By Sally Ferguson
If your group will be fairly small, prepare a note card to use as you speak. If your group will be fairly large, use a piece of poster board. On one side, write the word JOY in large letters and decorate it. On the other side, write the words of 1 John 1:9 and Nehemiah 8:10.
Do you know someone who is cranky? Or someone who picks on you on the playground or in the classroom? It’s hard to be kind to someone like that, isn’t it? Instead of being kind, we sometimes want to say and do mean things to that person in return. Only meaner. And uglier.
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been tempted like that? I know I have!
Did you know that when we feel like that, when we’re tempted like that, we have a secret weapon against temptation? It’s a weapon God gives us. When we use this weapon, we defeat the temptation to be mean and ugly.
Would you like to know how it works? Let’s talk about it!
Getting to the Heart
Especially when other people are picking on us, especially when they are saying and doing mean and ugly things, Jesus helps us remember that sometimes we ourselves are mean to others. We often disobey God in this way—and in other ways, too. What ways might those be? (Let volunteers suggest things like forgetting to pray, not wanting to go to church, lying to parents or teachers, whining about homework or bedtime.)
Does God pay us back when we are being mean to others? When we are thinking and saying ugly, sinful things? No, he does not. Instead, he invites us to confess our sins, to tell him when we’ve done wrong.
When we ask for forgiveness, God always forgives us. He always, always, always forgives us because Jesus died for us on the cross. Jesus was punished instead of us. What a wonderful gift that is! Here are some Bible words about that. (Read 1 John 1:9 from the back of your card or poster. Then point to the word JOY on the front.)
God’s forgiveness works joy in our hearts! It’s a great, big joy! Just think! Our sins are washed away and God is our Friend! Wow! That fills our hearts with wonderful joy!
The joy we get from Jesus is a special kind of joy. It feels good to get an A on a math test. We’re happy when we get to go for ice cream and when we get that birthday gift we’ve wanted all year long. But happiness like that comes and goes.
The joy that God works in us is different. That joy is the secret weapon I was talking about a minute ago. Listen to what the Bible says about it. (Read Nehemiah 8:10 from the back of your card or poster. Then point to the word JOY on the front.)
The joy that God gives is our strength! It floods into our hearts and energizes us. Because of that joy, we are able to love and forgive others.
Have you ever made s’mores? Think about putting a chocolate bar next to a hot marshmallow. In just a few minutes, the chocolate softens. The warmth of God’s love and forgiveness softens our hearts too. It works joy—God’s kind of joy—in us. Then we can forgive others.
The same thing can happen when you choose to use warm, kind words and actions to others who hurt you. Maybe there is “s’more” to their story than you know. Maybe deep down they hurt. Or they are insecure. Or maybe they don’t know Jesus! Maybe you will get to tell them!
Whatever happens, there is always s’more to your story! S’more love. S’more joy. S’more Jesus. That’s because God is always giving you more! You have a secret weapon on your side, and that’s the joy God gives!
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion is slightly adapted from the Ministry Message for the Jesus Brings S’more Joy line of children’s products.
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