Summary: Paul says the hope that is laid up for us in heaven enable us to have faith and love. In other words, hope is the foundation of faith and love.
Scripture Lesson: Colossians 1:1-14
A little boy wanted $100 very badly. He prayed for weeks, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write a letter to God requesting $100. When the postal authorities received the letter to "God, USA", they decided to send it to the President. The President was so amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5 bill. The President thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy.
The little boy was delighted with the $5 bill, and sat down to write a thank-you note to God. The postal authorities forwarded this letter on to the President, too.
It read: "Dear God, Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you sent it through Washington, D.C., and those guys deducted $95 in taxes!"
Our scripture lesson this morning is taken from the opening lines of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae. The reason he wrote the letter was because he heard that some false teachers has taught the Colossians to believe something more than what the Gospel has taught them. The letter didn’t mention what kind of heresy they are facing, but we can imagine that it must be similar to the issues we dealt with in our previous week’s lessons, such has the Judiaisers that wanted the gentiles to be circumcised if they want to become a Christians, or some false teachers that want them to observer a certain dietary discipline in order to be saved.
In this letter, Paul seems to be more interested in strengthening the spiritual life of the Christians than counter attacking the heresy. In the introduction of this letter he prescribed a preventive procedure for them to build up a strong spiritual life so that they won’t become venerable to heresy.
It is the early Christian tradition to start a letter with a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for the addressee. Paul usually starts his letter by giving thanks for the faith, love, and hope. Notice the three words in this passage:
“In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,” Notice that he says first about their faith in Jesus Christ, which is revealed in action through their love for all the saints. Remember that when the Bible talks about holiness or saints, it simply means believers. Saints and holy people are not some high and mighty spiritual beings, but those who believe in Jesus Christ and being set apart—holy means to set apart—for Jesus Christ. So the idea of holy is not about the excellence of character but the state of dedication to the work and worship of God. Remember, you all are saints. So don’t confuse with the sainthood of the Roman Catholic Church, which is given to only certain people. Every Christian is a saint, not because we deserve it, but because of God’s grace that invites us to him and sets us apart through our baptism.
So Paul gives thanks to God about these saints and for their faith in Jesus Christ and their love for all the saints—love is faith in action. And he continues in verse 5, “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel.” He is in effect, saying that you have faith and love because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
This particular way of describing hope kept me thinking about hope this weekend. Paul says the hope that is laid up for us in heaven enable us to have faith and love. In other words, hope is the foundation of faith and love.
Hope is a big thing for me. Years ago when I was in at UCSF for my Clinical Pastoral Education course, we were gathering as a small group to talk about our emotional states. The supervisor asked us, “What do you feel and what do you want to do right now?” When my turn came, I said that I wanted to curl up at the dark corner of a hall and smoke. Janet, our supervisor, asked me, “Sam, are you depressed?” I looked at her with surprise, “How do I know if I am depressed? I have felt like that all my life.” That was the beginning of my awakening to the reality of depression.
There are many interpretation of depression. Psychiatrically, it is chemical imbalance. But it didn’t solve my problem because my problem was not biological chemical imbalance. My problem was due to the lost of hope. When you lose hope, you just don’t want to live. You don’t even have a reason or energy to smile. When you lose hope, your body stop producing the necessary chemicals to make you happy, or to give you faith and make you love others. They prescribed me Zoloft, but it only works temporarily. When you have that chemical boost to make you happy, but you don’t have hope, what do you want to do? You just become crazy; you want to redirect that energy to somewhere else. No wonder some people committed suicide after taking those pills because you have a boost of emotional energy, or light heartedness, without the hope to match it.