OPENING ACTIVITY: What I Gave Up
Write the following on a board or sheet of newsprint. Ask students how they would fill in the blanks and summarize their responses:
I gave up______ so that I could_________ .
They could say they gave up dessert so they could lose weight (or at least quit gaining it); they gave up a hobby that was consuming a lot of their time so they could spend more time with their family; or they gave up something they enjoyed (like running) so they did not break any bones.
A commitment to follow Jesus often requires giving up something we may value in order to gain something of far greater worth. This week’s story provides an account of what one man gave up—what it cost him—to become a follower of Christ.
OPENING STORY: [Read the story aloud or make copies and pass them around.]
DISOWNED BY YOUR FAMILY FOR FOLLOWING JESUS
Following Jesus does not come without a cost. That’s one thing Afshin Ziafat, lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, learned when he put his trust in Jesus and turned his life over to Him.
Ziafat was born in Houston. His family were devout Muslims, and his father was heavily involved in the Iranian Muslim community. Ziafat was taught the five pillars of Islam early in his life and at one time believed that if he followed them that he might get to heaven.
Ziafat’s family moved to Iran when he was two. They moved back to Houston when he was six during the Islamic Revolution in the 70s. Ziafat spoke only Farsi at the time, but he began to learn English from a Christian lady who was tutoring him. One day the lady gave Ziafat a New Testament and said to him, “Afshin, I want to give you the most important book that you’ll ever read in life.” Although Ziafat didn’t immediately read it, the ways she showed the love of Christ for him planted a seed that would come to fruition years later.
What prompted Ziafat to look in the pages of the New Testament he’d been given was after he used the Lord’s name in vain while playing basketball. He was challenged by another player who said, “Hey, that Jesus whose name you just said—He’s my God.” Ziafat had been taught that Jesus was only a prophet. What the player said, and what Ziafat saw in a documentary about Jesus on TV a short time later, reminded him of the New Testament he’d received years before. Soon he found himself wanting to learn more about Jesus.
Ziafat began reading his New Testament in secret, with a flashlight under the covers of his bed at night, knowing that he would be in trouble if his father knew what he was doing. What he read changed his understanding about Jesus. When he got to Romans, he was struck by the teaching that righteousness comes as a gift received by faith and that it comes to all who believe.
A couple weeks later, Ziafat attended an evangelistic crusade where he heard the Gospel and made a public commitment to follow Jesus. As he drove home from the crusade, he wondered what he was going to tell his family, especially his father. His father was the most important person in his life at that time, and he admits that he initially tried to hide his newfound faith from him. But it would not remain a secret. Ziafat’s father had seen him reading his Bible and also saw the changes Jesus had made in his life.
When confronted, Ziafat said, “Dad, I’m a Christian.” His father was not happy about this and responded, “Afshin, if you’re going to be a Christian, then you can no longer be my son.” There were parts of Ziafat that wanted to react to this challenge by denying his desire to follow Jesus. Instead, Ziafat said, “Dad, if I have to choose between you and Jesus, then I choose Jesus.” Ziafat’s father responded by disowning him on the spot.
Ziafat knows from personal experience that there is a cost to following Jesus. For him, it was being disowned by his father. For us, it may be something else.
Now have your students form small groups to discuss their answers to these questions.
- What have you had to give up to follow Jesus?
- Did you find this difficult to do? Explain your answer.
- What are some other costs you’ve had to pay because of your commitment to follow Jesus?
- What makes paying these costs worthwhile?