***Over the next few weeks, we will be posting the messages from the Women’s Ministry’s Conference, "Living Hope in a Hard World”. Below, you will find our first session teaching, Elements of Hope from Sara VanderBent.
Good morning. My name is Sara VanderBent. And I am here to kick off our conference on Hope.
Our go to verse today will be Romans 5 verses 3 to 5:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
If you are here today, more than likely you need a reminder of how you can have hope in all the suffering that is in the world at large or in your own little corner of it.
My goal is to help you define what biblical hope looks like and what we can do to make it stronger. Hope starts with faith and trust.
When you started walking with Jesus you were given the very real hope in the resurrection of Christ. If God raised Jesus from the dead, then surely, we will be raised up with him when God calls us home. That kind of hope is called a living hope according to 1 Peter 1 verse 3-6:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.
Hebrews 6 verse 18 to the beginning of verse 20 says:
God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.
The hope we have in Christ’s resurrection is the anchor that never wavers. This is the hope we have when we lose loved ones who are believers, we don’t mourn like others mourn because we know that we will see them again in heaven and not only them but Jesus in his full glory!
So how do we have hope in the day to day when life (suffering) happens?
The Lexham Bible Dictionary defines Hope as: The confidence that by integrating God’s redemptive acts in the past with trusting human responses in the present, the faithful will experience the fullness of God’s goodness both in the present and in the future. Biblical faith rests on the trustworthiness of God to keep His promises.
The Old Testament is full of hope. Jeremiah uses a noun for the word hope that helped the people of his time to understand that Yahweh or God was the only hope of Israel. The Psalms are filled with hope as well. Psalm 33 verses 18 and 22 say that we are to hope in His steadfast love.
Psalm 39:7 says,
But now, Lord what do I look for? My hope is in you.
The thing you need to realize is that the rest of Psalm 39 is David lamenting the hand of discipline that God brought on him for his transgressions (sins). He realizes that even when he had brought the discipline on himself God was still his only hope.
John 6:66-69 talks about a batch of Jesus’ disciples walking away as a result of his hard line on how God chooses his followers. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” When we are tempted to walk away from the faith, it still boils down to where else can we place our hope that is as secure as Jesus Christ.
I was raised in a household with both parents and a brother living the middle-class life. My parents were both Christians and we were in church pretty much most Sundays plus youth group and all of the other activities. I was raised mostly in the Methodist Church and both parents were extremely involved in the church my entire childhood. But I was not really raised to have my own faith. I relied on Mom’s faith, if there was something bothering me, no worries, Mom would pray about it.
I strayed from church and God for a while as a young woman, but my tiny seed of faith wasn’t going anywhere and when my world got shaken up and my relationship with my mom was changed dramatically due to some health issues on her part, God decided it was time for me to grow my own faith. And he did that by putting me in a bible study (community) with some sweet older ladies who were the same age as my mom, who challenged and mentored me while getting me to open my bible and dig deep, something I had not really done much of before this happened. But I still tended to put my hope more in people than in God. And slowly and sometimes not so slowly He got my world down to SMALL, where I really could only trust and have faith in him.
Faith is the next component that leads to hope in God. When we start walking with Jesus, we get that mustard seed sized faith with the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Trials and tribulations are to be expected in the Christian life, but they should lead us closer to God not further away. The Greek word for hope is “elpis” and in the King James version it is translated as hope 53 times and faith once. The verse that uses it as faith is Hebrews 10 vs 23:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.
We need to remember that our faith is our reason for hope. Our belief that God is who He says He is and that Jesus came down and died for us and rose again is the basis for all of our hope.
Hebrews has a lot to say about this hope or faith we have in Christ. Hebrews 11:1 says:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Elpis is only found in the Bible as a verb or a noun, never as an adverb or adjective. The reason for this is it is not founded on “feelings” that may or may not be true but based on the truth of the person of Christ.
