A Living Hope
Today we lit the first candle on the advent wreath, in which many call the candle of Hope, because it signifies a longing, an expectation, a Hope of the coming Messiah. So in once sense, we’re celebrating in an ancient historical hope, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, and in another sense, we celebrate Advent in expectation and Hope, because one day Jesus is coming back again (Heb 9:28).
Hope is a word that is easily thrown around in our culture today, but often is not so easily defined. It’s a word that many want to claim in their lives, but few truly understand. We could picture hope as pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or a good summer in Seattle after a long winter, but how do we define Hope? More importantly, how does the Bible define Hope?
Today we looked at a portion of Paul’s letter to the Romans, and asked three questions about Hope. What is it? Why do we need it? and How do we get it?
“For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”And again Isaiah says,“The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:8-13 ESV)
Before we dive right into the text and unpack what Paul is saying here, I want to set the stage and first define what Hope is.
Q#1: WHAT IS HOPE?
Dictionary: “An expectation or belief in the fulfillment of something desired.”
Cultural Examples: (what are others saying about hope)
“Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.” – G.K. Chesterton
“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
“Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don’t know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it’s not. It’s a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it.”- Ann Patchett
“The absence of hope can rot a society from within.” – President Obama
“Hopeful people are like the little engine that could, [because] they keep telling themselves “I think I can, I think I can” – Psychologist, C.R. Snyder
As well, I asked several neighbors & friends what they thought of when they thought of hope, and here’s a few that were shared:
Hope is, that “Something better is coming” – “That things will get better” – “I’ve never use that word. I don’t have a frame of reference for Hope” – “I equate Hope with trust” – “Setting yourself up for disappointment”
Clearly our culture is confused as to what Hope is. How do we “hope” when we can’t even agree on a definition? Certainly it’s more than a wish, or I think I can. So lets jump into the text and see what the Bible has to say about hope.
Hope in verse 13, translated in the greek, carries the meaning of a confident expectation. So if hope here means a confident expectation, we have to understand the context (or worldview) of our hope and what our confident expectation is in?
It’s important to understand, that How we define hope is predominately shaped by our worldview. How we see the world and what happens in the world. The lens that I view hope through has in many ways been shaped by my experience and the interpretation of them.
For Example, If I grew up in downtown Seattle and never left the city, and if someone asked me how many stars there were in the sky, I could confidently tell them maybe a hundred or so (and some of you would argue that there are none since it rains all the time), but if you grew up anywhere there isn’t light pollution, you would also confidently know that I’m dead wrong as there are thousands of stars in the sky (it’s actually estimated that there’s more than 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, and they keep finding new galaxies!)
Here’s the point. It’s important that a biblical definition of Hope start with God, otherwise I’m prone to define it in whatever way seems right to me. I’m prone to interpret it and define it through my life circumstance instead of the God of Hope.
English Author N. T Wright says “Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible…”
Secondly, when it comes to defining hope, It’s important that we understand what our hope is in. Because, I can have hope in (or be confidently expecting) the wrong thing.
We’re hoping (using the Biblical definition) that a baby will make us happy, or that a little more money will make us happy. We’re hoping that a relationship or power will satisfy our innermost desires. We’re hoping that a political change will set our nation right, And we can even hope that our own “goodness” will save us. But All these things will never satisfy and bring true hope in and of themselves.
Our Actions will always reflect our hope. if someone were to look at your life, how would they define hope for you? What would they say you have a confident expectation in?
So when Paul starts verse 13 with the “God of Hope” he assuming you’ve read the previous 14 chapters of His letter. Paul spends the first 11 chapters unpacking God’s plan of salvation and why Jesus came, and then in Chapter 12 and following, he basically says, “”uc”>now in light of who God is, what he’s done, and who we are now in Him, how does this change everything?” So when Paul prays for the Romans and says, “Now may God of Hope”, he is starting with that God.
Our worldview and definition of Hope has to start with God, and in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul equates a life without God as hopeless (Eph 2:12).
We see that hope isn’t just a confident expectation, but an expectation in the God of Hope. Here’s my working definition of Biblical Hope:
Biblical Hope is a confident expectation in the Character and Promises of God without regard to present or future circumstances.
So lets now look at why we need Hope.
Q#2: WHY DO WE NEED IT?
First, God wants us to be filled with Joy.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”
Joy, literally means here, to be excited, to have a reason for gladness.
A Hope in God produces a life of Joy, and reason for gladness. How? Joy crushes Cynicism and despair. The cynic says there is no hope. That the news yesterday will be the news today. That nothing is going to get better, and so why even try. We call it being “real”, but really we are trying to protect ourselves from disappointment and let down. In doing so, we often assume the worst of ourselves, others, and situations, and a joyless life is the result. Why? Because we begin to view life through the lens of our circumstances instead of God’s story.
