Last time I spoke to you we talked about faith and saw that believing the unseen is absolutely vital to spiritual faith because God is the unseen God. In Hebrews 11:1 we see that hope is another aspect of faith in the unseen or the future. Hope is faith directed to the future.
Hope in the secular sense is the expectation of good. Christian hope goes beyond that to the expectation of God and Christ. I believe that God not only worked in the past and is working in the present, but will work in the future for his glory and my blessing. He has made promises to that effect. Believing in those promises and having a sureness that they will unfold, and that I choose to invest in them is what the Bible calls hope.
Last time we talked about faith and saw that believing the unseen is absolutely vital to spiritual faith because God is the unseen God. In Hebrews 11:1 we see that hope is another aspect of faith in the unseen or the future. Hope is faith directed to the future.
Hope in the secular sense is the expectation of good. Christian hope goes beyond that to the expectation of God/Christ. I believe that God not only worked in the past and is working in the present, but will work in the future for his glory and my blessing. He has made promises to that effect. Believing in those promises and having a sureness that they will unfold, and that I choose to invest in them is what the Bible calls hope.
There are two great pillars of hope that God calls me to believe in, the hope to be with Christ and the hope to be like Christ.
The Hope To Be With Christ
Romans 8:37–39 assures me that “nothing in all creation is able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Hebrews 13:5–6 assures me similarly: “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you.”Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you forever—the spirit of truth (John 14:16).
These and many other verses assure me that I will be with God forever. When I believe and act upon these promises, I am hoping in God, hoping in Christ.
This hope to be with Christ can be divided into three parts: Hope for heaven, hope for Christ’s return, and hope to walk with Christ tomorrow.
Hope for Heaven
What happens when I die? The believer hopes in the promise of God that Christ promised for us. Our bodies go to the grave and remain there until the resurrection, but our souls and spirits rise to be with the Lord. So Paul could say with assurance, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body, and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Jesus has gone into heaven to prepare a place for us. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1–2).
This hope for heaven has helped many believers to be willing to give up their present lives for Jesus, and to be martyred. It has afforded many believers a great peace about their last breath, because they know they are not facing the dark unknown, but rather the loving arms of Jesus open to receive them home.
What about you? Are you hoping to be with the Lord in heaven? Are you longing for your heavenly home? This is your manifest destiny if you are a child of God.
As Lew pointed out last week, it is the true reality. This world is passing away, but heaven is forever. Some of you remember Harry Blair, a brother who was at Oakridge and shared the word with us. He stood here and raised a thin pencil. This width represents all of recorded time. Now look from this wall to that wall, he said. That is a picture of eternity.
Even though we face troubles in this time on earth, we will have all of eternity with Jesus. It will be a place of rest, a place of reward, a place of recreation, but best of all, of relationship. We will be with the most wonderful person forever, with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.
Believers who are strong in hope have a longing for heaven that grows and grows.
Hope for Christ’s Return
Let me finish the verses in John 14. Jesus says in verse 3: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Scripture calls this the blessed hope. “While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Why is this called the blessed hope? It is because those believers who experience this event in their bodies will not have to go through death. They will be changed in an instant to have resurrection bodies without experiencing the grave. How wonderful is that?
There is a fuller description of this wonderful event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words.”
When will this happen? We don’t know. But we do know that there will be signs of his impending return. And those signs are upon us today. Never in the history of the world has there been such a gathering of signs of Christ’s return.
We don’t know the day or the hour but the Lord wants us to watch and wait, to hope for his return.
Dear brother and sister, do you hope for Christ’s return?
I remember a medical student and his wife visiting Chitokoloki as part of his medical course. They were believers and we had some great conversations about medicine, but also about the Lord. I shared with him this teaching on the Lord’s return and he replied, “I don’t want him to come yet. I want to graduate from medical school first. I want to practice for a few years. We want to have some children first, and see them grow up.”
But as we looked into the word we saw that all these hopes, good as they were in themselves, were keeping him from hoping in the Lord first, and he changed his mind. In fact, it is a measure of our love for the Lord that we desire his return above all else. To desire other things above seeing Jesus amounts to idolatry. In fact, there is a special reward in heaven for those who have longed for his appearing.
But what if I don’t die and go to heaven tomorrow, and what if the Lord doesn’t come tomorrow? Is there a hope for tomorrow? Yes.
