Pastor Jeff Needleman
The Hope-Lifter! Video & Text
I love knock knock jokes… so here goes! Knock Knock! Hope! Hope who? - Hope this sermon is effective & you like it!
Hope springs eternal! Especially at little league games. When asked the score, 1 young lad responded, "it’s 21-0; we're behind." "Wow” said the observer, “you must be discouraged." The boy said- "Nope, we still hope to win! We haven't even gotten up to bat yet!" Now that’s hope!
I’m hopeful you can finish these sayings:
£ we’re going to the promised;
£ there’s light at the end of the;
£ every cloud has a silver; £ hang in;
£ when1 door closes;
£ there’s plenty of fish;
£ if life gives you lemons;
£ keep your chin;
Hope’s an essential part of our everyday life & woven into the fabric of our thinking! Hopefully! But sometimes being around eternally hopeful optimists can be frustrating, especially when life is overwhelmingly tough & rough, as it is right now for many of us!
But the thing about hope is it’s an essential nutrient on which we thrive… & without hope we wither. Hope is God’s gift to us. Hope helps us imagine a better future. The Bible speaks of hope over 190 times! I bet you’re hoping I won’t cover all 190! But let’s start with:
Ps 33:20-22 NLT We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help & our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.
We need hope & trust just like those we read about in the Bible needed hope. It brings meaning to our existence. Hope gives us incentive to finish the game, to not give up & carry on, to hang in there & to do the impossible! Frank Sinatra had a classic hit song that some of you might remember… High Hopes!
“Just what makes that little old ant think he'll move that rubber tree plant? Anyone knows an ant can't move a rubber tree plant. But he's got high hopes-he's got high hopes- He's got high apple pie in the sky hopes. So any time your gettin' low, ‘stead of lettin' go just remember that ant- Oops there goes another rubber tree plant.”
& of course there’s The Wizard of Oz, a classic movie, that’s all about hope! The main characters embark on a scary & dangerous journey hoping the great Wizard would ease their pain & fix their problems & remove their predicaments. Joyfully singing & dancing, they face adversity after misfortune after calamity after mishap as hope propels them forward.
Hope is God’s gift to us because hope helps us imagine a better future. Right now, for many, things seem hopeless. Fear, wickedness, injustice, hatred & entitlement are running amok. These overwhelm us & hurt our hearts. But listen, the truth is… Hope & trust in God is the only vaccine, the only antidote.
It’s the only way we’ll find any form of lasting peace, joy or contentment amid all the evil chaos & lawlessness! The Apostle Paul writes in: Ro 15:13 NLT I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy & peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul doesn’t pray for God, who is our Hope-lifter, to end our pain & suffering, but for joyful peaceful hearts as we endure troubles, trials, tribulations, tempests & temptations!
Hope! Once, during our morning Bible study & quiet time, Alice asked me what do I hope for? Her question threw me for a loop. I had to think. For what am I hoping? We all share hope for a happy & healthy life. We have high hopes for our relationships, for our kids, for our careers, for our success, for our church & for the world that we live in.
We hope for Covid 19 to miraculously end, the bitter & rage-ful rioting to stop, political divisiveness to end, & our lives to be restored to some type of normalcy.
We also have personal hopes! I hope to get back to my fighting weight of 185 while eating all the bacon & ice cream I want! But hopes that aren’t realistic with little probability of success are not hopes at all- they’re actually just wishful thinking & pipe dreams!
My hoping to have a million natural hairs on my head & retire with 5 million dollars in the bank are really just fantasies because I have no confidence that I will ever have a million of anything - except wishes!
Real hope is the desire for something with a confident expectation of it happening! As I was working on this message, it occurred to me that hope may be a short single syllable 4 letter word, yet it’s a huge concept.
What is your hope? What do you hope for? Or in whom? Today I’m talking about hope because it’s tied to everything we do in all aspects our lives! It keeps us motivated, inspired & energized. Hope gives us a real reason for getting out of bed & slaying the dragons everyday.
