My sermon for May 4th, the first in a series based on a metaphor we are using to cast vision--an OASIS.
The first letter in OASIS, O, reminds us to OFFER HOPE.
We cannot offer water we do not have. If we are to truly be an "oasis," we must be people who have hope ourselves and are willing to offer it freely to others..
We think of "hope" as a kind of wishful thinking. I hope I get what I want for Christmas, get asked to the prom, lose weight, find my keys, and so on. The Bible speaks of a different kind of hope. The write of the Book of Hebrews says our faith is sure and our hope is certain.
Our world tells us otherwise.
Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ, who through our faith has brought us into that blessing of God's grace that we now enjoy. And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God's glory. We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.
For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
Romans 8: 22-25 from The Message
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
"Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all...As long as matters are hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength." G.K. Chesterton
Why Do We Need to “Hope in God”?
Because is is the only way to hope when things are hopeless. Only God is unchangeable, full of love and compassion and kindness. Discouragement, dryness and frustration often begin with a faulty sense of hope. A person who hopes in God will not be destroyed by hurts from people, because they are not looking to people for their source of satisfaction. If we are dry it may be because we need to place less of our trust in people, things or ourselves and more of our hope in the Lord, the one who promised to never leave or forsakes us.
Paul teaches us how to overcome feelings of tiredness, sadness or hopelessness when he writes, that we wait patiently and confidently!
Things Are Not Yet Right
The earth groans….we do too. Things are not yet made right. People who hope in God have the confident expectation that regardless of what happens, God will love us and sustain us--and some day it will be made right.
Perhaps Paul thought of what David wrote when he was tried and troubled, "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 and my God." (Psa. 42:11)
I once read a children’s story about a man sentenced to death. He obtained a reprieve by assuring the king he would teach his majesty’s horse to fly within the year--on the condition that if he did not succeed, he would be put to death at the end of the year. "Within a year," the man explained later, "the king may die, or I may die, or the horse may die. Furthermore, in a year, who knows? Maybe the horse will learn to fly."
When our hope is in the Lord we are not undone when things do not go our way. Paul in NT and David in OT abounded in hope despite their many trials, attacks and troubles. These men were not like some of us that quickly give into discouragement when faced with adversity. Hope is built upon a confident faith that the Spirit will help us look towards better things to come. Hope visualizes the blessings that come with new life through Christ. Placing our hope in God helps us base our expectation on all the characteristics of God instead of our circumstances or feelings. This is expressed in the hymn, "The Solid Rock." I sang that as my first "special" in church. I was about 11 and my knees knocked together. I was grateful they were concealed behind the pulpit! I loved the song then, and I love it now.
"My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand."*
Water for Our Spirits Brings Fruit in Our Lives
Jesus described himself as LIVING WATER. Paul remembered that our roots of faith reach an inexhaustible reservoir of Christ’s grace, love and hope. When a person is consistently drinking from Christ’s living waters they are not overcome by dry spells (and those will, inevitably, come).
David wrote that those we delighted in God’s words were “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:3) Ezekiel wrote, "By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing." (Ezek. 47:12)
Allow the Lord to help you yield a greater quantity and quality of spiritual fruit as you grow in your hope in God.
Would you like some suggestions about how to refresh your spirit in God? Here are some I find helpful:
Prayer. This includes both talking with God and taking time to become still and peaceful, seeking awareness of God’s presence.
Praise. It is not easy, but if you stop in the middle of despair and praise God, and I mean aloud,
you are making a conscious decision to hope in God.
Read scripture. You knew I would say that, didn’t you? We know it, but we often don’t do it. We turn on the TV, or we send an email, or we eat or any number of things to distract ourselves. The Psalms are especially good for refreshing your spirit.
Listen to music. Since the goal is to refresh ourselves in God, choose carefully what you are listening to. I love to play the works of Bach, a man who wrote music with the express intention of glorifying God. Perhaps you like hymns. Or you can sing along with praise music.
Choose. I mean make choices that are deliberate and positive. Choose to speak in an uplifting, positive manner. Choose words that are hopeful and encouraging. Avoid negative words like a poison. Sometimes you might even need to, as much as possible, avoid negative people.
Remember, attitude is everything. Choose a good attitude. Yes, you can.
There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them. Clare Boothe Luce.
Hopeless is Human, But Jesus Promises Refreshing
Only God gives hope when everything appears hopeless. When people become weary, sick or weak they tend to give up hope. Many are depressed, worried and gloomy. Others are overwhelmed, tired and lonely. Every one of us has experienced those things. It is part of being human.
Paul teaches us that the only way to remain hopeful is to develop a thirsty heart for Christ’s rivers of life. Paul knew what it was like to feel tired, ill and abused, but He wrote, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day." (2 Tim. 1:12)
Hope equips us for what lies ahead. The great apostle realized that no one is able to face the trials of life without hope – it is like a fresh drink of water.
Perhaps you are trying to quench your thirst with some other hope besides the Lord? Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." (Matt. 5:8) Nothing else satisfies like Jesus. Turn your eyes and heart toward Him. Allow the Lord to turn your night to day, your gloom to gladness and your sorrow to singing. Ask the Lord to allow you to grow in your hunger and thirst for righteousness and hope.
A number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope!
Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. If hope holds such power for unthinking rodents, what might it do for us?
Are you feeling hopeless? Are you willing to hope in God? Take a deep drink of God’s hope. At times we may have to wait until our hope is realized, but it is as sure as God’s Holy character and word.
* Edward Mote (1797-1874), "The Solid Rock," 1834: