Faithlife Sermons

Hidden Hope

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Good morning, Can you believe that Christmas day is only just over three weeks away… This morning we are starting our advent series entitled, “Hope Rises.”
Over next few weeks we are going to looking at the birth of Jesus through the lenses of Hope....
November has been a difficult month.. many of us have friends and family members who have been directly or indirectly impacted by the Camp Fire…
…Over the next weeks and months we are hoping to be a part of the rebuilding and healing process not just the physical…but also learning how to offer encouragement and support to others…
One of the big questions has been How can we help?
There are practical ways we can help…A couple weeks ago Bob gave out some fliers with some resources of where we can help…Also, Scott has been working with world kitchen and they have just finished there role and are going over operations to local resources… This is a huge undertaking and needs volunteers and financial support. They have been preparing 3000 meals a day…
So, if that’s where you are being led to help … it will be wonderful opportunity to help.. you can speak to Scott Smith about volunteering — you dont need any experience in the kitchen to help..
As we thinking about way we can assist others… In this Advent series we are going to talk about the necessity of hope
Hope can be offered in a practical through meal, donations and other ways… but Hope is also offered in being available to listen to someone and give encouragement.
As we offer Hope we also need to understand that...Hope is not necessary an easy thing to find…
When life becomes overwhelming it can overshadow any glimmer of Hope.. Hope can be Hidden.
Dr Karyn Hall has this article in Psychology Today entitled, “Finding Hope” —
In 1965 Martin Seligman "discovered" learned helplessness. He found that when animals are subjected to difficult situations they cannot control, they stop trying to escape. They become passive.
Human beings are the same. If you experience devastating defeats, a persistent situation that you couldn't change, or experienced a terrifying situation that you could not control your exposure to, then you may have lost hope for your ability to change your life or to change painful situations.
When you are without Hope it may seem that any efforts to change your life is futile. You accept whatever happens as beyond your control. You may begin to despair. 
One of the great things that Advent IS it can put us in this mode of preparedness…where we can reflect and prepare ourselves…We can reflect on what it means to live in light of the incarnation of Christ… God took on flesh and identified fully with us and our struggles.
The birth of Jesus came with preparedness..
God’s intention to send a Redeemer actually began in the book of Genesis… Where God declared that seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent
as the Bible continues the theme of the sending of a Savior Redeemer is woven through its pages.. Through the History to the Prophets …Isaiah and Micah others.. proclaimed the Messiah’s coming -
In the NT the Angel Gabriel is sent on a mission to proclaim birth of the Messiah... John the baptist as sent a forerunner… All this was to prepare mankind for the coming of the Savior..
We are going to start our series in Gospel of Luke and we find that
“Hope is often found in the most unexpected places”
Who would have thought that the message of Hope would begins with the research of a Medical Doctor - Luke is also Historian who has interest in keeping the record straight.
Luke saw that there was a great need for the preservation of the record of the first eyewitnesses to the life of Christ. The first generation would have been those who known Jesus personally…their memories and minds of him were full of him … the second Generation were in a different position they needed the facts…
This is what the book of Luke is about.. giving us a dependable testimony of Jesus.
Let’s read the introductory words of Dr. Luke..
Luke 1:1–4 ESV
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
T/s Luke introduces us to the idea of Certainty... that Hope comes to us in the person of Christ and Hope can be known and believed… In order to have we need to....

