The Living Hope

(Romans 8:22-27)

The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity from a Christian point of view. It wasn't that long ago that we celebrated Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, followed soon after by the Last Supper and his crucifixion at the end of the week.

Three days later we celebrated Jesus resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. Then forty days after his resurrection Jesus ascends back to heaven. And if that wasn't enough here we are today, ten days after Jesus ascension, celebrating Pentecost, the day the promised Holy Spirit came among the disciples as a violent wind from heaven, resting upon them as tongues of fire.

How many of you remember the television commercials for the Dial-o-Matic food slicer? Or perhaps a little more recently Ginszu knives, the clap-on-clap-off gadget, Chia Pets, and the salad shooter?

Many of these commercials, and others like them, have held us spellbound for a number of years, whether we like to admit it or not. They promised us ways to enjoy an easier life, or if nothing else they were interesting enough concepts to keep us captivated.

As a matter of fact at the FSK Mall they have the "As Seen On TV Store" where you can see and buy all of these "life enhancing" inventions an gadgets. Any of you ever gone into the store? Last year this is where I did my Christmas shopping. Perhaps not one of my brighter moments, but nevertheless it was fun.

Well in the book of Romans, the apostle Paul isn't selling inventions or gadgets to ease life's tedious chores, but he is teaching young Christians how to respond to the ups and downs of this life, and he does hold them spell bound when he teaches that: Jesus forgives, he transforms, he guides, and offers hope.

And more specifically, in our scripture reading this morning, Paul reveals how the gift of the Holy Spirit impacts and enhances our lives, without the need for crazy inventions or gadgets, after the Spirit comes to live inside us. How many of you have read the help wanted ads recently?

I don't read them very often but this week I did as I was preparing for this mornings message. Boy, what dreams and promises some of these help wanted ads offer:

  • Opportunities beyond our imagination
  • More money than we need
  • Rewards for those who work hard
  • Improved self-worth " Early retirement

The truth is, many of the dreams offered by these ads, and others like them, simply don't come through. Instead many of our lives end up including long work hours, little time to relax, no time for family, stress and disillusionment that our dreams have turned into nightmares, and the feeling we've become slaves to our dreams.

Unfortunately, this describes what often happens when we pursue earthly dreams for earthy reward - they rarely deliver what we expect, and if they do they often come at a tremendous price. Now it's normal to dream of a place, a situation, or relationship that could fulfill our deepest longings and needs. We need dreams, they keep us going and they give us a reason to live. But dreams are nothing more than make believe fantasy if they're not of God. And this is what I mean when I speak of "earthly dreams." These are dreams that don't include or consider God's will or call on our lives.

In my previous career I worked with some people whose lives consisted of working 12 to 14 hour days 6 to 7 days a week. Their focus was to move to the top of the corporate ladder as fast as they could, making as much money as they could, leaving others in the wake of their ambition if necessary, so they could be seen as "successful."

I watched as these folks ignored their families, alienated their co-workers, sacrificed their health, and pushed aside their God to seek earthly reward. As a result some 15 years later, their kids resent them for choosing a nanny to raise them instead of themselves, their kids turned to drugs, alcohol, and gangs to find acceptance and love, all the things their parents didn't have time for.

Today, those that worked with these folks no longer respect them, and their friends no longer trust them. And in the end many of these same folks, as they have told me, say it really wasn't worth the price it cost.

Many a commencement address this graduation season will encourage graduates to pursue their dreams, be all they can be, never give up, and that success is there's for the taking if they're willing to hard work for it. And I have to admit if I were sharing a commencement address I might say many of the same things, but I would define success differently than many of the graduation speakers might.

I don't view success as the pursuit of earthly rewards. In my mind success is our ability to persevere in times of trouble, and being persistent against those things we know to be wrong.

The truth is at the end of our earthly lives no one will care what kind of car we drove, how big the house was we lived in, what our position or title was, or how much money we had in our bank account.

The only thing that will matter is how we raised our children and grandchildren, how we lived out our faith, and what kind of shape we left the world in. Is the world a better or worse place than when we arrived on the scene and what role did we play?

The legacy we leave behind is our children and the fruits of our faith, and it's our role as parents to raise our children with God as their priority, sound moral living as their guide, and the willingness to love and serve their neighbors as they would want to be loved and served. To me this defines true success.

If we want to change the world for Jesus sake we must begin with our children, our families, and our friends, not with the house we live in, the car we drive or the bank we call home.

I too believe in dreams, I have dreams; dreams serve to motivate me, and let me see the possibilities of life beyond my current reality. We must dream, but we must dream God-breathed dreams, as given to us by the Holy Spirit.

  • God-breathed dreams lead to fulfillment and purpose.
  • God-breathed dreams offer balance and keep our priorities in check.
  • God-breathed dreams are achievable and are worthy of pursuit.
  • God-breathed dreams take the focus off "I" and "Me" and place the focus on others.

And because of God's grace we don't have to pursue our God-breathed dreams alone. God's Holy Spirit is with us every moment of our lives. God's Holy Spirit will help us dream, guide us, counsel us, and provides wisdom, if we will just be open to the inspiration the Holy Spirit offers.

The apostle Paul also believes in dreams, but Paul uses a different word to describe our dreams. He uses the word HOPE. And our hope is in the one who created, redeemed, and now sustains us. We, like those on the first Pentecost, have received the Holy Spirit, which by grace through faith in Jesus Christ promises us the fulfillment of life now and the life still to come.

To this end the Holy Spirit forms in us a desire to be free from sin's awful effects in this life. And if we're willing to give up control of our life and be receptive, the Holy Spirit will warn us of temptation and work to lead us down the path of righteousness.

When we were saved, Paul says we were infused with a new hope for ultimate fulfillment, not here in this world, but where Jesus is, in an unseen place. And the Apostle Peter agrees with Paul, explaining that God creates a living hope, a living dream if you will, inside every Christian when they are born again. It's a hope for an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled.

  • It's a hope that will not disappoint,
  • It's a hope that is reserved in heaven,
  • It's a hope that cannot be found in an earthly, overly ambitious life of pursuing earthly rewards.

When Jesus left this world he left us with a wonderful gift, the Holy Spirit. So receive the Spirit, dream God-breathed dreams, be successful in your life's endeavors, and experience the living hope of Jesus Christ.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade