Bible Study or Sunday School Lesson 4

Free ItemThe Life Of A Disciple In The World
The Virtues & Fruits of the Spirit
Session 4: Faith and Hope

Core Teaching: Faith and Hope are the content of the good life God intends for us and, as the gifts of God, they are the expression of a Christian life lived fully.  Faith is a secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.  Hope is the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God’s help.

Session Goals: To help students understand and begin to live with the virtues of Faith and Hope.

Supplies: Bibles, Whiteboard/Newsprint, Markers, Masking Tape, a copy of the Student Leader Help Sheet for each discussion/small group leader

Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:8-9 NRSV

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

(Write on the Board and encourage Youth to memorize this week.)

Scripture:

Luke 6:43-45 NRSV
Matthew 3:7-10 NRSVHebrews 10:23-25 NRSV
Matthew 6:9-13 NRSV

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Class Session

Opening Prayer- Student

Announcements, Attendance, and Offering- Teacher

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Introduction to the Lesson- Teacher

Today, we will be looking at the first two Theological Virtues: Faith and Hope.  So far we have been studying the 4 Cardinal Virtues.  The word Cardinal comes from Latin meaning “hinge.”  Early philosophers believed that all other virtues “hinged” on these four.  The Christians had another perspective.  To these four were added the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love.

“The three theological, or “great,” virtues of faith, hope, and love are the content and expression of the good life. No life can be called good that does not exhibit in some way these qualities that we call the great virtues, not only are they the means to the formation of communities of moral worth, but because they are gifts of God to help us toward more godly living, they become an expression of our relationship to God and to one another and of God’s relationship with us all.”

Peter J. Gomes The Good Life, Harper San Francisco, 2002, p.234.

We will address Love, which is a Theological Virtue AND a Fruit of the Spirit in the next session.  For now let’s focus on Faith and Hope.

Let’s look at what the dictionary says these words mean:

faith- n.            1) Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of

a person, idea, or thing.

2) Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material

evidence.

3) The Theological Virtue defined as a secure belief in God

and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.

hope- n.            1) A wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation

of its fulfillment.

2) Something that is hoped for or desired.

3) The Theological Virtue defined as the desire and search

for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with

God’s help.

Before we go to much farther, a warning: By paying attention to the virtues, by trying to discipline ourselves to live the good life, we are NOT trying to earn our salvation. Sometimes this is called “works-righteousness” because it is the false belief that what we DO make us righteous (puts us in right relationship with God).  But the Christian understanding is that we do good works BECAUSE God has already loved us and through Grace empowered us to do good works and to live a good life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.  Ephesians 2:8-10 NRSV

Faith is the key.  And Faith is the first of the theological virtues.  Christians do not begin with good works.  Christians begin with Faith.  It is a Faith that God gives to us through the Holy Spirit.  There is a vital connection between Faith and works.  But Faith is the virtue that empowers us to simply do what God created us to do.  We were “created in Christ Jesus for good works” and that is the gift that the life of faith opens up.

Closely tied to Faith is the virtue of Hope.

“As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is a mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength at all.  Like all Christian virtues, it is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.”  G.K. Chesterton

Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham have in common that they are profiles in moral hope, their names bring images of all that is hopeful and good in the world.  Hope can be an elusive virtue.  We can speak of works of Faith and works of Love, but we find it difficult to speak of works of Hope.  There are even “rules” of Faith and “rules” of Love but it is difficult to imagine any “rules” of Hope or even a “process” of Hope.  Hope is not a habit in the way that Temperance and Fortitude can be habits.

Hope is best thought of as something we do by holding on to a small vision of the greater good.  When we strive for the difficult but greater good, we live in Hope.  Hope is a positive persistent virtue.  The very existence of Hope makes it possible to endure what those without hope can not endure.  The positive direction of Hope is always forward into the future.  Hope makes the future holy because the future exists only as our dream and as God’s reality.

 

Small Group Discussions- Student Leaders

Key Questions (These should be answered during the discussion below)

  1. What is Faith?
  2. What is Hope?
  3. What is the difference between good and bad fruit in the Christian life?
  4. What are the consequences of our Faith choices?
  5. What give Christians ultimate Hope?
  6. How does Hope help us to live “in Christ” here and now?

Big Issue

The First Theological Virtue is Faith.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.  Hebrews 11:1-3 NRSV

What do you have faith in?  Your family?  Your friends?  God?

Faith is the transforming power of God working in your life and through other people to help you grow in grace and to be more Christ-like.  Faith is a gift from God.  It is something that is co-operative in your life.  God works with you, you respond by working with God.  Jesus points out many different kinds of faith in the Gospels: little faith, great faith, no faith.  Sometimes it is the people we least expect that have great faith.  And sometimes it is a surprise that some religious leaders have no faith.  But even a little faith, faith the size of a mustard seed, can change the world.  Faith is a great Theological Virtue!

The second Theological Virtue is Hope.

