HOPE AND PATIENCE
A. Introduction: Far too many Christians are moved by life's challenges. Troubles come our way and we move from confidence to faith, from hope to despair, from certainty that God is with us and for us to doubting if He even exists.
1. Yet the Bible tells us that we are to be unmovable. I Cor 15:58--Stand firm, then, my dear fellow Christians, and let nothing move you (Beck). We're discussing how to reach that point.
a. Our key passage is Acts 20:22-24. When Paul was on his was to placeCityJerusalem, the Holy Spirit made it clear that suffering and imprisonment awaited him. His response was: None of this moves me.
1. According to Webster's Dictionary, to be moved means to pass from one place or position to another. When we examine Paul's life and writings we see that none of his troubles caused him to change his position on anything.
2. He remained committed to doing the will of God no matter what. He didn't fall into doubt or confusion over why troubles came into his life. He didn't get mad at God or quake in fear.
A. Paul had an eternal perspective. He knew that there is more to life than just this life. He was aware that everything he experienced in this life was temporary and subject to change by the power of God either in this life or the life to come. Rom timeMinute18Hour88:18; II Cor timeMinute17Hour164:17
B. Seeing things from the standpoint of eternity doesn't make life's challenges less toilsome or painful, but it helps us keep them in perspective and stand firm until the storm is over.
C. II Cor 4:18--Paul revealed that his perspective came from focusing on what he couldn't see rather than on what he could see. The only place we can look at what we can't see is the word of God which reveals the unseen God and His plans and purposes.
b. With that thought in mind, I'm encouraging everyone to become a regular, systematic reader of the New Testament. By regular I mean reading everyday for 15-20 minutes. By systematic I mean start at the beginning and read all the way through. Then do it again and make it a lifelong habit.
1. Don't skip around. Pick up today where you left off yesterday. Don't worry about what you don't understand. Just keep reading. Understanding comes with familiarity. You can skip around and look words up at another time other than your regular systematic reading time.
2. The Bible is a supernatural book from God. It will affect and change you if you will read it. God's Word is compared to food. You don't have to understand how food gives nourishment to your body but you do have to eat it for it to help you. Matt 4:4; I Pet 2:2; etc.
c. This world is not as it should be because of sin. Instead of submission to and dependence on God, the world is in a state of rebellion against Him. The flow of this world is away from God. Before we were Christians, we followed the course of this world. Eph 2:2
1. When you become a Christian, you change course. You go from following the course of this world to following Jesus, from living for self to living for Him. You were going downstream with the flow. Now you are going upstream against the flow, and there is constant opposition. This current will move you down stream if you don't become rooted in Christ.
2. Col 2:7--Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him [Jesus], so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught (NLT).
A. We become rooted and grounded in Jesus, the Living Word, by reading the written Word, the Bible. The New Testament was written by eyewitnesses of Jesus (or close associates). B. These men walked and talked with Jesus and saw Him rise from the dead. The Spirit of God inspired them to write what is needful for us to become unmovable. John 20:30,31
2. Last week we looked at the importance of hope. Hope is an anchor that will hold you in place (Heb 6:19). The Gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) gives us reason to hope (Col 1:23). Because of the Cross, a process of restoration is underway that will ultimately restore us and this world to what God originally planned (lessons for another day).
a. Paul spoke of rejoicing in hope and told Christians facing hardships to rejoice always, even in the midst of affliction. Rom 12:12; I Thess 5:16
1. Rejoice means to be cheerful or full of cheer. It's not an emotional response to your situation. Paul wrote of being sorrowful yet rejoicing. You can rejoice when you feel sad. Webster's dictionary defines cheer as “a shout of encouragement or approval; something that gives comfort and joy”.
2. To cheer or rejoice doesn't mean pretend you aren't sad or afraid. It means to encourage yourself with the reason you have hope: Things won't always be this way. When Jesus returns, life will be what God intended. My best days are ahead of me in the life to come. I refuse to be moved. It's worth it to stay faithful.
b. Rom 15:4--God's Word gives us hope because it shows us the way things really are, according to God. And, it shows us our future.
