Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 07, Jul 2016
Scripture Reading: Romans 4:18-21
‘Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.’ What can we learn from this portion of scriptures?
1. The importance of hope
The scripture here enlightened us that Abraham believed in hope. Hope is essential to life. What oxygen is to the lung, hope is to life. Life has meaning when there is hope. When hope is lost everything is lost. We all need hope! Hope gives us a reason to get up in the morning. Hope gives us direction for our lives. Hope gives us a positive outlook on life. Hope gives us something to reach for. Hope motivates us to keep going. Without hope we will give up.
A school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their school work during stays in the city’s hospitals (that means even a child is in hospital, a teacher will be assigned to assist the child in the school work). One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child. She took the child’s name and room number and talked briefly with the child’s regular class teacher. “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now,” the regular teacher said, “and I’d be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn’t fall too far behind.” The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain. Shocked at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, “I’ve been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs.” When she left she felt she hadn’t accomplished much. But the next day, a nurse asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize. “No, no,” said the nurse. “You don’t know what I mean. We’ve been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. It’s as though he’s decided to live.” Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”
Hope can and must be a vital part of your life. There are three classes of hope; no hope, false hope, true hope. Pastor Abner Batan shared a powerful message last Sunday. He said that there are overlooked truth even for Christian. Truth is original information. To obtain original information we have to go back to God. Everything God says is original. Then he gives the importance of knowledge, faith and experience. When we have right knowledge, it will lead to genuine faith and experience. Wrong knowledge will produce false faith and bad experience. Likewise linking this teaching to our message today, true hope (correct knowledge) will produce genuine faith and exciting experience. God is the God of hope and we are told to hope in God. Our hope is not no hope, false hope but true hope. How is true hope sustained? Answer: trust the right thing — God. And knowledge of true hope will provide genuine faith leading to exciting experiences.
2. Human hope as against biblical hope
Dictionary.com defines hope as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. That is the secular definition of hope. Or we call it the human hope. Christian Hope is not a human hope. It is not “I hope my team wins the PBA or “I hope I get a salary raise.” Biblical hope is not a hope-so but it is a know-so. It isn’t wishing for the best. It isn’t waiting to see what happens and hope that it turns out well. Hope is not a feeling or an emotion. Hope is the knowledge of facts. If someone says to you that “I hope you have a good day,” that is human hope. There is no guarantee that the day will go well.
But biblical hope is different. To have a biblical hope is to have a sure anchor of the soul, not hoping for rain because the forecast says that there is a 60% chance of rain and you hope that you get your garden watered. That is not hope…that is wishful thinking and it is utterly undependable and has no power to bring anything to pass. Human hope pales in comparison to biblical hope. Paul may give us the best example of biblical hope in Romans chapter 8. I am sure you encounter hopelessness as new believers and even among experienced Christians and there is doubt about your deliverance. In Romans 8:24-25 Paul tells the believer, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” because “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom 8:31)? If God is on your side, how sure is that hope! I believe that every Christian has gone through or will go through a dark night of the soul where deep doubts and fears flare up but extinguishing those fears is as simple as staying in the Bible faithfully, day by day. Because that hope is a hope in God and that hope is anchored in the Word of God. You can extinguished any fear by your hope in God and being anchored in the Word God.
Biblical hope is often the idea of waiting for, looking for, desiring, to look to the future with eager, confident expectation, which calls for one to exhibit patience.
3. Hope in God
Our hope is in God. There is no hope in mankind, circumstances, or in any other thing in the universe. Look at the brutality of ISIS. Pastor James is entering into a 100 days fast with a group of pastors because his spirit told him that something bad will strike Singapore. In the month of June when my daughter joy was with Jan I heard she was transiting turkey international airport. Pastor Lily and I were kind of worried. She assures us that turkey is safe and turkey airline is voted the second best airline in the world. Well 2 week later the airport was bombed. Maybe you are sucked up in a hopelessness that envelops you. You feel there is no hope in life for you, no hope in depending on others and no hope in circumstances and the reading of the news in this world made you feel even more hopeless. Yes there is no hope in mankind, circumstances, or in any other thing in the universe. But we have hope in God. Hopelessness is a curse; it’s the curse of trusting in man or in anything other than God and his perfect wisdom and timing. Despair looks at immediate realities; hope sees ultimate realities. Some see a hopeless end, but others see an Endless Hope.
4. Hope on the promises of God’s word
Our hope is on the promises of God’s word. But biblical hope is not just a hope that is a hope in God that all will be well but it is also a hope in the promises of God concerning you. This hope in the promises of God is given to every believers and it adds adventures and growth in the Christian walk. Hope looks forward with desire and reasonable confidence and expectation. Our hope is not wishful thinking, or a vague aspiration. The Bible is full of hope. Biblical hope is a confident expectation based on solid certainty. Hope is an expectation that rests on the sure promises of God.
The best example is the story of Abraham. Abraham hope in God’s word.