The Hope to Walk With Jesus Tomorrow
Jesus promises his people thus: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
What do you see in your day for tomorrow?Well, it is Monday and back to the routine, if anything can be routine during Covid. But perhaps there is a medical appointment and you fear the result. Perhaps things are difficult at work and you fear being laid off. Perhaps there is conflict in your marriage or family and you dread things getting worse. Or perhaps you are imagining and planning for a good day.
But, in all these scenarios do you envision Jesus with you? Is he there in your mind’s eye when you face that big exam at school, there to help you and bring you through. That is the practice of Christian hope. It is the anticipation that the Lord will be with me tomorrow and every day in the future.
I spoke of worrying a few weeks ago. I hope you have all repented of it by now. It is a fearful consideration of all that could go wrong with the belief that as long as I keep thinking about those things, the worst won’t happen. But one thing worriers forget to do in include the presence and power of the Lord in their thinking. If they chose to do that, the worrying would cease.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
So, we who want to grow in hope choose to put the Lord in all our tomorrows. Plan on his presence. Expect his power to work for you.
The Hope to Be Like the Lord
“We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him, purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3).
God is righteous, and his Son is pure and holy. Heaven is a holy place for a holy people. God is preparing me for heaven by teaching me to long for righteousness as He is righteous.
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:16).
God gives us his holy word to show us how to be holy, and he give us the Holy Spirit to empower us to be holy. This is one of the chief signs that a person is truly saved. They have a new desire to be holy, to get things right in their life. And that desire grows and develops as they mature in their faith. They have a hope to be godly, to be righteous, as their Saviour is.
Galatians 5:6 puts it this way: “For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.”
One thing that causes a believer to loose hope is moral failure. We stumble and fall, we all do at one point or another. We get discouraged, we become disillusioned and may even drop out of the race. I am sure Peter felt like that when he denied the Lord three times on the night Jesus was arrested. So confident was he that he boasted that even though all others would abandon the Lord, he would not. But he did.
In times like that I need to remember the hope of righteousness. I may fail but the Lord will not fail. Not only does he call me to be holy, but he promises that I will be holy. He says that we will be like him, not maybe, not perhaps if we do well, but we will be like him. It is a sure thing.
Listen to this promise: “For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called, and those he called he also justified, and those he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:29–30).
And again, in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Believers who are strong in hope have a desire for righteousness. They want to be like Jesus. It says of Jesus: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness, therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (Psalm 45:7).
The world has got it all wrong. They think that real pleasure lies in sin. And there are pleasures in sin, but they last a short while and then they turn on you, they bite and devour you. The verse says that Jesus had more joy than anyone because he was holy. God is a joyful God and the closer I am to God the more I experience true and lasting joy.
Do you have that desire for righteousness and holiness? If it is weak, repent. “Lord forgive me. Cleanse me from my sin of not desiring righteousness.” Then choose hope, ask for God to kindle the hope of righteousness in you. Seek for it with all your heart.
When we talked about faith, we discussed three aspects of faith. Faith is a gift, faith is a choice, faith is a discipline. The same applies to hope. Hope is a gift, hope is a choice, hope is a discipline.
Hope is a Gift
If we are weak in hope, the first thing to do is ask for hope. Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7).
Lord, I am weak in hope. I have trouble seeing you in my future. Please give me eyes to see you in every day of my life going forward. I want to know the hope of his calling. Lord, heaven is only a faint dream for me. Please strengthen my view of heaven. Please show me the reality of your coming. Please help me to put you front and centre in all my future plans and dreams.
Hope is a Choice
Lord, I confess that other things occupy my heart more fully than Christ and his kingdom. I long for the things of earth more than for you. Please forgive me. I choose to put you first from now on. I will seek the things above where Christ dwells. I will learn about heaven, the home you are preparing for me. I will learn about your coming again and, like the saints in Revelation, I will pray daily, Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Hope is a Discipline
Lord, my sincere desire is to live in hope, so I will commit myself to you every day. I will live with a sense of urgency as though this is the day of your coming, because I want to be morally well and serving you when you come. And if you do not come today, I will reckon that the only sure thing about tomorrow is that I will be walking with Jesus in the Spirit. Every decision I make in my life will be with the view to advance your kingdom and accomplish your purposes. I don’t want to have regrets about wasted time and opportunities. I want to hear you say, “Well done”, when I see you face to face. And when I stray from this path, Lord please discipline me quickly so that I get back with you. Lord, you are my future and my heart’s deepest desire. Amen.