1. When Paul wrote these words he was referring to the Old Testament. It had been completed for about 400 years at that point. The New Testament was in the process of being written.
A. I am encouraging you to read the New Testament and wait to tackle the Old Testament after you have become familiar with the New.
B. The Old anticipates the coming of Jesus, the Redeemer. The New records the fulfillment of His coming. The Old is easier to understand if you read it in the light of the New.
2. The Old Testament gives historical accounts of real people who get real help from God in the midst of real trouble. But it makes it clear these people were looking beyond this life to the life to come, and it's worth it to stay faithful to God no matter what. Their eternal perspective
lightened the load of this life. Job 19:25,26; Ps 37; etc.
c. Paul would have had an easier time with the Old Testament than we do. It is primarily the history of the descendants of Abraham, the people group through whom Jesus came into this world.
1. Paul was one of those descendants. Whereas the history is foreign to us, it was familiar to him. He grew us in the region where much of that history unfolded and was familiar with the culture, geography, and religious practices of the day.
2. Our present point is this: As a Pharisee, Paul would have memorized the first five books of the Old Testament. And his view of reality, which influenced his life and ministry, was shaped by it. He would have meditated on it, pondered it, and God's Word gave him hope.
3. Paul not only talked about rejoicing in hope, he talked about being patient in tribulation. To become unmovable we must understand the connection between hope and patience.
a. Rom 12:12--Patient under affliction (Weymouth); in your sufferings be steadfast (Conybeare); in affliction enduring (ABUV); steadfast in time of trouble (Goodspeed)
b. For the rest of the lesson, we're going to look at patience and hope and how they work together. To do that, we must have accurate information and the hope that comes from the Bible.
B. Many Christians are ill prepared to handle life's challenges because we don't read the Bible and don't know what it actually says. We know verses but we have no idea of the context, so we often don't know the true meaning. This leaves us vulnerable to all the conflicting voices that speak in the name of the Lord today.
1. Everyone has verses to support their particular point of view. But much of the “proof” consists of verses taken out of context and misapplied.
a. On the one hand, you've got those who say that Jesus came to give us an abundant life and if you aren't living a great life, you're doing something wrong. (Tell that to Paul and the Thessalonians). On the other hand, you've got those who say that God brings trials into our life to strengthen us. b. Who's right? Both are wrong. We could do lessons on each point. For now consider this:
1. Jesus didn't die to make this life the highlight of our existence. He didn't die to give us abundant life, He died to give us eternal life. That's the actual context of John 10:10.
2. Trials don't strengthen us. In fact, they destroy many (Matt 7:24-27). God strengthens us by His Spirit in our inner man. Eph 3:16, 20; Col 1:11; etc.
2. Let's consider an example a verse taken out of context and used to support something it doesn't actually say. Many Christians wrongly believe that trials make us patient based on James 1:3.
a. God does not allow trials to make us more patient. If trials make us patient, then everyone should be patient because we all have trials. Trials are part of life in a sin cursed earth, a fallen world that has been damaged by sin. John 16:33; Matt 6:19; Gen 3:17-19; etc.
1. An accurate definition will help us. The word patient comes from two Greek words that mean to stay under. It has the idea of hold out, persevere, remain. (Or, don't be moved.) Webster's Dictionary defines patient as “bearing trial or calamity without complaint”.
2. To be patient means to stick with it and not be moved despite what you are facing. It means to endure. To endure means “to continue in the same state; last or remain firm under suffering or misfortune” (Webster`s Dictionary).
A. Trials give us an opportunity to exercise or demonstrate patience, just as exercise gives us an opportunity to use muscles we already have and thereby strengthen them..
B. Patience comes out of a decision we make to refuse to be moved. We exercise our will and stand our ground by the power and grace of God.
b. The word “worketh” in James 1:3 means to work fully, ie to accomplish, and by implication, finish. v3--Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience (Amp); develops endurance (20th Cent).