Many of you are familiar with the story of Cory Ten Boom. Cory was a Dutch Christian who helped many jews escape from the Holocaust, and was eventually jailed with her family, and while in prison, not only did she experience immense pain and suffering, but her father and sister also died there. While she was there, she wrote a lot, and in one of her memoirs She writes:
“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have…If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest” she goes on to say later that “…when we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus”.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)
Just because I’m hoping in God, doesn’t mean it’s going to turn out the way I want, but it should mean I have joy and a confident expectation that God is going to show up! That God is using our circumstances to produce a true Joy and satisfaction in Him alone.
2 Corinthians 1:9-10 “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
Prov 10:28 “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
God wants our Joy, and He knows the only way we are going to have lasting joy is if we find our hope in Him.
Is your hope marked by an excitement and a reason for gladness in God, or have you let the weight of the world snuff out your joy?
Second, God wants us to be filled with Peace.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”
Peace, literally translated here, means freedom from worry. Hope not only squashes cynicism, but it gives us a peace knowing that God is in control.
Isa 26:3-4 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock.
The more we have our hope set on the living God, the more peace we will experience. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:25-30
The more that our minds are transformed by the God of Hope, the more our lives turn from worrying about self and stuff to Hope in God (Rom 12:1-2, 13:13).
1 Tim 6:17-19 – As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
What is Paul saying where true peace comes from? On God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. This isn’t poverty theology. Can we ask God for good gifts? Can we ask God for things? Yes, He actually invites us to ask, but where is he telling us we will only find peace and true enjoyment in? God. All of the things we hope for are ultimately designed to point us to the gift giver.
Is your hope marked by a peace that God is good and in control? Does your life reflect a Hope in God or the stuff that He gives?
Third, God wants us to abound in Hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
We see here that Hope is the cause and end result. That The fullness of God never reaches a limit. The more I hope and the more I see God show up, the more hopeful I become that He can do immeasurably more than all I think or could ask (Eph 3:20_.
Paul is pointing out that one of the ways Hope grows is by feeding on it’s own fruit.
Psalm 71:14-15 “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.”
How are you stoking the fires of Hope in your life?
Q#3: HOW DO WE GET IT?
First, we get Hope In God’s Character
God of Hope – Paul starts verse 13, with the “God of Hope” because our God is forever hopeful. He’s the author of it and defines the future.
God is Light – 1 John 1:5 – “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all”
God is Love – He eternally gives Himself to others. God is the standard of Love.
1 John 4:9 – “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
God is Good, Merciful, gracious, patient, and kind, but He’s also righteous and just, and that means that God has the final say to what is right, and won’t let sin go unpunished.
Ex 34:6-7 “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
God’s character has to be the starting place to our hope otherwise, when the weight of the world comes crashing in, when we suffer, we are left to wonder if God is really good, if he really is near, if he really loves his kids.
2 Tim 2:13 “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
Psalm 33:18-22 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
Hope is not irrational, but based on God, who has proven himself faithful. God is always true to himself, otherwise he wouldn’t be God.
Second, we get hope in God’s promises
Paul here is appealing to scripture as the foundation of Hope. Look at Romans 15:8-13 – What does Paul do? Paul quotes Scripture as His foundation for hope. He Quotes Ps 118:49, Duet 43:10, Psalm 117:1, Isa 11:10 that give the promise of God extending Salvation to the Gentiles.
The word of God is essential to understanding hope. Hope gets produced through the Word.
Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Christian Hope is not a finger crossing, lip biting, hope that something might happen. It’s an unwavering confidence in the promises of God.
Psalm 34:17-18 is a promise that you can claim, It says, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Hebrews 13:5, says that he “will never leave us or forsake us.”
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Psalm 119:116 “Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!”
Psalm 25:3 “None who wait for you will be put to shame.”
Isa 43:25 “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Rev 21:5, “Behold I am making all things new.”
Hope for the Christian is a confident expectation in the promises of God. When we hope in the promises of God, we look forward to their fulfillment; we anticipate their coming. Hope encourages us and empowers us. It motivates us and strengthens us. Hope in God does not disappoint us.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with God’s promise to Abraham, but God made a covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, and it wasn’t until 25 years later that God fulfilled his promise. But, Listen to What Paul said of Abraham’s faith in God’s promises:
Romans 4:20-22 “No distrust made [Abraham] waiver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith, as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised.
Christian: When you read scripture, and you hear God’s promise to the patriarchs, do you think “that’s a nice story”, or do you think, “That’s my God!”
Non-Christian: What is your source of truth? What are you banking your life and hope on?
At the crux was God’s promise of His Son Jesus, Christ.
Lastly, we get hope In God’s Son
Jesus was the fulfillment of all God’s promises. John 1:14 says, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
The pinnacle of this passage in Romans is that the coming of Christ was to show the truthfulness of God, and confirm the promises given by God. That one day a savior would come to rescue and redeem us.
The reason that Christ is our only hope is that no matter how hard we try to live up to God’s standards, we fail, every day. That’s why we celebrate this Christmas season, because God became man, and lived the life we couldn’t live, and died the death we should have died, to bring us into new life in Him! He not only came and lived a perfect life, but he died to satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf.
