Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Today we begin a seven-week series on HOPE! As we journey to the cross and the empty tomb, we will look at what hope is and why hope is so important. In the apostle Paul’s famous letter to the Corinthians, he wrote the love chapter and talked about love from many perspectives. He ended his writing on love by saying --- “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”[i]
There has been so much written about love. Think of all the love songs: Whitney Houston’s I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU…Stop! In the Name of LOVE! And Stevie Wonder’s I just called to say I LOVE YOU. We just finished celebrating Valentine’s Day!
Over the past 7 years, we have learned and discussed the importance of having faith in Christ. As I sought and prayed for my preaching calendar for the New Year, Lent and Easter, the Holy Spirit placed it on my heart to look at “HOPE”. Faith, HOPE and Love…what better topic to discuss than the hope and the power we find in resurrection.
Over the next seven Sundays, we will look at the “Foundation of Hope,” “A Living Hope,” “A “Saving Hope,” “A Glorious Hope,” “A Remembering Hope,” “A Persevering Hope,” and on Easter we will stand in the power of “The Resurrection Door of Hope.”
I remember when I first became a Christian and my pastor encouraged me to start reading the Bible. He told me that I would find the hope I needed in these pages. I was struggling with many things that stole my hope away.
Howard Hendrick, a great preacher, wrote these words about discouragement, “Discouragement is the anesthetic that the devil uses on a person before he reaches in carves out the heart.”[ii] I think Hendricks was right. When we lose hope, we lose the ability to dream. Despair replaces joy. Fear replaces faith. Anxiety replaces peace. Insecurity replaces security. Restlessness replaces calm. Impossibilities replace possibilities. Pessimism replaces optimism. Hopelessness replaces hopefulness.
Before we turn to the source of all hope, let us turn to the God of all hope in prayer. “Lord God, we come today to be filled with hope, a hope that we never disappoint us. A hope that will strengthen us to live in this world. As we begin our seven-week journey to the cross, fan the fire of HOPE deep within us. Amen”
To begin with, let’s take a quick run through some of the Psalms before we come our New Testament reading. I pray that here in these pages of Holy Scripture that you will find HOPE.
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24
“May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11
“Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.” Psalm 119:43
“Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalm 119:49-50
“May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 119:74
“My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 119:81
“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 119:114
“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 119:147
It was the fall of 1998. My wife and I had picked up all our belongings and moved to our first church in Southwest Missouri. We moved ten hours and hundreds of miles from everything that we knew, from our community, our church and our family and friends. We left the church that brought us up in the faith and helped us raise our children. Our three children had graduated from High School and were now off to college, seeking to find their own futures that were filled with hope. We bought a brand-new home in a little town twenty miles from Branson, Missouri. The church we were called to was in conflict—the previous pastor had had an affair with the church secretary. Within our first year, the former pastor’s wife had filed a civil lawsuit against the secretary for alienation of affection. The pastor’s wife won the case and the court case hit the national press. Needless to say the people in the church were not happy campers and there was a lot of discouragement and conflict. The heart of the church had been cut out and the spirit of the church became depressed, angry, restless, pessimistic and altogether hopeless. Many of the members of the church then did what is called “projection”—they transferred their anger and hurt from the old pastor’s wife to the new pastor’s wife --- aka my wife. The lager ecclesiastical church body that oversaw the church during this season met with my wife and I. This was a true church catastrophe. My wife and I had no part in it in any way, shape or form but we held the offices that the people in the church were mad with. This overarching church leadership came in and assessed the situation. They met with the people in the church, they met with Jac and me. Their conclusion: Because of all of the unsettled former situation, I was really the interim pastor—the pastor who jumps into the middle of the mess and tries to bring the congregation back to the focus and foundation of Christ…before they bring in another pastor. This church was angry and deeply troubled. The leadership board of the ecclesiastical church also felt it was unsafe for my wife to go to church. The people had transferred their anger from the old pastor’s wife to the new pastor’s wife.
Can you imagine? We had left everything in the entire world in order to follow God. We bought a new home and we had hoped to live in the Ozarks forever. Instead, we found ourselves in the midst of a church fight that we never imagined and had nothing to do with. To say the least, our hopes were shattered.
For an escape from the dark clouds of hopelessness, we would drive down to Branson on Sunday afternoons after church. It would be like going to Disneyland after church here in Southern California. Branson and Silver Dollar City were not the happiest places on earth, but it was a much-needed escape from the middle of the conflict.
One Sunday night when Silver Dollar City was closing, as we were walking out with the crowd and we saw hundreds of other people entering the park and heading down another pathway. We stopped one of them and asked where they were going. They told us that every Sunday night after the park closed, Silver Dollar City held an open-air concert in an outdoor amphitheater. My wife and I looked at each other and said, “Why not --- we have nothing lose --- even if it might be country music.”
