Faith that works when the pressure’s on: A faith that keeps me hopeful
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Disappointed? Worried? Feeling like life has been put on hold? Nothing lifts us out of fear and weariness like hope. More than just wishful-thinking, hope sustains us. Hope is what keeps us going, fighting, working, suiting up, and showing up. Hope that keeps us from giving up. There is a God of hope working behind the scenes. In this message, we continue our study through the Book of James by providing three reasons you can always have hope, based on the promises found in God’s Word.
Something To Talk About:
- Jesus gives us a new identity not based on the past: One of the richest passages about identity in the Bible is found in Ephesians 1:3-14. In this passage, Paul addresses the church in Ephesus, explaining the new identity given to a person when they are in Christ. According to Ephesians 1, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing; we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, grace-lavished and unconditionally loved and accepted. When we are in Christ, these aspects of our identity can never be altered by what we did yesterday, today, or tomorrow. If we live out of an identity based on how God sees us, we no longer feel the need to find our worth in our external circumstances. It frees us up to live confidently instead of changing who we are based on the opinions of others, our professional success, how we see ourselves, and all the other ways we define our significance. It gives us the opportunity to experience God’s unconditional love in new and fresh ways. And it allows us to confidently and boldly share His love with others.
- Jesus offers a new purpose that is not limited by your ability: “for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.” –Colossians 1:16. This verse makes it clear again, that the purpose is ultimately God’s, and not our own. This doesn’t mean we don’t have a purpose, but that our purpose is for Him. And fortunately, our pose is not limited to our abilities. We do each have different and unique abilities and skills that we can contribute to living out our purpose, but at the root of it, as Christ-followers, our main purpose is to glorify God and to point others to Christ through our love. If you seek to do this in everything you do… you won’t miss out on fulfilling your God-given purpose. You simply need to trust God to lead you where he wants you to go. Psalm 23:2-3 says, “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.:
- Jesus offers us a future not constrained by our imagination: Today we tell our children, “just use your imagination,” with a degree of apprehension on how they will use their imagination. That is because we don’t view imagination as deep thinking, but rather a kind of fantasy that serious people, especially Christians, need not spend much time on. But if we don’t use our imaginations, how do we ever grasp the reality of heaven. The Bible doesn’t answer all our questions about heaven, and one reason is that our minds are simply too limited to fully understand its glory and greatness. As the Bible says, “…he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears…” (1 John 3:2). But the Bible does tell us that heaven is glorious, far more glorious than anything we can even begin to imagine on Earth. The most spectacular sunset you’ve ever witnessed: the most beautiful flower you ever examined, will be as nothing compared with heaven’s glory. When the Apostle John was given a glimpse of heaven, he “fell down to worship” (Revelation 22:8). The book of Revelation helps us imagine a great city in which each building is covered with precious metals, and no one experiences crying, pain, or death again. A place without fatigue or sickness, where celebration replaces sadness, with architecture that takes our breath away and with gates that never close (Rev. 21:1–4, 9–21). In John 14:1-6, Jesus affirms the reality of heaven, confirming that our hearts’ longing for a place of goodness and uninterrupted fellowship with Him isn’t just our imagination or wishful thinking.
- What does a hope-filled life look like? How does hope change the way we live our lives?
- Since everything in this life is temporary and will only last a short time, and we are to fix our attention on the things that are unseen, how does that change our perspective on our current circumstances? How can you shift your priorities to pay more attention to God?
- What are some of the things you have allowed to define you? Explain. What are the dangers of only allowing our achievements or other’s opinions to define us?
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. What does it mean that we become a “new person” in Christ? How have you changed since placing your faith in Jesus?
- Read Ephesians 1:4. How does that help you answer the question of identity?
- Do you spend a lot of time questioning what your purpose is?
- How would knowing your identity help you to know your purpose?
- Is it hard for you to commit to following God’s purpose for your life? Why or why not?
- Do you think of heaven often? Do you use your imagination?
- What are the things that keep us preoccupied now that keep our thoughts away from what it will be?
- When you think of “no more tears, no more pain”, what things come to mind that makes you rejoice in thinking that these things will be gone?
- What from this message did you learn for the first time?
Take one thing home with you:
Not only can we have hope, but we can also give others hope as well. Providing hope to others can take many different shapes, but I believe it should always follow Jesus’ example of solidarity with those less fortunate, inclusion of those on the margins, and putting others before ourselves. There are so many needs out there, especially during the pandemic. We can’t fix all of them, none of us have time, resources, or money to fix every wrong. We have to focus on what is most important to us, or on where we can most use our knowledge and passion to make a difference.
Giving hope to others won’t be quick or easy, but it is possible. We see examples of changing people’s lives all the time. You have to choose to get involved. It requires a resolve to get involved, to make a difference in somebody’s life.