But first, some quick updates.
If you look in the menu bar at the top of this page, you'll see a new feature on our website called, "Harvest@Home". That link will take you to our repository of downloadable media, such as music, messages, and study guides. Try it out. Go ahead. Click it now. You can always come back here. In fact, I'll wait.....
...I hope you liked it. We'll add to that page regularly.
The message last week was on Hope. After watching some great clips from one of my favorite movies ever, The Shawshank Redemption, we talked about how "hope is a dangerous thing. It can drive a man insane." Especially when it goes unfulfilled. Repeatedly. Over time, we get cynical. We stop hoping. It's not that we become pessimistic, we simply get scarred.
People will always let us down. Circumstances beyond our control (and many within our control) have a tendency not to go our way. When we hope in our friends, or our spouse, or our jobs, or in circumstances, or in government, or in routine, or in a sports team, or in interest rates, we will always (eventually) find the opposite of hope: disappointment. But the Bible tells us that everything in it was written to give us hope. (Romans 15:4). And that hope "does not disappoint" (Romans 5:5) because God loves us. Our problem is that we search for our hope's fulfillment in things other than God or His Word.
So what are things we can confidently hope for, according to God's Word?
For one thing, we can hope for the relational blessings of knowing Christ. We have access to the ultimate power in the universe because we are friends with His Son. Kind of like that one rich kid down the street who everyone wanted to be friends with because she had a swimming pool and a bumper pool table, and she had Atari and cable TV before everyone else. There are perks to being friends with the Creator of all and the Giver of good things. We can hope for his goodness and his sustenance in hard times.
We also have the hope of spiritual genetics. The Bible says that we are being conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). That means we can hope that we will increase our holiness quotient each day. We can say, "Man, I hope I can be a more patient person" or "I really hope my connection with the Father takes off soon" and be confident that those hopes will be fulfilled. We may not like the way we look today, and we may not look much like Jesus right now, but we can confidently hope for that to change, because of our new spiritual DNA.
The Bible also tells us to hope in our inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). We know that because of our position in Christ, we will share in his power, glory, and future inheritance. Like the man who sold all he had for the field with a treasure in it, we suffer little to lose hope in the treasures of this world in exchange for the inheritance of the next.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we are reminded to hope anxiously for Christ's return. Every generation in the church's history has held out hope that Jesus could return in their lifetime. We have short memories and cynical, postmodern hearts. We should look to the skies and expect them to rip open with the coming of the Rider on the white horse. Paul calls this event "the blessed hope" (Titus 2:13) that should motivate us to live godly lives in this present age. Against this event, all of our lives are a shadow. This is a hope for freedom. For vindication. For a long-awaited celebration. For a reunion with our friend.
We closed with another clip from Shawshank, when Red finally gets out of prison and celebrates a reunion with his free, vindicated friend, Andy. "Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies."