The following is the text of a message I delivered to our monthly “Inside Outfitters” men’s group; a group that typically includes 50-60 men of all ages from Minnesota Teen Challenge a faith-based residential drug and alcohol recovery program.
Somewhere or another I heard someone waxing eloquently about having the audacity to hope. Those seemed to me to be strange words to combine since the definition of audacity includes references such as “reckless” and “rash”. While hope may be criticized or extolled, mocked or encouraged, it is not reckless or foolish. Hope is also both dangerous and endangered and the times we’re living through seem almost engineered to crush hope.
This suggests to me that hope has never been more important, or more of a threat to the status quo. Rather than “audacity” we should endorse the perspicacity of hope. What do I mean by that (literally, what do I mean)?
1. A desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable. Hope differs from wish and desire in this, that it implies some expectation of obtaining the good desired, or the possibility of possessing it. Hope therefore always gives pleasure or joy; whereas wish and desire may produce or be accompanied with pain and anxiety. The hypocrite’s hope shall perish. Job.8.
2. Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well founded expectation of good; as a hope founded on God’s gracious promises; a scriptural sense. A well founded scriptural hope is, in our religion, the source of ineffable happiness.
3. That which gives hope; he or that which furnishes ground of expectation, or promises desired good. The hope of Israel is the Messiah. The Lord will be the hope of his people. Joel 3.
4. An opinion or belief not amounting to certainty, but grounded on substantial evidence. The Christian indulges a hope, that his sins are pardoned.
The key here is that hoping and wishing aren’t the same things at all, though many might consider them to be. Hope has the expectation that it’s object is obtainable. Hope inspires action in pursuit of the obtainable objective, while mere wishing usually doesn’t inspire any action at all; quite the opposite, in fact.
I’d already been thinking about the nature of hope when I recently heard a teaching where the preacher referenced Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus warns Peter of the trial he is about to face. When I heard it, I saw a clear description of the power of hope, and the destruction implicit in hopelessness:
And the Lord said, [fn] “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift [you] as wheat.
“But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to [Me,] strengthen your brethren.”
What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” How was Peter sifted? He was sifted in the things he hoped for. And how do you sift something? You shake it and shake it to see what comes out, and what remains.
1 John 3:2 — Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He (Christ) is pure.
Remember, hope is earnest expectation; to desire with expectation of good. Hope is the opposite of hopelessness. Even Peter — a man who had been with Jesus for three years, heard his teaching, seen the miracles, had the perspicacity to realize who Jesus was — Peter became hopeless for a time when he let himself be overwhelmed by the things he was seeing, by the fear and uncertainty that was sweeping over him.
You must realize that an enemy always tries to destroy your hope so that you see no benefit in continuing the fight. If he can defeat you mentally and spiritually, then you are defeated physically. Propaganda, “psy ops”, terrorism, totalitarianism — ultimately all seek to destroy hope. In World War II the documented Nazi strategy in Poland was to use localized but overwhelming brutality to foster a sense of hopelessness in the people. In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, the prison administration and guards did everything it could to discourage the men and destroy their hope because men without hope are already half-dead and either become compliant or become that much easier to make them all the way dead.
Teen Challenge, on the other hand, while it may feel like jail, is designed to give you hope. You’ve heard the phrase, “abandon all hope, all ye who enter here”? The meaning of that is that you might as well resign yourself to dying. I would submit to you that the fact that you are here today means there is hope inside you, that you could have chosen to die but instead chose life, as desperate as that choice might have been.
Hopelessness isn’t a problem just because it takes away your initiative and your faith. Hopelessness also removes moral restraint. If you don’t see any hope, or have any faith for the future, then why not do what you please or whatever is most expedient in the present moment? Peter’s moral restraint abandoned him and he lied. A hope for something in the future – not a wish or a desire – gives you something to aim at, or to align yourself with. If you believe something is attainable, you will take the steps to obtain it.
Those with little or no hope can be manipulated by those offering a false one – perhaps even claiming the false one is the only hope. Beware of anyone who comes to you saying that “this is your only hope” if that hope isn’t in God – even if they appear to be godly people.
In the latest financial crisis our leaders were saying the only hope for the system was to bail out the very system and people that created the problem. Doesn’t the Bible say that we must choose to serve either God or Mammon? (Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13) Those who have chosen Mammon can’t be too happy with their God right now. It reminds me of the story of Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal described in 1 Kings 18; despite their rituals and incantations they were left with the carcass of their supposed sacrifice. The Wall Street bailout was nothing but an attempt to pay the piper with counterfeit Monopoly money.
Romans 15:4 — For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Faith is what gives you the patience to wait for the delivery of the promise. There is a song we sing in church that has the words:
God will make a way, where there seems to be no way
By a roadway in the wilderness he leads me,
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade,
But your word will still remain
I used to get two things out of that song. The first is that when there there seems to be no way it really means that there seems to be no way to me; God always sees the way. The second thing is that if I can’t see the way it is generally because I’m standing in it. Recently I got a third revelation from that song.
You understand that songs and scripture can help us have faith by painting a picture in our minds of what God’s word will bring. God putting a roadway in the wilderness or a river in the desert is Him making a way where there seems to be no way. Ok, good picture, but it’s the next line that brought the revelation to me: “Heaven and earth will fade, but your word will still remain…”
Heaven and earth will fade; the road and the wilderness, and the river and the desert, will fade but God’s word still remains. That’s because it is His word that is the roadbed and the riverbed…picture everything melting away and His word as the golden skeleton of all that was created, perhaps even floating in space…scripture tells us that God created the world with His words, it is His word that is the foundation for everything.
Let’s go back to Peter. Peter knew that God’s word is the foundation that you walk on, because that’s what he did when he told Jesus that, if he would call to Peter, he would be able to walk across the water to him. What was he walking on? Peter overcame his fear of the waves and the storm, but when he was faced with the possibility of not having Jesus, when he put his faith in what his eyes and ears were telling him about the present situation (forgetting what his eyes and ears had already seen and heard), he lost hope, and to some extent he lost moral restraint, becoming a liar and a coward.
Psa 119:49 – Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.
Psa 119:81 – My soul fainteth for thy salvation: [but] I hope in thy word.
Psa 119:116 – Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.
Eph 2:12 -14 – that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
The world places it’s hope on what it can see, but remember that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Let me paint a last picture for you to help you see how to be not conformed to worldly thinking. Imagine you’re in the crowd, watching your favorite football team. When the team does something good, everybody cheers. When it does something bad, everyone boos. Their reaction is based on what they see.
There is a time, however, when everyone cheers regardless of any play on the field. That time is when the team comes running out of the tunnel. Everyone is cheering then because of the hope and the expectation they have of what the team will do, because of the faith they have in that team. How silly is it, then, that they can be booing so soon thereafter? When things don’t go the way the world expects, they boo and start to blame the quarterback or the other players or the coach, never themselves. Isn’t it funny how people will go about doing whatever it is they want to do, in the way they want to do it, and when it all falls apart God is the one they blame?
Thank God, we wouldn’t do something like that. Not us. If something happened to us that we didn’t like or expect, we wouldn’t start to blame the other guys, or the coach or the team owner would we? Of course not! We are men of perspicacity — men of acute mental vision and keenness! We know how the game ends! We win! Be not dismayed by a fumble or a sack or the cheap hit someone just laid on you…just think about how you’ll be able to point to the scoreboard when it’s all over! We have the desire for some good, accompanied with the expectation of obtaining it, that it is obtainable. We know where our true hope lies, and it’s not in the ways of man or of governments.
Our hope, therefore, brings joy.