Joy for Today
Hope for Tomorrow
Adapted from a sermon preached by Elder Jeff Winfrey
On October 30, 2010
At Faith Primitive Baptist Church, Kingsport, TN.
The joy of the LORD is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
For we are saved by hope (Romans 8:24)
Let us think about two things that will really help us in our journey—help us when we have problems and face the realities of this world—help us as we struggle with life and what life throws at us. We might even come to the point where we question the reality of God. God forbid that we do that, but sometimes we do. We’re weak. We need something to lean on—something to strengthen us. The joy of the LORD is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) The joy of the Lord will strengthen you and get you through what you face. It is a crutch you have to lean on—your help in time of need. The joy of the LORD is your strength.
I’d like to talk about joy for today and hope for tomorrow. Those two things will help us along our way. The joy of the Lord is your strength, as opposed to Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom. (Proverb 15:21) There are a couple of different kinds of joy in this world. There is the joy we might have when we go out with the good ole boys and carry on some foolishness. That foolishness is folly. This world is full of foolishness in all different categories. We can go frolic and have the fun of the world and think we’re experiencing joy, but Solomon says that foolishness is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom. What does that mean? I’m not preaching against going out and having good times. I just want to show you a difference in the world’s “good times” and what it is to have the joy of the Lord. One is down here on this level, and the other one goes through the ceiling. Some things are fun in this world; some things are foolishness. Perhaps, I sometimes carry on with too much foolishness. But if I think that’s what the Bible is talking about when it talks about joy, then I am destitute of wisdom and don’t have the understanding that I need to have.
You see, the wise man Solomon was looking for something, and he sought what he was looking for in the things of this world. We’re all looking for something, and perhaps we don’t know exactly what it is. It’s mystical. It’s out of reach. We think of lots of things that might give us this thing that we seem to be without—this joy—this happiness. There is this emptiness that is inside of us that would be filled. If it could be filled, we would feel okay in this world. We’re all looking for this mystical “something”, and with the world’s wisdom we cannot even know what it is we’re looking for. Yet we continue in search of this joy, this “something” that’s going to make us feel good—feel contented and satisfied.
In Ecclesiastes Solomon was looking for this “something”, and he looked in lots of places. He was a very wealthy man, and he looked for it in wealth. We sometimes think that way, too. We might say, “Why if I could get me a job where I could make lots of money, or if I could inherit a lot of money, that would solve my problems.” Solomon had a lot of money, and that didn’t solve his problems. Solomon found that the things of this world were vanity, which means emptiness, nothingness. Solomon said everything under the sun amounts to nothing, leaving us empty, unfulfilled. This world’s things result in vanity and vexation of spirit, not contentment of spirit, but vexation of spirit. Solomon found out that the more money he had, the more trouble it brought. Solomon looked for whatever he was looking for in wealth, but he didn’t find it there.
Solomon had wisdom given to him of the Lord. Other than Jesus, he was perhaps the wisest man that ever walked the face of this earth. Yet, with much wisdom comes much sorrow. For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. (Ecclesiastes 1:18) The more you know, the more you see, the more that you understand things; the more you will realize the emptiness of this world and the nothingness of everything. Ecclesiastes is a troubling book. It looks at this world with the eyes of this world. Reading and studying that book will get you down. Solomon was down when he wrote the book. He looked for whatever he was looking for through wealth, and through wisdom, and through wine. He looked for it through the things that would get us feeling jolly and make us feel good. He had partying and entertainment. He had men singers and women singers, but he didn’t find what he was looking for in any of these.
We Americans have all these things, too. Yet as far as finding what we’re looking for on the inside, we’re probably the most troubled nation that has ever been. Just listen to the popular songs of our times. My son recently gave me a cassette tape that he entitled Futility. Futility means nothingness. The lyrics of the songs on the tape talk about how this world doesn’t give us what we’re really looking for. I don’t think that the songwriters understand where to find what they’re seeking, but they do understand that they don’t have it.
So, Solomon looked for this thing that would fill his emptiness in wealth, and in wisdom, and in wine. He also looked for it in women. He had 300 wives and 700 concubines. I tell you fellows, one good woman is worth more than the 1,000 he had. You can find a little bit of what you’re looking for in the God-given gift of marriage. One man and one woman come together, and the two become one. Solomon tried a thousand—which ended up in a bunch of emptiness—and probably other troubles, too.
