A Saving Hope
A Saving Hope
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
We are in week three of Lent! We are walking to Easter! Can you imagine back in the days of Jesus when all of the Jewish people made the pilgrimage back to Jerusalem for the Passover festival? We are told in the Book of Acts that people from all around the known world would make their way to Jerusalem for their pilgrimage. These people would walk, take ships and then walk, they even rode camels or donkeys and then walked. All to return back home to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
The distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem was around 70 miles. It would have taken Jesus between five to seven days to walk that distance. The Jewish people were not allowed to travel more than 2000 cubits or 3/5 of a mile on the Sabbath. This means it would take Jesus over a week to walk to Jerusalem. I read in my study that Jesus made at least nine trips back and forth from The Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem during his life-time; roughly 1440 miles.
Think of walking through the desert, up and down mountain trails. Think of the rough terrain and the obstacles. I wonder how many times Jesus stubbed his toe on the rocks or how many times he had rocks stuck in His sandals? How often did he slip and fall? I wonder if He ever thought that all of the walking was worth the trip? Did Jesus look forward to the hope of coming home to the temple in Jerusalem?
We have only been journeying on this road to Jerusalem for two weeks. We are also looking for hope. This week we will take a brief look into Paul’s letter to the Romans. Romans was written around 57 A.D. while Paul was in Corinth preparing to go to Jerusalem. Paul wanted to introduce himself to the Christians in Rome, Paul wanted to encourage them to wait in hope!
Let us turn to one of my most favorite chapters in the Bible --- Romans 8! Here Paul wants to give the early church in Rome the assurance of the love, grace and hope found in Jesus Christ. Romans 8 begins with the assurance of no condemnation --- “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,…”[i] and Paul continues to write to the hope of no separation --- “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[ii]
Before we come to God’s Living Word, let Us come to our Living God and seek His Saving hope. Let us pray, “Lord, God of all hope, give us to hope to travel the road you have called us to walk. Let your Living Word bring to us a Saving hope. Amen.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.[iii]
Last week, we looked at finding a living hope. We worked in I Peter 1:3. We have been born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. On Friday of this week, Rev. Dr. Billy Graham was buried. The memorial service was televised. I took the time to watch the entire service which lasted over 90 minutes. Many of the reporters said that this was actually Billy Graham’s last revival. I would agree. They had several different pastors and musicians speak and sing. The most moving part of the service was the personal sharing of Billy’s family. There were five children in Billy’s family: three daughters and two sons--Gigi, Anne, Ruth, Ned and Franklin. Gigi read a poem her mother had written at age 13 about the man she would marry—her daddy, Billy. Anne Graham Lotz then gave a powerful message of hope comparing her father to Moses. She spoke of the promise of the coming of Jesus. Ned spoke and declared his father was FAT: faithful, available, and teachable. Franklin then challenged everyone listening that Jesus was the way, the truth and life. Franklin concluded his Gospel message with an invitation to ask Jesus into your hearts. We all know Franklin well. He is the founder of Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child—the shoeboxes we do at the holidays.
But I must tell you that it was Billy’s third daughter, Ruth, who spoke volumes of hope in her quiet way. Ruth shared that she went through a divorce early in her life; a painful time when she wandered in the wilderness for years making many wrong choices. Then she met another man. A man felt would complete her. Her sister and her father and mother had deep concerns but despite their warning, she left and married the man on New Years Eve. Ruth said that she knew she had made a mistake within 24 hours. After five weeks, she fled and knew she had to return home. As she drove up the mountain, all she could think of was how she had embarrassed her family. “We never want to embarrass our family but we certainly never want to embarrass Billy Graham.”
Can you imagine the pressure and burden of growing up in the shadow of Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, the world’s pastor, as your father?
Ruth Graham drove around and around that mountain. She drove down the lane and got to the front door of the family home. Her daddy was standing there waiting for her. As she got out of her car, her daddy threw his arms around her and said, “Welcome Home.”
Welcome Home! What powerful words! What reassuring words! What wonderful words that say that there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. What joyous words that say that nothing can separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus.
Ruth, Billy’s daughter said, “Now my daddy is not God, but on that day he showed me what God was like.”
When Paul wrote this letter to the early church in Rome, he wanted them to wait in hope. Paul wanted to encourage them that they were saved in hope!
In this section in Romans 8:18-27 we find a hope that helps us in our groaning. In verses 22, 23 and 26, we find a word that is repeated three times and yet is found nowhere else in this letter. In fact, it is found only six more times in the entire New Testament. It is the Greek word stenazō (variants, sustenazō and stenagmos), and is translated “groan” (v. 23), “groans” (v. 26), and “groaning” (v. 22). The interesting thing is that this word is applied to three different entities: to creation, to ourselves, and to the Holy Spirit. This groaning is like the groaning of childbirth. Now, I never gave birth and never had to suffer through that pain but I stood by my wife’s side at the birth of all three of our children. There is tremendous pain and groaning. But oh the joy and relief when the birth finally comes. This is exactly what Paul is trying to compare what our hope should be.
The pains of childbirth are real pains, severe ones. But they are not endless. They last only for a time. Nor are the pains hopeless. On the contrary, they are filled with joyful expectation! Paul is writing that our grief as Christians should be like that. We groan, but we do so in expectation of a safe delivery.
Pastor and commentator, Ray Stedman, wrote this, “Our lives consist of groans. We groan because of the ravages that sin makes in our lives, and in the lives of those we love. Also we groan because we see possibilities that are not being captured and employed. And then we groan because we see gifted people who are wasting their lives, and we would love to see something else happening. It is recorded that, as he drew near the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus groaned in his spirit because he was so burdened by the ravages that sin had made in a believing family. He groaned, even though he knew he would soon raise Lazarus from the dead. So we groan in our spirits—we groan in disappointment, in bereavement, in sorrow. We groan physically in our pain and our limitation. Life consists of a great deal of groaning.”[iv]
What Paul does in his writing in Romans is to reassure the early church that we are saved in this hope! In verses 24-25 we read, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Look at all the “HOPES” used here. The first hope in verse 24 is past tense. What Paul is writing to us is that our salvation is a done deal. We have been saved once and for all on the cross. Our hope of being saved is final and complete. Jesus did that. Past tense. “It is Finished.”
II Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
In one of my commentaries, J.B. Phillips stated it this way --- “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons (and daughters) of God coming into their own,”[v]
The whole earth is groaning. We are groaning for the restoration of our bodies and our lives.
Hope that is seen is no hope at all.
You know what hope is?
Hope is standing on our tiptoes, looking to the future, waiting patiently for what we do not yet have.
So if all of creation is standing on their tiptoes to see us coming into our own, what is it that you are standing on you tiptoes to see?! Ruth Graham, the daughter of Billy Graham, didn’t know what to expect when she drove up the side of the mountain. She knew that with two divorces, she had disappointed her mom and dad. What would they say when they saw her? Would they cry? Would they be angry? Her Dad met her at the front door. Did she ever expect her father to throw his arms around her and say, “Welcome home?”
There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I have been standing on my tiptoes looking heavenwards since 2012 when I came down with this mysterious rash that has put me in the hospital and sent me to doctor after doctor. I have been standing on my tiptoes hoping that just one doctor would say, “I know what’s wrong with you!”
The past two weeks, my rash has flared up and my strength has been depleted. I have grown weary of standing on my tiptoes but I am still hoping and patiently waiting for what I do not have.
It is my prayer that as we come to this communion table we will all be given a glimpse of heaven. We will see our LIVING hope in the midst of the breaking of the bread. We will see our SAVING hope in the sharing of the cup. My prayer is that no matter where you are, no matter what you have done, no matter how many bad choices you’ve made that today, here at the communion table…you will feel God’s deep love for you.
Let us pray ----
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91701
March 4, 2018
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 8:1). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 8:37–39). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[iii] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 8:18–27). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[iv] Ray C. Stedman, From Guilt to Glory, Volume 1 (Waco, TX: Word, 1981), p. 241.
[v] Boa, K., & Kruidenier, W. (2000). Romans (Vol. 6, p. 257). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.