Peace, Perseverance, and Heavenly Hope…All in Christ

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“That’s not fair!” This is a common refrain heard by anyone who works with children…kids want things to be just and are quick to let us know when they think they’ve been dealt otherwise. But it is important to communicate that in some cases, we don’t want absolute fairness…this lesson reminds kids that Christ is the One who we can look to for hope and life.
Lesson focus: Even though we do not deserve it, God gives us His love and salvation. That means we can receive His grace and have hope in Christ.
Passage: Romans 5:1-11
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)
Materials Needed: Paper, cotton balls, decorative materials, google eyes, pipe cleaners
Lesson Opening:
Start off with the classic “undeserving victor” illustration…have students play a quick game, like seeing who can come up with the most examples of sin, or a round of Simon Says, or something simple to that effect…provide prizes, but give better items to the “losers” rather than winners…is this fair?
-Next, instruct one or two children to deliberately make a (small) mess…maybe toss paper scraps onto the floor or spill something. Make a different kid pick up the mess. Is this fair?
-Finally, provide a little sin illustration: take a stack of books (hymnals, Bibles, etc.) and describe each one as a “sin” that we daily commit. Have students carry first one, and then another and another, seeing how big the stack grows. Sin gets pretty heavy!
Explain that we are going to look at a passage that reminds us of God’s peace and power, even when we encounter difficulty. We will also discuss how sometimes God is not fair…and that is a GREAT thing!
Bible Lesson:
Invite students to open their Bibles and help you read the passage…read a few verses at a time, pausing to allow students to fill in blanks at intervals. Discuss the passages as you go…
 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b]boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  -Romans 5:1-5
What kinds of things might we brag about? We might boast in winning a sports game, or in doing well on a test…maybe we boast about certain abilities. But boasting in suffering?
Ask children to identify things that might produce suffering. What types of things cause us to hurt or feel uncomfortable? Generally, those are not seen as blessings. But in this passage, we see that going through hardship actually helps us draw nearer to God, and receive the Holy Spirit. That can be a pretty great thing. It doesn’t make hurting any easier, but it gives us a hope that lets us get through it.
Now, invite kids to reflect back on the opening activity. Did it seem fair to make (student A) pick up the mess that was made by (Student B)? No! But guess what? That is exactly what God did for us…
 
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
-Romans 5:6-8

Who would you be willing to suffer for? Anyone? Maybe you would do something hard to help a friend or a family member…maybe you’d give up something you like if it benefitted someone you cared about. But would you do those things for someone that was mean and hurt you? Probably not. The losing team doesn’t earn a trophy; that would be silly.
Yet we see here that even when we do things that are wrong, God doesn’t cast us away. He loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us and take the blame for our sin. It would be like taking a time-out or spanking for your sibling, even though you did nothing wrong. That doesn’t seem right at all…but it’s exactly what Jesus did. Now, this is truly good news, and gives us a grand sense of hope:
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  -Romans 5:9-11 
All of us are born with sin (thanks a lot, Adam and Eve!). That’s the bad news. Even without meaning to, we do the wrong thing. But the good news is that God wants to get us back to Him. How does that happen? Through Jesus Christ our Lord. What a powerful blessing, joy, and relief it is to know that through Him we can have hope. This isn’t just hope for a one-day-faraway future in Heaven…it’s hope that now, today, we can know Jesus loves us. We can pray and live for Him anytime, with true joy and strength. That is a powerful thing.
Craft:
Make a sheep craft to remind students of Christ’s work as the lamb of God, who gave himself and took our place with His sacrifice. Start with an old sock (for a puppet), a foam ball (for larger lamb), or a large pom-pom (for a miniature sized sheep). Cover the article with cotton or cotton balls, adding pipe cleaner legs and google eyes. Attach a verse caption to recall the lesson.
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Ask for strength as we look to God alone for our hope and strength in all things.

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