In wealth, wine, wisdom and women he didn’t find what he was looking for. So he tried to find it with work, the works of his hands. By working hard enough and making enough things, he thought he could fulfill his desires. But that didn’t help either. He tried the five “W’s” and he had emptiness and trouble in his spirit. In his quest to find contentment Solomon wanted everything, wished for everything, tried everything, but never found what he was looking for. You won’t find what you’re looking for in the things of this world. Oh but Solomon’s father had found something. Solomon probably should have listened to his father. These words of David describe a man who had found something.
Psa 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Psa 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Psa 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psa 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psa 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Psa 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
I think that David had it right. He knew the joy for now and the hope for the future. Goodness and mercy are going to be with me while I’m down here. And when I leave here, I’m going to be in the house of the Lord forever. There’s the joy for right now and the hope for tomorrow. David found it.
There is joy in the presence of the Lord. If you are in the presence of the Lord, you can find joy, and the joy of the Lord is your strength. When the Lord made His presence in the world as a little babe, the angels came and sang, “Joy”. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (Luke 2:10) [Emphasis added]
Yes, when Jesus came into the world, there was great joy. When He sent those seventy out, they came back with joy. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. (Luke 10:17) [Emphasis added] In His presence there was joy. When Jesus was about to go to the cross, He told His followers that they were going to be sad—weeping and lamenting while the world rejoiced. Then He said, A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (John 16:21) [Emphasis added] They were going to be really sorrowful, but like the woman who delivered the child, all of a sudden their joy was going to return. They were going to have probably the greatest joy that they had ever experienced. Jesus said these things just before He went to the cross, and then He went to that cross and died. Jesus was buried, and we find maybe the saddest verse in the Bible: And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sitting over against the sepulcher. (Matthew 27:61) They were sitting by His grave. Their hopes were dashed, for their King was dead, and they had thought that He was the One. But early in the morning on the first day in the week, they came to that sepulcher with anointing oil for His dead body. Their chief concern was who would roll away the stone. (Sometimes we worry about things we don’t even need to be worrying about, don’t we?) That stone wasn’t a bit of a problem for them, now was it? I can picture them coming over the rise—Looking forward. “Whoa!” The stone—It’s not in front of the hole, and something really bright is sitting on top of that stone. Why it’s an angel. And he said, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen. (Matthew 28:6)
Further in Matthew 28:8, concerning those women that had come to the tomb, it says, they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy. [Emphasis added] Their joy is back; the Lord is back! He’s not dead. He’s alive, and He remains alive today, my friends. There’s joy in the presence of the Lord. They had joy that day—that first day of the week when He was risen. He talked to the women. He met Mary Magdalene in that garden. She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him…Master. (John 20:15-16) He spoke her name! And she experienced great joy in the presence of that great Master, that risen Lord, that ruling Lord, that reigning Lord.
That same Jesus Christ that rose is in heaven, and that same Jesus Christ that they saw pass through the clouds is coming back some day—the same one, not something different. Oh my friends, there’s going to be joy then, joy like we’ve never experienced. Jesus was up from the grave, and with fear and great joy those women went back to tell the apostles. But the apostles didn’t believe. They thought it was idle chatter. Men, sometimes we ought to listen a little closer. Sometimes the women can tell us things we ought to know. Those women had a good message that day: He is risen, and the men didn’t believe it.
That evening the apostles were hiding for fear of the Jews. Jesus came into the room where they were sitting without opening the doors. They looked upon Him, and the Bible says these words, And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered. (Luke 24:41) [Emphasis added] I don’t know exactly what that means. There was some unbelief, but there was some joy. I see it, but I can’t believe it. It’s too good to be true—But what if it is? They yet believed not for joy. At first, perhaps they didn’t believe, but in the forty days that followed their belief grew stronger and stronger. Those cowards who had stood afar off for fear became courageous. Those who had been so prone to strife came together. The reality of a resurrected Jesus changed a lot of things.
