Thoughts On Joy, Peace and Hope
Peace That Surpasses Understanding
Hope Of Eternal Life
Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor
Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
101 East Walnut Street
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
Paul’s Prayer for the Christians at Rome
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)
In this verse we find three very comforting Biblical themes—joy, peace and hope. Paul speaks of God as the God of hope, and in the eternal scheme of things where would we be without a God of hope? The Apostle’s prayer is that this God of hope will fill you, not just with a little joy and peace, but that He will fill you with all joy and peace. And according to the verse this soul filling, heart-warming joy and peace comes in believing in the God of hope.
Let me share with you some thoughts from Matthew Henry on this verse:
The joy and peace of believers arise chiefly from their hopes. What is laid out upon them is but little, compared with what is laid up for them; therefore the more hope they have the more joy and peace they have. We do then abound in hope when we hope for great things from God, and are greatly established and confirmed in these hopes.
When we, through the power of the Holy Ghost, do believe in the God of hope and are convinced of the good news of His salvation, then we can begin to experience the real hope of eternal life. Truly the good news of His salvation is a rather simple story. According to the scriptures Christ came into this world to save us from our sins and He has accomplished that salvation. According to the scriptures Christ is now in us and that is our hope of glory. According to the scriptures the ultimate result of His finished work is that we have a sure and certain hope of eternal life. Praise God!
And as this hope of eternal life given to us by the grace of God grows stronger we can even come to a point where we abound in hope. To abound in hope far exceeds just getting by in this world. When we are abounding in hope we are on that mountain top that Peter called joy unspeakable and that Paul called the peace that passes understanding.
Our prayer for you is that the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. And as you abound in this hope, may this hope of eternal life further flood your soul with joy and fill your heart with peace.
The Joy Set Before Us
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
When Jesus faced His most difficult trial—even the suffering of His crucifixion—He looked up—He looked beyond—He looked to the other side. Jesus looked for the joy that was set before him. That did not make the cross go away. He still had to endure it and He still despised the shame of it. But He looked at what waited for Him as He endured what was upon Him. And we are told to by faith look to Jesus when we are in the midst of what we must endure. We too by faith can see that other side where our Savior is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We do not have a lot of details, but God has revealed to us a little of the joy that is happening in heaven even at this moment. John shares with us some things he saw when he looked and behold a door was opened in heaven. (Revelation 4:1) He describes a throne with a great One sitting upon it. There is an emerald rainbow round about the throne. It seems that ‘thunderings’ and ‘lightnings’ and seven lamps of fire are providing a fireworks-like celebration to the scene. And as the scene unfolds many men and creatures are with great joy praising God: for thou hast created all things. In the next chapter we find a similar scene of joyful praise, except this time they are praising God and rejoicing in His finished redemption. Listen to these words: And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. (Revelation 5:9) Further in the heavenly views that are opened to us in the Book of Revelation we can see similar scenes where the multitudes are rejoicing in God’s salvation, in God’s works and His ways, in God’s eternal reign, and in God’s final judgment upon evil.
Oh, the joy that is being experienced up there even at this moment! As we endure our daily crosses may we look to Jesus who looked for the joy that was set before Him and may we with patience wait for the joy that waits for us. May we, as Paul said, rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice. We are not told to rejoice in the troubles. We, like Jesus, must sometimes endure the troubles. But we can always rejoice in the Lord, and as Nehemiah said, The joy of the Lord is your strength.
Joy on Earth in Christ’s Day
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, Which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! What a glorious event! What an awesome thought! God had become man! The God that filled the universe—had been confined to a womb! The Creator—now made of a woman! As this child grew, Omnipresence would learn to walk! (Think about it. God had always been everywhere. Now He walked to get there!) Omniscience would learn! And in God as a man, Limitless Strength would at times grow weary! Eternal Peace would become troubled!
His hands held the world—yet He had no place to lay His head! The feeder of the birds hungered! The Living Water thirsted! God—asleep on a pillow! The Almighty said, “If it be possible.” The All Wise asked, “Why?” A man-made nail held the hand that none could stay! Sovereignty sighed! Omnipotence cried! Eternity died?!? Oh, how amazing our God is!
At His death they sorrowed, but their sorrow was soon turned to joy. Upon discovering that He had risen from the tomb the women departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy. At His appearance His Apostles believed not for joy, and wondered.
