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Understanding the Power of Hope, Part 1

From the series I Choose Joy

Are you in need of hope today? Are life’s ups and downs threatening to take the fight out of you or someone you love? Before you throw in the towel, join Chip as he shares how to find joy - even in the midst of really tough times. 

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Message Transcript

Kevin shared what it is like to be a young dad with four kids, stage four lymphoma, and battling, wondering, the real challenges of: am I going to live or am I going to die? And how am I going to go through this?

I read every time on Caring Bridge as Kevin journaled through this process. And I followed him with the ups and the downs and this prognosis and then that one and then how he is feeling.

And I wanted to share with you the four things that I learned from going through this journey with Kevin that I hope will be helpful for you.

The first thing I learned was that facing our mortality is both scary and clarifying. As I would read his journal it just reminded me that I am going to die. It reminded me of just, life is really short. It reminded me of the battle and the victory that we went through with cancer with my wife.

It just reminded me, gosh, the second thing was that very few things in life matter very much. Just as I would read these journal entries and he wasn’t worried about remodeling the kitchen or whether he was going to get a raise. He wasn’t concerned about, is he going to get 49er tickets, how his fantasy football team wasn’t really a big issue for him, right?

And the same thing, it just brought back all those memories that when we went through cancer, how projects, demands, what people think, what they don’t think – nothing really matters. Life is very, very simple when you get really, really close to death.

The third thing is that I have listened to Kevin and watched is that C + P really does = E. Our circumstances plus our perspective determines our experience. And as you listen, if you read the journals, if you went through it in real time with him, there were ups and downs and he was brutally honest. Brutally honest about fears, brutally honest about doubts and struggles.

But, also, it was an unwavering, “I am going to trust God. I am going to, I believe there is a heaven, I believe the Bible is true, I believe there is God’s character, His Spirit lives within me, there is a certainty, there’s a hope. And I am going to have an upward focus and an outward focus. And I am going to use this for God’s purposes. Those nurses are going to hear and see Christ. Other patients are going to hear and see Christ. Not because I’ve got it in me, but Christ in me.” I watched his life prove that.

And, finally, I think the thing I learned from Kevin is that only an eternal “P” – perspective – can produce peace and joy when facing death. When you look at life through just the lens of: now is all there is, I’ll tell you what, you cannot sustain it.

In fact, this wall, for me, is a lot like life. And these are the circumstances. And sometimes they’re great, but sometimes it’s a brick wall. And you got a marriage problem here and a singleness and you want to be married here and cancer biopsy here and you lose your job over here and you’re clinically depressed over here, and you just keep butting against this wall and you’re looking for hope and you’re looking for hope and you lose it and you lose it and you lose it and you lose it.

And after a while, you just give up! And you just start doing stuff that you didn’t think you would ever do because hope is the oxygen of the soul. If you don’t have hope, you die. You can go without food for seven days and water for about three. You can’t go without any hope for probably more than three or four minutes. We’ll do.

So what do you do? Here’s what Kevin did. Kevin said, “I can’t take it. I don’t know what is going to happen. So I am going to rise above my circumstances and I am going to look at eternity. That which is seen, temporal circumstances, I can’t change.

And it’s not a pitcher half-full. It’s completely full. It’s heaven waiting. It’s Christ. It’s all of His promises.

It’s a sovereign God; it’s: this life is not all there is. And I can look at that and I cling to that and it’s the anchor of my soul and it gives me the grace and the perspective and the perseverance to keep going. It takes an eternal perspective.

Here’s the question: How, when life is crashing in, do you develop that eternal perspective that gives you the kind of hope that allows you to go through anything, that allows you not to give up, not to give in, not to get inwardly focused, not become a victim, not blame everybody else, not blame God, but be the kind of person in the midst of you don’t know if you’re going to live or die and there’s pain and there are children and there’s a wife and there’s a concern, where nurses want to come in and go: “I don’t know what is going on in this room, but we’ll hang out here.”

That’s the presence of God; that’s the power of God. That’s a joy, not a happiness. That’s a reality experienced in the midst of crushing circumstances.

Well, if you open your notes, we are going to learn the answer to finding that kind of hope. And the answer is in a very simple, yet profound word. And it’s the key to eternal perspective. And the key word of the lens you need to look at is the lens of hope and the question to ask yourself when you’re really struggling is not just: where is my focus? And not just: what is my purpose? But: where is my hope?

We pick up the story of the apostle Paul and it is now his third lesson. The context, for those that might be just joining us, he’s in Rome. He is chained to a praetorian guard that changes every six hours. It is not a good situation. He is on trial and at the end of the trial, he is either going to be released and found innocent, or he is going to be found guilty and be executed.

And when we pick up the story, he is in this situation where: “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Imagine more than a little anxiety for most of us.

So what is his perspective in facing death? It’s crazy. It’s joy!

It’s joy! He actually has a joyful attitude facing death. He has an eternal perspective. Notice in verse 18 it says, “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.” The question is: why and how could any individual, unless they are playing just mind games, how could you have joy in a terrible situation? You’ve been betrayed by your friends, there’s political issues happening in the Church, you are humanly thinking, God, You sent me to go to all the world and instead, here I am in this prison.

Little did he know that all these letters that he would write would change the course of history. He didn’t know that.

What was it that allowed him to have this amazing attitude in circumstances that would absolutely crush ninety-nine-point nine percent of the people? He gives us two reasons in Philippians chapter 1, verses 19 to 25.

