HOPE for 2013
[This article is from a sermon I preached on 12/30/12. Many thanks to A. Todd Coget, whose sermon “What If? and Why Not?” (December 29, 2002) inspired me to go deeper into the subject of HOPE.]
Here’s my personal list of what I believe are the Top Ten news events of 2012. See if these prompt your memory banks, and if you agree with me about their importance or their impact.
- The reelection of President Obama was, by far, the biggest news event of the year for the United States.
- The internet continues to be one of the “drivers” of our culture. From FaceBook going public to the death of Whitney Houston (the number 1 story “googled” this year), the internet continues to exercise its muscle and influence.
- Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, and the storm’s aftermath, is a reminder that we don’t have control over nature … and that sometimes the storms of life are literally storms!
- The uncertainty of gas prices, and the rise and fall of prices at the pump, continues to get our attention daily.
- The mass murders … what some now are calling “Spree Killings” … in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, Oikos University in Oakland, CA, the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut! The thing is, guns are being blamed, but Hollywood and the computer game industry continues to outspend the NRA.
- The Middle East continues to capture our attention every day – with the ongoing tensions associated with Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel, the phony elections in Egypt, and the murder of the US Ambassador in Libya.
- The “Fiscal Cliff,” and the inability of our government to get a handle on spending; the national debt, and the world’s economy.
- The London Olympics was the biggest distraction and emotional lift for our country this past summer.
- President Obama’s Supreme Court health care ruling (in his favor) was huge news with huge implications for our nation.
- The new tensions arising in the world because of Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
These stories, circumstances, and influences have, and will continue to have, an impact on our times and our individual lives. What happens in the Middle East and North Korea will impact your life, as will decisions that follow Sandy Hook, Hurricane Sandy, and our government’s spending.
We are standing on the threshold of a New Year … 2013. The world didn’t end on 12/21/12! We have a future! But do you have HOPE!
There is a reason the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to include HOPE as one of the “big 3” … one of the THREE THINGS THAT WILL LAST FOREVER!
Paul wrote, “And now these three remain: faith, HOPE and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV) Or, as the New Living Translation reads, “Three things will last forever — faith, HOPE, and love …”
Let me tell you something: If you feel HOPEless, you won’t love or exercise faith. HOPE is critically important to life, and life in God!
HOPE is “confident assurance.”
Look with me at Hebrews 11:1 and 6 –
“Now faith is confidence in what we HOPE for and assurance about what we do not see …And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (NIV)
“Faith is the confidence that what we HOPE for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see … And
it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.” (NLT)
- We talk much about love, and we should, because it’s the greatest of the Big 3.
- And we talk a lot about faith, and we should, because without faith it’s impossible to please God.
- BUT what about HOPE?! Do you have HOPE?
But not just ANY HOPE? Do you have HEAVENLY HOPE??
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus Himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing Him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
19 “What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed Him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified Him. 21 We had HOPED He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
There is nothing so devastating as having lost HOPE. For these men, their HOPE was gone. The one they had HOPED to be the redeemer of Israel, was, in their mind, dead. Along with the death of Jesus, came the death of their HOPE.
If you’ve lived beyond childhood, you have lost HOPE in some sense, at some point in your life. When we lose HOPE we are overcome with feelings of senselessness, purposelessness, and despair, discouragement, depression. The energy is just sucked right out of our lives. Lack of HOPE can actually destroy our very lives.
- Maybe you have a memory of driving away from the only friends you’ve ever had to move to a new town, a new school, and a totally new life … one NOT of your choosing.
- Maybe it was when your favorite sports team got so far behind in points that there was no HOPE of them winning.
- Maybe it was a little more serious …. Maybe there was time when you were without a job, and you had no money.
- Maybe it was a health issue … where you thought there was no HOPE for you or your loved one.
During those times perhaps you were tempted to take the advice of Job’s wife, who told Job to “Curse God and die.”
But let me interrupt that thought process with this truth: for the Christian, life is essentially a life of HOPE. And that is what I want to talk about today. The HOPE we have as children of God.
Ephesians 2:12 and 13 says, “Once you lived in this world without God and without HOPE. But now you have been united with Christ. Once you were far away from God, but NOW you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13 – “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no HOPE.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we
cannot see will last forever.”
HOPE is to the human spirit what oxygen is to the physical body.
The word HOPE occurs some 52 times in the New Testament alone. And if you take the time to look up those 52 passages you will find that it ALWAYS is connected in some way to God.
God is the author of HOPE, Romans 15:13 tells us, “I pray that God, the source of HOPE, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident HOPE through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
FOUR things to observe:
- God is the source of HOPE
- When you have God’s HOPE, you will be filled with joy and peace
- That joy and peace will be a result of TRUSTING in Him.
- If you learn to trust Him, confident HOPE will overflow in your life through the power of the Holy Spirit.
HOPE connects us with the future just as memories connect us with the past.
We reflect on our past through our memories … we think back on what happened. Through our memories we en-vision our past.
HOPE helps us envision our future. How do we know what will happen in the future? We have HOPE, which is placed in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sure there might be valleys in our future, just as there were valleys in our past. But the HOPE we have in Christ Jesus should make us realize that some day we will stand on the Holy Mountain of God, reigning with Christ, beautifully adorned as bride for the bridegroom. Worshiping God, praising God, dwelling with God. That is what HOPE does for us.
One of the definitions I read for HOPE stated, “HOPE is desire, with the expectation of getting what is desired. One cannot HOPE for that which he neither desires or expects to receive.”
Sometimes HOPE can be misplaced. David wrote: “Some nations boast in their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God. Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm.” (Psalm 20:7-8)
- There are those who HOPE to receive eternal life in heaven without acknowledging Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
- There are those who HOPE to grow in Christ without reading His word or going to God in prayer on a regular basis.
- There are those who HOPE to live happy lives even though they are in rebellion to God.
- All these are misplaced HOPEs, false HOPEs, HOPEs that our not founded and based in God.
- Life can be difficult and harsh, and there are times we may think that it will not get better. But there is HOPE, true HOPE in Christ, and there is true HOPE no where else.
No matter what our situation, HOPE is there, that HOPE that is Jesus Christ. The angel Gabriel gave this HOPEful assurance to Mary in Luke 1:37:
- “For no word from God will ever fail.” (NIV)
- “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (KJV)
- “For God can do all things.” (New Life Version)
- “For nothing is impossible with God.” (NLT)
- “ … every word shall not be impossible with God.” (Wycliffe)
- “But God can do anything.” (Worldwide English NT)
- “For no promise of God can fail to be fulfilled.” (Phillips Translation)
- “God can do anything!” (Easy-To-Read Bible)
- “For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.” (Amplified Version)