Grades 3-6 Lesson 13 for Sunday School:
Imitators of Christ – Loyalty
Teacher’s Notes: With this lesson, we reach the end of our series on being imitators of Christ. So we’ll take a few moments to review the past few weeks. Then we’ll look at today’s Christ-like quality: loyalty.
For the past twelve weeks, we’ve been learning what it means to be like Christ. Does anyone remember our very first memory verse? It said “Be ye, therefore, followers of God, as dear children.” (Ephesians 5:1) And we began our study by looking at examples from Jesus’ own life, to learn how to be His followers. We learned that He fought Satan by using the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God); and that He was compassionate, humble, submissive, and loving.
We then looked at examples of others in The Bible who were also Christ-like. We learned about a thankful leper, persevering friends, a giving church, and a patient missionary.
Our final few lessons have focused more on Biblical teaching – those “because God said so” lessons. We’ve learned to put others first, and to be joyful instead of whiny. And our final lesson is going to teach us about loyalty.
Can anyone tell us what it means to be loyal? Here are some other words that go along with loyalty: faithful, devoted, steadfast. Have any of you ever had a pet dog? Dogs have been called “man’s best friend” because of their loyalty. Listen to this story of a dog who has become a Japanese legend because of his loyalty:
In 1924, a Japanese university professor brought an Akita, named Hachiko, home with him. Every morning, as the professor headed to the train station for work, Hachiko would be there, by the door, to see him off. And at 4 o’clock, every afternoon, when the professor’s train would pull into the station, Hachiko would be there, at the train platform, waiting for him. It was only a year later that the professor had a stroke, and died while at work. Hachiko, of course, had no way of knowing that his master would not be coming home. So he faithfully went to the train station at 4 o’clock, as he did every day, only to search the faces of those getting off the train…none of them being his master. The following day, at 4 o’clock, Hachiko was at the station again, looking for his master in the sea of faces stepping from the train. Legend has it that for ten years (until his own death) this faithful companion continued to meet the 4 o’clock train every day, hoping to see the master he loved so much. The station master was so moved by Hachiko’s loyalty that he began leaving food out for him. And many of the local people who passed through the station were also moved by Hachiko’s example of faithfulness. In fact, a bronze statue of this faithful dog was installed at the train station. And when the original statue was destroyed in World War II, the artist’s son created a new statue, so the legend of this loyal friend would not be lost. They say the statue is there, to this day, still looking for the professor to come home.
Now, that is an example of great loyalty!
In today’s lesson, we’re going to be hearing from the Apostle Paul again. And we’ll be in the same chapter of Philippians we’ve studied for our last two lessons. Paul isn’t going to be telling us about the loyalty of a legendary dog, though. He’s going to be telling us about two faithful friends who were great encouragements to him in his ministry. Let’s begin by looking at Paul’s description of these men in our memory verse. Then we’ll take a closer look at who he was talking about, and what they did that made them legends of loyalty in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.” Philippians 2:20-21
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Holy Bible, where we can find Your instructions for becoming more like Your Son, Jesus. Help us now, Lord, to have ears ready to listen, and hearts ready to learn, as we once again look into Your Word, today. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (Loyaty)
Do you consider yourself a loyal friend? The Apostle Paul suffered a lot of persecution throughout his ministry. More than once, he was beaten and thrown into prison. It would take a very loyal friend to stick with someone through all that hardship. And Paul is going to share with us that he had two friends who did just that, they stuck with him, no matter what. Their names were Timothy and Epaphroditus.
(Suggested Bible Reading): Philippians 2:19-30 (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
19But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.
20For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.
21For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.
22But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.
23Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me.
24But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.
25Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.
26For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
27For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
28I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
29Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
30Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
Does anyone remember where Paul was, as he was writing this letter to the church in Philippi? Yes, Paul was in a prison in Rome. He was not there whining or complaining. But he was stuck there, nonetheless, and could not go visit the churches that he traveled to as a missionary. And even though he had many needs, himself, Paul’s constant thoughts and concerns were with these new churches that were growing and maturing. He knew that they needed more teaching and encouragement if they were to become lights for The Lord in their cities.
