The Power of Hope

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A Living Hope

July 20th, 2014
As the Holocaust began, the

eminent neurologist & psychiatrist

, Viktor Frankl, was

forced onto a train

heading to the horrific Auschwitz concentration camp.

  • He was

    accompanied by his wife

    , Tilly, who would soon be shipped to another camp where she was killed…

  • As well as his

    mother & brother

    , who died at Auschwitz after Viktor was transferred to Dachau.

He shares his horrifying, yet inspiring story, in his 1959 book,

Man’s Search for Meaning

, which I read last year.

  • While in Auschwitz & Dachau, Frankl began to pay attention to how he and those around him

    were dealing with the intense grief and pain

    they were facing in the death camps each day.

  • And over time, he observed

    four different ways

    the prisoners where responding to it all.

He noticed that

others began to rage

, even against the other prisoners… even those who, earlier on, had shown themselves to be kind and respectable people.

  • But, over time, they became cold & cruel…

    doing whatever they could

    to survive no matter how brutal.

  • He also noticed

    a whole other group of people who simply gave up.

  • It would just happen… where even the most optimistic of their friends would simply refuse to get out of their bed…

  • where nothing bothered them any more because

    whatever little they had left

    to motivate them… was now gone.

Others, he said,

held on to the hope

that if they could somehow stay alive, they’d have their old lives back…

  • their


    , their



    family, professional achievements



    , and

    position in society


  • And yet, after they camps were liberated, so many of these particular survivors

    realized that life was not what they left behind

  • And, that the life they had hoped to have back was no longer there.

In fact, over time, a

number of concentration camp survivors

became severely depressed and even took their lives.

  • It was clear to them that

    no earthly happiness could compensate them for all they had suffered


  • The disillusionment was too much for them to bear.

Frankl then discovered a far smaller group

of prisoners who were able to remain kind

throughout their time in the concentration camps…

  • People who would walk through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread

  • Of course, they weren’t “happy”… but they were able to maintain what he called their “inner liberty”…

  • The ability to decide for themselves what kind of person they would be

    rather than allow their circumstances to mold them

    into someone very different than they were.

Frankl said that life in the concentration camps tore open the human soul exposing the depths and foundations.

  • And what were those foundations common to this fourth group of people who remained kind… who maintained their inner-liberty?

  • He said that it was a life-foundation rooted in hope. But, not a hope rooted in any finite object…

  • whether it’s good health, family, professional achievement, wealth, or position, for example.

He was speaking about a future hope that isn’t man made… a hope that can’t die simply because our circumstances have grown heavy;

  • That, unless there’s an imperishable, living hope, than you won’t ultimately be able to handle suffering…

  • and, if you can’t handle suffering, you wont be able to handle life.

For Frankl,

life in the concentration camp is just a consolidation of what we all experience

in life…

  • The “stripping away” of earthly hopes and dreams that are here today and gone tomorrow.

  • And so, we need a “living hope,” he says… one that doesn’t simply tell us


    to live, but


    to live.

  • that what your “future hope” is completely determines how you handle your present reality.


1 Thessalonians 4:13

, Paul is wanting to encourage the believers in Thessalonica… that

this kind of future hope really does


  • He says,

    “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died

    so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.”

  • I want you to be


    ; I want you to


    about this; because

    I don’t want you to grieve

    as those who have no hope.

I want you to know about this because I don’t want you to live under the

weight of anxiety



, and


, and


as do those people that have no hope.

  • No matter how

    bleak & discouraging

    everything around you might get, the one who allows the

    reality of the Father’s love


    reality of the presence of the Kingdom

    of God…

  • To those who allow these

    truths from God’s Word


    take up residence

    in their hearts,

To them,

what will spring up from the parched ground

all around them is


. Not just wishful thinking… but HOPE!

  • And how important is this… how important is it to walk in hope?

  • It is, as I’ve said before, as important

    for the soul & spirit





    is for the body.

