Hope – the Power that Changes Your World

I want to talk about a word from the Bible that for many, doesn’t play much of a role in their conscious day to day thinking however it’s incredibly powerful in setting the direction that our lives take. The absence of this trait from our lives can cause chronic mental illness and tragically, even lead to suicide and the taking of a person’s own life in extreme cases. 

I want to take a look at hope and the reason it’s so important to you and I and the part it will play in your future.

Now before you shut down and think that this won’t be a very practical message I want you to put that train of thought on hold. We’re going to see that without hope, we might as well pack up our bat and ball and go home. Hope is incredibly important to your quality of life and surprisingly practical in its outworking. 

To ask the question, “What am I hoping for in life?” is one of the most illuminating questions you can ever ask yourself. It tells you so much about you, your past, your present and your future. But I guarantee that for the most of us here, we won’t be able to remember when the last time was that we asked ourselves that question.

Hope, according to the dictionary is a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.

Hope is the belief that circumstances will get better. It’s not a wish for things to get better — it’s the actual belief, the knowledge that things will improve.

Psychologist Dr Dale Archer says, “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 a person and the abyss. As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from anything and everything.”

Wherever there’s progress, the power that takes a dream and turns it into reality is hope – progress and hope go hand in hand. You won’t have progress in any area of your life without hope, either yours or someone else’s for you. Grace Church will do absolutely nothing for our community without hope.

I was at a lunch put on by Compassion a few weeks ago and in their slide presentation they put up this statement“A hope more powerful than poverty.” I was struck by the power of that statement and immediately thought of the community that God has planted us in and the examples that  I see every week of people who have hope and people who don’t and the vast difference between their experience of life. And before you ask the question, it has nothing to do with the haves and the have nots. People from the exact same background can have totally different outlooks on life, and hence a different experience of life due to the presence or absence of hope.

Hope, according to Paul, is one of the few things that will still be around in eternity.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Faith and Hope are futuristic, whilst love is actioned in the present. Hope is the magnifying lens of faith.

Faith and hope go hand in hand. 

Hebrews 11:1, 2 (TLB)

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. Men of God in days of old were famous for their faith.

Now you can hope for all sorts of things, some of which you may have very little chance of seeing come to pass. I’d hoped when I was younger that I’d grow up to be over 6 feet tall, I think I can be fairly certain at my age that it’s not going to happen. Hope, whilst being needed to get out of bed in the morning, can also cause you issues if it doesn’t lead to the thing you’re hoping for. In fact Proverbs tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy.

Hope can end up over promising and under delivering when the focus of our hope is faulty. If your hope is based on a wrong premise or dependent on someone else doing something for you, you’ll probably run into issues. I don’t know of anyone who gets married hoping that their marriage will fall apart. I don’t know of anyone who hoped for a perfect marriage who didn’t also have their fair share of challenges. If the forecast for tomorrow is torrential rain you can hope us much as you like for a sunny day for your outdoor wedding but you’re probably going to be disappointed . . . unless of course you live here in Hobart, then it’s a 50/50 bet either way 🙂 

The hope I want to talk about isn’t wishful thinking. Its not a “I hope it works out” type of response – instead it’s a rock solid assurance that what you’re believing for will come to pass and the future you’re moving toward will be better than today.

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It goes without saying that the focus of our hope is where our security lies. And there can be no greater focus than God.

Isaiah 49:23 (NIV)

Then you will know that I am the Lord;

those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The apostle Peter took up his pen 30 years or so after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and set himself to write something encouraging to the beleaguered Christians of Asia Minor. They were being abused by overbearing bosses (2:18), threatened by unbelieving spouses (3:1, 6), and ridiculed by skeptical neighbours and associates (4:14). On the horizon loomed the possibility of a much more violent form of persecution (4:12–18).

It was a very anti-Christian society. The question raised for these believers is the same that we should pose for ourselves today: How can we have unshakeable hope in times of great stress and anxiety not just to endure the evil day, but to be joyful and to live life with a hopeful expectancy?

For starters we need to realise a profound truth. According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

We have a living hope, not a dead hope. A dead hope has the form of hope (wishful thinking) but there’s no power within it to deliver its desired outcome. A living hope on the other hand is powerful and alive with possibility. And not surprisingly it’s centred in Jesus. When your hope is in him, his power is released in your life.

Now Jesus said to his disciples just before he died, that in this world we would have MANY trials and sorrows but we were to take heart because he had overcome the world.

John 16:33

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

You and I are going to suffer. We will face trials and sorrows. And if you think yours are worse than others that’s just because it’s personal. Everyone’s trials and sorrow feels hard for them, that’s why they’re called trials and sorrow. But Jesus said we’re to take heart because he’s overcome the world. 