I want to tell you if you really know the reality of the resurrected Lord, that’ll end your strifes. That will end your fears. That will bring courage and make us bold like Peter. Before the resurrection Peter had said, I know him not. But after forty days with the risen Lord, Peter was a different man. In Acts 4 Peter stood before Annas and Caiaphas—the same men who had crucified Jesus—the same men Peter had once cowered to. These men asked Peter, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Peter replied, Be it known unto you all, and all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified. Whoa, he didn’t back off that time. He didn’t say I don’t know Him. He didn’t deny Jesus. He knew who He was. He remembered His name. He called Him by name. After forty days with the resurrected Lord, Peter’s fears were gone, and he was full of joy.
But beyond having experienced the reality of the resurrected Jesus, the Apostles now had the power of the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus ascended, He had told His followers: And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) When that power came down upon those men, they became bold witnesses of the resurrected Lord. They started in Jerusalem where all of those “big shots” were: the priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, the elders, and all of those that were against Jesus. They started right there in Jerusalem and proclaimed Jesus. Then they went to Judea, and to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.
It’s gotten here, folks. That message got here at some point; it’s traveled around the world. The message of the risen Lord was the message that Jesus had given to them before He died, and the spread of the message of the risen Lord was the mission that He gave to them just before He left. After giving them that mission, He rose from this earth and went through the clouds. Two angels came and said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11) But let’s look at the words in Luke 24:50-52. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. [Emphasis added.] And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. That’s a good place to put an “Amen”. They weren’t hiding now. They went right straight to the temple where those high priests ran the place, and they preached Jesus to all of them. They were full of joy! They had been with the Lord, but the Lord was gone. Yet they still had joy. They had watched Him go up and had heard the angels say that He was coming back. So they returned to Jerusalem with great joy . They had great joy. They had been in the presence of the Lord! And they had the power of the Holy Spirit!
When the Apostle John was an old man, he wrote three letters. By now it had been a long time since John had seen Jesus eye to eye, but John still had a hold on something that he wanted us to have. The Holy Spirit must have wanted us to have it too, because He inspired John to write these words:
That which was from the beginning… [That’s the Lord Jesus Christ]. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard… [John had heard Him preach.] That…which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon… [He had seen Jesus.] And our hands have handled… [John had touched Him, had laid his head on Jesus’ breast. Wow! They were close. John had heard Him; had seen Him; had held Him; had loved Him.] That…which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, [I’m telling you what I’ve really seen.] that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.(1 John 1:1-3)
John didn’t say our fellowship used to be with Him, back when I was a younger man. He didn’t want to go back to some other time to find fellowship. He still had it! Jesus was gone, but John was still in the presence of Jesus. Jesus was still in the presence of John, Christ in you, [in him] the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) John was experiencing something right then. He had a fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and that fellowship was through the Holy Spirit—Who comes and dwells within us and reveals Jesus to us. Jesus tells us to pray for the Spirit: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13) We’re already born again; we’re not praying for that. Jesus doesn’t tell us to do that. Before we get the new birth we’re not in any kind of mood to pray. We’re not able to pray, not even wanting to pray. We’re haters of God. The Holy Spirit first comes and gives us the new birth. After that we are able to pray and willing to pray. Yet after the Holy Spirit has already come to us with the new birth, we are still supposed to be praying for the Holy Spirit. We are to still want Him to come and manifest Christ to us— show Christ to our hearts—bring us into the presence of Christ. John wanted us to have this fellowship: that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:3-4) [Emphasis added]
John wrote that letter to us that our joy may be full—that we may find what we’re looking for in this world. May I say it like this, “That we may find Who we’re looking for.” What is going to make you happy is a Who, and that Who is Jesus Christ. In the presence of Him you can experience joy. Instead of emptiness, you can have fullness. Instead of vexation of spirit, you can have fullness of spirit—a contentment of spirit. You can have a way to say it’s okay, even when maybe it’s not okay. When you have this fellowship with the Lord, that’s when your joy may be full.
