Challenge 16 Good news for everyone

CONTENTS

 The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop

 Stories in this challenge

Saul meets Jesus               Acts 9:1–12

Telling the good news           Acts 14:8–22

Reporting back                      Acts 15:4–16

Travelling and teaching        Acts 16:6–15

Shipwrecked!                        Acts 27:20–26,39–44

 

COMMON tips for this and every challenge

  • Always have a Bible in a child-friendly translation available, as you take the Big Bible Challenge. Even when the Bible verses are printed in the Big Bible Challenge book, find them in a Bible as well. This will help the child gain confidence in handling the Bible and become familiar with its size and number of pages.
  • Finding your way around the Bible can be a challenge in itself! Each reading from the Bible is shown in a certain way, like this:

Genesis 2:15–22.

  • Use the Index or Contents page of the Bible to help you find the book (or books) in the Bible for the readings in this challenge. In this example, the book title is ‘Genesis’.
  • Each book of the Bible is in chapters. In this example, the reading is in chapter 2.
  • Each chapter is split into verses. In this example, the verses are 15–22. In most Bibles, the verse numbers are printed very small.
  • Many of the challenges have five readings from the same part of the Bible, so use a bookmark to keep your place and it will be easier to find the Bible reading next time.
  • The Bible consists of many ‘books’ collected together and presented as one. See if you can work out what sort of ‘book’ you are exploring: is it history or is it a letter? Are you reading words spoken by a prophet or written as a song?
  • Spend time looking at and chatting about the artwork in the Big Bible Challenge. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
  • When you have finished this challenge, use the simple evaluation sheet [here: hyperlink]. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’

 

 COMMENCE: your introduction to this part of the Bible

Saul (or Paul), the angry antagonist of Jesus’ followers, has an encounter with Jesus, is called by God, and then, with the support of other believers, becomes a wholehearted believer. This dramatic meeting with the risen Christ led to a complete transformation. It was the key that shaped the whole of his future life and ministry. With his conversion came the call to take the gospel to ‘the Gentiles and their kings and the people of Israel’ (Acts 9:15 NIV). The rest of his life was dedicated to that task.

Paul is sent out from the church in Antioch and we then follow the course of his mission to a number of towns in what is now southern Turkey. The reception was mixed, with considerable opposition, but in each town he left a number of Christians.

There was conflict within the early church as to who ‘qualified’ to be classed as true believers. The dispute was handled constructively: the believers met together, they provided opportunity for people to state their views, yet they remained open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Acts 15 is a crucial chapter because it confirms the inclusion of Gentiles without the need to observe all the intricacies of Jewish regulations.

Paul’s subsequent journeys take him to Greece and finally to Rome. He may be under arrest but the firm commitment to preach the gospel, whatever his circumstances and however strong the opposition, is as evident as ever. This was no unfortunate end to a wonderful ministry. Rather, it enabled him to preach the good news to more significant political figures.

In all this he is driven by his sense of God’s call on his life, a living experience of the risen Christ, an appreciation of the transforming power of the Spirit and a sense of the urgency of the task. These must be our motives for ministry, too.

CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge

These stories from Acts continue Luke’s history of the early church. Here we follow mostly the story of the life of Paul, beginning with his becoming a Christian. Read the stories in the order here to see how Paul’s life and adventures develop. Some of the details are particularly vivid. This is because Luke actually knew Paul – he accompanied him during some of these events.

Luke shows us how God’s agenda and not Paul’s own leads the way. Several times Paul and his friends are prevented from going in a particular way, or they are guided to go somewhere unexpected.

 

CONSIDER: what this challenge means today

These stories remind us that whoever and wherever we are we can be about God’s work. Paul seemed a very unlikely person to become a Christian, but God helped him to change. Some of the places and circumstances Paul and his friends found themselves in seemed unlikely situations in which to spread the gospel, but God worked in and through them.

We are also reminded that although things might be difficult and we might face opposition and even danger, God will always keep and guide us.

 

CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge

How does God guide us? Paul seems to have been guided by God in strange ways. He had visions of people or angels – and how did the ‘Spirit of Jesus’ prevent them from going a certain way?

Following God’s guidance is important for Christians, but it is not always easy to be sure of what God wants us to do. It is very rare to see a vision that tells us exactly what to do but it does happen sometimes for some people. Here are some things that might help you to know God’s guidance:

  • What you do must fit in with what God’s Word says. If the Bible definitely says something is wrong, then God won’t be guiding you to do it.
  • The closer you are to God (through talking and listening to him each day, and meeting with others who love him), the more likely you are to know what he wants you to do.
  • Sometimes we are sure that it is right to do a certain thing and we pray about it. Then, something happens and we are prevented from doing it. This can be God guiding us, and often he has something different and better in mind for us. This is probably what happened to Paul when the ‘Spirit of Jesus’ prevented him from going a certain way.

 

 COMMUNICATE: talk with God

Summarise how the early church grew as God sent out men and women to tell others about Jesus. Many people did become followers, but those early missionaries faced danger and hardship. Sometimes their lives were in danger. In many parts of the world preaching the gospel is just as dangerous today.

Chat with your child about how you can pray for people who are taking the news of Jesus to others. If your church supports mission partners, try to obtain photos and some details. Or find information from a Christian aid agency or development charity. Organisations such as ‘Open Doors’ aim to serve Christians worldwide who are facing persecution: these are people who have become Christians but may lose their jobs, may have to leave their family or may be hurt because of their faith. And remember there are Scripture Union movements in more than 130 countries around the world. You can find out more about their work here www.su-international.org/

Pray together for God’s protection on those you have found out about. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill them and equip them for their ministry. Encourage your child to keep the photo, or name, by their bed and to pray for them every day.

Children like to do something about situations when they pray, so be ready to add practical action to your prayers.

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