Relevant Biblical Passages: Luke 24:13-25
Hope: Too Much or Not Enough? Can enthusiasm for Christ’s return be combined with a steady commitment? Are human beings cursed to be either too zealous or not enough? This week’s study addresses that question.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4: Sometimes there must be a delay. While there are numerous passages in the New Testament which teach that we must be ready to meet our God at any moment, at least this one passage from Paul plainly says that sometimes certain events need to take place before the end can come. Are we in a position today to make a similar judgment? Or have all the conditions relating to “the lawless one” (2 Thess. 2:3, NRSV) already been met?
- Matthew 24:45-51: The absence of a healthy fear. Even though “fear” is not the highest motivation for serving God, Jesus’ parable of the wicked servant shows that the absence of a “fear” motivation can be deadly for some. Even though God’s ideal is the service of love, will He accept our preparation If it is motivated primarily by fear?
- Luke 24:13-35: Hope re-kindled. The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is an important one for showing how hope can be put at risk and how it can be re-kindled. The disciples had been right in seeing Jesus as the messiah, but they had been wrong in their understanding of the kind of messiah he was to be. What was it about Jesus’ conversation with them that re-kindled their hope? Jesus quoted Scripture and apparently spoke with conviction; and the disciples saw Him with their own eyes. What was it that brought hope back to life when Jesus clearly was not going to rule as king in the way they had expected?
- 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11: Don’t worry about the time. When linked with Acts 1:7 (“It is not for you to know the times”) and Matthew 24:36 (“About the day and hour no one knows”), the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 (“I don’t need to write you about the time or date when all this will happen. You surely know that the Lord’s return will be as a thief coming at night” [CEV]) contributes to a powerful New Testament case against date setting. Why are these passages so easily overlooked by those who are tempted to set dates?
- Steady pull, not quick enthusiasm. Jesus’ parable of the sower and soils (Matthew 13) as well as the parable of the talents (Matthew 25) both clearly teach that steady growth and faithful work represent the Lord’s preferred approach for those who live in hope. But how does one argue against zeal without appearing to be against all that is good? The following C. S. Lewis quotes suggest that in the larger picture, our ability to remain steady when things appear hopeless may be the best witness possible for the Christian. The person who experiences all the miracles and the one who finds the way smooth going may not be the best model for us to follow:
C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, pp. 10-11: “And I dare not leave out the hard saying which I once heard from an experienced Christian: ŒI have seen many striking answers to prayer and more than one that I thought miraculous. But they usually come at the beginning: before conversion, or soon after it. As the Christian life proceeds, they tend to be rarer. The refusals, too, are not only more frequent; they become more unmistakable, more emphatic.'”
“Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.”
C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 39: “He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”