Summary: God crushes sin’s disheartening effects with future hope.
It has been said that nothing in the world arouses more false hope that the first four hours on a diet! We do not need any more false hope, but we do need hope!
The National Association of Basketball Coaches presents four “Guardians of the Game” awards each year: for leadership, service, advocacy, and education. Tonight Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt receives the award for Education for his efforts to improve academics in basketball programs for youth. The press release showed a picture of Coach Hewitt and the team standing in front of a sign with one word: “Hope.”
In his profound book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, notes that the “loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect on man.” As a result of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl contends that when a person no longer has a motive for living or a future to look toward, he curls up in a corner and dies. “Any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in camp, had first to succeed in showing him some future hope.”
The Apostle’s imprisonment could have led to despair. Not only is he chained for preaching Jesus, but envious Christians are stirring up trouble for him. Yet Paul’s hope does not waver. Where can we find hope like his to overwhelm disappointment? Part of God’s answer is in Philippians 1.18c-20.
[Read Philippians 1.18c-20. Pray.]
Sarah Clarke and her husband founded the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. She used to walk the downtown streets and distribute cards to the homeless. The card said: “Hope for all who enter,” and gave the address of the mission.
Jay Adams says (in his book on counseling) that we all need hope: “Sin has worked its defeating and disheartening effects in all of our lives. There are times when every Christian is dispirited. Often this attitude deteriorates into the sin of despair” (The Christian Counselor’s Manual, 40).
How wonderful it is, therefore, to hear that the God of all hope steps into the midst of our despair with good news for dispirited people. The Biblical word for God’s message of good news is “Gospel,” and it offers a double hope. First, it speaks of a future hope: on Easter Sunday 2000 years ago, Jesus rose from the dead, proving and sealing his victory over sin, Satan, and suffering, and he will return to take his people to the place he prepared for us. Those who love the Lord now, by faith, will find a future reward with God. The gospel has a future hope.
But second, it also offers a present hope. With his typically, folksy wisdom, Jay Adams says:
“Christianity is not merely pie in the sky bye and bye when you die; indeed, Christians can start slicing today! There is hope for a new abundant life right now” (Ibid., 41).
There is every reason for despair. Life outside Eden cannot escape hardship and hurt and suffering and anxiety, and thoughtful people realize there are precious few guarantees of comfort and ease. There is every reason for despair, but far greater reasons to hope and rejoice! Jesus has won the victory. The match went to the final round, but now the battle is over, the fight is finished, and the winner has been crowned! Jesus was bloodied and bruised at the cross, and appeared to lose. But before the ten-count ended, he rose again, having “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Colossians 2.15). Now the hope of the gospel can be yours, the same hope which sustained Paul—the sure confidence that he would not be ashamed for trusting himself to the Lord. A certain hope that those who live for Jesus will, at the last day, affirm: “I do not regret one moment lived for him.” I want that hope for us. And in this text are four things which bring hope to our lives.
1. God Gives Hope through the Prayers of His People (Philippians 1.18c-19a)
Philippians 1.18c-19a: “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.”
Dr. Wilbur Chapman was a young man when he began his ministry at a respectable, historical church in Philadelphia. After his first sermon, an old gentleman said to him, “You’re mighty young to be pastor of this church. But you preach the Gospel, so I’m going to help you all I can.”
The thought flashed through Dr. Chapman’s mind that the man was crazy. He continued speaking: “I’m going to pray that you have the Holy Spirit’s power upon you. Two others have covenanted to join with me in prayer for you.”
Dr. Chapman said, “I didn’t feel so bad after I learned that his help was to pray for me. Then the three praying became 10, then the 10, 20; soon the 20 became 50, and eventually the 50 became 200 who met before every service to pray that the Holy Spirit might come upon me. I always went into my pulpit feeling that I would have the anointing in answer to the prayers of those who had faithfully prayed. It was a joy to preach! The result was that we received 1,100 into our church by conversion in three years, 600 of whom were men. It was the fruit of the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer!”