The Power of Hope

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 9:4
Date: 01/08/2000 
The subject of this message is the power of hope. People live longer when they know there is hope. It gives us purpose. We must be careful of false hopes. There is a hope we can trust in that comes from the Bible. Hope is in Jesus who will come again.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

Well I’m glad you’re here today. It’s a lot more fun talking to you when you’re here. And we have a bright future. You know that? Of all the people in the world Christians have the greatest hope. And that’s going to be the subject of our message this morning, dealing with the power of hope. A few years ago off the coast of Massachusetts a submarine had an unfortunate collision with a freighter and it was disabled and it sank to the bottom. Well, eventually they brought some divers in and did everything they could to see if they could make some contact or if there was any chance of rescue. One of the divers got down to the disabled vehicle where those brave men were in there clinging to life as long as the oxygen held out and one of them thought he heard noise. And he placed the helmet of his deep-sea suit up against the hull of the disabled submarine and he recognized the tap tap tapping of Morse code. And one of the sailors inside was tapping out, “Is there any hope? Is there any hope?” Well, for those men there was not any hope. At that time they did not have the equipment that the Navy has now to raise a disabled sub. Now what they do is they wrap these cables around the vessel and they inflate these big balloons and bring the thing to the surface. But they ran out of oxygen, wondering if there was any hope. You’ve heard the expression, “Where there’s life there’s hope.” That goes back to Solomon. It’s in your Bible in case you didn’t know that. Ecclesiastes chapter 9, verse 4, “For to him who is joined to all the living there is hope:” and then it goes on and it says, “For a living dog is better than a dead lion.” I like the graphic way that Solomon puts that. You know in the Bible dogs and pigs were relegated to the lowest of creatures and the lions were the most powerful. And Solomon says, “But a living dog is better than a dead lion.” “Where there is life there is hope.” Now, pinch yourself. If you get no response ask the person next to you to do it. Are you alive? Then there’s hope. Amen? There is hope. You know, they did a cool experiment at Duke University a number of years ago where they took these rats and they, I guess, did this several times. And they put these rats in a glass barrel bucket. And they put a lid on it and with one group of rats they provided no way of escape or even hope for a way of escape. Now I don’t know how you communicate that to a rat, but something about the design of the bucket, there was just a little air hole for them to breath and there was no possibility of escape. They, even with their little pea sized brains were able to detect that. Those rats swam around for a few minutes and then just gave up and drown. The other group of rats, they also put them in a barrel with the same dimensions, but they had the hope of escape. They had a little ramp. They could never make it all the way up, but they thought they could. Those rats swam around for hours and hours and kept attempting to escape. And after doing this several times they came to the conclusion. Not only is there life where there’s life there’s hope, but it’s true there is life where there is hope. People live longer when they have hope. Just as surely as rats try longer. Some people, you’ve heard them say, “Well, they gave up because they didn’t think there was any hope.” Hope is a very potent power in our lives. Hope is what gives us purpose. Matter of fact, sometimes even when we’re endeavoring something that may in itself not be that valuable the hope is more valuable in itself. Need to cling to hope. You know, a teacher who worked in a hospital had been assigned to help children that were interned there to stay caught up on their assignments. And the teachers of the public schools would call the hospital tutor who would visit the kids in their different rooms and go over their classes with them. Well this one hospital tutor in this large city hospital was told to go visit a boy and it turned out he was in the burn unit. And she was supposed to work on his verbs and nouns. And when she walked into the burn unit she entered the room and this boy was in critical condition. And he was terribly burned. At first she recoiled from the sight because he didn’t look very good, but she thought, “No, I’m in here. If I walk out now it’s going to be very discouraging to him.” So she went up and she tried to steel herself against the sad state of this young man who was gasping for breath and in a lot of agony. And she said, “I’m here. I’ve been sent by your teacher to go over your nouns and your verbs with you.” And she proceeded then to force herself to go through this assignment and review a few things. And she asked if he could nod. He didn’t give much response. She said, “Well, you’ll do better tomorrow.” And then she left. The next day some of the nurses from the ICU Ward came to this hospital tutor and said, “What did you say to that boy in the burn unit?” She began to apologize and say, “I’m sorry. I probably should have left. I didn’t mean to…” And they said, “No, no. He’s been doing so much better since you came. His condition has reversed. He’s improving.” And she went and visited with the boy later. He said, “Well I had thought that it was all over with,” he said, “but when someone came to talk to me about nouns and verbs I figured there must be