Hope is an essential part of who we are & hope to be! & in the pursuit of our hopes we find our joy, satisfaction, & contentment. But without hope, we’re stuck! That Rubber Plant ain’t going no-where! I’ve been witnessing anxiety attacks, people with long term sobriety return to their drugs & alcohol, unrepentant hostility & rebelliousness, & I’ve hears of suicides.
If there’s no hope what we do is pointless. If there’s no hope for a relationship, why bother with it? Without hope ambition disappears! Without hope of succeeding, we won’t strive to overcome adversities… without hope, we have no reason or incentive for living. Without hope, we won’t discover the true purpose in our lives or reach our full potential & become all that God wants us to be!
Hopelessness is toxic & lethal & breeds anger, depression, despair. & even worse; it can irritate our spouses! BTW- just as deadly as hopelessness is negative & destructive hope from those who would cut off their noses to spite their face!
You know, those who hope that a person blows it, ‘cuz it’ll make ‘em look better”, or “hope that person gets canned so they can get their job!” Or “hope that person fails, because they didn’t like them, or what they were doing!”
The truth is hope is vital - especially when we live in what seems to be hopeless times! & where we place our hope is critical because it’s life altering & defining. Where we place our hope affects every part of life.
If we place our hope in people, places or things, we’ll surely be disappointed! Without a rock solid foundation, all our other hopes are on shaky ground & we can’t discover the true purpose in our lives
Our hope must be based on something solid, consistent, unfailing & secure; the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, & forever! You‘all know where I am going with this- there’s only 1 in whom we can confidently place our hope with an eternal guarantee of success. We read in Ps 62:5-6 NCV I find rest in God; only he gives me hope. He is my rock & my salvation. Jesus Christ is my Rock & my Salvation.
Hope is threaded thru-out Scripture & is actually the Bible’s core & foundational message to us! But hope requires trust. So we trust in God because He’s the source of all hope. He’s our Hope-lifter.
& hope is God’s gift to us. Hope helps us imagine a better future. King David understood where hope springs from as he writes: Ps 42:5-6 NIV Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior & my God.
But right now, many would have us believe that our only hope is in the plans & designs of men- that they have the answers & cures for what ails us. They couldn’t be more wrong. Humankind has no answers.
So if you want to realistically forego floating around in hurt, confusion & frustration, then purposely place your hope 1st & foremost on the Hope-lifter instead of on earthly things that are physical & temporary.
For me, when I’m able to place my hope back in & on God, my soul’s no longer downcast. I’m able to continue on in the journey, trudging the happy road of destiny & grow in spiritual reliance, trust & hope in God!
None are impervious to losing hope... not even the Apostles who walked with Jesus! In Matthew 19, Jesus shared with His disciples how hard it was to get into heaven when hope is misplaced… it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! Let’s get to our main passage in Mt 19:16-26 NIV
Now a man came up to Jesus & asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only 1 who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father & mother, & 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions & give to the poor, & you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished & asked, Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them & said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
Jesus isn’t condemning the wealthy here! There’s nothing wrong with having money unless those riches take priority over your relationship & obedience to God. The point was the young man’s hope was in temporary physical things & this misplaced hope meant he had no trust in Jesus!
Hope & trust are like another Frank Sinatra song: Love & Marriage! Love & Marriage! Go together like a horse & carriage! Let me tell you brother! You can’t have 1 without the other!
In the Needlemanese translation of these passage the disciples asked: if there’s no chance or hope, why bother? Jesus replied No chance or hope if you think you’re the great & powerful Oz! But every chance if you place yourselves in God’s hands! When we turn all things over to God, we’ll see God in all things.
