Going Deeper into Loving Others
We’re back and we’re glad you are too! We hope you have a friend or two to talk with as we go deeper into hope.
Lord, we are so grateful for the hope You bring into our lives. Open our hearts to live hope-full lives.
Going deeper. Creating depth. Takes effort. It can be a difficult place to go. When you think of it in literal earthly terms, it requires a shovel and back breaking work. Often, we find ourselves wanting to stay on the surface. It’s just easier.
Going Deeper into Hope may take some extra mental and spiritual work, working out our faith in prayer as we seek depth of understanding.
This study comes with a warning. It may be hard.
You see, we’ve been actively teaching and exploring faith through the faith actions of loving God and loving others for more than two years now.
What began with ten words representing ten faith actions, is coming to a close. Hope is the tenth word. The final Going Deeper. Unbeknownst to us at the beginning, it has taken us deeper than we ever thought and connected in ways we never expected.
What He’s taught… revealed… in the series of Sister Talk: Faith – Going Deeper into Loving Others is how all the faith actions work together to move people toward hope. Believers and unbelievers alike.
We began with the basic faith action of loving others: Respect. Which moves us to Share, then motivates us to Give. Next, Encourage. Here it came to light, the first three faith actions are the means employed to encourage others. Encouragement is given through these various acts of faith in varying degrees and combinations.
Then we saw all the encouragement given is all about leading others to Hope. Even our own faith to step out and love others is anchored by Hope.
Our faith is kept firm and steadfast with the strands of Respect, Share, and Give forming the cord of Encourage to tie us to Hope which anchors our faith in the unseen.
What I’ve discovered on this journey is hope (something I’ve often taken for granted or really thought I didn’t have much of) is absolutely essential to faith. I’m talking bedrock. It is the anchor which keeps us faith-full.
If we do not have much hope in God, His Word, His sovereignty, His presence, or His love then our faith will be constantly unsettled by doubt and fear. Our lives set adrift into the ways of the world. Seeking other sources in an effort to steady our hearts… spirits… souls…
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for…
When it comes to faith, what are your basic hopes? Do your current hopes have depth? or do they feel superficial? shallow?
What is your emotional response to the word: hope? What has been your experience with hope?
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being no hope) how much hope do you think you have?
Do you believe we have a natural bent toward either hope or despair? like optimism or pessimism? Explain.
How do you see hope as an act of faith when it comes to loving others?
Read 1Corinthians 13:7
What does love do with respect to hope?
Love hopes all things…
In loving others, we choose to hope all things are possible through Him who is love. Love does not despair or say: It’ll never change…
Read Psalm 27:13-14
What does the psalmist believe? Because of his belief, what does he encourage himself to do?
The writer of the psalm, David, believed God would show up and deliver him from his enemies. Because of this belief, he encouraged himself to wait for the Lord. Be strong and courageous as he waited for God to rescue.
This is a picture of placing hope in the Lord. The Hebrew word translated as wait also means look for, hope, expect (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). Unless we have hope for a particular event happening, we will not wait.
Hope leaves us with a conundrum. It sounds very positive and light to be hopeful, but in reality, it is painful and can feel like an unbearable burden. As David’s stance of hope expresses, it takes courage. It’s hard to hope.
One thing making hope a difficult place to live is the possibility of disappointment. Sometimes, it’s just too painful to hope. It’s easier to kill the desire we hope for than to go on hoping and being repeatedly disappointed. Hope deferred makes the heart sick… Proverbs 13:12.
Hope is flat out agonizing. Hope requires that you groan inwardly while, at the same time, waiting expectantly. The alternatives to hope are a deadening of desire and a growing cynicism about what you can really expect from life in this world. Indeed, most hope is squashed by the simple phrase, “I’m just being realistic.” But our war with hope inevitably leads to God: will God respond to the cries of my heart?
– Adam Young, Why Your Story Makes It Hard To Hope, a podcast on The Place We Find Ourselves.
