Sunday May 27, 2012 | Dave Johnson
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all his people — the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true word of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world — just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
In this sermon, Dave Johnson (senior pastor of Church of the Open Door) takes us back to the opening verses of Colossians. Here, he explores how the “good news” of the Gospel provides us with a solid foundation of “hope.” This hope enables us to see beyond the difficulties and challenges that we face in this life.
In the opening verses of Colossians, Paul reminds his readers that the “faith” and “love” that are so important to the Christian life are themselves rooted in “hope.” And “hope” is rooted in the “word of truth,” which is the “Gospel” (“good news”). Taking this teaching of Paul as his starting point, Pastor Dave Johnson goes on the explore the importance of hope in our lives as human beings – and the importance of what we put our hope in.
As humans, we are “hopers”! Human history has shown us that, as long as we have hope, we can survive almost anything. On the other hand, if people lose hope, we easily fall into despair. This raises very important questions, such as “What are we putting our hope in?,” and “What if we don’t get what we have hoped for in this life?”
In I Corinthians 15:1-8, the apostle Paul summarizes the Gospel – and it centers on the fact that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead! As Paul explains, Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our hope: If we are in relationship with Jesus, then nothing in this world can prevent us from being raised up with him into eternal life!
Yes, this is very “good news!” But, what about our day to day problems and challenges that seem to so easily cause us to lose hope in the here and now? Sometimes, Christians feel that they should deny or ignore the many problems and challenges of life. But the apostle Paul never did this. He was very open and honest about the difficulties of life. It’s just that he “saw more” that these problems and challenges! Paul puts it this way: “Therefore, we do not lose heart . . . . For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (II Cor 4:16-17). It isn’t that Paul denied the pain and afflictions of life on earth. It’s just that he was able to see beyond them, to “see more,” to see them in light of the eternal resurrection life that is soon coming!
So this raises the question: “What do you “see,” when you are in the middle of your own personal difficulties and problems?” People with Gospel “hope” see their problems in the light of God’s “bigger story,” in the light of an eternal perspective. And this eternal perspective enables us to be honest and realistic about our problems, while also being fearless and “hope”-filled!
The Bible is filled with examples of God’s people who understood this secret of hope. For example:
1) In hope, Moses faithfully spoke for God as he stood before the powerful Pharaoh (Exodus 5:1).
2) In hope, Joshua and Caleb stood in the confidence of God, even in the face of fortified cities and terrifying armies (Numbers 14:6-11).
3) In hope, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to worship a false god, even when threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-18).
4) And when the Jews were half-way through rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and all they could see around them was the threat of their enemies and the “rubble” of the still un-built wall, Nehemiah encouraged, inspired and rallied them (Nehemiah 4:1-23).
5) Finally, when Elisha and his servant found themselves surrounded by an enemy army, Elisha stood strong in his hope in God. When the servant faltered, Elisha prayed that the servants eyes could be opened so that he could “see” the angels of God that were protecting them (II Kings 6:15-17).
The words of Paul in his letter to the Romans leave us with a powerful reminder of the love of God in whom we have our eternal hope:
If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.* Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)