When we start into the New Year it is always good to focus on the positive. Letting go of the hurts and taking hold of new hope… Robert Schuller once said: “Let your hopes, not your hurts shape your future”, while C.S. Lewis’ version goes something like this: “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind” That is just a brilliant way to look at life!
There is something powerful, hopeful and positive about any new year. You get to have a fresh start and a brand new opportunity to start doing things differently. Having hope is great, but it is possible to actually misuse hope! For example: “I hope to win the lottery” or “I hope the sharks do better this year”. These types of “hopes” are actually wishful thinking and wishful thinking is based on desire – things that I really want to happen for my own benefit.
Real hope on the other hand is a solid foundation. It is based on a promise and the reliability of the one who has promised. Our desire for Urban Life Church, is that we look at this year ahead with HOPE and NOT wishful thinking.
We look to the Bible for some examples…
“For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying: ‘I will certainly bless you and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.’
Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.” (Hebrews 6:13-19)
Hope is an ANCHOR for our souls! An anchor is a metaphor for peace, stability and security. This is what HOPE brings but only when it is based on God’s promises!
Another great example of a biblical promise happens as part of the amazing miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
“Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” So Mary immediately went to him.
Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them.
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
This is such an amazing insight into the heart of Jesus!
He is clearly experiencing a mixture of emotions: He wept and felt deeply for them, yet a deep anger welled up inside of Him, though not necessarily at the people, but more likely an anger towards death and sickness – that for which he came to earth to conquer.
Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
The story highlights the two keys of REAL hope:
“Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
This is a truly powerful statement “I am the resurrection and the life”. Jesus did not say: “I’m a great teacher who has taught you about the resurrection and the power of God and the life God has for you” He said: “I AM the very SOURCE of LIFE … if I didn’t exist there WOULD BE NO LIFE!” He is the creator of LIFE, the sustainer of LIFE and He has the power to raise the dead!
God is able to do ANYTHING, NOTHING is impossible with God. He is a God of His word and is ABSOLUTELY able to fulfill His promises! People often make promises they cannot fulfill be because they are unable to, however God can promise AMAZING things BECAUSE He is able to fulfill it! He IS FAITHFUL and He has ALL POWER and can do anything!
One of God’s biggest promises to us is this:
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)