Study Guide: Imagine

Sunday February 6, 2011 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

How does a person keep their faith when facing an unfixable situation? In this sermon, Greg speaks to the question by examining his family’s own struggle with having an adult son with autism. Knowing that he can’t fix the problem, Greg describes how his vision of the solution provides a solid foundation for faith.

Extended Summary:

As Hebrews states, faith is the substance of anticipated things, the conviction about things not yet visible. Faith becomes a type of vision that we have about the future. John Lennon had faith. A faith that saw a world that was free from wars, religion, and countries. As Christians, we have faith in Jesus that points towards a future free from wars, religion, countries, pain, sin, suffering, and death. However, the question that remains is this: how do we keep the faith when we face an unfixable situation?

Nothing determines the quality or direction of life than the faith one holds. For a parent of an autistic child, it can be extremely difficult to have faith when seeing that child struggle with life and become angry, frustrated, and depressed. It becomes infuriating, frustrating, and sad for parents to watch. This process of living life while facing an unfixable situation causes massive grief for all involved. What then, in the middle of that grief, does faith look like?

It can be easy to give up when facing unfixable situations. It can be easy to become cynical and angry when facing unfixable situations. Yet, God calls us to have peace and gentleness. There are essentially two outcomes when facing a difficult situation—a person either can follow in faith or a person becomes angry, bitter, and hostile towards this world. As Christians, to follow in faith, is to remember the story that we live in.

Whenever an unfixable situation comes up, it is natural for people to picture the consequences of that situation. This is especially true around election time when it seems that one half of the country is preparing for heaven and the other half is preparing for Armageddon, only to reverse roles when the next election comes around. The way to keep faith in an unfixable situation is to remember the story that God has promised to us. We must picture the world the way that God sees it, and not the way that we might see it.
God paints us a vivid picture of the future. There won’t be nationalistic tendencies that lead to wars between nations. There won’t be a lack of food for anyone. There won’t be sickness, despair, or death. Yet, when facing our situations in life, we sometimes get sidetracked and begin to see the future as something that is dark and dreadful. A parent can begin to see no hope in the future when their child has autism, and they can miss the mark of where the future is headed.

This vision that God gives us of the future is central to our faith. To hold faith during difficult times, we must remind ourselves over and over again of where God is taking us. Regardless of cancer, disease, war, famine, and depression, we have a God who is lovingly guiding us to the promised land of a new heaven and new earth where no more tears will fall. We must imagine what that looks like when we stare at the ugliness of this world. Instead of imagining what the future looks like because of the ugliness, we imagine what the world looks like in spite of the ugliness.

We imagine the world as God says it will be. We must imagine ourselves as the image of our loving God. Imagining this God who came to earth out of love, forgave us in our sinfulness, restored us, and defeated the evil forces of this earth—only then will we find faith. We imagine the fulfillment when everything will be purposed harmoniously under Christ. This harmony will have no more wars, no more famine, no more autism, and no more death. Living in this Kingdom story is the only way to keep faith when facing an unfixable situation. We keep pursuing no more wars, no more disease, and fixes to the problem of this world, but we aren’t discouraged by the results that we might find. We aren’t discouraged because God has already set in the motion the ultimate fixing of this Universe.

Faith is the substance of anticipated things, the conviction about things not yet visible. We only need to look around a short while to see that the world can be an ugly, disheartening place. It is easy to be fearful, disheartened, and angry. Frustration is the name of the game when trying to change this world. Yet, there is hope in the story that God says will come true. When we put our focus and heart into that story, we can have faith in the midst of the unfixable world we live in. We imagine this world the way God is going to rebuild and redeem it. We imagine and have faith.

Reflection Questions:

What questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?

When you encounter unfixable situations, what story do you usually dwell in?

When you hear the story of God that Greg portrays in this sermon, is it difficult to believe?

Where have you seen this faith in action among people in your life? Have you ever seen someone with faith that seems to transcend their situation in life?

Imagining the story of God is key to having faith in unfixable situations. How can you and those close to you encourage each other to have faith in these situations?