hope.” He was given some purpose. And so he kept on kicking. Sometimes if people don’t have a purpose for living they lose hope. I remember a very interesting experience when I first came to the little town of Covelo. Forgive me. You’ve heard me talk a lot about it, but it’s a big part of my life. One of the pillars in the church, there was a family, Floyd and Evelyn VanAllen. And when I first went to Covelo they were already up in their 80’s, I believe. Now Floyd VanAllen was one of these men who had gone through World War I. I saw him moved to tears one time as he described a story where an actual angel visibly appeared to him. He described when he was a young man, praying, and an angel appeared to him. And he described what the angel looked like. But that’s not the point of my illustration here. Floyd was a chemist and an inventor. Just very colorful individual. Very active man. Liked to cut down trees and sell firewood and split lumber. One day he was cutting down one of these massive oak trees in Covelo. Now oak trees are dangerous to cut. It’s not like the fir. You know, I used to be in the wood business. Fir tree goes straight up. It’s a little easier to control and predict where they’re going to fall. The oak trees, because of the way they’re spread out and you look at the branches, you can’t really tell where the weight of the tree is always and it’s hard to guess where it’s going to fall. Sometimes oaks will begin falling one way and then they’ll split down the middle and pop back. And a lot of men have been found in the woods pinned against trees, killed because the oak split and shot back at them. It’s a very dangerous tree to work on. They had these massive oak trees in Covelo. Matter of fact, one of the tallest oak trees in the world is in Covelo. Did you know that? On the Diamond H Ranch. Floyd told me one time he cut down an oak tree. He had this chainsaw with a five-foot bar on it. And he cut down an oak tree. Got 42 cords of wood out of one tree. Now do you know how much a cord of wood is? One hundred and twenty-eight cubic feet. That’s like a trainload of wood. Out of one tree. I mentioned this to David last night to say, “Am I getting this right? This is what he told me.” And David said that he and Ivan when they were in the wood business they got a cord of wood out of one cut on a tree. He said, “Yeah, it’s possible.” Well, Floyd was cutting a tree one day in Covelo. He was out in the woods by himself, or out in the field. It had misbehaved and it fell on him. He was pinned under the tree for several hours before anyone came and found him. And during that time his legs were crushed. One of his legs so badly it had to be amputated. Well that was devastating to him. And his wife, Evelyn, said, “You know, after that he virtually gave up.” Because he had been such an active man and he had to hobble around on these crutches now and dragging his wooden leg. And his crutches were never quite the right length so he was always hunched over his crutches and he wouldn’t really walk with his leg. He sort of threw it out in front of him. And to compound things he lost his hearing. You always knew what Floyd was thinking in church because he’d whisper to his wife and everybody heard him. At some point after he had his accident he went through several months, or it may have even been years of terrible discouragement where he just sat and moped and didn’t seem to have much purpose. And something triggered his thinking. He was an inventor. Had a very active imagination. And he began to think about a perpetual motion machine that he wanted to build. And he tried to explain it to me and as best as I can figure it he said it was the same kind of velocity as a tornado. And it used the components and the temperature changes in the atmosphere, differences that drive a tornado. And he was building this machine that would capitalize on those dynamics and he was going to build a perpetual motion machine. He got so excited thinking about it that he began to get a pencil out and started to scribble and design this machine. And after weeks of developing the design he set to work building a perpetual motion machine. He got a lot of people who knew him excited about it. Now you realize nobody has ever invented perpetual motion? You’re all aware of that? It would put all the car businesses and the electric motors out of business. But a lot of people have said they did, or worked on it. And he was so persuasive he actually got a few people to invest heavily in this perpetual motion machine. He engaged himself for years in personally cutting with a little hacksaw, pounding rivets in the metal. He got these old saw blades from the Louisiana Pacific mill and he drilled, meticulously, holes all around these massive saw blades so that he could cut between the holes. Because if you used heat to cut them off it would warp it and it had to be perfect because it was going to go so fast it would explode if all of it was not balanced. Evelyn told me how he had all these fins that were going around this tube that he was making. He weighed every one of them to make sure that they were precisely the same weight. The thing had to be balanced perfectly because it was going to go so fast that it was going to explode if it wasn’t perfectly balanced. He spent, of the three years he worked on his machine; he probably spent a year and a half working on the brakes. Because he was so sure this thing was going to go and it was going to go so fast that it would just blow apart if you couldn’t stop it. He was afraid of how much power it was going to generate. Took his pump house out behind his house and he dedicated this pump house to be the house that would hold this