Hope

Hyperion’s the tallest tree in the world.

Comes from seeing God’s perspective:

“ ‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers – – their treachery against me and their hostility towards me, which made me hostile towards them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies – – then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them.  They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees.  Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them.  I am the LORD their God.  But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God.  I am the LORD.’ “LEVITICUS 26:40-45

These verses show what God meant when he said he is slow to anger (Exodus 34:16). Even if the Israelites chose to disobey and were scattered among their enemies, God would still give them the opportunity to repent and return to him.  His purpose was not to destroy them, but to help them grow.  Our day-to-day experiences and hardships are sometimes overwhelming; unless we can see that God’s purpose is to bring about continual growth in us, we may despair.  The hope we need is well expressed in Jeremiah 29:11, 12: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.’ “ To retain hope while we suffer shows we understand God’s merciful ways of relating to his people.

 

In the midst of crises:

While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said.  “Why bother the teacher any more?”  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” –  MARK 5:35-36

Jairus’ crisis made him feel confused, afraid, and without hope. Jesus’ words to Jairus in the midst of crises speak to us as well: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  In Jesus’ mind, there was both hope and promise.  The next time you feel hopeless and afraid, look at your problem from Jesus’ point of view.  He is the source of all hope and promise.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. –  2 CORINTHIANS 4:18

Our ultimate hope when we are experiencing terrible illness, persecution, or pain is the realisation that this life is not all there is – there is life after death! Knowing that we will live for ever with God in a place without sin and suffering can help us live above the pain that we face in this life.

Paul had faced sufferings, trials, and distress as he preached the Good News. But he knew that they would one day be over, and he would obtain God’s rest and rewards.  As we face great troubles, it’s easy to focus on the pain rather than on our ultimate goal.  Just as athletes concentrate on the finish line and ignore their discomfort, we too must focus on the reward for our faith and the joy that lasts for ever.  No matter what happens to us in this life, we have the assurance of eternal life, when all suffering will end and all sorrow will flee away (Isaiah 35:10). [this paragraph is about being ‘somewhere over there.’]

 

Hope in Jesus always rewarded:

They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt and put Jesus on it. – LUKE 18:35

By this time Jesus was extremely well known. Everyone coming to Jerusalem for the Passover feast had heard of him, and, for a time, the popular mood was favourable towards him.  “The Lord needs it” was all the disciples had to say, and the colt’s owners gladly turned their animal over to them.

Christians celebrate this event on Palm Sunday. The people lined the road, praising God, waving palm branches, and throwing their cloaks in front of the colt as it passed before them.  “Long live the King” was the meaning behind their joyful shouts, because they knew that Jesus was intentionally fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  To announce that he was indeed the Messiah, Jesus chose a time when all Israel would be gathered at Jerusalem, a place where huge crowds could see him, and a way of proclaiming his mission that was unmistakable.  The people went wild.  They were sure their liberation was at hand.

 

Misguided hopes about Jesus:

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the King of Israel!” –  JOHN 12:13

The people who were praising God for giving them a king had the wrong idea about Jesus. They were sure he would be a national leader who would restore their nation to its former glory, and thus they were deaf to the words of their prophets and blind to Jesus’ real mission.  When it became apparent that Jesus was not going to fulfil their hopes, many people turned against him.

Jesus began his last week on earth by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey under a canopy of palm branches, with crowds hailing him as their king. To announce that he was indeed the Messiah, Jesus chose a time when all Israel would be gathered at Jerusalem, a place where huge crowds could see him, and a way of proclaiming his mission that was unmistakable.  On Palm Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

 

Why it is a key to the Christian life:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the moral with immorality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. – – 1 CORINTHIANS 15:54-56

Satan seemed to be victorious in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and at the cross of Jesus. But God turned Satan’s apparent victory into defeat when Jesus Christ rose from the dead (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14, 15).  Thus death is no longer a source of dread or fear.  Christ overcame it, and one day we will also.  The law will no longer make sinners out of us who cannot keep it.  Death has been defeated, and we have hope beyond the grave.

