These lessons assume both a whole group teaching/preaching time and small breakout group discussion. These can be adapted as needed. For small groups that might not meet regularly or are meeting for the first time, it’s always a good idea to throw some icebreaker games in to start things off. You can find great games at youthministrycollective.com.
Main Idea: A day by day walk with Jesus is an invitation, not an obligation.
Bible: Matthew 16:13-20
So, you’ve made that decision to follow Jesus with your whole life and your whole heart. Maybe you made that decision a long time ago: when you went through confirmation or at camp or on a retreat. Or maybe you’ve just recently felt the pull to give your life over fully to Jesus Christ. No matter when or where you made that decision, there’s a question you still have to answer: now what?
[This might be a good place to talk about your own testimony – when and where you accepted God’s grace for your life and what it meant for you.]
Accepting Christ isn’t just a one time decision. That decision is important, no doubt, but it’s only one side of a two sided coin. The first side of the coin is something we call “justification.” That’s a big church word that means “made right with God.” It’s when we acknowledge and accept God’s love through Jesus Christ for ourselves. The other side of the coin is the way we become more like Jesus. We call that “sanctification.” God doesn’t want us to just acknowledge him and his grace; he wants us to live it out every day of our lives! This is our day by day walk with Jesus.
There are times in our lives when this day by day walk seems like something we have to do. It seems like an obligation – like homework or doing chores around the house. But God wants us to see it differently. A daily walk with Jesus is an invitation, not an obligation.
[Add a story or example of when your own personal devotional time seemed more like a chore than an opportunity for growing closer to God.]
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is constantly inviting people to follow him. He invites people to turn away from obligations and towards the invitation of a relationship with the living God. When Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” he’s inviting them into a new kind of relationship. When Peter answers, “You are Lord!” he’s acknowledging that invitation to continue walking with Jesus day by day.
The first step in our day by day relationship with Jesus is realizing that we’re given an invitation to a new kind of relationship and a new kind of life, not an obligation to follow a set of rules or do a set of chores.
Small Group Questions:
- What’s the difference between an obligation and an invitation?
- Describe a time when you did something you felt obligated to do, but then found yourself really enjoying or appreciating the experience. [Maybe it was attending a retreat or a church event that you didn’t want to go to, but then had a great time. Or maybe visiting a museum that seemed boring but turned out to be great.]
- Read Matthew 16:13-20. Describe why you think it’s important that the disciples called Jesus “Lord” instead of prophet or teacher.
- What kind of things in church or in faith can sometimes seem like an obligation? [Remind the group that what is said stays confidential – encourage honesty!] What are some ways that those things could be viewed as invitations instead of obligations?
- Describe what you think it must have been like for the disciples to have a day by day walk with Jesus. How does that compare to the kind of day by day walk we are called to have?
- Make a list of one or two spiritual practices (prayer, bible reading, devotional time, journaling, etc.) that each group member will commit to practicing over the next week. Make a promise to each other to do your best to do one of these practices at least once a day.
Main Idea: A daily walk with Jesus should challenge us.
Bible: Matthew 14:22-33
Do you have trouble getting up in the morning? (This should be a pretty obvious yes! for most teenagers). A lot of us do. One of the most frustrating things for many is when that alarm goes off and you just want to hit the snooze just once…maybe twice…and get a few more minutes of sleep. But then, what happens? You’re running late! You’re showering and dressing quickly; you’re shoving breakfast down if you even have time to have breakfast! And what happens when we’re running late like that? Everything except the necessities gets put off.
[This would be a good point to offer a story of when you ran late one time and the stress you felt over that situation]
For many people – even good and faithful Christians who seek to walk daily with Jesus – there are times when their daily walk gets pushed to the side. Maybe it’s not because they sleep late – it could be because of busyness or other priorities that just got in the way. The point is, it happens to all of us. Other things in our lives sometimes crowd out the time we need to be devoting to a day by day walk with Jesus.
Jesus never said that walking with him would be easy. In fact, there are numerous times in the gospel where Jesus tells his disciples how hard the walk will be and challenges them to take those difficult steps.
