I was talking in Part 1 about living with hope. And I said there were practical results of a hope-filled life, when God gives us hope. The first is that we can get started in the day.
2. I can live with whatever is going to happen today—whatever burden is in your life right now. You can make it through. It is hope that enables us to handle tremendous pressure. I’ve noticed that people who have hope can handle incredible amounts of burden in their lives.
Hopeful people are like the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:8, when talking about the burdens that he had because of the persecution that he faced: “We had great burdens that were beyond our own strength…we even gave up the hope of living” (EXB). Some of you feel like that today. You can relate to those words. And Paul continues in verse 9: “But this happened so we would trust not in ourselves but in God…” (EXB). Even at that point where he wondered, Am I going to make it? he was able to find hope. He could live with anything because of the hope that God gave him—and so can we.
3. I can go on. Hope is what gives us the strength to go on after a loss or a disappointment or a dream that refuses to become reality.
I like the story of Florence Chadwick who in 1952 was the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. She didn’t quite make it on her first attempt. It wasn’t the cold water. It wasn’t the sharks. It wasn’t the 15-hour swim. It was the fact that the fog rolled in and she couldn’t see the coastline. She quit half a mile from the goal. When she got out of the water she said, “I’m not trying to make an excuse but I feel like if the fog hadn’t been there and I could have seen the land, I would have made it.” Later she tried again. The fog rolled in again but this time she knew that the coastline was there. And she completed the journey. In fact, she did it in two fewer hours than anybody else had ever done it.
A lot of us are like that. The fog has rolled into our lives and we’ve lost our bearings. Like a coastline, God’s promises are immovable—even if we can’t see them. They’re going to be there. Hope is out there in the future. That’s what hope does in our lives. I like this verse about hope in 1 Peter 1:6 from the Living Bible, “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.” When I have hope, I can get started, I can live with anything, and I can go on.
4. I can slow down. Hope is what gives me the ability to slow down my busy life. Life gets out of balance when too much becomes too important. Without hope, we’re always in a hurry. We don’t know where we’re headed but we’re all revved up. It’s hope that enables us to slow down just a little bit, to realise I don’t have to rush through so fast, because I know exactly where life is headed.
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Psalm 62:5 (NCV) says: “I find rest in God; only he gives me hope.” Hope and rest go together. Without hope you’ll find you’re very rest-less. But with hope, you have the power to be rested.
But how does hope get into my life? How can I have hope?
How Hope Happens
Romans 5:2-5 gives us God’s assembly line for hope in our lives: “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”
Did you catch the part about rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God in verse 2? We’re able to rejoice because God’s glory is certain. We can hope in God’s glory. This is the easy one. But notice how verse 3 begins, “But not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings…” This is the tough one. It’s relatively simple to hope and rejoice in God’s glory, but how can we rejoice in our problems? How do we do that? It seems so unnatural, doesn’t it? Well, actually it is. It’s really a process that we have to go through.
Finding hope is not easy. To help us visualise how we find hope, I want to use a baseball diamond analogy. Let’s start with first base.
First Base: Get a problem. This is pretty easy, isn’t it? God says that if you want to live with hope, you need to get yourself to first base. Romans 5:3 says that you need to go through some suffering or experience a problem. I guess we all have that to contend with. Are you going to have problems this year? Yes, you can count on it. And if you and I are going to have hope we have to learn to deal with that. The incredible thing is that God takes the very problems that we think are sent to steal our hope and he uses them.
Here’s a biblical philosophy of problems:
- First, problems are inevitable. We’re all going to suffer. Sometimes when people have a problem, they say, Why me? A better question is, Why not me? Everyone has problems because they’re inevitable.
- Second, problems are unexpected. You can’t plan for them. The word in the New Testament for problems is the word from which we get our English word ‘pirate’. That’s a pretty good picture of how problems happen. They ambush us. They’re unexpected. Some of you are still reeling from unexpected loss in your life.
- Third, problems are used by God to develop us and grow us. I say that not to minimise your problems but to recognise God’s power. To say that God uses problems to develop us and grow us is not the same thing as saying that problems are good. Problems are not good. God is good but problems are not. But he uses them.
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