Believe 25: Hope
May 10, 2015
Have you ever lost hope? Have you ever felt a situation was hopeless? Whatever it was, whatever the moment was . . .
Maybe it was about life and death.
Maybe it was about a vital relationship, a close friend, a marriage, a child, a parent.
Maybe it had to do with school, a career or business decision.
We have moments in our lives when we attempt to grab onto some type of hope, but the question I have this morning is . . .
WHOSE HOPE ARE YOU HOLDING ONTO?
Now most of you are thinking, we’re in church Michael, that’s a no-brainer. And maybe it is for some of you, but I’m left wondering about this, because too often as followers of Christ, we struggle with this issue of HOPE. So, I want to look at some passages that speak directly to us about hope.
Too often we use the words hope, where we’re hoping something will happen, but we know the odds are against us. We “hope against hope” someone will get better — or we hope against hope that we will pass that final exam we didn’t study for. We’re not expecting it, yet we have a fatalistic sense of hope. I suppose you could describe all Cubs fans this way. We have a fatalistic hope.
But you see, with Christ we have something so much more than hoping against hope. We have a hope which is real and in fact realized.
On Easter I used the passage from 1 Peter 1, in which Peter tells us
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
Now, I’m not going to go back over this passage, but I wanted to point out one simple, obvious, but often overlooked fact . . .
When Peter spoke about our hope, how did he describe it? He said we were born again to what kind of hope?
A LIVING HOPE!!!
Peter could have just said we were born again to hope through the resurrection of Jesus. But we needed to hear and believe and trust that our hope is living. Our hope is alive. That was and is part of the great hope we have in Christ. He is alive! He defeated death. Our hope rests on the living Christ. Not the dead and defeated Christ! Can I get an AMEN from anyone?!?!
Our living hope comes through the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a fact, it’s not a maybe or what if. Jesus rose from the dead, and our hope can never die. It’s not hope against hope, it’s a very real hope.
We will all experience hardship and struggles and trials and tribulations. You may feel like some of your hopes have been crushed. You’ve had your dreams, but for whatever reason they have not materialized the way you expected.
You see, when we’re struggling we need something to hold onto. I don’t like the comment people make to encourage others, “well, you’re strong, you can handle this.” NO!! I don’t feel the least bit strong right now! I’m weak, I feel weak. The last thing I can do is rely on me.” I need to rely on Christ! Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 12:10 ~ 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.
Ah, yes, when we are weak, then we can become strong. Not on our own power, but through the power of the Spirit because we have Jesus as our Lord and Savior. On our own, even though we think we’re strong, in reality, we are pretty weak. So, we need Jesus. He’s the source of our power, courage, strength and our hope.
I love what Paul said in Romans 5 ~
3 . . . we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
What a great message of hope! Let me take you through this . . . Now, we don’t rejoice and jump up and down because we’re going through a period of suffering. What happens is that we still rejoice in spite of our sufferings. Nobody wants to suffer, but because we have Christ, who has given us the Holy Spirit, we can still have joy. So, in spite of our situation we continue to hold onto joy.
And we can still rejoice because we’re holding onto the Lord, who tells us . . . our suffering will produce endurance. It’s the picture of a person who is cheerfully enduring their storm. You suffer, yet you move through the process because you cannot be shaken from your foundation and faith in Christ. It’s also the person who is showing great patience in the midst of the storm.
And when you move through the process, endurance produces character. Literally, character means “proof of genuineness.” I love that description of someone’s character! Enduring the storms of life changes us. So many become bitter and resentful, but if we seek Christ in the storm, and we hold onto Him, we change from the inside out. Our testimony is different. When we talk about Christ in our lives, people listen. Why? Because they’ve seen Christ in us through the storm. They’ve seen how we’ve changed, how our character has changed, we’ve grown, we’ve become more mature in Christ.
And because we’ve endured, and we’ve changed in character, we’re more genuine, Paul then tells us, character produces HOPE! It is a confident, joyful expectation of something which is certain. That’s what our hope is. It’s based in Christ. It’s the expectation, the very real and true expectation of His presence in our times of distress.
And because we have HOPE, we can face tomorrow, even though our tomorrow will be different than today. It may not be what we wanted it to be, but we have Christ and we will make it because we trust in His power and presence.
Paul concludes by telling us ~ we won’t be disappointed because God has poured His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
You see, because of our certainty of the resurrection.
Because of our confident faith in Jesus.
Because we believe we are a child of God Almighty.
Because we trust in the goodness of God.
Because we have faith God’s plan is for good . . .
. . . even in the storm . . . we hold onto hope, and when we do, Paul tells us we will not be disappointed because God’s love — — (NOT human love) but God’s love, God’s most powerful expression of love, agape love . . . His fellowship with us, will be poured into our hearts. Again the image from Greek isn’t I’m just going to pour something into a cup, it means a gushing type of pouring. It’s turning the pitcher over and dumping it all on the person. And that is part of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is taking God’s love and pouring it into our hearts.
It’s not wishful thinking. It’s something which is to be expected. It’s not hope against hope. It’s very real and a promise from God to you and I.
The writer of Hebrews adds to this, by stating ~
18 we are to hold fast to the hope set before us so we may be greatly encouraged.
19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
The writer is telling us that our anchor is Christ. We anchor our souls on the certainty of the promises God has made to us. The promises that He will never fail us, never forsake us. The promise that He will be our God and we will be His people. The great promise of Romans 8:38-39 ~
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39 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.
Do you hear that promise from God? Paul said, I am sure, I am convinced, I have been persuaded to believe nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Great news of hope. That’s something we can hold onto. That’s because Christ is our anchor. He holds us steady and firm in all situations.
Here’s some history for you, the anchor became a key Christian symbol in the early church. If you were a first century Christian — you may have been hiding — knowing some of your best friends had been beaten and viciously killed because of their faith, you would need something to encourage you. The cross did not. The cross was scary. It was a symbol of death. What you needed was hope. An anchor reminds you of Jesus and the certainty of hope.
In one cemetery, from around the 1st century, they found about 70 tombs where there were anchors along with the expression “peace be with you” on their tombs. The anchor became a great symbol for the Christians to remember their hope in Christ. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/asktheexpert/sep13.html)
If a person is hopeless, they’re in great despair. You see, most of us create false senses of hope. When we do that, we’re usually on the verge of being disappointed pretty soon. So, the only lasting hope . . . . . . And this is the crux of this message . . .
This is the big take away for today. So . . . listen.
In all the storms of life I can cope with the hardships of life and the struggles of life, and even death, because I’ve got this anchor in the midst of my story.
So, it really boils down to 2 major beliefs, and the reason most people don’t have sustainable hope is because they either don’t believe in the promise of the future, or they don’t believe in the one making the promise.
Let me say this another way . . . Biblical hope is anchored in a person knowing the promises for the future AND believing in the one making the promise. And that goes to the belief in God and the belief in Jesus who is making these amazing promises to us.
When we have hope, we know we have a future, wherever that may be.
When we have hope we believe differently.
When we have hope we think differently.
When we have hope we act differently.