* November 9 - 15
Hope: Too Much or Not Enough?
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Luke 24:13-25.
MEMORY TEXT: "Hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13).
KEY THOUGHTS: Hope must be like an anchor: permanent, enduring, immovable. Hope is not to be overanticipated at one time, only to be lost sight of at another. Hope must be neither "too much" nor "not enough."
SOMEONE ONCE SAID that at first we hope too much and then, later, not enough. In our own experiences, this problem is often true. In our early years of faith, hope can be so real and exciting. But, as time passes, it seems to fade, and we do not hope enough. The Bible points to balance: not an overemphasis on hope that can damage us but neither an underemphasis that leaves us aimless and wandering, blown around by every trend, fad, and wind of doctrine.
How do we avoid swinging from a hope we overanticipate early in our Christian experience, only to lose the vibrancy of hope later on? That is the question!
*Please study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, Nov. 16.
Sunday November 10
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first" (2 Thess. 2:3).
Hope is a wonderful thing. But can we have too much of it? It is like this bit of impeccable logic: "If a little salt is good for you, then a whole lot of salt must be even better."
Could it be the same with hope? Can we ever have too much hope?
As Adventists, our great hope lies in the promise of His coming; yet we have to be careful about overanticipation. At different times, in different parts of the world, overzealous saintsperceived in the signs of the times evidence that they believed proved Christ was about to comehave caused hurt, pain, and disappointment not only for themselves but for others and for the church as a whole. Sure, we all want Jesus to come, but is it possible to be too zealous in our pronouncements, causing agitation, stirring hopes, and releasing a fervor that is not tempered with caution, prudence, and humility?
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. What issue is Paul addressing? On what specific issues does he say to them, "Let no man deceive you by any means"?
Having received Paul's epistle (called 1 Thessalonians), in which he so strongly points to the great and glorious hope in the return of Jesus (1Thess. 5:1-7), some had the idea that Paul was preaching that the Second Coming was imminent (some believed that it had already taken place!). Paul, in response, was telling the readers that No, the day had not come yet and would not come until certain events, such as the revealing of the man of sin, occurred. The point is that even in the earliest days of the Christian church there were those who had to be counseled on harboring "too much hope." Similar problems have occurred all through Christian history.
|A rural church struggled with some church members who, in their desire to reach the lost, began putting ads (using their own money and not adhering to protests from the church board and pastor) in the local paper about the nearness of Christ's return Using various time prophecies, they all but set specific dates about everything from Sunday laws to the close of probation Discuss with the class the best ways to deal with a problem like that without (1) being unkind to the overzealous saints, (2) without appearing not to believe an the Second Coming, and (3) without doing any more damage to the church's overall credibility|
Read for today Matthew 24:45-51.
On the other side of the spectrum are those who basically aren't too concerned about the timing of Christ's return. In fact, talking to them about all their exciting plans for the future, one could almost get the impression that they don't want Jesus to come back, that His return would indeed interrupt their future dreams.
After reading Matthew 24:45-51, answer these questions:
1. What was Jesus talking about before He told the parable? How does that help us put the parable in context?
2. Is the evil servant an agnostic, an atheist, or someone who truly believes in the Advent hope?
3. How does this parable reveal the relationship between faith and works?
4. Is it possible for a follower of Christ to fit in neither category of servant? If so, write a few lines that would describe what that servant would be like.
Let us be fair. We are now about one hundred sixty years after 1844. It is not hard to see how we, as a people, could weary with the promise of His return. There's a certain paradox here, however: Every day we wait is one day closer to His returnso the longer we wait, the closer we are to that great day. Thus, the delay should make us more excited about the Advent hope, not less.
|The righteous dead, we know, sleep until Christ returns. Whether they die a week before He comes back or thousands of years before, to them it is the same: They die, and the next immediate thing they know is Christ coming in the clouds, the fulfillment of the Advent hope. Thus, some say that Christ's return is never farther away than an instant after death, and because death can come at any time, Christ's return is always, potentially, imminent. How valid, if at all, do you think that approach is?|
Read the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) and then answer the following:
1. Notice what one of the two said to Jesus: "But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel" (vs. 21). In what sense was their understanding of His mission correct? In what sense was it wrong? What did they understand the redemption of Israel to mean? (Hint: See Acts 1:6.)
2. Read Luke 24:20, 21. What irony can you see there? Why was the very event they decried the very event that brought what they had hoped for?
3. When did their "hearts burn within"when Jesus actually revealed Himself to them or when He talked with them regarding the Bible prophecies? Discuss the implications of the answer in the context of how we can share the hope or even keep it alive within ourselves.
Put yourself in the place of those disciples. You see that you were not wrong to hope in Jesus. Your heart bums within you as you realize what these texts meanfor the very scriptures Jesus pointed to concerning Himself are also the same ones that give the promise of hope to every one of His children.
What was the disciples' reaction to their reborn hope?
"They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem" (Luke 24:33, NIV). After the long journey, feeling tired and footsore, they could have waited before going back the way they had just come. Instead, with the excitement of their hope restored, they begin walking immediatelyeven though most of their seven-mile journey would be at night.
|Imagine this: You have been chosen to teach a Sabbath School class for burned-out Adventists, those who "believe" the message but have no zeal for it. What approaches could you use to try to rekindle hope in them, the way Jesus rekindled hope for the two on the road to Emmaus?|
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.
Notice what is happening here. In the six verses just prior to chapter 5, Paul told them not to be like those who "have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13); he then gives them a vivid description of what will happen when Christ returns (vss. 14-18), the fulfillment of that hope. Then, immediately, he stresses the idea (which they seem to already be aware of) that they do not need to know the "times and the seasons" of when that day will come.
