I really enjoy movies.
I don’t find anything wrong with entertainment as long as it doesn’t become an idol or incite you to sin.
My views on that have changed over the years since I first became a Christian, therefore the types of movies I have watched have changed.
A movie I have loved for many years is one that I’m hesitant to bring up from the pulpit because I don’t want younger people to watch it without their parents being fully informed.
However, the Shawshank Redemption is a movie that both entertains and challenges the viewer.
It may not entertain everyone, and it may not challenge everyone, but if you ponder the themes of the movie, you’ll find concepts of justice, morality, brotherhood, and hope.
In this movie a man named Andy is unjustly sent to prison and is befriended by another man, named Red, who also has a lengthy sentence.
I was once asked what I thought the movie was about.
I said, “Obviously, it’s about brotherhood and friendship - one of the best ‘bro’ movies of all time.”
This wise friend of mine said, “Everyone thinks it’s a bro movie.
It is, to an extent, but it’s really about hope.”
And watching it through that lens, it becomes obvious that hope is the key.
The character Red, played by Morgan Freeman, has one famous quote while Andy is devising a plan to escape.
“Let me tell you something my friend.
Hope is a dangerous thing.
Hope can drive a man insane.”
In the dark confines of a prison, hope is a rare thing.
Inmates are living a life they were never to meant to live - caged, secluded, deprived.
They face malice and violence with little or no hope of reprieve.
For many, it is simply a long stretch of drudgery and dreary living, waiting for death.
But Andy has something the others don’t.
He has hope.
It was keeps him going.
It was kept his head up and his momentum going forward.
Later in the movie, Andy says: "Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
Today I would like to draw some parallels to our own lives today, and I hope you don ‘t think it’s too much of a stretch.
In the same way those prisoners were living in a place they weren’t created to live in, we live in a place that is not what we are made for. 1 Peter calls Christians “sojourners and exiles” in the ESV, “aliens and strangers” in another version.
John 15 says we “are not of this world”.
Philippians 3 says our “citizenship is in Heaven”.
This is earth is but a temporary place.
This life of struggle - something I know so many of us are enduring right now - is not our final destination.
However, it can feel like it.
I saw something on Facebook the other day that being an adult just means saying “It’s been a hard week but things will slow down next week” over and over again until you die.
This is funny, but it’s a mentality we get into, because life is a week-by-week struggle.
Day by day.
For some of you, it’s minute by minute.
I want you to know, we struggle together here.
If your life is currently absent of significant struggle, find someone not as privileged and be their support.
We struggle together, and I want us all to realize this struggle serves a purpose.
Not only does it it serve a purpose, but both the ends and mean are hope.
Hope is a purpose of struggle.
Hope is also how we overcome it.
Let’s turn to our text together:
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Red said that hope is a dangerous thing.
He was implying that hoping without any real opportunity to accomplish what it is that you are hoping for - without any real opportunity to attain what you hope for - will result in a succession of failures that will drive you insane.
If we hope for the wrong things in this life, it can do terrible things to our psyche.
It can do terrible things to our mental health.
It can do terrible things to our relationships.
But, if we have Biblical hope, then our story changes.
If we have the hope that is contained in the Word of God, made known to us by the Holy Spirit and realized in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ - if our hope is in the eternal - where our citizenship resides - rather than things of this world - this world that serves as our temporary residence in which we are imprisoned until the right time - if our hope is in the right place, we will have the desire and ability to persevere through this life
1 John 2:15-17 exhorts us:
Do not love the world or the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
God is revealed to us throughout the Bible.
It is by through the Bible that we find truth, the origins of all the Universe, the origin of human life, and the purpose of Creation.
In God’s Word we have our sins revealed to us, as well as our means of redemption from that sin.
In the Bible
There is a book that is popular in many Christian and non-Christian circles called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”.
I’ve not read it in its entirety, though I’ve glanced it over many times.
I’ve wanted to read it, because I have hoped to find within it answers to one of our faith’s most asked questions - “why is there so much suffering?”
More directly asked, “Why does a good God allow so much suffering”?
What is the origin of our suffering?
What causes our suffering?
What is the point of our difficult times?
Books like this have become popular in contemporary culture for a few reasons.
First, we’ve stopped looking to the Bible for answers to the hard questions.
We teach our children simple stories from the Bible to teach them morals, but fail to get them reading their Bibles and studying their Bibles to move past this simple moral teaching concept.
As they grow into adults they see the Bible as a book of stories that teach us what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong, but parents often fail to teach their junior high and senior high children how to read their Bibles for more than simple moral lessons and encouraging verses during their difficult times.
In the end, we have adults that look to the Bible for encouragement and comfort, but not for answers to the truly difficult questions in life.
Second, many pastors teach us that becoming a Christian is the answer to life’s struggles.
They try to merge two concepts - that God is sovereign, and God wants you to be happy and successful in this life.
Both of these sound great independently - God is the sovereign king of the universe, and God loves us, so he must want us to be happy.
The combination of these things results in “moralistic therapeutic deism”.
Moralistic - pertaining to concepts of right and wrong.
Therapeutic - “having a good effect on the body or mind; contributing to a sense of well-being.”
Deism - a belief in god.
Not the on true God of the Judeo-Christian set of beliefs.
So faith becomes a set of right and wrongs, makes you feel good, and in some general sense has to do with belief in a god.
I know you guys see this all the time, you’ve probably just never put a name to it.
It’s rather new agey, even in a Christian church context.
Do more good than bad, feel good about the good you do because God wants you to feel good, and talk about God sometimes.
This is not, however, Christianity.
The hope provided in this system of do-good feel-good religion is the type that lets you down.
It’s the type of hope fails repeatedly and makes a person feel insecure in their believes, insecure in their purpose in life, and ultimately insecure in their salvation.
When your hope is do-good feel-good, and your hope is all about earthly happiness and gratification and earthly passions and pursuits of success, your hope will fail you.
But the Christian hope is of a different sort.
The false hope is fool’s gold, the Christian hope is a store-room full of treasure.
Earthly hope provided by moral therepeutic deism is but a shiny rock on the ground, while the hope of Jesus is a diamond.
But even better than a diamond, it really is forever.