I was talking to a church leader recently who does some voluntary work for Citizens Advice Bureau. He was commenting that what struck him was that with many people who came in there was an absence of hope. People come in, perhaps their relationship has broken down and there is resignation. When he says is there no chance of reconciliation, they say “no – that’s it”. I was reading about the lives of the prostitutes murdered in Suffolk, selling their bodies to pay for heroin, one asked why she continued said “I’ll be dead soon anyway”. How hopeless! No hope. Paul talks a lot about hope, he says that once when we were outside Christ we were (Eph. 2:12) “without hope and without God in the world.” That is the tragedy for many people - the absence of hope is crushing. Many tonight will attempt to bury that in an alcoholic oblivion. Hope is vital to human beings. In Romans in particular Paul speaks about hope, suggest on this New Year’s Eve some things about hope.
What Hope is
Hope = to look forward with confidence or expectation. It is about the future. Hope is for the future, it is the belief that the future can and will be better than the present and past. Paul says clearly it is not about something we already have, you don’t hope to be able to sit down – you are sitting down. You hope that I will not preach too long today – that may be a vain hope but it is a hope!!
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Rom. 8:24-25)
Paul uses Abraham as an example of hope: RO 4:18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Hope can be against all the odds. What were the odds that Abraham would father a child at 99! But against all hope, in hope he believed. What circumstance do we face that perhaps we can say, “against all hope in hope we believe…” Nevertheless, I will believe that things can be better, my life, my marriage, my finances, my health etc. Even if the circumstances themselves do not change the hope that God is with us, the power of the spirit means that we can hope that our ability to cope and to conquer will be greater.
Paul’s says that hope brings joy and peace. When you have a hope that things will be better, there can be a spring in our step, joy in our hearts, no fear or worry or anxiety because it is banished by the expectation of better things
Rom. 12: 1 - Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Rom. 15:13 - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Where Hope Comes From
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.(Rom. 5:3-4)
More particularly Paul says that suffering, the problems and pain we endure makes us stronger, develops character. As we grow in perseverance and character so hope grows as we see that God is greater than any problems we may face. With God there is nothing we cannot handle. With God we can say, “Bring it on!” Because we have a sense of God’s love and power in us and for us.
Rom. 15:4 - For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Here we find the mirror for our experiences in the experiences of other believers how have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. We discover the medicine of the promises of God that soothes our troubles and worries as we see God is for us.
In the Bible we learn of the one who is the ultimate source of hope, life and everything – Jesus the hope of the world. The prophecies of Jesus speak of how the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. He brings the light of hope. Jesus is the hope of the world. I was driving out of Abingdon in thick fog, it was very cold, dismal and dreary then as I got out into countryside I came out of the fog into brilliant sunshine, there had been a hard frost so the fields and trees were white an the whole seen was like something off a card. It was beautiful. That is what Christ came to do, bring the sunshine of hope into the fog of despair. That through him, his life death and resurrection we have become the covenant people of God. We have inherited the blessings of God. We have an eternal future that makes any present sufferings and difficulties pale into insignificance. Through Jesus there is hope for the sick & dying in eternity, for the hurting, for the poor & oppressed – God is for them. The dissatisfied/empty/unhappy can find fulfilment. The guilty & ashamed can find forgiveness, the rejected find acceptance. The anxious can find peace.
I spoke about the young women murdered and their hopeless existence. But no one is beyond hope. Teen Challenge works with young women at “Hope House”. Here is a picture of Lorraine who got into heroin, ended up as a prostitute and gravely ill in hospital. But her testimony is that from her hospital bed the Hope House staff made her realise there was a reason to live. She started the programme and each time she returned for hospital check-ups, doctors were amazed at the change in me. Lorraine graduated from the bible-study programme in September 2001. She now has her daughters Claire 18 and Nicole 16 are back in her. She works with addicts and prostitutes on the Teen Challenge bus in Glasgow. At 38, she says, “my life is full and I’ve finally found the love and acceptance I was looking for. I want everyone to see what the power of prayer has done in my life – and to know there is hope.”
Truly Jesus is the hope of the world, what can be done in the lives of addicts and prostitutes can be done in many other lives and in our own.
So my message today on the last day of 2006 is that we do not know what 2007 holds. We do not know whether circumstances will be better or worse than 2006. But hope tells us that with God we can be confident, with God whatever the circumstances, God is with us. Where is there need for hope in your life? Inject some hope into the situation. How? – add God to the equation. There is always hope with God.