And even at His ascension back into heaven when you might think that there would have been sadness, there was great joy. Think about the wonder of this scene.
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: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. (Luke 24:50-53)
Indeed, those were joyful days when God came into the world as a babe and left the world as a resurrected King and Savior. It would have been wonderful to have seen Him and known Him. But one day soon you will see Him, and you will know as you are known.
Christ Promised to Send Us His Joy
I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive…. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you….and ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 14:16-18) (John 16:22)
When Christ left us He did not forget us. In His last sermon He made many wonderful promises concerning the sending of the Holy Spirit to His children. This Holy Spirit is not something second rate. He is God Himself! And He is called the Comforter. What a thought that the Holy Spirit, even God Himself, resides in our hearts for the purpose of giving us joy, and peace and comfort!
The Holy Spirit is ever with us and does much for us. He directly teaches us many things. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26) He fills us with God-like traits. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. (Galatians 5:22-23) He knows our deepest feelings of grief and when we are down He prays to the Father for us. Likewise 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. (Romans 8:26)
Through the gifts of love, joy, peace, and faith that the Holy Spirit has given us, and through the very presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we can have a close fellowship with Jesus while still in this world. This same Holy Spirit that dwells in you inspired John to write these words about this personal relationship with Christ that we can take hold of even now.
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, 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)
Oh, that we might have what John had! Oh, that we might experience the close, personal, spiritual fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ! Oh, that our joy might be full!
A Joy in the Midst of Troubles
Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 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: 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 1:6-8)
Consider the wonder in the above words. A season of heaviness is upon you. A time of manifold temptations (many and varied troubles) encompass you. You are in a trial of fire, as gold in the refiner’s furnace. Your faith is truly being tested and purified. And then the thought of the appearing of Jesus Christ is brought before your eyes of faith. And in the turmoil of this scene though you have never seen your Jesus, you sure do love Him. And though you cannot now see Him with your natural eyes, you still believe in Him with all your spiritually-alive heart. And the wonder of it all is that as you see Him you begin to rejoice even in the midst of your fiery trial. Oh, this is not just a little joy that you can experience in this troubling time. By God’s grace you can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome he wrote one of his last letters to the saints in Christ that were at Philippi. And though he was in prison a central theme of the letter is joy. Toward the end of this writing Paul tells these people: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say rejoice. (Philippians 4:4) And it is not out of character with this same Paul to rejoice even when in prison. When Paul had been in their midst at Philippi, he had been whipped and thrown into the inner prison where he was left shackled in stocks. Oh, but even in this unfair and painful experience we find that at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God. Yes indeed, Paul practiced what he preached. He knew how to find joy in the Lord even when there was none to be found otherwise.
The Bible does not teach that we should joy in the troubles. We are not told to joy in the troubles. But we are told that in the midst of the troubles we can still find joy in the Lord. May God bless us by faith to see Jesus as Stephen saw Jesus. May we even see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And if we can see that we can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
The Promise of Shiloh
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10)
In the Hebrew language the word Shiloh means tranquil and in this first book of the Bible we find a prophecy of the coming of One who would be called Tranquil. In the above words Jacob declared that kings and lawgivers would come through the lineage of Judah. But there would eventually be a King and Lawgiver named Shiloh. And this one called, Tranquil, would bring with Him tranquility and peace. He would make peace between God and man and by means of this peace and reconciliation this man, Tranquil, would gather unto himself the people. Blessed is this Peacemaker!
The Old Testament declares the fierceness of God. It speaks of His wrath and anger against sin. Joshua said it like this: Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. (Joshua 24:19) Jeremiah spoke of God in this way: He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary….he poured out his fury like fire. The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel. (Lamentations 2:4-5) Who can stand before this God if He remains an enemy?
The New Testament continues to remind us that there is none righteous. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-12) And we are further reminded of God’s fierce wrath against unrighteousness. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. (Romans 1:18) Who can appease the wrath of God and bring peace on earth and good will toward sinful men?
But there is good news for sinners that have offended an angry God. The good news is that Shiloh has come. Jacob said He would come. Isaiah said He would come. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5) He took our place. He suffered in our stead. God is at peace with sinners because the chastisement of our peace was placed on Jesus. And with his stripes we are healed. God is no longer angry. God is satisfied. We are justified. There is peace between God and sinners. On earth peace, good will toward men. Thank you, Jesus!
