Grades 3-6 Lesson 10 for Sunday School:
Imitators of Christ – Patience
Teacher’s Notes: For several weeks, now, we’ve looked at what it means to call ourselves “Christians.” We are called to be Christ-like; and Jesus Christ, Himself, lived out many great examples for us while He walked on this earth. We began by looking at Jesus’ examples. Then, we turned to examples in other Bible characters. This week, we will look at what it means to be patient. We’re going to look at some well-known New Testament missionaries: one who gave up, one who was fed up, and one who had enough patience to put up with a diamond-in-the-rough.
Remind the students that we are learning about what it means to be Christ-like. And that last week we talked about sacrificial giving. Remind them that it does not apply only to money, but can also be giving of our time. Ask the students if any of them had opportunities over the past week to give something that cost them either time or money, or something else that is important to them. Remind them that if they did, they were being Christ-like. And ask them how they felt after they gave. Were they sorry they had done it, or did they feel that God had or would bless them for giving of themselves to Him?
Suggested activity to teach the students how it feels to be patient:
If you have a couple of needles and thread, divide the class into two sides. Give each team a needle, and a piece of thread. If you have enough, give each student their own piece of thread. And have the students take turns threading their team’s needle. Each student must take a turn. The winning team is the one that has all of their students thread the needle first. If it takes a long time, then the winning team can be the one in which the most students were able to thread the needle in a given amount of time. Then ask the students these questions:
In today’s lesson, we’re going to be talking about patience. Can anyone tell me what the word “patience” means? (Allow the students to share with you what they think of when they hear the word “patience.” Then share the following definition with them:) While there are many definitions of the word “patience,” this one will best fit our lesson for today: patience is the ability or willingness to bear with (or stick with) something or someone, in spite of difficult circumstances. In our opening activity, we needed patience with the needle and thread, in order to accomplish the task. But we also needed to have patience with each other, when the thread just wouldn’t seem to go through that little hole. Did you find you had more patience with the needle and thread than you did with your teammates?
Many of you are familiar with the Apostle Paul. He wrote many of the letters we find in the New Testament. But did you know that there was a time when Paul was not patient with a fellow missionary? We’re going to find out what happened, and what Paul learned about being patient. But first, let’s take a look at today’s memory verse, and see who we can look to as a good example of being patient:
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:” Romans 15:5
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Holy Bible, where we can read about people who are good examples for us to learn from. Please open our eyes, and ears, and hearts now to see what it means to be patient. Help us to especially see how important it is to be patient with our fellow Christians, since we can’t see into the future and know what You might be doing in them. Remind us to try to look at others through Your eyes, remembering that You love them just the way they are. And that we are to be like You. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (having patience)
Have you ever been really hungry, and become frustrated when the food you’re waiting for just isn’t getting ready fast enough? Have you ever been responsible for bringing a family pet or other animal in for the night, but that animal just didn’t want to move as fast as you? Have you ever found yourself in a hurry, trying to get somewhere that you need to be, only to get stuck behind someone who’s not in a hurry? All of these things can be very frustrating! What are we to do when we get frustrated with someone? Is it ok to let them know that they’re making us upset? Is it ok to try to make them do what we want, when we want?
Let’s take a look at what happened when Paul and his friend, Barnabas went on a missions trip, and decided to take another missionary along with them. But then got frustrated when their companion decided he wanted to quit!
(Suggested Bible Reading): (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
Acts 13:1-5,13 (Paul and Barnabas are sent out as missionaries, with John Mark)
1Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas…and Saul.
2As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
4So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
5And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.
Our passage today tells us that Paul and Barnabas were faithfully serving God in the church at Antioch. Then God called them to become missionaries – to go into other cities and countries to share the good news of Jesus Christ with many who had not heard about Him. After fasting and praying to prepare for the journey, Paul and Barnabas set out, along with another companion. Verse 5 identifies him as John, and Acts 5:37 tells us his full name was John Mark. We get another bit of information from Colossians 4:10, which tells us that John Mark and Barnabas were related, probably cousins.
This newly formed missionary team first set out for the island of Cyprus, where they had the opportunity to preach about Jesus Christ as they traveled from one end of the island to the other. Many were led to faith in Christ, including a Roman-appointed governor named Sergius Paulus. And while they did have some opposition, the team of missionaries must have been very excited to see all that The Lord was doing through them as they traveled around, teaching people about Christ.
It must have come as quite a surprise, then, when they reached their next destination, the city of Perga (back on the mainland), and John Mark decided to go back home. Here’s what we read in Act 13:13: “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.” Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark were a team. And now, one had decided he was done! Have you ever been part of a team, and had one of your teammates quit, right in the middle of the game? If you don’t have any extra players, this can cause quite a problem. In some games, it would mean your whole team would have to forfeit (or lose) the game. Sometimes, the team can keep playing, but being shorthanded makes it much more difficult to be successful. The Bible never tells us why John Mark left Paul and Barnabas to return home. But we do find out later how Paul felt about John Mark quitting. We’ll look at that in just a minute. But before we do, let’s take a quick look at what happened to Paul and Barnabas after John Mark left them.
John Mark’s departure did not stop Paul and Barnabas from continuing on with their journey. After they left Perga, they went to the city of Antioch in Pisidia, where Acts 13 tells us that they preached in the synagogue the first Sabbath day that they were there. Then, when they were invited to come back the next Sabbath day, “…almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.” (Acts 13:44) Again, they must have been very encouraged. But they began to make some enemies, as jealous Jews began stirring up trouble that would follow them to the cities of Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. In fact, it was while they were in Lystra that the Jews who followed them from Antioch actually stoned Paul, and dragged him outside the city, assuming he was dead. God miraculously healed him, and the were able to continue on with their missionary journey. But perhaps they wondered if things would have gone a little better if John Mark had still been with them, to help when things got tough.