machine. And everybody around Covelo, it’s a small town, pretty soon everybody knew about Floyd VanAllen’s machine. Because he’s buying parts and getting scraps and getting services from everybody to help develop his machine. Had to get a V-8 motor just to start the thing. And after years of working on this machine he finally hooked it up to the motor and there were several witnesses there. He had them all getting back and he had a little screen to control the throttle on this V-8 motor that would start turning this machine so it would whir faster and faster and faster until you heard it crank up into a high whine. And then in theory after the car motor got it to a certain speed it would take off by itself and begin spinning. You could turn off the auto engine and it would spin indefinitely. Perpetual motion. But the day came when they finally cranked up the machine and it started to spin. It was amazing how evenly it spun. He did a very good job. It was balanced perfectly. Now I didn’t see the day of the test. I did see the machine. By the time I was there the test was over and he had given up on the machine. It spun and spun and spun, but when they turned off the car engine the machine wound down and it didn’t work. Something was wrong with the theory. But you know what I remember even after Floyd died, talking to Evelyn? She said, “That machine, we spent thousands of dollars on it. We spent years working on it.” She said, “It was the best thing that ever happened to us even though it didn’t work.” She said, “Because my husband had no purpose and it gave him a purpose for living.” You know, you heard an announcement a few minutes ago; Karen announced that Bill Henry, the brother of a gentleman who helped build this church, a pastor, evangelist, a great Christian man, passed away this week. That’s interesting because I was going to tell you about Bill today. I worked with Bill in evangelism in Santa Rosa. He was building the Sebastopol church. He was a great speaker. Kids loved him. A good evangelist. Had quite a testimony. But I remember, he was already in retirement when I was working with him. Bill was helping to build the Sebastopol church. I would go out visiting with him the evangelistic interests during the evening, but during the day he was at the church virtually by himself. Sometimes he’d have one or two people helping him. I asked him one day when we went out visiting, I said, “Bill, you’re not getting a lot help on that church.” And it’s a big church, beautiful church. I said, “You’re out there everyday slaving away at the church. You’re retired. Can’t you get anyone to help you?” He said, “Well, Doug, whether or not the church gets built does not even matter.” I thought, “Well, that’s a strange thing for a pastor in a building program to say. You’re not supposed to have that attitude.” He said, “Whether or not the church gets built is not the important thing.” He said, “The important thing is if I become like Jesus in the process.” And you know that affected me so much that I never forgot that. That what we’re doing, and a lot of the things in which we invest our time and our energy, they’re not the big picture. They’re not the real issue. The real issue is in the process are we becoming like Jesus? You know, sometimes we even hope for things that in themselves may never be a reality. But the hope is very important. Back in 1844 there was a great advent movement where people from all over North America were anticipating that Jesus was going to come in 1844. Now sometimes people confuse that movement with Seventh Day Adventists. None of those people were Seventh Day Adventists that we know of. Seventh Day Adventists were not formed as a church until 1863. Some of the people who came out of that became Seventh Day Adventists, but most of them sere Sunday keepers. And they were from Methodists and Baptists and Congregational and Presbyterian churches. And a great revival swept across North America, parts of South America and Europe and all over the world at the same time. People were mobilized by this belief, this hope, that Jesus was coming in 1844. And I guess it’s not a shock to you that he didn’t come. And a lot of people say, “Oh, what a terrible waste. We were so misguided.” But you know, God used that. God used that to bring revival to a lot of people. God used it as a sifting process. Do you know, not only did it happen back then, but there was a terrible disappointment in the days of Jesus? The apostles had mixed up hopes regarding what the mission of Christ was. And Jesus didn’t tell them everything right then. They kept hoping that He was going to set up an earthly kingdom and they were going to sit on earthly thrones and get fat salaries as they were going to be judging the tribes of Israel. And they were going to overthrow the Romans and go, “Ha! Ha! We’re in charge now,” to their oppressors. They had all these images in their minds of what the ministry of Jesus was all about. And Christ told them, “I’ve got many things to tell you, but you can’t handle it right now.” They misunderstood. And when Jesus tried to explain to them, “I’m going to Jerusalem. I’ll be betrayed. I’ll be crucified. I’ll rise the third day.” That didn’t fit in with their plan. That was going to frustrate their hopes and so they rejected it. They weren’t listening. And you know, the Lord allowed it to happen. Because He needed to get their attention. You ever heard that song, “He washed my eyes with tears that I might see?” Sometimes the Lord allows our hopes to be dashed that He might get our attention. Sometimes He allows us to hope for something that may never be a reality because in the process we’re learning to be like Jesus. And that happened with him. Now I Corinthians 13:13, you know, says, “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Have you ever heard the chronicle of the mighty men of Kind David? It says he’s got his, you know, massive group of mighty men, his elite honor guard. And then there were 30 mighty men in that group. Then there was the three great, mighty men of David. You all read these passages in the Bible? Well, among the three great virtues in the Bible you’ve got faith, you’ve got hope, and you’ve got love. Now we cannot be saved without faith. Do we all agree? And we all know the importance of love. That God’s very essence is love. Would you say that hope is in good company? Hope is stationed right between the faith and the love by God. And so it’s worthy that we should spend some time talking about hope. Hope is optimistic. I like the way Zig Zigler put it. He said, “I’m such an optimist that I’d go after Moby Dick with a rowboat and I’d take along the tartar sauce.” Hope gives people hope. It makes us optimistic. Ecclesiastes, you heard, “Where there is life there is hope.” John Bunyon put it this way, “Hope has a thick skin and will endure many a blow.” Of course, you know John Bunyon wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. “It will put on patience as a vestment. It will wade through a sea of blood. It will endure all things if it be on the right kind for the joy that is set before it. Hence patience is called the patience of hope because it is hope that makes the soul exercise patience and longsuffering under the cross until the time comes to enjoy the crown.” “Hope is an echo. Hope ties itself yonder and then yonder and then yonder,” Carl Sandburg said. “Hope is wishing for a thing to come true. Faith is believing that it will come true.” Norman Vincent Peale. “He who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything.” And I don’t know who said that, but it sounds good. You know I remember reading a story about a court magician who fell out of favor with the king. And the king set a date for his execution. Well the court magician went to the king and said, “You don’t want to execute me.” The king said, “Why not?” He said, “If you just give me one year, in a year’s time I can teach your horse to fly and you’ll be world famous. Why would you want to waste that?” And the king thought, “Well, I doubt that’s true, but I hope it’s true.” And so the king said, “All right. You’ve got one year. But if you’re going to teach him to fly you can do it from the dungeon.” And so while the magician was in the dungeon one of his friends came by and said, “Why in the world did you come up with that?” And he said, “Well, who knows what might happen in a year.” His friend said, “You can’t teach the king’s horse to fly.” He says, “I know. But in a year the king might die.” He said, “Of course, I might die. The horse might die.” He said, “You never know, the horse might learn to fly, too.” Sometimes if we just have life we have hope. And also, where we have hope we have life. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” Proverbs 13:2. Dashed expectations, when people lose hope it can be devastating. But when desire comes it is a tree of life. “The greatest enemy of man is not disease,” someone said. “The greatest enemy of man is despair.” When people lose hope they lose life. Dashed expectations have been the source of a lot of heartache. You know, weddings are typically full of great expectations. Sometimes there’s a thin line between fantasy and reality when it comes to weddings. And sometimes after the honeymoon evaporates reality sets in and despair sets in because people were living on unrealistic hopes. And when their hopes are taken away; the Bible says, “Where hope is deferred the heart is made sick.” How many people do you know who have become discouraged because something they hoped for was removed. I know somebody, just last week they were anticipating a big check and the check was significantly smaller than what they expected. And even though it was a whole lot more than what they had they were very unhappy because what they’d hoped for did not materialize. And hope deferred makes the heart sick. As long as we’ve got hope there is faith. As long as you’ve got faith you can be saved. You remember what it says in Hebrews? Hebrews chapter 11, “Faith is,” what? Who knows that? “Faith is the evidence of things hoped for.” “Faith is the evidence of things hoped for.” If we are saved by grace through faith can we amputate the power of hope from our salvation? No, it’s intricately woven into being saved. But some people when they lose their hope they despair and that’s the worst form of sickness. I remember reading about a man who was on a boat and a stormy sea. Supposed to be cruising and having a good time, but he was terribly seasick. And as the boat was rocking and heaving and rolling under the waves a steward came over and said, “Mr. Jones,” patted him on the shoulder and tried to console him. He said, “ Don’t feel bad. No one’s ever died from being seasick.” Mr. Jones looked up at the steward with a green face. He said, “Don’t say that. Dying is the only thing I can hope for right now.” Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Dashed hopes can devastate. In connection with that, a lot of people have false hopes. And you’ve got to be careful not to misdirect your hopes so that they’re unrealistic because then you can look forward to disappointment. You know, I remember when Michael Landon, the actor, used to be on Bonanza, got cancer. And a week before his death he was on TV and he said, “I’m going to lick this thing.” And he died a week later. You know what they call that in the medical field, or physiologic field? It’s called living in denial. Living in denial. Now, I don’t know if that’s all bad. I remember when I was at my brother’s bedside the last day of his life. I said something to him about his grave condition and he looked at me, he almost glared at me and he said, “I’m going home.” He was determined that he wasn’t going to die there in the hospital. But he did. A lot of us have false hopes. One of the saddest things in the world is the billions, you catch that? The billions of people in the world who are hanging their eternal destiny on false hopes. It was so tragic a couple of years ago when they had this Heaven’s Gate fiasco. That mass suicide? These people got wrapped up in a cult. Some charismatic kook told them that he was, I forget what his name was, and he was from outer space and he was channeling down here in a human body and Haley’s Comet was going to pick them all up. And they all drank a lethal concoction of booze and some sleeping pills or cyanide, I don’t know. All killed themselves. Hoping to get picked up by a comet. How pathetic. Just because you hope for something doesn’t mean it’s going to be a reality. The advertising business makes billions of dollars every year selling false hope. You know what I’m talking about? “You buy this product, you’ll have more friends.” Oh, really? That’s the subliminal suggestion in a lot of advertising. They’ve got this person who is brushing with this special toothpaste and they’re surrounded with young, intelligent beautiful people. And they think, “Maybe if I buy that toothpaste that will be me.” So they buy the toothpaste, why? They’re hoping if they brush with that toothpaste they’re going to be surrounded with all these bright, intelligent, lovely people. And it’s a false hope. I mean, there may be rare exceptions where that’s all that was needed, but in most cases it’s going to take more than that if you’re going to change all your friends. A few of us, that might make the difference. But it’s usually more than that. They sell hope. Isn’t that right? “You use this detergent and you’re husband will love you more because he won’t have ring-around-the-collar anymore.” Right? I heard, who was it? Tony Campola says, “If the husband’s got ring-around-the-collar it’s not the wife’s fault. The husband needs to wash his neck.” But they capitalize on people’s unhappiness by trying to sell people hope. And every now and then they’re honest in their advertising, but more times than not it’s false hope. But people are so hungry for hope they’ll pay. Why do you think lotto tickets sell? What are people buying when they buy a lotto ticket? They're buying hope. They’re trying to buy hope they can change their predicament. It’s not just that they want money. Most of the people that are buying those tickets are unsatisfied with their present situation. They’re in all kinds of dire straits and they think, “If I could just, if I could win a million dollars it would take care of my most pressing problems.” And so they buy the ticket and then they hope. And they pray. And I’m sure a lot of them make deals with God if they could just win. And I probably shouldn’t miss this opportunity by reminding you; I don’t think Christians ought to be buying lotto tickets. If you’d save those same dollars you’d probably be able to invest them and have a better chance on a return than you would. I forget who it was that said you’ve got a better chance of being bitten by a shark on dry land than winning the lottery. You actually, and this is statistically true, more people are struck by lightening every year than win the lottery. Did you know that? That’s supposed to be a statistical fact. So if you walk around thinking you’re going to get hit by lightening, maybe then you ought to get a lottery ticket. But otherwise, no not even then. So you can see that they’re capitalizing on this idea that if we just had better products we’d have more hope. False hope. Abraham Cowley put it in prose like this. “Hope of all ills that men endure, the only cheap and universal cure. Thou captive’s freedom, thou sick man’s health. Thou lover’s victory, thou beggar’s wealth.” One thing I’ve observed in funeral services. People might be completely indifferent about their eternal future during their lives or that of their family and friends, but at funerals we sober up. And we become very pensive and wondering, “Where did they go?” And very rarely, I can’t think of anytime actually, has somebody at a funeral told me, “Well, we all know where they went. They’re gone. They’re doomed. They’re going to go to the Lake of Fire.” It’s amazing how everybody clings to any thread or shred of hope that their departed friend or loved one is going to make it to glory. You know, and I’ll hear folks do little testimonies during the funeral service and say, “Had a good heart. A remember one time he bought some cookies from the Girl Scouts so he’ll probably be in the kingdom.” And they grasp at any thread of hope that they can offer from that person’s life they think’s going to give them some virtue that’s going to get them into the kingdom. Because all want to hope. A lot of people in the world have false hopes about their relationship with the Lord. Now I think that as Christians we need to know on what to hang our hopes. Amen? And we have something to hope about. But a lot of people, it’s almost pathetic, have these false hopes. They’re not realistic. It’s like this man who was a terrible scoundrel. Drank and gambled and cursed and wine and women and the whole thing and he died. And his brother made arrangements for the pastor to conduct the funeral. The pastor wanted to try and help accommodate, but the brother had a little PS. He