1. Exchange the Unknowable for the Knowable.

To understand what Luke is saying in this text we have to appreciate the background of Luke.
Luke is believed to have been a gentile believer who was the traveling companion of the apostle Paul. He is the author of both the gospel of Luke and his ‘sequel” the book of Acts…He has been called the Theologian of the Holy Spirit… You see the supernatural through his writings.
Luke is on this ‘gentile mission” to spread the good news beyond the bounds of the Israelite nation.
But there was a unique trait that Luke possessed and that is… He wasn’t interested in mythology — He was interested in knowing and presenting facts..
As a historian he would have used the ancient methods of going to the actual eyewitness and checked all the facts and testimonies.. It has been noted that he used the same methods of the secular historian of his contemporaries.
Not only did Luke want present the fact but also arrange his gospel in a systematic, logical and readable structure.
So that the nobleman Theophilus whom the letter is addressed and his we his readers would make sense of the patterns of Jesus’ teaching and the movement of his life.
Luke wants to get the record Straight… he wants to distinguish that which is knowable… and that which is hear say.
Luke 1:3–4 ESV
3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
When we are going through times of uncertainty.. we often have go a little deeper than the surface… we have dig down to the bedrock.. What do I know to be the Truth… What we need is certainty.....
Tim Keller says,
“It’s not just enough to know the hope with your head; you have to be completely absorbed and saturated with the hope in your life. That’s how important hope is.
Hope needs a solid platform… it needs to have substance..certainty…
Hope is one of those words that has bee difficult to understand!
In fact the majority of secular thinkers in the ancient world did not regard hope as a virtue, but merely as a temporary illusion — When the apostle Paul addressed unbelievers and our condition before coming to faith he describes this condition as being without Hope…
Even today we struggle with Hope… English word Hope is actually the opposite of Biblical Hope… The English word hope means uncertainty.. … We might say to someone - I hope that things turn out well. … or maybe I hope you pass your Exam? But what we are saying is that there is some uncertainty of the outcome..
Biblical hope on the other hand .. is life shaping certainty about the future. It is living now with confidence because of what you know will happen in the future.
Hope was the bedrock of Faith in the early church… if you visited the catacombs in Rome, these are tunnels under the ancient city, where many of the early Christians were buried, and you can see the symbols of faith on their tombs. Three common symbols appear: the dove, the fish, and the anchor. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The letters of the Greek word for "fish," ichthus, stand for the words Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.
Then there is the symbol of the Anchor - The anchor came from the idea that as Christians were going through difficult, insecure times — Even so their faith was anchored into something secure.... their Hope had Substance..
Hope needs a foundation to rest on… Problem when there is nothing to Anchor into… Luke says, “I am giving you something that you can absolutely depend upon” ---
Biblical hope means assurance having both the facts and expericial knowledge.. linked together
One of the best definitions of Faith is found in Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is the assurance or the title deed… assurance is a firm knowledge of nature a character of God and his word.
Hope is the belief in the living God, who acts and intervenes in human life and who can be trusted to implement his promises
Faith that is rooted in Hope is the only thing that will ever close the gap between our theology and our reality...
T/S One of the things that sets Luke apart from the other synoptic Gospels.. Is that Luke starts the story before the Birth of Jesus..
He starts with two older godly people who have an unanswered prayer... Zechariah and Elizabeth both were righteous in God’s eyes… they loved God and served God… but they had no children..
To the ancient reader this would seem like a contradiction.. Children were considered to be the greatest blessing… Surely this couple should have had Gods’s blessing. Luke adds that they were not old and could not expect any change in their situation…
How could God use… this older couple?
We have already learned that Hope is found in the most unexpected places…
In the Bible it seems whenever there are barren older ladies getting pregnant God is up to something big..…… Zechariah is one of thousands of priests in Israel… And often you could go through your whole life as priest and never serve in the Temple… But one day that changed… lots were cast and Zachariah was chosen to represent the peoples prayers and burn incense in the Holy place..
Lukes tells us in his account … of a miracle that happened on this day..
Luke 1:10–17 ESV
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
T/s This is a big day for Zechariah … Elizabeth and the whole nation of Israel..When God answers their Prayers...
We can find Hope when we..
1. Exchange the unknowable for the knowable.