On Earth Peace, Good Will Toward Men
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:11-14)
The Prince of Peace was born. The One who had been prophesied from the beginning was here. Jacob had called Him Shiloh, meaning tranquil. Isaiah had said that we would have peace with God through this One who would take our chastisement for us. Daniel had said that this One would make reconciliation for iniquity. And even that last prophet, John the Baptist, would give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Indeed the Prince of Peace, The King of Salem (the Jewish word for peace), the Peacemaker that would bring peace between a righteous God and His unrighteous people had arrived and was found lying in a manger in a remote little town. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Upon holding the Holy Child in his arms the old man Simeon said, Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. Unto us a child was born, and unto us a Son was given. And in that Holy Immanuel was the way and the only way to salvation. He, and only He, could bridge the gap between an angry God and a sinful people. He, and only He, could appease the Holy God who was so offended by sin. He, and only He, could make payment that would satisfy the Judge of Eternity. He, and only He, could justify His people in the righteous courtroom of heaven. And what a blessing it is when we, like Simeon, can by faith see that salvation, for in seeing that salvation we, like Simeon, can depart this world in peace.
Our sins have made us enemies of God, but Jesus’ blood washed those sins away. Our transgressions placed on us a debt that was owed to God that we could have never paid. But Jesus paid that debt for us. We who were one time at enmity with God have been brought to be at peace with God. And all glory goes to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for accomplishing this peace. Thanks to Him, and only Him, there is now on earth peace, good will toward men.
My Peace I Give Unto You
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
When Jesus walked among men He never failed to show compassion for those in need. His compassion was shown for the blind, the deaf, the lame, the lepers, the hungry, the widows, the little children, the mothers, the fathers, the sorrowful, the sick, the sinners, and on and on and on. And He went beyond just having compassion in His heart. He noticed. He listened. He stopped. He helped. And though He was about to leave His followers, He still was a God of compassion to them. On the eve of His crucifixion He stopped. He sensed their feelings. He was touched with the feelings of their infirmities. And He preached them a sermon that began with the words: Let not you heart be troubled. On that last evening Jesus noticed. Jesus stopped. Jesus helped.
And what a help the words He spoke on that occasion are even to us today. In that last message He reminds us that we will someday be with Him. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. In that last sermon He promised us that though He was leaving us, the Holy Spirit would come to be with us and would continue to be with us. I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.
And He promised that that Holy Spirit would give us peace. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. What Jesus gives to us is far greater than anything the world can give. He gives us peace for our troubled hearts and courage for our fears.
And in the closing words of that wonderful message of comfort for His children who tend to be so troubled in this world, Jesus left us with these truths: These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Yes, He acknowledged that we would have troubles. The Christian should not expect that troubles will ever end in this world. But Jesus promised us a present peace in this world with the assurance that He has overcome this world. And by the way, a perfect eternal peace awaits us on the other shore. Praise God!
Peace Be Unto You
Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (Luke 24:36)
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (John 20:19)
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21)
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. (John 20:26)
Why did Jesus say the words, Peace be unto you, so many times? Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the writers of old to repeatedly record the words, Peace be unto you? Why did I use such repetition in quoting all these verses that say the same thing, Peace be unto you?
The wonder in the words, Peace be unto you, can perhaps never be understood by mortal man. We have no idea of the suffering that Jesus endured to accomplish this peace. We are unaware of, and too much unappreciative of, what He went through to bring us to a state of peace with God.
Moreover, we have no real grasp as to how holy God really is. We have such little understanding of how much He must hate sin. In our limited and warped minds we have no idea how sinful and vile we truly were before His holy eyes. But perhaps we can get some sense of God’s hatred of sin by the wrath He poured out on His Son when He delivered Him to be crucified. The Son of God on a cross because of sin shows God’s hatred of sin.
But it also shows God’s love for sinners. The God who hates sin looks at you and says, Peace be unto you. Surely we should marvel at the wonder of the cross and marvel at the oft repeated words, Peace be unto you.
Reconciliation: God and Sinners at Peace
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11)
Surely, these are some of the greatest words in all the Bible. The passage describes our case. Our situation was a hopeless one. We were yet without strength. We were yet sinners. We had no ability of our own to reconcile our relationship with an offended God. We were condemned sinners without any strength to remedy our hell bound destiny. Woe is mankind if peace cannot be made with the angry judge of eternity!
