Broadcast

Finding Hope

From the series I Choose Hope

We live in an age of uncertainty and rapid change. So is it possible to face the future with confidence? Chip launches this series, by defining hope from God's perspective, and then explaining why hope matters so much.

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Message Transcript

A couple years ago, I had a chance to listen to a speaker and he is a very, very effective leader.

He is a guy that I have admired. I would call him a friend. I don’t know him really well, but we have hung out a few times. And when I get close to someone that I can tell is really real, it’s very exciting.

And he was giving a message and he said, “There’s actually something in our day that you can measure that you can actually grow, that has a higher ability to predict the future than either your IQ or even your EQ.” He said, “There’s something called an HQ that, depending on how full your HQ is that will tell you a lot more about the future of your marriage, your future in school, your future with people, your future in work than even how smart you are or your emotional intelligence.”
And I was leaning forward like, I’d like to know what that is. He says, “HQ is your hope quotient.” And then he talked about a research project that had started, at the time, seven years earlier and it came out of a conversation with his daughter who was in school at the time and in a class on leadership. In fact, I put the question that she asked him.

It was a homework assignment and the homework assignment was to find a leader and ask questions so you could learn about leadership. So, she thought, My dad’s a leader. I’ll ask him.

So, they began to talk for a couple hours and he said, “Her last question was question number twenty. And it was the best one. She said, ‘What’s the single-most important thing you do as a leader?’”

Now, think of that. The single-most important – is it strategy? Is it planning? He happens to pastor one of the largest churches in all of America. Is it prayer? What is it?

And he said, “Instinctively, after all these years, I said, ‘Oh, that’s easy. I make sure I stay encouraged.’” And I remember sitting there listening to him, because when she asked that question, I wanted to know: what is it? But that’s not what I thought he would say.

And then I got to think about it. And he went on to say, “Well, when I’m encouraged, I make good decisions. When I’m encouraged and emotionally whole, I relate to people well. But when I am discouraged, I make bad decisions. When I’m discouraged, I tend to fall into temptation. When I’m discouraged, I lose confidence. When I’m discouraged and live in a discouraged manner, I start losing credibility with the people around me.”

And then he went on to say, he said, “The greatest gift parents could ever give their kids is hope. The greatest thing you can give your marriage partner is hope. The greatest thing you can give your employees or your friends is hope.” And I thought to myself, I have never thought about it like that, but it rings true.

I found a quote by my mentor, Howard Hendricks, speaking of the flip side of hope. He says, “Discouragement,” this is a great line, “is the anesthetic that the devil uses on a person just before he reaches in and carves out their heart.” That’s graphic, isn’t it?

Well, what is hope? I have done a lot of research and I could give you biblical words and dictionary words but as I put them all together, I think the heart of hope is this: it’s the mental and emotional outlook that life is good, the future is promising, progress is certain even in the midst of challenging circumstances or difficult relationships.

It’s an emotional and intellectual outlook. It’s just you get up, and there is something about your emotions, there’s something about your thinking and it’s like, Life is good! Hey, life is good! Isn’t it? Of course there are challenges. But the future, the future is promising. The future of my marriage is promising. The future of my singleness is promising. My future at work is promising. And progress is absolutely certain, even in the midst of difficulty and challenges.

Why does it matter? It matters because researchers tell us you can go about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but probably not more than two or three seconds without hope. The moment you lose hope, you cave in. You lose hope in your marriage, you quit. You lost hope in one of your kids, you give up. You lose hope at work, you don’t show up as the same person. You lose hope, everything begins to cave in.

He went on in his research. He said, “Why does it matter?” Here are eleven things that people whose hope – think of hope as like a little tank inside of you. And I want to ask you in just a minute: is your hope kind of low? Is your hope kind of medium? Or are you just filled with hope? Do you have this buoyant sense that life is good, the future is promising, and progress is certain?

People that think like that the majority of the time have more satisfying relationships, they are more productive, they are affected less by stress, they are more successful, more satisfied, they are more compassionate, they are more willing to help people in need, their physical life – they are healthier, they hold a higher moral and ethical standard, they are more likely to assume leadership positions. And it’s interesting: they are more likely to see God as loving, caring, and forgiving.

So, let me ask you, just before we get going here. Just think, your hope meter, let’s make it just a one up to a ten. If you had to give yourself a number of hope right now, what do you got? What’s going on inside? Discouraged? Encouraged?

What is the source of your hope? Now, I know the Sunday school, right? Jesus, right? Jesus is the source. Okay, we got that. That’s the right answer. Now, let’s get to the honest one. If you honestly would say: What is your hope? What are you hoping for? What do you intuitively or unconsciously believe: If this would happen or that would happen, my life would be good. The future would be positive. I know I would make progress.

