This is the second sermon in the Colossian series, focusing on the hope which is the source of the Colossian’s faith and love (v. 5).
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints- 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
I hope that by today each and every one of us has read through the book of Colossians at least one time. This truly is an encouraging book because it points us towards Jesus as the source of our—everything. Our salvation, our forgiveness, our love, our faith, our hope, our guide for life: everything is found in Jesus. The Christian faith is not about a bunch of rules, it’s not a philosophy, it’s not a creed that we follow: it’s all about Jesus. If you don’t have a proper understanding about who Jesus is and what he means for your faith then you will not have a proper understanding of what it means to be a Christian. That’s what this whole series is about: pointing us towards a right relationship in Christ, because if we miss Christ we miss everything no matter what else we get right.
The devil knows this too. If you peel the layers back on any cult or false teaching you will find a distortion of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Back in Paul’s day there were people who were teaching that you got saved by following the Old Testament rules. Paul violently opposed that teaching in the book of Galatians. Well, what’s wrong with telling people to get circumcised and eat kosher food? Those things won’t hurt you, after all. The problem is that by teaching that people were saved by their works took away from the fact that our salvation comes 100% from Jesus. Works don’t save us, Jesus does. There are other religions out there that have great people as their followers, they teach their followers to be good people, and they have strict rules of morality. But if they do not bend a knee to Jesus Christ, they fall short and do not lead to salvation. They might be good people, but if they deny that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”, that is, that Jesus is God, then they are a false religion. There are people today who call themselves Christian scholars who claim that Jesus was not God: they say that he was a good teacher, a philosopher, a moral guide, but they deny that he is God’s only son, sent by God to be born of a virgin, to live a perfect live, to die on a cross for the sins of the world, to be resurrected from the dead and to reign at God’s right hand. To claim that Jesus is anything less than the second person of the Trinity is to be a false teacher.
John is pretty clear about this in 1 John 5:10-12 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
It couldn’t be more clear: if you have the Son of God as your savior, you have life. If you deny the Son, you deny God and you do not have life. That’s the overarching theme in the Book of Colossians: it’s all about Jesus. He is the reason for the love we have for one another, for we could not love our friends and our enemies unless he had shown us how. He is the reason for our faith, for we could not understand God if he had not shown us the way. He is our guide in the church, for he is the head of the church. And as we will see, he will even help us to have better marriages, families, and even jobs because he is our example in how to live in all these relationships.
The supremacy of Christ to the believer was so important that Paul wrote this letter to the church in the Turkish city of Colosse, the Colossian Church. There was a heresy that was spreading through the church that was denying the supremacy of Christ. A group of false teachers known as Gnostics were teaching that Jesus was not really God, that he was like a ray of light coming from God, but that he was not really God and was not really human. They taught that to be saved you had to follow certain rituals, learn secret teachings, observe certain holidays, and even worship angels. Paul’s purpose was to turn their focus back to Jesus and to show them that the only way to be saved was through Christ. The only way to believe was based on Christ. The only way to live was under Christ’s lordship.
That message is still true for us today. Our faith is all about Christ. Our number one reason for being here is not just to be better people, it’s not to learn how to live better lives, it’s not to be with cool people who know how to worship. It’s all about Christ.
This sermon series will point this out in various ways, and today I want to begin by showing you that your hope in this life is bound up in Christ. If you remember the scripture that Justin read a few weeks ago you will remember that Paul was bragging on the Colossian church. Paul was telling them that he had heard about the love that they had for one another and for their community: they were known as a loving church. He had also heard about the great faith that guided everything they did. That’s a pretty big compliment. I would love it if a friend called me from Georgia and told me that they had heard through the grapevine that Southside Christian Church was known throughout our movement for being a loving church with great faith. I would be glad if I ran into someone at Krogers who found out that I was the minister here and said, “Yeah, I’ve heard that you all are a very loving and faithful church.”
