Definition of "Hope" from Baker's Biblical Dictionary - To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.
As I am sure you are aware, we have been working through a sermon series about Hope, and lately I have seen so many examples.
To say that the last few months have had their share of ups and downs is an understatement.
I have witnessed two great weddings (I LOVE WEDDINGS - Melissa and Jeff, Julia and Mitch), both of which reminded me of the hope that I had and still have for a great family with my wife of 30 years, some of which has already been realized with 3 wonderful sons.
I have had the privilege of leading a worship service that was started by my son, and hoping for the Glory of the Lord to come down on our time together (we are off to a good start - aren't we?)
I have had my hopes realized when I hadn't seen some of my extended family in 23 years (one person - over 40 years), and seeing that my love for them reciprocated when I met them again for this first time, and then went to visit the cemetery where my grandparents bodies are buried.
Today my hopes were realized that we would be effective ministers to the homeless, when we spoke and ministered to more people than we ever have before! I saw their hopes realized when I found out that a few were getting out of the tents, and into apartments because they had landed jobs! I saw some others relapsing into old, and destructive habits.
I have also seen some dear friends, from a church that we used to attend, lose their youngest son to suicide, yet having had been a source of hope for more than 100 of his friends that attended his calling hours. I watched his parents use that time for the glory of the LORD, in sharing the gospel, while they were weeping.
In all of this, I prayed and thought of a song I used to know -"Wood hath hope, when it's cut, it grows green again, and it's brought back clean again, wood hath hope" - John Foley S.J.
Is that the way we are living? Can we still hope even after we're cut? Can beauty rise from the ashes?
Throughout my life with the Lord, I have sung and prayed something like this, "Lord make me like you". I expect you have prayed that as well, at some point or another.
I'll be honest with you, during those times I was probably praying with some emotionalism, or maybe because the song sounded good, or maybe because I was thinking of what it could be like to love like the Lord loves, but I had not considered what it might be like for him.
Can you imagine what it would be like? To have your children that were created in your image, pray that? What would your answer be?
I think it would be exactly what it has been like for me in the last few months. The ups and downs will wear you out, I'm here to witness! However, there is more.
To be like the Lord, is to love like him. To love like him is to be consumed with the object of that love. An old acquaintance of mine, John Debrine used to say it this way, "true love always manifests itself in sacrifice toward the object of it's affection". To love somebody truly, you have hopes and dreams for them, even if they don't have any for themselves or have had theirs dashed.
Can we hope like that? Can we love like that? Definitely not in our own strength but if we are to truly grow up into his likeness, we need to do it in his.
I believe that we are to grow into his likeness, not just in appearance, but in his nature. That nature is given in his Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 says it this way:
18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
I want that, but can I love like that? Can I endure the ups and downs as he endures? I pray I can but only through Him. Let us pray with courage with that in mind.
“Are ye able,” said the Master,
“to be crucified with me?”
“Yes,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“to the death we follow thee.”
Lord, we are able. Our spirits are thine.
Remold them, make us, like thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.
"'Are Ye Able,' said the Master" - Earl Marlatt
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 530