HOPE        

 

                                Read: Romans 15:4-6 & 13 

        

             Sometimes we come to a place where our zeal for God is

         gone. Our soul is stagnant. We donít have any more strength

         to face things.

        

         When we get like this itís not necessarily because we

         committed some gross secret sin or because weíre physically

         exhausted. Many times this inner flatness of soul comes

         to us simply because weíve neglected one of the basic

         gifts God gave us when He brought us into His Kingdom.

        

         When God brings a man or woman to His Son and causes them

         to be born again of His Spirit, that person immediately

         is given three gifts ó basic to every other gift talked

         about in scripture.

        

         First, that person is given faith ó the power to see the

         unseen and hold on to it. None of us has ever seen Jesus

         with these eyes of flesh. Yet, there are people in this

         room who are going to willingly die for His name because            

         they have faith. Of course, to keep this gift you have

         to do something with it. If you donít exercise faith it

         gradually fades.

        

         Secondly, God gives to the believer the power to love

         other people the way God loves.

        

               Love is of God and he who loves is born

               of God and knows God.

        

         What the believer does with this power to love deter-

         mines whether he grows up into the likeness of Jesus

         Christ or whether he degenerates into an empty shell,

         a fruitless branch that will be thrown into the fire.

        

         But there is a third gift, a very important and often

         neglected one: the gift of hope.

        

               ó The power to look forward and see the goal.

        

               ó The power to hold that vision of heaven even

                    when we have to walk through absolute darkness.

        

         Like the other two gifts, this gift of hope has to be

         nurtured, cultivated, exercised.

        

               If you lose your hope, your faith and love

               will soon go down the drain too.

        

         Many of us have a shaky faith and a dubious love in our

         hearts because our hope is sick, because we have allowed

         our vision of the glory that lies ahead to fade.

        

         When Christian, in Bunyanís Pilgrimís Progress, got to

         the Cross and the burden rolled from his back, he was

         given a scroll with writing on it which he was to read

         as he traveled to the Celestial City. This scroll was

         his hope.

        

         While Christian was climbing up the Hill Difficulty,

         he stopped at an arbor half-way up and went to sleep

         and the scroll fell out of his hand. He woke with a

         start, the day was almost spent and he hurried up the

         hill. As he got to the top two men came running toward

         him and warned Christian that there were lions up ahead    

         that would tear him to pieces. It was then that Christian

         reached into his coat for his scroll and it was gone.

         Without that scroll, without this hope Christian knew that

         he couldnít face the lions. So, he climbed down the hill

         to the arbor where he had fallen asleep and looked until

         he found his scroll.

        

         This is exactly what many of us need to do. Somewhere

         along the road we fell asleep and our hope dropped out of

         our hands. We need to go back and find it. We wonít get

         anywhere until we do.

        

         Donít underestimate the gift of Hope which God gave you.

         For itís not hope in some dream that will vanish like

         vapor, itís hope that is anchored to a glory that will

         still be shining when the heavens and the earth have

         passed away.

        

                 Christ in you, the hope of glory.

        

         1. When you have this hope within you, it keeps you from

             settling down in this world.

 

         You have seen a vision of Godís Kingdom that makes you

         an alien and an exile in this world. Now you see every-

         thing in this world as temporary and passing.

        

                     ó Your home.

                     ó Your job.

                     ó Your family.

                     ó Your own body.

        

         When friends beckon you to come and settle you just have

         no heart for it. How can you be content with this vale

         of shadows when you have seen glory? So you press on.

        

         Youíre on your way to a better country.

         Youíre seeking a city whose builder and maker is God.                    

        

         2.  When you have this hope within you, it keeps you from

              getting discouraged.

        

         You canít be discouraged when you see glory up ahead.

        

         People think that they are discouraged by their circum-

         stances. Thatís not true. They are discouraged by the

         absence of hope. When we lose our scroll we can be

         discouraged by a gust of wind.

        

         On the other hand, when we have that scroll, tragedy

         after tragedy can come crashing against our lives and

         somehow we keep going.

        

         Many of us have been careless with this gift of hope.

        

               ó  We have allowed the vision God gave us

                     to tarnish.

        

               ó  We have taken our heart off the vision

                    and let our heart wander around down here

                    in the shadows.

        

               ó We have lost our scroll.

        

         Ah, but how good God is! The minute we start looking,

         He helps us to find it. In Bunyanís story, Christian

         knew that it was God who helped him find his scroll so

         quickly.

        

         And how quickly Jesus restored hope to the despairing

         Peter.

        

               Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me?....

               Feed my sheep.

        

         When Stephen was about to be stoned to death, the Spirit

         pulled back the veil and enabled Stephen to see glory.

        

               ďBehold I see the heavens opened and the Son

               of Man standing at the right hand of God.Ē

        

         And that vision of glory sustained him even as the rage

         of an angry mob closed in on him and killed him.

        

         So God sustains our hope by enabling us to taste glory

         again and again.

        

               ó Itís not a feeling.

               ó Itís not a matter of sight or touch,

        

         but a beholding with our spirit, in the blazing light of          

         Godís Spirit, the Christ who is the hope of glory and who

         is in us.