I have another story of faith and hope. One of my very best friends was diagnosed with stage 4 Lymphoma shortly after we met 7 years ago. About 2 years after being diagnosed she took a turn for the worse and was wheelchair bound for the next 4 years. We almost lost her a couple of times, even to the point of her being in a coma for 2 weeks a couple of years ago and then she “woke” up. God was and is, still in her journey. There were so many people praying for her. It seemed like she was alive but not really living. We kept praying and then a year ago she got pregnant, which was totally a God thing, as she had been on chemo for so long that she and her husband believed that wasn’t even a possibility. Baby Samuel literally saved her life. Now she is doing a ton better, not needing a wheelchair or help with taking care of the baby, but she still carries cancer in parts of her. Hope is not a finite journey and can be painful a lot of the time. There is a lot of both/and in hope. There are days when you are celebrating great progress and days when you are holding the pain of not yet or not fully.
The other side of the hope coin is trust. But how do we learn to trust God more? We remember the times when God seemed most near to us, times like when I was 20 and my grandmother was in the final stages of cancer, and I cried myself to sleep several nights in a row. I finally prayed (I wasn’t super quick to do that back then and sometimes still forget to do that first). I don’t remember the exact prayer, but I do remember the extreme feeling of peace flowing from the top of my head to the bottoms of my feet after said prayer. Or the time I had a puppy that needed a potty break in the middle of the night on one of those clear nights and the stars are too numerous to count. The sheer number of stars and knowing that God knew them all by name and still cared for me just reminded me of how overwhelming His love for me was and still is. We need to remember those moments more than all the other times that God seemed so far away, which can be hard at times.
So, how do we do that?? By journaling and going back and looking over those old journals and remembering all He has done for us and others. We also need to be in fellowship with others. We need people to remind us of those times God has shown up but that you may have forgotten about or to tell you about how God showed up for them in similar circumstances.
I don’t know about you but trusting God can be hard for me. Sometimes the hard and suffering easily overrides what we know about God. This is where digging into the Bible daily is needed. Romans 15 vs 4 reminds us why.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
And the beginning of verse 5 says that God is the God of endurance and encouragement. How great that, when we have run out of both endurance AND encouragement God will readily supply us with both!
Have you ever really read the book of Genesis? The stories God tells and the people He uses. The story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should show us how God uses very broken people (in case you were wondering how all of the brokenness in your own life could possibly bring hope to others) and how hope can be deferred. Abraham was given the promise of being the patriarch of God’s chosen people. His hope and faith in God’s promise was commended in Hebrews chapter 11 known as the hall of faith. Abraham trusted that God would fulfill his promises, and God did, but not for another 2 generations. Maybe some of the hopes you have for healing or for family to come to know Christ won’t happen in your lifetime, but God hasn’t forgotten your prayers and the faith and trust you have put in Him now.
One more thing I want to touch on is that hope does not put us to shame. Shame is something I think we as humans but especially as women tend to live with a lot of. Shame is mentioned 174 times in the ESV bible but there are plenty of times where God is reminded to not put his people to shame.
Psalm 25 verses 2-3 say:
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Hope in the one true God will never put us to shame. When our faith and trust are in Him, we are free to remind Him of who he is and who we are in him. There is no shame in hoping for complete healing for your loved one, there is no shame in hoping for reconciliation in your marriage or in another relationship that is important to you. God is more than willing and able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) But we have to hold that promise with an open hand. Sometimes His answer is no or not yet.
That happened with my relationship with my mom. Our relationship was broken the worst for about 10 years before she passed away in 2014. I prayed and hoped that our relationship would be healed, even though I believe God had told me early on that our reconciliation would only be in heaven. Up until the day she died, I believed that God could and would fix it. And I will admit that I was so angry that He allowed her to die about 12 hours before my plane touched down in Idaho where my parents were living at the time. But God can handle the anger and the questions when things don’t turn out like we would want. There are reasons for things that God in his sovereignty will only ever understand the why. And some days maybe it looks like me telling you this story, in my eyes but my faith and trust in God firm.
One of the best examples of this is the picture of a tapestry: the underside is a mass of tangled messy string, but the top is a masterpiece of a complete picture. We only see the messy underside, but God sees the finished work.
What it boils down to is what Psalm 62:5-8 says:
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation, and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him, God is a refuge for us.
God is not only our firm foundation but our refuge. When the world gets loud and big, saying there is no hope anywhere to be found, retreat to the refuge that signifies the very hope others mock. We can trust in Him and when we don’t understand what is going on around us and our hope, faith and trust are all lacking, His shoulders are big enough to handle our questions, our tears and our fears. He is not afraid of any of it.