Listen to what Paul told the Colossians as he was bragging on them:
Col 1:3-4 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints-
Paul is bragging on this church because even from a Roman prison he had heard that this was a church that had faith in Christ Jesus and love for all the saints.
Now, here is my question for you today: Where did this great faith and love come from? By now you could probably guess that the answer is Jesus, and you would be half right. Yes, their faith and their love came from Jesus, but how? After all, the church in Colosse is a lot like us in this regards: they had never met Jesus. They had not seen Jesus, they did not witness any of the miracles that he performed, they had not sat at his feet and heard his teaching, and unlike Thomas, they had not been able to put their fingers in his wounds and see that he had risen from the dead. Jesus even spoke about people like this: people who would believe and live a life of love without ever seeing Jesus in the flesh. John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus was talking about the Christians in the Colossian church: they had not seen Jesus, but they believed. But it goes even further: Jesus was talking about people like you and me, who have not seen Jesus, but have not believed.
Now, let me ask you: what is it that enables people to have faith in something that they have not seen with their own eyes? What is it that enables us to trust that Jesus can save us by faith even though we’ve never even seen Jesus? What is it that compels us to live a life of love and holiness even though we have no assurance that the bible is even true? What is it that emboldens people to willingly go to their deaths for the sake of Jesus even though they have no assurance that they will live again?
It’s one of the most powerful words in the English language: HOPE.
Look back with me at Colossians 1:4: because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints- The church in Colosse, like the true church everywhere, had great faith and active love. But where did that faith and love come from? Verse 5 and 6 tells us: 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you.
Did you see that? Their faith and love spring from the HOPE that is stored up for them. Their faith is based on the hope that the word of Jesus is true. Their love is based on the hope that one day they will meet the God of love. They are able to live the Christian life, which is often a difficult, demanding life, because they have a hope stored up in heaven. It is hope that keeps them grounded in their faith, that drives their love, that gives them the strength to keep living the Christian life. Hope is such a precious thing, it’s the thing that gives us the will to keep going when all seems lost.
You can see a big difference in a person in ICU who has the hope that they will get better: they fight harder, they don’t give up, and they often get better. But when the doctor says there is no hope and the patient believes it they give up and death is usually around the corner.
You see the power of hope during a tragedy. When an earthquake hits a region there is always a period of time where there is hope that survivors will still be found. You see the rescuers working around the clock, frantically pulling back rubble in the hope that one more life will be found. But inevitably the press conference is called and they announce that the focus has shifted from rescue to recovery; in other words, all hope of finding survivors is over. Then the images change from determined searchers to dejected people with no hope, turning over rubble afraid of what they might find.
You can even see this in a basketball game, and you can tell the character of the players and the coach by their hope. A team might be down by twenty points with only a few minutes left. But if they have hope of a comeback they will come out and play with all their hearts, sometimes pulling off a miracle upset. Eventually, though, the gap is too great to overcome in the time left and all hope of winning is lost. The players come out and instead of hustling and trying to steal the ball, they all just stand there, dribbling the ball and watching the clock countdown.
A life lived without hope is like that: it’s a life spent staring at the clock, waiting for the end to come. Without hope we are nothing, and those who don’t have the hope of eternal life fear the clock counting down because all they can hope for is that there is nothing after life. But the Christian who lives in the hope of heaven can live in faith, trusting that God has forgiven their sins. They can live in love knowing that they serve the Father of love. These three qualities go together: faith, hope and love, as we read in 1 Cor 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
If hope is this important, if it is the reason that the church in Colosse had such famous faith and love, it would do us good to understand what Christian hope is, and what it isn’t.
First, let’s establish what hope is NOT. Let’s be honest, hope does not always come through for us. If we think that hope is just wishful thinking, or that hope means believing in something that will probably not come true, then we are going to have a false view of hope. I knew a man who would not use the word hope because he thought that hope meant believing in something that was unlikely, like “I hope I find a million dollars lying around the house”. If we see hope in these terms we are often going to be disappointed. Hope is not like bringing Tinkerbell back to life, where we just wish something hard enough until it comes true.
