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Advent 2023 - Hope - Daring to Believe




Romans 15:13:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”


Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the waiting period before the arrival of Christ into the world and symbolically into our lives. Christ is now always with us, always expressing through us into the world. We remember this as we prepare our hearts during the Advent season through the virtues: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.


Today we are looking at Hope. Hope is the confident expectation of good to come. Hope is given to us by God. Yes, it is a fruit of the Spirit, and it is a gift from God. Like some other virtues, hope appears when we need it. We don’t notice its importance until something goes awry, then we call on hope to see us through.


Some people have a more acute sense of hope, although all of us can exercise, stretch, and strengthen our hope muscles. Research in this area indicates that those with high hope levels have better physical and mental well-being and tend to live longer and happier lives. They see, and respond to the world differently, and have a passion and zest for life. People of high hope are optimistic about their future and believe in possibilities. They see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn, rather than as obstacles.


Pastor Robert Schuller said, “Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” Our hopes can determine where we are going and how we see our lives. Dr. Judith Rich wrote, “Hope is a match in a dark tunnel, a moment of light, just enough to reveal the path ahead and ultimately the way out.”


What is hope? Hope is the desire for something and the expectancy that we will obtain it. Faith and hope are cousins. Faith is the belief or confidence in something greater than ourselves; it is the belief in something that is not immediately seen or proved. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.


Hope is more than a motivational thought or a weak wish or a daydream. Hope is a sense that with God nothing is impossible. It is a keen awareness that God desires to show us His goodness. Hope balances our desperate thoughts and emotions and leads us to realize that there is no problem so big that God can’t rescue us.


We’ve probably all gone through times when we dared not to hope and thought, “Well, if I don’t expect anything good to happen, I won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t.” We’ve been there. But when we spend time in prayer, opening our hearts to Christ and allowing God’s Presence to move through us, we realize the message that Christ brings to us: I am your hope, and I am bringing something good to your life, mind, heart, and soul.


God’s good is impending; it is coming, and hope is the positive expectancy of that good. Hope, then, is a choice. It lies within us waiting for us to pick it up and use it, apply it, employ it as a shield against the darkness and doubt. Divine hope is not a feeble, wait-and-see attitude, but an intentional daily decision. It is not the weak-kneed worldly hope we see so often. “I sure hope it works out. I doubt it, but I hope it will.”


Psalm 27:14 teaches us to, “Wait with hope for the LORD. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Yes, wait with hope for the LORD.” Hope dares us to use it, dares us to believe in and expect God’s good. It whispers, “Patrick, today is not a good day to give up.” Hope demands that we look forward with expectation. Isaiah 40:31 tells us: “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.


Regardless of who we are or what condition our life is in, we function optimally when we hope in God. If circumstances are bad, we surely need hope. If they are good, we need hope that they will stay that way! It is not hope in the world that guides us, inspires us, and leads us forward. It is hope in God and God’s good for us.


Hope releases joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength. We can never assume that what we were, where we have been, or who we are and where we are today is all there is. As I always say, “we are not done yet.” It doesn’t matter the circumstances we are going through; God is greater than any obstacle we are facing.


The Bible tells us five important qualities about hope. First, it is never lost. It may be unseen, but it is still there. Romans 8:24 tells us, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

The second thing about hope is that we can trust it, and confidently hope on God. Romans 12:12 teaches, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”


Third, true hope comes from God. The world does not offer true hope. It can only offer temporary security, contentment, ease, or exhilaration, but true hope only comes from the Source that created hope, and that is God. Divine hope comes by trusting God even when circumstances are difficult. Trust produces compliance, which produces hope, which results in joy and peace; and that is the power of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 15:13 we read, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”


The fourth nature of hope is that it is a gift. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to hope and that is a demonstration of God’s love for us. Divine Hope gives us confidence, joy, peace, power, and love. That is a true gift! Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”


A fifth quality of hope is that it endures. Like love, hope endures; it persists. Hoping in God will never lead us into despair, because He has a plan for all of us. He has a future that is full of hope. As Proverbs 23:18 teaches, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”


Cultivating hope starts with identifying how we feel in this moment. To increase hope is the same procedure as developing any other virtue or the spiritual side of ourselves. When we manage our stress levels, we become capable of developing hope. Taking 90 seconds to focus on our breathing, attune to Spirit, and release the pressures of the world can return us to a hopeful mindset. Pursuing activities that bring us joy and put a smile on our face is mentioned in the growth of every virtue. The same is true for hopefulness. As mentioned last week, gratitude is the doorway, the parent of all other virtues, including hope. Becoming grateful for the things we have right now opens our hearts to expect more of the same.


Being aware of our hope levels can help us get back on track. If we are finding it difficult to feel hopeful right now, let’s start there. Hope is not thinking that everything is going to be fantastic. Hope is not delusional; it is a realistic expectation that something good is coming. God’s good is on the way. Hope opens our minds to the good intended for our lives and all the accomplishments God is preparing for us. Hope invites us into the Light and Love of God.


It is my prayer that we choose to believe God is going to do something better in our life. I pray that we look forward to this good and expect it. The world tells us, “Don’t get your hopes up, Patrick.” Forget the world … let’s dare to get our hopes up and know that Christ is calling us to something better than we can imagine! In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

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