Maybe a different way to come at it is look at the negative: what is it that, when it happens, discourages you and gets you down quickly? See, that’ll probably tell you where a lot of your hope rests.

The really big question, I’m asking you to think about it, I’ve done a lot of thinking about it. And just we are not going to have all the right hope all the time. But here’s the big question that we want to ask answer: in this season, but in the series, is how do you find and keep hope alive? Because I don’t have a lot of control over my IQ. I can study. I don’t have much control over my EQ – you can learn some things.

But I am going to tell you, you have one hundred percent control of your HQ. You can raise your hope, you can build your hope, you can fill your hope.

The apostle Paul is writing to a church that he loves – the Philippians. We need to get a little context because we have taken a break. He is in difficult circumstances in chapter 1, he thinks he may die at any moment, and so he chooses joy. His C+P=E. His circumstances plus his perspective equals experience.  And he has an upward focus and an outward focus and he says, God, I know You are in control.

In chapter 2, there is disunity in relationships. And we learned that you can choose love. You develop an “I am second” mentality. It’s about humility. Pride kills relationships; humility always causes grace to flow.

And so you follow the example of Jesus and you consider others as more important. You choose to love others in ways that are meaningful.

In chapter 3, he is concerned about them because, culturally, there is chaos and confusion. Some false teachers kept following Paul. Paul would plant a church: Galatia, Ephesus, here in Philippi. And there would be a group called Judaizers. They were new Christians, but they were Jewish Christians and they said, “Jesus is great and grace is important plus you need to be circumcised. You need to keep the law. Here are seventeen rules you need to do.”
And so they would follow Paul and then they would teach their false doctrine and take loads of guilt and put it on people. Now you’ve got to keep all the Jewish laws. Well, no one has ever been able to do that. It has been fulfilled. It’s not Jesus plus anything.

And so he writes chapter 3 because the hope is getting shifted from a grace, loving relationship that God says, You’re His son, you’re His daughter, I’m for you because of what I have done. And the hope is getting shifted to: this is what you have got to do. And in order to measure up, you need to do this and this and this and this.

Open your Bibles if you will. Philippians chapter 3. He gives them a command. Verse 1 he says, “Finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me and it’s a safeguard for you.”

He says, “Find your joy in your relationship.” He says, “It’s not a big deal for me to remind you of this,” but then remember the end of chapter 1 he said, “You’re experiencing the same difficulty, which you saw to be in me.”
And he’s just bringing their focus back. Yeah, you’ve got to love other people, but you’ve got to find your joy in your relationship with God because everything and everyone else, sometime sooner or later, is going to let you down.

And then he gives them a warning in verse 2. He says, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.” These are these Judiazers. He gives them three labels. He calls them “dogs” because, don’t think of Ranger. That’s my dog. Ranger is a Golden Retriever. The biggest problem we have with Ranger is he walks up to you and he just licks you to death. He’s the most loving dog in the world.

These are scavenger dogs. These are dogs that are running the city. These are dogs that snarl. These are the kind of dogs that people were afraid of and carried disease. And he is talking to them in this negative language and it was a slang term, also, that Jewish people would use for Gentiles.

And he says, “They will gobble you. They are diseased. They will mess you up.” And then he says, “Not only that, but they are evil workers.” They have a works mentality and there is a play on this where he is saying, “Their works are going to take you down a bad path.” And they are a false circumcision.

If you were a good, Jewish, little boy – the sign of the covenant at eight days is the foreskin was to be cut and you’re going to be circumcised. And even after people came to Christ, regardless of their age, the Judaizers said, “You need to do that. Keep the law, keep the Sabbath, keep the dietary laws.”

And Paul says, “These people are going to take you down a path that will rob your hope and your relationship with Christ.”

And here’s the reason. He says, “For we are the true circumcision.” How?

“We serve God by His Sprit, we boast in Christ Jesus, and we put no confidence in the flesh.” He gets three characteristics of the false teachers and then he says, “No, no, no, no, hey. Philippians! We are the true circumcision. It’s of the heart.”

Romans, you might jot down right above that, Romans chapter 2, verses 28 and 29. He says, “People the are physically born of Abraham, just because you’re a physical Jew doesn’t make you right with God.” He’s going to say, “It’s the circumcision of the heart.” It’s a relationship that we have with God through Christ. We are the true circumcision. And here are the three characteristics, “We worship God by the Spirit. It’s the Spirit of God dwells in us and we have relationship.”

Second, he says, “We boast in Christ.” It’s about a person. Anytime religion takes you into the Church, the leader, you have to do these five things to be right, if you ever do these two things…

All that stuff, he says, “We boast in Christ and in what He has done.”