Reason number one is that his deliverance is certain. His deliverance is certain. Underline the word deliverance. Follow along as I read. “For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance,” – well, how? “through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ even now, as always, will be exalted in my body,” – well, how? “whether by life or by death.”

Paul is completely convinced that he is going to be delivered. Now, I want to do something with you. It’s kind of fun. The apostle Paul, I really like him, because he has run-on sentences. Because I have run-on sentences.

And the favorite grammatical punctuation in all of the English language for me is a semi-colon. That’s how you put multiple sentences together and not have the teacher take off.

And so I have written the notes in a way so you can see the structure of them. But let me give you just his sentence. And so what I want you to do is, “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance,” put a line underneath that. Okay, you got it?

And then I want you to skip down where it says, “…according to my earnest expectation,” just underline the word, just, “that.” And then I want you to skip down a little bit farther and underline, “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body.” His simple sentence is: “I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance, that Christ will, even now, as always, be exalted in my body.” And everything else, is the “whys,” the “wherefores,” the “hows,” and all those clauses to explain it. But they are really important.

First of all, put a box around the first, where he says, “For I know.” There are two Greek words for know. One is you know by way of experience. Powerful word. But that’s not this word. The other word is like you know, like physics. You know that water boils at such-and-such degrees or two plus two is four. That’s this word.

In other words, there is empirical facts. Paul says, “I have an empirical fact that doesn’t change that I will be delivered.” And put a box around the word deliverance. We get our word salvation. It means to be delivered out of. In the Old Testament, when the Red Sea parted, they were delivered.

So he says, “I know for certain I am going to be delivered that Christ is going to be exalted.” I want you to note his perspective on this. He says there are two reasons why I know I’m going to be delivered. One is the responsibility of man and the other is the sovereignty of God. Did you pick it up? He says, “I know I’m going to be delivered through, A, your prayers and, B, the provision of the Spirit of God.”

Despite anybody’s theology anywhere, the apostle Paul actually believed, when men and women, ordinary people like us would come to God earnestly, in faith, and claim his promises and in our heart, at least, and get down on our knees and intercede for the life of another person, it actually makes a difference. He is certain of his deliverance.

And for the provision. Put a circle around the word provision. It’s an interesting word. We get our word, are you ready? It’s weird. We get our word chorus. Like a singing group. And historically, this is kind of fun to give you a little background on this because in the ancient world, if you were a very, very wealthy person and in a smaller town, then there was entertainment and so the theatre was very big and they had these outdoor amphitheaters.

And if you were very wealthy, it was expected that you would bring a theatre group, that you would pay the theatre group, that you would rent the amphitheater, and everything that had to happen for their costumes, the group, the entrance – everything – so that you could entertain the city. And that’s this word chorus. Over time, it came to mean whatever it takes to pull this thing off, all the provision, the money, the time, the energy, the leadership. Everything it takes to pull something off, that’s what this word became.

And Paul says, “I am convinced of my deliverance because you all are praying and that whatever it takes, that the Spirit of God is going to bring into my life,” but notice, he doesn’t think his deliverance is necessarily out of his circumstances. He doesn’t say that: “I am going to be delivered and I’ll be released, that I’m going to be executed, that God is going to just deliver me out of it.”

He says, “I am convinced of my deliverance that Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or whether I die.” And then notice he says, “According to my earnest expectation.” It’s another very interesting word that has a, it’s a picture of someone who blocks everything out and brings a level of focus.

Imagine, if you will, the runner and you know what? He’s two, three yards and everyone is leaning in on the hundred-meter dash, and he leans forward. The crowd is gone, the noise is gone, and it’s a word that says, Paul is saying, “My eager expectation.” “My absolute focus.”

In other words, “I believe in this deliverance. I believe because of your prayers. I believe God is going to come through. And I have a laser-like focus in the promises and the character of God and I have a hope.”

Jesus promised – I have a hope – heaven is real. I have a hope – God is in control. I have a hope – God’s goodness says that whether I live or whether I die, His highest and best purposes, His hope is in the character, the promises, and the reality of God’s goodness and that the worst that can happen is he goes to heaven.

And so he says: earnest expectation – hope – his biggest concern is that he would be put to shame. But he says, “With all boldness that, Christ, even now, will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Notice, he prayed that what he would be delivered from is failure to represent Christ well in the midst of crushing circumstances. His biggest concern wasn’t whether he lived or died. His biggest concern was Christ’s reputation. Whoa.

There are three ways in Scripture that God delivers us and we tend to only think of one. So, get your pencil out, this will be helpful one day in your life.

I’m going to give it God’s plan A, God’s plan B, God’s plan C. Or, actually, it’s more probably accurate to say our plan A, our plan B, and our plan C.

Plan A, when God uses the word deliverance, He delivers you out of something. He does a miracle. I have had times where we had no money, we couldn’t pay the rent, there’s no way, I have no resources, and I get a check in the mail from someone that I have met once years ago, for a thousand dollars and I pay the rent and I go, “That’s a miracle! God delivered me out of it.” It happened again. A missionary from India, actually, sent me money during seminary to pay my bills. Go figure. He delivered me out of it.

I have had times where we have anointed people with oil, prayed for them, and seen a brain tumor miraculously go. Delivered them out of it. Praise God. He still does miracles. But we have prayed for people and three weeks later, they have died. God is in control. He has purposes. Some of which we understand; a lot of them that we don’t.

Deliverance number one: He delivers us out of the adversity or the difficulty.