Hope is like a bridge over the chasm between us and our circumstances, and the place of confidence in God where we can hear His word and act on it in faith.
Introduction – a story of hopelessness and then hope
The story of Naomi and Ruth is a story of a family living around about the beginning of the time of the Judges, that lost hope and found hope.
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.
The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth.
After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.
This was a relatively godless and disordered period:
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
It was 400 years between Joshua entering the promised land, and the start of the dynasty of King David, and it was a time marked by frequent oppression, crop failure and famine. Survival was a challenge. This family made their own pathway to hope by moving east to Moab and its better rainfall. However, in the next decade or so the menfolk all died. Hope for the women was lost – through no real fault of their own. Life had been stolen away: reminding us that we have an enemy who spoils what he can and steals what he can take.Maybe their choices were not the best, but this shows that God’s grace is bigger. Hopelessness turned to hope for them, as they put their trust in kinship and in belonging again to God’s people. Both of these are examples of
Maybe their choices were not the best, but this shows that God’s grace is bigger. Hopelessness turned to hope for them, as they put their trust in kinship and in belonging again to God’s people. Both of these are examples of covenant; thrn and now God works through the principles of covenant.
With God there is always a way back. The wilderness is not a place we like, not a place we want to stay but it gets our focus back on depending on God. The wilderness is the gateway to hope, and as we honour God in a positive attitude of what the Bible calls hope, we position ourselves to receive from Him.
What does ‘hope’ mean?
‘Hope’in everyday English is a casual word. I hope the sun comes out (but it probably won’t). Like Oliver Twist asking for ‘More?’, we hope for better – but expect to be told we don’t deserve it.
We have to unlearn the world’s conditioning – to learn again that God’s love is stronger than our sense of conditions.
Gathered before our loving Father, in the name of His precious Son who, for us, took the rebellion and independence of our lives to the Roman cross and its shameful and horrific death: We praise Him that He is good to us all the time, and loves us without condition.
We may have known him for many years, but we all need to turn to Him afresh. He allows the enemy some scope in our lives, and clearly allows trials and difficulties. This is how the Lord grows us: otherwise we’d just be living the same year of Christian life over and over again. At each point of pressure He says to us: “Turn to me and trust me again – let me be your Living Hope in this further, deeper way.
The Holy Spirit who comes to live in us, as we turn to Jesus and invite Him, reveals to us what human logic cannot grasp. We begin to see how, in God’s kingdom order, all things work to the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
The biblical experience of hope is not casual but assured – hope that is living, confident and also resilient.
1. Living Hope
How do I find hope? Firstly, in Jesus. It starts with making the choice to turn to Him, and to submit our lives to Him.
Because we are human, we want to be lord of our own lives. After asking Jesus to be Lord of our lives, we still lapse into wanting them back again and taking the easier path of trusting in ourselves (creating our own hope). So turning to Jesus, putting our lives right with Jesus, is the ‘big decision’ taken once but then followed up by ‘small decisions’ repeated often. Repentance would be another word for this.
One of the reasons we gather to worship is so that in the greater intensity of the Holy Spirit, He will show us where we need to turn to Jesus, the Living Hope, once again.
Peter begins his letter with a statement about Living Hope – the headline to his reminding us that we have encountered God in love and mercy and a complete new start: new birth.
1 Peter 1:3-9
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We are made new creations. Not defined by how we were or the things we have got wrong. This is living hope.
Maybe you gave your life to him many years ago. However, we can’t go on repeating the same year of Christian life at the same level – we need to grow. Trials and difficulties are the Lord’s training ground to grow us. At each apparent setback, He says to us, “Turn to me and trust Me again – let me be your Living Hope in this further, deeper way.” Do that and you get the joy back.
Peter teaches that trials come so that our faith, in the sense of our walk with God, is refined and proved genuine and made stronger. The joy of the Lord – being free to praise Him in all circumstances – really is our strength. The Living Hope of belonging to Jesus and knowing that we can trust Him for the outcome releases us to do it. When Jesus Christ is revealed here and now IN the situation you are facing – what will happen? You won’t find it hard to express praise, glory and honour!
Jesus is our Living Hope and we can turn to Him as often as we like.
