“Things Hoped For”
Let me ask you all to think about something this morning... What is faith? How would you define your faith? I bet it’s harder to define than you initially imagine!
And I say that, because faith is more... much more... than an attitude, or state of mind. Faith is actually a spiritual gift that compels us (as people of faith), to action; to do something; to step out in faith.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen...” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
I love that definition of faith... because we all have hopes, don’t we?
*An expectant mother hopes that her child is born healthy... with 10 fingers, and 10 toes!
*Father’s hope their children will grow up to be productive, well adjusted adults who pay their own bills...
*Voters hope their candidate wins! Fans hope their team wins!
*Children hope Santa is as near-sighted as he is generous!
*Of course, you’re all hoping this sermon is short!
We live life in the constant awareness of hope! We hope for health and comfort. We hope for strong relationships and families. We’re a hopeful people! For example... I’ve never known ANYONE who took marriage vows with the hopes of failure... have you!
But... sometimes our hopes disappoint us...
We hope for a world free of war and violence. We hope for a country where every single child is fed and cared for and where people are judged by the content of their character and not by their color of their skin. We hope and long for truthfulness, and honesty, and integrity... but sometimes our hopes fall short.
Yet we never stop hoping!
Of course, we have spiritual hopes, too. We have the hope of Heaven! The hope of things to come! Surely we all hope for a peace in our hearts and lives... we hope for the peace that passes understanding.
We hope for a love that’s patient and kind; not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude, and that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The Book of Hebrews offers a long list of people who hoped for something, they worked for something, they had faith in some thing that they were never able to fully see, or experience, or witness.
Abraham and Sarah hoped for many descendants that would be a great nation and a land of promise for them to live in. They saw it accomplished in part, but never in whole!
Moses hoped for freedom for his people; a freedom that included a land they could call their own. But he never entered that Promised Land himself...
Hebrews mentions Abel, and Enoch... Noah, Jacob and Joseph... Rahab... not to mention Gideon, David and others...
All of these hoped. They hoped... and in faith they believed that God’s promises would come to pass. They worked towards that end... striving forward... even when the promised hope was well beyond their sight! Many faced persecution, ridicule and even death for their faith... as they pressed-on toward the promised hope.
The Scripture tells us, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” Their faith was strong and was proven by the way they lived... some were blessed, others not so blessed. But there was something more; some greater hope that was promised which they did not receive.
Hebrews goes on, “God had planned something better for us - so that only together - with us - would they be made perfect.” That SOMETHING BETTER... is Jesus! The promised Messiah... whom none, not one of the great patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith lived to see! But they all shared the hope... they all had faith in that hope... and it led them forward.
But that’s the nature of hope. You don’t hope for what you already have. You might hope to keep what you already have... but hope entails the uncertainties of the future.
*I have a bottle of water. I’m not hoping I had a bottle of water. I might hope that next Sunday I could have a bottle of water, but I can't hope for it now.
Hope reaches beyond the present. It’s beyond what we can see. Sometimes our hope seems way beyond what we can see. To hope for compassion and peace in a world torn apart by hatred and war seems unrealistic. But we hope anyway.
Faith (the spiritual gift of trusting in God), gives us an assurance of the promises... Even though some situations and places may seem God forsaken, we are promised that God is everywhere and that God has not forsaken anyone.
Faith gives us the assurance that our hopes are not misplaced... for the promises of God’s presence, peace and provision are true.
Hebrews tells us to focus on Christ for faith that helps us hope for what seems beyond our grasp. It says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus lived in hope because he knew that even through suffering, God’s promises are true... and God’s purpose, God’s will, is being accomplished.
If we want to know what faith is... if we need an assurance of things hoped for... we need nothing more than follow Christ example.
In other words... if we hope for peace and love and kindness, we need to live it. But we can’t live any of those things IF we don’t first know such things! We have to look to Christ, not just as our example... but also as the one who perfects our faith! Christ can redeem us... Christ can save us... Christ brings righteousness, and forgiveness... joy and peace... Christ binds up the broken-hearted and brings us hope... hope that is beyond all hope... hope that never fails... hope that never disappoints us!
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”
In Jesus Christ we have the hope of salvation made real. If you hope for a changed heart; for a changed relationship; for a changed world... look to Jesus, follow Jesus, and live for Jesus.
Trust in Christ and you’ll find the assurance of God’s grace and love working within you, and flowing through you. Look to Christ... and he will give you the faith to hope even when you cannot see.