Think about it; how often does this warped kind of hope let us down?
· We hope that our loved one will get better, but the test results come back positive and we lose them to cancer.
· We hope that we will be able to have children, but after years of trying we remain childless.
· We hope that we will get the job, but we get turned down once again.
· The whole world hoped that the sailors in that Russian sub would be alive or that the miners in West Virginia would be found alive, but they were not. The stories of the mine collapse in Utah this week were filled with references to hope.
· We all hoped that Katrina would miss New Orleans, but it went right over the top of that doomed city.
· We hope that a loved one will give their life to Jesus, but they die before ever making that decision.
This kind of hope often falls short. In fact, hope can sometimes be more painful than not; there is no worse feeling than to hope for something to come to pass and then to have that hope fail us. I would rather be a cynic and assume that something would NOT come to pass than to hope for it and have that hope dashed. If you were not expecting a gift and then got one you would be happier than if you hoped for one and did not get it, right? False hope is like a mirage in the desert. A thirsty traveler sees an oasis of life-giving water off in the distance and his hope rises. Delirious with joy he runs through the sand, hoping to find water, only to get there to find that his hope was built on an illusion. Having hope that there was water available is more painful than if he had never seen the oasis.
If our hope was based simply on wishful thinking we would quickly despair and give up. But that’s the good thing about Christian Hope: it is based on something that will ALWAYS come true. In fact, the symbol for hope is an anchor, which illustrates the fact that our Hope in Christ will hold fast even when the storms of life toss us around. An anchor that moved or that sometimes failed would not be worth anything: for an anchor to work it must remain solid no matter how fierce the winds of life blow.
Christian hope, that which our love and faith are based on, is a hope that is not based on our wishes, it is not based on a naïve view of what we want, but is based on the very truth of God; which means that it can not be moved or shaken. Christian hope is not wishful thinking on an unsure thing, it is the most sure thing imaginable. As the hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and his righteousness.”
So, what IS this Christian hope of which I speak so fondly?
First, we must understand what is it that the Christian hopes FOR.
You see, the problem with earthly hope is that it is based on things that are fleeting and inadequate to truly bless us. The things that we hope for in our human capacities are like cotton candy: they taste good but they do not fill us up. Money, fame, power, pleasure. But the things that a Christian hopes for are certain and true and they provide blessings that last forever.
The greatest thing that we hope for is to be reunited with our God and to meet our savior face to face. The book of Titus describes this in Titus 2:13-14 “while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Our greatest hope is to see Jesus Christ appearing in all his glory in the Second Coming. Consider all the things that will happen when we see Jesus coming in the clouds.
· Our faith will be sight when we find out once and for all with 100% certainty that Jesus is real and that his promises are true.
· This world with all its sin and sadness will be done away with to make way for the new heavens and the new earth where everything is in God’s will.
· We will see our deceased loved ones again as they come forth from the grave to meet their savior. Death and disease will be destroyed once and for all.
· The devil and all his followers will be defeated, no longer given power to cause grief and pain.
· We will receive our judgment which for the Christian will be to hear “well done, good and faithful servant” and we will know for a fact that our sins have been forgiven and that our name is written in the lamb’s book of life.
In light of that blessed hope of Jesus returning there is nothing in this world that would even come close to comparing. Many people accuse Christians of holding out to a dream of the “Pie in the sky in the great by and by”, but to be honest, that IS our greatest hope. If Jesus does not return to raise us from the dead, then as Paul says, our hope is in vain: 1 Cor 15:17-19 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
But, while our greatest hope is in Christ’s return, when our love will be made flesh and our faith made sight, we shouldn’t think that as Christians our only hope is in the hereafter. We also place our hope in the fact that when we become Christians we enter into a relationship with a living God.
· Therefore, we have the hope that when we pray we have a God who is listening to us.