I have a painful history with hope. I’ve been disappointed too many times. From my perspective, hope began to look like a waste of energy.
I spent a large part of my adult life stomping out hope. Not giving it any room in my heart because it just caused too much pain. It’s much less painful to be a realist than to dream big. Because the bigger you dream, the more you want, the greater the disappointment.
It was only in our initial study of Hope, looking at hope as an act of faith, I began seeing it for what it is. The basis for faith. Since I began walking with God, I’ve thought of myself as a faithful person. If faith is being sure of what you hope for and you have a strong faith, then it follows there must be hope.
I began to understand the disappointments I suffered were caused by placing my hope in the things of the world, in the outcomes I wanted, and not in Christ alone. What came to light was exceptional hope in His promises and His Word, but many of my hopes were misplaced through my definition of what His fulfilled promises would look like.
Recently, I was freed up to embrace hope even more through Adam Young’s podcast message quoted above. Knowing real hope hurts, means I wasn’t inflicting needless pain in my life when I hoped. It is supposed to hurt. I was recognizing something in the world is very wrong and needs to be set right.
With hope in Christ, it will be.
Hope groans because we know things are not as they were intended to be. Hope waits with eager expectation for desire to be fulfilled because of the promises based on the power of the good news of Christ’s resurrection. As seen in the full reading of the proverb cited above:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 ESV
Read Romans 8:22-25
Do you hear the groaning of hope? It’s heard clearly in these verses.
Besides a groaning, how else is hope in Christ described?
- our salvation
How are we called to wait for the hopes we do not see?
We are called to wait for our hopes with patience. Ugh!
Patience requires endurance and perseverance. It is the place of our groaning.
What are some of His promises which help you endure patiently while waiting for hope to be fulfilled?
Let’s read some of His promises on which we can set our hope:
- Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
- Revelation 21:5 And he who is seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
- Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
- Habakkuk 1:5 [The Lord replied,] “Look among the nations! See! Be astonished! Wonder! For I am doing something in your days— You would not believe it if you were told.
- Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Ultimately, the hope we have in God’s promises calls us to wrestle with Him.
Read Genesis 32:9-12
Jacob. The one who deceived his father Isaac to steal his older brother Esau’s blessing. The one who also cheated the same older brother out of his rightful inheritance with a bowl of stew. The one who was sent away by his parents to live with his uncle’s family because his brother was going to kill him. This is the Jacob we hear praying to God.
What do we discover about Jacob through his prayer?
Jacob is the grandson of Abraham the father of the faithful and patriarch of the people chosen by God. God has blessed him greatly and called him back home where he will come face-to-face with the brother he fears. Face to face with the mess he created for himself. Jacob’s fear is not only for himself but for his family.
What hopes do we hear Jacob bring to God?
Jacob hopes God will deliver him and protect him from his brother. He hopes in God’s promise to do him good and multiply his offspring.
Read Genesis 32:22-30
How did Jacob prepare for the meeting with his brother?
How did Jacob spend the night?
Jacob was left alone after sending his family across the stream with all his servants and belongings. In this place, after praying his prayer of hope earlier, he wrestled with God.
What was the outcome of his striving with God regarding his hopes?
God let him wrestle until daybreak. Graciously, God did not crush Jacob or flee his grasp as He so easily could have done (see Matthew 26:53). He allowed Jacob to fight with Him, even told him to be the one to let go (see John 20:17). At this request, Jacob let his heart pour out: I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
At the heart of the wrestling was the hope of blessing. And blessed Jacob was, with a new name, Israel, and a limp with which to remember the blessing of wrestling. As if his new name wasn’t enough: God wrestler.
We are descendants of Israel spiritually speaking, grafted into this family of God wrestlers (Romans 11:13-18). Invited by God to wrestle Him with the hope of blessing.
Hope in God is not only for eternity, but also for our life on earth.
I believe I shall look upon the Lord in the land of the living!
