Scripture: Matthew 17:14-20
“14 When they came to the crowd, a man met Jesus. He knelt before him,15 saying, “Lord, show mercy to my son. He is epileptic and suffers terribly, for he often falls into the fire or the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”
17 Jesus answered, “You faithless and crooked generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”18 Then Jesus spoke harshly to the demon. And it came out of the child, who was healed from that time on.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and said, “Why couldn’t we throw the demon out?”
20 “Because you have little faith,” he said. “I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there,’ and it will go. There will be nothing that you can’t do.”
Main Point: It does not take a lot of faith for God to use us to do amazing things. However, to have that kind of faith we have to move from trying to doing.
Learning Game: Star Wars (30 minutes)
I am not sure the original source of this game. I remember learning it as a camper at church camp in the early 1990’s. For this game you will need several balls that are safe to throw at people. You cannot have too many balls for this game, but there should be at least one ball for every two or three players. You will also need a hula hoop per team as well as a plastic lightsaber or pool noodle per team.
Divide the youth in three or four teams. Each team should ideally have four to ten people on them. All of the balls should be placed in the center and a hula hoop per team should be placed equidistant from the center and one another. This hula hoop is considered the team’s base. Each team also has one member be the Jedi. The Jedi is given the plastic lightsaber or pool noodle.
Once the game begins all players may leave the area around their base. When a player is hit with a bull they are frozen and must sit down. As long as a Jedi is standing inside their base then they are invincible. The Jedi may leave their base to rescue their team mates. If the Jedi taps them with the lightsaber/pool noodle, then the frozen player is back in the game. If the Jedi is hit with a ball while out of the circle then they are frozen and must sit down. Another player on the team may not become a Jedi. Once the Jedi is out and the last player on the team is frozen, that team is effectively eliminated. The last team left in the game wins.
For the first game attempt to make the teams as balanced as possible. Begin with even teams and play the game once. For the second game switch the teams and try to make the teams very uneven.
Once the game is over, call the group together. The point of this game is to get the students to begin thinking about failure and how they handle failure. The teams are not fair in the second game, and more competitive students might be bitter about that. Acknowledge the unfairness but do not dwell on it. Use the following questions to prompt discussion.
1. Were the teams fair?
2. How did you fair about playing on unfair teams?
3. When a team is stacked against you, do you think it is still possible to win?
4. When things feel unfair, how do you respond? What are other responses you have seen?
5. Why do you think people respond in those ways?
Discussion Starter clip
In this clip Luke Skywalker fails to lift his spaceship out a swamp with the force, but the smaller Yoda succeeds. To show this clip you will need a DVD, blue-ray or digital version of The Empire Strikes Back. Set up the clip by explaining that Luke has gone to train with Yoda in being a Jedi, and this clip is part of his training. Begin the clip when Luke stands up and says, “You want the impossible.” End the clip when Yoda says “That is why you failed.”
After several of the questions are facilitator instructions. These are tips to help guide the facilitator in how to best lead the lesson. Use the following questions to prompt discussion:
1. Why did Luke fail? How did his attitude make a difference?
2. What do you think about the saying “do or do not, there is no try? How is trying, sometime an excuse?
Facilitator Instructions: These questions are linked. Luke failed because he did not believe that lifting the space ship was possible. Often when we say we will try our best, we are saying that to give ourselves an out. This way if we fail we can say at least I tried. Yoda’s point is that either we succeed or we do not there is no middle ground. Some students might take offense to this line of thinking, and it is a good idea to further discuss it.
3. What do you think this clip has to do with our faith?
Facilitator Instructions: Often we take an “I’ll try” approach with faith. Often we know what it means to life a faithful life, but we do not do it. This clip challenges us to move from an I’ll try faith to an I’ll do faith. Second, we often approach prayer like Luke approached moving the X-Wing. We pray as an extra way to get good luck, not because we truly believe God will do the miraculous. Luke did not believe it and that is why he failed. There are times the same is true about our prayers.
4. How do you typically deal with failure?
Facilitator Instruction: The post-game discussions did not specifically mention failure, because for many that is a sensitive topic, but this is a good way to tie it back to the game and talk about how well failure to win was handled (or not handled) by the teams.
To set up the scripture, mention this is a time when the disciples failed to do something in their faith. Read Matthew 17:14-21
4. The disciples spent all of their time with Jesus, how do you think they must have felt failing at this?
5. A mustard seed was one of the smallest known seed in the Middle East, why do you think Jesus picked that for his analogy?
Facilitator Instruction: Jesus chose a mustard seed to signify that it does not take that much faith (that is belief in God’s ability) to do amazing things.
6. What are some things that cause a lack of faith?
Facilitator Instructions: There are many things that can cause a lack in faith such as negative life experiences, doubt, or just never being willing to take a faith based risk. It is really worth spending a lot of time on this question and unpacking the hows and whys behind these reasons.
7. How can we have more faith?
Facilitator Instructions: There are a couple of key points to make here. First, part of having faith is not just believing really hard, but knowing what to believe in. For instance, many people have faith in selfish dreams, and not in following God’s dream for them. Second, part of faith is do or not. Either we believe God is going to respond or we do not. This means that faith is more than just something we can think ourselves into. Third, prayer is an important part of faith. In a similar story to this scripture in Mark (Mark 9:14-29) Jesus mentions the importance of prayer. Our faith in God to provide is connected to the trust and relationship we establish with God in prayer.
8. Is it possible to train in faith? How does one do that?
Facilitator Instructions: This connects back to the clip, because in the clip Luke is training to be a Jedi. We train in faith by doing the discipleship practices that many our familiar with such as prayer, scripture reading, holding one another accountable, and refraining from sinful behavior. However, we have to go past “trying” to do these thing and move to a “do or do not” attitude.