1. Joseph: Trusting God in difficult circumstances
Bible passage: Genesis 39, Romans 8:28
Key message: God will use our difficult circumstances for good if we trust Him
Synopsis: Joseph was first sold into slavery by his brothers, then falsely accused by the wife of his employer, resulting in him being out in jail. Yet God blessed him where ever he was and ultimately made him king of Egypt under the pharaoh. God used Joseph’s difficult circumstances for good, but it called for trust and patience on Joseph’s side. Can we do the same in the midst of our difficult circumstances, can we trust God to use these for good?
Tip: don’t forget to explain who Joseph was, not every student will be familiar with his story.
2. Jeremiah: Too young to be useful
Bible passage: Jeremiah 1:1-10
Key message: When God chooses you, you’re never too young to be useful
Synopsis: God called Jeremiah to be His prophet in a very difficult time. Jeremiah’s first response was that he was too young. Understandable, because it wasn’t an easy message that he was about to bring. Yet God wants Him, despite his youth, and as we later read in the book of Jeremiah, despite him being depressed. When God calls you, He makes you qualified. What excuse are you using to disobey God’s calling for your life?
Tip: explain a little bit about the context of Jeremiah’s calling and the message he was called to deliver.
3. Daniel: Dare to be different
Bible passage: Daniel 1
Key message: God calls us to obey Him even if it’s counter-cultural
Synopsis: Daniel and his friends decide to stay obedient to God under difficult and dangerous circumstances. God blesses that obedience. It’s a theme we see coming back in the first chapters of Daniel, that he stays obedient no matter what the culture he’s in demands, and God blesses him for it and brings him to a position of power. How obedient are you and in what way are you using the culture you’re in as an excuse to give in at certain issues?
Tip: explain the circumstances of the capture of Daniel and his friends and the culture they were brought into. It’s also important to explain why they didn’t want to eat the meat (it wasn’t prepared according to Mosaic regulations, but more importantly it was probably offered to idols).
4. Psalm 119: I love the Bible…or do I?
Bible passage: Psalm 119:9-16 (if you’re courageous, you could even read the whole Psalm at the end of your sermon – see below)
Key message: Knowing and loving God’s Word keeps us from sinning
Synopsis: Psalm 119 clearly shows a deep love for God’s Word. And that was before the New Testament was ‘added’. Why is it so important to not only read God’s Word, but to study it? Because it helps us to grow in our love for God, because we get to know Him better. And because we love Him more and understand more of the ‘why’ of certain rules, we want to obey Him more. But what can we do to fall in love with God’s Word?
Tip: it’s very important here to address this topic in terms of the relationship students (hopefully) have with God. They shouldn’t read the Bible to ‘earn points’ for being a good Christian, they should read it to get to know God better, to love Him more and thus obey Him more. By the way: we closed off this youth service by reading the entire Psalm while everyone stood out of respect for God’s Word. It took us about 20 minutes I think, but it was a profound experience.
5. David: Waiting for God’s timing
Bible passage: 1 Samuel 24
Key message: Even when you know it’s God’s will, you have to wait for His timing
Synopsis: David was already anointed king, so he knew it was God’s will for him to become king. Yet when he had the chance to kill king Saul, he didn’t. He wanted to obey God and he wanted to wait for God to make him king instead of taking matters into his own hands. He had to wait a long time, but he was blessed for it. Are you willing to wait for God’s timing or are you taking matters into your own hand?
Tip: explain the circumstances of David’s decision in more detail, for instance Saul’s repeated attempts on his life, to make it even more clear how far David was willing to go in obeying God. You may also want to refer to the second time David could kill Saul, but didn’t.
6. Dealing with sin
Bible passage: Leviticus 4
Key message: We need to deal with our sins daily
Synopsis: God gave Moses and the people of Israel very specific instructions for all offerings, including the sin offering. The animals that were offered had to be perfect and had to be offered in exactly the right way in order to atone for sins. The people needed to bring daily offerings as a constant reminder of God’s holiness and their sins. This is of course a foreshadowing of what Jesus did for us on the cross. How do we deal with our sins? Do we accept God’s daily forgiveness or do we ignore them?
7. An image of God
Bible passage: Exodus 32
Key message: What is your image of God?
Synopsis: When Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the ten commandments, his brother Aaron built a golden calf at the people’s request. What’s interesting is that they saw this calf as an image of Jahweh (vs 4). It wasn’t just the first commandment they were breaking, but especially the second (no images). In what way do we make false images of our God? Is the image that we have of Him correct? Some well-known false images of God often have to do with highlighting or stressing one aspect of God’s character and forgetting about another. Example: God is perfect love who would never send anyone to hell (stressing love, forgetting about holiness and being just). Do you have a complete image of God?
Tip: this story is often used to talk about false gods and idols, but this approach is far more challenging. You could combine this with a creative assignment, for instance making a collage of how your students see God. We did this and it gave us enough conversation starters for weeks in our small groups.