Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hope for Tomorrow

There are times in our lives that either don’t make sense or stretch our faith in God that he knows what he is doing. Sometimes it will stretch it to the breaking point. There are times that I find that I’m wanting to pity myself, but what hope do I have in feeling sad for myself? So, I look at the first five verses of Romans 5 to see the hope we have in the times of our life when we are walking through the valley. That we are not alone, that God does know what he is doing, and we have hope for tomorrow.

1. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2. through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
3. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
4. and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
5. and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

I.  Why we're not alone

There are a lot of things that the world will tell you and try to convince you of. One of them is that you have to look out for yourself and if you don’t then no one else will. They’ll also tell you that the nice guy finishes last. Why does the nice guy finish last? Because the ones who finish first are looking out for number one, aka themselves. But, we as believers have someone bigger than ourselves or others looking out for us. Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus and when we get to chapter 2 in Ephesians. Paul is telling us why we are alive in Christ were once we were dead to him and that it is because of our justification because of faith. Then he comes to verses 4-6:

4. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5. even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6. and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

So, Paul tells us that is because of God’s mercy and great love (verse 4) that he has seated us in Heaven with God.

Why does God want to lift us up spiritually and put us in the Heavenly places? Look at verse 7:

7. so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Just so he could show us his great grace toward us. So at salvation, we are seated in the Heavens, spiritually, so that we never could be alone again. Even though we may feel alone in the tough times in life, nothing could be farther from the truth. It is these times that I find comfort in coming to God in prayer. Paul teaches us in Philippians 4:6, we should bring our request to God and also thanksgiving. 

So, why would we bring our request to God in prayer and thanksgiving? Philippians 4:7

7. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So when we feel alone, we bring our fear before God in prayer. Admitting to God our weakness in fear of being alone and then thanking him for not only being with us, but for also knowing the end of the trial we are in and knowing when we are squeezed like a fruit, we will be like a child’s squeeze toy and sing out the joys of our God and confuse the world around us to the point that they will ask questions of us and how we can be joyful in a dark time. So, as verse 1 of Romans 5 tells us, we know we are not alone since we have peace with God through Jesus.

II. God does know what he is doing!

Lets look back to Romans 5:3-4. Sometimes it seems like God has lost his mind and he just doesn’t know what’s going on. Oh, how great it is to know that is not true. As we look at verse 3 we see that Paul tells us that we are to exult in our tribulation. Why would I exult in a tribulation? Because we know in Christ trouble is not meaningless. Romans 8:28-29 tells us:

28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
29. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

So, verse 28, we know this that no matter what happens it will all works out for the good of those who know God. Notice what it doesn’t say. It does not say that all things work out TO the good of those who know God. Things don’t always work out for our good. You may lose a job unjustly, be born with bad health, have a terrible disease, people unjustly persecute you. These things happen because we are justified people living in a sinful world. So, things don’t always work out TO our good, but they always work out FOR our good. I know your asking, what good could those things work out to if things are going to be unfair? Paul doesn’t leave us hanging, he tells us in verse 29. So that we would be walk in the likeness of Christ so that others would see the hope we have in God, but it doesn’t end there. So that because of these things, others would come to know Christ through us showing them were we get our hope in those times.

Back to tribulation, what is yours? Loss of a job, bad health, loss of a loved one to death, trouble at work, just a general feeling like everything is going wrong and nothing can go right? If we skip down to verse 4 of Romans 5, we see the result of our tribulation, but let’s follow the sequence first. First we have the tribulation, then that brings about perseverance. The King James uses a better word here: patience. So if tribulations, or trials, bring about patience, what good is that? Why would patience be a good thing? James tells us in 1:4 as the same word translated patience in Romans is the same word translated patience in James 1:4:

And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Did you know, or remember, that patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Patience is not something that we can do, but it is something that is the product of the Spirit. So the perfect that is made complete that James is talking about here is the perfect work of the Spirit in producing fruit in our lives.

