When people attend weekend services at church I assume that they are looking for hope and not despair. John Johnson one of the wealthiest men in America said “men and women are limited not by their place of birth or the colour of their skin but by the size of their hope” What people in today’s world need is hope.
Hope empowers us to reach into the fears, disappointments and failings of the present in order to find something redemptive.
The message of the gospel is profoundly redemptive God entered deep into the darkness of the human condition in order to redeem it. And he did so through the sacrifice of his only Son whose resurrection brought us life: freedom from sin and sinfulness”.
Hope is a Greek word Elpis meaning joyful and confidant expectation. When we have Hope it means that we are looking for something good that we want to have happen in the future, or a confident feeling about the future: Hope is an emotional belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances within one’s personal life.
It’s a mental condition that’s essential to the life God wants you to live. It’s the fuel your heart runs on. It’s the single biggest difference between those who persevere and those who give up. It’s called – hope.
A number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the affect hope had on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water, and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope! Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. If hope holds such power for unthinking rodents, how much greater should its effect be upon human beings.
Whilst there are many factors that can diminish our hope there are a serious of hope builders that we can utilise in our lives.
A) Hope Builder One
- Look at the kingdom, not just your corner!
June 6th,1994 was the fiftieth anniversary of the allied invasion of Normandy ,which began the battle to liberate continental Europe from Nazi rule. The event was covered extensively on television.
One of the programmes paired two contrasting interviews back-to back. One interview was with an American who landed on Omaha Beach .He recalled the horrors that sounded like scenes from Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. The ageing veteran recalled looking around at the carnage and the casualties and he began to say “we’re going to lose”
The next interview was with an air force reconnaissance pilot who flew over the whole battle area .He saw the casualties and carnage on the beach but he also saw the penetrations being made by paratroopers, the effectiveness of aerial bombardment and he concluded “we’re going to win” Same battle different perspectives.
Today we need to remind ourselves that God’s kingdom is bigger than our particular section.
• In China it is estimated that 28,000 people become believers on a daily basis. In 1950 one million believers. Today in excess of 60 million.
• In Africa 20,000 become believers every day .In 1900 The continent was 3 percent Christian. I learned the other day of a conference in 1905 that concluded that if things continued as they were at that stage in history then by the end of the century Africa would be a muslim continent. The reality is that by the end of the century it was more than 40% Christian. Today African Christianity is at the forefront .God can take the wisdom of the wise and confound it.
• In the UK lots of negative stuff about the church being extinct by 2050.The reality is that despite continued decline in the main denominations. When you compile an aggregate of new churches and fresh expressions of church the picture is one of slight growth. Like the predictions about Africa God loves to confound the wisdom of the wise and fill that which appears hopeless with hope.
B) Hope Builder Two
- See Christ and not the circumstances!
Hope grows when we see Christ and not just the circumstances. Circumstances have great power over our emotions and feelings. One criticism, one setback, one nasty note or response, ingratitude when you expect gratitude, negativity when you expect something more positive.
At the root of diminished hope is unrealistic expectations. We expect everything to go so well and according to our agenda .
Romans 1: 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live (not by their emotions, not by their feelings, not by their circumstances but) by faith.”
We need to believe that Jesus is Lord of the World AND lord of the church and that the outcome is always subject to his sovereign control. However we need to recognise that yesterday’s faith cannot counteract today’s circumstances. We need today’s faith for current circumstances.
C) Hope Builder Three
- Remember the success stories and not just the problems!
Throughout the Old Testament the Hebrews were regularly exhorted to remember the success stories and not just the problems and failures. When they won battles, crossed rivers, experienced miracles, they piled up stones, so they wouldn’t forget. Annually they celebrated the Passover to remember how God had brought their ancestors out of Egypt. Every Harvest they celebrated the Feast of the Tabernacles. Yes we have to face our problems to do otherwise is simply denial. But we need to come into a season where we disempower failure and empower success.
D) Hope Builder Four
- Hear your call and not just see your complaint!
You see we have got to learn the lesson that every problem and difficulty is really an opportunity. When someone comes to me and says this is not getting done, or that need is not getting met, I’m increasingly wanting to say well what can you do about it?. Kids causing trouble on the street is calling out for someone to come with a solution, it might be you, the gospel isn’t getting out there into the world you might have part of the answer.” You might have the solution” Allow the sense of divine dissatisfaction working on the inside of you to work creatively and positively to give hope of a solution. The fact that you are feeling it means God wants you to do something.
John Maxwell writes:
Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.
Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
Hope energizes when the body is tired.
Hope sweetens while bitterness bites.
Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.
Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.
Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.
Hope endures hardship when no on is caring.
Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.
Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.