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Jamie Johnson
October 2, 2011

Hope

NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered to a group of residents at Kings Daughters Community Health & Rehabilitation Center on October 2, 2011.

A tornado kills in Virginia. There is an unprecedented earthquake on the east coast. The economy is in a slump. Political figures bicker. Unemployment and poverty are on the rise. A pastor in Iran is sentenced to be executed for not denying his faith in Christ. There is not much room for hope in this world....if we are only looking at the world. I was thinking about what removes hope from people. Obvious answers are the world, the flesh, and the devil. To what or to whom are you looking to for hope? And what steals your hope?

God's Word is one place we can turn to for hope. Let's look at some hope stealers - things that take hope away - as well as some things in which we place our hope and how they offer only false hope. And let's confront them with Scripture.

False Hope: Things and Stuff. Some people look to their things and stuff for hope. However, Matthew 6:19-20 (NASB) states, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."

Hope Stealer: Things and Stuff. Do you remember the story of the Rich Young Ruler? Mark 10:17-22 (NASB) says the following:

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, 'DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'" And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

Do you think the rich young ruler kept all the commandments? Jesus was getting him to think with his saying, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone." That is, if the rich young ruler was to call Jesus good, then would he believe that Jesus is God? Jesus went straight to the heart of what caused the man grief - he "owned much property." This does not mean owning things or being rich is wrong as long as we are good stewards of what we have and honor God with what He has blessed us (really, loaned us). In this man's case and even in some of our cases, things can rob us of our hope - and the things and stuff do not have to be large or of great quantity to do so.

False Hope: Reputation. Some who have a good reputation are perhaps not so good in private. Some who fail to impress the world may be heroes of the kingdom. Galatians 6:3 (NASB) states: "For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself."

Hope Stealer: Poor performance. How many of you think you will enter a week and "do better"? Then by Monday morning, you are saying, "I messed up! I should not have thought that or said that or done that"? How many of us say to ourselves, "I will do better tomorrow" only to wake up the next morning and immediately fail? While the false hope of reputation may err on thinking you do too well. Focus on peformance - or poor performance - is erring on thinking we aren't good enough. It's not about our goodness or our work. What is it all about? Jesus' goodness and His work! And He is merciful - even when we fail:

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NASB) says the following:

"The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

And consider 2 Timothy 2:13 (NASB) which states, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." Does He remain faithful when we are showing a good performance? He remains faithful even when we are faithless. Think also about the Progigal Son. What happened in that story? Luke 15:11-24 (NASB) tells us the story:

And He said, "A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.

The father is a picture of God and the prodigal son a picture of us. Think also of how Jesus restored Peter after Peter denied Him. Think about how God used Paul the Apostle who was once Saul of Tarsus a murderer of Christians. Squandering, denial, and murder - poor performances indeed! Yet, celebration, restoration, and ministry came forth in spite of them and by God's hand.

And one more thought regarding performance: consider Moses' doubt in how he would peform a task to which God had called him and God's response to him in Exodus 4:10-11 (NASB): "Then Moses said to the LORD, 'Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.' The LORD said to him, 'Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?'" Perhaps your peformance may come down to where you feel like you are unable. Well, He is able.

False Hope: Control. Right after Jesus restored Peter, He says in John 21:18 (NASB), "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." Does that sound like Peter would continue to be in control of his destiny? No.

Hope Stealer: Worry. Do any of you do that or have any of you ever done that? This is a big one. The late Dr. D. James Kennedy said, "Worry is practical atheism." Worry is a denial of God because when we worry, we don't trust God. Jesus addressed worry in Matthew 6:25-34 (NASB):

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

False Hope: Circumstances as they are - the status quo. Some may think things are going along pretty well. James 4:14 says that we are but a mist that appears for a while and then fades away. And there's the question: How often do circumstances change? There is the saying that only two things are constant: change and taxes. There is some truth in that with regard to change though we can take comfort in Hebrews 13:8 (NASB): "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Hope Stealer: What you see. Perhaps you see bad circumstances and negativity. You only have to watch the news or read the paper to get an idea. However, 2 Corinthians 4:18 says that what is seen is temporary while what is unseen is eternal.

False Hope: Comfort in worldy things. Remember what I said about things and stuff earlier? Moth, rust, and thieves will destroy them. And remember what I said about circumstances? There is comfort in God as 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB) states: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

Hope Stealer: Suffering. Think about the verse I just read. What does that say about suffering (affliction)? God comforts us so we can comfort others who suffer. Good can come out of suffering. And consider 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 16-18 (NASB): "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. ... Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

And remember the words of Jesus in John 16:33 (NASB): "...In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." And also His words in John 14:1-3 (NASB): "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Do you believe in God? Do you believe also in Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus will promise to do what He says He will do?


True Hope and Hope Bringer

The other day, my son Arthur was thinking about something my daughter Leona was going to do, to give food to poor people, and he added a phrase, "so they can be rich like us." I explained to him that giving them food is a good thing, but it would not make them rich. I then thought about the idea of rich. And I didn't think about things and money. I thought about what Jesus has done and the blessings thereof. I told Arthur, "Yes, we are rich in deed." If you are in Christ, do you realize you have available to you every spirtual blessing in the Heavenlies? Ephesians 1:3 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Notice the phrase in Christ. That is essential. Do your feel like you are rich? Do you have hope? How about the ultimate hope in Christ?

The truths of Scripture matter, but the key is to be "in Christ." Are you in Christ? Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner and that the only Way to God is through Jesus Christ alone? You must believe in Jesus, His death on a cross for your individual sins, and His bodily resurrection.

I took a trip recently where I flew in an airplane. Maybe it was on my oldest son's mind when he said to me the other day, "You can't fly to Heaven in an airplane and you can't get there in a car." I asked him how one gets to Heaven. He said, "Jesus has to carry you." How true that is. Your things can't get you to Heaven. Your reputation, standing and best efforts can't do it. Being in control can't do it. Comfort won't do it. Good circumstances can't do it. Only Jesus can carry you to Heaven. Do you trust Him and His perfect work on the cross to put to death sin's control in your life and clothe you with His righteousness and new life as evidenced by His raising from the dead? Do you have that hope in Christ?

And if you are in Christ, those things that steal your hope cannot keep you from Heaven, though they can cause you to walk in grief instead of joy. It would be prudent to rid yourself of those things that steal your hope. There may be some things you should let go of, but they won't keep you out of Heaven if you are in Christ. In John 10:27-29 (NASB), Jesus says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

In Christ, there is hope.


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