Summary: A message on Christian HOPE preached in the lead up to Christmas - but applicable any time of the year.
READ: Romans 15:7-13 (Text: v12-13)
It’s Christmas time. A season of great hope. We are very mindful of Jesus’ coming to earth as our Saviour. He came to a lost world, and brought us the HOPE of being FOUND again in the grace of God. He came to a blind world and a deaf world, and brought us the HOPE of restored SIGHT and SOUND spiritually, so we should see again and hear his voice again - come back into restored communion with Him. It’s a season of HOPE.
You may recall that several weeks ago I preached a message on FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE (The Measure of a Church). At that time I said that "HOPE" is the "Cinderella" of this great threesome, Faith, Hope, and Love. It is the one always left out! Never taken to the ball! We hear a lot of messages on Faith, and a lot of messages on Love, but not so much do we hear specifically of this HOPE.
Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about hope, and this morning I want to teach a little bit on it.
I remember when I was a child, growing up in church, we used to often sing that hymn: "Since Jesus Came Into My Heart". And I seem to remember being bemused by one particular line that goes like this: "I’m possessed of a HOPE that is steadfast and sure, since Jesus came into my heart, And no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure, since Jesus came into my heart ..." And I used to think HOW CAN YOU BE "POSSESSED OF A HOPE"? Surely that’s bad grammar - you can possess hope, but "hope" can’t possess you?! And so it never quite made sense to me - UNTIL I CAME TO KNOW CHRIST FOR MYSELF - then it all made absolute, marvellous sense.
This Christian HOPE is not merely a wishful thinking (without any foundation) that we’re clutching on to - IT IS A SURE EXPECTATION THAT ACTUALLY TAKES A HOLD OF US! It’s TRUE - hope possesses us! BIBLICAL HOPE is "a confident expectation based on solid certainty - it rests on God’s sure promises." In the New Testament, the Christian’s "great hope" particularly relates to the return of Jesus.
We said that hope is a "companion" to faith - they are very closely linked. Hope is never inferior to faith, but is the GROUNDWORK of faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is the substance (the stuff) of things HOPED for...”
Now this passage that we read this morning in Romans 15, looking particularly at verses 12 and 13, is chock full of information about the Christian hope. As we examine the statements that are made we’ll see what it has to say, and I trust you’ll be greatly encouraged today.
Firstly, note, at the end of verse 12, Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah and says:
1. "In HIM the Gentiles shall hope."
Isaiah was writing here of JESUS ("the root of Jesse"). And the first thing we must note about all Christian hope is that it ALWAYS LOOKS TO JESUS AS IT’S FOCUS.
Our hope looks to Jesus:
A. For ETERNITY.
Proverbs 23:17-18 says: "Do not let your heart envy sinners, But be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; FOR SURELY THERE IS A HEREAFTER, And your HOPE will not be cut off."
Our ultimate HOPE is an eternity with the Lord - we believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that Jesus is coming again!
I remember seeing a television film not that long ago which portrayed the terrible racial persecution inflicted upon blacks in the Southern States of America. And in this film, it depicted young people from one of the civil rights groups going from house to house to try and get coloured people to stand up for their constitutional rights - to register to vote. And there was one particular old couple that grabbed my attention. They were sitting on the front porch of their house when some civil rights workers came to ask them to join in the protest against racism, BUT THEIR ANSWER WAS THIS: "We’re old in years;soon we’ll be dead, THEN we’ll be free!"
It reminds me of the words that are etched on the gravestone of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.”
I tell you, a great number of those folk in the Southern States of America had a very deep faith in God. They walked with Him, and it was their HOPE for an eternity with Him that carried them through their lives in the face of such hatred, bigotry and persecution.
The Christian’s ultimate hope is not in this old world. It’s a HOPE of a better time and place.