Jesus Christ: The Hope of the World

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, December 2, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

One of the all-time great movies to watch during the holiday season is It’s a Wonderful Life. It wasn’t that long ago that I had never seen the movie and people wondered what my problem was. I even went to college in the town where Jimmy Stewart grew up and I was like, “Who’s Jimmy Stewart?” Now, I can honestly say that if you’ve never seen it, you’ve got a problem and you need to fix that! The movie is the story of George Bailey, who was down on his luck and down on his life. He has no hope for the future. Just as he is contemplating ending it all, an angel enters the scene, in the strangest of ways I might add, to begin to show him what the world and his town would be like if he were never born. Through this process, George sees that he has a purpose in this life and that purpose gives him hope.

What is it that gives you hope? I’ve decided this year that I will write on the four traditional themes of Advent during the weeks leading up to Christmas, which are hope, peace, joy, and love. Our faith in Jesus Christ tells us that we find each of these things in him. We may find them temporarily in other things, but Jesus is the ONLY way we find lasting hope, peace, joy, and love. So, I ask you again, what is it that gives you hope? If you’re feeling like George Bailey and questioning why you’d even want to keep going, then you need something to help you step back from the ledge, something to give you lasting hope.

Hope is more than just wanting something. Merriam-Webster defines hope as “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment." When we are lacking hope, sometimes it’s a desire that needs to change, and other times it’s an expectation connected to that desire that needs to change. Right now, I desire to see the Pittsburgh Steelers win another Super Bowl. But if I EXPECT that to happen to the point that I will be disappointed if it doesn’t, even after I’ve seen them blow great chances over the past few years, then the problem is with my expectation that I’ve allowed to give me false hope. True hope is not defined in the Bible, but it does give us the necessary formula for it. Romans 5:3-5a tells us, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame." If you’re wondering how you’re going to regain hope, there’s your formula right there. You might not like it, but the suffering is necessary. If you’re suffering today, I’ve got great news for you - you’re one step closer to hope!

Since hope involves desires AND expectations, I want to spend a little time talking about both. Too often, we just do whatever we can to avoid pain and suffering. We might even say that we are trusting God to take it away. We place our hope in the suffering being ended or removed according to OUR timing. What if God doesn’t see it that way? What if his plan is different than yours? What if he plans to continue to allow the suffering to last as he molds you into his masterpiece? I know that some of you reading this are dealing with very intense suffering right now, but this is even true with regular inconveniences. For the past two years at my church, it has rained during our annual Trunk-or-Treat event at the end of October. We have prayed against it and even trusted God to keep OUR plans from being altered, yet the rain has still come. Last year, we were even defiant. The forecast kept saying “100% chance of rain” and we kept saying that we would trust God and believe by faith that he would keep it away. How ridiculous! God was telling us ahead of time that it was going to rain and we should be prepared for it. Instead, we acted like we could will God into doing what WE want. It was a lesson for us to learn to trust his plan no matter what. Needless to say, we approached this year humbly.

We can keep expecting God to do things our way and we can even disguise it and make it sound “Christian” by calling it faith. But what good is it to have faith in something that God hasn’t even promised? Thomas Edison said, “For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction – faith in fiction is a damnable false hope." It’s kind of like when we keep doing the same thing in life and keep turning to the same answers even though we know they haven’t worked. That’s the definition of insanity, often attributed to Einstein and others.

The Jewish people who lived through times of suffering and times of prosperity in the Old Testament had the desire for a messiah, but they also had expectations. They had good reason to expect a messiah because their prophets told them one would be coming over and over again. Yet, because of their expectations of what the messiah would look like, they ultimately rejected Jesus when he came and said he was the One (John 4:25-26 and Matthew 27:11). They rejected him because he didn’t look or act like their vision of a king and warrior (Mark 6:1-6). They rejected him because he didn’t fit into their box of what the Messiah would look like.

But Jesus cannot be boxed in. I mean, if we box Jesus into OUR expectations and then say "he is our hope," well then we don't have much hope, do we? Find the box closest to you. As you can see, it’s not very big. Hope should not be that containable. Jesus did not come as a battle commander ready to kill everyone who stood in his way. He came as a baby, to a very young and poor virgin woman and her faithful husband-to-be. He was born not in a rich and mighty palace, but in the humblest of circumstances, in a manger (a dirty feeding trough for animals) in a lowly stable outside of Bethlehem. Many of the Jews would've thought, how can this be the One? How many times have we missed God's blessing, or missed the hope he was giving us, because we were too obstructed by our own expectations?

Joseph and Mary were living in dark times. The Romans ruled over them and their people, and sometimes we forget how terrible that was for them. The Romans weren't necessarily caring people. Many were losing hope, but once Joseph and Mary received the word from the Lord that was so real they couldn't possibly ignore it, they knew they had reason to hope. Did Mary want to go through an unexpected pregnancy as a teenager, deal with all the judgmental stares and words that would come her way, and have to figure out how to raise and support a child she didn't plan for? Not a chance. If Mary experienced this today, would there be no shortage of people encouraging her to "get rid of it" and move on with her life? Of course. But Mary and Joseph were unwilling to allow their plans, their expectations, or their worldly hopes to box Jesus in. They opened their hearts, their home, and their lives to the hope of the whole world that could not be contained in a box. They were both separately visited by the angel who told them that God was sending his Son to the world through them, and they would name him “Jesus," because he would save the people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 and Luke 1:31). They may not have known how it would all work out for them, but they trusted in the hope that God was providing even through their suffering.

The name “Jesus” comes from the Greek Iesous, which is translated from the Hebrew Yeshua or Joshua. No matter what language we use to say his name, it means “the Lord saves." What do you need "saved" from today? If you've never come to know Jesus as your personal Savior, then you have not yet been saved from your sins. The angel told Joseph before Jesus was even born that he'd be the one to complete this work of salvation, but if you have not accepted that for yourself, then your sins still have reign over your life. You need a Savior, and Jesus is the only One. But even if you’ve already accepted him as your Savior, maybe you haven’t been living under the hope that he is also Lord. You see what’s going on in your life or in the world and you feel like evil is winning. Today is the day to declare that no matter what, you have HOPE because Jesus is still on the throne and still in control. May your Christmas season, and the rest of your life, be filled with this hope that will never put you to shame!

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