A New Year comes with New Hopes—right?
What are you hoping for in this New Year?
The past two years left plenty of things to hope for—and we all have hopes.
All human beings are hopers. Hope is why people get married.
- Hope is why people have children.
- Hope is why they pay to send their children to college.
- Hope is why people buy ab machines.
- It’s why people pay for makeovers and read self-help books and go to counselors and play the stock market, why we go on blind dates.
- It’s why little kids go nuts anticipating Christmas morning.
- It’s why we read the Bible.
- It’s why we’re here today.
- We hope, we have hopes.
Proverbs 13:12 says this: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” because the human spirit can survive just about anything, but it cannot survive the loss of hope.
A retired schoolteacher volunteered to visit and teach young children at a large hospital. One day, the phone rang and she received her first assignment as a new volunteer. On the other end of the line was the classroom teacher of a young boy who had been hospitalized and needed tutoring during his stay in the hospital. The volunteer teacher took down the name of the boy and his hospital room number and was told the boy had been studying nouns and adverbs in his class before he was hospitalized. But when she got to the boy’s room, it was in the hospital’s burn unit. She was prepared to teach English grammar, but she was not prepared to witness the horrible look and smell of badly burned human flesh. She was not prepared to see a young boy in great pain either. Everything around her made her want to hold her nose, to turn and run. But something inside her kept her from walking away, so she clumsily stammered over to his bedside and said:
“I’m the hospital teacher. Your schoolteacher asked me to help you with your nouns and adverbs,” and she began to teach.
The next morning when she came to work with the boy, a nurse from the burn unit rushed up to her and asked her, “What did you do to that boy?”
The teacher began to apologize profusely, but before she could finish, the nurse said, “We’ve been really worried about him and his condition has been deteriorating daily, because he had completely given up hope. But ever since you were here with him yesterday, his whole attitude has changed and he’s fighting back and responding to treatment. It’s as though he decided to live!”
The nurse later questioned the little boy, he said, “I figured I was doomed—that I was going to die—until I saw that teacher,” he said: “But when I saw that teacher, I realized that they wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy…would they?”
What God Gives Us
Hope is powerful. We all need hope.
Neuroscientists can show changes in brain chemistry physically happen when there’s hope versus hopelessness. And Hope is your birthright if you are a child of God.
In this series starting today, we’re going to be looking at some things all of us hope for—especially in this new year.
Who doesn’t hope for deep, honest, trusting friendships?
Who doesn’t hope for greater peace?
We all hope to experience more Joy–for a life-giving sense of purpose.
And what I want to show you, is that if you have opened your heart to God’s love and forgiveness offered in Christ—it’s your birthright!
It’s your birthright to have access to these spiritual qualities growing in your life. We’re going to focus on a passage in Ephesians 1 today that starts by saying, “When you decide to let Jesus be your Lord and Savior, God adopts you as His own child.”
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:3-5
When you let Christ in, that was all the permission God needed.
God not only adopts you, loves you as His own precious child, but get this “sees you as blameless” (not because we did nothing wrong, because Jesus washes away all our stains so we can stand before God forgiven).
But even more, He gives you an inheritance, a birthright, to all kinds of spiritual benefits, every spiritual blessing, and they are there for you to take.
Take as much as you can use God says: Hope, joy, peace, trusting love, purpose.
They are there for the taking!
And yet, most Christ followers don’t know what’s rightfully theirs or how to take it and live experiencing more of these spiritual blessings.
Probably because we live in a world where we can get the hope beaten out of us.
Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, we all get whacked by life sometimes.
We can feel the circumstances of life whittling away at hope until we start to feel discouraged, then despairing, finally hopeless.
- Some of you here today are somewhere along that slow slide down into hopelessness.
- Maybe you had hopes for a relationship or a marriage, but year after year has whittled away that hope, or maybe your marital hopes got smashed like broken glass against an unexpected divorce.
- Or maybe you had Business Hopes or Success Hopes but year after year, things have not gone as planned, and your hope is fading—and it with it your sense of worth is driving you groundward.
- Maybe you had hoped for health, but found the heartache of disease eroding that hope.