Jesus said it like this: The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. (Matthew 13:44) [Emphasis added] Sell all you have in order to have this joy that will fill you up—this joy that John wants you to have—this joy that the Holy Spirit will give to you. How does this joy come? When you are in the presence of the Lord. That’s what you’re looking for. That’s what will satisfy you. That’s what will get you through. That’s what will strengthen you: the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4) Now you cannot rejoice in your situation always. It seems that we always have troubles. Troubles are upon us for the moment, and we cannot see the future. We don’t know what’s out there waiting for us, and it’s easy to get scared to death. But in the midst of all this, the joy of the Lord is your strength. When the troubles of today and the fears of tomorrow seem to overwhelm, we turn to the words: rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (Phil. 4:4-5) The word “moderation” is a kind of mildness of reaction. Don’t act like the world; have a gentle mildness about you. Let your mild response to your situation be known to all men, for The Lord is at hand. God is within the reach of your hand. You can rejoice in the Lord always. You are in the presence of the Lord, and there is joy in the presence of the Lord.
Jesus talked about something that is at hand in Matthew 13. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. If it’s at hand, it’s within reach. You can take hold of it. Now the eternal heaven is out there somewhere in the future. It’s on the other side of somewhere, and I can’t take hold of it right now. It’s not at hand. Oh don’t get me wrong, the eternal heaven is a real place, yet I can reach but only so high. But there is a kingdom of heaven that I can get a hold of right now; it’s at hand. In the Bible Jesus says it’s something that is at hand right now in the age in which we live, for He writes His laws in our hearts and our minds, and we can know that He is our God and we are His people. We can have fellowship with Him that our joy may be full. We can with joy possess a treasure. We can give up the things of this world and have a kingdom of heaven right now. This fellowship with Jesus is at hand. The experiencing of Christ Jesus in our lives is for right now. Oh the glory of having a heaven right now. Oh the joy of having the presence of the Lord in our lives right now.
When I was a teenager I began to read through the New Testament, but I quit when I got to the teachings about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13. I scratched my head when it said that you could sell everything and get the kingdom of heaven. That didn’t fit the sovereign grace salvation I had grown to love. I got so confused that I shut my Bible and quit reading. I didn’t understand that something down here was so closely akin to the heaven up there. I didn’t know about an earnest of our inheritance to be experienced now. I didn’t know about a fellowship of Jesus Christ in this world that makes us full of joy. The Bible describes it in a lot of different ways, but it’s something for God’s children right now. Jesus is present with us for the present. He’s in our hearts, in our lives, in our minds, so that we can rejoice in the Lord always. And in that joy in the Lord, we can find strength.
Jesus said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation… [not something you see with your eyes] For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21) It’s within you, in your heart: Christ in you, the hope of glory. This inner experience is so that your joy may be full, that you may have fellowship with the Father and the Son while you’re still here in this world. Paul talked about the kingdom of God: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17) [Emphasis added] That’s for right now; you can have that joy in the Holy Ghost. There’s going to be a lot of joy when we get to heaven. Think of how joyful they are before that throne with its rainbow round about like unto an emerald. Just imagine the joy of Revelation 5:9: and they sung a new song, saying thou art worthy…for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. They’re having joy up there in the presence of the Lord, but there’s also joy down here for us when we’re in the presence of the Lord. There’s joy down here when His heart and our hearts are united, Him being in our heart. There’s a kingdom of heaven experience that’s available to us even in this world. Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Phil. 4:5) The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Your kingdom of heaven experience—your joy of knowing the Lord and being with the Lord—can be right now. He’s at hand. He’s within reach. Take hold of Him; be careful for nothing. (Phil. 4:6) That doesn’t mean be careless about everything. It has nothing to do with carelessness. It means being full of cares. Don’t be overcome with the problems of this world. Don’t be full of cares about your situation. Just take hold of the Lord. He’s at hand. Enjoy Him. Whatever the world pours on me doesn’t matter. I have no cares—The Lord is at hand.
Well that’s easy to say for right now. I’m not in the middle of a disaster. I was however right in the middle of something Thursday. I was in the critical care unit at the hospital with a family of a deacon of our church. The surgeon came out and said, “It’s going to take a miracle. You don’t realize how sick he is. He’s bleeding badly from somewhere inside. Any procedure I try will be very dangerous, but I’m going to try to go down into his stomach with a scope. Maybe I can cauterize the bleeding area, though I don’t think it will work. Everything in there may be bleeding. The only choice then will be surgery, and I don’t think he can stand a surgery. Be prepared, he’s probably not going to make it.”
