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October 4, 2012

Hope in a Hopeless World

By Anthony Wade

Is God truly your portion today? An in depth look...


"The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" -- Lamentations 3: 24 (NKJV)

Where is our hope today? I know the pat answer in Christian circles is to reflexively respond Jesus but really"deep down"where is our hope today? When the doctor report comes back with bad news -- where is our hope? When the job lays us off after 20 years of loyalty -- where is our hope? When our kid isn't home and it is past midnight -- where is our hope? It is easy to scream hallelujah the Lord is my hope on Sundays at church but it becomes a real test of faith to do the same thing when you are walking through the valley and God seems far away. As spiritual as we might fancy ourselves there are always things competing for our hope.

The first thing competing for our hope is the world. The world will always offer up for us their set of values, their solutions to problems, their hopes and dreams. But as well dressed as they may be packaged when sold to us, they always end up empty at the end. If you place your hope in your job you may find yourself sorely disappointed when the downsizing hits. Too often believers define themselves by what they do for a living instead of by who they are in Christ. I love my job and thank God for it but I am a child of God first and foremost. My hope is in my God because while my job might let me down one day -- my God never will. Also in the world we see too many believers placing their hope in the financial morals of this world. We see people addicted to the lottery as their hope. We see people lose their life savings in the stock market, which is nothing more than legalized gambling. Pursuing the big payoff the world sells. You only need a dollar and a dream! Wrong. All I need is my God and He doesn't even charge me a dollar. Is money evil? Not according to the Bible:

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. -- 1Timothy 6: 10 (NLT)

It is not until it has crossed over into loving money that we start digging down into the roots of all kinds of evil. A dollar bill is not inherently evil but when you place your hope in that dollar it will lead you to evil. Even if your pursuit is successful that does not mean suddenly your hopes and dreams are fulfilled. It just means you are rich as the world measures wealth. How many stars have we seen die recently amidst miserable lives riddled with guilt, drugs, and abuse? They did not have a money problem -- they had a hope problem!

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. -- 1John 2: 15-17 (NLT)

Yet too often we see Christians placing their hope in the things of this world. Prescription medications, drug and alcohol abuse, chasing fame and fortune. You name it -- the world has it for you but in the end it is a hopeless vacuum. Why? Because as the verse from John points out, this world is fading away!

The next thing we wrongly place our hope in is other people. The world has sold us a bill of goods on love that is simply false and unbiblical. The result is women wait for their knight in shining armor to come sweep them off their feet and when that hope is not realized they become bitter within the very marriages God has blessed them with. Men wait for this superwoman scenario of someone who is able to be different people based upon what room of the house she is in. Another expectation that will never be met. Single Christians spend too much time bemoaning their condition and building up their hope in whoever their future mate will be. You will never find in another human being what you need to complete yourself. Only God can complete you.

Don't put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they? -- Isaiah 2: 22 (NLT)

It is not just in romantic relationships that we see false hope being put into other people. For Christians (as well as the world) far too much hope is given to politicians. The problems we face in this world are spiritual -- not carnal. There are no spiritual candidates. I remember when George W. Bush took office the enormous hope that rose up in the evangelical community. How did that work out? Not too well because we should not place our hope in any mere human. That includes our pastors. Not too many like to discuss this but there is an epidemic of pastor worship in this country. So many come to church every week because of the charismatic leader and not the omnipotent God. Mega churches are springing up everywhere led by dynamic individuals, motivational speakers, or self-help gurus. They carry a Bible but it is mostly for show. The modern church has placed a lot of its hope in carnal theories of church growth designed to "meet people" in their fallen culture. Meet people in their sin. Make people feel better about themselves. It is not only the mega churches though. Far too often we worship the pastor so much we cannot see the things of God anymore at the top of our priority list. The results are people sit in apostate churches, carnal churches, and secular churches and sing kumbya -- not even realizing that it is not God they are worshipping. Because their hope is not in Him -- it is in the pastor or the church building itself. God did not want us to form community for the sake of community. He wanted it so we could collectively worship Him! Is it any wonder then why so many fall away from the church when their pastor is discovered to be human? A pastor makes a mistake, sins, falls from grace and suddenly half the congregation goes back to the world or stops going to church. Why? Because their hope was not in God -- it was in man. So when man fell, their hope failed. Don't put your trust in mere humans.

