Passage: Hebrews 12:1-2
This talk does not contain much talking! It involves some bible study and table based activities and was followed by prayer stations which are listed below.
A bible teacher once said that whenever I saw the word “Therefore” in the bible I should ask myself one question: “What is it there for?” Today’s passage starts with “therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” and if we look back at the chapter before we realise what the writer is talking about – it is a Who’s Who of faith in the Old Testament, a list of people who showed amazing faith often in extremely difficult circumstances. Less a hall of fame and more a hall of faith.The writer of Hebrews wants us to remember their stories, to learn from them and to be inspired by them so this morning that is what we are going to do. But rather than me doing all the work I’m going to get you to do it!
- Printed Stories
- Large sheets of paper
- Pens, pencils, felt tips
Explain that each table is going to get one story of someone from the bible who showed great faith (see below). Some of them are from the Old Testament and others from the New. They should read the story as a group and then create a picture or a poster about their story. They will also need to be ready to answer three questions about their story:
- Who is your story about?
- How did this person show faith and what was the result?
- What can we learn from them/how do they inspire us?
It would be helpful to have these questions either printed for each table or to have them on a slide where everyone can see them.Once everyone has finished get people to stick their pictures up around the room (so you are literally “surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses”!).
Go around each one asking someone from each table to share the answers to the three questions. From these stories explain that you will be moving straight into the prayer stations which will help you to think more about how to apply what you have learnt.
- Inspiring Faith
- Putting Everything Aside
- Run With Perseverance
- Training For The Race
- Prayers Of Faith
After The Prayer Stations (The End Of The Talk):
Bring up the jigsaw puzzle that has been coloured in and written on.
The stories of faith that we’ve read today are not just stories of things that happened to other people in other places at other times. They are part of our faith. We are part of their faith. The names we that have been written on this jigsaw are not just people who we read about. The stories about their faith are also stories about the faith that we share with them.
The God that the people of the Old and New Testament put their faith in and the God that the famous Christians of history and the present day put their faith in is the same God that we are called to put our faith in. We’re inspired by these amazing stories and these amazing people.
As we finish today I want to invite you to come up and take a piece of this jigsaw puzzle home with you to remind you that faith is not something that happens in isolation. Keep it somewhere where you will see it regularly this week to remind you that your faith, my faith, our faith is part of something bigger!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”
Bible Stories For Table Activities:
The following bible stories have been condensed to one page in length but could be reduced even further if you felt that your group would benefit from it.
The Red Sea:
A Very Small Army:
Vegetables and Water:
During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god. Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah.Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
Your Faith Has Healed You:
Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”
A Sling And A Stone:
Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel.As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright. “Have you seen the giant?” the men asked. “He comes out each day to defy Israel. The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!”David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”David picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine. Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.
So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head.
An Unexpected Baby:
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.