- Or you had hopes for your children, and the more life unfolds the less hopeful you’ve become.
- Maybe you had hopes for a loving marriage, a loving family, and instead there’s constant tension, strife, frustration that sinks you into silent despair.
- Maybe you’ve had hopes for less political division in your family but the holidays proved otherwise.
- Maybe you had hoped there would be more unity and more justice and more equality in our world by now.
- Maybe you thought life was finally get back to normal and then this new variant comes along.
- Or maybe even more despairing, you reached most all your goals, you’ve accomplished so much—and yet, it didn’t have the payoff you’d bargained for. Now what? All that time, energy, accomplishment—for what? And a low-grade despair settles in like a fog in your soul. I could go on and on, but we all know it’s true.
We all Need Hope, yet we so often feel circumstances trying to Beat the Hope out of us. So what do you do?
God Makes Everything New
God gives us something New—a birthright as His children.
If we have opened our hearts to Him, he makes everything new.
That means we have new opportunities.
We have New choices.
And everything we need to exchange Despair for Hope, worry for peace, misery and sorrow for joy—it’s all available for the taking. But how? And what does that mean? That’s what these next 4 weeks are about—so don’t miss them. But let’s start with an overview today.
Peter, one of Jesus closest disciples, says: By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature…. 2 Peter 1:3-4.
Peter says “God has given us EVERYTHING we need.”
What does everything include?
For what? A godly life.
Oh, well—see that’s not what I want or need, a godly life sounds horrible. Is that what you were thinking?
But stop and think about God’s Life—that’s what this is—sharing in God’s Life.
God is the Source of every good thing, all love, perfect peace, God is overflowing joy and enjoyment, adventure and life—to put it in crass human terms, no one’s happier or more life-of the party than God. No one. Nothing can steal God’s joy, nothing can diminish God’s love, nothing can circumstantially cause God panic or fear or worry.
Do you get it? Peter says, by coming to know God, you “have received all of this”—past tense, it’s yours for the taking. It’s your birthright as His adopted child. You have Everything you need to share in His Divine Nature—to share in God’s experience of Life.
Which means, your hope, peace, love, joy, purpose is not dependent on others or on circumstances. It’s only dependent on you and God.
Everything we need is from Him, nothing is at the mercy of others.
The Inheritance We Miss
Do you realize this? That’s why God has given us the Bible—full of his great and precious promises Peter says—because these promises are like clues to find the treasure that’s there for the taking. “These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature….” 2 Peter1:4.
Think about it like this true story.
In 2003 Journeyman baseball pitcher Matt White had just started pitching for the Boston Red Sox. His great Aunt, Josephine, was living on 50 acres of land in New Hampshire, and she had no money and declining health. As an act of kindness, Matt purchased the 50 acres from Josephine for $50,000 so that she could move to assisted living. Ironically, Josephine had been living on a gold mine, but didn’t realize it. When Matt when to clear the land to build a house, a geological survey found Goshen stone everywhere—a mica stone used for building materials worth $100/ton, and he had 24 million tons on his 50 acres. Matt became baseball’s first billionaire—not because of his skills at baseball—because of what came with the land. There for the taking.
God says He’s given you, as His child, an inheritance and a birthright—it’s yours for the taking. You have a right to share in God’s divine nature—God’s love, life, peace, joy—doesn’t depend on what other people do or what Amazon delivers to your doorstep.
But just like Josephine, we can live largely unaware of what God has promised us, and so live in spiritual poverty when right beneath our spiritual feet is treasure for the taking.
So how do we start to mine this spiritual treasure and actually enjoy it now? Let’s keep looking at Ephesians 1 after it says we are loved and adopted by God, given every spiritual blessing. It goes on…
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession…. Ephesians 1:13-14
Notice a few things, when you believed (or trusted in Jesus)—if you’ve ever just told God “I want what Jesus did to count for me—I want your forgiveness, love, and guidance.”
That’s all God needs, your permission, because love doesn’t act without permission.
When you told God that, God gave you his Holy Spirit. You don’t have to have some second baptism or speak in tongues to receive the Holy Spirit—it was when you believed, The Holy Spirit is in you—marking you as God’s child. The Spirit is God’s seal.
