Jesus, Hope for Humanity-Part 1
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
HOPE is one of the words that can actually create what it means. If words have power, and I believe they do, “hope” could be a very powerful word. Think about it. If you are feeling depressed, sad or frustrated, a friend could come along side you and ask, “Don’t you know there is still hope?”, and, for the most part, I’m pretty sure you could begin to find and feel a measure of hope.
The word itself promotes its meaning. Countless public figures have used the word to create an entire movement. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” President Obama, inspired many with his book entitled The Audacity of Hope.
Hope is a powerful word, but it is also a powerful reality. It is hope that causes all men to attempt anything at all. No one would begin to build, create, or pursue a solitary thing if there was not inside of them a hope that it would be worth it. The Wright brothers would not have worked as hard as they did, if there was not inside of them the fires of hope that one day they would indeed fly.
Hope is also a major theme during the Advent season as Christ, our hope, comes to give unfathomable hope. We’ll sing that the hopes and fears of the years are met in thee tonight. And so, it is my hope that this series will give you a life changing experience of a great, and glorious, and living hope. I want, as Paul wants in Ephesians 1:18, that “the eyes of your hearts will be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you… )
We will look at hope for the next 2 weeks in this series entitled “Jesus, Hope for Humanity.” Today, in part 1 of this series, I want to answer 3 questions pertaining to the word hope. First, I want to look at the necessity of hope. Why is hope such a big deal? Second, I want to examine the meaning of hope. What is it. And third, I want to explore the effect that hope should have on the person that has hope. So we are going to ask 3 questions; why, what, and how. Why do we need hope, what is hope, and how does hope effect us.
THE NECESSITY OF HOPE (WHY)
HOPE is as vital to the soul as food is to the body. If you starve the body of food it will die, and if you remove hope from the human soul it will sink into a dark well of hopelessness and apathy. Human beings need hope. If a man has hope, that hope will burn in him to accomplish unbelievable things, but a man without hope, has no fire and nothing to live for. If you remove hope, you remove the will to live.
Medical and psychological studies have confirmed that the feeling of hopelessness increases death, heart disease and even cancer. In an article by the American Psychosomatic Society entitled Hopelessness and risk of mortality and incidence of myocardial infarction and cancer states that “hopelessness is a strong predictor of adverse health outcomes, independent of depression and traditional risk factors.”
I am sure that you can think of examples of people who, because of their feelings of hopelessness, lost their will to live. If you push people into hopeless situations they will do surprising things. It is not a good idea to remove hope. Hope is extremely important.
THE MEANING OF HOPE (WHAT)
Despite the fact that hope is essential to human life, the term seems to get convoluted or confused by the way we use it. That’s probably because there are two different kinds of hope. There is human hope, and there is Biblical hope. Human hope can be defined as “wanting or wishing something to happen”. The English word actually connotes uncertainty. In contrast, Biblical hope by its very definition means certainty. In fact, the word is used in both Hebrew and Greek in the exact same way as the terms “faith” and “trust”. Piper says that, “Hope is faith in the future tense”. So, in the Bible, hope is not “wanting or wishing “, but a “strong and confident expectation.” Listen to the Bible’s definition of faith,
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
I think it would be helpful if we first considered the value of human hope. There are a lot of people, who have not placed their hope in Christ, but yet still have a life that is motivated by some kind of hope. If we look at hope in the human sense, there also seems to be two different kinds of human hope. There are small hopes and great hopes.
Small hopes are hopes that get you through the day. Perhaps a hopeful expectation for the weekend. I dare say that most people on the earth have small hopes. People with small hopes live and operate with a small fire. This fire burns in them to reach, mostly, personal or relational goals. They may hope for material possessions, or reward. Sometimes, we will work, very diligently, just for the hope of a compliment. We might hope for just a small “slice of the good life”. It’s just a small fire that gets us through.
I believe that all humans have some small hopes, but it seems that there are very few humans with great hopes. A great hope is a massive fire that burns in one’s soul to accomplish unbelievable things. Great hopes look far beyond personal goals towards global transformation. Men with great hopes change the world. Men with large fires in their heart will risk their life and even die for the hope that burns in them. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope”, and reveals his fire of hope in his famous speech.
I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
Now, that was a great hope! Did you notice how the reverend used the terms hope and faith interchangeably? There are two kinds of human hope. The very popular small hopes of most humans, and the scarce hopes of great humans. Why are there so few great hopes? Singer-songwriter Seal wrote, “In a world full of people only some want to fly, and isn’t that crazy?” He goes on to add that, “We are never going to survive unless we get a little bit crazy!” Humans need great hopes. Another author said that, “Only a great hope can give meaning and satisfaction to life. To live without a hope plugged into a meaningful future, denies the deepest longings of the human heart and deprives life of any real meaning.”
