Challenge 17 Belonging to God

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

God works for good              Romans 8:28–39

God’s Spirit                            Galatians 5:22–26

God’s armour                      Ephesians 6:10–17

Be glad!                                 Philippians 4:4–9

Don’t give up!                        Colossians 1:21–23a

 

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

Paul’s letters were not written in a vacuum. They are addressed to churches that he knows and loves. Most are written to combat erroneous teaching, to encourage the young Christians in their faith or to correct problems in behaviour or relationships. His answer is to place the focus on Jesus and what he has done.

Romans 8 and Colossians 1 are classic explanations of the person and work of Jesus. Romans 8 holds out an assured future reminding us that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

The requirement to live in distinctive ways is a common theme that is clearly expressed in Galatians 5:16 – 6:10. Paul exhorts the believers to adopt certain patterns of behaviour but at the same time he acknowledges, as he does in Romans 8, that we are not alone: the Spirit is at work in us to produce the fruit.

While we may come under attack, we can know the protection of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). Paul makes it clear that there is a battle going on between God and Satan, good and evil. In order to stand firm against both the blatant and subtle undermining of God’s values, he highlights the need to be proactive in being strong, standing our ground, standing firm, being alert, and praying in the Spirit. It is worth noticing that, although Paul does not have a developed and explicit doctrine of the Trinity, his thinking is thoroughly Trinitarian.

Philippians 4 shows how Paul made the wonderful discovery that we can know God’s peace no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. How? We can enjoy that peace by praising God for who he is, by praying about the situation, and by turning our minds towards positive things. Since Paul was writing from prison, it means that he can write these words with integrity.

In Colossae, there was a serious risk that believers were being drawn away from the true teachings of their new-found faith. Paul addresses the matter by affirming them for their enthusiasm when they first received the good news of Jesus, and then he restates the central elements of the gospel message.

In these letters, and others, Paul is constantly working out the implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection for belief and behaviour.

 

 

CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge

All of these passages come from letters that Paul wrote to young churches. Paul had not met everyone in these churches. In fact, some were in places he had never visited, but he had connections with each one and they were very much on his heart. He wanted the Christians there to understand all that God had done for them and to grow closer to Jesus.

These specific passages are all about living the Christian life, and Paul includes encouragement and warnings. Read the one from Romans first; then read Colossians, Galatians, Ephesians and, lastly, Philippians.

 

CONSIDER: what this challenge means today

Although Paul’s letters were written a long time ago in a world very different to ours in many ways, his message still tells us things we need to know. The benefits of the Christian life are still the same and we can praise God for them. Many of the problems we face are still the same, too, and Paul’s wise words can help us understand and overcome them.

We can get much encouragement and guidance from Paul’s letters!

 

CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge

Why did people in those days write long boring letters, and without news in them?

People long ago did write letters with news in them, and in fact some of Paul’s letters do contain snippets of news that help us know more about his life and his friends. But ‘newsy’ letters would only have been of interest to a few people at the time and, probably, wouldn’t have been kept very long. Most of the letters in the Bible, however, were written to teach and explain to people what God has done for us and the way he wants us to live. Because they contain this important teaching the letters were read out, copied and passed on and kept so that many people, including us, could hear about God, too. Parts of the letters can seem boring sometimes. If you find it hard work reading a long passage, choose just one verse with words you understand to think about and remember.

Why are some letters named after people and others have strange names like ‘Corinthians’ or ‘Romans’?

Most of the letters in the Bible were written to a group of Christians in a specific place; for instance, Corinth was a city in Greece, and the people who lived there were ‘Corinthians’.

Some letters were written to be passed around to Christians in many places, so these are named after the writer, such as Peter or John.

Why did Paul use a soldier as an example? Fighting is bad, isn’t it?

Not all fighting is with fists or with guns! There are other ways of fighting: for instance, the ways used by William Wilberforce when he set out to stop the slave trade in Britain. And when something is bad, we need to fight against it.

Paul knew that bad things go on in the world, and we can be tempted to do them, too. He suggests that we fight against them with God’s help, and he used the picture of armour because Roman soldiers would have been a common sight and something that everyone understood.

 

COMMUNICATE: talk with God

Your child may be becoming aware of evil in the world and starting to have fears about the future. They may be starting to question their Christian beliefs. Challenge 17 is full of words of great encouragement. They remind us that nothing can separate us from God’s love and that his Spirit equips us to live for him.

Read this verse from Psalm 139:5 (CEV), explaining that these words are being said to God: ‘with your powerful arm you protect me from every side’. Ask your child to close their eyes and imagine that they are a soldier about to go into battle. Ask them to imagine putting on armour, whether the traditional suit of armour or modern protective gear. Thank God that we can wear God’s armour in the power of his Spirit and pray for protection for your child.

Whatever our situation, we can feel secure with God. Learn and say this prayer together, using the actions to emphasise the meaning of each line.

“Jesus is before us,

Preparing the way.

(Hold both hands pointing in front of you.)

Jesus is behind us,

Helping us, come what may.

(Put your hands behind you.)

Jesus is beside us;

He’s here with us today.

(Let your arms and hands hang by your sides.)

Jesus is always with us

Every hour of every day.”

(Give yourself a hug.)

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