FILLED WITH RENEWED HOPE
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 in the 400-year period of the Judges. This was a relatively godless and disordered period 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 God’s grace. Hopelessness turned to hope for them in returning to kinship and in belonging again to God’s people. Both of these are examples of covenant, and God works through the principles of covenant.
With God there is always a way back. The wilderness is 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 honouring God in an attitude of what the Bible calls hope, positions us to receive from Him.
What does ‘hope’ mean?
We use this world lightly. 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: He is good to us all the time, and loves us without condition.
We may have known him for many years, and yet 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:
- Living Hope
- Confident Hope
- Resilient Hope
1. Living Hope
How do I find hope? Firstly, in Jesus. It starts with making the choice to turn to Him, submit our lives to Him. Because we are human, we want to take our lives back again. So turning to Jesus, putting our lives right with Jesus, is the ‘big decision’ once but then ‘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 by reminding us that we have encountered God in love and mercy and a complete new start: new birth. We are made new creations. Not defined by how we were or 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 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 also? About 25 mentions – what 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?
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God is the God of hope, who causes us t overflow with hope. He is, truly, 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” He will do His work as the Spirit of Hope, growing confident expectation in us, and taking us to that place where we are able to to hear and receive in faith what He speaks to us. Then faith rises, and faith moves even mountains of blockage.
When our confidence has taken some hard knocks and our hope has been deflected – this is the remedy. 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.
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?