And, third, notice what he says, “We put no confidence in the flesh.” Sarx is the word. It means in what we do outside of what Christ has provided. It’s this idea that on bad days, all of us, right? We’ve got this battle. We want to do what God wants us to do, but we live in this flesh. And it’s a battle. It’s those desires and habits, time, form that it’s doing things out of our energy, out of our own effort, out of our own motives.

Now, notice then Paul is going to shift gears here and he is basically going to say, “Let me prove this to you all.” And then I think there are three huge takeaways for us about finding hope.

Basically, he is going to say to them, let me give you the sense of it. He is going to say, “These guys are saying you need to keep all this stuff.” Basically, he’s going to say, “So, if anyone wanted to go toe to toe on really keeping the law, my argument is not going to be that these guys do it and none of us can.” He goes, “I’m going to tell you, from my life, I used to be in that group. In fact, I used to be an all-star. I was the budding star. In fact, Gamaliel was my teacher and he was the most famous teacher and I was the rising star.”

And he is going to throw out his pedigree. He says, arguing, “If anyone was going to get right with God in that system, I was scoring a hundred as far as you could in that system.” And then he is going to contrast that and say, “But all of that,” he says, “I look at that,” and he is going to use, in fact, a little bit later I’ll have you circle the words gain/loss, gain/loss, and the word consider. Because the word consider is an accounting term.

And he is going to actually look at his life in Christ and his life before Christ and his life with all of his good works and he is going to say, in an accounting term, “Gain, gain, gain; loss, loss, loss.” Are you ready to follow along?

“Though I myself have reasons for such confidence, if someone thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I far more.” Then he gives us seven specific statements: “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. With regard to the law, a Pharisee.” That was the strictest sect. “As for zeal,” someone who was fired up, “persecutor of the Church. As for righteousness, based on the law, blameless,” or faultless.

Paul is basically saying: I was in the system, I was OCD spiritual like you have never seen. I have all the pedigree, I was born in the right place, born of the right parents, born of a special tribe. My name even, the first tribe came from Benjamin. He said, I was circumcised on exactly the right day. In terms of religious or righteousness, I fasted the two days a week like Pharisees. I memorized, probably, all of the Torah and major parts of the Old Testament. In terms of being a religious person who fulfilled what you can in your own effort and energy, I was the star of Judaism. And as far as this whole, this sect, this following, this Jesus stuff – I tried to kill Him!

And then notice the shift. What he’s basically saying, his point is: true spirituality, authentic relationship is going to be rooted in the person of Christ, in the person of Jesus, not religion. Not in a system, not in a group, not in a church, not in a leader, not in what you do, not what you can accomplish.

And then after this, notice what he says. “But,” you might put a big underline, because this is the contrast, “whatever was to my gain,” circle that, “or profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” Put a box around the word consider. “What is more, I consider,” put a box around consider, “everything to be a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things and consider them as garbage, that I might gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Now, you’re a very, very smart group, so what I want you to do is if you see the word gain or loss – circle it in your notes. I just want you to visually see this. Circle it, circle it; gain, loss; gain, loss; gain, loss.

When you see the word consider, put a box around it. It’s going to open up the whole text. What he is going to say is, like an accountant doing a forensic audit, I have looked at all of the religion and I look at my relationship with Christ and, now, here is what it is. Here is the gains, the surpassing value of knowing Christ.

And the word for knowing here is an intimate, deep, rich, personal relationship. It’s the opposite of knowing about God. We have, I believe, millions of people in the Church, even in evangelical church, that know a lot about God and have a very unconscious mindset of what makes them right with God. I come to church fairly regularly, I read my Bible some, I pray when I can, I prayed a prayer at one time. And what they are really trusting in is what they are doing. But if you asked them, “Do you have a rich, deep, intimate relationship? Do you have a passion in your heart to get to know? Do you enjoy Jesus? Is there a sense of growth and intimacy?” Some of them don’t even know what you’re talking about.

The apostle Paul said, “I knew all about God. I had it all memorized! I kept all the rules. I was morally pure. I fasted the right days, I went to the temple, I sacrificed. If you can get there on your own, I was over here.” But what does he say? “I count it,” the word is garbage in one translation, it’s dung in another translation. It’s just a really graphic word. It’s poo-poo.

He said, “I look at all the junk, all the self-effort, all the religiosity compared to intimacy and life and grace and power and the transformation. Over here, I was a slave to religion. I’m a son of God! I was a slave!” And when you try to earn it on your own, you get arrogant and anyone who doesn’t disagree, you take them out. So he tried to take out the Church. And then Jesus revealed Himself. “The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

And then he doesn’t say, this is very interesting, notice in your text. He doesn’t say, “For whose sake I lost all of that.” He changes the word. “…whose sake I have lost all things.” Now, you’ve got to understand. Let’s not make this like Bible world.

