Paul endured through all sorts of hard times when following Jesus. This teaching session on Paul explores his inspiring endurance and will help young people to understand that our hard times can be an opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace.
You will need: ‘Paul’s suffering’ verses, Bibles, small group questions. ‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’ DVD and A/V equipment (optional).
Name your pain: Would you rather (10 mins)
Which of the two painful options would you choose if you had to?
In pairs, ask them to pick their pain, then give the reason for their choice as well.
- Stub your toe or whack your forehead
- Break an arm or break a leg
- Be stung by a bee or stepped on by a horse
- Slam your finger in a car door or freeze your tongue to a pipe
- Have the flu with throwing up, or have the flu with diarrhea
- Have an ulcer on the end of your tongue or a pimple on the end of your nose
- Have a splinter jammed under your fingernail or a nail file jammed into your nostril
Link (2 mins)
Most of us aren’t great at handling pain. We work hard to keep our lives as free from hardship and inconvenience as possible. However as we look at the life of Paul, it doesn’t seem like God is nearly as committed to keeping his life pain-free as Paul might have wanted him to be! Instead, God is interested in demonstrating his grace through Paul’s life, even though it was filled with suffering, misunderstanding and struggles.
The same is true for us – God is not nearly as committed to keeping our lives free from pain as we might like him to be. Instead he is committed to demonstrating his grace through our pain and suffering.
Paul ENDURED all sorts for the sake of the gospel!
Paul’s Suffering (15 mins)
Divide the verses below among the groups. Ask them to look up their assigned verses to see some of the hardships Paul faced, and answer the question: ‘What hardship did Paul face here?’
- In Antioch: Acts 13:49-50 (The Jews run Paul and Barnabas out of town)
- In Iconium: Acts 14:4-6 (Jews and Gentiles plot to attack and stone Paul and Barnabas)
- In Lystra: Acts 14:19 (Jews stone Paul and leave him for dead outside the city)
- In Antioch: Acts 15:36-40 (Paul & Barnabas disagree and part company)
- In Philippi: Acts 16:19-23 (Paul & Silas are seized, severely beaten and thrown in prison)
- In Thessalonica: Acts 17:5-6, 10 (Angry mob formed, and Paul & Silas are smuggled out of the city)
- In Jerusalem: Acts 21:30-36 (Riot breaks out and they try to kill Paul, then he is arrested and put in Prison)
- In Jerusalem: Acts 23:12-14 (Jews plot to kill Paul)
- In Jerusalem: Acts 24:27 (Paul is in prison for two years)
- On the boat: Acts 27:18-20 (Caught in a storm, no hope of survival)
- In Malta: Acts 28:3-5 (Bitten by a deadly snake)
- In Rome: Acts 28:16 (Paul put on house arrest for two years)
Report back from each group.
At the end of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians Paul talks about all that he has been through while following Jesus for the last 14 years. When he does this he is talking about how he is different to a group of people who have been causing trouble in Corinth.
Let’s listen to what he says.
Paul says he has become content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. He says, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” That is amazing because it’s really hard to endure and keep following Jesus when we experience hard times. So we’re going to talk about that more in our small groups.
Small Group Questions
- Why do you think Paul was willing to endure so much while following Jesus and spreading the gospel?
(e.g. He has been transformed by his encounter with Jesus, and he wants all people to experience the same transformation.)
- What questions do you have for God when you experience hard times in your life?
Have a look at 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
- Have you ever experienced God’s power working through your weakness? How?
- What can we do to help us endure and keep being faithful to Jesus in the face of tough times?
(e.g. looking back at how God has been faithful to us in the past, leaning on our communities for support, holding on to scripture etc.)
Pray for each other for endurance to keep following Jesus no matter what we face, and possibly for specific hard times that individuals in your group are currently facing (if they’re willing to share).
Note: Timings given above are approximate.