Summary: Understanding the difference between ’wish lists’ and ’hope’ as the Scriptures teach it.
TITLE: "Faith and hope - much more than Coke"
SCRIPTURE: James 1:2-12
AIM: Through an understanding of ‘suffering’, challenge my hearers about their faith and how they would stand when tested.
In 1 Corinthians Paul talks about the three things that will remain - faith, hope and love. This morning I want to talk about two of them - faith and hope.
Consider these 2 scenarios:
#1‘You are sunbaking on Bondi beach - the sun is hot - you are getting thirsty - wife, husband, friend comes towards you with a bottle of Coke - you ‘hope’ that you might get a drink - and so you wait in anticipation as the Coke gets closer.’
#2 "You have been shipwrecked and floating in a life raft for 3 days - you ran out of water 2 days ago and your thirst is terrible - mouth and tongue swollen, lips cracked - in the distance you sight a rescue boat coming towards you - and you ‘hope’ they have water on board so you an relieve you dreadful thirst’
Tell me which scenario really defines ‘hope’?
We would all probably agree that the first scenario is trivial compared to the second and that the real understanding of hope is described in the second. In the first - hope is little more than a ‘wish’; in the second, a desperate ‘need’.
Let me repeat these two scenarios in a different context:
#1 ‘You are living the comfortable life - good job, paying off your own home, plenty of food, good health - in the distance you see that one day you will grow old and die and then you ‘hope’ to enjoy eternal life with the Lord. But until then, you can enjoy life and feel comfort in the hope of what is to come’.
#2 ‘You have been shipwrecked and floating in a life raft for 13 days - you ran out of water 5 days ago and your thirst is terrible - mouth and tongue swollen, lips cracked, you have a fever, your strength is gone - there is no rescue boat. Although by now you have lost all hope of rescue, you still have your faith in God and are looking forward in ‘hope’ to meeting him face to face. And so you await this moment with peace in your heart’.
Which one really describes ‘hope’?
Let me make it more personal - which one really describe you and the ‘faith and hope’ that you have? Is hope a ‘wish list’ of what we would like, or a deep, desperate need within our lives?
It does worry me that many Christians today live with a ‘wish list’ - not hope. For many people who live in our rich society - life is good. For many, their faith and hope is rarely tested! I wonder how it would stand up under stress and testing?
According to Scripture, we should not be surprised when we find our faith being tested. James, the brother of Jesus, sees this as the key to having a victorious faith:
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)
But because we live in an affluent society in which the daily struggle to survive has been replaced by the daily need to have fun and enjoy everything as much as possible, the question of struggle and suffering is often lost in the illusion of the world in which we live.
And so we need to keep asking ourselves the question - what would happen to our Christian experience if our faith and hope is really put to the test?
The Christians of the 1st Century church didn’t have to ask this question. They were regularly being tested in their faith.
1. GOOD NEWS, HARD NEWS
a. Dr. Roger Green talks about the gospel of Christ being both Good News, but Hard News. The good new is the gospel of Jesus Christ - our salvation and our hope. But with the good news comes the hard news - hard news such as ‘picking up the cross of disciple-ship’; enduring the persecution of those who do not believe; the loss of self-determination as we each obey the call of God to serve how and where he wants us to.
When Peter writes to the early church located in the northern Roman provinces of Asia Minor, the subject at the heart of his 1st letter is ‘hard news ... ‘suffering’ - ie. these early Christians were having their faith sorely tested. Listen to 1 Peter 4:12 - 19 (selected):
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you ... if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. ... So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good".