Loving God in Heaven, as we come to You this morning we do so with hearts full of joy and adoration as we acknowledge You as our God and King. We thank You for each and every blessing You pour upon us and for the comfort and peace we have in simply knowing that You are always with us. And as we come to spend time with You now, help us to lay aside all the busyness and concerns of the week that is past and the week that lies ahead and just be at one with You. And all this we ask in Jesus name…Amen
Read Romans 5:1-8
I wonder, if you were asked this morning what you hope for today – I wonder how you might answer that question. And would it be the same as the answer you might have given 12 weeks ago.
Twelve weeks ago I was able to meet with you all in fellowship in both our churches, today I hope to be able to do that again soon. Twelve weeks ago I was able to speak to you and ask how you and your families were, today I hope and pray that they are all safe and well. Twelve weeks ago I was able to go and spend quality time with my family, today I hope to be able to do so again soon.
The 18th century English poet, Alexander Pope once said, ‘hope springs eternal…’ but does it. Where do we look to when we feel our hopes have been dashed or suddenly taken away. Is there any hope when the situation we are facing seems impossible and overwhelming. Faced with such thoughts, waiting for tomorrow, for a new day, a new week – for a better time sometime soon – is often the only approach we feel we can take, but surely there has to be something else.
Ancient philosophers used to debate the merits of hope and often thought of it as being a human virtue. But to many a consequence of this was that such a hope would make us wish for better things to happen instead of looking to make them happen ourselves. But is this indeed what hope is all about – and if so, what hope do we actually have. And what then does this mean to us in terms of our faith.
To us as Christians, hope is central to our faith and as such we live with a hope that is secured by no one less then God himself and his Son Jesus Christ. And as to what we hope for, we find that stated in Titus 1:2, ‘A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life…which God, who does not lie… promised before the beginning of time…’
When He ascended to heaven weeks after His resurrection, Jesus made a promise that He would physically and personally return to bring his children home. So we do not place our hope in a our own ideas and efforts, nor do we place them in some whimsical or mystical ideas. No, we place our hope, our sure and certain hope, in a real person – Jesus Christ – who has promised to make our hopes a reality, in person.
And God has promised that those who love Him will live with him for ever. Juts pause for a moment to think about that – to live forever in the presence of God. But more than that, the life we spend with Him will be free from all the things which cause us pain and suffering now.
But of course, as Christians we continue to live in hope here and now. Not just hoping for good things in the future, when God’s Kingdom becomes an eternal reality, but living with hope as an ever present reality in our everyday lives – and Paul tells us how this is possible.
As Christians, Paul tells us that we can, rejoice in the hope of the glory of God…for we have been made right with God, justified through faith.
Our hope in the glory of God, is knowing that God will be faithful to us and that no matter what may happen in the present, God will always be with us and our future is secure in Him. And this security leads us to the second mention of hope in this passage, at the end of verse four, at the end of a chain of events which begins with tribulation and ends in hope.
Indeed because of this hope Paul tells us that we can rejoice in our tribulations, which, to be honest, might be the last thing we would think of at such a time. But we can rejoice, says Paul, because we can trust that God will help us through them, whatever they happen to be.
Suffering doesn’t disappear from our lives when we make a step of faith toward Jesus and I’m sure we can all testify to that, perhaps especially so today. But through faith in God we are given the strength to persevere long after our own ability to endure has come and gone. And as we learn to persevere through this faith, our character is strengthened, and as our character – strengthened not by our own devices but by our faith in God – grows, we are then able to look to the future with more and more hope.
And this hope does not disappoint, says Paul, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us. Our hope is well grounded – because God has already shown us what he can do for us by giving us his Holy Spirit to help and guide us until our ultimate hope is realized. The Holy Spirit in our lives is like a deposit made by God – a guarantee if you like- that one day all He has promised and much, much more will happen.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we find our ultimate hope in Him and as his disciples we must live lives that show this hope to be alive and real, today. That if we are called to task by those who mock and criticise our faith…our hope will leave them not only silent, but wanting – wanting to know that hope for themselves.
So I hope and pray that for all of us this morning, we hold on to this faith and hope. And when we are hit by hard, difficult and painful circumstances, we might realize that no matter how severe they are, that there is nothing that can extinguish the hope that God gives, and that such hope can in turn, lead us even closer to God.
So may the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives lead us to live lives full of hope – hope that steadies our hearts in the present and prepares us for the future…Amen
Loving God, we thank You for that sure and certain hope You have given to us through Your Son and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and we ask that by Your Spirit You would help us to look to that hope each and every day of our lives. And we think especially today for those who may feel as if they have no hope – because of bereavement, because of illness, because of circumstance, because of situations in their lives that have left them feeling devastated and bereft of any and all hope and we ask that You be with them. We think also of those images we have seen all week on our televisions and we pray for a sense of unity between all Your children and an end to all discrimination. Loving God, with all we are facing at this time we know there may be many who might feel like this so we ask that You would draw each one close to You and hold each one in Your tender loving care, letting them know that You are with them and will remain with them in all they are going through, and that in You there is always hope. And be especially with those in our own families and our own communities, those known and closest to us, and let them know also that we too hold them in our hearts and are thinking of and praying for them at this time. And all these things we ask for in Jesus name…Amen.