1. The next verse goes on to say that if you endure, if you stand your ground and refuse to be moved, you will see the fulfillment of your hope. v4--Then let endurance finish its work so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Beck)
2. Notice, this passage begins with: v2--Count it all joy when you encounter troubles. Consider this an occasion to rejoice, an occasion to cheer yourself with the reasons you have hope. v2
3. Let's go back to Rom 15:4--For whatever was thus written in former days was written for our instruction, that [by our steadfast and patience] endurance and the encouragement [drawn] from the Scriptures we might hold fast and cherish hope. (Amp)
a. The Bible gives us reasons why we have hope with which we can encourage ourselves (cheer ourselves) which helps us endure (refuse to be moved) no matter what we're facing because we know better days are ahead.
b. We know that nothing we are facing is bigger than God and that all will be made right, some in this life and some in the life to come. Therefore, it's worth it to stay faithful. We could do entire lessons on the following point, but consider several thoughts before we move on.
1. You may be thinking: I need real help now; don't tell me about the life to come. I completely understand your feelings. But God works in our lives by His grace through our faith, and most of us live in fear: What if this doesn't happen or that does happen?
2. When you know that there is more to life than just this life and all will ultimately be made right (when you have that eternal perspective) it mitigates the fear that saps our faith and keeps us from accessing present provision. Feeding on God's Word will make you fearless and full of hope and faith.
C. Conclusion: Paul wrote an epistle to Jewish Christians who were faced increasing persecution from their fellow countrymen to reject Jesus and go back to the old ways. They were on the verge of being moved. Paul wrote to encourage them to stay faithful (don't be moved).
1. As Paul was coming to the end of his epistle, he reminded them of men and women they were familiar with, historical figures from their past, whose examples were recorded in the Old Testament.
a. Heb 11-- Paul reminded his readers that God helped those people their lifetime but they knew their best days were ahead, in the life to come, when this world is delivered from sin and corruption.
b. He told his readers these men and women watch us and our progress because all of us will one day see the completion of God's plan and the restoration of this world, when Jesus returns. Heb 12:1
1. Paul instructed Christians to run with patience the race set before us. His use of the term race is purposeful. In a race, there is a track or path to run on. A race has a beginning, middle, and an end. The point of a race is to complete the course. All of those aspects apply to following Jesus in this life.
2. Patience, in the Greek, is the same word used in James 1:3, and it is a form of the word used by Paul in Rom 12:12. It means cheerful or hopeful endurance.
A. Heb 12:1--Let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistent the appointed course of the race that is set before us. (Amp)
B. To endure means to continue in the same state (last); to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding (Webster's Dictionary).
2. Paul continued on to say that we do this by looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. v2
a. Looking unto has the idea of considering attentively. It means to stare at and see clearly. It's more than the physical act of seeing. It involves perceiving or considering with the eyes or fixing your attention (your mind's eye, if you will) on Jesus, the author (beginning, source) and the finisher (perfecter, completer) of our faith.
1. v2--Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus (Amp); with our eyes on Jesus (Berkeley); Simply fixing our gaze upon Jesus (Weymouth).
2. We look at Jesus the Living Word, by fixing our attention on the written Word, the Bible. This isn't some type of new age practice where we imagine Jesus in our mind. It involves getting to know Him by looking at the only fully accurate revelation we have of Him, the Word of God. John 5:39
A. This is consistent with what Paul said about how he developed his perspective on the hardships of life. He looked at (mentally considered) what he could not see, the unseen God and His power, provision, and promise as revealed in the Bible. II Cor 4:18
B. This is consistent with what the Psalmist wrote: The man who meditates or ponders or considers carefully the Word of God will be like a tree that is unmovable. Ps 1:1-3
b. We're moving upstream, against the current of this world. Everywhere we look, we see things that contradict God's Word. We have to choose to look away from it all, to Jesus.
1. We aren't talking about ignoring your troubles, denying you have problems or pretending you aren't upset. We're talking about having your view of reality changed by the Word of God to the point where you recognize that there is more to reality than the present moment.
2. You know that what you see is temporary and subject to change by God's power. You understand that nothing can come against you that's bigger than God. Therefore you have hope. And because you have hope, you can endure (exercise patience) and not be moved..
3. Become a Bible reader!! (Lots more next week!!)