Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hannah and Penninah - Rivals! (Youth Bible Study on 1 Samuel 1:1-11)

Brief: Do your best, not to compete against others but to be your best.

(Printable Student Sheet)

Intro Question
(Play a game in which students compete against each other. Just about any youth group game will do.)

After the game, ask, Have you ever been in a competition? What kinds of things do you compete for? (Examples include games, sports, grades, popularity, promotions at work for older teens, etc.)

We all compete against other people. Either we try to win at a game or be the best at a sport or get the best grades so that we can be at the top of our class and get scholarships, or maybe we try to be the funniest or the prettiest or the best looking. Those are all ways of competing against other people.

What are some good things about competition?

When you’re competing against someone, you usually try harder. It’s also fun to compete and see if you’re the best at something.

What could be some negative things about competition?

It might make the winner feel good about themselves, but how does the loser feel? If you win the game, someone has to lose. If you’re the most popular student in your school and you’ve got a lot of friends and you feel happy about that, someone else is feeling pretty down about the fact that they’re not popular, and they don’t have as many friends.

Competition can also make people angry or even hate each other. Have you ever heard about two players in a sport getting into a fight with each other? Have you ever heard about two fans getting into a fight? Have you ever heard someone say, “I hate that team. They always beat us”?

Scripture: 1 Samuel 1:1-11
There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LordWhenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if You will only look on Your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget Your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

Who are the two people competing in this story? (Hannah and Penninah.)

What are they competing for?

Hannah and Penninah are competing for their husband’s love. That’s another thing that people compete for all the time – the love of someone else. If two guys like the same girl, they’re competing against each other to see which of them can make the girl like them more. If two girls like the same guy, like Hannah and Penninah in this story, they’re competing against each other to see which of them can make the guy like them more.

Both women are married to the same man (that was allowed back then), but now, they’re competing to see which of them their husband will love more. Penninah’s got a lot going for her. She can have kids, and that is something that her husband definitely likes about her. Hannah, on the other hand, can’t have kids, which is a major point against her, but she must have had some other good points (maybe she was prettier or had a better personality or was a better kisser or something) because it says that her husband still loved her more than he loved Penninah.

So, both women are in competition, and both women feel bad. Hannah feels bad because she can’t have kids, and Penninah feels bad because no matter what she does, no matter how many kids she has, her husband still doesn’t love her as much as he loves Hannah.

Let me ask you a question: What do you think would have happened if Hannah and Penninah would have stopped competing against each other? What if they had both said, “I don’t care if our husband loves you more. I know he still loves me too”? Would Hannah and Penninah have been happier if they weren't constantly in competition against each other?

I think they would have been much happier if Hannah would have simply said, “Okay. I can’t have kids, but I’m going to be the best wife I can be in every other way that I can” and if Penninah had said, “Okay. Our husband likes Hannah a little more, but I can be happy with my life anyway. Besides, having him love me most isn’t everything.”

What if two sports teams stopped keeping score, stopped competing against each other, and simply played for fun? If they both did the best they could but didn’t care who actually won the game? It would still be fun to play the game, wouldn’t it? And no one would feel bad about losing.

You see, I think God created us to be happy with who we are. We should try our best, do our best, and be our best, not so that we can win against someone else but because trying our best, doing our best, and being our best makes us the happiest. And if we’re not as good as someone else at something, who cares? We’re doing the best that we can do, and that’s all we can do.

I don’t think God cares if we’re better at something that someone else. I think God cares if we’re doing our best, and I think He would much rather have us be happy with who we are than whether we’re winning or losing compared to other people.

So, think about that. What kinds of things do you compete for? What would happen if you stopped competing and simply did your best, and then you learned to be happy with your best without worrying about what other people’s best was?

I think if we did that, we would still be just as happy with ourselves because we would know that we were doing our best, that we were being as good as God created us to be, and that is enough. We don’t need other people to tell us we’re the best. We would know that we’re doing our best.

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