· And because we hope in a loving God we know that the God who is listening to us will answer our prayers; not always exactly in the way we want, but in the way that will best benefit us. Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
· We also have the hope that because the Holy Spirit lives in us that we will continue to grow in holiness, becoming more like him every day.
· We have the hope that we will find community in a group of people who share in the same hope that we do; and we call this the church. Since we all place our hope in the same God we have the hope that we can see eye to eye and join together to share in one another’s joys and burdens.
· We have the hope that serving God will give us purpose and direction since we know that God will guide us in our lives. No longer will we be like the rest of the world which is just drifting around putting their hope in mirages, we have placed our hope on the solid anchor that will never fail us.
And that brings me to the second point: we have to realize what our hope rests upon.
Consider the hope of the world; it is a hope that rests on wishful thinking or chance circumstances. If you long for fame then your hope rests on winning American Idol or getting noticed by the talent agent. If you long for wealth then your hope rests on having a rich uncle, winning the lottery, or marrying well. If you long for power then your hope rests on being able to overcome all your enemies and then being able to stay on top of the hill. None of these are good things to base a hope on, since we all know that these things are shifting sands. No wonder most people who hope for the things of this earth die with unfulfilled wishes.
Now, consider what the Christian hope is based on. If earthly hopes are anchored in sand, the Christian’s hope is anchored in solid rock. Our hope is based on nothing less than the Word of God which reveals the goodness of God shown in the sacrifice of Jesus.
We base our hope on one thing: the truth about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. There is no doubt in history that Jesus lived, his existence is as provable as the existence of Caesar or George Washington. There is no doubt either that he was crucified as a criminal for claiming to be God. The only fact that remains in question and subject to faith is whether or not Jesus was really resurrected from the dead.
Some scholars deny that he rose from the dead. Some claim that he never really died, that he merely fainted on the cross and was revived when he felt the cold stone of the tomb. Some say that he died but never rose from the dead, that the disciples just made up his resurrection.
But if Jesus were not raised from the dead we would have no basis for our hope.
· If Jesus did not rise from the dead then that means that the bible is not true.
· If Jesus did not rise from the dead then that means the God has left us in our sins.
· If Jesus did not rise from the dead then that means that there is no resurrection from the dead; which means that this life is all there is.
· If Jesus did not rise from the dead then that means that he is not the Lord the he claimed to be.
All that is a moot point, though, because Jesus DID rise from the dead. People would not die for a lie, and the life of the apostles show lives of people who have seen all of their hopes come true. After rising from the dead Jesus appeared to many eyewitnesses. Paul speaks of the reason for our hope: 1 Cor 15:3-8 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Our hope is not based on some fairy tale or mythology, it is based on the historically accurate account of over 500 eyewitnesses who can attest to the fact that Jesus was killed, buried, and then raised on the third day.
So, even though our faith is based on hope, it is a well founded hope. It is based on the truthfulness of the Bible, the Word of God, the assurance of the resurrection, and the knowledge that God will not go back on his word. Our hope is still hope until our faith becomes sight, but it is a hope that is guaranteed by God himself.
There was a saying during the Revolutionary War that something was “not worth a Continental”. A Continental was the money of the new American government and since it was not backed by anything it was practically worthless. Today we can say that something is “as sound as a dollar bill” since we know that our government is stable and stands behind its currency. The value of our currency depends on the stability of the government behind it. Our hope would not be “worth a continental” if it were based on human wisdom, but since God is behind our hope, we know that it is solid.
No matter what this world throws at us, we have no reason to doubt; you can take that to the bank. If you can believe God and his word about Jesus then you can be sure that your hope in eternal life, the forgiveness of sin, joy in this life, and the fellowship of the saints is anchored on solid rock. That is why our belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection is the first step of becoming a Christian.
