Hope: The Heart of Faith
We hope you had a great week going deeper into hope. Do you have a friend or two to talk with? your Bible? journal and pen?
Well, let’s get started.
Lord, show us the importance of hope when it comes to faith. Fill us with the truth of Your Word.
Read Reflection Scripture:
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1Peter 1:8-9 ESV
The word hope is not expressly used in the Reflection Scripture. Considering, faith is the assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), where do you see hope as the heart of faith in these verses?
How did the Reflection Scripture speak to you regarding the inseparable nature of hope and faith?
The unseen nature of hope is reflected in the unseen nature of Jesus and Believers’ faith in Him. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him… The Believer’s hope at the heart of their faith is Jesus. The One we have not seen but only heard about through the gospels provided by those who did know Him. The hope in His resurrection as the source of salvation for those who believe but have not seen it. This is part of what we believe by faith: Assured of the hope wrapped up in His crucifixion, death and resurrection.
Reflecting on the verses do you see what this hope produces? Inexpressible joy!
Hope-full believing moves Believers to rejoice with joy. Not only is the joy inexpressible, it is filled with glory!
I love the thought that the strange unreasonable inexpressible joy which fills my heart at times is also filled with glory.
The way I interpret this is my joy, a by-product of hope, glorifies God. How amazing is that?
The Reflection Scripture makes it sound as if Believers who came to faith after Jesus’s ascension are hoping and putting their faith in something they have never seen. But is that true?
Why did you put your hope in Jesus? Is it true you haven’t seen Him? Is your faith truly blind and without reason?
Though He has not appeared to me physically, I saw Him and His power to comfort in an ICU waiting room.
My mom was in ICU. My brother returned from praying with her and told me the “good news.” After praying with my mom she said, I trust, I trust. No. I didn’t hear the prayer or her response myself. By faith I trusted the “good news” my brother brought out of a place I didn’t go, to do something I was unprepared to do at the time. Pray with my mom as she lay dying.
I did not see Him or even His relationship with my mom. Didn’t really know she had one, until that moment. And Yes. I believed the “good news” and rejoiced with joy. My mom trusted Jesus, and she was not alone or afraid as she walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
This was the moment He captured my heart. My joy brought Him glory because I believed and became His. I was no longer my own. Everything changed – it still is changing.
I didn’t see it until now. But the joy, the faith, the capturing of my heart is all anchored in the hope of the “good news” being true. I trust. I trust.
Since His ascension, we do not physically see Him. What we do see is the effect of His presence in the lives of others and in the world. Our faith is not a blind faith without reason.
Seeing and believing in Jesus without physically seeing Him is like seeing the effects of the wind (John 3:8). We never really see the wind, but we know it’s there because of how it moves the things in the world. What it carries along with it.
We believe because we’ve seen the power of God’s work in the world and the lives of those we love. When we “see” with eyes of faith we are moved to love Him, trust Him, and give Him room in our lives all based on the hope of the truth of the gospel. The salvation of our souls.
Remembering faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, where do you see God at work in your hopes which have not yet been fulfilled?
What experiences have you had with God which bolster your hope and increase your faith?
I was getting my hair done when I noticed her sitting in her station on her phone. She was fairly new to the salon, and we hadn’t met yet. As my sweet friend and hair stylist moved me to the dryer we began talking about our marriage relationships. We shared the ways God worked in our marriages and the hopes for change not realized yet. I watched as her ears perked up, as she gently put her phone away. I internally rejoiced the moment I knew God was drawing her into our conversation.
“How do you continue to love someone for twenty-eight years even when you struggle,” she asked in her own words. My response, “Love is a choice not a feeling.”
My marriage has taught me the same thing about hope. Hope is not a feel good, butterfly in your belly experience that only comes when things are turning up. No, hope is a choice. It is the very heart and definition of faith. When I choose to trust God’s Word above my feelings and lean on Him when my circumstances are hard, I choose hope.
Prayer of Praise:
In praising God as Trustworthy, was your hope effected? How?
What aspect of His character most increases your trust in Him as a place to set your hope?
Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.
2Samuel 7:28 NIV
In the Word:
Read 1Peter 1:3-9
By God’s great mercy Believers are born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. The result of our rebirth – an imperishable inheritance, our salvation – will not be fully revealed until Christ returns in all His glory. Until the day of His full revelation, we face various trials meant to test the genuineness of our faith.
Why is the integrity of our faith important? Why does it need to be continually tested?
The quality of our faith determines the praise and glory given to Christ at His return. The greater the purity of His people’s faith, the greater glory we are able to give Him. Pure faith leads to pure unadulterated praise.