Listen to Col 2:14-15, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
At the heart of Christian Hope, is a Hope in Jesus Christ and His resurrection. No other man that walked on this earth, claimed to be God and rose from from the dead, conquering satan, sin and death. Since God has already overcome death through Christ, we can live with confidence in the present.
Paul says in 1 Cor 15:19 – “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” For those who of us who trust Jesus, eternity starts now…. No matter how dark the present age seems, those who have placed their trust and hope in Jesus for this life and the life to come, have nothing to fear.
The apostle Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Pt 1:3, 4a)
So, Downtown Cornerstone; Is Jesus your only hope?
I talk to some of you and I hear, “I feel like we talk about sin, a lot” or “this proverb series is making me feel so jacked up!” – It Should! The fact is we are sinners, and we need a savior!
Romans 3:10, says that There is none righteous, not even one. The more that I have a hope or confidence that salvation is a gift of God, not a result of works, the more that I will praise, worship, and glorify Him. (Eph 2:9) Why? Because my salvation is not about me.
We can’t put our hope in whether we are better than our neighbor. Most of humanity says, I’m a good guy, or gal? I would say, Compared to what? I’ve heard countless times “well, i’m hoping that at the last day, that my good deeds will out weigh bad deeds. Jesus says that even our best attempts to do good are stained by sin, and unacceptable to God.
That’s why Jesus came! He came to save sinners! That’s you and me! That’s the incredible good news of the Gospel, that we are jacked up, and we need a savior! That is why we celebrate Christmas! Christ has come! He’s come to Save us from our hopeless state, and give us new life!
If my Hope is in Him, It’s a hope and trust that He has saved me, He is saving me, and He will continue to save me!
If someone looked at your life, would they see Jesus is your only hope? or is He someone your trying to invite along for the ride to get you to another hope? Is Jesus an add on, or the center of your life?
The truth is for both you and me, we can’t have Jesus as our only hope and something else. It doesn’t work like that. I can’t tell my wife I want her and someone else. Jesus says in Matthew 6:24 that, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
So How do we make this Hope ours?
“May the God of Hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing….”
The way that Hope gets produced is in believing the promises of God, namely the promise in Jesus Christ.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 10:9-13 “…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This is crucial, DCC. We can’t just sit around, and say, “Well God’s just going to have to give me Hope”. Can he and will he? Yes. But what means has he chosen? Belief!
The primary way in which we receive a hope from God, is by trusting Him, and taking Him at His word.
Listen to Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Take God at his word. Test Him. He’s good for it. Many of you are stuck in sin because you don’t believe that God is the good life, that He is the ultimate Hope worth living for.
Paul says in Romans 5, that “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.” He won’t put us to shame, or he won’t disappoint. and How do we know that, because “His love has been poured out to us through the Spirit.” He’s given us His Spirit.
By the Power of the Holy Spirit
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Think of Hope as building a campfire, and as you build it, your building a fire with the God’s character, His promises and belief, and the Spirit comes along and lights everything on fire. So if you are sitting here this morning, and Jesus is opening your eyes to his truth, that’s a work of the Spirit. He’s drawing you to Himself.
Did you know that by Faith in Jesus Christ, trusting Him for your salvation, you now have the personal presence of Jesus with you always?
In Romans 8:11 Paul tells us, that ”If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
By Faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our only hope for Salvation, we are promised that we will change (Phil 1:6). He’s come to bring us life, and is coming again to make all things new.
Do you know what the Primary Killer to our “Hope Campfire” is? Ourselves. We want to be God. We want to see if there’s hope in other things, We want things on our time table, we want to see how it works out in the end, we want to determine what it looks like to get there, and when it’s all said and done, we shrink God and we shrink ourselves.
The enemy would love for nothing more than to have us waste our lives on finding anything else but Jesus as our Hope. He would love for us to be distracted by all of the gifts, hustle and bustle, and stuff of this Christmas season. and we forget that GOD is weaving a story of redemption through our lives, and invites us to participate with him!
How do I hope when I I’m struggling, and don’t see God working?
It’s helpful to understand that the Christian life is both an “already” and a “not yet”. We have been saved, but we are also being saved…. it’s a continual process of God using situations and circumstances to show us that our Hope has to be in Him, even while we wait….
Psalm 119:81 “My soul longs for your Salvation; But I will HOPE in your word.”
Lamentations 3:26 “It is good that man should both HOPE and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”
Romans 8:22-24a “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
So until Christ Comes back again, He calls us to place our trust in Him as the Lord of our life. Ask for Faith. God isn’t going to get all your questions answered, but he does honor a humble and contrite heart.
Hope for Others
Lastly, Aren’t you thankful that someone else had a confident expectation for what God could do in your life? Most of you are in this room because someone else had hope that God would open your heart to see Him as the only hope! That He can do immeasurably more than we could even think or ask! That he could make what is broken and make it new. That’s our God, that’s why Jesus Came, and that’s why Jesus has sent us into this city and world to proclaim Him as the only Hope!