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I Don't Have Much Hope [Hebrews 11]

In the book of Genesis, in the very beginning of the bible, there’s a story about two people - Adam and Eve, and they were in a garden. And in that garden, there was a tree - the tree of knowledge, knowledge of good and evil, and that’s the start of the story. And then we go through, and we follow the story of God interacting with humans all the way to Jesus, the creation of the Church, and beyond. And then we get to the end, to Revelation - the last book in the bible. And it tells us, in chapter 22, the last chapter of the bible - literally, I’m on the last page of my bible, and it shows us a picture of heaven. [read Revelation 22;1-3]. This is a picture of what paradise will look like. And I love the imagery, crystal river, with the trees along the banks of the river. The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. Wow. There’s a lot of good stuff on this earth - especially when you get out into nature, you get to see some amazing things. But there’s always something wrong, isn’t there. You have to ignore a lot of bad stuff to get excited about this world. But what this book says in the end, in heaven, nothing will be bad, nothing will be cursed. It is the beauty of this earth, perfected. No more hatred or pain, sorrow, all the broken things of this life, washed away. But one of the fundamental pieces of being a Christian is recognizing that we are not there yet. We started in the garden, next to the tree - and we are headed on to paradise someday, next to the trees. We move from one tree to another, but right now - we are caught in the middle. We are living between the trees of life. God promised paradise. It says that he has prepared a city for them. Crystal clear river flowing from the throne with the tree of life on the sides. No longer will there be a curse. 

Now I don’t know if you’ve spent much time thinking about heaven - but the truth is we don’t know much about what heaven will look like. We read the pieces in the bible and we’re not sure what’s metaphor and what’s concrete - but the part no one questions is that there is no more evil, no more pain, and we will all experience the presence of God. That’s the gift. That’s the promise. But you know we don’t talk about heaven that much in the church anymore. I think I know why - it seems to me that maybe…people don’t believe in it. We’ve talked about the layers of belief before - and maybe we talk about heaven with our lips, and maybe even our minds - but our heart is just not convinced. I don’t have very much hope for the future. It all seems a little “pie in the sky” to me. Or maybe you DO believe in heaven. You’ve read the bible, and you’re completely convinced all the way down to your toes. You know heaven is coming, but you struggle with hope - because heaven is (God-willing) a long ways off! Maybe you have hope for eternity, but you’re not sure how you’re going to get through next week. Hope…hope is what we’re talking about today. Today we are finishing up a sermon series called “The Lies I Tell Myself” and one by one we have been poking holes in the lies we fill our life with, using God’s truth to overcome the cage of falsehoods the world has built for us. And if you’re just joining us, I’ll catch you up - we’ve been using Psalm 23 as a guide, walking through one verse at a time, and we are up to verse 6.

If you want to grab your bibles or open it up on your phone, I’m going to start in Psalm 23, and then switch over to Hebrews chapter 11. Now I mentioned this last week, but I want to say it again - we want to be a BYOB Church (Bring your own BIBLE church). And if you don’t have a bible, come see me after service and I will put a bible in your hand before you leave today. And I do want to mention - some folks prefer a digital bible. I was talking to a friend just a couple days ago and he mentioned how he loves the bible app because he can switch translations really easily. The app on your phone - as long as you are opening it, and reading it and learning about the God who loves you - that is just as good as bringing a physical copy. That’s just preference - but we want to be a BYOB church. So Psalm 23, verse 6 [read v.6] Now I want to take this verse and blow it up a little bit with some nerdy bible stuff. The original text was written in Hebrews. Now a lot of times with early languages, one word will have lots of similar meanings - and translators will pick one, but if you look at the other options you can kind of expand the meaning and see all of what King David meant when he wrote it. So that word goodness, is the hebrew word TOV, and it can also mean pleasant, useful, efficient, beautiful, kind, right and morally good. So when it says, “goodness and love will pursue me” that means that beauty, kindness, rightness, usefulness, pleasantness - all these things will pursue me. The word for love here is HESED, and it can also mean mercy, grace, kindness - so this sentence is lovely as is, but it expands to capture even more than you think. Now here’s where it gets crazy - the word for pursue is RADAF. This is the last one I’m going to teach you, I promise. The word RADAF means follow, pursue or chase - but it is usually used in the context of enemies. Do you understand? It’s not “hey, follow me to the ice cream store!” - this is “he followed me home from work” - it’s usually scary and bad. Here’s where this comes from - in our lives, we have an expectation that good things run away from us, and bad things pursue us. A lot of us are convinced that if something is good - it will slip away from us like trying to hold onto water, but if something is bad it will stick to us like gum on a shoe. The default position for a lot of people is that it is the bad things that pursue us. But God through King David in this Psalm flips the expectation of the world on its head. If you’ve been a Christian for a minute, you probably already know - God does that all the time, flipping stuff on it’s head and I love it every time I see it. 

