Pastor Craig Carter
According to the Apostle Paul, “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT)
In our current sermon series, we’ve been looking at these enduring realities. First, we explored how we can ensure these virtues are part of our lives. Now we’re studying how they have their origin in the very character of God.
To put it simply: You and I are to be faithful, hopeful, and loving because God is. Today we’re going to explore the hopeful nature of God.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul prays this prayer, “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 NIV)
Our God is both hope-filled and hopeful.
Those of us who are parents can relate to God’s hopefulness when we consider the hopes and dreams we have for our children.
When they are born, our dreams are lofty ambitions that one day they’ll be President or find a cure for cancer. During their elementary years, our desires become less grandiose as we long for them to get into college, find a good job, and marry a godly man or woman. Then they reach high school age and we simply hope they graduate, don’t get arrested, or that we don’t kill them.
Ultimately, our only desire is that they move out of the house and when they do, we most certainly hope they never move back in!
Our Heavenly Father has hopes and dreams for us as well. As we observed last week, the Lord created us in His image and a part of that divine likeness means we have the ability to choose our own way. God values our free will so much that He rarely, if ever, forces us to do something. He trusts us to do the right thing and He is also hopeful that we will.
So what are some of the choices He hopes we make?
Jesus, God in human flesh, reveals some of God’s hopes and dreams for us as His children. From Jesus’ words and actions, we can identify several of the ways in which the Lord is a hopeful God:
1) God hopes we will repent and believe.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus bursts on the scene with a simple, yet profound, message: “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15b NLT)
In other words, if you and I want to participate in God’s way of doing things, we’ve got to make some changes. First, we have to repent. Literally, this means we must turn around and quit going our own way.
Second, we have to believe. We have to put our trust in God and start doing things His way.
The only way to a relationship with God and fellowship with Him is by making this two-fold movement – turning from our sins and turning to God.
It’s the starting point of the Christian life, but it’s also how we continue in it … by repenting and believing, turning and trusting. It’s a move that God hopes we’ll all make … on an on-going, continual basis.
A few years ago while living in Alabama, I approached a familiar intersection and saw a man standing beside his truck. He was dressed in black from head to toe and was holding a sign that read, “Repent, Christ is coming soon. Repent, repent, repent, in the name of Jesus!”
I immediately made some quick judgments about the man (not altogether positive ones), but as I drove by, he broke out in a wide smile and gave me a friendly wave.
In our world today, we have some negative images of what it means to “repent.”
It seems a bit cold, gloomy, and judgmental, doesn’t it? But when broadcast with a proper attitude (with a smile on our face and love in our heart), it’s exactly what people need to hear and what God hopes all of us will do – repent of our sins and believe the good news of salvation.
When we do those two things, we begin to experience God’s Kingdom – life as the Lord intends it to be lived.
And as Jesus pointed out later in His ministry, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” (Mark 9:23 NLT)
Is there anything in your life that isn’t the way God wants it to be?
He hopes you’ll turn from it and turn to Him in faith so you’ll experience the fullness of His Kingdom that is filled with unlimited possibilities.
2) God hopes we will follow Jesus.
As Jesus began to preach His message of repentance and faith, He encountered two fishermen – Simon and Andrew. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me…” (Mark 1:17 NLT)
A short while later He saw a tax collector: “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to Levi. (Mark 2:14 NLT)
Still later, Jesus universalized His invitation and declared, “If any of you wants to be my disciple, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 NLT)
And then He hoped people would take Him up on His offer.
“Following Jesus” is a key concept in Mark’s gospel. It is mentioned nearly 20 times.
To follow someone means “to go down the same path” or “walk in their footsteps.” God hopes each of us will do exactly that because Jesus shows us how to live and provides us a pathway to truly abundant and eternal life.
In a previous sermon in this series, I talked about an attempt I made several years ago to climb the Grand Teton in Wyoming. I described how we had to cross several glacier fields on the way up the mountain. Four of us were roped together as we journeyed along the icy slope. Our guide and leader was in the front and did what is called, “kicking steps.” Using his boot he would test the stability of the ice and snow and provide a firm, stable platform. Then each of us would step in the exact same place he stepped – trusting in his expertise and confident it was safe/secure and wouldn’t give way.
When we turned and looked back over our path, we saw, not four steps of footprints, but only one because we “followed” our leader and guide.
That’s what following Jesus is all about – walking so in step with Him that our lives are indistinguishable from His.
Sure, we can digress, wander off, and go our own way, but God hopes we will follow Jesus because it’s the way that leads to salvation.
How about you and how about me? Are we walking in Christ’s footsteps? When other people look at our lives would they see a mirror of Jesus’ way of life?
God sure hopes so … but the path we take is up to us.
3) God hopes we will come to Him for help.
Jesus provided healing and deliverance to countless people during His earthly life and ministry. But if you trace Christ’s healing miracles in Mark’s gospel you’ll discover an interesting trend – Jesus didn’t go looking for the sick, they found Him.