 

In the new heaven & earth:

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not only by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought up into the glorious freedom of the children of God. –  ROMANS 8:19-22

Christians see the world as it is – – physically decaying and spiritually infected with sin. But Christians do not need to be pessimistic, because they have hope for future glory.  They look forward to the new heaven and new earth that God has promised, and they wait for God’s new order that will free the world of sin, sickness, and evil.  In the meantime, Christians go with Christ into the world where they heal people’s bodies and souls and fight the evil effects of sin in the world.

Sin has caused all creation to fall from the perfect state in which God created it. So the world is subject to frustration and bondage to decay so that it cannot fulfil its intended purpose.  One day all creation will be liberated and transformed.  Until that time it waits in eager expectation for the resurrection of God’s children.

 

In Christ’s return:

If anyone does not love the Lord – – a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!  – 1 CORINTHIANS 16:22

The Lord Jesus Christ is coming back to earth again. To Paul, this was a glad hope, the very best he could look forward to.  He was not afraid of seeing Christ – – he could hardly wait!  Do you share Paul’s eager anticipation?  Those who love Christ are looking forward to that wonderful time of his return (Titus 2:13).  To those who did not love the Lord, however, Paul says, let them be cursed.

…and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. – 1 THESSALONIANS 1:10

Paul emphasised Christ’s second coming throughout this book. Because the Thessalonian church was being persecuted, Paul encouraged them to look forward to the deliverance that Christ would bring.  A believer’s hope is in the return of Jesus, our great God and Saviour (Titus 2:13).  Our perspective on life remains incomplete without this hope.  Just as surely as Christ was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, he will return (Acts 1:11).

All of us should respond to the Good News as the Thessalonians did: turn to God, serve God, and wait for his Son, Christ, to return from heaven.  We should turn from sin to God because Christ is coming to judge the earth.  We should be fervent in our service because we have little time before Christ returns.  We should be prepared for Christ to return because we don’t know when he will come.

 

In death:

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. – – 2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-8

Paul was not afraid to die, because he was confident of spending eternity with Christ. Of course, facing the unknown may cause us anxiety, and leaving loved ones hurts deeply, but if we believe in Jesus Christ, we can share Paul’s hope and confidence of eternal life with Christ.

For those who believe in Christ, death is only a prelude to eternal life with God. We will continue to live.  Let this hope give you confidence and inspire you to faithful service.

 

How it helps us live now:

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.  I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. – PHILIPPIANS 3:13-14

Paul had reason to forget what was behind – – he had held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:57, 58, Paul is called Saul here). We have all done things for which we are ashamed, and we live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be.  Because our hope is in Christ, however, we can let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become.  Don’t dwell on your past.  Instead, grow in the knowledge of God by concentrating on your relationship with him now.  Realise that you are forgiven, and then move on to a life of faith and obedience.  Look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life because of your hope in Christ.

 

Antidote for boredom:

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. –  HEBREWS 6:11-12

Hope keeps the Christian from becoming lazy or feeling bored. Like an athlete, train hard and run well, remembering the reward that lies ahead (Philippians 3:14).

 

Because God is in control of history:

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.  – REVELATION 22:21

Revelation closes human history as Genesis opened it – – in paradise. But there is one distinct difference in Revelation – – evil is gone for ever.  Genesis describes Adam and Eve walking and talking with God; Revelation describes people worshipping God face to face.  Genesis describes a garden with an evil serpent; Revelation describe a perfect city with no evil.  The Garden of Eden was destroyed by sin; but paradise is re-created in the new Jerusalem.

The book of Revelation ends with an urgent request: “Come, Lord Jesus.” In a world of problems, persecution, evil, and immorality, Christ calls us to endure in our faith.  Our efforts to better our world are important, but their results cannot compare with the transformation that Jesus will bring about when he returns.  He alone controls human history, forgives sin, and will re-create the earth and bring lasting peace.

Revelation is, above all, a book of hope. It shows that no matter what happens on earth, God is in control.  It promises that evil will not last for ever.  And it depicts the wonderful reward that is waiting for all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

 

©Kingsway International 1973.

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