Two Kinds of Hope
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
On the December 24th edition of our podcast, we use the Christmas hymn, "In the Bleak Midwinter," to get us started on a discussion of two kinds of hope. The first is temporal hope. Hope regarding NOW. Praying for better circumstances, better health, better finances.
The second kind of hope is eternal hope. Hope in Jesus Christ that we will spend eternity with Him in heaven. As music minister Dr. Andy Coward points out in the podcast, there are lots of people in our world who have little or no temporal hope. Their circumstances likely are not going to get better. Their health isn't going to improve. Their finances will always be a challenge. But that doesn't mean that God loves them any less. It simply means their journey is different from the journey of some other people.
But here's something I want us to consider very carefully: We can never give up on ourselves or God to improve our circumstances. When we give up on all temporal hope, that's when we close the door to God doing something amazing. Look at the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2nd Chronicles 20. It is one of the most important historical accounts in the Old Testament.
Jehoshaphat was a godly man. He'd done nothing wrong. But he was being attacked. Circumstances were completely overwhelming. He didn't listen to the naysayers. He listened to God.
So what happened when Jehoshaphat and his people were attacked? Verses 20-24: "At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the LORD caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped."
On the one hand, we must not live under the illusion that life is supposed to be nothing but sunshine and spring flowers. Jesus said in John 14:37, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid." In John 16:33 He said, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
That tells us clearly that we will, in one way or the other, deal with hardships. But it also tells us we can focus on the hardship or we can focus on the peace that God's offering us.
I want to encourage you to never to pitch your tent in the middle of hardship. Never allow the enemy to convince you that life is terrible and it's always going to be that way. Too many people have settled for less in life when God was standing at the door offering more.
Some are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to experience God's best in their temporal circumstances. Here's the question we must ask ourselves: "Do I have some habit or attitude that's keeping me from experiencing the best God has for me?"
We must also be wiling to let God be God in all areas of our lives. My friend, George Koehl, prayed for years to be healed of pancreatic cancer. However, it eventually took his life. But George never let cancer defeat him. He used it as an opportunity to meet new people and tell them about Jesus. He reminded people how much God loved them. He displayed a loving, patient attitude through all the pain. He let people know that the peace that passes all understanding is real.
Let God be God. If God has abundance in His plans for you, make sure you're generous in sharing it with others. This isn't just a lesson about finances. Last night I heard some musicians sharing their abundant talent during a Christmas music service. They were generous.
How might God gift you with abundance? Abundant good health. Abundant patience. Abundant kindness. Abundant prayer life. Abundant talent. And yes, maybe even abundant finances.
John 10:10: Jesus said, "The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." But we must be a good steward of our abundance. We must be generous toward others with it. This is God's clear instruction.
Wisely use what God has given us and we get more. Foolishly waste what God has given us and it disappears.
But there are also times when we've done nothing wrong and trouble comes our way. A setback at work. A bad health report. Problems in a relationship. We must have the discipline to let it be a time of drawing closer to God and trusting Him through every storm. Don't let it make you sour toward others or toward God.
Regardless of circumstances, start every day focused on living out the Fruit of the Spirit promised to us in Galatians 5:22-26. "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another."
The seeds that are planted by living out the Fruit of the Spirit will change both us and others. And we will know that whether or not our temporal circumstances are good, God is working in a mighty way in our lives. And that's a great reason to have hope, both temporal and eternal!