Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Christian's Hope

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”
– Dalai Lama

“Hope is the dream of a waking man.”
– Aristotle

“To me, we're marketing hope.”
– Joel Osteen

Is a Christian’s hope different than regular hope? Buddhist hope?  Is hope important?

1)    Do you often think about or experience hope?

2)    When is it hardest for you to have hope?

(Colossians 1:3-6) We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in our prayers for you.  We thank God because we have heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. You have these because of the hope which is kept safe for you in heaven. Some time ago you heard about this hope in the Good News which is the message of truth. This Good News is present with you now. It is producing results and spreading all over the world as it did among you from the first day you heard it. At that time you came to know what God’s kindness truly means.
3)    How can our hope be stored up in heaven?

 (Titus 1:2-3; 3:7) My message is based on the confidence of eternal life. God, who never lies, promised this eternal life before the world began.  God has revealed this in every era by spreading his word. I was entrusted with this word by the command of God our Savior.

(Romans 8:24-25)  We know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time.  However, not only creation groans. We, who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts, also groan inwardly. We groan as we eagerly wait for our adoption, the freeing of our bodies from sin.  We were saved with this hope in mind. If we hope for something we already see, it’s not really hope. Who hopes for what can be seen?  But if we hope for what we don’t see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
4)    Is there any tension or contradiction in Paul’s letter to Titus and to the Romans? Can hope be for something certain and something unseen?

(Titus 2:11-14)  After all, God’s saving kindness has appeared for the benefit of all people.  It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world.  At the same time we can expect what we hope for—the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
5)    So what is hope supposed to help us do? How might that work?

Some scripture on hope:
•    Psalm 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
•    Psalm 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the LORD.
•    Romans 5:2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
•    Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
•    1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
•    1 Timothy 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
•    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
6)    What does hope give us? Have you ever experienced one of these passages?

1 Peter 1: The God’s Word translation often puts faith as confidence. (3, 13, 18-21)
3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! God has given us a new birth because of his great mercy. We have been born into a new life that has a confidence which is alive because Jesus Christ has come back to life. …

13 Therefore, your minds must be clear and ready for action. Place your confidence completely in what God’s kindness will bring you when Jesus Christ appears again. …

18 Realize that you weren’t set free from the worthless life handed down to you from your ancestors by a payment of silver or gold which can be destroyed. 19 Rather, the payment that freed you was the precious blood of Christ, the lamb with no defects or imperfections. 20 He is the lamb who was known long ago before the world existed, but for your good he became publicly known in the last period of time. 21 Through him you believe in God who brought Christ back to life and gave him glory. So your faith and confidence are in God.

7)    What is Peter teaching us about hope?

8)    Look back at the quotes on the first page. How would you respond to those speakers?

9)    One more quote:
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” 
– Martin Luther King, Jr. 
What was Rev. King getting at? Is he using hope in the scriptural sense?

(1 Corinthians 13:8-13)  Love never comes to an end. There is the gift of speaking what God has revealed, but it will no longer be used. There is the gift of speaking in other languages, but it will stop by itself. There is the gift of knowledge, but it will no longer be used.  Our knowledge is incomplete and our ability to speak what God has revealed is incomplete.  But when what is complete comes, then what is incomplete will no longer be used.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I no longer used childish ways.  Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me.  So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the best one of these is love.

10)    What is Paul saying that faith, hope and love have in common? We seem to think more about faith and love… what does hope add to our lives in Christ?

Post script: The first question in this study brought up a not uncommon sentiment: "I hope I win the lottery." It reminded me of the story this fall of a man who won the lottery, then waited to collect. He lived his life as if he had not won it, though he had certain knowledge that he had. It relates pretty directly to how Peter and Paul teach us about hope, for we are certain of our hope, also. Here's the news story from USA Today.

Post post script: To some extent this study was inspired by this comic. it's a bit in your face, especially for our group that has some beloved members with terminal illnesses. But it's a good wake up for those not dealing with the temporary nature of this world, which includes me much of the time.