Eugene Peterson in The Message puts it like this:
When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
– 1Peter 1:7
Our faith is not continually tested for God’s benefit. He already knows exactly what’s in our hearts. The continual testing is for us to recognize the weaknesses and flaws in our faith, so we might allow Him to work in our lives through repentance to strengthen our faith for His glory.
What role does “living hope” play in our day to day lives as we face the various trials which test the purity of our faith? What hopes help us face the tests of faith?
I have to say, the hopes I have for my loved ones, the circumstances I want to see Him set right, seem to present themselves as trials. The waiting difficult.
So, I wonder, is our ultimate hope to be greater glorification of God through our lives filled with various trials and testings? Is it our hope of His intervention in our trials which strengthens our faith for His glory?
Hoping for things to be set right – the promises of the good news all wrapped up in His resurrection to be revealed at the proper time. Is this the role of hope? bringing Him greater glory?
If this is true, then my hope is to bring glory and praise to God because of my faith in Him through every trial. Faith in His great mercy.
In the various trials we face, hope keeps us focused on His promises. In each trial, there is the hope of increased genuineness of our precious faith for His glory at His return.
These verses focused on living hope and facing trials for His glory are found at the beginning of Peter’s letter. It might be worthwhile to consider who he is writing to.
Read 1Peter 1:1-2
Who was Peter writing to?
Peter addresses his letter to the “Dispersion,” the elect who have been exiled from Jerusalem because of persecution.
If you think about it, this is the current reality of the church: dispersed. Christ’s church is spread out over space and time – past, present, and future. The church currently resides in two realms, the world and heaven.
What is the purpose of the exile?
It doesn’t take long to realize the dispersion of Believers runs deep. As a church staff member I witnessed the division in the church firsthand. I struggled and thought, “Why can’t we all get along!” It seemed we would rather compete or draw lines in theological sand than reach those in our community who were sleeping in on Sunday mornings.
Over time I have come to realize exile has purpose. Each part of the Body of Christ has been placed in the exact right location and time for the building of God’s Kingdom. I find hope in the understanding one day we will be perfectly joined, and the Bride will be perfectly fit for His service.
Believers are the elect exiled according to the foreknowledge of God, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus and for sprinkling His blood. He placed us where we are in the world. It is no surprise to Him the places we find ourselves and neither are the trials allowed for the Spirit to work in us.
Everything has its purpose. We are dispersed to do His will, obeying Him to bring more under His covering of forgiveness. In all this, Peter prays for grace and peace to be multiplied in the dispersed church. The source of the multiplication of our grace and peace is the living hope Peter reminds us we have been reborn into.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus…
1Peter 1:2-3 ESV
The heart of faith is the living hope filled with purpose: salvation, sanctification, increasing Christlikeness, and greater glorification of the Father.
Read 2Corinthians 4:13-18
This passage tells us we have the same spirit of faith as what was expressed in the Old Testament: I believed and so I spoke. Believing and speaking by faith is the outcome of hope.
Read Psalm 116, the source of the phrase cited.
What similarities are found in the two passages?
Similarities in the passages:
- Hope in God for deliverance (2Corinthians 4:14, Psalm 116:4)
- Faithfulness based on hope by means of extending grace to others (2Corinthians 4:15) and fulfilling vows (Psalm 116:14).
- Confidence based on hope (2Corinthians 4:16, Psalm 116:9)
What is the right perspective to take when it comes to faith?
An eternal perspective is needed when it comes to faith. The hope of eternal life based on Jesus’s resurrection and recognition of the temporary nature of the things of the world.
…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2Corinthians 4:18 ESV
What are the unseen hopes found in these passages?
- God’s glory in a world where He is discounted.
- God’s power to redeem, making all things right, when everything around us looks wrong on multiple levels.
- God’s victory over the darkness when the darkness seems impenetrable.
How can this speak to our personal unseen hopes?
- God’s promises and good coming to life in the lives of loved ones when it all seems unchangeable.
- Revelation of Himself to a blind rebellious soul bringing transformation and life.
In these passages, how is hope revealed in believing faith?
Perseverance. We do not lose heart. Even when our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. Because of daily living hope we are not discouraged, we do not give up. No matter what the physical reveals in the circumstances played out. Internally, spiritually, our faith is renewed daily because of hope.
Obedience. We serve God based on the hope of salvation. We offer sacrifices of thanks based on the hope of the fulfillment of His promises.
Faithfulness. We keep our vows, our promises to God. We continue to offer grace to others in the hope of transformation for His glorification.
Because of hope we continue by faith to be encouraged and encourage others through our suffering because of the hope we have in Jesus’s resurrection.
From the world’s perspective it was complete utter foolishness to place hope in Jesus as Messiah when He was crucified, dead, buried. From the world’s perspective that was a done deal… it was hopeless.
But His resurrection changed everything!
