Author and psychologist Lew Smeedes tells of a young man who came in for his usual treatment at a county outpatient aids clinic, but this time he faced a new doctor. After the doctor finished the examination, he looked at the young man and said quite casually and I think rather cruelly, "You know, don't you, that you will not live out the year." The young man left the doctor's office weeping and broken and stopped by the desk of a director. She saw that he was obviously very upset and asked him what was wrong. With tears streaming down his face he said, "That doctor took away my hope." "He did, did he?" she said, "And now maybe it's time to find a new one!"
Is that even possible? Is it possible to find new hope when our old hope dies? Is there a hope when the situation is hopeless? Does God have any answers for us about crushed hope and for broken dreams? And aren't these the kind of questions all of us have asked at some point in our lives and some of us may be asking even now as we move into the Christmas Season.
In this rapidly changing world in which our futures have never been more in doubt, many of us are asking some soul-searching questions. We wonder, more than ever, what the future will hold. We wonder how much longer life can go on the way it is. We wonder how much more we can endure. And if the truth were known, we would discover that some of us feel like quitting. Some of us may be about to give up, to abandon hope. But before you do, hear what God has to say to you. I don't believe you are reading this by accident. And I am fully convinced as much as I ever have been about anything that God wants to speak to you through His Word, and God wants to renew your hope about what He can do in your life.
Proverbs 13:12 says, "When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed." If your heart has been crushed, if you have run out of hope, my goal in this letter is to reconnect you to the God of all hope. That is my prayer and my desire but even more than that it is God's desire for you today. Romans 5:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." God in this verse is described as a God of hope, a God that wants very badly for your life to overflow with hope.
We sing in Advent O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Remember with me the lyrics, "Oh come, Oh come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appears. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel." You can feel the sorrow in the melody and the words as the Israelites long for release and look for hope in an apparently hopeless situation. They looked to God and His promised Messiah. We see that promise fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. Christ is our Emmanuel, God with us. God has come in the midst of our hopelessness and brought hope.
How does that all work? For many people hoping is what we do, but the Bible talks about hope as something that we can have! Hope is something we can possess. Paul wrote that hope is something we can grab hold of in the midst of a turbulent life. Biblical hope is not
connected to anything we merely wish would happen. Biblical hope is connected to a person. It's connected to God Himself! Biblical hope is an anchor for stormy lives set in the Rock of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 6:19, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, form and secure..." We who trust in Jesus Christ have this hope that the world does not know anything about. And when the truth of us possessing such a hope starts to set in, when the reality hits home that we have a hope in Jesus Christ it will subtly change the way we think or act. Instead of wishing things were different we will begin to live as though our lives have changed because of the hope we have in Christ. Instead of saying "I wish my life would become more Christ centered." We begin to say something like this, "My hope is in Jesus Christ who enables me to live a life of victory over sin, death and the power of the Devil. And because of Jesus Christ, everything is now in the realm of possibility!"
Biblical hope opens the door to possibilities, because God's Word tells us that "Nothing is impossible for God." (Luke 2:37, Matthew 19:26) What may seem impossible for us is possible for God. Why? Because Biblical hope is connected to resurrection power. 1 Peter 1:3-4, "Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade --kept in Heaven for you." This verse says that in God's great mercy He has given us a new birth. And what is it we are born into? We are born into a living hope! A hope that is alive through the power of the resurrection. What could be more powerful than taking something that is dead and bringing it back to life? Only God can do that and God wants to do that in your own lives. Through faith, God has given us the power of the resurrection! We can claim it for our lives and live accordingly.
Our hope is rooted in the promises of God. And what does God promise? The Bible is full of God's promises for those who serve Him. First, God promises that this life is not all there is. God promises that Heaven is real and someday we are going to go there. (John 14:1-6) The second promise is for the world we live in now. God promises us that He Himself will be with us and that He will sustain us as we walk into tomorrow. A tomorrow that we can imagine but cannot control. God does not promise, and this is important, God does not promise that all of our dreams will come true. He simply promises to be with us whether they come true or not. God will be with us. And with God present in our lives the field of possibilities are unlimited. It is the knowledge of God's presence in our lives that keeps us hoping, even when the world tells us there is no hope, that there are no possibilities. It keeps us alive and hoping day after day and I want to assure you that it is enough hope to get you through whatever you are now facing in your lives today.
May the Emmanuel, the God with us, whose birth we celebrate this Christmas guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Merry Christmas, everyone.