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A middle age man was on a Caribbean cruise. On the first day out he noticed an attractive woman about his age who smiled at him in a friendly way as he passed her on the deck. That night he managed to get seated at the same table with her for dinner. As the conversation developed, he commented that he had seen her on the deck that day and he had appreciated her friendly smile.  She smiled again and confessed, “Well, the reason I smiled was that when I saw you I was immediately struck by your strong resemblance to my third husband.” At this he perked up his ears and said, “Oh, how many times have you been married?”  She looked down at her plate, smiled demurely, and answered, “Twice.”(—Illustrations Unlimited)  That’s a hopeful woman. A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “Eighteen to nothing–we’re behind.”  “Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.”  “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”  That’s a hopeful little boy. People who are filled with hope by God, walk with great confidence throughout their lives.  I believe that’s what God intends for your life and mine. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Silent Prayer

“May the God of hope fill you.”  God alone is the source of all hope.

It is the God of hope that can fill us with joy and peace.  The Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans had their many gods—gods of war, gods of industry, gods of agriculture, gods of cities, gods of towns, and various others. But in all of paganism’s galaxy of gods, there never was one called “god of hope.”(—Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations) There is only one God of hope because there is only one true and living God.  He is our Source!

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from him… [Psalm 62:5]

If you lack hope today, if you are dealing with feelings of hopelessness, you might need to evaluate where you have been going in order to find hope.  Any source other than the Living God will leave you discontented and anxious because only God can bring hope into our lives. When I contemplate what true success is for the Christian, in almost every instance, in every area of life, the crux of true success is tied to our ability to surrender to Christ.  When we need direction, understanding, help, healing, salvation, and hope, learning to surrender fully to Christ is key.  Did you catch the condition of Romans 15:3?  The God of hope fills us as we trust in Him. Too often, we are looking to the wrong source in obtain the help and hope we need. Rather than “The Source” we often look to our own resources to provide us with the hope that is needed.  We think acquiring money and possessions will provide us with hope and happiness.  Anchoring our hope to money and possessions weighs us down as it anchors us to this world rather than to the world to come in heaven. That’s why we see this caution from I Timothy 6:17:  “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Not only are material possessions uncertain and can be gone or taken in a moment’s notice, I’ve yet to meet anyone whose goal it was to acquire money and material possessions who will say that those things have actually provided them with any lasting hope.  Just look at Hollywood.  If money brought hope why are rich stars dealing with intense loneliness, depression and addiction?  If money brought hope, why do we see stars arrested for shoplifting when they could buy out the store? On the other hand, I know people who live on meager resources who are overflowing with hope because the Living God is their Source. Jeremiah 2:13 summarizes much of our problem today.  My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Israel had wandered from the One the psalmist called “the fountain of life,” and gone after other gods (Psalm 36:9). They had turned to sin and idol worship to satisfy them rather than trust the Lord to supply their needs and be their hope.  Instead of overflowing with hope, they were broken cisterns with leaks and a stagnate life. Many people are looking to broken cisterns today to be their source of hope.  They settle for pretend relationships. They look for intimacy in pornography. They seek thrills vicariously. They try to escape reality. Instead of living water they search for a drug to anesthetize them. They protect themselves from really feeling. They avoid thinking. They exist, but without hope. God wants to fill us with hope to the point that our lives are overflowing with it. Isn’t that awesome?  God does everything with flair.  He doesn’t skimp on anything He does.  He doesn’t look to cut corners or conserve His power and blessing in your life.  He isn’t waiting until He finds a coupon that says “Bless one.  Get a blessing to give away for free.”  He doesn’t have to save up in order to be able to give you something special. John 10:10 says Jesus came to give us an abundant life.  God is a filling to overflowing God! It is Satan who wants you to lack.  He wants you to lack resources.  He wants you to lack peace.  He wants you to lack joy.  He wants to take from you.  His job description in John 10:10 includes thievery.  He wants to rob you of everything God wants to fill you with.  That’s why you have to focus on keeping God as your Source for everything, including your hope. God makes big promises that would sound like pie in the sky if I made the same ones.  He says, He will supply “all of your needs according to His riches in glory.”  (Phil. 4:19) I could supply you with lunch at Wendy’s and maybe Dairy Queen for dessert, but after that, you might be out of luck.  Seems like I hardly have the stick of butter or cup of milk that my nightly recipe is calling for and I have to buy the milk and butter off of my neighbor, Dan Fizer.  J  Just kidding.  He only charges me for every other visit.  J God’s promises are huge because He can pull them off.  I also think His promises are huge because He wants hope to overflow in our lives.  If we believe His promise that He heals our diseases, then hope exists that at any minute we can experience a change in our physical or emotional well being.  