Fifth Sunday of Easter

God’s GIFT OF HOPE FOR YOU

 

Doctors in World War II and in Korea and Vietnam said some prisoners of war died from the condition  they called give-up-itis.  And what they meant by that is if kevinprisoners faced grim conditions with no prospect of freedom some of them became demoralized and some of them became filled with despair and after a while they became apathetic and they refused food and they refused to drink and they would spend their time in their bunk just staring into space.  With their hope drained away these prisoners eventually just wasted away and they died.  They died of give-up-itis. 

The human spirit needs hope to survive and to thrive.  The writers of the Bible recognized this more than 2500 years ago.  King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  I love how one translator turned this into a very pithy phrase.  “When hope is crushed the heart is crushed.”

It’s not surprising if God created human beings with this craving for hope it would make sense that He would also serve as our ultimate hope.  In fact, in Romans 15:13 it describes God as the God of hope.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 In total there are 95 references to hope in the Old Testament.  There are another 85 references in the New Testament.  This theme of hope is woven all throughout scripture and it’s the theme of this sermon. The point I want to make today is that the God of the Bible is that source of hope.  God offers a hope that is so powerful that it can transform a human being’s life and it can rewrite a person’s eternity. 

It’s not the kind of hope that we normally think of when we use the word hope.  In everyday conversation we use the word “hope” in various different ways that aren’t really consistent to what the Bible refers to when it’s talking about hope. 

For instance sometimes we talk about hope and what we really mean is wishful thinking.  Wishful thinking is when we try to hope things in or out of existence.  We blow out the candles on our birthday cake and say, “I hope I have another year of health and happiness.” 

Wishful thinking is that kind of hopeful feeling that somehow, some way things are going to go the way we want them to even though we have absolutely no power over the situation.  We don’t have any power to make it happen.

Sometimes when we engage in wishful thinking, we can do so to such a degree that we can actually convince ourselves of something even when something isn’t true.  That’s the power of wishful thinking.

Another kind of hopeful attitude is blind optimism.  I think it’s great to be an optimistic person. But blind optimism tends to see  everything through rose colored glasses. Blind optimism is when we paper over our problems as if they didn’t exist.  We turn our  eyes from the ugliness of the world and see  everything as just fine all the time.  Sort of like the sign on the bulletin board at the local supermarket.  “Lost:  Dog with three legs, blind in left eye, missing right ear, tail broken and recently had an operation at the vet.  Answers to the name Lucky.” You can call that dog Lucky all you want.  That is not a lucky dog. 

Sometimes people in their blind optimism will pretend things are great when they’re not.  That’s not biblical hope. 

Then there are ambitious dreams, another kind of hope.  We say, “Next year I’m going to buy a new car.”   Or we say, “Next year I’m really going to improve my golf game so I can play in the Australian open”

All of that is fine.  It’s wonderful to set ambitious goals and then to work toward achieving them.  The problem is that often we are restricted by our own limitations or by things that are outside of our control. The prices of new cars skyrocket and we have to keep driving our old one. It is great to improve your golf but to play in the Australian Open also requires some special talent and giftedness. Sometimes our own limitations or circumstances or other people can affect our dreams in such a way that we end up disappointed or worse.

Now let me contrast wishful thinking and blind optimism and ambitious dreams with biblical hope.

For most people hoping is something that they do but there is no guarantee it will happen.  But the Bible talks about hope as something we can have. The  Hope of the Bible is something you can have.  You can possess it.  You can own it.  You can grab a hold of it. The New Testament uses two Greek words for hope Elpis and Elpizo meaning: a confident trust in God even when waiting must be endured . The hope of the Bible is the confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises that He has made to you.

Romans 5:5  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

2 Cor. 1:10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,

The Bible refers to this as living hope because it is always directly linked to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:4 “In (God’s) great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.”

Through His resurrection, Jesus Christ demonstrated once and for all beyond any doubt that He is God and that He really does possess the power to fulfill the promises that He makes to us.  Promises that He’ll change our lives, promises that He’ll guide us, promises that He will walk side by side with us through the turbulence of life, promises that He can cause good to emerge from the personal problems that we face, promises that He will grant us eternal life in heaven with Him.  The resurrection is an actual physical event in history that sealed Christ’s identity as being the God who loves us and who is committed to helping us. 

Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul firm and secure.”  Our hope is only as good as what it is attached to, as what it is anchored to.  Hope in and of itself has no power.  You can wish for something, you can hope for something, you might feel a little better about it.  We might fool ourselves into thinking everything’s ok.  But the only way hope has any real power is when it’s anchored in the God who has real power.  And not only real power but a real desire out of His love for you to help you.  Those who follow Jesus Christ hope in the confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises He’s made to them. 

