How does God use bad things in our life for good? Includes a lesson, 2 games, a snack idea, and an optional service project.
Needed: exercise cards, an old garment or item to represent Joseph’s coat, raw eggs, flour, baking soda, cookies
Intro Game 1: Extreme Exercise Race
Have students pair up and complete this race together. All the students will line up by pairs on one side of your play area. Spaced out in a direct line in front of each pair, you’ll place a series of cards. The cards could say things like, “Do 10 Pushups!” “Do 5 Sit-Ups!” “Do 10 Jumping Jacks!” “Hop On One Foot 10 Times!” “Hop On the Other Foot 15 Times!” “Walk Like a Crab for 5 Seconds!” Arrange the cards randomly on the line so that different pairs of students are different activities at each location in their line. The first pair to complete all of their activities wins.
After the game, ask the students, Was it hard work doing all those exercises? Does anyone think they’re going to be sore in the morning? Remember, what they say; “No Pain, No Gain!” Sometimes, you have to hurt a little bit for something good to happen, like getting in shape.
Intro Game 2: Chase the Coat
Hand one student an old garment or something to represent to Joseph’s coat. Make a scene of bestowing your wonderful gift on that student. Then, tell everyone else to chase that student. At any time, the student can call out the name of another student or leader and toss them the garment. When they do, everyone else freezes and that person takes the garment. They get a 3-second head start and then everyone chases the new garment-holder. If someone gets tagged before they can call out someone’s name, they’re out. The game ends only one garment-holder and one chaser are left.
Afterward, ask, Why was everyone chasing the person who had the garment? Why weren’t you chasing anyone else? (The reason is because they had the garment and no one else did. It made the person who had the garment special.)
Snack: Delicious from Disgusting
Show students a raw egg. Ask them if anyone would like to eat it. Do the same with some raw flour and then baking soda. When no one wants to try any of your ingredients, say, You’re right. These would all taste pretty bad if we ate them like this. But we can use them to make something really good! They’re all part of the recipe to make cookies. (Give the students a cookie or two as you start the lesson.)
Ask students, Has anything bad ever happened to you?
Do you think that a bad thing that happens to us can ever be a good thing, too? Can something that happens to us be both bad and good? (Remind them that exercising can be hard, even painful work, but it produces good results in us. Bad-tasting ingredients can make delicious cookies.)
(Share a story about a time when something bad happened to you, but it turned out to be for the good.)
Well, we’ve been learning about Jacob these last couple of weeks. You remember that Jacob was Abraham’s grandson, right? It was Abraham, and then his son was Isaac, and then Isaac’s sons were Jacob and Esau. Does anyone remember what bad thing Jacob did to his father, Isaac, and his brother, Esau? (When Isaac was very old and blind, Jacob dressed up like Esau and tricked Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau.)
So Esau was very angry with Jacob and wanted to kill him. Does anyone remember what Jacob had to do to get away from Esau? (Jacob had to run away from home.)
Jacob went and lived in another country with his uncle and his two cousins, Rachel and Leah. Jacob married his two cousins there and had many children. Today, we’re going to learn about one of Jacob’s sons named Joseph.
Summarize Genesis 37-41 with the following Bible story, asking the included questions as you read.
Jacob had many children, but Joseph was his favorite.
Do you think Jacob should have had a favorite son? (Sometimes, parents get along better with one of their children better than the others, but parents should always love all of their children the same.)
Once, when Joseph was seventeen years old, Jacob gave him a really nice, new robe to wear.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Joseph got a nice, new robe?
But Joseph’s brothers saw the nice, new robe that their father had given Joseph and they hated Joseph because of it. After all, their father had not given any of them a nice, new robe.
Now is it a good thing that Joseph got the new robe? (Maybe not, because it made his brothers hate him.)
A little while later, Joseph had two dreams. In one dream, Joseph’s brothers were bowing down to him and in the other dream, Joseph’s brothers and even his parents, Jacob and Rachel, were bowing down to him!
Why do you think Joseph’s brothers, father, and mother would bow down to him?
Joseph told his family about these dreams and his brothers hated him even more because of them. “Do you think we’re going to bow down to you?” they asked. “No way!”
So one day, when all of Joseph’s brothers were taking care of their sheep out in the field, Jacob sent Joseph to go check on them. When the brothers saw Joseph coming, some of them said, “Let’s catch Joseph and kill him. Then we’ll throw him down this empty well and say that some wild animal must have attacked and ate him.”
But one of the brothers said, “No, let’s not kill him. Let’s sell him as a slave and get some money for him.” So when Joseph came to where they were, they captured him and threw him down into the empty well. Then, when they saw some people from another country going by, they pulled Joseph out of the well and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Joseph was sold as a slave? That sounds like a bad thing, doesn’t it?
How do you think Joseph felt when his brothers threw in the well and then sold him?
The brothers took Joseph’s nice, new robe that Jacob had given him, killed a goat, and dipped Joseph’s robe in the goat’s blood. Then, they took the robe back to Jacob and showed it to him, all covered in blood. Jacob saw the blood and was very sad. “A wild animal has attacked and killed Joseph,” Jacob cried. He didn’t know that the blood on the robe was goat’s blood and not Joseph’s blood.
Meanwhile, the people who had bought Joseph took him as a slave down to Egypt and an Egyptian man named Potiphar bought him. Now, Potiphar was a very important man. He was the captain of Pharaoh’s guards and he soon learned how smart Joseph was. Potiphar was so impressed with Joseph that he put Joseph in charge of his whole house! Joseph was Potiphar’s top slave.
But Potiphar’s wife thought that Joseph looked very strong and handsome and she said, “Come to bed with me, Joseph.”
