Choices That Determine Destiny - Lesson 1

By Dudley Chancey

Choosing Friends Wisely

Text: Daniel 1-3; 6

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will choose his/her friends wisely.
  2. The student will determine to choose God even if every one and everything seems against it.

Preparation (some items are for extra work if time allows):

  1. Bible for every student (NIV is used for quotes and handouts in this series)
  2. Copies of student handout
  3. Kite string
  4. Bible concordances or Bible computer program
  5. Chalk or markers for board work
  6. Index Cards
  7. Pens/pencils


Nebuchadnezzar is king of Babylon. He has conquered Jerusalem and taken captives back to Babylon. Among these captives are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God gives these men knowledge and wisdom above everyone else. They are placed in the king's service and serve until the first year of King Cyrus (about 63 years). Each time these men are faced with a choice, they choose to be what God has asked them to be-they stick together with each other and with what is right. Each time they choose, God is there for them. Their lives are a living witness to the God of Israel—even the Kings see this and acknowledge the one true God.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (5 minutes)

  1. Prayer time (ask for requests, ask for answered prayers)
  2. Check calendar of events coming up
  3. Connect any students visiting, to individual students and the youth group

Learning Experiences: (20 minutes)

  1. As we start this series on making choices, there are two general points to make as background information.
    1. First, we will be studying a method of making godly choices in our everyday living.
      1. Parts of this method comes from the Right from Wrong series by Josh McDowell. (You can pick up this material for supplement at any Christian bookstore.) It's called the 4 C's. Consider the choice. Compare our attitudes and actions to God. Commit to God's ways. Count on God's protections and provision.
      2. Our method also involves principles rather than rules. What's the difference? Many times, rules are thought of or seen in a negative light. They are primarily a list of specific things to door not do. Principles give guidelines for behavior that we follow. You may have heard that the Bible is just a book of rules-a stack of"don'ts." In reality, the Bible is full of standards or principles that can guide our lives. Make sure students know that one of the first good books to come out on making good choices was the Bible. For example, the Ten Commandments aren't suggestions. They lay down life-long principles for living. Jesus came a long in Matthew 5-7 and gave us new ways to look at life and relationships. The Bible isn't a book that takes all the fun out of life. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. And, in John 10:10b, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." God has a plan for you. He wants you to have the abundant life. BUT, he gives us all free choice. We must choose wisely. For more, see How I Can Be Real.
    2. Second, we will see the importance friends play in our decision-making process. Being socially accepted is one of the greatest perceived needs of students. You want to be liked. You want to fit in. Church youth groups and/or Sunday school classes provide a means for students to be social in hopefully a good, Christian environment. As a parent, I want my children's best friends to be from church. I pray that the other parents in our church follow the same standards that our family is following. Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 4:12, "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." *See the "friends" exercises at the end if you need more material for class time.* Friends are important. They influence more in the teen years than at any time previous to growing up. Parents aren't around as much-peers are. SharonScott discusses how student's friends can exert positive or negative pressure when choices are being made. Positive pressure about choices occurs when friends encourage one to do their best. When they cheer you on. When they talk you or others out of drinking or experimenting with drugs. Negative pressure happens when "friends" encourage one to do something that is wrong or dangerous. These so called "friends" tease and put down students for not "going along with the crowd". This is hard for students. Sometimes they choose to keep these "friends" and give into them. They don't look at the long-term effects. In the lesson today we will see that it isn't only important to have good friends, but it is very important that those good friends base their lives on the standards and principles of godly living (I say this to warn you that many youth group kids have taken their first drink, first smoke, first sexual experience from another member of the youth group). Can we have students in our youth groups and Sunday schools like the Hebrews in our text today? Yes!
  2. Our Bible case for study today comes from the book of Daniel. While the book of Daniel gets a lot of press for "end times" material, it contains some of the greatest stories in the Bible for children (and adults). The text for today's lesson contains three stories that allow us to stand back and see what happens when people choose to live by godly standards. Since you have heard these stories before, we just want to look at each briefly for what it can teach us about staying close to God and our friends.
    1. Choosing what to eat (Daniel 1:3-20)
      1. The four Hebrews are chosen out and trained.
      2. They RESOLVED together not to eat the King's food.
      3. God acts on their behalf
      4. They test and compare themselves to theKing's way of eating
      5. God acts on their behalf
      6. They are 10 times better than any man theKing is over
    2. Choosing whom to worship (Daniel 3:8-30)
      1. The Hebrews are singled out for not worshipping the image
      2. The Hebrews have to choose between Nebuchadnezzar's gods and their God
      3. The Hebrews together exhibit complete confidence and choose their God, and face the persecution because of that choice. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the mage of gold you have set up” (3:16b-18).
      4. God acts on their behalf
      5. The Hebrews are promoted to higher positions in Babylon
    3. Choosing to have an on-going relationship with God
      1. Daniel prays three times a day to God
      2. He is singled out for not obeying the king's decree to pray to him (the king) only, for 30days.
      3. He chooses to continue his relationship withGod (vs. 16b & 20b) (While he acts alone, his life-long association with his friends keeps him strong.)
      4. He is thrown into the pit with the lions
      5. God acts on his behalf
      6. Daniel does well in the kingdom In all three of these incidents, the Hebrews make a choice to serve God. (You as the teacher, must get across to the students that this wasn't a spur of the moment choice.) These men made these choices based on their previous choices as young men and perhaps even as boys. They stick together. They chose God and godly ways to live their lives. They were so confident that God would work on their behalf. They were so confident that even if he didn't, they would still choose him.

