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Those Juniors, Part 35: A Better Man

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: While teaching the lesson is important, more so is actually applying the lesson to your class. There are five steps to arriving at successful application.

To illustrate these five steps, let us take the lesson which is entitled “Abraham’s Visitors.” We have already decided to take “God’s great mercy” as the theme. Now let us see how this theme can be developed and applied.

“How many times has God already promised to bless Abraham and make of him a great nation?”
“Four times.” (Genesis 12, 13, 15, 17.)

“How old is Abraham in today’s lesson?”
“Ninety-nine years old.”

“Where was he living at this time?”
“On the plains of Mamre, which are on the mountain of Hebron, west of the cities Sodom and Gomorrah.”

NOTE: A few sentences or questions are sufficient to prepare the stage for the events and characters of the new lesson.

With the theme “God’s great mercy” in mind we now go on with the lesson:

1. Choose the best answer: What time of day did Abraham see the travelers?
a. Nine o’clock in the morning.
b. Twelve o’clock noon.
c. Three o’clock (heat of day, perhaps 1 PM)
2. True or false:
a. The three visitors were angels. (False, one was the Lord.)
b. Abraham gave them bread and water for lunch. (Half true; also meat, butter, and milk.)
c. Sarah did not believe the first message the messengers brought. (True. Though she should have. Her name was changed from Sarai, which means “contentious,” to Sarah, which means “princess.” Use Bible dictionary and the marginal reading for Genesis 17:15.)
3. Problems:
a. How many others have used the same words the angels used? (“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”) (See marginal references for Genesis 18:14.)
b. How far from Abraham’s tent was Sodom? (Compare scale on map. Angels got there that evening. Abraham could see it from a place near his tent. Gen. 19:27, 28.)
c. How big a city was Sodom? (Compare Bible dictionaries and Psalms 91:7. One saved to 11,000 destroyed, and the 144,000 to world’s population. Could there have been a similarity? If proportion was about the same, what would population of Sodom have been?)
d. Study the numbers as they decreased in Abraham’s pleading. 50-45-40-30-20-10. Why did he only come down five at a time at first, then ten at a time? Why did he stop at ten?
NOTE: There is not a dull moment in the discussion accompanying these streamlined questions and problems, but we are not finished yet. Sad to say, untrained and inexperienced teachers all too often stop right here, but let us go on and watch the theme crystallized and applied.

All right, class, we have seen that God gave Abraham and Sarah, who laughed at His plan, a son called “laughter.” We have seen how He was willing to spare a great city for the sake of even ten righteous. Let us go back a little further:

How many people were saved at the time of the Flood?

Was there opportunity for all to believe?

How long did Noah plead with the people?

Why was Jonah sent to Nineveh?

What was his message?

What did the people do?

Why was Nineveh not destroyed?

NOTE: Do you see how the comparison of associated circumstances emphasizes the theme? Now we are all ready to state it.

Since God was willing to save Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people, and since He saved Nineveh when the people repented, what kind of God would you say we have?

“A good God, a long-suffering God, a very merciful God,” is certain to be the response.

NOTE: Immediately after stating the theme, proceed at once with the next step.

I love to serve a merciful God like that, don’t you? What can we do to be sure that His mercy will be extended to us?

NOTE: The response is bound to be, “We must live up to all the light we have; we must make sure that our sins are all forgiven; we must make sure that we are not partaking of the sins of Sodom.”

Another lesson: Lot & Sodom
As the art of crystallizing the theme and applying the lesson is the most difficult phase of junior teaching, yet by far the most valuable, let us briefly note the same five steps in the following lesson also. The title is “Lot Brought Out of Sodom.” The theme is “the danger of worldly association.”

For a long time Lot accompanied Abraham as he traveled through the land. What caused their separation? Where did Abraham go? Where did Lot choose to abide? Who are on their way to visit him there?

Establish length of time Lot lived in Sodom, and size of his family. Describe Sodom—its work, wealth, pride. Describe Lot’s work. Give basis for Abraham’s thinking there would surely be ten righteous people there. Give the experience of the two angels, the mob, the mocking of the sons-in-law, the final escape of four and the turning of Lot’s wife to a pillar of salt.

Referring to the story of Noah for a moment: Did Noah and his three sons build the ark all by themselves?

Where were Noah’s carpenters when the door of the ark was closed?

Why were they outside?

Why did Lucifer become Satan?

Why did Eve take the forbidden fruit?

Why did Lot’s sons-in-law refuse to leave the city?

NOTE: These questions should develop answers like, “They loved popularity.” “Because of pride.” “Because of ambition.” “They loved the riches of the world.”

What must we, therefore, conclude with regard to the love of the things of this world? It is given in one of the texts near the end of the lesson. (1 John 2:15, 16.) Say it together, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Have you ever been tempted by worldly pride or ambition?

Have you ever been tempted to break the commandments in order to earn worldly riches?

Down deep in your heart, are you aware of any association with a worldly person that is weaning you away from Christ even a little?

Rest assured that these temptations will come to everyone, but I am determined that while I must be in the world, by the grace of God, I will not be of the world. Will you determine to do the same?

Better teachers
These are but ordinary illustrations, but they are clear enough to demonstrate the art of applying the lesson. Lessons differ. With some it requires more study to discover the theme than with others. You have noticed, however, that generally the lessons are written now with a little paragraph called “The Guiding Thought.” This is the lesson writer’s theme, and is of great service to us in the preparation of our lesson.

Hundreds of teachers have caught the vision of the possibilities in this lesson outline, and have improved their teaching manyfold. They are checking themselves week by week, according to the following check sheet. Some have their wives listen in or the superintendent listen in, then check them over. Improvement may not come in one day, but in time marvelous results will follow.

To a few, the right way seems too stupendous, and their past efforts have borne such little fruit that they almost feel ready to quit. But listen—

Some years ago a missionary became discouraged in his work. He wrote to a friend of his, and said: “I am leaving India. I am accomplishing nothing. God wants a better man here than I am, and I am going home to make room for Him.”

His friend replied: “You are perfectly right. God does want a better man where you are, but He wants you to be that better man.”* 

Oh, what a challenge! We can never quit! As Elder S. A. Wellman has often said, “I would hate to stand at the judgment seat of God after having refused to accept the responsibility of teaching children.”

So, we will be better men, better teachers, better soul winners.

Teacher, how do you rate?
Self-grading card

1. The Greeting
a. Did I make excuses or apologies?
b. Was my manner formal or friendly?
2. The Preparation or Introduction
a. Did it catch the attention?
b. Did it point to the lesson?
3. The Presentation of the Lesson
a. Did I stick to the lesson?
b. Did I cover all the lesson?
c. Did I use any illustrations?
d. Were there too many yes-no questions, or enough thought-provoking questions?
e. Did I preach too much?
4. Association and comparison
Was the theme developed by association and comparison of previous knowledge?
5. Generalization
What was the theme of the lesson?
6. Application
a. Did it speak to the heart?
b. Did the conclusion end with a note of faith, hope, or love?
7. General Remarks
Was interest sustained?
(Next week: “Windows.”)

* “Be a Better Man,” by G. G. Lowry in Eastern Tidings, July 15, 1940.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission

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