But, the opposite is also true: when we are overwhelmed with doubt, when we despair of this life, when we live like hopeless people we are in effect denying God, his word, and his promises. If we fail to hope we fail to believe in God’s Word, for his promises are what we base our hope on. This is why Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow or even to worry about death, because we have hope that God’s word is true. Paul had faith and knowledge based on the hope of eternal life, since he knew that God, who does not lie, promised this before the beginning of time.
Our hope is based on the fact that God would not lie to us about the reward that is awaiting those who trust on his son: Heb 6:18-19 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Our hope is an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Finally, we need to understand what our Christian hope does for us.
I’m going to be honest with you; a lot of preachers promise you all kinds of things for being a Christian. If you turn on the TV tonight and watch some of the preachers on the Christian channels you will see guys who will smile at you and promise you that if you hope with enough Christian faith that God will make you rich. Another guy will tell you that if you hope with enough Christian faith that God will heal you of all your diseases. If you were to go to some churches in this area they will tell you that if you have enough hope you will have all of your psychological needs met: you will be happy, have a better marriage, have a better love life, have a better job, and feel better about yourselves. There are a lot of word of faith types who will tell you that if you put your hope in God that you will never suffer, never be defeated, never face a setback.
That’s a lot to hope for, isn’t it? And it has a certain kind of appealing logic to it: you would think that if you hope in the Almighty God that you would be able to accomplish anything and overcome anything. Unfortunately, though, that’s not how Christian hope works.
I would like to tell you that if you hope in God that you will never lack for anything, but I’ve seen Christians in places like Mexico and Honduras who have faith that would put us to shame yet are dirt poor.
I would like to tell you that if you hope in God that you will be cured of any disease. But I’ve seen too many Christians who loved the Lord and put their hope in him for healing yet still died of cancer or heart troubles.
I would like to tell you that if you hope in God that you will never face any kind of persecution in the world, but I hear of Christians in India, China, and Turkey who are being killed for their faith.
I would like to tell you that if you hope in God that all your purposes and plans would come to pass, but I’ve heard too many stories of missionaries who train for years to spread the Gospel and then die the first day they get to the mission field; it doesn’t seem to make sense.
I would like to tell you that if you hope in God you will never face doubt and that your Christian walk will be a bed of roses, but my own life would show that to be a lie.
What I want you to understand is that Christian hope is not just a Godly way to get the things that the world offers. People think that having hope in God is like writing a letter to Santa Claus: if you believe hard enough you will get all the earthly stuff that you want, but it doesn’t work that way. In fact, there might have been a time when I would have preached a sermon telling you to put your hope in God and promised you that if you hoped hard enough that all your wishes would come true. I would then end with a few weepy stories that I heard on Oprah about Christians who were facing a hard circumstance that turned out OK because they hoped hard enough.
But I’ve learned that that’s not what Christian hope is all about. I am going to end with an illustration, but it’s not something that you would see on Oprah or in a Chicken Soup for the soul book. Christian hope is not just wishful thinking. It’s not squinting your eyes and wanting something to happen so bad that it does. It’s not a way to manipulate God into making the improbable happen.
Instead, Christian hope is knowing that God is still in control even when the world seems to be falling apart: it was Christian hope that helped us face the day after the 9/11 attacks.
Christian hope is knowing that we will see our loved ones again in a world with no pain or suffering even while standing at their graveside.
Christian hope is knowing that God’s Word is true even when all the world seems to be intent on saying that the Bible is just a man-made book of fables.
Christian hope is knowing that even when your world is falling down all around you, when darkness is descending on you, when the wolf is at the door that Jesus is coming back again to set things right; that even if you die in shame that you will be restored. It was this kind of hope that enabled Job to say, “I know that my redeemer lives” even when his world was in shambles.
Paul bragged on the Colossians, saying 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints-
He was praising them for their love, but that love did not come from having warm fuzzy feelings. He was praising them for their faith, but that faith did not come from thinking good thoughts. No, their faith and their love came from one source: 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you.