said, “Now, I’m going to give you $500, Pastor, but I want you to promise to say that my brother was a saint.” The pastor thought about it for a minute and he said, “I think I can say that.” So sure enough, at the funeral service the family is there and the pastor points to the brother who had bribed him. No, no, no. I’m getting my story wrong. The pastor begins to talk and here’s he’s got the corpse down in front of him. He said, “Now, this individual, as you all know, is obviously not going to be in the kingdom. He drank and he cursed and he lied and he womanized and was a total heathen.” Of course the brother is sitting out there getting angrier and angrier as he hears all that. Then he says, “But compared to his brother he’s a saint.” He did manage to squeeze it in. Folks are desperate for hope. You know it’s creeping into the church. They call it “prosperity preaching.” People are so hungry for something to hope for that they start to gravitate to churches and pastors that will tell them that if they have enough faith they are guaranteed that they’re going to be healthy, wealthy and wise. You’ve encountered this? It’s called the “name it and claim it theology.” They’re capitalizing on people’s longing for hope. Folks that are sick, hope to be well will pay almost anything for instant relief. You know, incidentally, before I rush past that point. I’ve been thinking a lot lately that one of the crippling philosophies, behaviors that’s peculiar to our generation is because we have so many medical procedures and pills and conveniences to instantly take away any discomfort. If we’re hungry we get fast food. If we’ve got a headache you take a pill. If you’ve got a broken bone you get some morphine, you set it, or you get some painkiller. We are living in the age of instant relief and instant gratification. That worries me because, you know, the Bible tells us that God’s people may need to go through some trials. We may need to suffer for our faith. I was sick a couple weeks ago and I’m a baby. I knew you were going to say that. I turned right at you. I admitted it to her. I said, “I’m a real wimp. What am I going to do in the time of trouble?” I start feeling sick; I go rummaging through the medicine cabinet looking for a pill that says, “Make everything feel better right now.” Get an antibiotic, something. All right, you’ve made your point. I confessed. That should be good enough. I became convicted. I thought, “What’s going to become of us?” We want to feel better right now. As soon as we’re sick we’re hoping for instant relief. What’s going to become of us if we get into a situation where we’re being tortured for our faith? We don’t like to think about that, but it could be on the horizon. And if we’re used to instant relief and when we’re hungry instant food what do we do if we’re hungry and suffering for our faith? I’m not saying you’re supposed to start flogging yourself so that you can get ready for the time of trouble. But it is a concern. Am I right? Aren’t we living in an age where everybody wants what they want when they want it? Whether it’s fast food or medical relief or whatever it is we want everything right now. We’ve become a very spoiled generation. And I think Christians in North America are especially vulnerable to giving up their faith, throwing in the towel because we are so preprogrammed for instant relief. God likes to surprise people in apparently hopeless situations. Have you noticed that when you read the Bible? How many times it may look like a situation is hopeless and especially when it looks like there’s nothing man could do God then likes to flex his muscles. Acts chapter 27:20 in particular tells a story about when Paul, it’s this last great sailing story that you find in the Bible. Paul is on a boatload; he’s on a small boat out in the middle of the Mediterranean. He’s got another 200 plus prisoners with him. They’re all bound for judgment. There’s a lot of spiritual applications in this story. They’re on this boat bound for judgment, 14 days they’re beat up by the storm just like Jonah was except it doesn’t look like there’s any end. Now when a sailor gets off course back then before they had global satellite positioning units how did they find out where they were? They would look at the heavenly lights, the sun, the moon, the stars. Principally the sun in the day, the stars at night. And they could pretty much pinpoint their position by looking at the sky. But when the waters below are black and the heavens above are gray and 14 days go by and you don’t see sun, moon or stars you don’t know where you are. They threw their food overboard. They threw their ropes, the tackling overboard. I mean, there was just, they didn’t know where they were. It looked like there was no end in sight. They’re in the middle of the Mediterranean in the middle of the stormy season and this is what the Bible says, “Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat upon us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.” You know that last phrase there, “all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.” I wonder how many people there are, not only in the world, but there are some in the church, that have given up all hope that they will be saved. You know, there are people in the church who stay in the church, but they’ve lost all hope that they’re going to be saved. It’s true. I’ve talked to them. They stay in the church because it’s just where they’re comfortable. It’s where they’re used to being. It’s where their friends are. But they feel like they’re a failure and they’ve given up hope that they’re going to be saved. They have accepted that, “Well, I’ll live out my days here, but I’m not going to make it.”