Peter’s walk on the water is an example of this. Jesus performs this amazing miracle, walking towards them on the water, and Peter is so excited by this he demands to join Jesus on the walk. Jesus agrees. Did Jesus know that Peter would sink? Maybe or maybe not, but he definitely knew that the walk would be difficult for Peter. It would be filled with doubt and with feelings of helplessness. In short – it would be challenging!
That’s how our own walk with Jesus should feel. In fact, if you’re not being challenged by your daily walk with Jesus, you might not be doing it right! Jesus never said that walking with him daily would be easy, but what Peter learns when he begins to sink is the same thing that we learn as well. When we are challenged in our day by day walk, we learn who we ultimately rely upon – Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Small Group Questions:
- Describe some small things that you have to do, but you struggle with doing regularly (maybe it’s getting up in the morning, or keeping up with homework, etc.)
- Talk about the biggest roadblocks you face in persisting in a day by day walk with Jesus.
- Retell, in your own words, the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water. Why do you think Peter wasn’t able to make it all the way to Jesus? Are there any parallels you see in Peter’s struggle and the struggles you might face in a daily walk with Jesus?
- Can you design a plan that might work for you to overcome the challenges you face in your own daily walk? If you share your plans, offer suggestions to each other about how others could overcome their challenges.
Main Idea: Practical ideas for a daily walk with Jesus.
In the first two sessions, you’ve been challenged to accept an invitation to a daily walk with Jesus, and to remember that there are a lot of obstacles that you’ll have to overcome in that walk. In this session, we’ll talk about some practical ideas for that daily walk.
“Discipline” is a word that most of us hear in a negative way. But discipline really just means “practice” or “training” or “rules” to help us follow a better way for our lives. Think about the discipline to exercise – it’s not always easy, but we’re healthier when we follow that discipline. And when it comes to our daily walk with Jesus, we have things called “spiritual disciplines.” These aren’t negative at all! They are ways that we train our lives to be more like Jesus.
[Use this time to talk about spiritual disciplines that are particularly helpful to you – these might include prayer, bible reading and study, regular worship, hearing preaching, or taking part in the sacrament of communion.]
Through discipline, we find that our daily walk becomes more and more meaningful to us as we begin to grow closer to Jesus.
There is no place in the Bible that says that you have to do a daily devotion in the morning – but you can read through scripture and see over and over again that mornings are especially important to God. The Psalms are filled with examples of the writer giving his mornings over to worship and devotion.
[Examples: Psalm 5:3; Psalm 30:5; Psalm 88:13; Psalm 143:8 – there are more!]
Listen to this quote from St. Escriva:
“Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If with the help of God, you conquer yourself in the moment, you have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish.”
It can be hard to have this kind of discipline – especially when you really want to hit that snooze button – but mornings are important to God and a great time to get yourself on a right track for the day.
Did you know that most people are most alert, have the most willpower, and do their very best work during the four to five hours right after they wake up? God made us for the mornings, and when we give these best hours of our day to him, we “have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day.”
For most of this series we’ve talked about the personal things that you can do to develop a healthy daily walk with Jesus. But we’ll close with this practical point – when you walk with Jesus, you never walk alone. You are always taking this walk side by side other Christians. When you stumble in your walk, you’ve got people around you to pick you up. And when others stumble, you have the opportunity to be in ministry to them. We can never truly live into a fully day by day walk with Jesus without our church community.
Small Group Questions
- Discuss how each member’s view of a daily walk with Jesus has changed during this series. Do you see that daily walk differently now than you did before?
- Are there instances in your life when you had to apply a great deal of discipline in your life to accomplish a goal? What gave you the motivation? How could you apply those methods of discipline to a daily walk with Jesus?
- When were the times (or what are the ways) that you feel closest to God?
- What is the time of day that you feel at your best? What are you usually doing during those times? What do you think would happen if you gave part of that time to God each day.
- What are some instances of your church community supporting you in a daily walk with Jesus? When were some times that you supported someone else.