So, this morning I want to talk about


… not the kind of “hope” that can be confused with

wishful thinking

  • or the kind of


    that simply “hopes” something will turn out the way we want it to.

  • Because, real


    is more than that. Ultimately,

    hope is the conviction

    that, because God has brought life into this world in the person of Jesus Christ, the best is yet to come.

  • In fact, the NT word for hope means “

    confident expectation”.

Hope is standing, as David did, in front of a 9’6” giant who just happens to want to kill you… whose sword is bigger and heavier than you…

  • and yet, still be able to say,

    “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

  • It’s this hope more than anything else that enables


    , and


    , and


    , and


    to remain that “inner-liberty” even through the greatest of storms.


when hope is lost

… a person, a family, a church, a son or daughter… begins to die.

  • It’s as if some kind of

    spiritual fire goes out inside a person’s heart

    , and from that day on they’re just

    marking time


  • It’s why the writer of

    Proverbs 29:18

    says, “Where there is no vision (hope), the people perish.”

  • We were

    created to be a people of hope

    … and without it, the meaning & purpose of life begin to slowly turn out of focus.

You see,


connects us to the future the way


connect with the past.

  • Imagine how disorienting it can be to loose your memories… to loose all sense of connection to your past.

  • Well… having no hope does the same except that

    you loose any kind of healthy anticipation regarding your future



Romans 15:13

, Paul addressed the growing numbers of believers in Rome who were

struggling to hold on to hope

because of the increasing weight of persecution.

  • But Paul does more than simply talk to them;

    he prays

    for them!

  • In

    verse 13

    he prays,


    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.


  • You see, Paul’s prayer for them is that,

    in spite of the storms that can so quickly intrude into their lives

    , that

    hope would continue to overflow

    in their lives.

And yet, as much as you may want that, you may struggle with the fact that

your hopes haven’t always panned out


  • Some of you had

    hopes for a relationship

    , a


    , for


    hopes to have accomplished


  • And yet,

    things may not have worked out

    the way you wanted them to.

  • The word Paul uses to express this, in Romans 8, is



  • You see…

    groaning is what people do when their hopes are frustrated

    & they’re disappointed.

Like despair, that feeling of hopelessness, or


, comes when we recognize the

huge gap


what is

and what you




  • Paul writes in

    Romans 8:22

    , “For we know that all creation has been

    groaning as in the

    pains of childbirth

    right up to the present time.”

  • Not just groaning… but groaning

    as in the pains of childbirth


I’ve told you before how

Joyce and I

went through Bradley childbirth classes together before we had Rebecca.

  • Now, with the Bradley method, my job was going to be

    more than just keep the cup of crushed ice


  • You see… I was going to be her coach, which

    , of course, sounded like a lot more fun than it actually turned out to be.

Well, as I shared with you before, one of the things they told me was that I

should never use the word “pain”


  • So, instead of asking Joyce if she was experiencing

    multiple waves of earth shattering


    , I should simply ask, “Are you experiencing any discomfort?”

Whenever I could see the

winces of pain on her face

; Or the

sharp spikes

showing up on her monitor; Or, the

drops of sweat

from her brow,

  • I knew that, as her “coach” I had an important job to do.

  • And so, I leaned over her a bit and, with nothing but a sincere and caring heart, I asked her…

    “Joyce, are you experiencing some discomfort?”

  • And with that, she opened her eyes and

    gave me a look that could have melted Alaska!

    The pains of childbirth!

And yet, as I read the Bible, I don’t think anyone experienced that groaning…

  • the

    aching of living life somewhere between where you are and where you want to be

    … more than the disciples had after Jesus was crucified.

  • For 3 years

    they watched in amazement & anticipation

    as Jesus worked miracles right in front of them and taught them with the kind of authority they had never seen before.

But now the unthinkable has taken place… and their

joy has been replaced with despair


  • as

    Jesus was brutally beaten

    and was now hanging on that cruel Roman cross.