This is a guy that is a Roman citizen. He comes up in Tarsus. There’s the elite, the Harvard, the Yale, the Stanford of his day. That’s where he – and he is the number one student of the number one professor. And he’s the star. He’s the man! So much so that, boy, when this Way, this Christianity starts, he goes after them.

He lost his reputation, alienated from his family, kicked out of his position of power, lost his money, became an outlaw, ended up being persecuted. When he says, “I lost all things,” this isn’t some theoretical, Oh, this is a transfer of intellectual issues. This is: “I count all of it,” not just the religious side, “but everything I have lost.” Everything that people value: power, money, fame, success, career, upward mobility. He had all that! He goes, “All of that compared to Christ…”

Where is his hope? It’s in a person. It’s in a person who is the Second Person of the Godhead. Who, from the foundation of the earth, would give us freedom to choose, to accept or reject Him. And, then, knowing the consequences, what, actually, from the foundations of the earth agree with the Father and agree with God the Holy Spirit, that He would come and be born

that He would grow up absolutely dependent and live an absolutely perfect life so that people would know, You ever wonder or know what God is like? Jesus said, “The Father and I are One.” He came and He explained Him.

You read through the gospels. You want to know what God is like? Just look at Jesus’ life. You want to know how He feels? This is how He feels about hypocritical people. It’s not pretty. This is what He feels about people that are hurting and broken and honest and come.

And then He came knowing that He came to seek and to save that which is lost. So He purposefully set His face like a flint and said, I am going to go to that cross. I know the break it’s going to be with the Father. I am going to hang on that cross, and when I hang on that cross, I am going to take the sins of all people of all time and I will be the sin offering, being fully man and fully God and the Father will pour His just wrath out on the sin that separates people. And I will absorb it. And in that moment, He will turn away and I will be hidden in the earth and I will declare the victory in the, “Sheol” is the word. The place of the dead.

And I will rise in victory and conquer Satan, conquer sin, conquer death. And I will ascend to the Father and I will be at His right hand and I will open My arms to whosoever would believe. I will forgive your sin, I will bring you in relationship with Me and eternal life will begin the moment you turn from your sin and receive Me and walk and follow Me.

The surpassing value – and the Spirit of God is the One who will live inside of you and you will be sealed and you will be adopted and you will have an inheritance and the Spirit of God will actually manifest the very presence and person of Jesus so that the goal of the Christian life is not fire insurance. The goal isn’t: I prayed a prayer. The goal isn’t that I have life after death. The goal is: I didn’t have a relationship with God and now the surpassing value is I am now connected with God solely and completely based on Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection. And the goal is to love Him and to be loved by Him. That’s what Paul is saying.

Over here it was, “This is what I can do. This is what I have achieved.” Over here, “This is what God has done and this is what I receive.” You see the difference? His hope, his moorings, his future – it’s in Jesus.

Question, is your relationship, right now, with Jesus growing more passionate and rich and real? Are you experiencing deeply God’s love, His forgiveness, promptings from His Spirit, a hunger for His Word, a sense that there is purpose and direction and that He actually wants to even use you to help others and that as you do that, things happen you can’t explain?

In other words, is your unconscious passion to be just a little bit more moral and try and get God to work things out so that what your hope really is in can come in? Or is it in Himself? See, God doesn’t give His glory to another. And He won’t be a means. He is not a means for your kids to get into the right school, He is not a means for you to be happy, He’s not a means for your life to work out right, He’s not a means that if you believe in Jesus your marriage goes great, He’s not a means that all your kids turn out right. He’s not a means. He is the end.

Now, the amazing things about grace, as your hope is in Him, there’s a domino effect that it impacts all those other things. But none of those things ever can become your hope. In fact, we are warned often, don’t let them. Not because God is mad, because He loves us and doesn’t want us to miss.

There are three big takeaways, I think, that are super practical from this passage I would like to share with you.

Whatever we put our hope in will determine what we worship. Whatever we put our hope in will determine what we worship. If my hope is in my job, I worship it. If my hope is in my family or my mate, I worship it. If my hope is in someday, someway I am going to, I will worship it. If my hope is in money, I’ll worship it.

False hope is always focused on the external, the rules, the laws, success, status, and salary. And the confidence in that hope is: this is what I’ve got to do! Workaholism! Believe me, I understand that one. It’s all about what you can accomplish. What you have got to do.

In the text, it was circumcision, the law, and religious works but in our day, the external can be church attendance or morals. The external can be you worship education; you worship your kids. Your whole life is around your kids, their education, their sports, their traveling team. It can be money. It can be your looks. I believe in working out as much as anybody. I’ve got news for you, no matter how many vitamins you take, how much you work out, and how many surgeries you can afford, you’re going to get old. And you’re going to get wrinkles. And probably a lot more.

