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“Creating an Environment of Hope”
** Watch at: https://youtu.be/5qAHfN4werw
** Listen at: https://mega.nz/file/yFdWAQgZ#LXd4VMupdFsjFhCLzAvjRoWACnzqwt0DYnAeJEI4MTg
In our series on practical faith, I looked at the need to create an environment of faith from the book of Joshua, and then how we go about doing this from Joshua’s parting words.
Today I like to look at our need to create and environment of hope, and in like manner look at how we are to go about creating one for our lives, because to live in this world today, hope is one thing we need the most, because without it we can never be truly alive.
When most people view this life and what we face today, their general synopsis is that life stinks. And is it any wonder with addictions, sexual deviancy, divorce rate, and overall lawlessness on the rise, not to mention the increase in suicides and crime. And on top of all of this there is what we are presently facing with the coronavirus pandemic, increase violence in our cities, and a total economic meltdown as a result.
And so, most people today have little hope, if it is truly that, because most people no longer hope for the best to happen, they are just hoping that it doesn’t get any worse.
Now, the world has its own hope, a special brand of hope, but it isn’t something that anyone can truly base their life and hopes upon, and that’s because it more of an illusion than a possible reality.
Today people are placing their hope in a political system or party, or worse, a politician, a movie star, or an athlete. But the reality is that each of these will in the end let us down.
The world also places it’s hope in science and medicine, but as we have seen, scientific facts change, which means we really shouldn’t have placed our hope in them in the first place, and medicine while it may help, we know that our health will eventually fail. We also know that we can’t place our hope in our savings account or our jobs, or upon anyone or anything.
So where are we to get our hope?
This is something that the world has been searching for because of how vital it is to our survival.
Dr. Dale Archer said, “If I could find a way to package and dispense hope, I would have a pill more powerful than any antidepressant on the market. Hope is often the only thing between man and the abyss. As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from anything and everything.”
This was the conclusion of Dr. Wolf’s research into those who survived as POWs in Japan during World War II. He said those who survived and remained relatively unaffected that they all had a high degree of hope, and his conclusion was that a person can handle almost anything when they have hope.
But as we see, when we place hope in the world and its purveyors, then our hope is short lived and will fall short of expectation. Instead we are put our hope in the Lord God who never changes and who is trustworthy and faithful.
To Timothy the Apostle Paul said, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV)
And in his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul said that without Christ, without God, a person really doesn’t have any hope at all (Ephesians 2:12).
And throughout God’s word, which we are also to place our hope upon, because it has always been true and transformative, we are told to place our hope in the Lord.
One of my favorites is Psalm 146:5 that says, “But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:5 NLT)
And so this all begs the question as to what is hope?
The word itself comes from the old English word “hopa” and means having a confident assurance in the future.
Many relate hope to an emotion or feeling, but it’s so much more than just a feeling or thinking that something good might happen. Nor is it wishful or pie-in-the-sky thinking, like, “The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About.”
Having hope, however, is a certainty. It’s a belief that sustains us, it holds us up under than most adverse circumstances and it enables us to endure life when all hell is breaking loose around us.
And so, the only place that such hope comes from is from the Lord God, and it’s the knowledge that God loves us so much that He was willing to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to die upon the cross to pay for our sins, so that we can an abundant life both now and in heaven.
Jesus said, that while the thief, that is Satan, comes to steal, kill, and destroy, that He has come to not only bring life, but abundant life at that (John 10:10).
That’s the kind of assurance we need, because it will produce hope in a world, and in a generation, that has lost its hope, and in the hopeless situations we find ourselves in.
What then are the ingredients we need to create an environment of hope?
Ingredients for Hope
1. Believe God’s Purpose
To believe in God’s purpose begins with having faith in God and in His ability, that is that He is all-powerful, all knowing, and ever present to help. And we see this in what He says and promises to us.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)
And so, to walk in God’s plan so that we can have that future hope is to get aligned with the will and way of God. And while there is a lot that can be said in this regard, let me give today what I consider to be God’s overarching will and way for our lives that produce this hope.
What is the will and way of God? Well in a word it is be everything that God wants and created for us to be and to do. It is to reach our God given potential and destiny. And this is especially important given the time we are in. The days are indeed evil and getting worse.
And while we may not know everything as far as God’s specific will and way for our lives, we do know that is God’s overarching will and way.
a. Loving God
This is found in what is known as the Great Commandment
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV)
And so, if loving God is one of His overarching will for our lives, then how do we go about loving God? The answer is in the second commandment that Jesus said is like the first, and that is to love our neighbor, that is, love those that God has placed in our path.
And the way we are to love them is the same way God loves us. The Apostle John brings this out in 1 John 3:16 saying, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16 NKJV)
And Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV)
And so God’s first overarching will is to love Him.
b. Being Missionary
To be missionary is the same thing as being evangelistic. This is seen in what is know as the Great Commission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19 NKJV)
Making disciples begins by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, how He came and died upon the cross for our sins, and then on the 3rd day rose from the dead.
