip a pair of cards at a time and try to identify who the heroes are. Or, you could merely read the description and have students guess the name of the character based on that.
- Faith…is it cotton candy or caramel? Explain that some people have a confused or uncertain concept of what faith is. Have you ever eaten cotton candy? You might put a big blob in your mouth, only to have it seemingly disappear as the sugar evaporates on your tongue. If our faith is in fairy tales, it might be sort of like that disappearing cotton candy experience. Allow students to sample the cotton candy. On the other hand, try something that will stick, like caramel or peanut butter (watch for allergies!). These are things that really stick with you. True faith in God relies on something of substance. It sticks with you and satisfies you, like peanut butter! (Or caramel. Or…something else sticky, your pick!)
*Note: these activities can be woven into the lesson or used as follow-ups, as well.
So, what is faith? We have talked about it a little bit, and related it to how you might trust an adult or something that is going to happen. What does faith mean, according to the Bible? Have students take turns reading, or listening, to the passages in Scripture. Start with Hebrews, at the beginning of chapter 11:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. -Hebrews 11:1-2
What does that mean? It means we are looking forward to something that has not happened yet. If you were willing to follow directions without knowing the prize, it means you had faith that whatever was coming at the end was worth it. If you trust and hope in something in the future, you have faith that it will be something valuable. Can you think of a time in your life when you had to have faith??
How about in the Bible? Invite students to brainstorm Biblical examples of faith, and then take a look at a few from Hebrews:
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. 8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
So what did these “faith heroes” do? They believed in God’s promises. They didn’t know exactly how those promises would come true, but they were willing to do some wild things because they trusted that the outcome would be great. They did not do amazing things on their own power, but through their trust and hope in God. God did the work. Let’s look at some more faith fathers:
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. -Hebrews 11:24-38
If time allows, touch briefly on some of these folks described (David, Gideon, etc.) and how they exemplified faith. Or perhaps you could address them in the memory game described with introductions. Talk about what sort of beliefs and trust it takes to endure some of these challenges. Faith isn’t always easy! It isn’t always comfy, and it doesn’t always seem like things are working out for us in this life. The great thing, though, is that we have an amazing promise from God. Even if this earthly life passes away, great things await us someday:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 11:39-12:3
What kinds of things might “hinder and entangle” us? What distracts us? Sometimes we worry over life’s details. Maybe it’s school, or upcoming things, or sports, or friends, or any number of potential fears. It can be easy to lose sight of what is important. These verses remind us that God has wonderful things planned. We cannot always see them, but we trust His promises. When we “fix our eyes on Jesus”, it means we remember what He has already done for us, and rejoice in it. Faith allows us to focus on God, rather than our troubles. This can be easier said than done, to be sure. But think about what He has done, and what He will do. God loves us and provides for us. We can thank Him for that. We can ask for His help. And we can rest assured that His promises will come true, because He is faithful!
Make your own “faith hero” medal or ribbon. Provide children with round tags and allow them to decorate with markers, stickers, glitter, etc. Have a caption that allows room for student names, and a title “Hero of Faith in the Living God.” Attach a string so students can wear or hang medals, if desired.
Close with prayer and thank God for all He has given. Thank Him for Jesus and ask for help in our faith, as well as understanding and assurance of His power in our lives.