Throughout this series, in order to really understand the text - we’ve been diving into the world of King David. I have learned so much about shepherds and sheep, Because he used the metaphors of that world to help his people understand what he was talking about, so when we learn more, we understand more. We’ve learned about the funny stick thing they carry, about the paths they walk on, the valleys they go through, how they drank water, what sheep do when they get lost - all that stuff has helped us understand what David was trying to teach us. But there’s one more piece I want to show you. After a day of grazing and protecting the flock, it would be time to take to the sheep home. Now a shepherd would know that there is the danger of a wolf or some other predator following the returning herd in hopes that a young or injured sheep might lag behind and become easy prey. This is Shepherding 101. And so if a Shepherd had an assistant, one of them would follow behind the herd as sort of a rear guard. If they didn’t have an assistant, they might use a dog - or if the sheep know the way home well enough, the shepherd himself might lead from behind. But rather than a wolf or a lion or some predator, something negative following the flock on their way home, King David uses that picture to show how God pushes back the lie. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me. We are not surrounded by or followed by evil, we are pursued by goodness.

Now I’m guessing that right about now what many of you are thinking is, “boy, wouldn’t that be nice?” Wouldn’t that be awesome if goodness and love followed me. We want it. We desire it - but we don’t BELIEVE it. Last week I told a story of a time when my wife was in a car accident, and there was a key phrase that she said to me, and God has spoken to me over and over. God has gotten me through everything so far, and he’s not done yet. Now here’s where I’m going with this - if you doubt that goodness and faithfulness will follow you all the days of your life. If you’re living in the lie that “I don’t have much hope for the future” - I have some very confusing advice. I want you to look backwards in order to look forward. Hang in there with me, I can explain. When you look backwards, when you see the history of God and how faithful he is to his people, that will give you confidence, that will give you reassurance of what God will do in the future. If you want to grow in your hope of what God will do, look back and see what God has done so far. I’m going to jump over to Hebrews chapter 11. Now if you don’t know, Hebrews chapter 11 is like this crazy history lesson. It starts out, [read v.1]. Faith is believing that there is something more, something better, something worth going after - and then the whole chapter goes on about all these people in history who have had great faith. It talks about Abraham and Moses and all these - you know, heroes of the faith. And then we get to verse 13, [read v.13]. What that is saying is that all of these heroes died, without seeing the end. Without getting what they were promised - but they saw it, they knew it was there, from a distance they saw it. When Abraham died, he only had one kid - his children had not multiplied to the nation of Israel yet. When Moses died, his people were still in the wilderness - they didn’t make it to the promise land yet. I want you to think about that, because in this life - we don’t always get to see the end of the story. We believe in something we can not see. 

It reminds me of this one time I had a family come to me, it was a husband and wife. And they asked me to go visit their son in jail. I’d never done that before, but of course I agreed. Their son struggled with substance abuse and actually with dealing. And the parents who were a part of my church - they were really struggling with the line of what was loving and what was enabling - what boundaries do they draw. And I visited him in jail, and it was great. I prayed with him, added him to my prayer list. When he got out of jail, we tried to help him get set up in a new apartment, get a job, whatever we could do to help him stay clean. And he’d do really well for a couple of weeks and then end up sliding back into old habits. I was at that church for four years - I think I visited him in jail three separate times. And it was frustrating and heartbreaking and then hopeful and exciting and then heartbreaking all over again. And I moved away from that church after a few years, I got sent to a new church, and I left as a failure. Despite years of working with him and his parents and his girlfriend at the time and their child and pouring into him - I left that story and I felt like a failure. I kept praying for him but I was no longer in his sphere of influence. A couple months go by, and I see some posts on social media. He got out of jail. 3 months clean. Got a job. Good at it. Got a promotion. Six months clean. Reconciled with his girlfriend. 1 year clean. Then two, then 3, then five. Now this is all social media, I haven’t talked to him in years - but I think he’s married, promoted again, 2 kids now. And clean. When I left it was a failure. I didn’t get to see the end of the story, but I should have had hope - because I was not the end. I was just one chapter in a much bigger story that God was writing. The heroes of history - they didn’t always get to see the end of the story, but they had hope. And through all the thousands of years of history - never has God failed to keep his promises. Never has God failed to be a firm foundation. I love this line, in chapter 11 verse 32 [read v.32-34.. And then down at the bottom, v.39]. You come from a long line of God fulfilling promises, and he’s not going to stop doing it now. Look backwards, so you can have hope when you look forward.

