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Synopsis of What Will He Find When He Comes
Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from:
Luke 18:1-8 The proud Pharisee ‘prayed’ this prayer: ‘Thank God, I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t commit adultery, 12 I go without food twice a week, and I give to God a tenth of everything I earn.’ 13 “But the corrupt tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed, but beat upon his chest in sorrow, exclaiming, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home forgiven! For the proud shall be humbled, but the humble shall be honored.”
Every pastor has been touched and troubled when there have been those in the congregation who suddenly have faced unemployment. Like an ambush from two sides, unemployment attacks us with the fear of financial insecurity on the one side and the loss of self-esteem on the other. Job searching can deepen both. In just such a moment I encountered Brian. He is a competent and creative person whose skills and personality cannot be long overlooked. “It will work out, Brian,” I said. “God does provide.” “I hope so!” he replied. From the inflection of his voice, I knew he did not “expect” so.
One is reminded of Lucy’s encouragement to Charlie Brown in one of the Peanuts cartoons. “Look at it this way, Charlie Brown,” she consoles. “These are your bitter days. These are the days of your hardship and struggle …” The next frame goes on: “… but if you just hold your head up high and keep on fighting, you’ll triumph!” “Gee, do you really think so, Lucy?” Charlie asks. As she walks away Lucy says: “Frankly, no!”
Hope is like that. We speak of it more often than we believe in it. Hope is not a strong word for us. It has more to do with “wishing” than “expecting.” It has the sound of resignation, an inability to bring about, influence, or even believe that a desired event or goal might ever come to be. “Well, I hope so” has in its whimsical sound the same negation of the words that we hear in the sarcastic “Sure it will!” or “Well, I guess!”
Hope, as we understand it, is not a word of excitement and expectation. It speaks of resignation and helplessness. “Well, I hope so …” How then can we understand the New Testament’s strong use of the word? Repeatedly Paul writes about hope. To the Thessalonians he writes of the armor of God, including the “hope of salvation” as a helmet. To the Colossians he writes of the “hope laid up in heaven,” and of the “hope of glory.” Peter writes in his first letter that “We have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, held in heaven for you.”
Given our understanding of the word, shivers run up our spines as we think about it. “Is that all we have?” we want to shout. “Is ‘hope’ all we have after all? Just … hope?”
We have: A Hope That Does Not Disappoint Us
How differently the Bible uses our word. Rather than resignation, the word bristles with excitement and expectation. It is for the writers of both the Old and New Testaments a strong word filled with encouragement. Consider Paul’s words to the Christians at Rome:
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us. Romans 5:2-5
So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, in the balance of this message we will discuss:
A Hope That Does Not Disappoint Us
A Hope Deferred
A Parable Of Reassurance
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