Aim Low to Reach Higher #4 in the Series
As we continue our series Aim Low to Reach Higher, let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Romans once again. Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)
 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I want to focus on Verse 12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” And specifically on the first phrase, “Rejoice in hope”
As we continue our series Aim Low to Reach Higher, today we Aim For Hope. former teacher and dean at Princeton Theological Seminary, Elmer Homrighausen once said, hope is the “oxygen of the soul.” I really like that because as human beings we are creatures of hope. We need hope to survive.
Christian hope is different, though. Christian hope isn’t just about having a better attitude than other people have. It’s not about having a cock-eyed optimism. It’s about trust, our trust in God and in the future God has in store for us. Hope is also trusting that God’s future has actually intruded into our present through Jesus His Son. In other words, God’s future is here. Now! At least in part. It fills us with that living hope, through Jesus, which Paul talked about and allows us to Rejoice In Hope.
I. HOPE IS LIFE GIVING:
A. As we Rejoice In Hope. I think we discover that Hope Is Life Giving. It fills us with that oxygen for the soul. I can’t talk about Hope without showing the closing scene of a movie that I think is the most compelling depiction of Hope portrayed in a movie. But I have to set it up or it doesn’t have the impact.
In the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne is a quiet banker who is unjustly convicted of murder and sent to Shawshank State Prison in Maine where he is befriended by “Red” Redding, a lifer who knows all the ropes. Red is the guy you go to when you need anything. It’s Andy’s spirit that attracts “Red” to him. Of all the prisoners, Andy is the only one who the place doesn’t seem to get to.
Andy is full of surprises and through his life, he gives hope to the rest of the prison. But even Andy can only take so much. One night, to everyone’s surprise, Andy escapes. He’s left hints for his friend “Red” about how to find him if he’s ever paroled. “Red” finally gets paroled and follows those hints. Near the end of the movie he digs up a letter and traveling money that Andy has left him and Red boards a bus headed to Hancock, Texas.
As Red rides the bus, he thinks: “I find I’m so excited I can hardly sit still or keep a thought in my head. I hope I see my friend. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel; a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
There is a universal need for Hope in our world; Hope in the midst of the ordinary everyday lives we live. Hope that can spring up in the midst of turmoil and even uncertainty. Hope that give us strength for anything the world or life throws our way.
B. Hope can’t give us back our yesterdays. But through the hope we find in Christ, the sins of yesterday can be forgiven. Jesus can heal the pain of yesterday. He can restore the energy wasted in the selfish pursuits of yesterday. He can restore our relationship with God. And he can help restore the relationships that broke or destroyed yesterday.
Jesus does for us what we can’t do for ourselves. He does what no one else can do. He gives us back our life and fills it with Hope. And in so doing allows us to think about tomorrow.
In 1st Timothy 1:15 Paul writes: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” And in Romans 5:8 he wrote: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
Jesus gave Himself on the cross to offer life and hope to this broken world filled with broken people.
II. HOPE ENVISIONS A FUTURE:
Robert Kennedy often said about himself, “Some people see things as they are and ask why? I dream things that never were, and ask why not?” That may be the best definition of Vision I’ve ever heard. And we need vision. And we especially need a vision of a future to go on living.
There is more and more evidence coming to light that our bodies respond to hope. It is still not a foregone conclusion but that evidence seems to be growing. We know we can literally worry ourselves sick. Is it possible to hope or believe ourselves well? Judge for yourself.
Several years ago a teacher assigned to visit children in a large city hospital received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy’s name and room number and was given instructions by the teacher. “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework so he doesn’t fall behind.”
It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one had prepared her to find this young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She couldn’t just turn and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs.”
The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” Before she could finish an apology, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him, but ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. It’s as though suddenly he’s decided to live.”
The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears he expressed it this way: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”
We can be discouraged, we can be knocked down, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost hope. As long as we have a breath of life left in us, we have a living hope. And as long as we have our assignment for tomorrow, we continue to believe that tomorrow is a possibility.
An English writer called hope the “Nerve of Life.” Hope is one of the necessary ingredients for human life. It comes from the God of hope. And it Hope Envisions A Future.
