I have been to Nicaragua and Guatemala about half a dozen times on short-term mission trips and am grateful for those opportunities. God used those trips to grow me and stretch me and I hope to also impact people in those nations with the gospel. (By the way, I would encourage you to read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself to help you shape your thinking on how to maximize impact of short-term mission trips.)
But I have to confess something to you about those trips. Even though I have traveled to Nicaragua and Guatemala repeatedly, I still can only speak a handful of words in Spanish. I can say “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” and “please.” I can order coffee and I can sort of ask where the bathroom is. Now, I haven’t run around speaking only English and expecting everyone else to speak English to me. I did not want to be that rude, arrogant American! So, I have tried to stumble my way through ordering lunches and so forth, but I failed to learn more Spanish to be able to really communicate. There were times when I felt so lost and helpless—unable to have even a basic conversation with someone.
Because I could not speak Spanish, on each of my mission trips I was completely reliant on translators. I couldn’t have functioned without them. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to share the gospel.
How about you? When have you felt completely helpless? When have you fully relied on someone else?
Perhaps you fully relied on a doctor to perform an operation. Perhaps it was a mechanic to fix a car. Or maybe it was a pilot to fly a plane.
I think it will help if you recall that feeling as you prepare to teach this week’s session, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Unit 16, Session 2) These three men were in a helpless situation and had to fully rely on someone else too—just to a much greater degree than we may have experienced.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were put into a tough spot when a law was passed that everyone had to bow down to a statue. As worshippers of God, these three men could not do that. They couldn’t worship anything else but the one true God. So they refused. And they were arrested for disobeying the law.
Let’s pause here and unpack what they did because you may have some kids ask you if they sinned by breaking the law. The short answer is that they did not. While we have been commanded to obey our nation’s laws, we cannot obey any law that goes against God’s laws. We have examples of this in Scripture when the midwives refused to kill the baby boys in Exodus and when Peter and the apostles were arrested for refusing to stop preaching about Jesus. (see Acts 5:29) So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were right to refuse to worship the statue.
The three men were punished by them being thrown into a fiery furnace—presumably to be burned alive. The furnace was so hot that the guards putting them into it died! Don’t miss that detail. It’s not unimportant. It shows us how perilous their situation was. If you couldn’t live outside of the furnace, how could you live in it?
But then something amazing happened. Something miraculous. The crowd saw the three men alive in the furnace! But it wasn’t only Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they saw—they saw a fourth person! God had sent someone to protect the three men! We aren’t sure exactly who that person was—it could have been an angel or perhaps it was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus. But what we do know is that God acted—He sent someone to rescue the three men out of an impossible and helpless situation. And they were rescued perfectly—not even a hair was singed!
So what do we do with this story? You know the answer—we take our kids to Jesus. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were helpless in the fire, we too were helpless in our sin. And just like the three needed God to send a rescuer, so did we. God sent Jesus to rescue us when we fully rely on Him.
This week, help your kids embrace their absolute neediness of Jesus. Guide them to see that apart from Jesus, they were in a hopeless situation, unable to do anything about their sin. But then take them to the cross and empty tomb! Remind them that Jesus sent a rescuer who stepped into their hopeless situation and delivered them perfectly too. Jesus has won the complete victory! We don’t just narrowly escape sin and death because of Jesus—we more than conquer over them because Jesus has crushed them.
That is the good news of the gospel.
When have you felt most helpless and needy of God? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the December 11, 2016 session (Unit 16, Session 2) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.