The church at Philippi was one of these churches. Philippi was an important city in its region. And now Paul could not get back there, himself. So he wanted to send someone who he knew would care for the needs of that church just as he would if he were there, personally. So Paul chose two men to send to Philippi, the first of whom was Timothy. When reading through your New Testament, you will find Timothy’s name often. He was a trusted friend of Paul, and a loyal servant to him. Listen to how Paul described Timothy in verse 20: “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.” Timothy and Paul thought alike, when it came to ministering to each other, and to the churches. Do you remember this verse that we looked at just a couple of weeks ago? Philippians 2:5 said this: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” The mind that Paul and Timothy shared was the mind of Christ. And because they had the love of Christ in them, they cared a great deal for others…often putting the needs of the churches ahead of their own. Paul described this love in Timothy as a natural part of him, telling them that Timothy would “naturally care for [their] state.” Paul wanted the Philippians to know that he wasn’t sending just anybody. He was sending the best!
Remember that Paul had probably led many of the members of this church to the Lord, himself. That would make them like his own children, in The Lord. No wonder he was so careful in choosing whom to send.
If you had a mom or dad, brother or sister, or perhaps a very good friend who needed someone to take care of them, and you could not do it yourself, is there anyone that you would feel comfortable sending to them, who you think would care for them just as you would if you could be there? Paul was very fortunate to have Timothy as his loyal companion and friend.
Paul knows that this choice of whom to send must be made carefully. The trip from Rome would be long and difficult. It would include travel over very rough terrain, on foot, and time at sea, probably in cramped quarters with little food to eat. Not just anyone would be faithful to complete such a journey, especially if any unforeseen problems happened to arise. But Paul knew Timothy like a father whose son had served him well (verse 22), and considered that proof enough of Timothy’s heart for God, and for His churches. Paul recognized that there were some men who might “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's” (verse 21). But he knew that would not be true of his friend, Timothy.
Of course, Timothy’s loyalty was not only to Paul. In being loyal to Paul, Timothy was also demonstrating his faithfulness to The Lord. Have you ever stopped to consider whether Jesus would consider you a loyal friend and follower? Have you ever let God down when He’s asked you to do something for Him? And how do you feel about taking care of others? Could God say of you, ““I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state” like Paul did of Timothy?
Then, in verse 24, we meet the second man that Paul would send to Philippi. His name was Epaphroditus. Now this name is not nearly as familiar as Timothy. But just listen to the description Paul gave of him: “Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” Like Timothy, Epaphroditus had been a loyal friend and servant to Paul. He considered himself bonded to Epaphroditus like a brother, in Christ.
Epaphroditus had actually come from the church in Philippi. They sent him to minister to Paul while he was in Rome. And he must have been a great help and encouragement to Paul, as he referred to Epaphroditus as a “companion in labour, and fellow soldier.” Epaphroditus was not content to idly sit by while Paul did all the work of the ministry in Rome. He labored right alongside of Paul, and helped him fight as a soldier of Christ.
And not only was he a loyal servant with Paul, Epaphroditus was the same for the Philippian church. It would not have been an easy decision to volunteer to go all the way to Rome, to help Paul. But the church asked for someone to go, and he agreed to be their messenger. Then, as Paul wrote this letter, we can see a little more into Epaphroditus’ loyal heart when Paul mentions that Epaphroditus was sick. Verse 27 tells us that “indeed he was sick nigh unto death.” But Epaphroditus was so concerned about his church family back in Philippi that Paul tells us, “[he]was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.” (verse 26) Epaphroditus was more concerned about how his church family was handling his being sick, than he was about his own health. It would have been understandable for him to be worried about himself. But that was not the mind of Epaphroditus. He, like Paul and Timothy, had the mind of Christ. And that meant that his concern for others was greater than his concern for himself. It also demonstrated his great loyalty to His Heavenly Father. As soon as Epaphroditus was well, he was ready to once again do whatever God asked of him, and go wherever God asked him to go. And that meant getting back to the church at Philippi, even though, as we mentioned before, it was not an easy trip. No doubt it crossed his mind that perhaps he could become sick, once again, and never make it back. But again, Epaphroditus’ loyalty to God allowed him to put God’s will ahead of any concerns he might have for himself. Epaphroditus was prepared to die, if necessary, to help minister to his friend, Paul, to help his church family in Philippi, and to serve the God he loved so much.