Oh, but wait - there’s one more thing I need to show you in chapter 11. If you take a look at verse 14. [read 14-16]. Here’s what they are getting at - a lack of hope is paralyzing. If you don’t believe that God’s goodness and unfailing love are pursuing you all the days of your life - if you don’t believe that, you might want to move backwards. They saw this with Moses and the Israelites. He leads them out of slavery and through the red sea, and the ISraelites looked around and say, ‘Well I don’t like this at all, it was better in Egypt.” And poor Moses is pulling his hair out, “what are you, nuts?”  If you don’t have hope for the future you get stuck in the past. Even if the past is terrible, some of us want to go back because it is familiar. But God is calling you to look forward to the future. It says they longed for a country they can call their own, they’re looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. And the problem I see so much in our world, in our nation, in our town, is that people have learned how to settle. We look around and we think, “eh, good enough”. You know, it’s kind of like the football team that shows up to the game. ANd they look around and they think - “hey we got dressed up, we showed up - that’s enough, right?”But thats’ not how you win the game. That’s not how you chase perfection. Improving with every drill, every practice. With football and with church, it’s not about dressing up and showing up - there is a picture, an idea that we are chasing. Something we work to achieve, and we are not there yet. In your life, in your walk with God, do you look around and think - sure, this is good enough. Or do you have a desire for something better? Do you look at the stories on the news and and see the anger and the hatred and the death and think - I can’t wait to get to a world where that is gone. Are you content in this life? ANd I’m not talking about getting more stuff or living more comfortably or any of that. I’m talking about - do you have a discontent in your heart? Do you feel uncomfortable in a world full of evil? 

Okay, this is a silly example - but you ever sit uncomfortably, like your leg is weird or you’ve got an itch or something. And you just HAVE to move? You cannot stay the way you are. I sit like that all the time, 10 minutes goes by and I’m rotating like a rotisserie chicken.What I’m trying to ask you is do you feel that way about evil in the world? Do you find yourself bothered, can’t stop thinking about the injustice and the hurt and the sorrow and the evil that’s in the world? I’ll use myself as an example. I don’t feel discontent very much. If I’m being totally honest, I’m very comfortable with the evil we have in the world. I’m so desensitized to it. I hear the stories, and sometimes it barely moves me. I hear horrible stories, and I barely shrug anymore. Mass shootings, terrorists attacks, murder and brutality - and I just scroll right past it. Is that what it’s like to be hopeless? Have we given up? Have we given up on the idea of a better future? Are we settling in? Are you comfortable with this world? Or maybe we think this is what we deserve. Verse 14 again, [read v.14-15]. I think that’s why we try to get comfortable on this earth. We think this is where we belong. This is what we deserve. Broken people for a broken world. That makes sense in our minds. For some of us, when we give up hope - we start to settle in. This life is all we have. But Hebrews says the faithful desire a better country, a heavenly country. The first step towards eternity is recognizing that you are built for that eternity. God didn’t make you for this world. No, God didn’t make you with brokenness in mind..God made you with forever in mind. We are strangers in the world, seeking a homeland and we are not there yet. 


And if you’re here this morning, and the lie has you in its grips - and you’re stuck. I don’t have much hope for the future. Things were bad yesterday, they are bad today and they’re going to be bad tomorrow. If you are settling in, hunkering down - because this is all there is and it’s going to be like this forever. I just want this good news to speak into your life -  God has bigger and better plans for you, than the brokenness of this world. And so in response to that - this is my challenge for you today. Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t settle for this life. It seems obvious, but I want you to look forward to the future. Don’t look around at this broken world when trying to figure out the future. God has promised a BETTER future. That’s the core of faith - the assurance of things hoped for. Confidence of the things unseen. Faith is not just believing that God is there, but that he is moving. God is pushing us towards eternity and perfection. Evil lives where you let it, and the future starts in the moment when you sit forward, look around and think - this is not good enough. We can do better, and then we do it. Don’t get too comfortable. Hope should make you uncomfortable with the world as it is. 

And my second challenge for you today is if you are having trouble holding on to hope - remember to look backwards in order to look forward. [hold up the bible] Look back over all the things God has done, the character of God is so reliable and trustworthy and steadfast. He always follows through on his promises. Or even just look back in your life. Take some time, like actually do this with a pencil and paper - write down all the things God has gotten you through so far. I think it’s helpful to expand beyond my personal journey and look at the people in my family or my church family. God is moving, and sometimes I think we just forget that. But we need to look back and remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness in the past, to give us hope for the present, and get us ready for the future. 

In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were in the garden, next to a tree. In the book of Revelation, at the end of all things, in the picture of heaven, there is a tree. And in between those trees, is all of human history. In between those two trees, God has never failed to fulfill a promise. In between those trees, there was another tree. The true tree of life, in the form of a cross. We live life between the trees. God promised us paradise, and he wants us to want it. He encourages us to chase that dream, to go after a higher standard. Don’t look around at this life and think - this is good enough. Don’t look around and think - this is what we deserve. Look at your life and remind yourself, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Let’s pray.


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