Applications: (10 minutes)

  1. So how do we make application of the text for our lives today? We have three stories involving the Hebrew men. They act in a certain way and things happen. They stick together in their beliefs and have success in the end. What about the students you are working with? Does God expect his people (even students) to live up to the standards that are set within the pages of the Bible? Are there times when these standards can be lowered (as in choosing friends)? Using the index cards and pens/pencils, have each student select five of the following qualities (from Talksheets) that they would want to find in a friend. Write these on the board: similar interests, loyal, funny, smart, athletic, able to keep secrets, musical, popular, truthful, spiritual, trustworthy, honest, good-looking, same age, same race, wealthy, outgoing, Christian, creative, humble, easygoing, witty, patient, kind, generous, clean, cheerful, courageous, responsible, industrious. After students have chosen, ask them to look at their own life and see if they are upholding those same five qualities they chose for their friends.
  2. Using the concordances, look up several Bible verses about friends (e.g., Proverbs 17:17; 18:24; 27:6; 27:9-10). Ask students to explain in their own words what the wise man was suggesting.
  3. Have students write a paragraph or two about their very best friend. Have them share what stands out about this friend.
  4. Give the students a situation like the following: You are out at the local teen hangout and someone comes up and offers you and your friends a beer. Some of your "friends" take a sip on a dare. What do you do? Apply the 4C's method here. Consider the choice-stop and think about what you are doing. Compare our attitudes and actions to God-it is the ole "what would Jesus do." Commit to God's ways-Think about Daniel and the Hebrew men, not defiling their bodies. Count on God's protections and provision-remember that God takes care of his people and he will certainly take care of you.
  5. Restate the objectives for this week, tying them to the Hebrew men. These four men stuck together in the small things (what they ate) and in the big things (worshipping the one true God). These men also chose early on that they would live by right standards even with the chance that they could die for standing up with each other for the right things.

Assignment: (2 minutes)

  1. Pass out the handouts to take home. Encourage the students to fill in the answers to the questions sometime during the next week and bring these back to class with them. (You might want to tie this series in with another activity in your church or youth group such as a mission trip requirement.) The "fill in the blanks" section is straight out of the text for today's lesson. This assignment will give students time to "be in the Word." The following may help you next week as you go over the thought questions:
    1. Traits of the Hebrews: What were the character traits of the Hebrew men? (They were resolved (already had there minds on the right thing); they stood together for what was the right thing to do;they continually worshiped and served God.)
    2. Themes: Are we promised a smooth ride every time we do good? (Abiding by godly principles doesn't always provide a quick fix in the present, but in the end there is success; When people honor God in their lives, God is glorified. He is even glorified by others (even pagans) in the end.)
    3. Your friends: What are some things that attract people to others? (Money, popularity, common interests such as sports and music.) Are your friends a challenge to your faith? Do they encourage you in your prayer and Bible study time and service to others? (You might also point out that people can look at others and tell a lot about whether or not they are living godly lives. You can tell when someone is lifting you up or tearing you down. Challenge students to listen to wise advice from parents, other adults, and true Christian friends when they warn against bad company.)
    4. Friends from church: Do your church friends hold you accountable to do what is right? (Be aware that church "friends" can be harmful. Some students may really have a legit reason for not hanging out with the youth group kids-they may truly be bad.) What other reasons do you or your friends see as reasons not to be involved here at church much? (There may be other general things like interests, different school systems, etc. as to why some students don't pick their friends out of church students. You should be aware of this and impression these students that no matter what the interests, schools, family backgrounds, etc., that we are all one in Christ. He is our common denominator.)
  2. Read Genesis 37-50. The story of Joseph for next week.

Evaluation: (5 Minutes)

  1. Ask students to name the main characters in the stories today and give a quality of each that they admire.
  2. Ask students to put in their own words, one of the principles that they heard from the lesson today.
  3. (After class) Have an intern or another adult evaluate your teaching. Occasionally, ask some students to blind review the class. Ask questions like, "What was the main goal of the class tonight?" "What really made an impression on you tonight about the lesson?"

Extra Material if Needed Friends Exercises

  1. Take some kite string and give several students a two-foot long piece each. Ask them to see if they can pull it and break it. They should be able to. Then give them three pieces each, two-foot long, and have them braid them together (this should be a great ministry for the girls in the group). With the strings braided together, ask the same students to try to pull and break them. It should not be easy to do. In fact, they may not be able to break them at all. Do students see the connection between the string and the principle in Ecclesiastes? What lessons can they learn here? What does this verse and object lesson say about friends? About teamwork? About having the same mind and purpose?
  2. Assign some students the task of looking up the word "friends" in a concordance. Ask them to read some of the references. See if they can detect a pattern about "friends" from the over 90 references to "friends" in the Old and New Testaments. They should see that there are "good" friends and there are "bad" friends.
  3. Ask students to make a list of characteristics of "good" friends and "bad" friends on the board.
  4. Ask students what is right or wrong about the following advertisement: "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." Whatever they may say, they or you should lead them to conclude that "friends don't let friends drink-period."

Further Resources:

Bundschuh, R. & Finley, T. (2001). High school talksheets Psalms andProverbs. El Cajon: Youth Specialties.McDowell, J. (1995). Setting you free to make right choices. Nashville:World Bridge Press.Richards, L. (1979). How can I be real? Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company.Scott, S. (1986). Peer pressure reversal: How to say no and keep your friends. Amherst: Human Resource Development Press, Inc.

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