With that the surgeon turned and headed back through the doors. When he left, we all circled round, held hands and prayed. Among other things we said, “Lord, You’re the Great Physician.” A few minutes later the doctor came back and said, “We put the scope down. There was a great big place that had been bleeding, but it was all clotted up. It quit bleeding all on its own.” I said, “Well, maybe not all on its own.” That man’s son was running around that hospital even the next day telling everybody about the miracle. He doesn’t go to church very often, but he felt the presence of his Lord and he was full of joy.
The Lord is at hand. He’s within reach, and sometimes He gives us miracles of healing, yet other times He gives us the miracle of taking us home. That’s the greatest miracle—to go to heaven. We don’t often ask for that in our prayers, but we can get to that point of asking. I’ve seen people who have asked for that. But as long as you’re feeling pretty good, there’s a natural attachment to this place, so that you don’t want to leave it. Yet when it’s our time to leave, we’ll be okay then, too. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. He’ll be with us, won’t He? And that makes it okay to go.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Just talk to God about what you need. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
The peace of God can come upon you whatever your troubles might be. Think about that song by Horatio Spafford. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean to meet his wife after his four girls had drowned in a shipwreck, he penned these words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin—not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so—it is well with my soul.
It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
“When peace like a river attendeth my way.” We like that. We like a gentle-flowing stream, just floating along. “Or when sorrows like sea billows roll.” I picture Spafford standing at the railing of that ship, and those waves are just pounding the side of that ship, over and over. As far as he can see, there are more waves coming. They’re never going to end—Those sorrows like sea billows pounding on his soul. Then the thought: What ever my lot, God you’ve taught me to say, “It’s okay—It’s okay.” On the inside of my soul there is something, and it’s You, O Holy Spirit. You are telling me, “It’s okay.” Now that’s peace that passeth understanding. How a man in that situation—having lost four little girls—can say, “It’s okay,” is beyond natural comprehension. We may have glimpsed the presence of the Lord in our lives, but that man must have gotten a full view of the Lord that day. He had lost four daughters, but in his soul it was okay. The Lord is good. When you need the full view of God, you’ll get the full view. He’ll never leave you or forsake you, and His grace is sufficient—even sufficient enough to enable you to: Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.
Look at the words of Peter. That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7) You’re in the midst of a fire, and a fire is hot. A fire hurts; a fire burns. A fire tries faith, and a fire purifies faith, but it’s not easy. Through the fire is not the easy way to go through something, but that’s the way to go through something to have your faith get better. The Lord knows what we need, and if need be, our faith is purified by fire. Yet, in the midst of that fire there is an appearing of Jesus Christ whom we see not, yet we believe. We don’t see Him, but Jesus appears to us in the midst of that fire. And when Jesus appears, even when we are in the fire, it is joy unspeakable and full of glory. Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1 Peter 1:8) [Emphasis added] I’ve felt that. At the loss of a granddaughter, I felt that joy unspeakable in the saddest moment of my life thus far. Now there are mixed feelings: There’s fear, and there’s sorrow, but there’s joy. We’re confined to this body and to our ways as human beings. I’m not promising you it’ll all be good, but there’s good in the midst of the bad. There is peace that passes our understanding. When Jesus appears we rejoice in the Lord, even in the midst of our troubles. When we have fellowship with Jesus Christ, when we’re in His presence, there is joy.
One day we’re going to leave this world. The Bible says, Looking unto Jesus who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame. (Hebrews 12:2) [Emphasis added] In the midst of Jesus’ suffering there was joy set before Him. He endured the cross anticipating the joy that awaited Him when He returned to the Father. There’s joy that’s waiting for us up there. When we’re around that throne with its emerald rainbow—There’ll be joy. When we’ve learned the words and the tune of that new song—There’ll be joy in singing it forever. In our carnal minds that may seem boring, but it’s going to be a good song, and there’ll be a lot to rejoice about forever, and forever, and amen! As Jesus was heading home, He looked for that joy that was set before Him—that joy He would have in heaven forever.
Yes, there will be joy in heaven when we are blessed to be in the presence of the Lord forever. And there is joy in this world when we are blessed to be in the presence of the Lord right now. We have talked about “the joy for today”. Now let’s discuss “the hope for tomorrow”. That hope for tomorrow is what Jesus was looking for when He endured the cross. At His death Jesus committed His Spirit unto the Lord, but His body went to the grave. Since His ascension Jesus is in heaven: body, soul and spirit. Jesus is now experiencing the joy that was set before Him, and there’s joy waiting for us up there, too. Oh but there is a hope that’s given to us down here about that joy we expect to have up there.