The last area we tend to place our hope in is instead of God is ourselves. The world sells the notion of independence as something to pursue and crave. It rewards independence and criticizes the need for help. Even this election cycle we are hearing a lot of criticism for people who are not working or need to pull "themselves up by their bootstraps." Self-reliance leads to pride. Then we can become our own best hope. When we start thinking we know so much we do not even need to pray to God. Remember the rich man who went away sad because Jesus told him to sell everything he owned? What did he first try to do when he came to Christ? He tried to justify himself! Even to the point of absurdity when he claimed to have kept all of the commandments since he was a boy. We too can fall into this line of thinking within the modern church. We start to think we have "arrived."   There are too many Christians who walk with limited humility while shouting hallelujah and the hypocrisy is not lost on the world. That is not who the kingdom of God is for:

I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it." -- Mark 10: 15 (NLT)

Little children are not self-reliant. They have placed their hope firmly in the hands of their parents. THAT is what God is seeking from us. That is what the key verse is getting at when it speaks about hope. God doesn't just leave it there though. He provides the secret for us to ensure that our hope remains in the Lord. Our soul must say that the Lord is our portion. I love that Jeremiah (author of Lamentations) specifies the soul. Where our emotions are housed. Where we doubt, where we falter, where we fear. It is easy within our spirit to say the Lord is my portion. It is easy to sing it at church on Sunday. But it is when we need God desperately on a Wednesday night that He needs to be our portion as well"deep down in our soul.  

What does it mean to say that the Lord is my portion? Our portion means He is enough for us. We do not need anything more. We do not need anything else. When the world comes with their solutions we immediately reject them saying "No I have the Lord, He is enough." When the world hands you a pill or a bottle we immediately reject them saying, "No, I have the Lord, He is enough." When that attractive co-worker threatens your marriage by flirting with you in the office, we immediately reject them saying, "No I have the Lord, He is enough. It is a matter of satisfaction. The truth is that we live in an insatiable world. The world pushes us to want more and more and more. To never be satisfied with what we have. What does God say?

Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! -- Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NLT)

Those who put their hope in money will never have enough. How many stories do we read of pro athletes who made millions of dollars when they played going broke after their career is over? It is not just money. It is anything we place before God in our lives. It is anything we hope in before we hope in God. Just look in the realm of marriages. Adultery starts with God and the covenant we make with Him not being enough for us. We have our spouse but we want more. The world encourages it and mocks the commitment of marriage. The devil whispers in your ear that you somehow deserve to have an affair! How many Christians have said absurd things such as, "I just fell out of love with her"" No! You just got greedy! God wasn't enough for you. You had to have more and more until it cost you something.

We have a career but are always looking for a better opportunity. We have a car but are looking at the newer model. We have a new house but wish it were bigger. We want more and more and more because he who dies with the most toys"

Is dead.

That's right beloved. As Don Henley once wrote, you don't see any hearses with luggage racks. We are filling up our temporal existence while ignoring our eternal realities. We must believe that God is all we need in every situation -- then He will be our portion. Then our hope will be firmly rooted in Him. The Apostle Paul figured the secret out:

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.   For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. -- Philippians 4: 11-14 (NLT)

Philippians 4: 13 is one of the most misused Scriptures in the Bible. People use it to try and do all sorts of things they do not have the capacity to do. Remember the Bible says that while all things are permissible, not everything is beneficial. No, these verses are dealing with contentment in every situation of life. Paul had discovered the secret to making sure God was his portion, regardless of his circumstances. No matter what was happening in the temporal to Paul, he was able to be content because of his eternal hope in his God. And let us not forget that Paul did not exactly have a care free existence:

Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. -- 2Corinthians 11: 24-27 (NLT)

We tend to complain if someone is sitting in our pew! The point here is that to Paul, the only thing that mattered was God. His hope was not in anything this world has to offer because the Lord truly was his portion. That is where we need to aspire to reach. Where is our hope today? Not just when we are doing the Sunday hallelujah hop but on Wednesday when our life shipwrecks us. Are we equally content in both situations? Dear God we need to learn to appreciate what the Lord has given us while we have it. Appreciate your job and the ability to provide for your family. Appreciate your spouse. Appreciate your pastor and your church (don't worship them). Don't seek your portion and hope in this fading world, in mere humans, or in our frail selves. There is contentment available to us as believers in Christ. There is power to walk over our situations. There is the transcendent peace that only comes from residing under the shadow of the Almighty. We do not have to live a life that is in constant turmoil and uncertainty. Not when we serve the Rock of Ages. Taking life's lashes with joy requires being satisfied with God being enough for us in this life. Being shipwrecked against the shores of this world while maintaining our peace and contentment requires us to hope in the only one that answers every hope we can ever imagine. The sufficient portion of our lives. Where is your hope today?

Reverend Anthony Wade -- October 4, 2012

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.