  • And…

    when Jesus died, their hope died with Him


With their hopes extinguished, several of Jesus’ followers left in despair for their village a few miles away from Jerusalem.

  • But then, in Luke 24, a

    stranger walks up to them

    (who was actually Jesus) and asks them why they were so sad.

  • They looked at him and said…

    you must be the only guy in Jerusalem

    who hasn’t heard what has happened.

They walked a little further… and

eventually stopped to eat

… and when Jesus asked God’s blessing on the meal, they realized who was sitting on the other side of the table!

  • And then, with that

    confident expectation that comes from renewed hope

    … do you remember what they did?

  • They turned right around

    and ran right back to Jerusalem!

  • Despair sent them home

    … but

    hope brought them back

    to Jerusalem!

It’s why Peter wrote so excitedly in

1 Peter 1:3


Praise be 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.

  • Suddenly the meaning & purpose of their lives came back into focus… and with that renewed hope…

  • joy





    was stirred up inside of them like never before!

And yet, in spite of your deep conviction that God loves you and that He’s present in your life…

  • what if you still find yourself in that place of hopelessness

    … or even just heading that way?

Truth is, as we live out our lives,

we’ll all come to those crossroads

where, because of all that’s going on in our lives and the world around us, we can

begin drifting towards despair & hopelessness


  • It’s easy to get there isn’t it? Maybe, through a series of difficult circumstances,

    you realize that your hope had been rooted in perishable things

  • Things such as

    good health

    , an

    issue-free family


    professional achievement


    financial stability

    , or




life is just so over-the-top

… so busy, so complicated… and you’re

beginning to loose hope

that life will ever ease up for you.

  • Maybe you’ve

    made some bad choices

    and you’ve come to see yourself as damaged goods…

  • and that you’ve lost hope that you can ever be any more than that.

Maybe you’re beginning to

loose hope that your job



or your




can improve…

  • What ever the issue is, I know for me, that when I begin to loose that

    confident expectation

    … that

    “future hope,”

  • There are a few things that always seem to help restore that hope…

  • things I can do to get my heart and mind back on Him:

1. We need to Lift Up Our Eyes to Him

We all know problems are just an inevitability of life

! How many have at least one problem?

  • How many are sitting next to someone who looks like they have a problem?

  • How many of you are sitting next to your problem?

  • The truth is that, as we all know, life really can get so difficult. Paul experienced this a number of times…


2 Corinthians 1:8-9a

, Paul wrote, “I think you ought to know, dear brothers about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were



completely overwhelmed

, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we

expected to die


Paul wasn’t just having a bad day here…

he was in despair

… completely overwhelmed… convinced that they were going to die!

  • And yet, in spite of all that was going on around him, he was reminded that his

    hope should never be anchored to his circumstances

  • But rather, the

    power of hope to undo despair

    in our lives comes NOT from

    forced optimism

  • BUT from our loving, powerful

    Heavenly Father

    , who is the

    object of our hope


He goes on in

verses 10 & 11

But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead. And he did deliver us from mortal danger. And we are confident that he will continue to deliver us. He will rescue us because you are helping by praying for us.

As hard as it can be in the middle of the storm, we can find renewed hope

as we turn to God in prayer

  • as we re-connect with Him

    and find our place again in His presence.

  • We can also find renewed hope as we interact with the Father through His Word.


Romans 15:4

, Paul wrote,

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through


and the

encouragement of the Scriptures

we might have hope.

What are the two things Paul says can grow hope in us?

The first is “endurance”.

  • Earlier in the Book of

    Romans, 5:3-5

    , Paul writes this. He says, “We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

  • You see… perseverance/endurance can restore hope in us…

BUT Paul also talks about the

“Encouragement of God’s Word.”

  • It’s in His Word

    that we discover His essential character… His love, His nearness & His goodness.

  • And it’s these things that serve as our anchors as we face life’s storms.