This is the awesome place we set our hope. Even when our own physical, emotional, relational circumstances look dire and dead to the world.
…we also believe, and so speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also…
Because of hope in Christ, we have faith to hope in His life-giving power in every area of our lives. No matter what it looks like, there is an unseen hope based on His resurrection.
Knowing the hope of the good news of Jesus, how are you when it comes to focusing on the unseen vs the seen? the physical vs the spiritual?
What we see, we cannot ignore. It affects us emotionally and spiritually. It is a constant battle to stir hope and faith to trust His promises, His goodness, His love. It’s a battle to trust He is working good in what seems done…
Toward the end of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul offers some battle advice.
Read 2Corinthians 10:3-5
What is the battleground? Where is the battle waged?
The battleground is our heart. Our mind, will, and emotion battle spiritually against what we see and what we know by faith. The enemy is not flesh and blood, but spiritual in nature. An internal battle set off by external influences.
With what weapons do we battle? How?
Paul informs the church the weapons used are divine weapons. Weapons used to destroy arguments and any opinion raised against God. We are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.
How do we take thoughts captive and make them obedient?
Spiritual strongholds of the enemy are invariably set on lies. The first order of business is to replace every lie in your heart with a truth. Other divine weapons we have are songs of praise, prayer, and thanksgiving.
Praising His name according to His Word has great power to increase our confidence in Him. Prayer reminds us to place the trial in the hands of the One who already holds it and is working it for a purpose. Giving thanks before seeing the prayer answered expresses the hope we have in His sovereignty and power to work all things for the good of His people and for His glory.
We read about Thomas’s battle of faith this week.
Read John 20:24-29
Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus made His supernatural entrance into the locked upper room and spoke peace to them. Thomas was not there to see for himself or receive the Holy Spirit Jesus breathed on them.
What was Thomas’s response when these men he’d spent three years with alongside Jesus told them about Jesus being alive? What did it reveal about his faith and hope?
Thomas refused to believe and made it clear they could say nothing to convince him, he had to see and touch for himself. His reaction revealed little faith, a lot of doubt, and nonexistent hope.
How did Jesus deal with Thomas’s doubt? his hopelessness?
Eight days later He showed up again, for the sake of Thomas’s faith and hope. He said to Thomas: Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe. (New Living Translation)
Did you see any significance in Jesus showing up for Thomas on the eighth day?
The Mosaic law found in Leviticus tells us baby boys born into the family of Israel, God’s chosen people, were to be circumcised on the eighth day (12:1-3) as a sign of participation in God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:12-14).
In Deuteronomy, Moses gave the law a second time, forty years later as a refresher course before sending the Israelites into the Promised Land. He told them they needed to circumcise their hearts to remove their stubbornness which kept them from obeying God’s law. The law was the source of both their blessing and their own cursing. Obedience brought blessing, disobedience brought cursing in the form of great difficulty into their lives.
Circumcision of the infant was a cutting away of flesh as a physical sign of the external nature of the Old Testament covenant. Circumcision of the heart is the cutting away of fleshly desires to enable us to walk God’s way.
In John, on the eighth day we see Jesus showing up to help Thomas enter the New Covenant of His blood based on His resurrection. Jesus’s resurrection marks the beginning of the New Covenant where we move from a life based on what we see – external signs and physical blessings based on obedience – to what we don’t see.
Jesus came to circumcise Thomas’s spirit of unbelief, doubt, faithlessness, so he could believe without seeing based on the hope found in Jesus’s resurrection. Spiritual circumcision is required to see the blessing in suffering, to face dire circumstances and even death with hope because His resurrection changes everything and ushers us into the spiritual reality of His Kingdom.
Is there a stubbornness in your heart keeping you from fully embracing the unseen hope? Can you name it?
Let’s take it to Him in prayer right now.
Lord, circumcise the doubt from my heart through revelation of who You are and who I am before you.
From Jesus’s words to Thomas: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed, we move to the Beatitudes.
Read Matthew 5:1-12
The blessed are the faithful, the Believers who believe without seeing. What hope did you find at the heart of each blessed people group? What does it look like to demonstrate this living hope day to day?
The poor in spirit: All heaven is theirs. Where they are currently poor, feeling cast out, the hope is they will be rich in belonging because of faith in God. Living in this hope daily lifts the spirit, encourages one to live not in fear of scarcity but based on the riches of the inheritance of Christ.
Those who mourn: Comfort is their hope when they put their faith in God. Knowing comfort is coming, Believers do not mourn like the world (1Thessalonians 4:13-14). The sorrow will come to an end and the guarantee of this hope is the Comforter who is with us now. Reliance on the Holy Spirit moment to moment gets us through a season of sadness as we wait for the time when there will be no more tears (Revelation 21:4).