Small hopes may offer immediate satisfaction, but they have little to offer towards purpose and meaning.
I imagine this is why Paul was able to say to his contemporaries that they were without hope in the world. They probably did have some hope. They had at least a little fire burning in their souls, but Paul reminded them that they were once separated from Christ, and alienated from God and because of that, they were without hope in the world (Eph 2:12).
QUESTION #1: Is there a scarcity of great hope in the world today? Is your hope a small hope or a great hope? What are you hoping for and what if it never happens?
Now Biblical hope is entirely different than human hopes. Human hopes can give meaning to your life, but they are uncertain. Biblical hope, on the other hand, is certain. For now on, every time we see the word hope in Scripture, we need to think not of a wishing kind of hope, but a confident certainty. It’s not, “I hope she’ll marry me.” But, “I hope for the day we are married.” Hope is an expectation and a longing for that which we are confident will happen. For instance, listen to the Psalmist as he speaks of hope.
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust.” (Psalms 62:5; 39:7; 71:5 ESV)
You see, Biblical hope is different because it is founded in the promises of a God who can not lie. We could hope for salvation, or we could count on it. We could hope for meaning and purpose, or we could bank on God’s promise that we have been created for a God-sized purpose. This is no small hope. It is the greatest of all hope. If God is the foundation of our hope then how great is that hope? Listen to this verse:
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)
Did you notice the language surrounding the hope that we have in Jesus? It is powerfully absolute. Words like predestined, inheritance, purpose, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit and given a guarantee of a future inheritance. Those are all words that should produce in you confidence and hope. These are not wishes, these are guarantees. God loves you so much that he sent his Son to die on a horrific cross in order to purchase your soul for all of eternity. He rescued you from darkness and hopelessness. How much more, will that same God, if he would go through such great lengths to save your soul, also protect and guarantee for you a glorious future. He is promising an inheritance. It is not a wish. It is true. It is not a possibility, it is already a reality. Do you believe that? If you do, then how should that change your life today?
The Effect of Hope (How)
One Scholar comments, “In the Bible, hope is never a static or passive thing. It is dynamic, active, directive and life sustaining. In other words, a biblical hope is not an escape from reality or from problems. It doesn’t leave us idle, drifting or just rocking on the front porch. If our hope is biblical and based on God’s promises, it will put us in gear.”
Timothy Keller said, “We are hope based creatures. What we believe, or hope for, effects the way we live.” so if we have such a hope, and if hope drives the way we live, then what effect will such a hope have on your life? What sort of effect has it had on your life? Do you feel like it has had the effect it should?
I want to show you something interesting. After Paul tells the Ephesians about their inheritance and their guarantee for placing their hope in Christ, listen to what he says next:
…May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you… (Ephesians 1:17-18)
Interesting, Paul has already stated that we have the hope. He told the Ephesians that they were “the first to put their hope in Christ”. So, in order to be a Christian you must place your hope in Christ. If you are a Christian – you already have the hope. You’ve already seen the glory of Christ and recognize or realize that you need to place your hope in him. You have already learned that “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Christ”. So, I am curious, why is Paul praying that their eyes will be opened to know the hope to which they have been called?
Because even though we may place our hope in Christ – sometimes we can still feel hopeless. Sometimes we can put our hopes into small the small insignificant human hopes rather than in the one great hope that Jesus gives. That is why Paul needs to remind the Ephesians that the “eyes of their heart be enlightened.” Not just our eyes, but the eyes of our heart. If your heart is the deep seated thing inside of your soul, Paul wants your soul to know this hope, specifically that your hope is a certain fact.
…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… (Ephesians 1:17-20)
I want to borrow an illustration from Timothy Keller. Imagine with me 2 men with the exact same job. Same room, same lighting, same menial, boring task – day in and day out – pushing the button (like Homer Simpson) or building widgets. The first guy is told that at the end of the year, for his hard work, he will earn $20,000 the second guy is told that at the end of the yea, for his hard work, he will earn $2 Million. How will this effect the way each of them see their jobs?
QUESTION #2: How could this hope change you? Does the eyes of your heart need to be enlightened to this hope?
IF HOpe is one of the words that can actually create what it means then listen to what the Bible tells us about hope.
I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. (Isaiah 8:17 ESV)
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19 ESV)
And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
(Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)