It’s as He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26 NKJV)
And so Jesus sends us out with this great good news, that we can have a new and everlasting life through belief in Jesus as our Savior and Lord. And so to be missionary is to follow Jesus’s command to take the message out.
Jesus said, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21 NKJV)
c. Living the Cross Life
Jesus made it clear, that there is no other way, and that the only way to receive our peace and future hope is in Himself.
Jesus said, “In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV)
And the way we have this peace and hope is through the way He provided, which He tells us of our need to walk in this way, and that is in the way of the cross.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
To deny ourselves means to lose what we want in order to become everything Jesus wants us to be. But this goes against the grain.
Unfortunately many want to follow Jesus for what they can get, but they don’t want to live for Him, that is, to live the cross life. They don’t want to serve the poor, to forgive and pray for those who hurt them, to love their enemies, or bear another person’s burdens.
But the way of the cross is the way of total commitment.
Think of it like this, since God is not a part time Savior, He therefore doesn’t want us to be part time Christians. We need to stop being part time Christians who demand a full time God. In other words, we want God to be everything for us, but we’re not willing to be everything for God.
And so the first ingredient in creating this environment of hope is to believe in God’s purpose for our lives which means to live in alignment with his will and way for our lives.
2. Remember God’s Love
If we want to create that environment of hope, we need to remember God’s promises and how He has intervened in the past.
This was King David’s secret it would seem.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things.” (Psalm 103:2-5 NKJV)
But David didn’t stop there, he goes on to say how God executes righteousness, and justice for the oppressed, and how the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy (Psalm 103:6, 8).
Look at what the Apostle James says about the gifts that God gives.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 NKJV)
And here is the really neat part of this. When our hope is firmly based upon God’s promises then He’ll release His supernatural grace.
In the Apostle Peter’s second letter he said, “(There has) been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4 NKJV)
God’s grace flows through not only our faith in His promises, but also when our hope is in Him and His promises.
Our problem is that we have become so preoccupied with our current situation and problems that we tend to forget about how God has worked in our past bringing His blessings into our lives, and into the lives of our friends and loved ones.
Further, if our hope is in the Lord, and when we remember all that He has done for us, the greatest being how Jesus came and died upon the cross so that we can have eternal life in heaven, then what we need to do is to thank Him, that is, we need to open up our hearts and mouths and express our gratitude. This is integral in creating that environment of hope.
Therefore, to create that environment of hope, we need to remember the blessings of what God has promised and accomplished, and let our praise ring out, because we can never have hope for the future until we begin to thank Him for the love He has already poured out into our lives.
3. Practice God’s Presence
When I talk about practicing the presence of God, what I’m talking about is living in the reality that God is with us at all times, and living our lives based upon that understanding.
All the way back in the law, this was God’s way.
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NKJV)
It was this very thing that the writer of Hebrews points to in Hebrews 13:5, saying that God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b NKJV)
And in the Great Commission, Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NKJV)
So, the Lord is making it clear that He is always with us, and we are then to live our lives with this understanding. But if this is the case, then how do we go about doing it.
a. Pray Without Ceasing
In fact, what we are told is that this is part of God’s will for our lives.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV)
In any relationship there needs to be communication. That is how it works. Prayer is our communication with God, and the only way this works is when we take the time and allow God to respond back, that is, when we take the time to listen to what He is saying.
The problem is that most of us are too busy to listen. We’ve got so much going on that we no longer hear God speaking to us. We sit in front of our computers surfing the Internet, or in front of the TV watching our favorite shows. Even in the car we’ve got to have noise so we’ve got the radio blaring or the CD cranked up.
It’s hard to hear God when we’ve got all this other stuff we’re listening to. This was a lesson learned by the prophet Elijah. He didn’t hear God in the earthquake, wind, or fire, but rather he heard God as that still small voice. God more often speaks to us in quietness, not in all the noise.
So let’s allow God the time and space He needs to speak and guide us in the situations we face. And we do so by always being in the attitude of prayer, talking everything out with God and then allowing Him to answer. It is in and by this that we allow God to give us hope in hopeless situations.
b. Meditate on God’s Word
The Lord told Joshua and the people, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8 NKJV)
In Psalm 1, we are told that the person who is blessed is the person who delights in God’s word and meditates upon in day and night (Psalm 1:2).
Why is this important, because it is God’s word, and through it we will be complete and ready for God to use for His Kingdom.
The Apostle Paul said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The Apostle Paul is saying that the Bible is useful, beneficial, and advantageous, teaching us what is true, reproving what isn’t, along with correcting and instructing us on how to get and stay right with God.
The Bible is also filled with God’s promises for our lives, and as we fill our minds with these promises, hope arises from the ashes of burned out dreams and some really horrible times, which what many of us are going through even now.
And while there is so much more in creating an environment of hope for our faith to work and succeed, if I could, I would like just give you a couple more things about God, hopefully this will complete our message and give you the hope you need to face not only the rest of your day and week, but the rest of your life.
First, that God is always watching over us, and second, He is always working within us His grace and mercy. And finally, that the Lord God who has begun this good work within us when we came to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, that He will complete His work until that day that Jesus returns, or when we leave this life and stand in heaven and in His presence.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study