The meek: Those who do not defend themselves or lack the power to do so, have hope in the inheritance of everything (and more) which has been taken from them when they place their faith in God. In living hope they do not fret over being taken advantage of in the world. Whatever is taken they have much more awaiting them which can NEVER be taken.
Those hungry and thirsty for righteousness: Their hope is seeing righteousness fulfilled. The living hope is played out by not giving up, not stamping out the desire for justice. They keep fighting for it, knowing all will be made right at His return.
The merciful: Their hope is in receiving the same mercy they have given. It costs us something to offer mercy, physically and emotionally. Living hope encourages us to continue subjecting ourselves to the distress of others, to continue to give and forgive what costs us greatly, because of the hope of receiving the same mercy from Him.
The pure in heart: Their hope is seeing God, the One who is pure. All the denying of self, all the trials which purify, all worth the blessing of seeing Him. Because of the hope of seeing Him, the battle for purity continues with strength.
The peacemakers: Those who step out in the midst of conflict, who go to those whose hearts are troubled, who subject themselves to volatile circumstances, their hope is being called a son of God. To be wholly identified with the Prince of Peace Himself. Living hope encourages peacemakers to continue to enter into the fray, the conflict, because they will be considered His sons.
Those persecuted for doing right on account of Jesus: Their hope, like the poor in spirit, is the possession of the kingdom of God. Perhaps it is persecution for His righteousness which wears down a person’s spirit. Living hope enables endurance because the reward is great!
The blessed demonstrate their living hope by being encouraged and looking forward. Looking past what is revealed in the world to the promises of Father God based on the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son.
Hope is the heart of faith, which is why we wrestle with it.
Wrestling with Hope
Based on the Beatitudes we are going to do some wrestling with hope today in our session. An exercising of faith.
Hope is often dimmed or extinguished by the circumstances of the world. It is tempting to focus on the temporary and seen rather than the unseen eternal glory God is working in and through His people.
There is an unseen spiritual reality behind every seen thing in the world. Today we are using coal to represent the darkness in the world. The places where hope seems to be completely void.
Coal is pure carbon. It is relatively soft, crumbles under pressure, it’s ugly and dirty, and burns to ash when set on fire.
But pure carbon, when subjected to a different set of conditions, has another form. In its alternate state carbon becomes a brilliant precious gem with the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material: diamonds (Wikipedia).
Same material. Different conditions. Different outcomes.
We’ve talked this week about our faith being tested and tried by various trials and difficulties in order to bring glory to God. Hope is the key to brilliant faith. Hope is the condition which can take our spiritual coal and turn it into an eternal diamond.
Consider the list of Beatitudes.
- Blessed are the poor…
- Blessed are those who mourn…
- Blessed are the meek…
- Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness…
- Blessed are the merciful…
- Blessed are the pure in heart…
- Blessed are the peacemakers…
- Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness…
In this moment, which of the blessed do you most identify with? the place where you need hope reignited?
Are you feeling poor in spirit? Why?
Are you in a season of sadness you think will never end? Or perhaps you don’t feel strong enough to protect what is yours?
Is there an injustice in your life or the life of a loved one you’ve lost hope in?
Are you worn out from giving mercy to a world which never gives back? and what you give never seems to be enough?
Does it seem pointless to continue pursuing holiness? when all you see is evil?
Is the conflict and turmoil in your life out of control? where does it seem peace will never prevail?
Have you been persecuted, made fun of, left out because you do things His way and not the world’s?
Are you tired? Can you name the hopelessness wearing you out?
Get quiet and listen to what God wants to speak into your life.
Ask Him to turn your hopeless coal into a brilliant diamond.
Ask Him to name the blessing and glory He is forging in the trial.
When you hear what He says, write it down.
Put it in a hidden place, maybe in the pages of your Bible next to Matthew 5. Where the conditions are right to transform your spiritual coal into a brilliant blessing of faith.
Here at the shop, we placed our hope of blessing in a basket of coal.
Coal requires fuel to be set on fire. It requires kindling to bring warmth.
Hope sets our faith on fire to bring about the unseen glory hidden in the trial.
Making a diamond takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. But God in His sovereignty over time, place, and circumstance can turn a trial into a glory in the blink of an eye.
But do not overlook this one fact, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
2Peter 3:8-9 ESV
Fan the flame of hope in your life. Without it there is no faith.
He is not slow. He is not deaf to your heart’s desire. He is creating for you a greater glory. Something you would never even think to ask for.
Next: We continue the wrestling by exploring the reality of only having One Hope.
Click here for a PDF of the Homework: Hope Week 2 – One Hope – Homework
Father God, bless us with the hope needed to fuel our faith. May our greatest hope be in Your greater glory.