2. Expect our Expectations to Exceed our Disappointments

We have just come out of the book of 1 John and we just learned that when we Pray we should expect that hears and answers our prayers… Now we are not always given a time table… and God sometimes answers prayers differently than we might imagine… Prayer is often us agreeing with God will rather than changing his mind./
What is significant about this moment is that for 400 years Israel hadn’t had one prophetic utterance
God had spoken through Moses, Abraham, David and the prophets right up to Malachi. Then there was silence—
… Then there is this moment with Zachariah…
To understand the significance of how long think of how long a minute can be! Think about how long minute can be..
On the evening of April 13, when the Apollo 13 crew was 200,000 miles from Earth and closing in on the moon, mission controller saw a low-pressure warning signal on a hydrogen tank . Alarm lights lit up and the crew notified Mission Control, with, "Houston, we've had a problem."
For re-entry to the earth's atmosphere, there would be a blackout period, lasting a few minutes. During the silence, Mission Control petitioned, "Apollo 13, this is Houston, do you read me?"
The Apollo 13 blackout lasted only a few minutes. Imagine 400-years of silence. Then the silence was broken…
When Zechariah went into prayer — there was expectation of answered prayer...
We told that the other priests and people would wait outside for the chosen priest to offer the incense and pray on behalf of the nation.
When the people would see the smoke from the burning incense, they would pray. The smoke drifting heavenward symbolized their prayers ascending to God’s throne.
Think about the faithfulness of this group of believers.... not just them but those who went before them -
Believers had been doing this since their captivity in Babylon six centuries before.
This time, their prayers received a very special answer.
While doing his priestly duties an angel appears before God…This was not any Angel this is Gabriel… Zechariah response is probably just like any of ours… He was surprised and terrified....
Gabriel announces that his prayer has been answered… God had heard the Zachariahs and Elizabeths prayers… God had heard there prayers… we we pray according to his will he hears our prayers… God knows what the need is… but God goes beyond what we could even think or imagine.…
Not only was God going to answer there prayers but the prayer being made on behalf of the nation
Zechariah’s prayer at the altar would have been for the redemption of Israel, for sending of the Messiah… I have heard your prayers.... and that group of intercessors outside…
God is going to answer his prayer in His way… God always has the big plan in mind…
Ultimately [ Real Hope is going to come with Jesus.... Real Hope is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ...
The reason why Zachariah will be joyful… is Because his son John is going be mightily used by God...
John is Going to be Set as a Nazarite apart to be the special messenger… He is going to be filled with God’s Spirit from the womb.. He will go in the same spirit of Elijah --- bring reconciliation - - As people are reconciled relationships are going to be healed.
The lesson here is that we need to Approach prayer with Expectation…

Expect our Expectations to Exceed our Disappointments

unfortunately Zechariah had more questions.... instead of Expecting He started to doubt… How will I know this will happen? God had just broken the sound barrier… you would think that would stir up faith… Think even Gabriel was surprised — I am Gabriel I stand before the presence of God… What other sign to you need.... Sometimes the thing that we have been praying for is right in front of us… but we still somehow doubt… Most of us can go home and right a list of how God answered prayer.
The irony is that God speaks and Zachariah is silenced… There were some consequences of unbelief — The priest would normally say a blessing over the people… but he was unable to be a blessing..
We need to be Careful that we miss God’s blessings when we look in the wrong places.
A special report on This American Life follows the lives of several people currently living what they unequivocally call "Plan B."
In a special report in this American life… followed the lives of those who said that they were living their lives unequivocally on Plan B… In other words their lives had taken unexpected turns --- and what they had imagined to be their idea life — maybe when they were younger had turned out differently…but what they imagined would be their reality wasn’t the actual... so instead of being on Plan A they were on plan B… They discovered that even the most carefully laid out seems can be interrupted and redirected…
The book of proverbs tells us that, "Many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
Maybe God’s purposes for our lives include a Plan A to B to C to D — Maybe that is a part of the pilgrimage itself, maybe even the gift of following an unfathomable creator, a creator who we discover is far more creative than we!
While Zechariah is an example — of someone who got overwhelmed — Elizabeth is an example of someone… who walked in faith.... She didn’t see an angel....But when she got pregnant she knew it was a miracle..
Luke 1:25 ESV
25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
T/s Hope often is found in the most unexpected places…Hope comes… Zachariah and Elizabeth…Now Hope comes to teenager 14 or 15 years old who is engaged to Joseph...
Luke 1:28–32 ESV
28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
T/s Where do we find Hope when in the midst of disappointments… We find Hope when we..
1. Exchange the unknowable for the knowable.
2. Expect our Expectations to exceed our Disappointments