Of course during Abraham’s time, he doesn’t have the written word of God. He heard the word of God through 3 angels which visited him. I believed when the word was spoken to him, an energy surged through his whole being. He knew it was a promise from God to him. Today we have the written word of God. There are 66 books in the bible. There are 23,145 verses in the Old Testament and 7,957 verses in the New Testament. This gives a total of 31,102 verses. You may not have 3 angels that appear to you and gives you the promises of God. But I am very sure that when you read certain passages, certain verses, the word becomes alive like a spoken word, an energy surged through your being and you knew at that time it was a promise of God to you. Even as I am relating to you right now, the word is appearing again before you mind. Your experience may not be as dramatic as Abraham, but it is still likewise God’s word and promises to you. As Abraham hope in God’s word, likewise you are reminded to hope in God’s word. This hope is God’s word changes everything. You lived your life literally hoping on God’s word. To be more specific, you lived your life literally hoping on the promises of God. As I ponder over this sermon, I lived my life and am still living my life literally hoping on the promises of God’s word to me. Literally you manifested boldness through hope. What keeps you going? Hope. A hope and a future. Hold on to that hope.
Abraham’s hope is in a person. That person is God, the Father, Christ, the Son, God, the Holy Spirit. He is the hope of all people. Christ is the hope of the world without hope. The life in Christ is an endless hope. Without Christ it is a hopeless end.
There are two essential elements of hope for Abraham. Firstly it is believe and hope. It is so easy to not believe. The same thing goes for you. It is so easy to disbelieve God’s word of hope for you. I mean there is no reason at all to believe. Abraham is already 75 years old and by the time the promise come to pass he was 100 years old. Sarah was 90. There is no reason to believe he will have a child. Likewise there is no reason to believe God’s word for you. The second element is wait and hope. Now this is the hardest part. For Abraham he waited for 25 years. The idea of hope is often the idea of waiting, looking for, desiring, to look to the future with eager, confident expectation, which calls for one to exhibit patience. I repeat the hardest thing about hope is the waiting. And there are three kind of waiting:
Anxious, angry waiting
Passive peaceful waiting
Hopeful productive waiting.
I want to be very honest. I manifest the anxious angry waiting. At times it can be frustrating waiting. In waiting we tend to take things into our own hand. When plan A failed, we turned to plan B. But we thank God that Abraham went back to Plan C which is getting back to God and believing again. We can hope against hope because God’s promises rest on His grace, not our perfection. The greatness of Abraham was not moral perfection, but in getting back to God and believing again. One of the most challenging exhortations of Scripture is “Wait.” God is never in a hurry… but He is always on time! Now how to find hope within the hoping.
To cultivate hope is to live in anticipation of what God is going to do next.
1. FACE THE FACTS (Rom 4:19).
“…he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead …”
2. DEAL WITH YOUR DOUBTS (20a).
“Yet he did not waver through unbelief…”. Tell God you are worry when you have doubt and even ask him to help you in your unbelief.
3. PONDER THE PROMISES OF GOD (20b).
“…regarding the promise of God.” Think over the promises of God. Ponder, remember, meditate on the scriptures.
4. FORTIFY YOUR FAITH (20c).
“…but was strengthened in his faith…”
5. GIVE GLORY TO GOD (20d).
“…and gave glory to God.”
6. COMMIT YOURSELF TO THE CHARACTER OF GOD (21).
“Being fully persuaded that God has power to do what He had promised.
Link Your Hope to the God Who Is Not Done with you
God was not done when Noah was in the boat, Sarah was barren, Joseph was in prison, Moses was on the run from Pharaoh, the children of Israel were pinned against the Red Sea, the walls of Jericho blocked possession of the promised land, Gideon was hiding from the Midianites, Samson was seduced by a woman and blinded, Ruth was widowed, David was mocked as a boy facing a giant, Job’s children were all killed, government officials persecuted Daniel, Jonah was in the belly of a fish, Paul couldn’t get rid of this thorn, and Jesus was put in the grave. God is not done!
Your Hope is not an undone hope because he is not done with you yet
But you say
I’m not perfect. I have all kinds of problems. I have no ability. I have no gifts. I’m just not worthy. Why would God want me?
Well, did you know that
David’s armor didn’t fit.
John Mark deserted Paul.
Timothy had ulcers.
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.
Jacob was a liar.
David had an affair.
Solomon was too rich.
Jesus was too poor.
Abraham was too old.
David was too young.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
John was self-righteous.
Naomi was a widow.
Paul was a persecutor of the church.
Moses was a murderer.
Jonah ran from God’s will.
Miriam was a gossip.
Gideon and Thomas both doubted.
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.
Elijah was burned out.
John the Baptist was a loudmouth.
Martha was a worry-wart.
Noah got drunk.
Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?
So did Peter, Paul – well, lots of folks did.
Sure, there are lots of reasons why God should have been done with us. But if we are in love with Him, if we hunger for Him, He is not done with us in spite of who we are, where we’ve been, what we have done, or the fact that we are not perfect!