As a matter of fact, we’re told that numerous people came to Him and “begged” for His help. He never rebuked them, and on at least a couple of occasions, Jesus prompted them by asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51 NLT)
He hoped those in need would tell Him the truth and, when they did, Jesus provided the help they needed.
How many times have you and I sought Jesus’ help and even “begged” for it?
I think one of the most distressing things parents have to endure is to see their children struggling, but refusing to ask for help. That’s a difficult thing to watch – no matter their age or station in life.
We know we can’t intervene without an invitation (because it’ll be unwelcome) but we long to help, don’t we?
In a similar way, when our Heavenly Father sees us hurting and struggling, His heart breaks and He stands ready, willing, and able to help. Then He waits and hopes that we’ll call on Him and ask for His intervention.
If you have a need in your life, don’t struggle with it on your own because you think you should be able to handle it, or because you’re too proud to ask for help, or because you think God’s got more important issues to deal with.
Go to the Lord and even “beg” for His help. That’s what He hopes you’ll do.
And it’s also okay to ask for others’ help as well. Your church is here to help you so let us know if you need prayer. You can also call our church office at 850-265-5231 to request pastoral support or other help.
4) God hopes we will use our God-given authority.
I mentioned in my sermon last week that God trusts us to take care of His creation. The reason He can put that amount of faith in us is because He gave us, as humans, dominion over the rest of the created world.
Just as God has given us authority in the physical world, He has also given us authority in the spiritual realm: “[Jesus] called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority…” (Mark 6:7 NLT)
It was authority to preach, teach, heal, and cast out demons just as He had done.
Then Christ sat back and watched, hoping they would use that authority wisely.
Soon thereafter, a crowd of more than 5,000 gathered to hear Jesus teach. When they grew restless and hungry, the disciples asked the Lord to send them away so they could buy something to eat. But Jesus said, “You feed them.” (Mark 6:37 NLT)
How could Christ make such an enormous request? Because He had given them authority to minister and serve and He hoped they would use it.
Right after that, the disciples were in a boat when a storm arose. As they struggled against the wind and waves, Jesus came walking toward them on the water. Interestingly, we’re told, “He intended to go past them…” (Mark 6:48 NLT)
Why would He do such a thing? Didn’t Jesus care about their condition? Was He too calloused to be concerned about their well-being? Of course not. He had given them the same authority He had and He hoped they’d use it.
You see, they could have made the winds and waves obey even as He did.
Friends, I don’t think we have any idea how much power we have at our disposal. All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus and now He’s entrusted it into our care and hopes we’ll use it for His kingdom’s sake.
It’s what the Apostle John discovered and wrote about when he said, “The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” (1 John 4:4b NLT)
You and I do not have to shrink in fear to the powers that confront us in this world. We have authority to minister in Jesus’ name, we have authority over sin and sickness, we have authority to resist and repel the attacks of Satan. God has given us the power we need to live victorious Christian lives and He hopes we’ll use it.
5) God hopes we will be ready for Christ’s return.
Late in His life and ministry, Jesus made it clear to His followers that He is coming back. He told them, “Since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert! Watch for him!” (Mark 13:33, 37 NLT)
Christ told several parables about how we are to stay alert and watch. Namely, we’re to be about His business, doing the things He’s told us to do, but always with an eye on the sky – anticipating His arrival. Not out of fear of being caught goofing off and thus incurring His wrath, but because we love Him and long for His return.
I think we sometimes view God as hoping He’ll catch us doing something we’re not supposed to be doing. That’s an altogether false concept and nothing could be further from the truth.
No loving parent wants that to happen. In fact, God longs to find us faithfully and patiently waiting and watching for His return.
Living expectantly for Christ’s second coming brings together the three great realities we’ve been talking about in this series – faith, hope, and love.
We have faith He’ll keep His promise, we hope His return comes soon, and we anticipate it because we love Him and long for a glorious reunion.
For me, a glorious reunion looks like my return from a mission trip to Ecuador in 2003. A member of the congregation I was serving at the time was scheduled to pick me up at the Atlanta airport. After I had cleared immigration/customs and gathered my checked bags, I saw a seven-year old little girl scanning the crowd. It was my daughter, Abby. My friend had brought her to surprise me. What a pleasant surprise it was – my precious little girl was all excited for her daddy to come home and naturally, my heart leapt for joy as she joyfully leapt into my arms.
This is what Christ hopes for. He hopes He is greeted with a similar response when He returns.
Are you staying on guard and alert by accomplishing the work He has left for you to do? Are you eagerly watching for Him? Do you even think about it?
God has some high hopes for us as His children.
First and foremost, He hopes we’ll repent of our sins and believe the good news of salvation. If you’ve never done that, I hope today will be the day!
The Lord also hopes we’ll daily follow Jesus, call on Him for His help, and use our God-given authority to live victoriously.
Then, last but not least, He hopes we’ll all be ready for Christ’s glorious return.
Let’s not disappoint our hopeful God … Let’s do all of these things (and more) so His dreams for us become realities.