The Gospel Project for Kids seeks to point kids to Jesus during each session as we tell God’s one big story of redemption. Stephen, one of the seven men chosen to serve as leaders in the early church (Acts 6:1-7), is a great example of someone who saw God’s overall plan at work.
As he addressed the Sanhedrin (Acts 6-7), Stephen reminded the Jewish leaders of their own history. He sought to help them see things from the Old Testament that they had likely never realized. As he preached, he showed how the Old Testament pointed to a coming Savior and how that Savior was Jesus. Stephen pointed out that the Jews’ ancestors had rejected God’s prophets and that they were just like their fathers because they rejected God’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Not only did they reject Jesus, they killed Him!
All of this made the Jewish leaders angry. Very angry, in fact. So angry they sought to kill Stephen.
While we should be careful not to portray following Jesus as a gloom-and-doom sort of life, we should be age-appropriately honest about Jesus’ words with the kids we serve. Jesus told His disciples, “You will have suffering in this world” and “You will be hated by everyone because of My name” (John 16:33, Matthew 10:22). Jesus openly warned people that anyone who wanted to follow Him would experience suffering and difficulty in life.
The hope within these warnings is found in the comfort Jesus gave. In John 16, Jesus said “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace… Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” Jesus said “Therefore don’t be afraid…” in Matthew 10. Even in His warnings, Jesus gave hope.
Stephen was killed because he was a Christian. Jesus told His followers that they would be persecuted—hated, hurt, or even killed—for loving Him (Mark 13:9-13; John 16:2). Jesus also said that those who suffer for Him would be blessed. (Matt. 5:11) Stephen was not afraid to die because he saw Jesus waiting for him in heaven. We can face suffering in this life because we know great joy is waiting for us in heaven. As you teach your kids this week, help them begin to understand that our hope in Jesus gives us courage to face all of life’s circumstances, whether good or bad.
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Jeremy Carroll (@jermpc) is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. Before coming to LifeWay, he has been active in local church ministry for nearly 20 years in TN, TX, and AL. Jeremy earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A Middle Tennessee native, he and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.