Using New Testament Narratives to Give Hope

The Need

In one of the first training classes I taught at CCEF, there was a newly appointed counseling pastor from a Baptist church in New Jersey. Stressing the importance of giving hope is now a strategic aspect of teaching Introduction to Biblical Counseling, so it was then. This newly minted biblical counseling pastor was sitting opposite me at the conference table around which were seated, my twelve students. He looked very disinterested through most of the two-hour class. As I opened the class the following week, it was evident that he was agitated. So, I said, brother, you look like you are about to burst. You have something on your heart, and it needs expression. So, please share your concern with the class. Here was his response.

“This is America. Where I worked overseas for the past ten years, those people need hope. Inside I was close to mocking you last week as you droned on about Americans needing hope. Then I started my first five cases this week, my second week on the job. You were right! They all were desperate.  Being in America with all the advantages one could ask for, they were hopeless.” 

The Target Passage

That was not an ah-ha moment one forgets easily.

So, this blog is about one more tool for the for the everyday Christian as well as the counselor’s toolbox to selectively be utilized to extend hope to those doubting their faith. Our narrative of consideration is Matthew chapter eleven. It exemplifies how we can utilize New Testament narratives to precipitate hope.

The Occasion for the Narrative

Chapter eleven, verse one, explicitly identifies the occasion with these words, “And it came about when Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples.” Chapter ten is an instruction manual for his disciples on how to execute his commission, “Go preach,” saying, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (10:7). He was teaching them how to be the answer to the prayer he bid them pray in 9:36-38 that the Lord to would send forth laborers into the field.  He now commissions them by sending them on a preaching mission while he moves on to teach and preach in their cities” (11:1b). 

At this juncture, John is imprisoned in Jerusalem for calling out the sin of Herod. He heard reports of Jesus’ public ministry but found himself doubting. He had declared Jesus to be “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” However, like most of the Jews of his day, he expected that the Messiah would free them from Roman control. Yet, here he was, in a Roman prison. Hence, he sends his disciples to question Jesus, “Are you the expected one, or shall we look for someone else?”

For our counselees, different ones will phrase the question differently depending upon their concern. It may be, “Is this really what it takes to be saved, just ask Jesus to save us?” Or, it may be, “I could lose my home, my job, maybe even my wife if this goes sideways in court. Can I trust God?” Or “God has failed me with two miscarriages. If I am, it happens again. How am I supposed to truth God about anything?”

The Hope Is Extended 

First to John

Jesus extends hope to John. He does so by telling the messengers to bear personal witness to what they experience (11:5). We see this in His words, “Go and report what you hear and see” (11:4).

He assures John of blessedness (peace) by not stumbling over Him. It is as if Jesus sending a message to John that says just because I am not doing things on your timetable and by your agenda, don’t doubt me and lose your joy 11:6.

Second to the Crowd

He turns to the crowd and uses John’s doubting and his answer as the occasion to extend hope to the crowd (v.7-8) in several ways. The first is by affirming the ministry and message of John (9-14). Second, by affirming that the same works that witnessed to John the reality of Jesus witnessed to them that He indeed was their hope (16-24), noting that such works would have witnessed to and produced redemption even Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom (21-24). Third, by noting His union with the Father (25-26).

Third to All People

Note first the foundation for the hope He extends to us in Matthew 11:27, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Now hear the elements of the hope extended. First, there is the invitation, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden” (28). This invitation is from the lips of Jesus himself. Second, the promise is “I will give you rest” (28). Whatever your doubt. There are no qualifiers; He will give your rest.  Third, there is a condition, “Take My yoke upon you.” 

At this point, your friend, neighbor, or counselee may groan, “I knew there was a catch!” 

No, it is not a catch. It is the avenue of hope, as we see in the fourth component. Jesus says, “My yoke is easy (in comparison to the burden of your doubt), and My load is light (in contrast to the pressure you put on yourself attempting to live life your way).


Narratives do not work well unless you master them. You must prepare. Think through the process. Anticipate questions. Rephrase or paraphrase the Word in contemporary thought form and language.

Practice telling the narrative to a fellow counselor, your spouse, or even your children, whom you may teach the truth of hope in the process. In some cases, like the parable of the sourer, consider using pictures or diagrams.

Questions to stimulate thinking

  • Ask yourself, “Why would I not use a New Testament narrative to give hope?
  • Think of your friend circle or your counseling caseload and identify a counselee for whom you need to provide hope. Prayerfully consider which NT narrative you could utilize to give them hope. Prepare to do so.
  • Ask yourself, when have I found hope reading a New Testament narrative?  if they have used NT narratives to give hope, which ones, and for which issues did they use each?
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