“Hope turns our faces toward the future because the Biblical God is a God of the future who lures us toward the promised fulfillment of the kingdom of God.”

H. Stephen Shoemaker The Jekyll & Hyde Syndrome, Broadman, 1987, pp. 170-171.

What gives you hope?  Who do you know that is Hope-full?

Optimism and Hope are not the same thing.  Optimists believe that OUR best efforts must produce good results.  Things are always getting better and better.  The best days are ahead of us because we are making ourselves better.

The Christian sees things differently.  We are good, not because of anything we have done, but because God made us good.  But since God also gave us choice, humans seem to choose things not-so-good on a regular basis.  The Christian has Hope even on 9/11, even after the Holocaust, even after Hurricane Katrina.  Why?  Because, God is the kind of God who lives with us.  God is there, even when the worst is happening.  WE have Hope because God suffers with us.  God desires the best for us and for all of Creation.  God promises to transform all of Creation.  When we pray for God’s Kingdom to come on Earth as it is in heaven, we are practicing the Virtue of Hope.

Faith Link

A Tree Is Known By It’s Fruit- Read Luke 6:43-45 to the group.

  • As a group, restate this passage in your own words.  What does it really mean?
  • What does this passage have to do with Faith?

q  We are all troubled by Sin.  We all sin.  Even Christians.  But Christians, through the power of God, are no longer held captive by Sin.  God wins, no sin.

  • How does this basic understanding of Sin’s power help or change your faith?
  • Why do Christians still sin if they have faith in the God of Jesus Christ?
  • One misleading understanding of salvation is this: you are in the club.  Now all you have to do is get others in the God-club.  Instead, Scripture calls us to lead a life of service to others, not winning them over with words, but winning them over by meeting the needs as God shows us: feeding the poor, helping the stranger, building homes, providing basic health care, teaching VBS, etc.
  • How might a Christian produce “bad fruit” with a Christian-Club understanding of faith?
  • What has another Christian done in their lives that made you say “Hey, I want to life a life like that!”
  • How can we tell what is abundant in our own hearts?

Worthy Fruit- Read Matthew 3:7-10 to the group.

  • Who is John speaking to here?  All people?  Religious leaders?
  • What is John trying to say?

q  We cannot consider the Christian Faith without giving some thought to judgment.  Judgment is a major theme in the Bible but it is also a reality of life.  Our decisions and actions have consequences.  Especially our Faith decisions or possible our Faith in-action (failure to act).

q  What we do, what we believe, how we live in relationships, all have consequences.  Scripture shows us that God is the ultimate judge of persons and of nations.

  • “though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever, but you, O Lord, are on high forever. The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God”  Psalm 92:7-8, 12-13 NRSV
  • “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.  Matthew 7:15-20
  • Do you believe you have a choice between good and evil?
  • Why do you have choice (free will)?

q  To repent means to stop heading in the wrong direction, turn around, and head toward God.  Both John the Baptist and Jesus called on people to repent.

q  Each person, whether they make good faith choices or bad faith choices produces some type of fruit.  The fruit is the product of our choices.

  • What do YOU think it means to “bear fruit worthy of repentance?”
  • Why do you think John targeted the religious people of his day to challenge in this way?

The Fruit of Hope- Read Hebrews 10:23-25 to the group.

  • What is “the confession of our hope?”
  • What else do you place hope in?

q  The life (teaching & healing), death (execution on a cross), and resurrection (God overcoming the power of death) of Jesus is our Hope as Christians.

  • How does each of these 3 components give us Hope?
  • Does any one component give you more hope than another?

q  The historic Christian understanding is that ALL 3 should be held in balance with one another.  However, at different parts of our faith journey we might focus on one part more than another until we grow into a more mature faith.

  • How can this Hope “stir up” Christians to love others and to do good works?

q  As Christians, we are called to make all of our life, and especially our suffering, an act of self-giving love, which is what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

  • When have you suffered?
  • What gave you hope during your suffering?

q  Persons who are in Christ (which is what persons who claim the name Christian are supposed to be) share in Christ’s risen life.  The Divine power that raised Jesus out of the grave is available to us to empower us to grow up into mature Christians who live “in Christ” here and now.

  • Have you ever considered that God’s power is available in this way to you now?
  • Does it give you hope?

Life Application

Read Matthew 6:9-13 out loud to everyone-

q    Christians the world over pray this prayer and have for 2,000 years.

  • How is it a prayer of Hope?
  • How is it a prayer of Faith?
  • Do you think this prayer has been answered yet?  Why? Or why not?

q  Things are not as they should be in God’s world.  Things are not the way God intends for them to be.

  • List some things that are not the way God intends for them to be.
  • Now list some things that Christians do because of their Faith that gives Hope to others in the world.
  • Why haven’t Christians lost Hope after 2,000 years?
  • “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39 NRSV

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Joys and Concerns- Teacher: Write these on a piece of butcher paper.

Closing Prayer- Students: Pray for the Joys and Concerned mentioned in this session.

 

 

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