God’s People in Hard Times
Lesson 1

Lesson One

What Did You Expect?

Text: Hebrews 11

Expectations are powerful!  Expectations build marriages and produce marital failures; cause parenting to rise or fall; make jobs glorious opportunities or roads to misery; make a house a marvelous home or a source of embarrassment; and cause nations to be glorious homelands or places to escape.  Usually expectations fuel one’s imagination to move in the direction of greatness, or bring the disappointments that produce a foundation for failure.  In grave disappointment, often the first question that should be asked and answered seriously is, “What were you expecting?”  The second question to be asked and answered seriously is, “Why were you expecting that?”  Misguided expectations are the foundation of many sorrows!  The failure to grasp the relationship between behavior and outcome can produce disaster!  If an anticipated good result does not occur, often the disappointment is acute and tragic!


For example, (a) when it was realized by the first Christians how successful Jesus’ ministry was, (b) when it was realized that God raised Jesus from the dead, and (c) when Christianity initially spread with such success, it was simple for Christians to assume nothing would or could stop MANY PEOPLE from having faith in Jesus Christ.  The initial thrust of Christianity caught Judaism, idolatry, and the Roman government off guard!  However, Judaism recovered to stop its “bleeding.”  Idolatry countered Christianity—they did not like the loss of members!  The controlling Roman government asserted itself again.


An unbelievable alliance between the three (a common enemy creates unlikely alliances!) caused the Christian movement to suffer a loss of momentum and respect.  The result: in much less than a hundred years, one goes from the events of Acts 2 and following to the events to which Revelation responded.  The Christian movement literally went from “We cannot be stopped” to “Can we endure?”


Never forget Christianity is built on a crucified Savior!  The Stephen who was stoned to death (Acts7:60), a persecution against the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:2), a deliberate attempt to destroy the Christian movement among the Jews (Acts 8:3; 9:1, 2), an apostle James killed by the sword (Acts 12:2), an arrested apostle Peter (Acts 12:3-5), a harassed and persecuted Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-33), martyrs (Revelation 6:9,10), and a killed Paul (2 Timothy 4:6) are a part of our Christian heritage.  Never was the promise (in the New Testament) to those who followed Jesus Christ, “There will be no suffering in the physical world.”


There must be a common awareness among today’s Christians that hardship, suffering, or pain endured does not mean that Jesus Christ has abandoned us or that God has failed us.  When a battle front exists, there will be casualties!  True, Jesus defeated Satan in that the eternal outcome will be victory for those in Christ and defeat for those ruled by Satan.  However, as long as this perverted physical world exists, there will be deadly physical “clashes” between the forces loyal to Satan and the forces loyal to Jesus Christ and God.  Remember, physical consequences are NO predictor of eternal outcomes!


The American society (as well as many other societies) has too long been victimized by a “health and wealth” gospel.  Basically (in various ways), it is suggested or claimed that in some way that faith in what God did through Jesus’ death and resurrection will absolutely result in physical health or physical wealth.  Things to consider:  (a) The only one who continues to live from the first century world is Jesus, and  He is at his Father’s right hand ruling until all are subjected to God (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Romans 8:35-39).  (b) Those first Christians that today’s Christians so admire and use as mentors are physically dead—and many of them did NOT die by “natural means.”  (c) In the core of Jesus Christ’s gospel is this: that as surely as Jesus was resurrected to have life with God, so we who are in Christ will be resurrected to have life with God.  Belief in Jesus Christ is also belief in the hope of resurrection.  (d) Jesus Christ was poor in material things.  Many who followed Jesus Christ were poor in material things.  Consider 2 Corinthians 8:1-9.


The “wealth” in this physical world is to be experienced in Christian-to-Christian relationships and in the relationship between the Christian and the resurrected Jesus. To neglect those relationships is to neglect one of the choice benefits God provides for us in Christ (1 John 1:7).  God’s primary blessing in this world is found in relationship, not in acquiring physical things.  Christians, as do God and Jesus Christ, value people above things (Galatians 6:9, 10).


Does God bless?  Surely!  Are material things at times included in such blessings?  Surely!  The unperverted material began with God as its source!  Does belonging to God through Jesus Christ guarantee good health and possession of the material?  No!  The Christian woman who worships in a mud brick building that has one room in material poverty is as surely blessed by God as is the Christian woman who worships in a fabulous building with many rooms among prosperous people.  The Christian man who is destroyed by cerebral malaria is as surely blessed by God as is the Christian man who has never seen anyone with malaria.  A gospel that cannot be true among all people regardless of their material circumstances is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Do not associate the existence of God’s gospel through Jesus Christ with any advantage dependent on possessing the material!  Do not assume that possessing the material or a high standard of living proves that God approves of your behavior or lifestyle!


For Thought and Discussion


1.      Expectations are what?  Illustrate your answer.


2.      When there is disappointment, often what is the first question that should be asked?  What is the second?


3.      Misguided expectations are the foundation of what?  What does the failure to grasp the relationship between behavior and outcome produce?


4.      Discuss the initial thrust of Christianity.  How did the first century end for the Christian movement?


5.      What is in the Christian heritage?


6.      What common awareness must today’s Christians have?  Physical consequences to faith in Jesus Christ do not predict what?


7.      By what have many societies been victimized?  What is a “health and wealth” gospel?


8.      Name four things to be considered when a person sees Jesus Christ as the means to health or wealth.


9.      God’s gospel through Jesus Christ should not be associated with what?  What should not be assumed?

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 1

Copyright © 2009
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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