That hope that we now have is a sure hope, an anchor for our souls. It’s a certain hope because of two things: God planned it, and God said it. Those two immutable things: that God planned it, and God promised it, make it absolutely sure. So we have a certain hope concerning our future, and we can get a grip on that certain hope right now. Moreover, that sure hope will strengthen and save us right here. Romans 8:24 says that we are saved by hope. Yet it’s a hope that we don’t presently see, for if we could see it, we would already have it. We don’t have the fruition of it yet, but the hope is real! The reality of it is out there, and it’s certain. Though we don’t have the thing that we’re hoping for, we are looking for what is real, and that delivers us from some things in this world. We’re saved by that hope.
When the scripture says we are saved by hope, it’s not talking about how we get to heaven. We don’t hope our way into heaven. That’s what the Wizard of Oz tells you. Do you know why I say that? That Wizard, who was a sham and a fake, said, “All you have to do, Dorothy, is shut your eyes and think hard enough, and hope, hope, hope, and click those heels together three times and you’ll be in Kansas.” That’s Wizard-of-Oz mentality. If you think that you can hope yourself into Kansas, have at it. But if you cannot hope yourself into Kansas, then don’t try to hope yourself into heaven. Your hoping to get to heaven is not what saves you to heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ saves you and gets you to heaven. Yet that certain hope that Jesus is going to get you to heaven is what saves and delivers you right here. Hope saves you right now. Let’s look at the context of that text in Romans.
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:24-27)
When things get so bad that you cannot even pray, you need deliverance. You need to be saved from your despair. When you can’t pray, the Holy Spirit is praying for you. He helps you in the midst of your infirmities, your weaknesses. He intercedes for you. In the midst of this kind of despair there is still hope, and we are saved by this hope.
Our hope is in our eternal life, and our hope of eternal life is a certain hope. In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. (Titus 1:2) God promised it, and He cannot lie. So I reckon it’s certain. We’re looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us. (Titus 2:13-14) Just think about that for a minute. If God went so far as to give His Son, and if Jesus went so far as to give His life to get you to heaven, are the Father and the Son committed to this thing or not? Think reasonably. Let us reason together about the Scriptures. Is your eternal life important to God? Do you reckon Jesus would have gone so far as to give Himself for us and quit now? I believe Jesus would have quit before the cross, if He had been going to quit at all. But once He had gone that far, I think that He’s going to go all the way. And He is going to go all the way, my friends. He [God] who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32) So do you think He’s going to stop after He’s gone that far? We’re looking for that blessed hope; it’s a sure hope, a certain hope, that great appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us. He’ll take us home to glory. That’s certain.
In the Book of Titus Paul showed the certainty of eternal life three times. In Titus 1:2 Paul said that God who cannot lie promised eternal life. In Titus 2:14 Paul said that Jesus gave Himself for us, and since He went that far, we can be looking for the blessed hope of His appearing. In Titus 3:5-7 Paul spoke of our hope of eternal life in connection with the new birth, the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Concerning our eternal life, God didn’t leave a loophole. If it were left up to us to decide to take it or not, we would mess up the certainty of His plan. Even our new birth is not of ourselves. The Holy Spirit takes care of that part. So our eternal life is certain because: The Father promised it—The Son gave Himself for it—The Holy Spirit applies it in the new birth.
Eternal life is going to happen. It’s all taken care of by God. Praise God! If God had left it up to me to come and get it, I would have never come. Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5:40) If God had waited for me to come to Jesus to have my eternal life, I could have never come. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day. (John 6:44) You see God does the drawing of us to Jesus, and the fact that God does it for us is what makes it such a certain hope.
Throughout the New Testament hope is primarily applied to the resurrection. In Acts Paul connects hope and resurrection three times: Acts 23:6—of the hope and resurrection; Acts 24:15—have hope…there will be a resurrection; and Acts 26:6-8—the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers…that God should raise the dead? The hope of the resurrection was Paul’s hope. The hope that God should raise the dead was Paul’s hope. That’s the hope of the Jews and of the Gentiles. The hope of all of God’s people is that the dead are going to be raised some day—the hope of resurrection, the hope of eternal life. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13) Jesus will come back with a shout and take the bodies out of the graves and take His people home to be with Him. Those that have that hope sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (I Thessalonains 4:13) Jesus’s return and the bodies resurrected is our hope. Hope and resurrection (not every time, but almost every time) are intimately tied together in the New Testament. Our hope is that there is going to be a resurrection.