Side 2…What contributes to their loosing all hope that they’re going to be saved? They’re not able to read, where they are. They’re not able to see the signs from the sun and the moon and the stars. Keep in mind in the Bible, God’s church is seen as a woman, clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, stars above her head. The sun and the moon and the stars are the lights that God made. The Bible tells us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” When the church, that’s like the ship out on the stormy sea, is not able to see the sun or the moon or the stars, it represents a church that just isn’t; they don’t have the word. They don’t’ know where they are. They don’t know where they’ve come from. They don’t know where they’re going. They’re like bobbing around in a storm without a tiller or an anchor or a compass. And those are the people that lose hope. I remember a picture I saw one time of a forest scene. And everything about the picture was gray and it was a winter scene. The leaves were off the trees. And it would have been a very, very depressing picture except the artist had taken his brush, he had painted in the background a cabin. It was also gray, kind of bleak. And he had taken his brush and he dipped the tip of his brush in a little bit of bright yellow paint and he took that brush and he dabbed a little bit of yellow in the window, in a lamp that could be seen in the window in the cabin in the woods. And that little bitty speck of yellow transformed the whole picture. It created light. You know art instructors often tell their students that when you paint a landscape don’t just paint a bunch of trees. Don’t paint just a field with fences. He says, “If you’re going to paint the fence have a gate in the fence. If you’re going to paint a forest scene have a trail in the forest. Show the viewer a way out of the picture.” I thought that was an interesting observation. Then I began to think of all the pictures I’ve looked at and how many of them had gates or trails in them. And you know, how many of you have looked at Thomas Kincaid’s pictures? I’m sort of a quasi-fan of some of his art and I started looking at some of the pictures, sure enough, they’ve all got trails in them! There’s all gates. There’s all trails. There’s a way in and a way out. And if people in their lives don’t see that little speck of light in the gray forest, if they don’t see a trail, if they don’t see a gate in the fence, a way of escape, they lose hope. A lot of people are hopeless in church. Now that is really sad. That’s so out of the ordinary it makes me think of, it’s like an Air Force submarine. An oxymoron. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Like a Navy pilot. Oxymoron. Doesn’t make any sense at all. And so, for people in the church to be hopeless. You know the Bible tells us, Paul says in I Thessalonians that, “you and I should not sorrow as others that have no hope.” We have hope, amen? We should be the most hopeful, optimistic people in the world. We ought to believe that we can go forth conquering for Christ because He is with us. When Jesus came to the children of Israel in Egypt, you know how I worded that. We often say, “When God came,” but it was Christ. When the Lord came to the children of Israel in Egypt through Moses they were in the most hopeless of circumstances. But God is never discouraged by that, is He? It doesn’t matter how outwardly hopeless your situation might appear. The Lord revels in flexing His muscles and exhibiting His power in those apparently hopeless situations. How many times has He done it for you? Where it looked like things were hopeless. There’s no way out and then God suddenly comes through. And, you know, He’s got a thousand ways of answering your prayers when you can’t think of one. When the Lord died on the cross the Bible tells us the apostles had lost hope. You remember when Jesus was walking down the road to Emmaus with those two disciples? And one of them said, “We were hoping that He was going to be the one to redeem Israel.” Their situation looked really hopeless. I mean, they had seen His cold, blue body laid in the tomb. He was lifeless. Their hopes were dashed. And the Lord loved; I just think there must have been a smile, a grin on the face of Jesus after He went into the little house with them and they were breaking bread and He breaks the bread and then He reveals who He is to them. They had been so hopeless. What was it that gave them hope? Was it when Christ showed Himself to them? I’m talking to those of you that know the Bible. Was it when Christ showed Himself to them? I’m in Luke 24 right now. Or was it when He started opening the word to them on the way to the house? The Bible says later, talking about this, the disciple said, “Did not our hearts burn within us when He opened to us the scriptures?” Before Christ ever revealed to them that He was alive their hope was revived by virtue of what? The word of God inspired and revived their hope. That’s why the Bible tells us that we have many exceeding, great and precious promises. “That through these we might become partakers of the divine nature.” Through these we might have hope. This should be called the word of hope. There