But you know what? Ask yourself: what is my hope in? Is it when I make partner? Is it when my kids get in this school? See, what happens is if your hope is in anything other than Jesus, it doesn’t have the power to deliver. And, so, false hope is in external things and the confidence is in yourself and what you can achieve.

And the source of real hope is always internal. It’s a rich, deep, growing relationship with Christ. It’s grace. There’s a sense of dependency. There’s a sense of gratitude and empowerment.

And, finally, it’s confidence in what He has done. And, so, this is another one of those questions I am asking me and you. If you don’t give me words, but I could see your financial statements, where all your time goes, what you think about, what you dream about, and what you want to happen and what gets you really down – you would know in a minute what your hope is and what you really worship.

I have a concern, that an intellectual understanding of what it means to be a Christian has substituted what it means to be a genuine follower. And what I can tell you is that there’s just great pictures in our church of both people who I see when difficulty and pain and adversity comes it’s obvious where their hope is, and they cave.

And I had a conversation just this week of maybe the most of all difficulty. And I was in amazement at a man and his wife of where their hope is rooted. Because takeaway number two is: false hope always ends in either pride or despair.

If you happen to be pretty successful, unconsciously or consciously, it’s: Look at me! Look at what I did! I’m a self-made man! A self-made woman! Look at my success! Look at my family! I’ve got how many patents. Look at what I built, look at what I wear, look at how I dress. Look at me!

We are Christians so we do it in subtle ways, but we do it. The problem is that no matter what you achieve, the horizon is always moving.

I had an elder many, many years ago in a church that I served many, many years ago and he loved these sailboats and people would be talking. He goes, “The thing is when you’re on a sailboat and if you’re sailing toward the sun, the horizon is always moving.” And I didn’t know exactly what he meant.

He goes, “People think, I’m single. Once I get married, then…” No, no, no, no. Well, then, if we have some kids. Well, then if our kids turn out right. Then, then, then, then, then. And the hope just keeps changing and then people realize it doesn’t have the power to deliver.

I have actually sat across the table from a man who was being completely honest with me who was a billionaire who he would only be satisfied when there was a new number behind how many billions he would have. And he was a follower of Jesus, but his hope was in his money.

Super high levels of debt tell you what? Your hope is in things. Do you have the 4k yet? Has the Apple 12 come out yet? Has Samsung done…?

It’s like an addiction. Are you ready to spend all kinds of money this Christmas that you don’t have to impress people that don’t care to get someone to look at you and say, “Oh, wow, you’re wonderful!”

And at the same time, and again, if this produces a little discomfort, good! I just came back from people that are pastoring churches of five hundred or a thousand people – they don’t even have a library. Now they’ve got two books. They’ve got a Bible and the one I gave them. It always leads to despair. Or pride.

1 Timothy 6:17 says, “Instruct those that are rich in this present world not to be conceited or arrogant and fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches but on God,” by the way, “who gives us all things,” look at the last line – why? So that you cannot have anything? “…to richly enjoy.”

Having things is not the problem. It’s our priorities and where is our focus and where is our hope?

I had a challenging experience when I lived in Atlanta. We got to be a part of a church plant and one of the really key members was a guy that had done well, lived in a very nice country club, knew all the right language, he was a spiritual guy, he was at the foundation group of launching the church.

And probably a year or so after I left, I got news of – and he had this fund and I don’t know if he was a hedge fund guy or whatever this or that. And all I can tell you was he went missing. He was missing for, like, a week. And they found him a week later at a cabin and he had this fund and the thing had slowly gone down, gone down, gone down, gone down.

And he hid it, because his identity and hope was really in: I’m a rich, generous guy. And they found him and he put a shotgun in his mouth and a note that said, “I’m sorry I failed everyone.” And it just broke my heart.

See, we can intellectually think our hope is in Christ. Here is how you know. Just look at your behavior. Your behavior never lies. What I believe and what you believe has almost nothing to do with what we say or what we think we believe. What we believe is how we actually behave. Our behavior reveals the core of our beliefs.

It will happen again this year, as tests are taken and we will have high school students that do not get the grades they want and they won’t pass the tests they want and they will do what they do here very often, so much that it’s almost not reported. And they will step in front of a train because their hope is they didn’t get into that school and the pressure they feel and the shame that they think they’re going to bring on their family. And it’s real here.

Education is not hope. Money is not hope. How many likes is not hope. How many followers is not hope. What other people think of you is not hope. The only hope that will never disappoint is a deeply rooted relationship with a God who will come through all the time.

Finally, true hope is rooted in a relationship and results in joy and endurance. There’s a byproduct. If there’s no joy in your life, let me tell you this, your hope is somewhere, but it’s not in Christ. He loves you! He is for you! He will take you through any circumstance. He doesn’t promise it’s always going to be easy. In fact, what He promises is there’s going to be tribulation.