Do you think Joseph should go to bed with Potiphar’s wife? Why not?
But Joseph said, “No, you are married to Potiphar and it would be a great sin against God for me to go to bed with you.” Day after day, Potiphar’s wife asked Joseph to go to bed with her and each time, he said the same thing. “No way! I’m not going to sin like that.”
Finally, one day, when Joseph refused to go to bed with her, Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph’s cloak and tried to make him go to bed with her. But Joseph wriggled out of his cloak and ran out of the house. Then Potiphar’s wife became so angry at Joseph that she started screaming and told Potiphar that Joseph had tried to make her go to bed with him!
Did Joseph try to make Potiphar’s wife go to bed with him? (No. Potiphar’s wife was lying. She was the one who was trying to make Joseph go to bed with her.)
But Potiphar believed his wife over Joseph and he had Joseph put in prison.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Joseph was put in prison? That sounds like a bad thing, too, right?
How would you feel if you were Joseph and you got put in prison when you didn’t do anything wrong?
In prison, Joseph met Pharaoh’s chief baker and Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer, the one who always brought Pharaoh his drinks. One morning, the chief baker and the chief cupbearer both had sad looks on their faces. “What’s wrong?” Joseph asked.
“We both had dreams last night,” they said, “but we don’t know what they mean.”
“God knows what your dreams mean,” Joseph said. “Tell me your dreams and maybe God will help me understand them.”
So the chief baker and the chief cupbearer told Joseph their dreams. The cupbearer said, “In my dream, I saw a grapevine with three branches. When the grapes grew, I squeezed them into grape juice and poured the grape juice into Pharaoh’s cup. Then I took the cup and gave it to Pharaoh.”
What do you think the cupbearer’s dream means?
Joseph said, “This is what your dream means: The three branches of the grapevine you saw are three days. In three days, Pharaoh will let you out of prison and will make you his cupbearer again. But do me a favor and remember to tell Pharaoh about me. I was sold as a slave and haven’t done anything wrong to be put in prison.”
When Joseph was done talking to the chief cupbearer, it was the chief baker’s turn. The chief baker said, “In my dream, I had three baskets of bread on my head. The bread was supposed to be for Pharaoh, but birds kept coming and eating it off my head.”
Joseph said, “This is what your dream means: The three baskets of bread on your head are three days. In three days, Pharaoh will cut off your head and birds will come eat your body.”
And three days later, things happened just like Joseph had said. The chief cupbearer was let out of prison and got his old job back, but the chief baker was executed and had his head cut off.
Two years later, while Joseph was still in prison because of the lie Potiphar’s wife had told, Pharaoh himself had a dream. When Pharaoh woke up, he called all of his magicians and all of his wise men, but none of them could tell the Pharaoh what his dream meant. Then, the chief cupbearer remembered how Joseph had told him what his dream meant and he told the Pharaoh about Joseph.
Then Pharaoh had his servants bring Joseph out of the prison so he could talk to him. “Can you tell me what my dream means?” Pharaoh asked Joseph.
Do you think Joseph will be able to tell Pharaoh what his dream means?
Joseph answered, “I can’t tell you what your dream means, but God can.”
So Pharaoh said, “In my dream, I saw seven fat cows coming out of the river. They were eating the grass by the river, but then seven skinny cows came out of the river and ate the fat cows! I told the dream to all my magicians and wise men, but none of them could tell me what it means.”
Joseph said, “This is what your dream means: The seven fat cows are seven years when lots of food will grow and everyone will have enough food to eat. But after those seven good years, seven years will come when not very much food will grow and people will not have enough to eat. Those seven bad years are like the seven skinny cows. God has given you this dream to warn you about the seven bad years.” Then Joseph said, “You should put someone in charge of storing up extra food during the seven good years and then, that way, we will have some food stored up when the seven bad years come.”
Storing up food sounded like a good idea to Pharaoh and he said, “Joseph, since God has shown you that all this will happen and has given you the idea to store up the food, I’m going to put you in charge of it. I’m making you my second-in-command over the whole country of Egypt!”
Joseph was thirty years old then and for seven years, he stored up as much food for the country as he could. Then, at the end of the seven years, when the seven bad years started and there wasn’t as much food growing, Joseph took the food he had stored up and sold it to people when they needed it.
Was it a good thing or a bad thing that Joseph was able to tell Pharaoh what his dream meant and had the idea to store up the extra food? (It was a good thing.)
God gave Pharaoh the dream and gave Joseph the idea to store up the food so that when the seven bad years started and there wasn’t very much food growing, the people would be ready and wouldn’t starve to death. God wanted to make sure everyone had enough food.
Was it a good thing or a bad thing that Joseph was made the second-in-command over the whole country of Egypt? (That was a good thing too. Joseph would have a lot of power and money if he was the second-in-command over a whole country.)
But Joseph couldn’t have told Pharaoh what his dream meant and had the idea to store up the food, and he couldn’t have become the second-in-command in Egypt if his brothers hadn’t sold him as a slave. It was a bad thing that Joseph’s brothers sold him like that, but God was able to turn that bad thing into a good thing.
So remember, when something bad happens to you, try to think of ways that God can use that bad thing and turn it into a good thing.
Activity: Recycling Roundup
If you have time, take the kids to a park and have them pick up recyclable materials. Explain that even though the trash seems like a bad thing (it’s just trash), we turn it into a good thing by using it to make something new.
Mix the teams up and play Extreme Exercise Race again or Joseph’s Coat.
Lord, You are so powerful that You can take bad things and turn them into good things. We pray that You’ll help us to look for how You want to turn things around when something bad happens in our lives. Amen.
This lesson is included in my book, Father Abraham: Children Sunday School Lessons on Genesis 12-50.