3. Elevate the Impossible to the Possible.

Mary is a teenage girl who is engaged to be betrothed/ to married to Joseph… In ancient Jewish marriages, the word “engaged” (or “betrothed”) had a different meaning than today. First, the two families would agree to the union and negotiate the betrothal, including a price for the bride which would be paid to the bride’s father.
Next, a public announcement would be made. At this point, the couple was “pledged” to each other. This is similar to engagement today, except that it was much more binding.
At this point, even though the couple was not officially married, their relationship could be broken only through death or divorce. Sexual relations were not yet permitted. This second step lasted for a year. During that time, the couple would live separately, with their parents. This waiting period would demonstrate the bride’s purity. If she were found to be pregnant during that time, the marriage could be annulled…
When Gabriel tells Mary that she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and be found with Child… That could be devastating to a teenage woman…
Again God knows what he is doing when he chose Mary…
When you think about it… Mary should have been more concerned than Zachariah.. We learn that
Mary is troubled by the Greeting - .. but there is one Huge difference… instead of jumping to conclusions… we told that she discerns what kind of greeting this might be...… The word DISCERN - means to engage in deep thought… to consider what is being said… In other words Mary listened to what the Angel was saying…e.
Instead making a list Objections— Mary listens to the angel… This is what Mary hears..
Yes, She would conceive a Son…
His name would be Jesus - he will be Great… and will be called the Son of the Most High God.
He would occupy the throne of David and his Kingdom would never end...
Before Mary could Believe the impossible she had to listen to word of God...
Romans 10:17 ESV
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Mary ponders further she about how this going happen as she is a Virgin.. Gabriel tells her its going to be a miracle — Just like the Holy Spirit overshadowed the temple… the Holy Spirit would do the impossible would do the miraculous by his spirit…and God was doing something her relative Elizabeth who was also having baby in her old age..
Hope Believes that Nothing is impossible with God… it takes what is impossible with man and says with God all things are possible...
God is able to turn a disappointment into a victory… a failure into a win…
Mary’s Response… Behold I am your servant… Be it unto your word Mary’s answer holds no hesitation about risks or losses or the interruption of her own plans. It is an utter and unconditional self-giving: “I am the Lord’s servant … May it be to me as you have said
Years ago the S-4 submarine was rammed by another ship and quickly sank. The entire crew was trapped in its prison house of death. Ships rushed to the scene of disaster off the coast of Massachusetts. We don’t know what took place down in the sunken submarine, but we can be sure that the men clung bravely to life as the oxygen slowly gave out.
A diver placed his helmeted ear to the side of the vessel and listened. He heard a tapping noise. Someone, he learned, was tapping out a question in the dots and dashes of the Morse Code. The question came slowly: “Is … there … any … hope?”
This seems to be the cry of humanity: “Is there any hope?”
Unfortunately… after all that could be done failed.. and six men lost their lives…
There maybe someone close to you this morning that is asking
Is there any Hope?…
We have the certainty of the Written Record… we have a sure word in the Gospel… We have the assurance that God answers Prayer… beyond that we could ever think or have imagined… If we just take a moment to listen… we will see that we have Hope that exceeds disappointment --- The anchor holds this morning… because it anchored in the assurance of hope ---not just for now — or tomorrow … but for all of eternity.
Hebrews 6:19 ESV
19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
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