  • It certainly was for David, who wrote, in

    Psalm 27:13

    , “I would have despaired if it hadn’t been for the goodness of the Lord.”


Colossians 1:27

, Paul describes the

“hope of Glory”

as being Christ



  • In other words, our hope can’t be in our


    , our


    , our



    bank account

    , or our



  • Instead…

    our hope is in Him

    … and His promises to us in

    Hebrews 13:5

    , for example, that He’ll

    “never leave us nor forsake us.”

  • Hope comes as we find our rest in the Father’s presence… as we give Him access to our lives… our hearts. The source of Hope is in Him!

2. We Need to Take an Honest Look at Ourselves

One of the enemies of hope that I’ve seen infiltrate the life of so many believers today is cynicism.

  • Cynicism, by definition, is a “

    disposition to



    in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions, with a tendency to express this by sneers and sarcasm.”

  • It’s an attitude or state of mind

    characterized by a general distrust of other’ apparent motives or ambitions


When cynicism is getting the best of us, we’ll find that we’re

looking for answers less

and less &

offering conclusions more

and more…

  • conclusions about the world around us… how “The world isn’t fair.” “The future is bleak at best.” “People can’t be trusted.”

  • You see, cynics believe that

    unlike many of the gullible people

    around them, they’re able to see through people’s motives…

    • “She did this, but only so she could get that.”

    • “He doesn’t really want to help people. People like him are just in it for their own glory.”

Cynics will

often see themselves as “street smart”

. I get what you’re too gullible to get.

  • Well… that’s not “street smart!” You’ve simply become

    muddied by cynicism


  • “Why give to this relief agency? They’re just in it for the money”.

  • “Why vote in the next election? They’re all thieves.”

Well, let me remind you of

two important theological truths

: The first is that

there IS a God

. The second is that

you’re NOT Him


  • You DON’T know the motives of every man’s heart.

  • In fact,

    unchecked cynicism is sheer idolatry

    … claiming to know what only God could ever know.

Let me just say that

if you’ve landed in this place

in your life, than know that cynicism is


your friend.

  • Know that there’s an

    inverse relationship between cynicism & hope

    … where the

    more cynical you become the less hope

    you’ll able to embrace.

  • Cynicism will

    rob you of every ounce of joy

    if gone unchecked.

    • It will

      rob you of the ability you once had to be “wowed”

      or “impressed”.

    • It will

      hinder your faith


      sow roots of fear

      in your life; and

      destroy hope


But, as God’s people

we ought to be the last group of people on the earth

that will never buy into

“Life sucks, and then you die.”

  • So, if you find your hope waning in your life, take an honest look at yourself if you’ve bought into a cynical spirit.

  • And, if so… than lay it down and

    ask the Holy Spirit

    to fill you, instead, with trust & faith…

  • and

    the kind of hope

    that is

    rooted in Jesus being Lord and King

    in our lives and in the world.

3. We Need to Turn to Those Around Us

A few weeks ago, I took a day off and went up into the Catskill Mountains.

  • As I was hiking, I remembered walking that same trail in the middle of the winter a few years back.

  • There were actually a bunch of warning signs to stay off the trail, but I decided to take my chances.

It only took a minute or two before I understood what was behind the warning signs.

  • There had been an

    ice storm just a few days before that… and around every branch was nearly an inch of ice


  • Hundreds of limbs and a large number of trees had snapped in half… littering the trails.

But one thing I noticed was that

the denser the trees were in an area, the less damage there was


  • Even though those trees were bent over,

    they were able to lean against the other trees

    , which kept them standing.

  • When we

    need to recover hope

    , if we want to keep standing, then we need to learn to reach out and lean on others.


another way

to both

recover hope


diminish the power of cynicism

in our lives… is to engage!

  • To not only accept the help of others… but to be a source of help to others as well.

  • Engagement wages war against the

    “sit idle and criticize without hope”

    mentality that so many get caught into these days.