Christian hope is what keeps our love strong, since we have the hope that we serve a God who loved us enough to send his son to die for us. Christian hope is what makes our faith strong since we believe in a God who is coming to make our faith sight. When you face difficulties, turn to your hope in the solid rock of the promises made in Christ.
I told you that I would close with an illustration of Christian hope. It might not end up the way that you would think, but it shows what Christian hope is all about. The story begins in Acts chapters 6 and concludes in Acts chapter 7 in a marvelous show of Christian love. In Acts 6 we read:
Acts 6:8-10 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)-Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
Stephen had just been appointed as one of the first men to do the duties of a deacon. His hope was so firm in Jesus Christ and he believed so strongly in the Gospel on which his hope was founded that he went out among the people and preached Jesus so strongly that those who argued with Stephen could not “stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke”. His hope was based on the Gospel and that gave him the courage to speak even when faced with opposition. If his hope had been based on human wisdom or worldly fame he would have shrunk under the opposition, but since his hope was based on the truth of the Gospel he pressed on. Remember the first point: a Christian hopes for the day when we stand before our savior. Stephen could have had an easier, and longer, life if he had hoped on something other than Christ, but he knew that one day he would have to stand before Jesus and he did not want to have to admit that he had been ashamed of Christ. He knew through hope that he would stand before Jesus.
Now, remember the second point: our Christian hope is rooted on the truth of the Gospel. I’m not going to read all of chapter 7 since it’s rather long. But you should know what Stephen was facing: the religious leaders arrested Stephen and put him on trial:
Acts 6:12-7:1 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 7: 1 Then the high priest asked him, “Are these charges true?”
For a faithful Jewish man like Stephen, there could be nothing worse than being dragged before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was like a religious Supreme Court and they had the power to make your life very miserable. Now, according to my second point, our Christian faith is rooted on the solid rock of God’s truth. Starting with Abraham, Stephen told the story of God working through Israel, leading all the way up to Jesus, even though the men on the court were getting madder and madder. If Stephen was basing his hope on some fairy tale or feel-good story he would have backed down, but since his faith was based on the truth of God he never wavered.
Finally, we see what our Christian hope does for us. Now, according to the health and wealth, word of faith preachers out there, Stephen should have been able to hope for his release and magically he would have come out of this incident unscathed. But that’s not what Christian hope is. Stephen’s hope was not that he would be released but that he would see his savior.
Sure enough, the men grew furious at Stephen as he preached, and they picked up rocks and began to stone him to death. Do you think that Stephen cried out that God had failed him, that his hope was for nothing? Nope, just the opposite, he looked up, saw his savior and died full of hope.
Acts 7:54-60 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen is a perfect example of Christian hope: it is based on Jesus Christ, it is anchored on the truth of his life, and it is for us to remain grounded in our faith.
It’s interesting to note that when Stephen was being stoned there was a man standing there watching this; he had to have been touched to see the great hope that this Christian had. That man’s name was Saul, later to become Paul, the man who was commending the Colossians for their hope.
Where is your hope today?
Is your hope based on getting rich, staying healthy, finding a perfect spouse, or finding fame? If so you will be disappointed. But if you hope is based on the return of Christ I can tell you with 100% assurance that your hope will one day come true when we see Jesus returning in all his glory to put an end to sin, death, and sadness.
What is your hope based on? If your faith is based on the things of this world you will soon find out that you are chasing a mirage. Things might look good from a distance, but when you get closer you will see that the things of this world will never satisfy the thirst in your soul. Your anchor is on sand. But if you hope is in the promises of God found in the Word of God fulfilled in the Son of God then you can be sure that your hope is anchored on the solid rock.
What is your hope for? If you see your hope as some kind of spiritual Troll doll that you rub on for good luck then you are missing the point. Our hope is not to get the things we want out of this world but to keep our faith solid while the storms of life try to toss us around. The person with Christian hope will keep their faith and love intact no matter what happens around them since their hope is in the coming of the Lord and based on the authority of God’s word.