But in due time, even when the God appointed hour had come, Christ died for the ungodly. On rare occasions someone might dare to heroically die for what appears to be a good and righteous man. But this that Christ did for us goes far beyond one heroic sinner dying for another. That sinner was going to die anyway, but this perfect God had no death penalty on Him. He could have stayed in heaven and never faced death. But this God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The passage continues with the thought that we are justified, that is legally declared to be righteous, by the blood of Jesus, and having been declared righteous in the eternal courtroom of God we shall be saved from the wrath of a burning hell through the finished work of Jesus. And finally we arrive at the reconciliation that was accomplished by the death of the Son of God. God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. By the sacrificial death of Jesus we are at peace with God. And having been reconciled we shall be saved. And we do greatly joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. It is not of any thing we have done. It is by the grace of God that we have passively received atonement, or ‘at-one-ment’. Peace is made and we are at one with God. What a Savior!!
Saved By Hope
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. (Romans 8:24-25)
The above verse does not teach that we can hope our way into heaven. Do not be confused and think that the Bible is referring to eternal salvation every time it mentions the word save. In its context this verse is sandwiched between our groaning within ourselves as we wait for the redemption of our bodies (resurrection) and our being in such a state of despair that we do not even know how to pray. When we come to this situation we need deliverance and it is hope that will save us from despair when we are so cast down.
Job knew what it was to lose hope. In the midst of his troubles he declared that his days were spent without hope. He complained that even a tree stump had the hope of sprouting, but he had no hope of living again. And then suddenly in the same passage he asks a question, If a man die, shall he live again? And he answers his own question with the words, all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee. And later we find Job’s glorious words, For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another. Yes, Job had at one point lost his hope, but when Job’s hopes were renewed, then he surely was saved from his despair by the hope of one day seeing his Savior.
Satan will try to rob us of our hope. When Paul preached the hope of a resurrection, some mocked. Some among the Corinthians said that there was no resurrection of the dead. Some in Paul’s day said it was past already. In Jesus’ day the Saducees challenged Him with their feeble arguments that such a thing could not be. And still today many will say, “How can the dead be raised?” My friend, I cannot tell you how they are raised. I do not know how. But I can tell you with certainty that the dead will be raised, and I can tell you with certainty that God knows how to do it.
May the eyes of your understanding be enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. And if you know this hope, it will save you and lift you up in your times of discouragement. Look up, my friend, look up!
Hope and Resurrection
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)
In the above words Christ is the actual object of the believer’s hope, because it is in His second coming that the hope of glory will be fulfilled. We find a ‘lively’ hope in Peter’s words: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3) And we see that this hope hinges on the resurrected and living Jesus Christ who has promised to come back for us. And again in John’s words we find hope tied to resurrection. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)
Paul often connected our hope with the coming resurrection.
And have hope toward God…that there shall be a resurrection of the dead. (Acts 24:15)
Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. (Acts 23:6)
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? (Acts 26:6-8)
Now we might hope in the things of this world, and there are some things in this world that are not all bad. But the things in this world will fail us. The things in this world will let us down. The Apostle Paul put the things of this world into perspective with these words: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But he did not leave us with shattered hopes, because the next words are: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20) Our hope is in a risen Christ and if He is the first fruit, there must be a great harvest to follow. Praise God!
The Certainty of Our Hope
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. (Titus 1:2)
The way we commonly use the word hope and the way the Bible uses it are very different. Someone might say, “I hope I win the lottery.” But everyone knows that such a thing is very doubtful. In the Bible hope does not refer to some long shot, near impossible, ‘pie-in-the-sky’ idea. As used in the Bible hope is not some fairy tale, happily-ever-after, never-really-going-to-happen-anyway nonsense. The hope of the Bible is absolutely certain; it is just not here yet. The hope of eternal life is a hope that is going to happen.
The Book of Titus speaks of our hope of eternal life three times. And each time declares in a different way the certainty of the hope. First of all, consider that God promised us eternal life. In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. (Titus 1:2) Before the world began God had a great plan that would end in our eternal life. At that time He made a covenant of grace, in which He promised eternal life. God cannot lie and His eternal plan cannot change. So by two unchangeable things we can be certain that eternal life is not a long shot.
Next, we find the words: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:13-14) Again we find the hope we are looking for, even the appearing of Jesus Christ to resurrect. But connected with the hope of His return is the thought that He has already given Himself for us. Now I ask you to think reasonably. If He has already gone so far as to die for us, will He surely not now finish what He has started? If He has gone thus far, what could stop Him now?