If we believe that one day we’ll be free from bodies that break down with sickness, we walk with increasing hope as we walk toward eternity. Something that is overflowing is alive and in constant motion.  Take a river whose banks are overflowing.  Water is overflowing the banks and spilling out over a river bed because it is being displaced by rain pouring into it.  If a cup is overflowing with liquid it is because liquid is continually being poured into it.  Hope is never dead because God Jesus is alive and He is constantly pouring His life into ours!  Turn to your neighbor and tell them you have a living hope! I Peter 1:3-4 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, God, who is the Source of Hope, is willing to constantly fill your life to overflowing.  As you trust in Him, He fills you with overflowing hope.  Do you trust in God to be the One to meet your need for everything? Trusting Him begins with believing Him.  His Word is true and will give you hope.  You can’t read Psalm 119 without seeing the passion, the purpose the writer expresses about his life all because of the Word of God.  He says he has hidden God’s word in his heart.  He says God’s word is a lamp unto his feet.  He talks about loving the Word of God and seeking to follow God’s repeatedly.  He literally sounds like a broken record as he celebrates what God’s word means to him.  Why? Psalm 119:74 tells us.  “For I have put my hope in your Word.” He put all of his eggs in one basket.  He would sink or swim because of the Word of God.  Think of the one thing you don’t think you could live without.  Is it your cell phone?  Your laptop?  Your internet access?  Your hair dresser?  J  For the writer of Psalm 119, it was God’s Word.  He knew that without it, he had no hope. Our culture uses the word hope almost interchangeably with the word wish (“I hope I win the lottery!”). But the Bible defines hope differently: As a confident expectation that God will keep the promises in His Word. The Bible promises… The hope of the resurrection [1 Corinthians 15:20–23] The hope of our glorification [Galatians 5:5] The hope of eternal life [1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 John 2:17] The hope of deliverance [Psalm 33:16–18] The hope of salvation [Ephesians 1:13–14] The hope of the Second Coming of Christ [1 Thessalonians 4:13–14] The hope that in all things God will work for the good [Romans 8:28] If you need to experience a renewal of hope, begin to love the Word of God the way the Psalmist did.  “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” [Romans 15:4] Now, God is a God of blessing, amen?  The fact that God wants to fill us to overflowing suggests that hope is a good and necessary thing to have.  Why do we need it and why does it need to overflow in our lives?
  1. Hope keeps us moving forward. I believe author John Ortberg who said, “We can survive the loss of an extraordinary  number of things, but no one can outlive hope.  When it is gone, we are done.” But with hope, we can endure anything.
(Psalms 16:8-9 NKJV) I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. {9} Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. Keeping the Lord as the Source of our hope, keeping Him always before us keeps us always walking towards Him.  I know when we taught our children to swim we would stand in front of them a few feet and say, “Swim to me.”  They would easily make it to us and then, without them knowing what we were about to do, just after they put their head under the water, we’d take a few steps back and they would push even further and make it to us without any trouble.  Knowing that we were still in front of them gave them the confidence they needed to keep coming towards us. When we set the Lord before us, He holds His arms out to us and knowing that He is in front of us gives us courage to believe we can keep going. Joyce Hollyday tells the story of a school teacher who was assigned to visit children in a large city hospital.  The teacher received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. The teacher took the boy’s name and room number, and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in this class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework, so he doesn’t fall behind the others.” It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized that it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. The teacher felt that she couldn’t just turn around and walk out. And so she stammered awkwardly, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs.” This boy was in so much pain that he barely responded. The young teacher stumbled through his English lesson, ashamed at putting him through such a senseless exercise. The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” Before the teacher could finish her outburst of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him. But ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back; he’s responding to treatment. It’s as if he has decided to live.” The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw the teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears, the boy said: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a boy who was dying, would they?” He had thought he was dying.  He felt like he was dying, but when hope came into that burned boy’s life, he had a renewed sense of purpose and could walk on in the healing process.  (Donald William Dotterer, Living the Easter Faith, CSS Publishing Company, 1994.-Joyce Hollyday) Some of you here this morning may feel like you are dying.  Jesus Christ is here to give you hope to enable you to keep going. Without hope we will lack motivation to do anything.  In a Peanut’s cartoon Lucy and Linus were sitting in front of the television set when Lucy said to Linus, “Go get me a glass of water.” Linus looked surprised, “Why should I do anything for you? You never do anything for me.” “On your 75th birthday,” Lucy promised, “I’’ll bake you a cake.” Linus got up, headed to the kitchen and said, “Life is more pleasant when you have something to look forward to.” When you have hope, you’re willing to get up and go do something!
