EXTRAVAGANT HOPE

 “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. 17 FOR GOD DID NOT SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD TO CONDEMN THE WORLD, BUT TO SAVE THE WORLD THROUGH HIM” (JOHN 3: 16-17)

OVERVIEW

Our keynote verse for this series says it all again! When Father God sent His Son to be born of the Virgin in Bethlehem in Judea He not only demonstrated His extravagant love but He also gave us an extravagant hope. And our hope is this: “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. In a world full of hopelessness there is no more wonderful hope than this – the hope of eternal life – in Paradise – forever and ever and ever – and all started with the birth of a little baby who was to be the Saviour of the World.

And why is this an “extravagant hope”? Because this hope – this promise in which we can totally trust – is beyond reason and beyond necessity:

It makes no sense that God should give us this hope of life forever – to us who have been His enemy and even now constantly rebel against Him and go our own way (Isaiah 53: 6) – it is beyond reason – and is given to us because despite all He loves us with the perfect love of a Father.

It is not necessary that He should give us this hope of Heaven – we have done nothing to deserve it – He owes us nothing – but out of His Father’s extravagant love for us we owe Him everything!

Thank God for this extravagant hope – given to us in the physical form of a little baby on that first Christmas day!

HOPELESSNESS OR HOPE?

But when I look at the world today I see the darkness of hopelessness rather than the light of hope – a world that has been deceived by the prince of hopelessness – our enemy, the devil. He has infected people who are without God everywhere, crying out “abandon hope all who enter here!”

People have no hope in the political system, the health system, the education system. They are without hope that life is ever going to get any better for them. They are without hope that they are ever going to be able to manage on a meagre income (and the devil tempts them with adverts of plenty and pleasure), ever going to get a better job (or a job in the first place), ever going to find a husband or a wife, ever going to have children, ever going to be happy. And they not only see death as a hopeless and pointless end but they often see it as a final release from the hopelessness that they feel now. As has been pointed out recently – suicide amongst males is the biggest single cause of death of men under 40.

I worked for 2 years with Tiffany – a bright and talented teenager – who, after the breakup of her parents’ marriage, the breakdown in the mental health of her mum, the loneliness of a “Goth” lifestyle and the relentless bullying that came to her from being overweight and plain, cut herself more than 2000 times over her body and sought to throw herself off a railway bridge. Her explanation to me was one I have oft heard repeated – “there is no point to my life, I have no hope for the future, I just want to end this misery” – and she was only 15!

But, Len Magee – saved by Jesus from a life of drug addiction – wrote these words in the 1970’s:

  1. Children crying, people dying, not knowing why/People walking, endless talking, life’s just a lie/Lost in a wilderness of concrete made by man Which way to turn? Which way to go?
  •  People idle, suicidal, don’t want to live/World of sorrow, and tomorrow, what can it give?/Lost in this wilderness of concrete made by man/Which way to turn? Which way to go?
  • Mass confusion, man’s delusion, a shattered dream/People hating, then debating what might have been/Lost in this wilderness of concrete made by man/Which way to turn? Which way to go?

Chorus: But I do know that Jesus is alive/You’ve gotta believe me/I do know that Jesus is alive

We have a “Hope for Tomorrow” – we have been given an extravagant hope that, through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, all SHALL be well! No “if’s”, no “buts”. All WILL be well! For we have been promised by Jesus Himself who was speaking of the troubles that will beset us:

 ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16: 33)

We DO take heart. For we DO have hope. He HAS overcome the world. Our future IS secure. We HAVE “HOPE FOR TOMORROW”.

THE “GIFT” OF HOPE

Christmas time is one of the giving and receiving of presents. A present, especially for a child, is the evidence of hope  – a sure and certain hope that in a few days time, on Christmas Day, they SHALL receive wonderful things. They are excited – not fearful – the present is the certainty that they WILL have gifts. They do not doubt – they trust in the love of their parent to give them good things.

Is this not a wonderful visualisation of the extravagant love of Father God for us? Christmas Time is that of Father God providing us with a precious gift. The gift is a gift within a gift (let the wise understand). Jesus is the gift – like a precious box covered in gold and jewels. But, open up this box and inside is the gift of eternal life – and it is ours. We can’t open this box yet – but we know that the hope of what is inside WILL be ours.