In the time remaining I want to talk about two particular areas where Christians draw hope from Christ.

  • We have hope because we’re absolved of our past.

Lamentations 3:21 says “This I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.”

What the writer is saying here is, we can live with hope as followers of Jesus Christ because even though we may fail God (which we all do) and even though we may fail our children in some way (which we all do) and even though we may fail our spouse in some way (which we all do) even so God’s compassion, His forgiveness, His absolution for those wrongs we’ve done in our past is a renewable resource.  It never is exhausted.  It is fresh and it is available every single day. 

Jesus Christ is in the renewable resources  business.  If He had a business card it’d say, “Jesus Christ – Renewable resources”. 

That’s His job, that’s His ministry, that’s His mission to give renewable grace and love to  people like us.  He’s saying, “I can forgive you.  I can absolve you of your past because My compassions are new every morning.  They never fail.” 

Some people need renewable compassion from God because of guilt.  Like you squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, guilt has way of squeezing the hope out of your life. 

  Guilt lies to us and guilt tells us “You are disqualified from a new start.  You will never get a clean slate.”  Guilt squeezes hope from our lives.  If you feel weighed down by guilt in your life over something – the way that you treated your kids as they were growing up, a marriage that fell apart, whatever it is, why would you want to lug this backpack of guilt through your life when God is saying, “My mercies are fresh everyday.”  1 John 1:9 says, “You don’t have to wonder if I’ll forgive you.  Just ask Me.  Confess your sins and I will forgive you.”  The question is are you going to ask?

1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.  Nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain.  But to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

God is offering you His  gift of Hope this morning. Let Him be  Your anchor, the one from whom you draw your security and your self esteem.”  Because God doesn’t change.  And God does not disappoint.  He is there for us every single day.  God is the God of renewable grace and one of the great things we as Christians have is hope because we can be absolved of our past.

  • The second reason Christians can have hope is we are assured of our future.

In our very secular world many people believe there is nothing after we die. They conclude This is life is all there is. When you die You  are snuffed out.  There is no existence beyond this.  When you die everything you have, everything you are is buried in a casket and  that’s it.  You want a prescription for hopelessness?  For despair?  This is it!  This hopelessness is so black that people can’t face it.

So some people go to wishful thinking and they say, “Maybe I’ll be reincarnated or something.” Or some people engage in blind optimism and say, “I just won’t think about it.  Maybe by the time I get sick and I’m ready to die they’ll find some cure for whatever it is I have.” Or they’ll pursue ambitious dreams and say, “I’ll lose 20 kg, I’ll cut my cholesterol in half.  I’ll extend my life span just through discipline and self-control and hard work.”  Those defense mechanisms can make people feel all right for a while.  There is one really, really ugly statistic in this world and that is – death plays a perfect game.  One out of one dies.  One hundred percent.  One out of one dies.
But the gift of hope in our Christian faith is not wishful thinking, it is the hope that our future after death is secure. For Jesus says in John 14  that there is a place secured, prepared for us in heaven. For the follower of Jesus our hope is there will be a room for you, prepared by Jesus himself. What an assuring picture, Jesus becoming the ultimate servant, preparing our place in heaven, preparing our future home.

The bible reassures us that the hope of heaven is a home free from stress, relational dramas and endless ‘to- do’ lists. Our heavenly home will be one of rest and peace, prepared personally for those who trust in the hope of Jesus work.

This hope of heaven will be about our heavenly Father. Heaven is the Father’s house, Jesus explains, and this Father is one we can count on. Many people haven’t   had a good relationship with their earthly father. Some may have never known a strong father figure in their life. Some may have greatly feared their father or lived their life always trying to please him but never could. The Father of heaven, the one we hope in, is a perfect Father who welcomes us into a perfect home.

Our Father’s home is a world  the way He intended it to be from the beginning. A world free from brokenness, pain and disappointment. And our Father is there, strong, loving, fair, dependable and kind.

When you are assured of a future in eternity with such a Father God then you have a sense of confidence and boldness and courage in this world.  It turns us from hopelessness to hope.  That changes everything.  That changes your perspective.  Even in ways that are hard to understand. 

Titus 3 says, “God saved us in His mercy, not by virtue of any moral achievement of ours.  We are acquitted by His grace, and can look forward in hope to inheriting eternal life.”

 To have faith in promises like this is to  have the confident expectation  that God is going to deliver for me, I will stand in the presence of Jesus Christ.  And I will look Him full in His face.  And it will be the greatest moment in my life.  There will be nothing like that moment when we first drink in the face of Jesus.  Death is not something to be afraid of when you’ re assured of your future. Jesus promises you, I will forgive you of your past and I will take you to heaven that’s Living Hope.

Amen

Pastor Kevin Bell

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