  1. Hope is an antidote to fear and worry.
In his book “It’s Not About the Bike,” renowned cyclist Lance Armstrong writes these words about hope: “Hope is the only antidote to fear.” Whether he realized it or not, Armstrong stated a biblical truth. So many of us spend a lot of our time listening to our fears and worries about the future. We do have a lot we could worry about — our family members, our future plans, our relationships, our dreams, our struggles, our financial situations, our physical bodies, our needs — the list is endless. There’s a true story about a time Stonewall Jackson had planned a daring attack. One of his generals fearfully objected saying, “I am afraid of this,” and, “I worry that.…” Jackson’s answer to his general is still great advice for us today. He put his hand on his worrisome general’s shoulder and said, “General, never take counsel from your fears.” For most of us, there are usually deeper questions behind our fears and worries: Does God have my best interest at heart? Can I trust God to take care of me? Is God truly good? Jeremiah 29:11 answers this question emphatically: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I love the story about the boy and his father who were planning a fishing trip for the next day. That evening as the father was putting his son to bed, the boy hugged his father’s neck and said, “Daddy, thank you for tomorrow.” (by Vernon O. Elmore)  What great hope!  Whatever the father has planned will come to pass. God wants you to win. He’s designed a plan for you to win. He’s made a way for you to win. He’s laid a path before you that will lead you to victory. He’s given you His Word as a lamp to light the way. The Holy Spirit will live inside of you prompting, teaching, leading and interceding for you so you can win. God has already constructed a mansion for you in Heaven. He’s already set a place for you at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Jesus is ever defending your innocence before the Father in Heaven. How can you lose?  Don’t worry.  Live in hope! Christian, you have everything to hope for.  God’s special plan for you involves an awesome future and ongoing hope.  Nobody has bigger plans for you than God does.  You never have to live in despair if you are a Christian! You may deal with pain.  You may deal with disappointment.  You may deal with all kind of hardships, but you never have to live in despair as a Child of God.  You will always live and walk in hope. The Apostle Paul is an amazing example of this truth.  In II Cor. 4, he tells in vivid detail how tough things were.  It was like they were going from bad to worse.  He describes being squeezed in by the circumstances of life.  He felt suffocated.  He talked about being perplexed and confused by what was going on.  He listed being persecuted by people and struck down in his list of troubles.  But he says in verse 16, “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” He was anchored to hope in the person of Jesus Christ and for that reason, even though he suffered greatly he never was in despair. I could picture myself in Paul’s shoes and how easy it would be to give up.  Yet Paul experienced exactly the opposite.  It was hope in what he couldn’t see that brought daily renewal in his heart and mind even though his body was in great distress.  In fact, not only did he give in to fear and worry, but hope gave him the kind of perspective on his horrific circumstances that enabled him to call them “light and momentary troubles.”  Just a speed bump in the road.  That’s all.  That’s the kind of power hope gives us that will keep us from fear and anxiety even though our circumstances would call for both!
  1. Hope will get us back up when we fail. Jeremiah had every reason to despair.  Like Paul, he had been through some tough stuff.  Chapter three of Lamentations describes the difficulties Jeremiah had gone through as he identified with Judah who had forsaken God.  But even at his lowest point, there was something that turned his mind around.  It was hope!
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Hear me this morning church.  There is nothing you can do that will go beyond the great love and compassion of God.  You don’t have to be consumed by failure.  You can wake up every day and obtain a clean slate and fresh start!  The fact that God will always be faithful to you, to forgive you and to help you is the hope you need to get back up when you fail. No matter how far you’ve fallen, God’s compassion never fails. Pretty much, the entire Bible is an example of how God uses flawed and fallen people for great things: From Moses to David to Thomas, Peter and Paul.  What makes that possible?  The unfailing love, mercy and compassion of our God of hope. Psalm 65 3 When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. 5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. Some of you are here this morning and you have bought the lie that you’ve sinned beyond where the grace of God can redeem you.  Some of you believe you have been such a disappointment to you family that nothing can be different, you can’t change or you can’t get right with God.  Put your hope in Christ and start over. Everyone of us here this morning has a choice.  We can take heart or we can lose heart.  Jesus said we could “Take heart, because he has overcome the world.”  (John 16:33) We either believe Him or we don’t.   We either trust Him or we don’t.  Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Maybe for someone it is time to dig in to God’s Word and start hiding it in your heart.  Maybe you’re stuck.  You’ve quit making progress, spiritually, relationally, financially or in your career.  People who are filled with hope don’t accept status quo living.  Hope compels them to move forward and make progress.  Maybe fear and worry are dominating your life.  Instead of living with the hope your future is secure you are nervous, anxious and fearful about what lies ahead.  Maybe you’re here and you have blown it.  You’re entangled in something you don’t think you could get out of or you don’t think God would forgive you for.  God has hope for you that can help you get back up and get right with Him.  He isn’t here to pounce on you and pummel you, but to give you grace and cover your sin. Respond in faith this morning and let the God of hope fill you with overflowing hope as you trust in Him.
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