This morning we are starting a new advent series that follow the themes of advent. This morning we will be looking at Fostering Hope, Next week we will be looking at fostering Peace, and then fostering Joy and fostering love.
This morning – fostering hope.
You will remember 1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Love is greater than hope, but hope is in some pretty amazing company. Hope can be a powerful force in your life. Faith can move mountains; love can change the world. – And hope – hope can move you forward when times are dark. Hope can keep you going when everything else says stop. Hope moves you a problematic present into promising future. The problem with hope is that it only comes to the forefront when things are hard, or bleak, or uncertain.
I have noticed that people are a tinge more optimistic ever since the announcement of a vaccine. Things are challenging but now we have hope. Hope, that the pandemic has an end. Hope that we won’t always have to live so cautiously. Hope that the future will be better than the present.
Hope is a powerful thing and there are times in all of our lives when we need the power of hope.
When you go to the doctor and get a bad diagnosis. When a relationship teeters, and maybe breaks; when a job becomes uncertain, we need hope. There will come a time when all of us have to face death and your one solace in death is hope.
But hope is not just the crisis moments of life. Questions like, will I ever be happy? Will I ever be contented? Will I ever be normal? Will I ever find meaning? Will I ever belong? Will I ever be secure? Will I ever escape my dysfunctions? Haunt us. And when those questions come to the forefront, and they often do in Canada over the winter months, we need hope.
I think one of the challenges of this pandemic has been that we have had very little to look forward to. Travel is difficult, concerts are out, parties are out, celebrations are restricted a muted. In our normal rhythms of life, we look forward to something good. Which is the essence of hope – and we haven’t been able to. Jurgen Moltmann, a German theologian wrote, “Living without hope is no longer living. Hell is hopelessness.” – Which explains a lot of how people are feeling.
Now here is the thing about a vaccine. Whenever it comes to Canada, which may be four months or ten months, we are not sure – but whenever it comes, it will reduce the anxiety of going out, and it will increase our options in terms of activities to support our mental health, but it will not address the big questions in life.
The issues of contentment and belonging and insecurity and bad news, and relational tension and all the other things I have mentioned will still be there. We will still need hope.
If you are a child of God, if you have given your life to Jesus, and asked him to forgive you of your sin and bring you into a relationship with the God of the universe – then you have the tools you need to foster hope. If you have yet to give your life to Jesus, then I want you to know that God wants to adopt you into his family and give you the tools for hope.
Come with me to Romans 5 and we are going to look at how to foster hope.
Romans 5:1–5 (NIV)
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
This passage of Scripture talks about the same hope that comes about in two different ways. And when you take to heart what it says, we can start to live out the hope for the future.
Let me break this passage down for you. The cross of Christ is the basis for hope. We have been justified through faith. We have been given right legal standing before God. We have been declared not guilty through our faith in what Jesus had done for us. Because of this we have peace with God. We are no longer is enemies but His friends. Our relationship with him is at peace.
We didn’t deserve this relationship. That is the grace that it is talking about in verse 2. But despite the fact that we didn’t deserve it, we stand firmly in this relationship, through our faith in Christ.
And we rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God. Or we boast in our hope of the glory of God. The word boast – has the idea of a high degree of certainty. The New Living Translation puts it this way.
Romans 5:2 (NLT)
We confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
That is our hope. We boast in the hope of sharing God’s glory. There is going to come a time for every person who has put their faith in the cross and share the grace of God, where we stand before the throne of God – and all wrongs will be made right, all sorrow will pass, real joy will be our companion, and we will be present in the glory of God.
Remember the Christmas story, when the Angels appeared to the Shepherds, “The glory of the Lord shone round about them”. The Glory of God happens when God reveals himself in fulness. You will remember the glory of God descending on the tabernacle in the wilderness. The glory of God happens when God shows up.
When Paul in Romans talks about the glory of God, he is talking about a time that is still to come when God will reveal himself fully. He is talking about a time when we see God face to face in heaven. Let me tell you about this time and what it means through Scripture.
1 Corinthians 13:9–12 (NIV)
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears… 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
There will come a time where you will be fully known, and you will fully know how loved you are. The insecurities of the present and the fear of the future will fade like the morning mist. For you will be with God.
Revelation 21:3–5 (NLT)
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”
We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
This is our hope for the future. Jesus Christ is going to come and perfect you. You will know fully. The questions that you have will be answered. The things that perplex you now, will be revealed. And God is going to do away with death, and mourning, and crying and pain. The results of sin will be totally annihilated. Wars will cease and there will be peace on earth. Injustice will be done away with, and we will live in a beautiful world.