Getting involved reconnects us to “what’s possible” because of the presence of God’s Kingdom in the world.

  • 1 Corinthians 13:13

    speaks of

    Faith, Hope, and Love

    as being the core of what should identify us as His Kingdom people.

  • And so, to

    oppose cynicism & embrace hope

    , we need…

    • FAITH in the transforming message and ministry of Jesus.

    • HOPE in the Kingdom of God and His purposes and work in the world.

    • And, LOVE… which isn’t a “feeling word” but an “action word” that speaks of active engagement.

Where the chronic cynic “

believes in nothing


enjoys nothing


hates nothing


finds purpose in nothing


lives for nothing


remains alive b/c there is nothing for which he/she will die


  • The Christian… walking in hope…

    bears the mark of his or her hope by participating in Jesus’ work in the world


  • **Truth is,

    “rampant cynicism and active Kingdom engagement cannot flourish in the same heart.”

So… Reach Out… engage!

  • Pray for the sick!

    “Well, wont they just get sick again from something else?” Yes… but it’s a

    hope-giving sign

    that one day they’ll never be sick and suffer again.

  • Teach Sunday School!

    “Well, these kids today, they don’t want to hear about God.” Says who?!

  • Invest in Community!

    Engage in a home group. It’s not too late to come to ours on Wednesday evenings.

  • Come & join us in a few weeks

    as we begin to simply bless people on the Morristown Green

    each Saturday morning.

4. We need to Surrender our Need to Control… to Him

A few years ago, we did something as a family that I haven’t done in years. Joyce and I took Becca & Sarah bowling.

  • I was pretty surprised at how different things looked from the last time I had bowled!

  • The room was lit with neon lights, everything was computerized… it was pretty cool.

  • Sadly, the

    horrible rental shoes

    and the

    bad pizza

    was exactly as I remembered them from years ago!

Ever watch what people do after they let go of the ball? They

wave at it

, they


to it, they


it, they

contort their bodies

  • lean to one side


    hop on one foot


    hunch their shoulders

  • as if they had some kind of

    magic control over an object

    that is no longer in their hands!

  • You see, once you get to that foul line and release that ball… there’s just nothing else you can do.

    You just need to let go!

The reality about life is that we’re in control of a lot less than we think we are. I realize that the

illusion of control

can be fairly intoxicating to some…

  • but you don’t even control your next breath… the next beat of your heart.

  • We end up carrying around these burdens & disappointments,

    trying to steer a bowling ball that, in reality, we often have no control over


  • And what God is inviting us to do is to

    just lay it down

    … to just let Him take over from here.

Is there some area of your life

you think God might be saying that to you

this morning?

  • Maybe you’ve been

    trying to hold on to something


    control something

    in your life:

  • kids




    somebody you’re worried about

    , a


    , a


    or a



  • And God is saying would you just love them and let them go… and let Me?!

There are going to be times when, like Paul, you begin to react to your circumstances in a way that takes your attention away from God. But understand this…

  • Wherever you’re most

    tempted to worry

    , wherever your

    future looks most uncertain

    , whatever might be

    discouraging you

  • Remember what Paul says in

    Romans 5:5

    , that

    “There is a hope that does not disappoint.”

  • That Jesus in your life is the “hope of glory” who will never abandon you.

You see, guys… we will all go through difficult and even painful seasons.

  • But I don’t want anyone to

    grieve as those who have no hope


Jesus is our hope! He is our hero! He is our anchor!

  • Victor Frankl wrote that

    “What is to give light must endure burning.”

  • And

    what allows us to endure

    the many trials and storms of life is Him. It’s why Paul prays as he does in

    Ephesians 1:18

  • I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the confident hope to which He has called you.

And, so even though the storms may be great,

anchored to Him, we can know


in our lives.


Ministry: David says in

Psalm 62:5

, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone. My hope comes from Him.”


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