III. HOPE IS TANGIBLE:
I believe Hope Is Tangible as well. Josh Sundquist is a bestselling author, motivational speaker, and Paralympic ski racer. He has spoken across the world to groups ranging from Fortune 500 companies to inner city public schools and the White House. At age nine Josh was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and given a fifty percent chance to live. He spent a year on chemotherapy treatments and his left leg was amputated. Doctors declared Josh cured of the disease at age thirteen. Three years later he took up ski racing.
He trained for the next six years and in 2006 he was named to the US Paralympic Ski Team for the 2006 Paralympics in Turino, Italy. A multi-season athlete, Josh is the only person in history to ever have been named to both the US Paralympic Ski Team and the US Amputee Soccer Team.
Josh Sundquist understands that Hope Is Tangible. He is a walking talking living embodiment of just how tangible hope CAN be. Not only does Hope get him through those moments but because he makes it through those moments, he is able to inspire others as well. Hope becomes tangible through him, which leads to the fourth point.
IV. HOPE IS CONTAGIOUS:
Hope Is Contagious. One of my former Youth Directors, Carmen Rickel, is now serving her own church in the Texas Conference. A couple of years ago she was part of a group from Texas who delivered and distributed over 855,000 bed nets from Nothing But Nets to Cote d”Ivoire.
She kept a daily journal while on the trip and shared some of those notes with me, she wrote:
“In this village as well as many of the other of the 3,000 distribution sites, moms walked for miles with kids on their backs and in tow to receive a net. Many siblings, boys and girls, as young as 7, walked the long journey to bring their younger siblings while the moms were at home preparing for the next meal. They weren’t just walking miles and waiting for hours in line to receive vaccinations and a net; they were waiting in line to receive life.
“Everyone who we were able to talk to through an interpreter knew someone who had died from Malaria. Many do not even name their children until they are a few years old because they don’t want to become attached to them in case they die.
She said, “That’s when it sunk in why we had been treated like celebrities…we weren’t just bringing them nets, but we were bringing them hope. Hope for a brighter future. Hope that their children would live to have children of their own. Hope that possibly in their lifetime malaria would no longer be a threat to their lives.”
Then at the very end she wrote: “We came to save the lives of the Cote d’Ivoire children. We came to share Christ’s love with the people of Cote d’Ivoire. Vaccinations, medications and nets may save their worldly bodies, but we accomplished more than that. By reflecting His glory, we revealed to these children and their parents that God cares about them.
“One group told this story: A Muslim man brought his child to a site for care. He stood and watched for a long time, as the team cheerfully greeted each child with a smile and a blessing. The next day, he returned to the site with a small gift for the team. He asked for a Bible. He said that when he saw the Methodist devotion and dedication to the people of his country; he wanted to be a part of that love, a member of that religion.” Hope IS Contagious.
IV. HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT:
And Finally Hope Does Not Disappoint. There’s the story that takes place in an airport terminal. A sea of people were hurrying and pushing. A snowstorm had snarled the schedules both in the air and on the ground. In the middle of the terminal, a little girl, who couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old, sat by herself. She sat quietly and patiently.
Being all alone you might have expected her to look afraid or be in tears, but she simply watched the crowd with wide-eyed expectation. Now and again she smiled. A security guard spoke to her and asked if she needed help. “No,” she answered with a smile, “I’m waiting for my daddy.”
Concerned, the Security Guard stayed in the area to watch and make sure she was safe. She waited for more than an hour. Finally there was a huge smile as she recognized a snow-covered man coming toward her. “See,” she said, “I told you he would come.”
She never had a doubt. She never lost hope. She placed her hope in her father and she believed in his love. She believed in his integrity. She knew nothing would keep her father from meeting her. And her hope was not disappointed. For Hope Does Not Disappoint.
William Barclay in commenting on Romans wrote: “The Christian hope is the hope which has seen everything and endured everything, and has still not despaired, because it believes in God. The Christian hope is not hope in the human spirit, in human goodness, in human endurance, in human achievement; the Christian hope is hope in the power of God.”
I love that because hope reminds us we are not alone. Hope itself became flesh and blood and dwelt among us. Hope knows both the uncertainties and the dark side of life and Hope overcame them.
Aim For Hope because: Hope Is Life Giving. Hope Envisions A Future. Hope Is Tangible. Hope IS Contagious. Hope Does Not Disappoint. And THAT is why we Rejoice In Hope.
Aim Low to Reach Higher. Aim For Hope so you can Rejoice In Hope.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.