It isn’t until Acts 15:36-40, as Paul and Barnabas prepared to go on a second missionary journey, that we find out about how upset Paul was about John Mark leaving. It had been about a year since Paul and Barnabas returned from their first trip, and Paul suggested to Barnabas that they should go back and visit the churches in each of the towns they had preached in, to see how they were doing. Acts 15:36-40 tells us what happened as Barnabas suggested they bring John Mark along…
36And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do.
37And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
Barnabas’ suggestion that they bring John Mark along showed a great deal of patience. He knew, just as Paul did, that John Mark had let them down the first time. But Barnabas refused to give up on him, and wanted to give him another opportunity to serve The Lord as a missionary. What do you think you would have done? Would you be able to trust someone who had let you down before? Or would you assume that since he quit once, he’d probably do it, again? Which response would be showing patience with John Mark? And no doubt Paul is excited about the idea of going back to visit the new churches they’ve established. He spent time in each town, growing to know and love the people there. But what about the time he’d spent with John Mark? What had he learned about this young man? We see in Acts 15:38 that Paul thought giving John Mark another chance was a bad idea. In fact, he was so insistent that they not give him another chance, that it caused a “sharp contention” between Paul and Barnabas, and they decided to go their separate ways. Unlike Barnabas, Paul did not demonstrate patience when it came to John Mark. He was not willing to bear with John Mark, in spite of what he’d done. In Paul’s mind, John Mark was a quitter, and would not be useful in their ministry.
But, before you get concerned that the Apostle Paul might let us down when it comes to being Christ-like, let’s take a look at one more Scripture passage where Paul talks about this young man who had so badly disappointed him.
In 2 Timothy 4:11, almost twenty years after Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, Paul says this to his friend, Timothy: “… Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” The Bible doesn’t tell us any more about where Barnabas and John Mark went, after they left Paul. It doesn’t tell us what they did, or how long they remained missionaries. But it does tell us that at some point, Paul had come to see John Mark differently. Perhaps he found that Barnabas’ patience with John Mark had paid off, and that he had become a valuable partner in the ministry. Whatever the case, by the end of his ministry, Paul recognized John Mark as someone he wanted to have with him because he had become “profitable.” That means that he was now someone Paul felt he could count on.
What a great lesson for each of us! We never know what God has planned for someone else. Some will jump right into to serving The Lord, and show great promise right away. But with others, a little patience may be needed, before we see all that God is able to do through them. The key for us is to learn to follow Barnabas’ example. Even if someone lets us down, we need to rely on our “God of patience” to help us see others as He does…a work in progress; because “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
And having patience can mean with yourself, too! If you feel like you’ve let others, even God, down, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Have patience with yourself, and remember that God is doing a work in you, too. You may not think you’re doing as well as you should, as fast as you should. But God may be working in you at a different pace, for a different purpose.
So be patient with those around you, and be patient with yourself. Because the “God of patience” is at work!
Closing Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the opportunities you give us to patient with those around us. Remind us, Lord, that everyone doesn’t do things at the same pace. And that You might be working a little slower in someone else. But that they are still growing in You. Help us to be patient, as we work alongside them, and be an encouragement to them to keep growing in you, in Your time. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
(Bible lesson Tic-Tac-Toe)
If you are familiar with the game Tic-Tac-Toe, you can use it to quiz your students on today’s lesson. Here’s how it can work. Divide the students into two teams. One team will be X’s, and the other O’s. Make a Tic-Tac-Toe board (draw it with chalk or even in the dirt if you have a dirt floor) with 9 spaces: three across, and three down. Number each of the spaces using the numbers from 1 to 9. The object of the game is to be the first team to get 3 of their marks (X’s or O’s) in a row on the board. Have the teams take turns earning the right to put their mark on by answering a question from today’s lesson (for example: can you name one of the churches that Paul and Barnabas visited, what was the name of Barnabas’ cousin who left in the middle of the first journey, name one of the Christ-like character traits we’ve studied). If the team answers correctly, they can put their mark in a spot on the board. To keep the game simple, you can let them choose where to put it. To make it a little more challenging, you can make little numbers ahead of time, perhaps writing them on little pieces of paper, and have someone from the team draw one of the numbers to determine where the mark will go if they answer correctly. Then, the next team takes a turn and is given another question to answer. If you are using the numbers to determine where their marks go, they may pick a number the other team has already picked, and replace that mark with their own if they get the answer right. Have fun! And the game works best if you have the questions prepared ahead of time.
Sometimes the hardest group of people to have patience with is those who are younger than us. Oftentimes, they haven’t developed the same skills and thinking abilities that we have, so it’s harder for them to keep up and do the same things we do. Try to find someone younger than you to practice your patience with this week. Perhaps you have younger brothers or sisters that you could be responsible for. Perhaps your church needs help in the nursery or with another Sunday School class with kids younger than you.
Perhaps you could volunteer, as a class, to take responsibility for a younger Sunday School class next week, or in the future. You would find that helping them sit still and listen, and participate in activities can require a great deal of patience.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that having patience is being Christ-like, and that please our Heavenly Father a great deal!
Sometimes being Christ-like
Means slowing down a bit,
To help another Christian
Who just needs time to sit.
Be careful not to push on,
But just, with patience, wait;
And you will be rewarded,
Some day at Heaven’s gate.
Lisa DeVinney, July 2011