“Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable to success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals.” – Scott Barry Kaufman
What is the Theology?
Hope is something we talk about often. We hope we hit green lights on the way to work; we hope we will get that promotion; we hope our kids do well on their test. Christian hope, however, is a much deeper hope. It is a hope placed in Jesus Christ – and neither our will power nor our skillset will help us reach that goal. We cry out with the father of the demon-possessed child: “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NRSV). And we meditate on Jesus’ words that, “apart from [him, we] can do nothing,” (John 15:5). Nonetheless, we can be a part of God’s great plan for the world by the power of the Spirit. We can be as resolute as Moses who was sustained by the continued presence of God, and as skillful a leader as Paul who gloried in his weakness because it illuminated God’s strength (2 Cor. 12:9-10). As we participate in God’s mission to the world, we can have Spirit-enabled determination and Spirit-enabled strategies to do the work of God.
If personal willpower and skills are not sufficient to help us reach our ultimate goal, how can this research on hope enter into conversation with Christian theology? And how can it be used in a sermon? For Christians, hope is an essential Christian concept. We are a hopeful people who bring hope with us as we encounter others. This hope permeates our life as we journey through seemingly hopeless situations. For when our purpose in life is conformed to what God is doing in the world, we already know we will reach our goals. Things may not work out exactly like we had hoped, but when Jesus returns, we know our hopes and dreams will find their fulfillment as all of the earth is made new. For this reason, we can have hope; we can have personal determination in the power of the Spirit; and we can rely upon our Spirit-enabled gifts. This should make a difference in our lives, and that difference can be measured by scientists who study hope.
What to Consider
- What are some things for which you hope? Do you see a viable path to seeing these hopes fulfilled?
- How do you define hope? How does that compare and contrast to the definition of hope in this article?
- How do you understand the relationship between the Christian hope in Jesus and our temporal hopes in life?
- What are some examples of hopeful people in your life? How might hope have helped them? How might hope have hindered them?
How to go Deeper
- Using Hebrews 11, pick a character or two and reflect upon how faith, hope, and purpose interacted in their life stories.
- Preach a series on Esther that focuses on how personal determination and a clear strategy worked together to give Esther and the Jewish people hope and success. Consider the role of God in giving Esther and Mordecai hope in this book that makes no mention of God.
- Discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in developing a clear pathway to success, a vital component of hope according to this article. You might bring in stories from the Bible that show different levels of Spirit-dependence and success. Jonah, Esther, Isaiah, the early church, and Jesus may be some places to start that provide diverse experiences.
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