        

                 1. We need to be tasting glory in the scriptures.

        

                        ď...that by steadfastness and by the

               encouragement of scriptures we might

               have hope.Ē

        

         Many believers havenít begun to taste glory in the

         scriptures. Theyíre missing the most important reason

         why the scriptures have been preserved to us. The

         scriptures are the witness of ordinary people like our-

         selves, weak people, elfish and sinful people, whose lives

         had never- the-less been visited by Godís glory and

         changed by that  glory.

        

         Whether youíre reading the testimony of Moses, Isaiah,

         or the Virgin Mary, or Peter, in every case glory from

         beyond this world came to them. The glory of the only

         begotten of the Father somehow broke into their darkness

         and spoke to them. And when you open this book and read

         the witness of these people, their word is confirmed.

        

               The same Christ who shone upon them starts

               shining upon you afresh.

        

         You enter their world and you find yourself looking out

         across a timeless gulf and beholding the glory of the

         living God shining down on His Son and blazing out to

         you and quickening your whole being.

        

         When you go to the scriptures daily --- and I doubt if a

         person is serious with God who doesnít go to them daily.

        

         Donít be satisfied,

        

         ó     until you start tasting glory,

         ó     until you begin to breathe the atmosphere

                                       of heaven,

        

         as you read the testimony of the prophets and apostles

         of the Lord.

        

         2.  We need to be tasting glory through harmony with

             brothers and sisters around Jesus.

        

                  May the God of steadfastness and

                  encouragement grant you to live in

                  such harmony with one another in

                  accord with Christ Jesus.

        

               ó Harmony with brothers arid sisters around

                    Jesus is always a foretaste of glory.

        

               ó Disharmony is always a warning of hell.

        

         How few Christian homes and how few fellowships of be-

         lievers live in harmony with one another in accord with

         Christ Jesus. An occasional half-hour of harmony sand-

         wiched between days and weeks of tension,

                                                             resentment,

                                                             gossip,

                                                             bickering,

                                                             grudges,

                                                             suspicion.

         No wonder we lose our vision!

        

         Do you doubt that God will give us the power to live in

         harmony if we make the slightest effort to get off our

         high horse and repent of our stubbornness?

        

         Do you doubt that God will help us live together and

         work together as brothers and sisters under the cross

         if we are willing to conform our own lives to the mind

         of Christ?

        

         Either we live in harmony with one another in accord

         with Christ Jesus or we give up whatever vision of glory

         we ever had. We lose our hope.

        

         Now if your brother or sister is hard-headed, thatís their

         problem and they will have to do something about it. But

         your brotherís hard-headedness will never destroy your

         hope. If your hope is being destroyed, itís your hard-

         headedness, your jarring spirit, your evil attitude.

        

         And, itís not a matter of making pacts with each other,

         not a matter of endlessly airing our dirty     

         linen in front of each other. Itís not a matter of some

         new technique for probing one anotherís life.

        

               Itís a matter of deciding that whether my

               brothers are nice to me or not, Iím going

               to line my heart up with the heart of the

               Lord and deal with my brothers and sisters

               according to the mind of Christ.

        

         The minute I do, I begin to taste glory. A stream of

         glory begins to flow with healing effect through the Body.

        

         3.  We need to be tasting glory in unified praise.

        

               ....that together you may with one voice

               glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus

               Christ.

        

         Of course itís impossible to praise God with one voice

         when our day-to-day living with each other is marred by

         discord. But once weíre making an effort to live in harmony

         around the Lord, then we get tremendous help and

         encouragement by praising God with one voice.

        

         When Peter and John are released from prison in Acts 4

         and come back to their friends, we read that the believers

         ďlifted up their voices together to God and said.....Ē

         Then follows a beautiful prayer.

        

               Did they pray this prayer in unison?

               Did one man pray?

               How was it done?

        

         It doesnít matter. The point is that they were together

         with their hearts and it rose to God from all of them

         together as if it came from one voice. And as this

         happened, glory visited them and renewed their hope.

        

         When the eleven disciples sang a hymn with Jesus before

         going out to Gethesemane, it rose as one voice. They

         were one in their praises of God around their Lord --- a

         final touch of heaven to help them as they went into the

         most terrible night of their lives.

         

         We need to come out of our stiff self-conscious compart-

         ments and really worship God together. And, as we do,

        

               ó we taste heaven,

               ó our vision is renewed,

               ó our hope is restored.

        

         The believers and fellowships that will survive the days

         ahead will be those whose faith in Jesus and love for one

         another are held together by a blazing hope, who have

         their scroll in their hand and read it as they travel on

         toward the City of God.

        

         The word of the Spirit to this body is that we need to

         renew our vision by constantly tasting glory.

        

               ó We need to be tasting glory in the scriptures.

              

               ó We need to be tasting glory through harmony

                                   with each other.

              

                ó We need to be tasting glory by worshiping God

                                   with one voice.

        

         God will help us find our scroll if we really start

         looking for it.

                

        

                        

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