Peninsula Community Church
The Power of Hope
April 8, 2012
1 Peter 1:3-5 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
As we gather to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, I recognize that one of the greatest issues facing people today is fear. Fear is one of those emotions that can bind us and hold us back from accomplishing what we need to do and it negates our joy and peace.
Fear is generated when there is a concern that our happiness, our health or our future will be negatively affected. One of the ways that I can illustrate this is one of the adventures I had with my car as a teenager. I admit that I drove much faster than I should have. This included one evening that we were headed to the local high school’s baseball game. I was following a group of cars in front of me (and they were all clipping at a good deal of speed) when a car pulled out in front of me suddenly stopped because the light had turned red. I immediately locked up the brakes and slid through a gas station. In fact, I slid all the way past the service station and stopped on the road that was perpendicular to the service station. When I looked up the light was green, I put on blinker, turn right and kept going for about a mile when I had to pull over and gather myself. In that moment, my thoughts were that my future had been at risk and that I was very fortunate that I had not hit one of the gas pumps. Needless to say, the rest of the trip I drove at a reasonable speed. So fear can be a good thing but too often fear can be something that binds us and holds us back from accomplishing what we need to.
I would suggest that there are four fears that can drive us to either go into neutral or do things that only serve to hurt and hinder us:
The first of these is financial fear. As we look around us there are certainly enough issues to cause us fear. Rising gas prices (now $3.93 per gallon), devalued home prices, decreased wages, and increased cost of living are bringing fears about what the future will hold. What we once trusted financially cannot longer be trusted to bring about happiness and that might be a good thing.
Secondly, many are filled with political fear. Many are fearful about the future of this nation as so many of the freedoms that we held dear are being eroded. Congress and state legislatures are attempting to control what we eat, what we drive, and so on and so on. People, today, do not trust the government to protect them and to assure the pursuit of happiness which by the way cannot be legislated although they may try. This is borne out best by the fact that the current congress has less than a 12% approval rating and an 85% disapproval rating (this includes both democrats and republicans). But the fact is that people have allowed this to occur because they have turned to the government to do what only God can do. They now expect the government to provide their every need.
Thirdly, many are filled will physical fear. We are afraid because of the doctor’s reports that gave us bad news. We are afraid that we will be sick in the future. We are fearful about a negative report on crime or that a sexual offender is loose in Selbyville.
Fourthly, we have relational fears as we do not know if our friendships will be intact in the future. We no longer trust another person’s words because we are no longer people of our word. We are afraid that contracts will be broken and our marriages will disintegrate.
As I was preparing this Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote about fear at his first inaugural address, came to mind. He stated: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” What he was saying is that we will not allow fear to cause us to retreat rather than advance and succeed.
Enough on fear as I propose to you that the answer to fear is hope. And today, we celebrate that hope in the person of Jesus. I propose to you that one of the problems we face is that we don’t fully understand what hope means to us.
Our definition or definition of hope is too often founded in “a desire for some future thing which we are uncertain about?” When we speak of hope we are hoping that something will occur such as we hope that our favorite baseball team will play well this year (the Orioles, the Phillies, the Nationals, the Yankees and yes even the Red Sox’s) and go to the World Series. You may hope that relative you are having a problem will change…. You hope you will have enough money to retire.
But, the New Testament’s definition of hope is “a full assurance, or strong confidence that God is going to do good to us in the future.” Any other words this hope is not based on physical things but on a promise from the Lord. At least a couple of scriptures come to mind here:
- I know the plans I have for you…. Is a common verse that is quoted but there is more to the verse. Listen to the entire passage in Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
- Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
This definition of hope makes the resurrection even more important. What does the Resurrection teach us about hope? If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). The Resurrection brings with it a full assurance and confidence that God is going to do good for us in the future.
You see no matter what happens today there is a tomorrow on the horizon. “We can know that all things will work out for our good because God is in control” (Romans 8:28). The problem with fear is, when we fear what will happen tomorrow, we will subconsciously what to satisfy the pleasures of the self without regard to consequences of those decisions. We will begin to live by the motto: “Eat, Drink and Be happy because tomorrow I die.”
- The trials we face now cannot be compared to what is in store for us in heaven. “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)
- Christ through his death and resurrection has defeated every foe and has conquered death for us all.
The assurance of hope comes only to those who have a relationship with Christ.