But He’ll not only give you joy, He’ll give you endurance. Hope is built in Jesus who left heaven, paid for you, loved you, cares for you. If you’re a follower, He lives in you. He will guide you, direct you, protect you, sustain you, you might have a lot, you might have a little, you might be single, you might be married, you might have kids, you might not.

But He promises that the fruit of His living life as you stay connected to Him, is you’ll experience love and peace and joy and kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control. And your life will be full. Not easy. But it’s built on a hope and an endurance.

The apostle Paul would say it well in Romans 5, “Therefore we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

That’s what Paul was saying. He goes on to say, “But we also boast,” or, “exalt in hope,” are you ready? “…of the glory of God. And not only this, but we exalt in our tribulation.” See, when really hard times come, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, you hang in there. You just hang in there. That’s why we need each other. That’s why we need His Word. Hard things happen. “And perseverance brings about proven character.” It’s in the vice of life and the difficulty that you actually change.

“And proven character produces hope.” Because what you realize is nothing out there can ever satisfy you, but nothing out there can ever make you or break you. “And proven hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”

Lord, my prayer is that You would help us this season as never before to sink our roots deep into the hope of the Living Christ. Our faith is not about how many times we pray or how many times we read the Bible or how many times we come to the church or a lot of external things. Those things are great means, but they don’t make us right. It’s You. It’s us believing Your love, forgiveness, resurrection. It’s a relationship.

So, would You help us to put our hope in You like never before? And, Lord, I just feel compelled that you brought maybe a handful of people that need to put their faith in You for the very first time.

And, so, I ask if you’re one of those people that say, “I need Jesus. I have been thinking about it.” Could I invite you to find your hope in Him right now? To bow your heart and say to Him, Lord Jesus, today is my day. I want to turn from my sin and I ask You to forgive me. I place my trust in Your work on the cross, Your resurrection. Come into my life right now. Make me Your son. Make me Your daughter. And He will. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The apostle Paul said, “I knew all about God. I had it all memorized! I kept all the rules. I was morally pure. I fasted the right days, I went to the temple, I sacrificed. If you can get there on your own, I was over here.” But what does he say? “I count it,” the word is garbage in one translation, it’s dung in another translation. It’s just a really graphic word. It’s poo-poo.

He said, “I look at all the junk, all the self-effort, all the religiosity compared to intimacy and life and grace and power and the transformation. Over here, I was a slave to religion. I’m a son of God! I was a slave!” And when you try to earn it on your own, you get arrogant and anyone who doesn’t disagree, you take them out. So he tried to take out the Church. And then Jesus revealed Himself. “The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

And then he doesn’t say, this is very interesting, notice in your text. He doesn’t say, “For whose sake I lost all of that.” He changes the word. “…whose sake I have lost all things.” Now, you’ve got to understand. Let’s not make this like Bible world.

This is a guy that is a Roman citizen. He comes up in Tarsus. There’s the elite, the Harvard, the Yale, the Stanford of his day. That’s where he – and he is the number one student of the number one professor. And he’s the star. He’s the man! So much so that, boy, when this Way, this Christianity starts, he goes after them.

He lost his reputation, alienated from his family, kicked out of his position of power, lost his money, became an outlaw, ended up being persecuted. When he says, “I lost all things,” this isn’t some theoretical, Oh, this is a transfer of intellectual issues. This is: “I count all of it,” not just the religious side, “but everything I have lost.” Everything that people value: power, money, fame, success, career, upward mobility. He had all that! He goes, “All of that compared to Christ…”

Where is his hope? It’s in a person. It’s in a person who is the Second Person of the Godhead. Who, from the foundation of the earth, would give us freedom to choose, to accept or reject Him. And, then, knowing the consequences, what, actually, from the foundations of the earth agree with the Father and agree with God the Holy Spirit, that He would come and be born

that He would grow up absolutely dependent and live an absolutely perfect life so that people would know, You ever wonder or know what God is like? Jesus said, “The Father and I are One.” He came and He explained Him.

You read through the gospels. You want to know what God is like? Just look at Jesus’ life. You want to know how He feels? This is how He feels about hypocritical people. It’s not pretty. This is what He feels about people that are hurting and broken and honest and come.

And then He came knowing that He came to seek and to save that which is lost. So He purposefully set His face like a flint and said, I am going to go to that cross. I know the break it’s going to be with the Father. I am going to hang on that cross, and when I hang on that cross, I am going to take the sins of all people of all time and I will be the sin offering, being fully man and fully God and the Father will pour His just wrath out on the sin that separates people. And I will absorb it. And in that moment, He will turn away and I will be hidden in the earth and I will declare the victory in the, “Sheol” is the word. The place of the dead.