Let us use this visualisation to understand about God’s gift of extravagant hope…

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WORLDY “HOPE” AND DIVINE, EXTRAVAGANT “HOPE”

There are 2 types of hope:

  1. A “desperate” or a “vain” hope – where the hope is a wish – a “wish” that things might be as we want them to be in the future. So “I hope it stops raining soon” or “I hope that I pass my exams”. This is the hope that quickly leads to hopelessness. This is the hope expressed at  this time in the mantra of the political parties fighting this current General Election. On the one hand you have Boris Johnson with his hope that we “Get Brixit Done” – this sounds like a promise but we know it to be no more than a vain hope. On the other hand we have Jeremy Corbin who finished his election campaign with the slogan “hope for real change” – really? Few believe that his election promises of injecting huge amounts of money here, there and everywhere, are anything more than “pie in the sky”. This is not the hope that Father God promises us this Christmas. Rather, He is promising us the gift of –
  • A “sure and certain” hope – where the hope is something that we do not yet have but know that we shall have it at some point in the future. This is the gift that we see in our visualisation. We do not have this gift yet – but we are secure in the knowledge that we WILL have it. And WHAT is this “sure and certain” hope, and HOW do we know that it is ours?…

The apostle Paul, writing to his apprentice Titus, declared that he had:

“…the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,” (Titus 1: 2)

This summarises the sure and certain hope that we have that, through our relationship with Jesus, we are going to pass from this life into Heaven.

In the present in our visualisation a child could open that box on Christmas Day and find a number of things inside:

  • Maybe an orange – but that is transitory – it will surely rot if it is not eaten
  • Maybe money – but this shall soon be spent or stolen
  • Maybe clothes – but these will wear out.

Come on! What “gift” do you truly want to take out of this box? Surely it is a sure and certain hope of something that will last forever – a gift that will last for eternity – a gift that will bring peace and satisfaction for all time.

Here is some of the extravagant hope that you will find in that box – a hope that will neither perish nor wear out:

  • The promise of a friend who will be with you forever (“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” – Matthew 28: 20)
  • The promise of One who will love you always (‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you’ – John 15: 9)
  • The promise of One in whom we can put our trust (“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” – John 14: 1 NLT)
  • The hope of forgiveness for all our sins and wrong-doings (‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ – John 9: 2)
  • The hope that we shall not perish but shall be saved (“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” – John 3: 17)
  • The hope of eternal life in Heaven (“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” – 1 John 5: 13)
  • The hope of “Paradise restored” (‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death”[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ – Revelation 21: 3-4)

 Now this is a gift of extravagant hope that is worth having! And this is a sure and certain hope. In the past few weeks I have conducted two funerals and now my aunt has just died. I have been amongst those who are weeping and mourning at the loss of their loved ones. Their faces cry out hopelessness in their loss – their loved ones are gone forever. I hope that I have been able to bring them a sure and certain hope that death is NOT the end but is a portal, a door, to an eternal life that is a true promise and that our most important decision is whether we are going t go through this door with the sure and certain hope of a life eternal in Paradise.

THE CHALLENGE OF EXTRAVAGANT HOPE FOR TOMORROW

Again, the challenge is two-fold:

  • Have you accepted this extravagant hope for tomorrow that is offered to you today? That’s why Father God sent the Son – Jesus – to be born on that first Christmas Day – so that WHOEVER believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life (John 3: 16). Are you that “whoever” who needs to pick up this extravagant hope today? Don’t delay!
  • If you already have hold of this extravagant hope then you are alright. But, what about the others? Jesus calls us to share this hope with the whole world – so that they might believe in Him too. As I write this I have recently returned from delivering our church Christmas cards to the houses on Beaver Road. It is General Election day. It was cold and raining and my coat was done up high and my hat was pulled down low. So, when I bumped into Paul, one of the guests of “Open Arms” (he was once butler to the Queen Mother you know!) he did not at first recognise me. When he did, he said “Oh! I saw this person with leaflets in his hand and I thought he was canvassing for Boris” [Johnson]. My reply was “no, I’m canvassing for Jesus”. And it struck me that this is what the challenge is for us all. The politicians offer us a “vain hope”. We offer the hope for the nations – a sure and certain hope. We must always be canvassing for people to accept this extravagant hope of eternal life.

CONCLUSION

Extravagant Hope gives us peace in our heart, mind, soul and spirit. Knowing that we have the sure and certain hope of eternal life, in Heaven, in Paradise, with our Father forever, we no longer need fear anything – neither now nor forever. We can truly lie down in perfect peace – the peace of God that passes all understanding (

That is why we are encouraged by Paul with the following words (Romans 15: 13):

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

FOR FURTHER STUDY ON YOUR OWN OR IN HOUSEGROUPS: A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM ECCLESIASTES

‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
    says the Teacher.
‘Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.’

(Ecclesiastes 1: 2)

Right from the start of his book, the king, Solomon, espouses that without God ALL is meaningless, ALL is hopeless, ALL is pointless. What do you think he is saying about hopelessness without God?

But, at its conclusion this teacher declares with triumph his discovery that the hope for all mankind is to:

fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.

(Ecclesiastes 12: 13)

Is not a simple way of understanding this (and let it be understood that there are many levels of understanding in this one phrase) is:

Know God and live for Him with all your heart – then you will know peace

What do you think that this says about hope?

Why not go through the whole of Ecclesiastes and see how the author shows that all without God is hopeless, while all with God is hopeful.