Moving on - Hope is always future based yet we often limit our hope to just our lifetime. The APaul advises us that our hope must also extend into eternity in 1 Co 15:19 NIV If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. The Apostle Peter assures us of this confident expectation in:
1 Pe 1:3-5 TLB …Now we live in the hope of eternal life because Christ rose again from the dead. & God has reserved for his children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure & undefiled, beyond the reach of change & decay. & God in his mighty power, will make sure that you get there safely to receive it because you are trusting him.
So, be assured that, as Believers, things will work out… just not in our time frame! But you can have that confident expectation! & as faithful & humble servants, we also win the grand prize: a glorious & awesome eternal life in heaven, the reward for completing the race of living the Christian life.
The hope that everything’s gonna work out in the end makes it easier to accept & get past the troubles, trials, tribulations, tempests & temptations! & the frustrations we experience when life’s not going our way! We read in:
Ro 8:20-25 NIV For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay & brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Holy Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 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.
So let me encourage you to wait patiently & endure & live your lives according to the Lord’s hopes for us! His hope for us is to grow in obedience, grace & knowledge of Him! And if we focus on that, the Holy Spirit, who is with us & within us, will be right there helping us to live closer to Christ!
Eph 2:12-13 TLB Remember that in those days you were living utterly apart from Christ; you were enemies of God's children, & he had promised you no help. You were lost, without God, without hope. But now you belong to Christ Jesus, & though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought very near to him because of what Jesus Christ has done for you with his blood.
When we place our hope in Jesus Christ, our earthly, self-serving hopes are refined, redefined & conformed to an obedient Xian life-style. We don’t stretch the Bible to conform to our desires & fantasies, but align our hopes with God’s direction for us.
When we do, a much higher level contentment & satisfaction will surely follow closely behind, even during life’s issues & problems that God allows us to endure; to endure for our own benefit to draw us into a deeper relationship & dependency on Him. Don’t waste these times of peril!
Scripture reminds us of why we get the opportunity to go through them: Ro 5:2-5 NIV …we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; & character, hope. & hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Placing our hope in Christ is only the beginning of our walk as believers. & hope is the prescription for when we find ourselves distracted from serving God because of the troubles, trials, tribulations, tempests & temptations, or any of the myriad of our other addictions, it’s hope that helps us let go & let God, then trust God & get going!
Hope is as necessary to the human spirit as oxygen is to the physical body & it’s in the hope that God has a better plan for our lives that we seek to be sanitized & disinfected of worldly & ungodly behaviors. It’s in hope that we seek to avoid a life not dragged down by distraction & sin.
Listen to what the Apostle John writes about this in: 1Jn 3:2-3 NIV Dear friends, now we are children of God, & what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he [Christ] is pure.
But, w/o hope it is easy to get dragged down & be overcome with feelings of purposelessness that can destroy our very lives. But we are not without hope as 2 Cor 4:9 affirms:
2 Co 4:8-9 BBE Troubles are round us on every side, but we are not shut in; things are hard for us, but we see a way out of them; We are cruelly attacked, but not without hope; we are made low, but we are not without help;… As believers our hope is built on a solid foundation.
All life is based on some type of hope, but the Xian life especially so because we have greater hope as the children of God. So, hopefully, our hope doesn’t arise from our own desires or wishes--- but from God, who is Himself our Hope-Lifter!
Psalms 39:5-7 says: NCV You have given me only a short life; my lifetime is like nothing to you. Everyone's life is only a breath. People are like shadows moving about. All their work is for nothing; they collect things but don't know who will get them. "So, Lord, what hope do I have? You are my hope.
Hope is God’s gift to us. Hope helps us imagine a better future. Genuine hope is not wishful thinking, but a confident expectation about the future plans God has for us! But, it’s a choice to place our hope in Jesus, it’s a choice to seek Him. It’s a decision! It’s a decision to come into a relationship with Him, & to daily seek that relationship & grow in Spiritual & Emotional maturity! I hope that you make that decision daily!
And make sure to spread your Hope... because that’s part of God’s hope for His Children!.
Be blessed this day.