People, if we are wise, we will, “live in the present from a future perspective.” Things may not be perfect now, things may even look bleak now, but some day God is going to make it right. The things that trouble us now will not always be. We have a hope for the future. That means— despite the present trouble I can rejoice.
Romans 5:3–5 (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
I find it interesting that when he says, “We glory in our sufferings,” that word glory is the same word translated boast before. It is translated by some as “we boast in our sufferings.” It is not that the suffering themselves have meaning – but that suffering is a vehicle through which God can work.
You see suffering produces perseverance. Not always as you know. But Paul is outlining what God’s will in suffering is. Suffering can produce bitterness, or addictions, or despondency. But God’s plan is to use the suffering—- that inevitably comes to all of us – to produce perseverance.
Perseverance is where you keep on grinding it out even when it is tough going. Perseverance is where you learn spiritual warfare. That is Paul is talking about in Ephesians when he tells us to put on the full armour of God and stand firm. It is in the middle of the battle where we learn that God is stronger than the enemy.
It is in perseverance where we develop godly character. You see, perseverance has a work to do in you
James 1:2–4 (NIV)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Did you catch that. Perseverance has a work to do. It is what makes you mature and complete. Going back to our Roman passage, perseverance produces character.
Romans 5:3–5 (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
I started out today talking about how to foster hope. As I look around our town and our country – I think we have suffering down. We have a pandemic on top of the rest of the challenges of life. But now it is time to persevere.
How do you do that? Choose to rejoice and give thanks in spite of the challenges. Choose to live in opposition to your sinful nature. People who work in retail tell me that people are really impatient right now. Live in opposition to that. Live patiently, calmly, contentedly, peacefully without complaining. Persevere, looking to God to help you display the fruit of the Spirit in spite of the suffering.
What you learn in perseverance is to live from an eternal perspective. You learn that things will not always be as they are. You learn to trust a good God for now, for the future and for eternity. You learn to hope.
Can I talk straight with you? – This pandemic sucks. We are fortunate to live where we do, but it has made life harder. Christmas is going to be muted. Mental health is something we have to fight to maintain. And if you are living in a home with young kids it more of a challenge. If you are living in a home where there is a strained relationship it is even more challenging. This is no fun
But during this time you also have an opportunity. It is an opportunity to develop perseverance, which produces character, which produce hope. And hope is powerful – because our hope is in God.
When this pandemic is over – and it will be. When life gets better – and it probably will – if you use this opportunity, your character will have been formed into the character that displays what Jesus is like.
That character will be supercharged by hope. So, even when life is good – you will have hope for better – because you know that this life is not all there is.
Romans 5:3–5 (NIV)
… we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see when you experience suffering and you choose to persevere by learning to rely on the strength that God has given you, it produces a maturity of character. When you see how God has worked in you, and when you look ahead to the future – you know you can trust God with that future – you have real hope. Because in that process of suffering and perseverance and maturing you will have experienced God’s love being poured into you by the Holy Spirit – which just reinforces the hope.
In the next few months, you will be given the opportunity to grow. Don’t waste it. Foster hope. Don’t let your suffering and your challenges turn you away from God – rather let them push you towards God.
Is this a comfortable process. Of course not. But I will tell you what is even more uncomfortable – living a life without character and without hope. That is hardly living at all.
Over the month of November, I have given you tools to push into God in times of fear and anxiety. To hear from God as you pray the scriptures. To practice the presence of God in your everyday life. Those tools will help you to persevere in the face of suffering through a pandemic in a Canadian winter. Don’t waste this time. Allow God to build character – I urge you – foster hope.
Sermon Questions for – Fostering Hope
Asbury – November 29, 2020
1. What are you thankful for today?
2. What are you praying about this week?
3. Read Romans 5:1-5. Take each phrase of Verses 1 and 2 and put them in your words.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith
into this grace in which we now stand.
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
4. Read 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 and Revelations 21:3-5 What do these verse tell you about what we are looking forward to?
5. Read Romans 5:3-5.
What does he mean that “we glory in our sufferings?”
How does suffering produce perseverance?
6. Read James 1:2-4 – What does this tell us about perseverance?
7. In Romans 5:3-5 how do we foster hope?
8. What are some ways that we can apply these verses during this time of pandemic.