Compare 1 Thessalonians 5:1 to Acts 1:7 and Matthew 24:36. What is the specific point in all these texts? (Notice, too, how those in Acts 1:6 had the same problem as the two men on the road to Emmaus.) Why does God not tell when Christ will return? Write a few reasons why it is better for us not to know (see, for instance, Matt. 24:48).
Paul then continues, saying that they know the day of the Lord will be like a thief in the night. The point Paul seems to be making here is not the manner of His coming (for it will definitely not be like a thief in the night) but the unexpectedness of the event. (See also Matt. 24:43; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3.)
What is Paul's specific point in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-8? Though neither group, the children of the light nor those of the night (and of darkness), knows when Jesus will return, one group is surprised and overtaken by the event, and the other is not. What makes the crucial difference between the two?
What we can find in these verses is a balance between overzealousness (date setting and the like) on one hand and lethargy and darkness on the other. Paul is saying that although we do not know when that day will come, it almost does not matter. What matters, instead, is that you, "children of the light," need always to be ready, awake, sober, at all times, so whenever He comes, you are not deceived and surprised by the event.
|Read 1 Thessalonians 5 9-11. In what ways do these verses encapsulate the essence of the Advent hope? On what event do they put the hope of the Second Coming?|
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Cor. 4:5).
All of us, even those of us who live for and long for the Advent hope, struggle with the pain and suffering in the world, either with our own pain or with that of others. And though we have never been promised freedom from pain or suffering, we have been promised power, grace, and Christ's presence to endure whatever comes our way.
Look up the following verses and write down how they contain promises that could help us deal with our struggles, whatever they are (What others can you find?):
Matt. 28:20 _________________________________________________
1 Cor. 10:13 _________________________________________________
Phil. 4:13 ___________________________________________________
|Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it the next time on the left. I am convinced that those who find in Christ's apocalyptic [the talk about His second coming and the end of the world] the whole of His message are mistaken. But a thing does not vanish-it is not even discredited-because someone has spoken of it with exaggeration. . . . The only difference is that if it has been exaggerated, we must now not overlook it; for that is the side on which the drunk man is now most likely to fall off "C. S. Lewis, Earth's Last Night (New York: Harvest Books, 1987), pp. 94, 95.|
Take apart 1 Corinthians 4:5 What promises are there? How can it help us rest and trust in the Lord now, amid a world of suffering, while at the same tame give us hope an the promise of His coming?
FURTHER STUDY: : "All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God's redeemed. Unfettered by mortality, they wing their tireless flight to worlds afar-worlds that thrilled with sorrow at the spectacle of human woe and rang with songs of gladness at the tidings of a ransomed soul. With unutterable delight the children of earth enter into the joy and the wisdom of unfallen beings. . . . With undimmed vision they gaze upon the glory of creation-suns and stars and systems, all in their appointed order circling the throne of Deity. Upon all things, from the least to the greatest, the Creator's name is written, and in all are the riches of His power displayed.
"And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise.
"The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love."Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 677, 678.
SUMMARY: We need to keep hope in balance. It must neither be too much nor not enough. Hope is to be seen as a primary motivator in the Christian's life but not taken to any extremes in thought or behavior. The firm believer in the Advent hope waits for the fulfillment of hope and actively invites others to participate in this hope. The example of the disciples shows how meeting Jesus is both the meaning for life in the present and the expectation for the future.
She stood alone out on the wind-swept steppes of Mongolia. With a rakelike appliance, she scooped up dried manure and tossed it into the willow-branch basket on her back. I stopped the jeep and asked if I could take her picture. She agreed.
After I took her picture, Nara, my interpreter, continued to talk with the woman. Nara explained that we were from ADRA International and were trying to help those affected by the dzud (the unusually harsh Mongolian winter) that had killed some 2.3 million livestock in the country. Nara interpreted as this woman shared her story.
Her family had lived a fairly comfortable life before the dzud had wiped out their entire herd of ten milking cows. Without the cows, there would be no dairy products during the summer and no milk to make traditional cheese for the coming winter. There was no money for school, medicines, or household needs. Things looked bleak.
The woman and her six children lived in a yurt (a round portable house made of animal skins) against the side of a nearby hill. Even from a distance I could see that the yurt was patched and weatherworn.
The ADRA truck stopped beside us, and I asked the driver to give this woman two boxes of food-flour, rice, noodles, milk powder, oil, and some canned goods. We gave her a canvas cover to help protect the family's yurt from Mongolia's harsh weather. We loaded the supplies into the jeep and invited the woman to ride with us to her yurt.
When the woman's youngest daughter, about five, saw her mother in the jeep, she began crying hysterically. I was puzzled by her reaction until Nara explained the outburst. The last time the child had seen her father, he was ill and was being taken to a hospital in a jeep. He died in the hospital, and the child was convinced that we had come to take her mother away too.
I dug into my pocket and handed the mother $15. It was not much, but I knew it would be spent wisely. I was amazed and humbled to realize that God had used a simple desire for a photo to lead us to this destitute family. But even more sobering was the woman's parting words to us. She said, "It feels as if God has visited my house today."
Mongolian woman (left). Llewellyn Juby is director of ADRA in Mongolia.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver
Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributor: Jonathan Gallagher
Editor: Clifford Goldstein
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editorial Production Manager: Soraya Homayouni Parish
Art and Design: Lars Justinen
Pacific Press Coordinator: Paul A. Hey
Copyright © 2002 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.
This page is Netscape
SSNET Web Site Home page.
Directory of adult SS quarterly Bible Study guides.
Prepared for the Internet by the Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Web Team Last updated October 5, 2002.