Back in that day Caesar’s Roman Seal meant “property of Rome” this belongs to the Emperor—mess with it and you mess with the power of Rome. And notice too, the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spiritof wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:17-19.
We will one day inherit the riches of God—what does that mean?
It tells us in many other places in Scripture, but here’s a summary. Think of all the things you could hope to have on earth—all the external blessings of riches, wealth, power, adventure, fun, pleasure—all that. It’s all circumstantial and it’s all passing. That’s because it’s merely a shadow of the real, lasting things of God that truly satisfy. And that’s what God promises you as an inheritance. That’s the hope you have to look forward to ultimately. You will share in all that God has.
That’s why Paul, who writes this letter to the Ephesian church, prays I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you. Ephesians 1:18.
What difference does that make now? Tons if your heart is enlightened. It changes the way we view our circumstances or difficulties now—not as hopeless, but with hope.
You know there really is Evil in this world.
Evil wants to torture you with lies of despair and feelings of hopelessness.
A good example of this is what the Nazis did to concentration camp prisoners.
They conducted cruel, torturous experiments. One experiment was ordering prisoners to move piles of dirt in wheelbarrows from one side of the camp to the other. Then they’d have them move it all back again, only to repeat moving it from one side to the other until finally the prisoners realized how meaningless their labor was. One of the things they found was that people died at a faster rate than just the camps alone killing them. People died when there was a loss of hope and there was a sense of meaninglessness.
On the other hand, imagine if you were a prisoner of war. You had endured all kinds of horrific trials and suffering, but word came through the camp that the Allied forces had won—you were going to be liberated. Suddenly even though the circumstances haven’t immediately changed, everything’s changed, because there’s hope. That apparently happened in Concentration camps—the prisoners realized before the guards, and suddenly the prisoner’s had joy in the same horrible circumstances. Why? They had a hope that transcended what these guards could do to them.
You have a hope that is eternal, certain, and fully guaranteed. It’s a hope far greater than anything you could hope this world could ever give you.
And the Holy Spirit is God’s downpayment and guarantee.
And the Holy Spirit is also the Power by which you can mine the treasures of Heaven that are your birthright to take from right now!
So you don’t have to wait for Heaven to experience greater peace, even though life comes at you like a Nationwide commercial.
You don’t have to wait for Heaven to experience more of God’s Joy, even though troubles and suffering still try to defeat you in this life.
You don’t have to wait for Heaven to experience a depth of Love and relationship that comes from God’s power.
All these things are yours for the taking—but not by your own power or own resources, and not by getting the world to cooperate with your plans—by learning to live by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:20-21
So I’ll be honest with you—this is where the struggle comes in.
It’s not by our power but by the power of God’s Spirit in line with God’s promises in Scripture that we access more and more of our birthright—our spiritual blessings right on our inherited spiritual land. We live sharing God’s Divine Nature as we learn to walk in step with the Power of the Holy Spirit. And in this world, that’s not always easy—that’s the mystery and the truth of it. It’s not automatic, and evil works hard to keep you from it.
Matt White really did have billions of dollars worth of stone for the taking, but he wasn’t wise in who he trusted. All the terms are not in the news, but apparently, he partnered with a lender he should not have trusted. He had to borrow money to mine the stone, and without a good plan and good partners he could trust, the credit line went to 21% interest before he could get the stone out—he had to declare bankruptcy and sell the property to get out of debt. He still sold the property for millions, but he could have had so much more if he’d had trusted partners and a good plan.
Kind of downer to a good story, but an applicable warning to us.
So many Christ-followers aren’t wise about how to live in this evil world. God tells us in His promises that you can share in His Joy, you can have a Peace that doesn’t make sense circumstantially, you can love even your enemies—which is not natural. But when we keep partnering up with people who are not seeking God or God’s promises or God’s Spirit, but just seeking the way the world tries to find hope, fun, wealth, pleasure, meaning—we keep getting robbed of what is rightfully ours for the taking.