And finally think of the words: Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7) Some will admit that God promised eternal life and that Christ paid for eternal life and then someway leave the sinner to work his way into the eternal life. No, these words take out that loophole. Our hope does not hinge on our works, but on the work of the Holy Ghost to regenerate us to that eternal life. From start to finish our eternal life is of God and that is what makes it so certain! Indeed, our hope of eternal life is a hope that is going to happen!
The Closer We Get, The More We Hope
He is not here: He is risen. (Matthew 28:6)
A few months ago something special happened while I was preaching to the lonely dying residents confined to a local nursing home. As I worked my way through the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I came to the angel-spoken words, He is not here: He is risen. (Matthew 28:6) At the reading of these magnificent words applause broke forth from these elderly believers. I had failed to sense the extent of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the place and was shocked by the interruption of my message. But even more to my shame I had also failed to sense the true wonder in the words, He is not here: He is risen. Oh, but these that were so near to that walk through the valley of the shadow death cheered with excitement at the preaching of the miracle and hope of a resurrection.
The resurrection is worth getting excited about. It is the exclamation point of all the doctrines of the Bible. And truly without the reality of the resurrection nothing else really matters. But Christ is risen from the dead and resurrection is eternal reality. Jesus authenticated His power by His very own resurrection and return to life from the dead. Jesus had the power to lay His life down, and Jesus had the power to raise it up again.
And at the last day Jesus will again show His great power when He shouts from the clouds and resurrects His beloved children. Jesus was the first fruit to rise and many that sleep in the graves will follow in His pattern. And in their glorious resurrected bodies they will enjoy the very presence of Jesus for the entirety of eternity. What a wonderful never-ending day that will be!!!
A few weeks ago I sat quietly watching as a much-respected preacher flipped through his Bible just prior to a funeral service. He finally shut the book and confessed his desire to come up with something different to preach at this funeral. And then he admitted that he was going to once again speak about the resurrection. I assured him that when we face the hopelessness of death there is no better message than the story of resurrection and that he had again made a good choice. At the appointed time he rose and preached what had been preached so many times before. And God abundantly blessed him with a message of patiently waiting unto the coming of the Lord. The ‘Amens’ of those who faced death at the funeral home that day reminded me of the applause from those who had faced death in the nursing home on another day. Oh, when we must face death, no message brings more hope, and peace, and joy than that of resurrection.
Hope That Helps Us Fight the Final Battle
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Paul knew what it was to be saved by hope. He had often groaned within himself waiting for the resurrection. Paul had spoken many times of the connection between hope and resurrection. Paul was convinced of the certainty of that hope of a resurrection that the God who cannot lie had promised. Paul had seen that risen Lord Jesus Christ and he could hardly wait to see Him again. Paul was ready to fight that final battle. Paul faced death and he was ready to be offered even as a martyr for Christ. And what helped Paul face death and not falter in the final battle was the real hope that something wonderful was laid up for him in a world beyond death.
This hope will help God’s children throughout the ages face and fight that final battle. Near the end of Iain Murray’s biography of the faithful servant of God, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, we find this account. Lloyd-Jones had come to the point of death and this man who had preached so many sermons now rarely spoke. When Murray saw his friend in this condition he said to him, “It hurts me to see you so tired and weak and sad.” At that point Lloyd-Jones found the strength to say, “Not sad!” He did not deny that he was tired or weak, but he seemed to feel a sense of urgency to let his friend know that sadness was not a problem. The hope of what he had so long preached was nearly within reach. He might have been a lot of things, but he was not sad, for he had a hope of heaven.
Let me share with you a personal experience. A few years ago a blind man named Harvey Purdy passed away and I went by the funeral home to pay my respects. His widow (Ruby who is now gone also) came to me with joyful excitement and shared with me what had occurred in the hospital shortly before Harvey died. She said that Harvey suddenly rose up from his pillow and said, “Look, Ruby, Look!” (Imagine a blind man telling someone to look!) Ruby answered with the words, “What is it, Harvey?” He repeated the words, “Look, Ruby, Look!” She told me that she looked at the doctor that was in the room and he nodded that she should just agree with him. At that point she said, “Yes, Harvey,” as if she saw what he was seeing. She said Harvey laid his head back on the pillow and said, “Isn’t it beautiful!” Harvey saw his hope as he finished his course. God is good!