Hope is Found in Jesus.
How has your joy and peace been going over the past couple of weeks?
We had the challenge of a church fire drill the other day. 47 seconds, not bad!
Someone commented that we could have had burnt offerings when we left them on the holy table.
There was no panic and it was very orderly, in fact it reminded me of the young lad who applied for a position as an usher in a movie theater.
The interviewer said, ‘Now finally I should talk to you about fire evacuations.’
The lad replied, ‘Don’t worry about me, I’d be the first out.’
Then we have had enormous excitement in the realm of sport, it reminded me of that story where the Lord challenged the devil to a sporting competition.
The Lord said, ‘Your cause is hopeless, we have all the champions up here.’
The devil replied, ‘Maybe, but we have all the umpires down here.’
We have also had the joy and challenge of Golden Grove Uniting Church’s 140th anniversary. It was a great day with a good turn-out, guests, an excellent preacher, a spacious kitchen that could cater for nearly 150 people followed by much feasting and enjoyment. And the turn-out for the working bees was extraordinary. On the Friday, there were more people than jobs, and again on Saturday where all worked together for good.
Now after all that we come today as spiritually hungry people to be fed.
We have needed the Lord’s Supper. Even in good and happy times, you can be left spiritually depleted.
Romans 15: 13 speaks to this:
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.
If ever there was a Bible verse to remember this is it. Look at the beautiful teaching in it; about the Lord, hope, trust, Holy Spirit and power.
Look at the key part of the Scripture.
Trust. Trust in him.
A magazine recently did a study across the country on the people and professions that Australians trust most. Out if thirty vocations, ambulance officers were our most trusted, while we ministers weren’t even in the bronze medal category. We were seven positions behind public transport drivers, five behind hairdressers and just behind personal trainers and chiropractors.
We were one ahead of domestic cleaners. We were five places ahead of lawyers, seven ahead of donation collectors and ten ahead of psychics and car salesmen.
It was all very humbling.
It only takes a few well publicized cases of clergy abuse of authority and power for all to be perceived suspiciously.
So who are the most trusted people in Australia? Of the 100 people mentioned, the burns specialist Dr Fiona Wood was first while former opposition leader Mark Latham was last.
Talk about kicking a man when he’s down.
Schappelle Corby just nudged out Paul Keating, while Jennifer Hawkins was 18 places ahead of Murray Gleeson, chief justice of the High Court.
Soap star Bec Cartwright came in 12 places ahead of Archbishop Pell, while Eddie McGuire was 11 places ahead of Prime Minister John Howard, who was 84th in the list.
Shane Warne kept company with Mark Latham.
13 out of the last 15 people in the survey were politicians. No politician appeared in the top 80 of the trusted people. Fascinating stuff.
Australians are slow to trust, which makes things difficult because being able to trust is essential to our wholeness. We are made to trust from infancy onwards.
One of the things most associated with mental illness is an inability to trust people.
Of course you can’t trust everyone, as we see during the 6:30 current affairs time-slot, but the Lord says that the way to the good things he has to give is through trust in the Holy Spirit. This is from the God of hope.
I don’t see a lot of hope outside the church. No-one is offering much hope.
Politics offers only pragmatism. People are cynical and tired, feeling betrayed at many levels of leadership.
The lead up to the invasion of Iraq has undermined our trust in leadership. Who can forget Colin Powell, passionately addressing the UN? There were photos of weapons caches, radiated sites, suspicious sheds… but it all turned out to be completely fallacious.
Powell and others had placed too much trust in Iraqi dissidents and people who would say anything to get rid of the tyrant Saddam Hussein. Apart from any other factors in the war, there was a monumental betrayal of trust in leaders.
There is little hope that political leaders will give us any hope. They need it themselves.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his powerful sermon at Harvard in 1978 said:
We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.
The church is the only place with a message of hope through trust in the God of hope. Many world religions can offer no hope because they are locked into a cycle of karma, where there are inexorable forces at work and no forgiveness or certainty of the freeing love of God. Or they are locked into observing laws in order to try and earn salvation. All world religions have teaching about sin but only Christ gives certainty and hope of forgiveness here and hereafter through his cross.
Scripture teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only ultimate source of hope and its object. But what is hope?
We know one form of it; that feeling you get when a speed camera light flashes, and you hope that something will go wrong with the film development process.
It could be more wishful thinking, than hope.
Scripture teaches is that the Lord’s nature is hopeful;
Romans 15: 13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.
How do we define the hope that is part of the nature of the Lord? Hope is more than wishful thinking and more than optimism.
It has been said that a good business manager hires the optimists as salespeople and pessimists to run the credit department.
Hope is different. So how is God a God of hope?
Remember your Christian doctrine and what we call Christology. If you want to be clear what God is like, in action and in nature, look at Jesus Christ. Scripture says God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. All theology begins with Christology, our understanding of Christ. He embodied hope when he called the disciples to follow. He had hope when he healed the sick. He had hope when he faced the Cross and a tomb, all through trusting the Father and the Holy Spirit.
What was that hope? That his father would work in and though fishermen, healed people, and allowed Jesus to take up his cross and to be resurrected. That showed that despite betrayals, denials, rejections and death, he was in charge.
Hope is inseparably linked with trust in the Lord, and Christ was the most hopeful person who ever lived.
Hope shone through his humanity and divinity. It was the certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Trust and faith in the Lord links us to his hope, so that neither life, nor death, nor pain, nor suffering, nor abandonment, nor emotional cruelty can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
I attended the funeral on Friday of a man who despite long battles with depression was filled with the hope of the Lord. He will at last see all the good he achieved through grace in this life. Having hope when you are depressed is the most powerful form of hope.
I remember him telling me a story about some close friends who died in the war. He was weeping and grieving over their deaths, and then, on one of the rare occasions in his life the Lord gave him a vision. It was of his two friends looking down on him in a state of great laughter; rollicking about with tears, flooding with laughter.
They could not believe that he was so sad and distressed when they had gone to be with the Lord. It was a picture of hope for him that he now shares with us who grieve over his departure.
Trust in the Lord is the highway that leads us into the heart of his hope. This is greater than anything man can throw at us, more than bodies that can cripple us with, emotions and habits that can torture us. Hope is the at heart of God
And hope brings good things into the lives of those who trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and live out that faith in making the world a better place.
By George Robert Iles