Do you reckon that there is going to be a resurrection? It is recorded at least twelve or thirteen times that Jesus said He was going to rise up from the grave. Now His followers didn’t believe it, but Jesus did rise from that grave. He got up. His resurrection is historical reality. Jesus also told us things about when He’s coming back. Jesus said that when He comes back, we are going to get up. Jesus repeatedly said that He was going to raise Himself, and He did. Jesus said that He is going to raise you. Do you think He will? The Bible uses the word “must”: this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53) I reckon that if it must happen, then it’s going to happen. Resurrection is a must. Resurrection is certain. Jesus said He was going to get up, and He did. Jesus said that He was coming back so you can get up. He will come back, and you will get up. That’s a certain hope, a solid hope. That’s a hope that will help you get through life. That’s a hope that will save you in your times of despair.
I believe our hope gets stronger as we get closer to the reality of it. I believe that the nearer we get to that hope, the clearer the vision of it becomes. Let me share with you an experience I had at the nursing home. I do regular services at the nursing homes. I started this after being influenced by Elder Edward Cagle, an old preacher down near Atlanta. I was scheduled to preach down there, and Brother Cagle called me and said, “Come a little early; I always go to the nursing home on Thursdays.” So I got up before the crack of dawn, and thought that it was awfully early just to go to a nursing home, but it turned out to be awesome. Those people were “into it.” The next time I went down there, he took me to the nursing home again. I don’t know how many times I went to the nursing home in Georgia before I realized, ‘Hey, there are nursing homes in Dawson Springs.’ So I started going to the ones at home. It’s pretty neat, pretty special. But you see in a nursing home, the residents come and go. It’s a good place to go if you want to lose friends. I’ve lost a lot of friends. But thanks to the reality of the hope of resurrection, you can always remind yourself that you’re going to see them again some day.
One thing I have learned over the years is that the resurrection is one of the favorite subjects for those in the nursing home. Talking about resurrection means something to them. One time I was there and started reading through Matthew 28, about those women coming to the grave and finding that stone rolled away. As I read through the passage, I got to the part where it says: He is not here; for he is risen. Do you know what they did when I read those words? They all applauded. I said, “Whoa!” Now many of them have a little different background than what I have. Some of them are a little freer with their expression of spirit. They didn’t quench the Spirit; they just let Him right on out. All of a sudden they were clapping and cheering. It kind of knocked me off my feet. I probably never realized the impact of those three words: He is risen. That meant something to them. That’s resurrection. That’s happy time; that’s shouting ground. That’s joy in the presence of the Lord, when you can experience that. I hadn’t recognized the presence of the Holy Spirit in that building that day. I didn’t know what we were surrounded with until I heard that applause. But when they clapped like that, I realized the presence of the Holy Spirit and the wonder of the words.
I still think about those people that day when I read those words, He is not here; He is risen. A lot of them are gone now; that’s been a few years ago. But they left me with that memory. The hope of resurrection, that’s something to shout about; that’s something to get happy over. That’s something that will help you right now, if you have that hope of the future. That’ll get you through the right now. Why the worse thing they can do to me is to kill me. That was the Apostles’ attitudes. But with resurrection—So what? They killed Jesus and didn’t keep Him down. If you kill me, you won’t keep me down either. I’m getting up! It makes the perspective a little different, doesn’t it? It makes death not as scary. Death is still scary, but it’s not as scary if you have the hope of resurrection.
