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About this series
I Choose Hope
How to Face Your Future with Confidence
We all hope in something or someone. The question is: Will your hope deliver? In uncertain times, hope can waver. Families are under assault, the global economy is tenuous, and violence is on the rise. Is it possible to live confidently in such alarming times? In this series, from the book of Philippians, Chapter 3, Chip explains what God has to say about our future and our fears. He'll teach us how we can face tomorrow, and each day that follows, with certainty and hope that never fails.More from this series
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.
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. But if you asked them, “Do you have a rich, deep, intimate relationship? Is there a sense of growth and intimacy?” Some of them don’t even know what you’re talking about.