Hello, and welcome to the Ben Cotten podcast, Weekly Edition. Brief encouragement and insight for your Wednesday morning.
This is Episode 2. Today the topic is Hope. I just preached on this at Living Hope Church and want to explore it further. I have a great quote from Joni Eareckson Tata, and some thoughts on why hope is often painful and a possible way forward for you.
Here’s to hope for the New Year.
First, a quote about hope:
“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrows currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.” -Joni Eareckson Tada
What is Hope?
Hope is typically referred to when we desire to see something happen that we are uncertain will happen. For example, “I hope Ben finishes this sermon on time.” You don’t know if Ben will finish on time, but you want him to. It may even be very unlikely that he will finish before next Christmas, yet you hope anyway.
This is not Biblical hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation, and desire, for something good in the future.
The Bible does not talk about hoping for things that are uncertain. It doesn’t say, for example, “God may or may not be faithful, but let’s hope He is.” or “God may not be powerful enough, but I hope He is.”
Hope is waiting confidently for something that you are assured is coming because God is in your future just like He is in your present.
Hope is Difficult
Proverbs 13:12 says “hope deferred makes the heart sick”. A sick heart is a bitter heart. I think that some of you have sick hearts. Bitterness is setting in. Maybe regarding your economic future. Maybe regarding your marriage. Or your kids becoming obedient to Christ. Maybe your career seems to be dead with no chance of being revived.
Or maybe, you are the one that needs to change. Maybe you are losing hope that you will not always be dominated by your weaknesses.
Whatever it is, hope keeps getting deferred and your heart is getting sick.
When your heart is sick, when you allow bitterness in, the LAST thing you want to do is listen to someone talk about hope. Because hope burns a bitter heart like water on an open wound. It’s the antidote to bitterness. If you have been disappointed by your spouse enough times, then when someone tells you God can heal your marriage can hurt or even make you angry.
1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
Two Things to Note:
I. Calm and quiet your soul: which means, stop allowing a desire to understand everything disrupt your peace and rob you of hope. (psa 131)
He says “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” – in other words, he doesn’t try to understand things that he cannot understand. This is how the Psalmist quiets his soul.
Knowledge and understanding is like a drug. We get addicted to the sense of control that we think it gives us.
Now, this isn’t a plea for ignorance. The psalmists says that he doesn’t seek to understand things that are beyond his reach – too wonderful for him. It’s the things beyond knowing, beyond our control, beyond what God has revealed, that he doesn’t concern himself with. The same should be true for us.
This is a plea for submission to the Lordship of Jesus. This is a simple recognition that our present and future belongs to God. There is a peace and calm that comes when we do that. And from that, HOPE.
We all have a little lawyer in our hearts that keeps a record of everything that happens in our lives. Day and night, that lawyer presents a case regarding the goodness and faithfulness of God. The lawyer presents evidence, and we stand as judge over God to determine if He has been, and will be, good and faithful to us.
I’m sure you can sense the problem with this. It puts us in a position over God and puts Him on trial. But God won’t be put on trial.
We think we are insulating ourselves against disappointment, but all we end up doing is allowing our hope to be destroyed and our peace disturbed. Peace and hope can only come when we are living in submission to the Lordship of Jesus and THAT means not seeking to understand what only God can understand.
II. Hope in God, not in tomorrow. Don’t take this the wrong way. Hear me out. But tomorrow may not be better than today. If your hope is in tomorrow being better, then you will be disappointed at some point. This is implied in the idea of hope. If we had in our possession the fulfillment of all of God’s promises, then we would not need hope. Hope is what we do between the promise and the fulfillment.
The psalmist knows that the only thing worthy of hoping in is God, not in anything this life can offer. God is the sure thing. In good times and bad times, Jesus is the source and object of our hope.
Often, our hope NEEDS to be deferred because our hope is in the wrong things. We place our hope in things that cannot do what we expect of them. Nothing can fulfill the promises of God but God.
So, Joni Ericksen Tada says that all we need is a glimpse through the keyhole into heaven to give us the hope we need. I think this is what she means. We see heaven through Jesus, maybe just a glimpse, but it’s enough.
So we use that glimpse to preach to ourselves like the psalmist. We tell ourselves, “Self, hope in the LORD.”
Consider today where your hope is. Consider if your hope is in God, or in something else. Is your soul quiet, or are you grappling to try to gain control through your own understanding of things beyond you?
Hope in God, not in your own understanding.