Now stay with me, this is really important.

How does Jesus’ overcoming the world help me? It doesn’t unless I’m following Him. Did you see that? Jesus’ overcoming the world has no power to effect my life and it’s outcome if I’m off doing my own thing. However if I’m following the one who overcame everything he ever faced, then by my association with him I too will eventually overcome. The key is remaining in Him, focused on Him, on following Him. An old saying which was taken from observed experience (which is where a lot of our folk style proverbs came from) goes, “You can’t fly with the eagles if you’re walking with the turkeys.” Or a similar one that parents and teachers like to bring out, “You become like the people you hang with.” 

You see, the people you’re following, will take you along with them and you’ll share in their lives and experience. How does a boy from a large immigrant Irish family who grew up in a massive housing commission estate in the Western suburbs of Sydney end up pastoring a wonderful church in beautiful Tasmania that’s making a real difference in its community here and overseas, Who has a successful hobby business in web design, and who lives on acreage in Acton Park with 4 lovely children and a delightful wife? 

You follow Jesus for 30 years through everything I’ve walked through and you too will have some pretty amazing blessings to look back on. But as I said, there were plenty of trials and sorrow along the way. There’s not a day goes by that I’m not carrying something that I wish I wasn’t. Don’t be quick to compare my highlight reel with your hidden pain, or that of anyone else. I am deeply thankful and constrained all at the same time. I’ve learned to live with tension and accept it. Some days I accept it better than other days. You will have trials and sorrow, but you will overcome.

“But I gave my heart to Jesus and my situation didn’t change.” I followed him and people treated me badly. I followed him and my faith took a battering. I followed him and I wasn’t given the break I was expecting and so I stopped following him. And so I stopped being passionate about Him. And so I stopped believing that things could change and get better and I no longer asked Him to help me.” 

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows but take heart for I have overcome the world. 

Never ever ever ever give away your hope in Jesus. Because your hope, if it’s fixed on Jesus is the only thing that can lead you to life, real life, life in all its fullness. You won’t find it chasing after riches, you won’t find it seeking the approval of your friends, you won’t find it in the number of likes you get on Facebook, you won’t find it in winning or getting ahead of the pack. Self is never satisfied and the more you pursue self, the smaller and emptier your life will become.

But let’s be honest, the reason we give up our hope is because we allow our trials and sorrows to convince us that Jesus doesn’t care. And when we think Jesus doesn’t care about us, our heart drifts away and our focus shifts and we find ourselves hoping in dead things that have no power to help us overcome, and we’re overwhelmed. 

So here’s the question you need to answer, “Does Jesus care about you?” Because if you’re convinced that he does, then you won’t stumble when following him through trials and sorrows. Hope will be as natural as breathing and where there is hope, joy is close behind.

Where can we find proof of Jesus’ love for us? The funny thing is, we find it in the midst of his greatest trial and sorrow, when he was crucified for the sin of all the world and abandoned by all his friends. But 3 days later, he experienced his greatest triumph when he rose from the dead having beaten sin and death. No greater love can a man have for his friends than he lay his life down for them. These were Jesus’ own words before he was taken and crucified and abandoned by the friends he had just told he was laying his life down for. Paul said that in this we know that we are loved, Jesus gave his life up for us whilst we were still sinners estranged from him. If God gave up his only Son for us, how much more will he give us everything we need to live this life we are called to live.

To overcome we need to have a hope that follows hard after Jesus. 

What do you want out of life? I want everything that Jesus has for me. What do we want to see happen in and through our church? Everything that Jesus has for us corporately. How do we ensure that it all comes to pass? We fix our hope on Him, the author and the finisher of our faith and we follow hard after Him doing the things that our hand finds to do.

It wasn’t an accident that God planted us smack dab in the middle of Rokeby. It wasn’t an accident that our family lived here for 12 years. It wasn’t an accident that I grew up in a housing commission house in the western suburbs of Sydney. It wasn’t an accident that Matt Durose got a job with Mission Australia here in Clarence Plains. It wasn’t an accident that the Eduljees, the Galbraiths, and the McKays brought their families to live here in this community. It wasn’t an accident that we moved our church over the river and then got stuck in Mornington for 5 and a half years. It wasn’t an accident that God led us to buy the Village Green Tavern and it wasn’t an accident that you find yourself seated here in our church today. You haven’t arrived here by accident you are here because God has a hope in his heart for your life and the destiny of our church but even more exciting, for the destiny of this community. A community that desperately needs hope. A hope that says their tomorrow can be better than their today. And who better to bring that type of hope to a community than those who know Jesus. The gospel is all about hope.