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Lesson 7: Indestructible Hope *

Introduction: My daughter and I were recently discussing depression and suicide. I told her that if I ever got to the point of thinking I should kill myself because of my problems, I would simply move to Florida and hire on as some sort of helper on a boat. I remember the days when I had a simple job - I would just go back to something like that in a place with sun and nice weather. That answer did not impress my daughter as a potential global solution for depression and suicide. Her response was that depression causes some sort of mist of darkness to settle over you so that you cannot see out of it. You cannot imagine the sunny boat in Florida. It seemed to me the difference between the two views was hope. (Not that my understanding of depression was realistic!) I had hope in my solution and she described a situation without hope. Our lesson this week is about hope, so let's hopefully dive right in!

  1. Two Types of Hope

    1. Read Romans 5:1-2. These two verses trace a path to rejoicing, what is it? (If we understand and believe in righteousness by faith in Jesus, that (first) gives us peace. It doesn't stop there. That peace leads (second)to "hope in the glory of God." I think the glory of God is our expectation of heaven, life made new, and eternal companionship with God. That spiritual hope gives us joy.)

    2. Read Romans 5:3. Apparently, spiritual hope is the not the end of the picture of our life. What enters into our life that creates problems? (Suffering.)

    3. Read Romans 5:3-5. What can be the outcome of suffering? (Paul tells us that suffering can produce perseverance, that can lead to an improved character, that improved character can produce hope.)

      1. What kind of hope is this? Is it the same as the spiritual hope ("hope in the glory of God") that we learned about in Romans 5:1-2? (I think we are discussing two somewhat different concepts. The first two verses of Romans 5 teach us that we can have joy waiting for our eternal reward. But, in the meantime, we live in the third verse of Romans 5 - which is the daily "suffering" in life. That suffering can also lead to hope, but it seems that this is not so much a hope for heaven, but a hope that exists "because God has poured out His love into our hearts.")

    4. Read Romans 5:6-8. Has Paul moved on to another topic, or is this discussion linked to Romans 5:3-5? (It is a further explanation. Our hope in our suffering is God's love. God's love for us is shown by His willingness to die for us.)

    5. Notice what is going on here. When it comes to the "hope" of Romans 5:1-2, we see the logical solution of heaven - living beyond the problems of this world. But, the hope of Romans 5:3-5, the hope for people suffering right now, is that God suffered for them - proving His love. This is not a "logical" cure for suffering. It simply says (in case you doubt because of your suffering) God loves you! He has not left you, He has not deserted you, He died for you.)

  2. Job's Hope

    1. Read Job 1:1, 8-12. How did this blameless and upright man get into trouble? (By being blameless and upright! It was because of a contest between God and Satan that trouble started for Job.)

    2. The book of Job consists of the human quest for an explanation for suffering. Job's friends accuse him of wrongdoing - which caused his suffering. Job denies that he did anything to deserve this and asks to confront God so that he can be heard on the injustice of his situation. Read Job 38:1-3. God finally shows, but instead of debating Job, He tells Job He wants Job to answer a few questions. Does that seem fair and loving to you?

    3. Read Job 38:4-7. The rest of that chapter and Job chapters 39-41 are all along the same line of logic. What argument is God making to Job? (I'm God and you are not! Who are you to question Me!)

    4. Read Job 40:1-2. If you were Job and you were suffering, would this be an encouraging answer from God?

    5. Read Job 40:3-5 and Job 42:1-6. Apparently that was enough of an answer for Job! How does this answer fit what Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-6 that the hope in our suffering is God's love poured out on us? (The two texts fit because in neither case does God explain the reason for the suffering. In Romans 5 God says "I love you, and I suffered death for you." In Job 38-41 God says "I'm God and you are not. Consider whose judgment you are questioning.")

    6. It would have been so simple for God to explain exactly what was going on in Job's case. He never did explain it to Job. Why didn't He? (Job is a perfect lesson for us. We have the curtain pulled back and we see the reasons for Job's terrible suffering. These are reasons Job would never have guessed. However, God never discloses those reasons to Job - He just tells him "Trust Me, I'm God." Since we have the entire picture of Job's situation, we can see that God is right. However, like Job, we generally do not have the entire picture concerning our personal suffering. What gives us hope is knowing that God was acting reasonably with Job, and He was acting with incredible love for us when He died for us.)

    7. Do you need to have the specific answer for your suffering to have hope? Do you need to know the specific reason for your suffering?(Just knowing that a loving, caring, logical God is in charge should be enough.)

  3. Realistic Hope

    1. Read Jeremiah 29:1-3. What kind of tragedy and suffering lies behind these words? (God's people had been defeated by the Babylonians. Their temple had been destroyed, Jerusalem had been destroyed and most of the people were taken captive to Babylon.)

      1. Imagine that your country was defeated in battle, your home destroyed and you and your family taken captive and dragged to the land of your enemy.

        1. How would you feel? (My life would be completely turned upside down! Nothing that I enjoyed in the past would be part of my life now.)

        2. What would your thoughts be if you believed that God was the head of your country - and the people who had just captured you were pagans (see Habakkuk 1:1-7) who were opposed to your God? (How could God allow this? Surely, He would correct this.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 29:4-9. What does God mean when He says "do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you?" (Some were saying that God was going to fix the problem immediately.)

      1. How would you describe God's "solution" to this terrible problem? (Make the best of it. Take your new situation and try to make your life as normal as possible. When God says "seek the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you," I think He is saying "Look ahead, not back. Don't pine for the old days, do your best to create good days in your new situation.")

      2. Would this advice apply to our sufferings today? (Some people pine for how things were in the past. In this particular situation God promised that He would "fix" the problem in the future by returning His people to their homes - 70 years in the future! ( Jeremiah 29:10). This was obviously "too late" for these people. Their children or grandchildren would be rescued. God has a timing in mind for everything. Instead of moaning about our situation and wishing for yesterday, we need to make the best of today knowing that God loves us and He will ultimately make things right in the world.)

    3. Friend, suffering of some sort will be a part of your life at some time. God promises us eternal life. But, He does not promise us that He will explain or fix our problems right now. Sometimes He just says, "I love you absolutely, trust that I know what I'm doing." Sometimes He says, "Make the best of your situation." Will you rest in the hope that God loves and cares for you? Whether He fixes the problems in this world (and your life) now or later, He will always do what is best. We can be sure of that because He died for us. There is no greater love and compassion than that!

  4. Next week: Seeing the Invisible.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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