The open-air amphitheater was cut out from stone and had seats rising up in from the stage about ten rows high and about 30 seats wide. We sat in the top row, just in case we wanted to make a bee line for home. We had never heard of the group that was set to play, “Third Day.” The lead singer was Mac Powell.
Toward the end of the concert, Mac Powell asked everyone to sit down. He talked about hope. To be honest with you, I don’t remember a word he said but I do remember the song he sang. He said that they were going to play a new song and asked for us not to stand until we knew that we knew that we knew that our hope was in God. Mac said, “Don’t stand up until you know that your hope is in God.” They started to sing. Tears welled up in my eyes and spilled over. I had lost my hope. In my very first call, I was discouraged and wanted to quit. I was pastoring a church that the leadership determined was not safe for my wife to attend. Over and over he sang these words:
My hope is You Show me Your ways Guide me in truth In all my days My hope is You[iii]
I think they must have sung the chorus a hundred times --- no not really. But they must have sung it ten or fifteen times. It took twenty minutes for all of those 300 people to stand. As he sang, Mac would talk about human hopelessness. He talked about how he came to write this song—in the middle of his own hopelessness. Jac and I were undone. There in the middle of Steal Your Dollar City—I mean Silver Dollar City—the Holy Spirit had zeroed straight into our hearts. We had lost our Hope. We had taken our eyes off of God. Jac stood up before me. I was one of the last to stand. I had come to the end of my hopelessness. “My Hope is You!!”
Hope! What is hope? Webster defines hope this way: “to cherish a desire with anticipation, to desire with expectation of obtainment, to expect with confidence: trust synonym.”[iv]
In the Old Testament there is no single Hebrew word that corresponds directly to the English word “hope.” More than a dozen Hebrew words are translated for the one word HOPE--each has its own nuance. In the New Testament the most common word that is used for hope is “elpis.” It means to distinguish the basis of hope, the object of hope, and the activity of hope. In both Hebrew and Greek, the noun forms tend to express basis of hope—the reason of we hope. The basic biblical definition of hope is a confident expectation, a full expectation of a favorable future under God’s direction. That is what happened to us while we sat inside that stone amphitheatre: OUR HOPE IS GOD.
Let us reflect for a few minutes on our New Testament verses from Hebrews 11.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.[v]
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.[vi]
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. 2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.[vii]
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.[viii]
“Faith is being sure of what we hope for….” Hope is a foundation! Hope is our foundation to faith!
Maybe you can identify with these Bible characters:
Abraham and Sarah hoped that God’s promises were true even though they were past the age of having children.
Joseph endured mistreatment from his own family. Yet he endured in hope through slavery and imprisonment.
Ruth and Naomi suffered the loss of their loved ones. But through hope they overcame.
David bounced back from several devastating failures: adultery, murder, career and family failures. Yet he endured in hope and wrote many of the Psalms that we read today.
Elijah suffered criticism, so much that he wanted to die, but God resurrected his hope and he lived to shine forth God’s power.
Nehemiah was discouraged with harsh political, legal, and social circumstances. Yet in hope he helped to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem and restored the land.
John Mark was rejected by the Apostle Paul, yet in hope he became a teacher and pastor. He even authored one of the books of the New Testament, the book of James.
Peter was disappointed with himself for not being able to stand up under pressure. Yet he became one of the leaders in the early church through his hope in the unconditional love of Christ.
Just pick up this book and you will find a person that faced discouragement, disappointment, discontent, disaster, and even death. Yet through out the Scriptures we find where hope is revealed.
As we begin this series on Hope, it is my hope that you will find hope!
v Find hope to set you free from your past.
v Find hope to bounce back from discouragement.
v Find hope to dream again.
v Find hope to liberate you from the chains that have held you down.
v Find hope to light the darkness of your path.
v Find hope to help you persevere through your trials.
v Find hope to give you a resurrection power.
Hope is a deep and powerful force anchored in God’s Word. Instead of playing Third Day’s song over and over for twenty minutes, we are going to listen to it for the next 7 Sundays. It is my prayer that at some point of our Lenten Journey that you will find the HOPE YOU NEED here within the pages of Scripture and here…in the heart of God. HOPE: heaven’s one promise, Emmanuel. MY HOPE IS YOU! (point up to God.)
Let us pray ---
My hope is You Show me Your ways Guide me in truth In all my days My hope is You[ix]
Here is the link for the song --- https://youtu.be/85XmMoYlTPU
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91701
February 18, 2018
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (1 Co 13:13). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] L.C. Naden, Christ Is The Answer, Warburton, Victoria, Australia, Signs Publishing Company, 1950
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[iv] Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
[v] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Heb 11:1–2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[vi] The New King James Version. (1982). (Heb 11:1–2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[vii] Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Heb 11:1–2). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
[viii] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Heb 11:1–2). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
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