are no hopeless situations. There are only people who have grown hopeless about them. When you say a situation or a person is hopeless you are slamming the door in the face of God. Don’t ever underestimate God. Two or three times in the Bible God says in person or through angels, “With God all things are possible.” Don’t underestimate what He can do. Now the good news is that you and I as Christians have been invited to share the hope with others. We’ve got hope, but God’s called us to share it. I Peter chapter 3, verse 15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and always be ready to give a defense to every one who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” Now before you can put the hope in someone else it’s got to be in you. It says, “that you might be ready to give an answer for the hope that’s in you.” Incidentally, the Bible says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Jesus is that hope. Amen? We should be ready to share that hope with other people. Here’s what Paul said even as a prisoner. Acts chapter 26, verse 6, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers: to this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews.” Here Paul was brought before kings and rulers of the world, including Caesar, to share his hope. Because he had hope. If you’ve got that blessed hope the Bible says God will give you opportunity to share it. Jesus is the hope. Psalms 39:7. You know, I went through my Bible with my computer program and I was surprised at the hundreds of times that the word hope or hoped or hopeful appear in the Bible. Psalms 39:7, “And no, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.” What is the hope of the Christian? Is it a system of belief? Is it a string of doctrines? What’s the hope for the Christian? Or is it a person? “My hope is in you.” I Timothy 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the command of our God and Savior, and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.” If that’s plain say amen. It says, “The Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.” He is our hope. Psalms 33:18, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his mercy.” Christ is the source of that mercy, in which we hope. Now, if you forget everything I’ve said during the message, shame on you. No, if you forget everything I’ve said during the message please remember this. Life without Christ is an endless hope. No, no. Yeah, life with Christ is an endless hope. Life without Him is a hopeless end. Life with Christ is an endless hope. Life without Him is a hopeless end. What is it that mobilizes Christians? It’s called, Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope.” What is that blessed hope? You’ve heard of Joseph Bates, one of the founders of this movement. He used to sign his letters, “In the blessed hope.” And when people lose hope of the imminent return of Jesus, especially if Seventh Day Adventists lose hope in the Advent, then that’s a tragedy. I John 2, I’m sorry, I John 3:2-3, “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be: but we know that, when he is revealed, when he comes, we shall be like him; for we’ll see him as he is.” Notice, “every one who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” Do you have that hope? Do you have that blessed hope? There is a purifying enzyme in that faith, that Jesus is coming back. And everybody that has that hope in him purifies themselves even as He is pure. You know, they did some studies to find out what it was that separated the ones who survived in the concentration camps during World War II from those who quickly succumbed and died. And they found that the single most important factor was hope. A lot of the people who became hopeless, they could not see anything beyond that present circumstances. They figured that would be their end. They often gave in to disease, sometimes suicide, death, starvation. Some of the people had the same diet, same environment and they survived. And when they interviewed the ones who survived they found the common factor was those people maintained hope. I remember Jesse Jackson gave a speech at a democratic convention several years ago. And I don’t share his political views, but it was a great phrase that he used in his speech. The phrase was, “Keep hope alive.” He kept saying that over again. “Keep hope alive.” And that’s a great phrase. And some people let hope die. Those that survived the concentration camps, Victor Frankel was one of the people, he said, “I always saw myself after that experience telling people how God had kept me through it. He pictured himself surviving it. And because he had that hope he survived. It wasn’t a false hope. He believed that God could come through for him. Do you have hope that God can come through for you? Are you longing for the blessed hope of Jesus’ return? You know there is a song in our hymnals. It’s a new song. It was written for the General Conference. Page 214, We Have This Hope. Hope in the coming of the Lord. I almost wish it had more verses. But if you’d like to join me in singing about the hope and the imminent return of the Lord, then let’s stand together as we sing 214.

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