THE PROMISE OF HOPE
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, December 8, 2019.
Part 1 of CHRISTMAS PROMISES.
Various passages and John 14:1-4, 15-18.
EVERYONE NEEDS HOPE
The Christian faith is all about hope. Jesus-followers expect good things right now and in the future. Why did God set things up that way? It is because hope has so much power in our lives. We can't really live without it:
Dr. Dale Archer wrote, "If I could find a way to package and dispense hope, I would have a pill more powerful than any antidepressant on the market. Hope, is often the only thing between man and the abyss. As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from anything and everything."
(Dale Archer is a clinical psychiatrist and the author of Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/the-power-hope)
Dr. Archer has worked with hurricane survivors who have lost loved ones and homes and jobs. He found that survivors who had hope for today and tomorrow were active, and optimistic. They were on the road to recovery because they had hope; they expected something good.
Some people get stuck in their past. Something painful happened and they can't move on. What happens when we try to drive looking in the rearview mirror? We crash. What happens when our focus is all on the past, and we lose hope for today and tomorrow? Our lives get bitter and sad.
After Jesus was crucified and buried, his disciples basically gave up. They lost heart. They hid. They walked away. Why? They believed Jesus was a failure and all his promises were lies so they ran out of hope. The Bible says (Luke 24:17) "They stood still, their faces downcast."
The good news is that God has made a way for us to find hope. Hopelessness is not an option, so today, I'm going to show you how to live with hope every day.
HOW TO LIVE WITH HOPE EVERY DAY
1. Get to Know God.
He is called the God of hope, so the better we know him, the stronger our hope:
(Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can know some amazing things about God:
We know God wants to be in our lives. He came into the world for us:
(Matthew 1:23) “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
We know that God has compassion on us. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, blessed children, raised the dead. He saw needs and met needs:
(Matthew 14:14) When Jesus ... saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
We know that God loves us enough to die on the cross to set us free from our sins:
(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We know that God has given us living hope. Jesus died and was buried, but then he was raised from the dead in the resurrection. Because he lives, we can live too:
(1 Peter 1:3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
So, you see how knowing God fills us with hope. We expect great things because he is a great God. We expect his presence, compassion, love, salvation, and new life.
Schedule some time every day to know God better and get filled with hope. The Bible is God's biography, so take 15 minutes a day to read about him. Try the Gospel of John because he includes the seven biographical "I am" statements that Jesus made.
2. Expect Something Good/God Today.
Our hope does not come from our circumstances. It comes from God and his promises. In order to give his disciples hope at the cross, Jesus made this commitment:
(John 14:16-18) “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
He knew the disciples would be devastated by his death and departure, so he guaranteed they would never be alone. It's the same today: When we follow Jesus, his Spirit lives in us. We are never alone. The Spirit of Jesus is keeping us on track, building our character, praying for us (advocate), picking us up, moving us forward:
(Romans 5:5) And hope does not put us to shame (the shame of being judged by God - Psalm 25:3), because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
It's not that God changes our circumstances. Life can still be hard, but we know that God is in us, loving us, and helping us, no matter what. We expect the goodness of God:
(Psalms 27:13-14) I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
I talk to myself to build my expectations: "I am loved. I am blessed. I am protected, I'm not alone. I'm filled with God's strength. Jesus is on the inside, so I can get through anything ."
(Isaiah 40:31) Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Live with expectation. Take your focus off your situation and onto God's promises. Expect something good today.
3. Remember the Best Is Yet to Come.
Before he died, Jesus made a second promise to his disciples (and to us):
(John 14:2-4) “My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus painted a powerful word-picture to give us hope for the future. In his day, when a couple got engaged, there was a fairly long time until the wedding. The boy went home to build an addition onto his parents' house. When the big day came, he and his friends formed a procession through the village to his bride's house. After the ceremony and party, they went back to his father's house and made their home in that room. Jesus promised to return for us and to take us to his Father's house.
When Jesus was buried in the tomb, the disciples totally forgot the promise and they lost their hope. It was only after Jesus rose from the dead and showed himself to them (John 20:11-29) and went up into heaven right in front of them (Acts 1:9-11) that they remembered the word picture: He's alive and that means he's coming back for us. The return of Jesus Christ is our great hope also:
(Titus 2:13) while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ
Why do we hope for Jesus to return? Because, when he comes:
Salvation will be complete: (Hebrews 9:28) he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Our bodies will be glorified: (Philippians 3:20-21) Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
We will see Jesus: (1 John 3:2) We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Our great hope is this: the best is yet to come, Hope is spelled JESUS.
Hope operates in our lives in three ways:
First, we expect good things in our lives: The Spirit of Jesus is living on the inside and he doing good to us - loving and helping us every moment. Life is easy or hard, but we expect good things.
Second, we work for better things in the world: It's true that hope brings us inner peace. However, it also brings us into conflict with this present world which is dominated by death and evil darkness. Billions of our fellow human beings suffer for all kinds of reasons and the Spirit of Jesus living in us leads us to work for a better world now. We speak Gospel words of life and love and hope, and we work with the power of Christ within us to end the conditions that lead to suffering.
Third, we wait for the best things to come: Jesus is coming and that changes everything. Don't live as if this life is all there is. Don't get stuck in the past. Put your hope in the return of Jesus and the new world he'll bring with him:
(Revelation 21:3-4) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The key to hope is Jesus and a living connection to him. Do you have that? If you don't, you can ask him for it right now through a simple but powerful prayer:
"Jesus, I believe you are God and that you came into the world to love and help us. I believe you died on the cross and rose from the dead to make me right with God. I believe you are alive and reigning over the world. I believe that you will return here one day and take me to be with you forever. Please come into my life and fill me with hope. Thank you. Amen."