2. Confident Hope
There are Christians and there are confident Christians:
- Confident about who we are
- Confident about our eternal destiny
- Confident about who Jesus is
- Confident about sharing our faith
Hope is about living in this kind of confidence, but particularly:
– Confident that God has good intentions for us, out of a love for us that is constant, not conditional.
Circumstances often put this confidence to the test. Is what we are seeing, what we are believing? Or, better, is what we believe grounded on an assurance that God is FOR us, always working His purpose out in us and bringing to completion what He has started.
Hope is what keeps us praying, keeps us declaring in faith, keeps us praising when our feelings want to do the opposite, keeps us turning up expecting to meet with God.
Hope confidently expects that at the right time God will give us specific revelation. Then hope moves to faith. Definite faith in something definite.
To try to go from our need to faith in God’s provision is a jump from what is real to us now, and what in God’s order He is able to do (which is far from real to us now). We need to first build a bridge over the chasm.
Imagine a rope footbridge over a ravine – a National Geographic kind of picture. We walk steadily and bravely over the swaying bridge, held up by hundreds of vertical strands. But notice that each strand has writing on it – the words which make up a well-known Bible promise. These promises hold us up on our swaying journey, our confident expectation of getting to a firm place on the other side. The firm place is where we are in the right place to hear God’s word and act on it. Hope moves to faith – the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1) Faith comes by hearing the rhema word, the ‘now’ word of God (Romans 10:17), but the process that leads to faith is hope.
3. Resilient Hope
Our hope takes some knocks but it has the capability to spring back. This is a work of the Holy Spirit:
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.
God’s role: the God of Hope
Our role: to overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
A study or even a reflection of what we know of the names and titles of the Holy Spirit will quickly bring up these better-known ones:
– Convicter of sin
– Spirit of Truth
– Spirit of Life
– Spirit of Prophecy and Revelation
– Spirit of Wisdom
– Spirit of Knowledge
– Spirit of Understanding
– Spirit of the Son
– Spirit of Christ.
And…? The subject of about 25 mentions – what or who did Jesus see as he was in the river, being baptised (Matt. 3:16)? Who lives in us and takes us from the realm of the flesh to the realm of the Spirit, and also leads us as a child of God? (Romans 8:9 and 14)
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God is God – the God of hope, who causes us to overflow with hope.
The Holy Spirit is correctly titled the Spirit of Hope.
We generally stick to one baptism, but Scripture shows us and encourages us to be filled, go on being filled and be filled again and again.
As we ask Him, in the words of the ancient prayer: “Come Holy Spirit”, why would He not answer that prayer? Why would he not do His work in us as the Spirit of Hope, growing a confident expectation of God’s goodness in us, and taking us to that place where we are able to hear and receive in faith what He speaks to us. Then faith rises, and faith acted on moves even mountains of blockage.
When our confidence has taken some hard knocks and our hope has been deflected, we have God-given remedy – to ask the Spirit of Hope to fill us again, to reveal and restore hope in us, a hope that overflows and gives confidence in God to others.
FURTHER BIBLE STUDY
He is for us and good to us all the time – Romans 8:28 and 31.
- He loves us without condition – Jer 31:3, Psalm 52:8b, Eph. 3:17-19, 1 John 4:10 etc.
- Turning to Jesus, receiving Him as Lord – John 3:16-18, Col. 2:6.
- The inner strength that comes from Holy Spirit-inspired joy within – Nehemiah 8:10b.
- “Come Holy Spirit”: why would He not answer that prayer? – Luke 11:11-13.
- Scripture shows us and encourages us to be filled, go on being filled – Ephesians 3:19, and 5:18 which reads literally “be being filled…”.
- Hearing and receiving in faith what He speaks to us – Jer. 31:3, Isaiah 30:21, John 10:27, John 16:13, Acts 16:9-10.
- Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17)
- Faith acted on moves even mountains of blockage – Mark 11:22-24.
- Definite faith in something definite, hope moves to faith (Hebrews 11:1)
- The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God – Matt. 3:16, Romans 8:9 and 14.
REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION STARTERS
1. Do you have a story of hope taking a hard knock?
2. What happened to your sense of God being near or far, in control or not?
3. How would you explain the Bible word hope to a new Christian?
4. Explain why God is for us, and working out His purpose around us. What part does our obedience play in this?
5. Naomi and Ruth understood something of God’s provision for them as part of His covenant people. How as Christians does our covenant standing with God compare?