One time after the nursing home experience, I sat with a pastor from our area back home. I was to assist in a funeral that he was to preach. It was getting almost to the funeral hour. He had his Bible open, flipping through it, and I was sitting there watching him. He finally closed his Book and said with a tone of disappointment in his voice, “I guess I’m going to preach on the resurrection again.” I said, “Good choice, brother. You can’t beat that one at a time like this.” He looked at me and seemed really disgusted with himself because he couldn’t come up with anything but the resurrection to talk about. When the time came, his message was that we were to patiently wait for the resurrection; patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. Those folks in the front row, the family, they’re always the saddest ones at a funeral. But as this preacher talked about patiently waiting for the resurrection, the heads of those sitting on the front row raised up. Their saddened eyes and faces raised and began to look at him. Suddenly, there were “Amens” coming from those folks on the front row. It was the same kind of thing that I had seen at the nursing home. You see, when you’re facing death in a nursing home—sitting there waiting to die, or when you’re facing death in a funeral home—sitting there looking at the one that’s in the casket; either way, the hope of resurrection will deliver you. You’re saved in that hope and you can say, “Amen” in the midst of your sorrows if you have the hope of resurrection.
One of my favorite preachers of all times is David Martyn Lloyd-Jones from England. He’s not a Primitive Baptist, but I’ve read volumes of his books. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has taught me a whole lot in his writings. It hasn’t been too long ago that I read his biography written by Iian Murray, a very close friend of his. This man, Lloyd-Jones, had preached in England, in Wales, and in other areas over there for well over 50 years. His ministry started early. He left a promising career as a physician and became an outstanding minister. His books are still sold by the thousands. On his deathbed he was in pain, and Murray went in to talk with him. Murray looked at Lloyd-Jones and was torn in his heart. He said, “It hurts me so bad to see you so weak, so tired and so sad.” Lloyd-Jones hadn’t spoken in a while, but from somewhere, perhaps by the Holy Spirit Himself, he mustered up the strength to say two words: “Not sad.” He might have been weak. He might have been tired. But he wanted his friend to know that he wasn’t sad. It’s not a sad time. We’ll fear no evil. There is something beyond this place. There’s the hope of eternal life and a hope for tomorrow.
I’ll close with this one. When I was a young man, there was an old blind brother in our church back home. Harvey Purdy was his name. Where we have two eyeballs, he had two holes in his head. Right there in his face, he didn’t have anything. Of course, he couldn’t see; he didn’t have all the parts. Now Harvey had been in the hospital for some amount of time, and he finally passed away. So I went by the funeral home to give my regards to his widow. When I walked in Ruby said, “Brother Jeff, Brother Jeff, come here. I have to tell you something.” She was so excited. That’s not generally what you see when you see the widow at the funeral home.
I said, “What is it, Ruby?”
She said, “We were over there in the hospital. The doctor was in the room. Harvey was laying back in the bed, and all of a sudden he sat up in the bed and said, ‘Look, Ruby, look’.” (I bet that old blind man hadn’t said that too many times in his life. He didn’t have any eyes, but he said, “Look, Ruby, look.”) She said, “I didn’t know what to do, Brother Jeff. I looked at the doctor, and he nodded his head like I ought to just agree with Harvey. So I just said, ‘Yes Harvey’. About that time Harvey said again, ‘Oh, Look, Ruby, look.’ And then he said, ‘Isn’t that beautiful?’ Then he just laid back in the bed.”
“Isn’t that beautiful?” I don’t know what he saw; maybe about the same thing Stephen saw. I don’t know that, but whatever he saw, he described it with one word, “beautiful”. I don’t think words can probably describe it. There is something out there, and it’s more real than what is around you right now. This world seems so real that it can sometimes overwhelm me. But two things will get me through—joy for today and hope for tomorrow. I can rejoice in the presence of the Lord today. The joy of the Lord is my strength and your strength for the present. Yes we have joy for today, but there is something else we have for today. It’s something for today, but it has to do with tomorrow. We have the hope of tomorrow that will get us through today. The joy for today and the hope of tomorrow will get you through your day—today. When you cannot muster up any joy, start having some hope. Just start thinking about what’s out there waiting for you. Now the very best we can do is see our hope through a glass darkly—just get some vague images. Yet just a crumb off the Master’s table is a feast, compared to what this world gives you.
It “ain’t” here, folks. What you’re looking for cannot be found in the things of this world. That which will fill up your emptiness is not found in this world or in the things of this world. Don’t be looking for it in the things around you. It’s in you. Look in. Look to the Holy Spirit that dwells within you. And look up. Look in and find the joy. Look up and find the hope. What you need is joy for today and hope for tomorrow, and only God can give you these things.
God bless you.