And I will rise in victory and conquer Satan, conquer sin, conquer death. And I will ascend to the Father and I will be at His right hand and I will open My arms to whosoever would believe. I will forgive your sin, I will bring you in relationship with Me and eternal life will begin the moment you turn from your sin and receive Me and walk and follow Me.

The surpassing value – and the Spirit of God is the One who will live inside of you and you will be sealed and you will be adopted and you will have an inheritance and the Spirit of God will actually manifest the very presence and person of Jesus so that the goal of the Christian life is not fire insurance. The goal isn’t: I prayed a prayer. The goal isn’t that I have life after death. The goal is: I didn’t have a relationship with God and now the surpassing value is I am now connected with God solely and completely based on Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection. And the goal is to love Him and to be loved by Him. That’s what Paul is saying.

Over here it was, “This is what I can do. This is what I have achieved.” Over here, “This is what God has done and this is what I receive.” You see the difference? His hope, his moorings, his future – it’s in Jesus.

Question, is your relationship, right now, with Jesus growing more passionate and rich and real? Are you experiencing deeply God’s love, His forgiveness, promptings from His Spirit, a hunger for His Word, a sense that there is purpose and direction and that He actually wants to even use you to help others and that as you do that, things happen you can’t explain?

In other words, is your unconscious passion to be just a little bit more moral and try and get God to work things out so that what your hope really is in can come in? Or is it in Himself? See, God doesn’t give His glory to another. And He won’t be a means. He is not a means for your kids to get into the right school, He is not a means for you to be happy, He’s not a means for your life to work out right, He’s not a means that if you believe in Jesus your marriage goes great, He’s not a means that all your kids turn out right. He’s not a means. He is the end.

Now, the amazing things about grace, as your hope is in Him, there’s a domino effect that it impacts all those other things. But none of those things ever can become your hope. In fact, we are warned often, don’t let them. Not because God is mad, because He loves us and doesn’t want us to miss.

There are three big takeaways, I think, that are super practical from this passage I would like to share with you.

Whatever we put our hope in will determine what we worship. Whatever we put our hope in will determine what we worship. If my hope is in my job, I worship it. If my hope is in my family or my mate, I worship it. If my hope is in someday, someway I am going to, I will worship it. If my hope is in money, I’ll worship it.

False hope is always focused on the external, the rules, the laws, success, status, and salary. And the confidence in that hope is: this is what I’ve got to do! Workaholism! Believe me, I understand that one. It’s all about what you can accomplish. What you have got to do.

In the text, it was circumcision, the law, and religious works but in our day, the external can be church attendance or morals. The external can be you worship education; you worship your kids. Your whole life is around your kids, their education, their sports, their traveling team. It can be money. It can be your looks. I believe in working out as much as anybody. I’ve got news for you, no matter how many vitamins you take, how much you work out, and how many surgeries you can afford, you’re going to get old. And you’re going to get wrinkles. And probably a lot more.

But you know what? Ask yourself: what is my hope in? Is it when I make partner? Is it when my kids get in this school? See, what happens is if your hope is in anything other than Jesus, it doesn’t have the power to deliver. And, so, false hope is in external things and the confidence is in yourself and what you can achieve.

And the source of real hope is always internal. It’s a rich, deep, growing relationship with Christ. It’s grace. There’s a sense of dependency. There’s a sense of gratitude and empowerment.

And, finally, it’s confidence in what He has done. And, so, this is another one of those questions I am asking me and you. If you don’t give me words, but I could see your financial statements, where all your time goes, what you think about, what you dream about, and what you want to happen and what gets you really down – you would know in a minute what your hope is and what you really worship.

I have a concern, that an intellectual understanding of what it means to be a Christian has substituted what it means to be a genuine follower. And what I can tell you is that there’s just great pictures in our church of both people who I see when difficulty and pain and adversity comes it’s obvious where their hope is, and they cave.

And I had a conversation just this week of maybe the most of all difficulty. And I was in amazement at a man and his wife of where their hope is rooted. Because takeaway number two is: false hope always ends in either pride or despair.

If you happen to be pretty successful, unconsciously or consciously, it’s: Look at me! Look at what I did! I’m a self-made man! A self-made woman! Look at my success! Look at my family! I’ve got how many patents. Look at what I built, look at what I wear, look at how I dress. Look at me!

We are Christians so we do it in subtle ways, but we do it. The problem is that no matter what you achieve, the horizon is always moving.

I had an elder many, many years ago in a church that I served many, many years ago and he loved these sailboats and people would be talking. He goes, “The thing is when you’re on a sailboat and if you’re sailing toward the sun, the horizon is always moving.” And I didn’t know exactly what he meant.

He goes, “People think, I’m single. Once I get married, then…” No, no, no, no. Well, then, if we have some kids. Well, then if our kids turn out right. Then, then, then, then, then. And the hope just keeps changing and then people realize it doesn’t have the power to deliver.