Have you ever know, or heard of anyone who was willing to put themselves in harms way, perhaps even risk their lives to serve God? In many countries around the world, Christians are able to worship and serve The Lord without any concern for safety. But that is not true everywhere. There are places in our world where Christians are mocked, beaten, or even killed, everyday, just for being loyal to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Do you think you have the kind of loyalty to Jesus that would allow you to stand for Him, even if it meant you might be killed for it? That’s the kind of loyalty Paul had. That’s the kind of loyalty Timothy and Epaphroditus had. And that’s the kind of loyalty we can have, as well, if we are living Christ-like lives.
But the only way that can happen is if we have His Spirit living in us, helping us to be like Him. And the only way we can have that Spirit in us is by inviting Him into our hearts and lives as our Savior. It’s not something that happens by chance. It requires a purposeful decision. We must each recognize our sinfulness, and need for a Savior. Then realize that Jesus came to this earth, died on the cross, and rose again so that He could be that Savior – making the payment for our sins. When we understand these things, and choose to turn away from sin to accept His redemption, then He sends His Holy Spirit to be with us as a Comforter, Counselor, and friend. And it is that same Holy Spirit who can give us the courage we need to remain loyal to our Lord…no matter what!
And do you know what else? That same Holy Spirit can also help us to live out all the other Christ-like qualities we’ve learned about, too. If we have the Holy Spirit in us, we have all we need to be the kind of Christians who are lights to the world around us “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” That was our first memory verse in this series, found in Ephesians 4:13. How are you doing, Christian friends? Are you more like Christ today than you were when we began, many weeks ago? I hope that is the goal of each one who has been part of these lessons!
Closing Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for teaching us about the very mind of Christ, showing us what we should do if we want to be like Him. Give us the ability to put into practice all of the Christ-like qualities we’ve learned about. Help us this week, Lord, to remain loyal to You, no matter what You might ask of us. And help us to remember to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters, whose loyalty to You is tested each and every day. Give them courage and protection, and encouragement in their hearts, from You. For it’s in Your Name that we ask. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
Think about this statement: it’s impossible to be loyal to God and a secret Christian, at the same time. Do you agree? Why or why not? Remember that God has told us to be a light on a hill. And a light on a hill is not a secret.
Are there any situations you face each week that test your loyalty to God? Do you have friends who test that loyalty? Can you think of any situations you found yourself in this past week that tested your loyalty to God? If you can, do you think you should make any changes in your life?
And as we’ve reached the end of our series on being imitators of Christ, let’s take just a few moments to review what we’ve learned. See how many of the following questions you can answer. If you can answer with a memory verse, give yourself an extra pat on the back (and this would be a great opportunity to play the Tic-Tac-Toe game, as well – instructions are below if you don’t know them):
(Bible lesson Tic-Tac-Toe)
If you are familiar with the game Tic-Tac-Toe, you can use it to quiz your students on today’s lesson. Here’s how it can work. Divide the students into two teams. One team will be X’s, and the other O’s. Make a Tic-Tac-Toe board (draw it with chalk or even in the dirt if you have a dirt floor) with 9 spaces: three across, and three down. Number each of the spaces using the numbers from 1 to 9. The object of the game is to be the first team to get 3 of their marks (X’s or O’s) in a row on the board. Have the teams take turns earning the right to put their mark on by answering a question from today’s lesson (for example: how many men carried the paralyzed man to Jesus? What town was Jesus staying in?). If the team answers correctly, they can put their mark in a spot on the board. To keep the game simple, you can let them choose where to put it. To make it a little more challenging, you can make little numbers ahead of time, perhaps writing them on little pieces of paper, and have someone from the team draw one of the numbers to determine where the mark will go if they answer correctly. Then, the next team takes a turn and is given another question to answer. If you are using the numbers to determine where their marks go, they may pick a number the other team has already picked, and replace that mark with their own if they get the answer right. Have fun! And the game works best if you have the questions prepared ahead of time.
When you look into the mirror,
who is it that you see?
Do you see your own reflection?
Look again then, please…
For if you are a “little Christ”
(and that’s what “Christian” means),
it should be Jesus’ face that others
Look at you, and see.
Lisa DeVinney, October, 2017