The world tells us hope looks like Pollyanna, always happy, optimistic, rather than the persistent widow, who is the biblical picture of hope* – wrestling with God in prayer (Luke 18:1-8).
[*Adam Young in his podcast Why Your Story Makes it Hard to Hope taught the persistent widow was a biblical picture of hope.]
I remember the moment I walked down the hall connected to my office as my co-workers discussed the “reality” of a circumstance our church was facing. As I approached, one of my co-workers said, “Here comes Pollyanna, maybe she has something positive to say about this one.”
It wasn’t the first time she called me Pollyanna, and I felt a bit offended by the good-natured teasing. I went home determined to read Pollyanna for the first time. If others saw me as a Pollyanna then I wanted to know what they were talking about. It turns out, my friend was right.
Pollyanna and I are kindred spirits. The world has forgotten Pollyanna’s struggle. At a very young age she was left an orphan through the death of her parents. It wasn’t easy for her at times to hope in the face of her difficulties, but hope she did. What the world calls unrealistic may be more real than we think at first. Because a Pollyanna like hope doesn’t come without wrestling in the mud and mire of what seems hopeless. It is not a quick fix to life’s struggles. Nor a naive way to sugarcoat the bad in our lives.
Hope is the outcome of a grueling wrestling match with God. It taxes our muscles and leaves us panting. Like Jacob, hope causes us to dig deep and hold on for dear life.
Hope is choosing to fix our eyes on the one true Reality and never let go.
In the weeks ahead, we will encourage you to embrace the groaning of hope and find truth in the pain of wrestling with God regarding your hopes. Because without the longing, without hope, we have no faith. Being confident of seeing God in the land of the living is the heart of keeping our hope alive and our faith steadfast.
Read Jeremiah 29:10-11
What hope is in God’s plan for us? What are the specifics?
The hope of faith rests on the unseen unspecified plans God has for us. He has plans to bring us out of exile. Plans for good, for our welfare and peace, but they are His plans, not ours.
Almost ten years ago I spoke a vision about the small business that now supports Sister Talk: Faith ministry. I told Carol it would be a “place of healing.” It really didn’t make sense to me then. How in the world would a small business built around picture framing and embroidery offer healing to this small town? How would a business be a ministry?
I didn’t have a plan when I first spoke the words. Six years later Carol became a part of the business and we still don’t have a clear step by step plan. But lately God has reminded both of us of the vision.
Little by little we see God’s plan becoming reality. Each word we write is a testimony of the blessing of that hope.
Hope rests on trusting God’s plans for us. Trusting they are good. Maybe even better than anything we could hope for or imagine.
Format for Homework:
- Reflection Scripture – Each week begins with a Scripture to define the week’s focus. Spend time with the passage anyway you choose: memorize it, meditate on it, study it piece by piece. Use a method which works best for your spiritual bent to process the truth found in His Word.
- Reflection Thoughts – This section is a way to reflect on the week’s Reflection Scripture in addition to your own chosen method.
- Prayer of Praise – A specific character trait of God will be focused on each week. Praising Him for who He is builds our faith, so we encourage you to praise Him daily and write your own Prayer of Praise to Him.
- In His Word – Days 1-4 of the study take us into the Bible to see what He has to teach us about the specific aspect of hope we will be focusing on. Read the passages, answer the questions, be prepared to discuss when we gather. Feel free to bring your own questions too.
- Wrestling with Hope – Day 5 each week will offer you an opportunity to spiritually step into the wrestling arena with God regarding your specific hope. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began with words of hope (Matthew 5). He looked into the sea of faces and knew their hearts and their struggle. He called the very places they saw as hopeless blessed. On your final day of study each week we encourage you to go deeper into your own hopeless places and consider the possibility of blessing.
The first week of Going Deeper into Hope is looking at hope as The Heart of Faith.
Click here for a PDF of the Homework: Hope Week 1 – The Heart of Faith – Homework
Father God, bless us with the hope which strengthens our faith.