I have actually sat across the table from a man who was being completely honest with me who was a billionaire who he would only be satisfied when there was a new number behind how many billions he would have. And he was a follower of Jesus, but his hope was in his money.

Super high levels of debt tell you what? Your hope is in things. Do you have the 4k yet? Has the Apple 12 come out yet? Has Samsung done…?

It’s like an addiction. Are you ready to spend all kinds of money this Christmas that you don’t have to impress people that don’t care to get someone to look at you and say, “Oh, wow, you’re wonderful!”

And at the same time, and again, if this produces a little discomfort, good! I just came back from people that are pastoring churches of five hundred or a thousand people – they don’t even have a library. Now they’ve got two books. They’ve got a Bible and the one I gave them. It always leads to despair. Or pride.

1 Timothy 6:17 says, “Instruct those that are rich in this present world not to be conceited or arrogant and fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches but on God,” by the way, “who gives us all things,” look at the last line – why? So that you cannot have anything? “…to richly enjoy.”

Having things is not the problem. It’s our priorities and where is our focus and where is our hope?

I had a challenging experience when I lived in Atlanta. We got to be a part of a church plant and one of the really key members was a guy that had done well, lived in a very nice country club, knew all the right language, he was a spiritual guy, he was at the foundation group of launching the church.

And probably a year or so after I left, I got news of – and he had this fund and I don’t know if he was a hedge fund guy or whatever this or that. And all I can tell you was he went missing. He was missing for, like, a week. And they found him a week later at a cabin and he had this fund and the thing had slowly gone down, gone down, gone down, gone down.

And he hid it, because his identity and hope was really in: I’m a rich, generous guy. And they found him and he put a shotgun in his mouth and a note that said, “I’m sorry I failed everyone.” And it just broke my heart.

See, we can intellectually think our hope is in Christ. Here is how you know. Just look at your behavior. Your behavior never lies. What I believe and what you believe has almost nothing to do with what we say or what we think we believe. What we believe is how we actually behave. Our behavior reveals the core of our beliefs.

It will happen again this year, as tests are taken and we will have high school students that do not get the grades they want and they won’t pass the tests they want and they will do what they do here very often, so much that it’s almost not reported. And they will step in front of a train because their hope is they didn’t get into that school and the pressure they feel and the shame that they think they’re going to bring on their family. And it’s real here.

Education is not hope. Money is not hope. How many likes is not hope. How many followers is not hope. What other people think of you is not hope. The only hope that will never disappoint is a deeply rooted relationship with a God who will come through all the time.

Finally, true hope is rooted in a relationship and results in joy and endurance. There’s a byproduct. If there’s no joy in your life, let me tell you this, your hope is somewhere, but it’s not in Christ. He loves you! He is for you! He will take you through any circumstance. He doesn’t promise it’s always going to be easy. In fact, what He promises is there’s going to be tribulation.

But He’ll not only give you joy, He’ll give you endurance. Hope is built in Jesus who left heaven, paid for you, loved you, cares for you. If you’re a follower, He lives in you. He will guide you, direct you, protect you, sustain you, you might have a lot, you might have a little, you might be single, you might be married, you might have kids, you might not.

But He promises that the fruit of His living life as you stay connected to Him, is you’ll experience love and peace and joy and kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control. And your life will be full. Not easy. But it’s built on a hope and an endurance.

The apostle Paul would say it well in Romans 5, “Therefore we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

That’s what Paul was saying. He goes on to say, “But we also boast,” or, “exalt in hope,” are you ready? “…of the glory of God. And not only this, but we exalt in our tribulation.” See, when really hard times come, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, you hang in there. You just hang in there. That’s why we need each other. That’s why we need His Word. Hard things happen. “And perseverance brings about proven character.” It’s in the vice of life and the difficulty that you actually change.

“And proven character produces hope.” Because what you realize is nothing out there can ever satisfy you, but nothing out there can ever make you or break you. “And proven hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”

Lord, my prayer is that You would help us this season as never before to sink our roots deep into the hope of the Living Christ. Our faith is not about how many times we pray or how many times we read the Bible or how many times we come to the church or a lot of external things. Those things are great means, but they don’t make us right. It’s You. It’s us believing Your love, forgiveness, resurrection. It’s a relationship.

So, would You help us to put our hope in You like never before? And, Lord, I just feel compelled that you brought maybe a handful of people that need to put their faith in You for the very first time.

And, so, I ask if you’re one of those people that say, “I need Jesus. I have been thinking about it.” Could I invite you to find your hope in Him right now? To bow your heart and say to Him, Lord Jesus, today is my day. I want to turn from my sin and I ask You to forgive me. I place my trust in Your work on the cross, Your resurrection. Come into my life right now. Make me Your son. Make me Your daughter. And He will. In Jesus’ name, amen.