So I’m not giving you a simple answer today, but a longer term plan to be wise and start to learn how to live in God’s Power according to His promises so that you do have a New Hope, a New Love, Joy and Peace.
A Plan Forward
We will explain it in more practical detail in the weeks to come. But here’s the longer term wise plan.
Find Trusted Spiritual Community.
IF Matt White had trusted, wise, business partners he could have taken much more of what was rightfully his. We’re always telling you “Get connectded” around here because we need spiritual support to grow and learn how to walk with God’s Spirit in line with His promises. Let’s say you decided in 2022 you’re going to run your first marathon ever. And so far, the farthest you’ve run in your life is from your recliner to the bathroom on New Years day. How likely are you to succeed running a marathon on your own? Worse odds than UT winning the SEC in current form—right?
But if you joined a running club, and you got a group of people advising you, and a training partner to run with daily, even when you weren’t motivated—that might work. That’s what spiritual community can do for us – finding others who are spiritually running the same direction to encourage your faith, pray for each other, learn God’s promises and how to tap into His power for living.
Right now is the best time to get connected as it’s a new year and new groups are starting and new classes are starting. Here’s a few of the topics we can help you with.
Don’t wait! Now is the right time!
Learn to Trust God’s Promises.
Two keys here—learn them. If you don’t know what God has promised, you may be fooled by deceipt and lies. For instance, I lived a lot of my life with heavy burdens and a sense of responsibility that I thought was from God. But it wasn’t from God. It was so ingrained in my psyche that I just assumed it was right and from God. “I have to…” “I must…” “It’s my responsibility to make sure…”. And then I read God’s great promises where Jesus said “Come to me all who are burden and carry heavy loads, and I will give you rest. My burden, the load of responsibility I give, is light.” Until I read that, I succumbed to lies that I had to carry these heavy burdens. Once I knew God’s promises—I had to TRUST in them. Knowing about is one thing—trusting and acting on them as true is what allows you to Take from God’s Spiritual treasures.
As Peter said, “These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature….” 1 Peter1:4.
So get in Community Group or Restore Class and then start to form habits of Reading Jesus words daily. Start with Jesus in the New Testament—like the book of John or Matthew—and pay attention to God’s Promises and more importantly—am I actually trusting in these as true?
Or am I trusting that something else is true—trusting anything else will rob you of your inheritance, your birthright.
Walk by the Holy Spirit’s Power.
Even though every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, that does not mean we automatically experience the power and the divine nature or God’s spiritual blessings. We have to mine it and that does take spiritual effort. But God’s power and our effort don’t work the way we might think.
We want power that makes us feel powerful, yet God’s power comes to us in our weakness and humility: God said to the apostle Paul when he prayed to be healed of some affliction and God didn’t heal him
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.
So God’s power doesn’t make you feel powerful, but rather in your weakness as you humbly seek to follow God, power of another kind produces fruit of another kind.
And the effort is not us trying hard to change our circumstances, or change people, or make life give us happiness—it comes from the simple effort to walk in step with God’s Spirit.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves…But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace…. Galatians 5:16, 22.
We will go into the hows of this in the weeks to come, but notice something—it’s actually very simple. Daily willingness is all it takes—“Let—Let the Holy Spirit guide you and you won’t have to stop this, quit that, white knuckle cold turkey—your humble willingness to daily say “Holy Spirit, show me your will this moment and I will follow Your lead—even if it isn’t easy, even if it doesn’t make sense, I will follow.” And those Old Bad habits start to fall off, and the New Spiritual Qualities of Love, Joy, Peace, Life start to naturally grow in you like Apples naturally grow on a healthy apple tree.
So here’s what I want to leave you with. When despair creeps in I want you to remember and say: “Hope is my birthright. I can have hope.”
When chaos and fighting flare up around you, I want you to remember and say: “Peace is my birthright. I can have Peace in the midst of this.”
When trials and discouragement weigh you down like a wet blanket, I want you to remember and say, “Joy is my birthright. I can have Joy through it all.”
That’s my prayer for you in 2022 that you will learn experientially how true that is as you find spiritual community here, learn to trust His promises, and let the Holy Spirit guide you.