So after patience comes, not just character, but proven character. I’ve often heard character is described as: what would you do if you did not have to worry about anyone ever finding out. So, how far would your mind let you run before you think you have gone too far? Well, since we have been perfected in producing fruit by our patience, we check ourselves at the door when it comes to character and let the Spirit produce our character for us. So, what is this character look like? Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22-23:

22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

So, how does your character stack up? Still lacking, don’t worry we all are lacking in some aspect of the fruits of the Spirit and that is why we rejoice that God is still working.

Lastly we have hope. What good is hope you might ask? Well, hope is that substance that no one can ever take from you. Hope is what gets us up every morning saying there might be something to this day. But, as believers we don’t just have any old hope. We have the hope that comes from God to us through the Spirit. Look at verse 5 of Romans 5. It is at this point we find the love of God. We have hope in the love that is the same love that sent Jesus to the cross so that God could reconcile us through him. So what good does hoping have? You may hope that the Falcons win the game, hope that your school exam goes well, that you studied the right stuff for that exam, that you get that raise, etc. You see, these “hopes” have no substance. You cannot control what happens with these hopes, but the hope we have in God is one founded in mercy. It is not really a hope as it is much more a FACT that we know that God will pour out his love on us when we ask in prayer.

III. Hope for tomorrow

This brings me into my last point. We have hope for tomorrow. This goes back to the end of my last point. If we have an assured hope in God because of his love and mercy, we have reason to believe that things will get better and even if they don’t we have the confidence in knowing that God will bestow his grace on us that we will be able to endure until its end. Paul tells us of a suffering he endured that would not end and look at what God told him and what Paul concluded in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

9. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

So, do not lose hope when it looks like, or is, no end to your trial. Since God has supplied an abundance of grace for you to endure, and this grace is the same grace that abounded more than sin as Romans 5:20 tells us about when the law was brought before the Jews in the Old Testament. Now, they had to right to claim ignorance to God’s law since they now had it, but look at what it says:

20. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,

So where sin increase, grace increase more; where sin abounded, grace flooded in; where sin multiplied, grace dominated; where sin engulfed, grace encircled. Get the point. It didn’t matter how bad sin became, grace was all so much greater than sin could ever hope to be.

As I close this, I sit here and listen to MercyMe’s song “” Bring the Rain. I sit and listen to the words and the lyrics puzzle my thoughts. Who am I to question the God who brings joy, peace, hope, love, grace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? Is he not just working in my life to conform me to look like his son and ultimately bring glory to God so that those around me that know me, and don’t, would come to know the miracle that God worked at the cross where he reached down into time to come to me since I couldn’t come to him? So I WILL shout anthems or joy to the God who sustains me until I’m called home. As I’m squeezed by the trials of this life, I will pour out the juices of the Spirit and shout to the hills that all may know the hope that is in me and the hope of peace that they can have in God through Christ.

If you don’t know Christ as your savior, maybe your like the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-26. Your coming to the well of life looking for the water of hope for tomorrow. You know what it might work out, but your equally sure that it won’t and it maybe winning. You are starting to believe that things will never change and that you will never find peace, joy, or hope for tomorrow. But just like in John, there is a man sitting there waiting for you. He has been there before, but maybe by reading this, you are noticing him for the first time. He is the one you have been needing your entire life, you may just have not noticed until now. He is more than just a man, he is the one who went to the cross for you and reconciled the separation from God that was caused because of your sin. He is waiting for you to come to him in faith. He wants to give you unfathomable peace, never ending joy, and a real solid hope for tomorrow. He is the well that never runs dry. You may even have a lot of questions unanswered, but he’s not asking you to know the answers to them all, he is asking you to come to him in faith and know the real joy that life in Christ can bring and the fruit that you’ve been wanting to produce, but have been unable to. Paul tells us in Romans 10:9-10:

9. that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
10. for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

The question is not if you have troubles in this life or not, the question is where is your hope founded when the troubles come? Are you hopes founded in the sands of this world that are quick to fade away when the tide goes out, or in the rock of Christ who endures forever!
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